Phillies' problems too complex for a quick fix
Watching the Philadelphia Phillies the past month has been painful, but necessary, if you're a fan.
Necessary because the last month has probably driven it home to even their most faithful supporters that some changes are needed at Citizens Bank Park.
Their little run over .500 at the all-star break had some convinced some (me) they could make a playoff run in the second half. Their 7-22 record since then sent out an emphatic stop to that kind of thinking and cost Charlie Manuel, arguably the finest manager in team history, his job. His interim replacement, Ryne Sandberg, must be wondering if he really wants the job for good.
At first, the spate of injuries to key players, such as Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Ben Revere, seemed a big reason for the Phils' struggles. But every team has injuries, and good teams overcome them.
No, these Phillies have more to blame than that.
All sorts of bad
The Phillies, by almost any statistical measure, are a bad team.
One of the usual measuring sticks for a baseball team is its performance in one-run games. Actually, by this standard, the Phillies aren't terrible. Their ninth-inning walkoff win over Colorado Wednesday raised their record in one-run games to 17-22. Bad, but not awful.
For awful, you have to go to Mike Drago's measuring stick. Drago, the Reading Phillies beat writer for the Reading Eagle, says the way to really measure a team is by its record in games decided by five runs or more. The Phillies' record in those games is 9-25.
Basically, they've blown the other team out nine times, and been blown out 25 times. Ouch.
The Phillies have given up 10 or more runs in a game 11 times. They've scored that many three times.
Offensively, the Phils are middle of the road. They are tied for eighth in the National League in team batting with a good team, Cincinnati, at .248. But they're next to last in runs scored (471), which highlights their inability to hit with runners in scoring position. They're dead last in walks (303), 13th in on-base percentage (.303).
Pitching-wise, the Phillies are dead last in earned run average (4.24), last in saves (23), last in save opportunities (36), first in runs allowed (575), next to last in opponents' team batting average (.265), tied for last in shutouts (3), next to last in bullpen holds (44).
The Phillies are still pretty good defensively, but their age shows. They're only sixth in errors but last in the league in putouts, which means they don't get to as many balls as they used to. They're also last in one of those sabermetric stats, something called defensive efficiency ratio (.681). To determine the latter for a team, divide the total number of hits in play allowed (subtracting home runs and times reached on error) by the total number of defensive opportunities (all balls hit into play, not including home runs), and subtract from one (okay, if you say so).
What it all boils down to is that the Phillies are not the same team that won five straight division titles, two pennants and a World Series from 2007-11, even though much of their core personnel is the same.
What to do?
So what does management do about it? Ironically, a lot of fans hold management responsible for the mess. General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is about as popular in Philly these days as the late Joe Kuharich was 40-some years ago.
The Phillies locked in most of their core players to expensive, long term contracts and it's coming back to bite them. So, it was a little surprising when they recently gave Utley a two-year extension and made no big trades at the July 31 deadline.
Signing good players up for a long time is good for the players, and the fact that they want to play in Philadelphia, even with the losses, is a positive. But time seemed to catch up with the Phillies core group a lot quicker that it does with some teams, and what the team does off the field in the next couple of years (or months, even) will probably determine the team's outlook for the next half-decade or so,
Where's the march?
Sports Editor Charlie Roth asks some valid questions after the shooting death of Australian college baseball player Christopher Lane in Duncan, Ok.
That's the one where three black teenagers, bored and looking for something to do, looked for a victim, then shot Lane in the back while he was jogging.
Now that's profiling.
So where are Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton in support of Lane?