How great of a time in Phillies history are we in right now? The Phillies have the best record in Major League Baseball and a starting rotation that has shut out opponents seven times this season.
Phillies Nation could (should?) be checking their calenders and telling their families that no vacations are to be booked in October. The Phillies are clearly the class of the NL East, and their rotation has the potential to completely dominate the opposition four out of every five days.
But Philadelphia knows better, they have seen this before. Something needs to be done about their anemic offense. But what? Jim Salisbury wrote a terrific piece on Saturday indicating just how close the Phil's are to the luxury tax.
The Phillies are literally "maxed out."
How to fix the offensive struggles? How do we make sure the bats do not let us down in the playoffs like they did last year against the Giants?
Allow me to play GM for a few minutes, here are 10 solutions to the Phillies offensive struggles.
Shane Victorino is on the 15-day DL with a right hamstring strain. This may not be a terrible thing at first glance, with Dom Brown being called up and John Mayberry getting a chance to show what he can do.
Let's be clear here: Shane Victorino is the Phillies best outfielder in 2011. He was hitting .284 with six homers and 19 RBI before getting injured.
Jimmy Rollins is not the hitter he used to be and is no longer (never was?) a capable leadoff hitter. Victorino has eight steals and has only been thrown out one time thus far. Hopefully his hamstring doesn't hamper him like it did to J-Roll for the majority of last season.
A healthy and productive Victorino makes the Phillies lineup so much more potent and allows Placido Polanco to hit in his natural spot in the order. Victorino loves to wreak havoc on the bases, even though he may make the occasional bonehead play,
Victorino's presence on the base paths makes the Phillies a much more dangerous offense.
Chew on this National League: Victorino is hitting .400 against left-handed pitching this season.
Jimmy needs to switch places with Victorino and bat sixth. They both are players that hit the ball in the air far too often and make plays that can drive you insane at times, but Victorino has shown over the past couple seasons that he will hit for a higher average and have a better OBP.
Rollins has always been a big-time hitter and there is a reason why he will have more chances to shine hitting sixth.
Of course he will have more at-bats hitting leadoff, but Phillies fans have seen opposing pitchers throw nothing but slop to Ryan Howard for the better part of the season. Howard has shown (eh, for the most part) that he is willing to take a walk when given. Rollins needs to be the guy to make pitchers pay in the late innings if they decide to walk Howard.
It sure as heck isn't Ben Francisco or Raul Ibanez.
Rollins has been a clutch hitter throughout his career, and hitting behind Howard in the lineup will give him plenty of chances to continue being one.
Chew on this National League: Rollins is 10th in the National League in steals and is one of 12 players to have played for the Phillies who won both the Gold Glove and the NL Silver Slugger.
Ruben Amaro is really starting to make the Phillies sound like the Philadelphia Eagles with the way he is handling his business lately.
Ruben Amaro stated that Domonic Brown would not be called up because he needed more at-bats in the minors. The next day? Domonic Brown was called up. Makes sense...I think.Brown is the fourth-ranked prospect in the entire minor-league system by Baseball America. He has been the Phillies top prospect for years now.
The Phillies think so highly of Brown that they refused to include him in any deals for Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay or Roy Oswalt.The time has come to let Brown take his lumps in the majors. No one is expecting the kid to tear the cover off the ball right away (wouldn't mind if he did) and he doesn't need to.
Raul Ibanez is showing that he is pretty much finished and Ben Francisco has proven that he is nothing more than a fourth or fifth outfielder at best.
The Phillies pitching will continue to keep them in games and their current offensive lineup has been putting up dreadful numbers for the past 20 games. Do we really expect this to change, or will this current lineup continue to put up five hits per game?
Brown will provide another left-handed power bat into the lineup and an immediate spark to this team. Brown had gone 37 for 107, a .346 bating average, with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs before being called up.
Some pundits have pointed out that if Brown struggles at the plate, there will be intense scrutiny on him from the fans and the media. I beg to differ. Philadelphia is nothing but excited that Brown is here and they would rather watch Brown strikeout than Ben Francisco or Raul Ibanez. We have seen that enough.
How will Brown ever be major-league ready without facing major-league talent? Brown has destroyed minor-league pitching for long enough. Give the kid a shot and see what he can do. Worst comes to worst, we can always put back in Benny Fran (cough.)
Chew on this National League: How athletic is Dom Brown? The kid is only 23 and he had a full scholarship to play football at the University of Miami.
Even if Chase Utley doesn't play every day anymore, his sheer presence in the Phillies lineup will undoubtedly make a huge difference. He is a once-in-a-lifetime talent who already has enshrined himself as the finest second basemen to wear a Phillies uniform.
The Phillies need a healthy-and-productive Chase Utley to be serious World Series title contenders. He has hit seven home runs in 11 World Series games. He is a big-time player. The Phillies lineup needs Chase Utley.
Utley's average for 162 games is a .293 average with 29 homers and 105 RBI. Victorino, Polanco and Utley hitting before Ryan Howard will completely change the way a pitcher can attack this lineup.
There is a reason why Chase Utley is one of the most beloved Phillies of all-time. In the words of Harry Kalas: "Chase Utley you are the man!"
Chew on this National League: Utley may have been suffering from pre-preseason soreness for the past two months, but No. 26 is back!
OK, John Mayberry Jr. shouldn't start everyday...
Many people in the local media (and on this website) have stated numerous times that John Mayberry Jr. is not an everyday player. Whether it was his age of 27 or his inability to hit right-handed pitching, the Mayberry Jr. haters have been out in full force since the offseason.
I am not suggesting that Mayberry should be the everyday starter for the Phillies. But...
With Ben Francisco missing more pitches than Harold Camping misses Doomsday predictions, Mayberry has stepped in when given the chance and been a productive player when starting.
He can hit for power from the right side of the plate and he has shown that he is very aggressive on the base paths.
My suggestion to the Phillies: Leave Domonic Brown in right field and platoon Raul Ibanez and Mayberry Jr. This is the best way I can think of to maximize the potential to score runs with the current group of players on their roster.
Chew on this National League: Incredibly, Mayberry is hitting .429 in day games. I won't mention his average in night games.
Phillies fans know that when Ryan Howard is hot, he can carry the entire Phillies team on his broad shoulders. When he is cold, he strikes out more than the Phillies beat writers at a nightclub.
Why is Ryan Howard on this list? He has put up solid power numbers and he has always been a streaky hitter. The problem with Ryan Howard's streaky hitting in 2011 is that he has never been counted on as much as he is this season.
With Utley missing every game until now and Jayson Werth playing for the Nationals, the Phillies have no legitimate home-run threat in their lineup.
The Phillies have the best record in Major League Baseball right now. Thus far, they have overcome injuries to Utley, Brad Lidge, Carlos Ruiz, Jose Contreras, Joe Blanton, Shane Victorino and Roy Oswalt. They have flourished even though Raul Ibanez had a 0 for month of April and their lineup did not score more than three runs for a month straight.
Howard is currently sixth in the NL in home runs with 10, and second in the NL in RBI with 36. So what more can he do? Howard busted out of his 0-for-23 streak on Saturday night, and the return of Utley and Brown will pay huge dividends for the "Big Piece" in the Phillies lineup.
His .240 (around there) average is not cutting it and is not worth $25 million. I am obviously a huge Ryan Howard fan (read some of my other articles), but the Phillies need more from Ryan Howard.
Howard typically heats up with the temperature and the Phillies need the big man more than ever in 2011 with a lineup filled with minor leaguers.
Chew on this National League: Ryan Howard is the fastest player to hit 200 home runs in Major League Baseball history.
Ruben Amaro has pulled off some amazing trades in his short tenure as general manager of the Phillies. He has brought in Halladay, Lee (twice) and Oswalt among others. The 2011 Philadelphia Phillies are too good of a team to stand pat at the trade deadline and improve this offense.
The San Francisco Giants were able to bring in Pat Burrell and Cody Ross last season, and they were the difference makers in the playoffs. I still believe that both players stink, but they got hot at the right time and that is what Amaro needs to find.
The Phillies offense has shown inadequacies all season long, and it has gotten really bad as of late. They have not scored more than three runs in nine-straight games.
The Phillies need Amaro to get creative to find a way to clear up some money and bring in another bat. Maybe he can trade Joe Blanton for a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts to free up some money?
Chew on this National League: In Amaro we trust.
OK, let me explain why this guy could help the Phillies in 2011. In 2009, Scott Podsednik hit .304 for the White Sox and last year hit .297 between the Royals and Dodgers. He also had 35 stolen bases last season as well.
You may be wondering why a guy who has hit around .300 his entire career could not make a major-league franchise. He couldn't finish out last season in September due to plantar fasciitis in his left foot. That same injury is what killed his chances with the Blue Jays during spring training this season.
With Victorino on the DL and obvious problems at the corner outfield spots, Podsednik has the chance to get some at-bats at Lehigh Valley and get healthy. Podsednik would be a welcome addition to this team if he can show any semblance of what he has been over his career.
Don't be surprised if you see Scott Podsednik in the Phillies pinstripes after the All-Star break.
Something for the NL to chew on: In 2004, Scott Podsednik led the league in steals with 70.
It may be time to consider this: Major League Baseball is not a league that is dominated by the hitter anymore. The steroids are out of the bag and offensive production across the two leagues is, and has been, down significantly.
The current runs-per-game average in MLB is 4.19, which is the third-lowest average since 1987 (my birthday!) The 2010 and 2009 seasons both saw one-half run higher per game average than the first 40 days of the season.
And 2010 was considered the "Year of the Pitcher Part II."
The Phillies have been tough to watch as of late, there is no denying that, but many teams in baseball have been in the same boat. If the Phillies can somehow manage to score three runs with the additions already mentioned, they will be in great shape because of their...
There is an old saying: "The best offense is a good defense."
Is there any other quote that matches the 2011 Phillies more perfectly?
The Four Horsemen of Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Oswalt have been outstanding this season and many are starting to feel like this isn't just a slump the team is in. The Phillies offense will struggle to score runs all season long.
As mentioned earlier, the Phillies are tapped out when it comes to player salaries and they may not be able to add another hitter. So the Phillies need to pray that Utley and Brown can make a difference (which I believe they will).
The Phillies have a .246 team batting average and are in the bottom eight in MLB in runs scored with 176. The Phillies lineup needs to play good defense and cheer on the four aces if they want to continue winning.
Or bat Cole Hamels clean up.
Something for the National League (and Philly Nation) to chew on: I am only partially kidding on this slide.