Chase Utley. Ryan Howard. Jayson Werth. Placido Polanco. Shane Victorino. Raul Ibanez.
Sounds like a pretty explosive line up, does it not?
Well, lately, this line up has been far from explosive.
Over the past month, Phillies fans as well as the baseball world has been dumbstruck. With a line up that includes so many talented players, there is no reason that the team should hit a prolonged slump.
In baseball, one can expect their team to hit a snag at some point in the season. It's only natural; every sport has its ups and downs. And with baseball, which has a 162 game regular season, fans should expect a rough patch here and there.
The Phillies, in particular, can usually be relied on to have a slide in either May or June. It seems to be a yearly occurrence, happening annually for the past couple of seasons.
But this season is different.
This season, the Phillies have had trouble with both May AND June.
For the first half of May, everything ran smoothly, as expected from a line up boasting so many perennial All-Stars. Then they had a nine game slide in which they only won two games, one of them being the Roy Halladay perfect game where the only run they scored came on an error by Cameron Maybin of the Florida Marlins.
Among those seven losses, the Phils failed to score in five of those games. One of the games they lost to the Boston Redsox had a final score of 8-3, with the only runs coming late in the game when the outcome was already decided.
Phillies fans were upset, as the team appeared to have forgotten how to hit, but knowledgeable fans took the slide with a grain of salt. The season is long; one has to break it down into ten game increments, almost like 16 mini-seasons.
Sometimes the team will hit, but not pitch well, and if the team is good they'll pull out the victories with scores of 8-5 or 9-7. Sometimes the team will pitch well, but the bats will be silent, but again, if the team is good, they will games by scores of 3-2 or 2-0.
This is what separates the good teams from the bad teams.
Over this particular slump, the pitching was or miss with the first half of the slide giving up a lot of runs and shutting down opposing offenses in the second half of the slide. Still, there was no need to panic; this was the annual slump the Phillies had.
Once June came around, as a fan you expected some players to slump (Jayson Werth, for example. has always been streaky especially in the first have) with the rest of the line up picking them up.
This season, however, has been different.
June has not been kind to the Phightins.
They have gone 4-8 up to the point that I wrote this.
What happened that the Phillies continue this slump?
They have gone 6-17 and lost their lead on the NL East. Early in the season, yes. But every game counts. You can't rely on the Mets to fall apart. And the Braves, well, it doesn't look like they have any plans of leaving either.
And as for the Marlins and Nationals, division title material or not, these are two very tough teams that won't roll over and die.
So whats wrong this season?
This season, it seems like no player can get the big hit with runners on base. Chase Utley's batting average has plummeted. Jayson Werth constantly underwhelms late in the game. Ryan Howard seems to have forgotten that he is a power hitter, hitting only three home runs over the past 28 days.
The pitching has been hit or miss. They are either brilliant, or miss their location and make multiple mistakes. The bullpen has been struggling as well. Every Phillies fan closes their eyes and prays whenever Danys Baez or David Hernon come running out of the pen.
As for the injuries, I could write another article detailing them.
JA Happ. Brad Lidge. Ryan Madson. Carlos Ruiz (who has since come back, but has experienced a slump like no other, failing to get a hit in over 20 straight at bats). Placido Polanco was hurt during the beginning of the slump as well.
The biggest injury, however, has been leadoff hitter and clubhouse leader Jimmy Rollins. Now, I have always argued with my friends that Jimmy Rollins is not leadoff material. He swings at the first pitch too often and has a knack for popping out. But this article isn't meant to blast Jimmy Rollins and pick at his flaws.
No, this slump has shown just how much Philadelphi's beloved J-Roll means to this team. He was the guy who set the plate. When you needed something to happen, he was somehow involved in it.
The leadership abilities this guy brought is sorely missed, with manager Charlie Manuel himself saying that the clubhouse chemistry just isn't there.
Not to mention that his replacements are almost guaranteed outs.
Juan Castro is a fine player if the team only plans on using him for a spot start to give the every day player a rest, but this guy couldn't hit a baseball if you lobbed it to him. Wilson Valdez is always good for a groundout, which always seems to come with a runner on first.
Their fielding isn't stellar either. If anything, this slump has shown that Jimmy Rollins definetly earned and deserved his gold gloves.
These guys don't have the range Jimmy has. They don't have the arm. They seem to be unaware of whats happening on the field.
I remember one instance in particular, in the aforementioned 8-3 loss to Boston, when a ground ball was hit with a runner on second. The runner was going on the pitch. The ball was smacked up the middle, with Castro making a lot of effort to hustle the ball down. He looks first, figures he has no shot of an out, and turns and fires to third without looking. The runner was half way to home.
He could have possibly nailed him at home, but he didn't have the awareness to recognize that the runner had already passed third base.
This doesn't even include the errors made and infield singles where you say to yourself, "Jimmy would have made that play."
What can you do? The guy is hurt, and his replacements are career minor leaguers.
Ultimately, you can't blame this slump just on injuries if the healthy players aren't producing.
By the way, in this writers opinion at least, Greg Dobbs and Ross Gload shouldn't be on major league rosters either.
The team isn't hitting; The starters are iffy; the injuries are stacked a mile high.
All of these things come into play.
As a fan, you just have to hope they can turn this thing around before it's too late, while the division is still open. They are three and a half games behind in the division, so it wouldn't be the hardest thing in the world to get back on top. One just hopes that slump doesn't continue for very long.
It's a long season, and this is a championship caliber team.
It's not a matter of will they break out of it, it's a matter of when, because this division isn't going away. The Braves and the Mets and the Marlins are too good to fall out of it and let the Phillies blow by.
A fan just hopes that the Phils don't fall too far behind.