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Blame the bats for the Phillies mini-slide

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The offense has yet to get going this season and it’s cost the Phillies this week.

Philadelphia Phillies v New York Mets

When the 2021 season began, we knew a few things about these Phillies.

We knew the defense could be shaky, and that has come to fruition. We knew the starting rotation could see its share of ups and downs, and that’s happened too. For the second start in a row, Aaron Nola was not sharp although, for the second start in a row, he limited the damage. We also knew the bullpen would be better, but would have its moments of implosion, like Hector Neris’ 8th inning against the Mets in the first game of yesterday’s doubleheader.

One other thing we knew, or at least we thought we knew, was that the offense would hit.

We’re still waiting.

Through their first 11 games, the Phillies have a 6-5 record and remain atop the NL East, tied with the Mets, who have played four fewer games than the Phils thanks to a rainout and the Washington Nationals’ COVID scare during the first series of the season, but they’ve lost four out of their last five, and their one victory came thanks to a blown call in Atlanta. They’re a botched replay away from a five-game losing streak.

Yes, the caveats of “it’s still early” and “it’s a small sample size” still apply, but so far, the offense that was supposed to carry the team has failed to have much of an impact. The Phillies have scored 41 runs this season, an average of 3.7 runs per game. Their 41 runs are fourth-lowest among teams that didn’t have their opening series wiped out due to COVID (the Nationals have played just eight games).

Their .241 batting average doesn’t sound like much, but is surprisingly ninth-best in MLB, however, their .308 on-base percentage is 18th and their .377 slugging percentage is only 17th. That’s “good” for a team OPS of .685 that is 20th in the bigs.

In a lineup with Andrew McCutchen, Rhys Hoskins, Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Didi Gregorius and Jean Segura, one should reasonably expect a little more.

Strikeouts have been a big problem. Their team K-rate of 27.6% is fourth-highest in baseball and they’re also drawing free passes just 7.5% of the time, which is sixth-lowest. Ideally, those numbers would be reversed. If it seems like the Phils are hitting a ton of ground balls this year, you’re not crazy, with 48.8% of their plate appearances ending that way, third-highest in the Majors. And while no one wants Phillies hitters to try and jack home runs every plate appearance, they also own the second-lowest fly ball percentage (26.7%), which is not conducive to those convenient little three-run dingers we love so much.

To be fair, their 24.6% line drive rate is tied for fourth-highest, so there’s a little bit of good news in there, but not much.

In their doubleheader against the Mets, the Phillies picked up 12 hits, 11 for singles. Alec Bohm’s double was the only extra-base hit on the day. Harper (.879), Realmuto (.861), Hoskins (.827) and Gregorius (.797) have been moderately productive at the plate, but none have really started to hum.

Center field has been a disaster, with Roman Quinn (.059/.238/.059 in 21 PAs) and Adam Haseley (.190/.190/.238) serving a devastatingly unproductive duo in the No. 8 spot in the lineup. In fact, even the pitchers are hitting better than HaselQuinn.

It seems only a matter of time before Odubel Herrera, Scott Kingery or Mickey Moniak get an opportunity, but the offense’s problems do not lie in center field alone.

McCutchen (.156/.308/.313) hasn’t done much as the team’s leadoff hitter, which was also a significant area of weakness last year. Jean Segura has had a couple big knocks this season, but his overall slash line (.268/.295/.268) lacks punch. Even Bohm, who has found himself in the middle of virtually every Phillies win this season, has a stat line that is unenviable (.250/.295/.375).

To be fair, the Phils have played 6.8% of their season schedule thus far and it’s more likely than not this lineup will hit. When it does, the improved bullpen and starting rotation should be good enough to keep this team competitive in a division that has gotten off to a rough start.

After losing to the Miami Marlins 14-8, the Braves are just 4-7 on the season. The Nationals were destroyed by the St. Louis Cardinals last night 14-3, running their record to 2-6. Miami is 4-6. Only the Phils (6-5) and the Mets (4-3) have winning records.

No one is running away with anything anytime soon, so now would be a great time for the offense to step on the gas and help the Phillies pull away while they can.