Philadelphia Phillies: How Charlie Manuel Can Get His Team to Produce Runs
It's no secret that pitching was the Phillies' strong suit in 2011.With Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels on the mound, it seemed almost impossible for the team to lose, and in the regular season, it was. The team—led by their aces on the hill—cruised to a 102-60 record in 2011, but struggled in the playoffs because of their lack of hitting.
If the Phillies want to have a shot at the World Series in 2012, their hitting needs to improve.
Manager Charlie Manuel, who has been with the team since 2005, needs to rally his troops to strengthen the offense. Philadelphia's .253 team batting average and .395 slugging percentage both ranked in the lower half among MLB teams last year—an unreal fact considering the Phillies led the MLB with 102 wins.
Here are some steps that Charlie Manuel must take in 2012 to improve the team at the plate.
Keep Chase Utley Healthy at All Costs
This may sound counter-productive, but if the Phillies are to be sucessful in 2012, they need to rest Chase Utley.
Utley, now 33, has become quite injury prone in his career, coming down with some sort of injury in every year since 2007.
Last season, Utley played a career low 103 games due to a knee injury, and his numbers suffered. His .259 batting average and 44 RBIs were extremely low for the second baseman who had previously made the All-star team every year since 2006.
The problem was that Chase wasn't allowed enough time to recover. His injury was serious, and pushing him to play over 100 games was irresponsible on Charlie Manuel's part. If he wants Utley hitting at his best, which could easily include a .300 batting average and 90+ RBIs, he has to rest Chase more often.
Move Jimmy Rollins out of the Leadoff Spot
Jimmy wasn't a good leadoff hitter when he broke into the league in 2001, and he's still not a good leadoff man.
His style of hitting and tendancy to start the game with an infield pop-out are not condusive to a leadoff hitter, and his .268 batting average and 30 stolen bases are also a little under par.
The better option for the team would be Shane Victorino. Though he had less steals than Rollins, his .279 batting average would be a step up for the team. With Victorino reaching to start the game, it would open the team up for early-inning production by Hunter Pence and Chase Utley.
Play Jim Thome More Than Ty Wigginton
Sure, Jim Thome is older and probably worse off in the field, but with Ryan Howard looking to miss time with a torn achillies, the Phillies need to supplement some power into the lineup. In his last full season (2010), Thome hit 25 home runs and slugged .627, which is more than 200 points higher than Wigginton's 2011 season.
Right now the Phillies don't have a cleanup hitter. If Manuel makes Thome the everyday starter at first base during Howard's injury, he'll find a man to hit cleanup and their offense will pick up.