Conventional wisdom around here is that the Phillies have to step up their offensive production in order to win against the Dodgers in the upcoming National League Championship Series.
There does seem to be something to this conventional wisdom. After all, the Phillies high-powered offense completely floundered in last year's three-and-out playoffs. And this year, despite winning against the Brewers, the Phillies scored 15 runs, only 3.75 per game. That does not compare well at all to the team's 4.93 per game for the regular season.
But looking at the team's other indicators shows that maybe the offense is doing ok. For the season, the Phillies hit .255/.332/.438 for a .770 OPS. In the Brewers series, the team hit .250/.329/.469 for a .797 OPS. So, their average and on-base percentage stayed about the same, but they hit for more power in the playoffs.
So what's driving conventional wisdom and the decreased run production? The Phillies did not perform well with runners on base against the Brewers. The Phils hit .173/.306/.327 for a .633 OPS with runners on base against the Brewers. During the regular season, despite oft-heard complaints to the contrary, the team did much better with runners on, hitting .269/.352/.465 for a .817 OPS. If the Phillies want to improve their run scoring against the Dodgers to give their pitching a bit more breathing room, this is where the team as a whole is going to need to improve.
On an individual level, among the regulars, there are three hitters who need to put any playoff nerves they're experiencing behind them. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Carlos Ruiz have really struggled in both playoff rounds they've appeared in. Here are their combined playoff numbers from this year and last:
Now, we all know that not much is expected of Ruiz offensively. It would be nice, and there was a time when we did have those expectations, but we're long past that point. But Utley and Howard are different. Looking at this chart, Utley's playoff performance is the most concerning as he is a major piece of this offense but has disappeared in the playoffs this year and last. Howard's numbers look decent in a vacuum, but they're far from where he has performed when he has carried the team, and they're inflated by his 5 walks against the Brewers and his meaningless solo home run in game 2 against the Rockies.
Any way you slice it, these three hitters need to improve if the Phils' offense is going to start producing.