As the Phillies finished up a lackluster series loss to the San Diego Padres yesterday on the heels of a dynamic weekend series in which they took three out of four from the Dodgers in Los Angeles, no one who was watching was surprised.
If there is one hallmark of these Phillies squads over the last four seasons it is that there is no such thing as momentum. One series does not build upon another. They are a walking Law & Order season, an episodic team in which one game/series is completely separate and unrelated to the one before.
There are no “springboards.” There are no “turning points.” There is only what is happening that day.
These last two series are also a microcosm of a Phils offense that has shown both the ability to relentlessly mash teams good teams into oblivion, then drift off to sleep the very next moment, as if they suffer from some baseball form of offensive narcolepsy.
It is difficult to reconcile these two Phillies offenses, a Jekyll and Hyde operation to be sure, and no one seems to have an answer for the spigot-like way their lineup turns runs off and on. The number of times this $230 million team has been held to one or zero runs is unacceptably high, although they’ve also had a bunch of games this year in which they’ve piled up enough runs to blot out the sun.
This is a good stat. And to make matters even more confusing, they have scored 8+ almost as often as they’ve scored 1 or fewer, and they are first among all these teams in games with 8+ runs scored pic.twitter.com/feHSaaQqNi— The Good Phight (@TheGoodPhight) May 20, 2022
Yes, you read that correctly. They’ve scored 8 or more runs nine times this season, one fewer than the 10 times they’ve scored one or zero!
There used to be no shame in being shut down by a starter like Yu Darvish, who held the Phils to just six hits, all singles, in seven scoreless innings of work, only Darvish came into the game with a 4.62 ERA and a K/9 that has dropped from 10.77 last year to 7.38 this season. He’s not the pitcher he once was.
What happened from last weekend to these last three games?
Phillies vs. Dodgers: .300 BA, 33 R, 20 XBH, 8 HR— Justin Klugh (@justin_klugh) May 19, 2022
Phillies vs. Padres: .189 BA, 3 R, 2 XBH, 1 HR
How is it that a team can be 1st in the National League in slugging percentage (.416) and line drive percentage (22.1%), 2nd in hard-hit percentage (40.7%), 3rd in batting average (.251), OPS (.729), isolated power (.165), and home runs (45), and also have been held to one run or fewer in more than one-quarter (26.3%) of all their games?
Bryce Harper’s absence the last four games has been notable. After all, when you remove the reigning National League Player of the Week who hit .609/.643/.1.261 with 8 R, 6 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 4 BB and 3 SB. Taking a guy like that out of the lineup will leave a mark, but this much?
One issue could be some of the all-or-nothing players in the everyday lineup. Kyle Schwarber has a team-high 9 home runs and a Dave Kingman-like .189 batting average and .294 on-base percentage. Rhys Hoskins has 7 homers with a .239 average and .316 OBP. J.T. Realmuto is just flat-out struggling (wRC+ of 78), while Nick Castellanos hasn’t quite found his power stroke yet (5 HRs, .443 slugging percentage). The Phillies are also getting nothing out of shortstop (.232/.286/.314) and center field (.200/.250/.314), and the leadoff spot continues to be a black hole (.175 average & .231 OBP both 2nd-worst in MLB).
The issue could also be something out of the players’ control.
From Kevin Long in this piece:— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) May 18, 2022
"I picked up the balls in LA. They were completely different. They were darker. They seemed to be harder. They just seemed to be a different baseball. But I don't know..I'm not a scientist."
As I wrote, MLB says the balls haven't changed anywhere. https://t.co/juRMHxq3I2
Citizens Bank Park ceased being the homer haven John Smoltz hated years ago, playing more like a neutral park in recent years. However, in 2022, the Bank has been downright stingy with its loans.
Padres & Phillies just finished a 3-game series in which the teams combined for 8 runs, with a shutout in each game— SIS_Baseball (@sis_baseball) May 19, 2022
By Ballpark Factors, the 3 parks that have depressed run scoring the most in 2022 are
Citizens Bank Park
Coming into Wednesday, the Phillies had a .684 OPS at home, 17th in MLB. On the road, it’s .792, tops in baseball. That’s a staggering 108-point difference. Their 17.2% HR/FB rate away from Citizens Bank Park is also the best mark in MLB. At home, that number falls to an incredible 9.9%, 19th in the Majors. And lest you think Phils hitters simply aren’t hitting the ball as hard, the Statcast data indicates otherwise.
Here are all "Barrels" at CBP by year: pic.twitter.com/XKYmSQ0WCw— jason mitchell (@lorecodre) May 20, 2022
So is this a humidor issue, or just a weird coincidence that will sort itself out as the 162-game schedule progresses and the weather gets hotter? As the Athletic’s Jayson Stark noted in his story above, the Phils have been hitting the ball harder and with as much power as any team in baseball this year, without a whole lot to show for it.
I don’t know if it’s comforting or not, but manager Joe Girardi doesn’t seem to have any answers, either.
"...and it’s really everybody that’s struggled a little bit. But eventually, numbers get back to what’s on the back of a baseball card. They eventually get back there. That’s why they’re averages. These guys have got some good times coming.”— Alex Coffey (@byalexcoffey) May 19, 2022
The weather is going to get hot this weekend as the Dodgers come to town, looking for revenge over last week’s teeth-kicking, so maybe we’ll see some balls leave the yard. Maybe they’ll turn down the humidity levels in the humidor. Maybe Harper’s hoped-for return to the lineup will happen and the bats will click again.
But all one can do is hope, because there don’t seem to be any other solutions for the bats’ frustrating inconsistency.