Thursday, September 30, 2010

Philadelphia Phillies Championship Advantage No. 3: High Octane Offense

Part 3 of 7
July 16, 2010 - Chicago, ILLINOIS, UNITED STATES - epa02250826 Philadelphia Phillies indfielder Ryan Howard (R) is greeted by Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth (L) after Howard drove him in with a two run home run against the Chicago Cubs in their Major League Baseball game at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois, USA 16 July 2010. The Cubs defeated the Phillies 4-3.

Although the Phillies have a league-wide reputation as an offensive powerhouse, their numbers were down across the board this season. Appearances can be deceiving. 

A peak at the rankings suggest that the Phillies might take a back seat to other playoff teams in terms of offensive output.  

The Cincinnati Reds lead the National League in runs, batting average (.270), home runs (181), and slugging percentage (.434.) 

Although in-season acquisitions have bolstered their run production, both the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres are built around pitching. Similarly, the Atlanta Braves rely more on pitching than offense to win games. 

Although the presence of the designated hitter makes comparisons between the two leagues difficult, all four American League clubs have posted impressive offensive statistics this season. The AL contenders have varying formulas, but each of them ranks in the top five in runs scored. 
When it comes to the 2010 Philadelphia Phillies, though, the stat sheets don't tell the true story.  Sometimes there is truth in the old adage "figures lie and liars figure"- and this is a prime example.  

For the past several seasons, the Phillies reigned at the top of league rankings with their high octane offense. 

The previous two seasons they placed first in home runs. Last year, they captured that distinction by a large margin, clubbing 34 more than the next National League  team. 

As further validation that the Phillies have been built for the long ball, they ranked one or two in slugging percentage over the past four campaigns. 

And, in the true measure of offensive prowess, the Phils ranked first or second in runs scored each of the previous five seasons. 

In 2010, Philadelphia's home run production currently sits 61 dingers behind that of a year ago. It is safe to say, regardless of any further exploits by Ben Francisco, John Mayberry or Mike Sweeney in the regular season's last three games, the final tally will be a very large drop-off. 

After a strong stretch run, they have climbed the rankings a bit in runs scored, but will likely finish third. 

Statistics and rankings aside, though, this is probably the team's most dangerous lineup in the current era of prosperity. 

The recorded numbers mask the lineup's true offensive potential as well as the level of anxiety it stirs amongst opposing hurlers. 

Just ask Jonathan Broxton.

The reason that the numbers seem not to align, of course, is simple-- Phillies regulars logged an inordinate amount of time in the training room this year. 

The injury impact on the statistics has been two-fold. The most obvious has been the lost production associated with the roughly 200 games that regulars have not stepped on the playing field due to physical ailments.   

And, then, when players returned to action, their productivity suffered from inactivity and an often compromised physical state. This was most notable with Ryan Howard, Chase Utely, and Jimmy Rollins as they struggled to regain their swings. 

And, it would be remiss not to mention that Howard's stint on the DL and subsequent recovery non-fortuitously coincided with the stretch of season that has historically been his own personal fireworks display. 

The way this season has gone, it would be foolish to rule out anymore physical setbacks. That notwithstanding, though, it is the Phillies' good fortune— and opponents' ill fortune— that the lineup is set to be intact for the postseason. 

And, as good as the Reds hit all year, this Phillies lineup as it was conceived in the offseason is the gold standard. 

It possesses the rare combination of game changing speed and power capable of alternately intimidating opposing hurlers while instilling confidence in its own. 

Count this Phillies potent offense as another key October advantage. It appears poised to do some postseason damage. 

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