If you're a baseball player, and you slump, which you inevitably will, the best you can hope for is that the other guys on your team pick up the slack. In baseball, unlike in other sports, that can happen, as other performances can make up for problems one player is having.
But what if you and your best teammates all slump at once? And what if those slumps are some of the worst of the your careers? It's unlikely, as major slumps are basically random occurrences (at least relative to one another, as they may not be random for a particular player because they could be based on injury or a mechanical problem).
But, just because simultaneous serious slumping is unlikely on a team, that doesn't mean that it can't happen. And that's exactly what we're witnessing on the Phillies right now. The key for us as fans is to realize that this is nothing more than that.
How can I be so certain? Of course, as we all know, past performance is no guarantee of future returns, but each of the Phillies in a major funk right now, and I'm not denying that the current funks are major, has been in worse in his career, even multiple times, and has snapped out of it. Slumps happen, even to players as offensively potent as those who form the heart of the Phillies' lineup. They just happen to be occurring now all at once, and the result is the offensive offense we've seen recently.
You want proof? Follow me below the fold.
Looking at the 9 games from May 22 through May 31 (excluding last night's offensive outburst of 10 hits and 3 runs), when the Phillies were 2-7, scored 10 runs total, and were shutout an amazing 5 times, four Phillies stand out as seriously responsible for the offensive woes:
Shane Victorino: .299/.308/.286 for a .592 OPS
Chase Utley: .147/.216/.206 for a .422 OPS
Ryan Howard: .129/.250/.129 for a .379 OPS
Jayson Werth: .111/.143/.148 for a .291 OPS
All four of these hitters were atrocious, as they each had a sub-.600 OPS. Other Phillies, such as Raul Ibanez (.774) and Carlos Ruiz (.648), either performed better (although by no means spectacularly) or, such as Placido Polanco, Wilson Valdez, and Juan Castro, didn't have consistent playing time.
Yet, all four of these hitters have been here before, multiple times even. They've just done it at different times in their career, not all at the same time:
Victorino: Shane has suffered through much uglier 9 game stretches. Two stand out. From April 24, 2007, through May 2, 2007, Victorino had the horrible triple-slash line of .103/.212/.103. He was even worse from August 28, 2009, through September 7, 2009, when his triple slash line was .105/.105/.132.
Utley: Chase has never been as bad as Victorino has been, but he's come close, and has certainly been much worse than he is now. Early in his career, from May 29, 2004, through June 6, 2004, he had a 9 game stretch when he hit .114/.162/.200. More recently, it's easy to forget just how awful he was at the end of last year, when he posted a .091/.139/.152 line. His .291 OPS for the last 9 games makes his .422 OPS over the recent 9-game stretch look Bondsian.
Howard: Ryan has had several bad 9 game stretches in his career. In his Rookie-of-the-Year campaign in 2005, he started off horribly, hitting .05/.174/.143 from May 4 through May 14. In the Phillies' World Series campaign of 2008, he had a stretch of .139/.184/.139 from June 17 through June 27. He had the identical line from April 17 through April 26 last year.
Werth: Jayson's been the worst of the bunch during this stretch, posting a .291 OPS. He's done this in only 8 games, as he was
benched rested during the stretch. But, he's done this before over the course of 8 games in his career. In 2005, Werth posted a .040/.226/.040 triple-slash line from July 7 through July 17. And last year, from September 19 through September 26, he found himself struggling very similarly, with a .042/.250/.042 line. That .292 OPS bests his recent .291 OPS, but only by a point.
And I'll throw one more guy out teasingly for comparison. In one year, he had 9 games in which he hit .059/.111/.118 for a .229 OPS. That year, he won the NL Rookie of the Year award. In another year, he had 9 games in which he hit .094/.211/094. No awards for him that year, but he did wind up with a .997 OPS and was 9th in MVP voting. Then, in another year, he had a 9 game stretch of .200/.300/.200. That year, he won the MVP, his third. You probably figured it out by now, but I'm talking about Albert Pujols.
Slumps happen. Even worse, serious slumps happen. Even to the best of players. Hopefully, when they do happen, the player's teammates cover for him, at least to some extent.
But when several players on the same team simultaneously have slumps that are up there with their career-worst slumps, well, then you have the Phillies over their recent 9 game stretch.