Going into the season, we didn't talk much about the Phillies offense. That wasn't because we were confident it would be above-average, but because it was overshadowed by how bad the starting rotation, non-Hamels division, was supposed to be. Unless the offense ended up being as good as it was during its late-aughts glory, it wasn't going to noticeably affect the outcomes of games if our starters were going to give up 5 or 6 runs every time out.
But, so far in 2015, that hasn't been the story at all. Through 5 combined starts from the likes of David Buchanan, Aaron Harang, Jerome Williams, and Sean O'Sullivan, the non-Hamels pitchers have performed admirably. On any other team, their efforts would be worthy of the "put their team in a position to win the game" label. The only reason they have not earned those distinctions is that giving up 2 runs over 6 or 7 innings of work has not proven to actually be putting the Phillies in a position to win.
Today was yet another example of that. Aaron Harang didn't pitch spectacularly, but he pitched well. Over 6 innings, he held the Mets to one run. He only struck out one and walked two, but I already said that he wasn't spectacular. The Phillies offense, however, generated only 7 hits, which doesn't sound all that bad until I tell you that all of them were singles.
And that's the problem with this Phillies offense: all of their starters only hit singles. No one can realistically expect Ben Revere, Odubel Herrera, Grady Sizemore, Freddy Galvis, and 2015 Ryan Howard to drive balls into the gap for extra bases. For the Phillies to score, they need to string hits together. It's a long, drawn-out process that, if we're being totally honest, is unlikely to occur with much frequency.
The Phillies are even less likely to score when Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are struggling as much as they are at the moment. Howard went 1-for-4 today to raise his average to .167. He has also struck out 8 times in 6 games played. Things have been even worse for Chase Utley, who went hitless today to drop his average to .091. Getting old sucks, I'm told:
Watching Chase Utley and Ryan Howard struggle is a cruel reminder that we are all meat sacs that are born to die.— chanandler bong (@DashTreyhorn) April 13, 2015
But the offensive struggles today and this season are not entirely on the players. Ryne Sandberg has been giving away outs as well. With the Phillies down 1-0 in the 5th inning, Cody Asche and Freddy Galvis were on second and first, respectively, with one out. Aaron Harang came up and bunted back to deGrom, who was able to throw Cody Asche out at 3rd. This isn't the most egregious bunt-related blunder Sandberg has had this season. It feels like every game a runner is getting thrown out at third on a failed bunt.
Perhaps the managerial decision that drew the most consternation was the decision to leave Ryan Howard in to face Jerry Blevins down 2-0 with two outs in the top of the 8th. No one needs reminding that Ryan Howard struggles against left-handed pitching and Blevins has been very tough on lefties since the start of 2014:
Lefties vs Jerry Blevins since start of last season 17 for 114 .149 BA 44 K, 6 BB 0 HR allowed— Mark Simon (@msimonespn) April 13, 2015
It's probably best to not let lefties face Blevins if possible. Well, as it turns out, in this instance it was possible. The Phillies had two players on the bench in Darin Ruf and Jeff Francoeur who were far more likely to do something worthwhile against Blevins than Howard. Nevertheless, Howard was sent up to hit and, surprise, surprise, struck out swinging to end the inning. The Phillies offense is going to struggle enough to score runs this year on their own. If Ryne Sandberg keeps managing like he has through 7 games, it'll be an even harder task.
The Phillies will be back tomorrow evening as David Buchanan takes on Matt Harvey in a bout of young arms. Just yesterday, Sean O'Sullivan had a bit of a pitchers' duel against Max Scherzer, so anything can happen, I guess.
Until then, enjoy the one Phillies-related highlight from today's game: Ben Revere's run-saving catch.
Fangraph of a slow burn: