If you are a professional pitcher who throws the hardball with your left arm, you are circling every date on your calendar in which you play against the Phillies.
You know you’re going to have a good night.
Last night’s anemic 2-0 loss to the Pirates at Citizens Bank Park continued a disturbing trend by the Phils offense against left-handed pitching. Stymied by noted future Hall of Famer Jeff Locke, the Phils could muster only two hits against the man who came into last night’s game with a 5.17 ERA. One of them was a lead-off triple by John Mayberry, which was converted into exactly zero runs. In all, Locke went six innings and struck out six Phillie hitters while walking two.
Why he bothered to walk two hitters is beyond comprehension.
For nearly two weeks, Manuel has watched the Phillies fall short offensively. They have scored just 31 runs in their past 12 games, including their third shutout loss of the season Tuesday. Pirates left-hander Jeff Locke did little to impress Manuel, who said the Pirates’ starter did nothing “fantastic.” But he still dominated his hitters, who wasted another fine performance from left-hander Cole Hamels.
“He challenged us,” Manuel said of Locke. “If I went up there and looked fastball, I would have gotten good balls to hit. We’ve got to hit some of those fastballs. I hope that don’t put a lot of pressure on somebody.”
Hey, let’s not put any unneeded pressure on these guys. After all, they’ve got bills to pay and kids to pick up from school and then there’s all this stuff going on with North Korea and everything…
“I thought if he was going to throw his fastball like that, I thought we would hit him to tell you the truth. He pitched a good game and was up to the task, but it wasn’t that he did anything fantastic.” – quote per CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury
The Phillies came into last night’s game with some pretty pathetic numbers against left-handed pitching, hitting .200/.248./.291 with a .539 OPS as a team. That was 29th in all of Major League Baseball, only better than these very same Pirates.
“You have to get it done,” Manuel said. “Baseball is a game where what you did last year doesn’t count. What you are doing now counts. Just because you hit last year doesn’t mean you will hit this year. The game will bite you. The game doesn’t care how much money you are making. It doesn’t know. It can get you. We can talk all we want to. I’ve heard people get mad or upset. You can be the best player in the world, but you’ve got to hit. If you don’t hit, the first thing that someone does when you go bad is look for someone that can hit.”
Jimmy Rollins said their futility against an unimpressive pitcher throwing meatballs over the plate is just one of those things…
“It happens sometimes,” Rollins said. “Throw pitches right down the middle, guys miss them. Paint, guys hit them. It can happen like that. The good thing is, it will come around. Everybody works. That’s not a problem. Guys are in the cage, doing what they need to do. It’s just transferring it from the cage to the game. Especially if guys are working on new things, it takes a little while to build a little confidence. Sometimes you have to try something different, and it takes a little while.”
And yes, there is still plenty of time to turn things around. Unfortunately, the last few years have shown an increasing futility against left-handed pitching. And things are not likely to turn around anytime soon, at least if these trends against left-handed pitchers are to be believed:
- 2012: .235 BA .692 OPS
- 2011: .245 BA .701 OPS
- 2010: .268 BA .767 OPS
- 2009: .247 BA .787 OPS
- 2008: .257 BA .801 OPS
- 2007: .279 BA .834 OPS
No one is expecting this team to hit like the squads from 2007-2009. But second-to-last in baseball against left-handed pitching is horrendous. And it’s something that will certainly either keep them out of the playoffs, or quickly get them evicted from October baseball if they’re fortunate enough to get in.
It should be noted the Phillies currently employ TWO hitting instructors, with Manuel also serving as a third de facto hitting coach. There are three supposed hitting “minds” currently being employed by the Phillies.
It would be fair to wonder what any of them are doing.
Truth be told, the job of hitting instructor seems pretty useless anyway. Sure, they can help construct a plan of action against each night’s starting pitcher, but if the hitter goes up to the plate and throws the gameplan out the window, or suddenly can’t hit fastballs right down the middle of the plate, that’s an indictment on the talent level of the players.
The Phillies surely hope the return of Carlos Ruiz will help combat against their futility against lefties. They also surely hope Delmon Young‘s career numbers against left-handed pitchers (.307 BA, .824 OPS) can aid in that endeavor.
But here’s the bad news for the Phils. There are many left-handed pitchers in Major League Baseball. And despite pleas of protest, the league will continue to allow those lefties to pitch against the Phillies.
They are not going away.
If this offense is ever going to be productive, their futility against southpaws is something they’re going to have to figure out.
And by the way, hitting better against righties wouldn’t hurt, either.