Last season, the Philadelphia Phillies ranked fourth in the National League in runs scored and 10th in strikeouts.
Entering manager Joe Girardi‘s second season in red pinstripes, the offense appeared to be the least of the team’s worries. However, 25 games into the season, the Phillies offense is among the least productive in the National League.
Diving into the numbers of an underperforming 2021 Phillies offense
In terms of batting average, the Phillies are fifth in National League rankings. Don’t let that fool you. Even in a season when offenses around the league are dreadful to this point, the .235 Phillies average isn’t anything to write home about.
What’s worse is the Phillies rank 13th among National League teams in runs scored and have struck out 229 times in 769 at-bats. To put that into perspective, nearly 30 percent of at-bats and 39 percent of outs the team has made at the plate were due to failure to put the ball in play.
Yes, strikeouts are up due to more and more pitchers reaching 100 miles per hour on the radar gun — as well as players who swing for the long ball at a maximum. Even so, the Phillies’ strikeout rate is above the league average of 28 percent. That would be fine if the Phillies were scoring runs, but they aren’t. A strikeout isn’t just another out.
Numerous times, a ground ball or fly ball scores a run, but nope — a Phillies batter doesn’t put the ball in play; rather, they swing from the heels and look for the 500-foot home run.
Bryce Harper is carrying a lot of weight so far for the Phillies offense.
Individually, Bryce Harper (.328, 6 home runs, 10 RBI, 1.063 OPS) is off to one of the best starts of his career. Rhys Hoskins is showing power similar to his rookie year — which can make us overlook some of his failures to make contact (33 strikeouts in 96 at-bats). J.T. Realmuto is hitting .314 with an OPS of nearly .900. Jean Segura was off to a very good start with a .333 average, before going on the injured list.
Most others have underperformed and some have been a downright disaster. Alec Bohm is struggling. For a player who hates striking out, he’s fanned 24 times in 83 at-bats. He hasn’t made up for it with production either, hitting just .205 with a .561 OPS. Andrew McCutchen has drawn 15 walks and that’s about all he’s done — hitting just .162 with 20 strikeouts in 68 at-bats.
Then, of course, is the centerfield position. Oh, how bad it’s been. Even the notoriously poor hitting Steve Jeltz put up better numbers back in the day than this group that has consisted of Adam Haseley, Roman Quinn, Mickey Moniak, and Odubel Herrera.
People like to make excuses that it’s still early and they’ll break out of it. Perhaps the Phillies will when “hitting season” comes — but that may be too late. After all, 25 games are 15 percent into the season. It’s about time to get it going.
Is it too much to ask to play a little better situational baseball? Change the approach with two strikes to put the ball in play. Case in point, look at Harper’s two-strike approach. He spreads out and makes a more conscious effort to put the ball in play. He’s still punched out about one out of six plate appearances, but others have done worse.
The thing is, if your superstar player can make the effort to make more contact, the rest of the team should follow. Will the Phillies make adjustments and become a better offense? Only time will tell.