Prepare yourselves for a really depressing article.
It wasn't supposed to be that way, though.
My original intention with this post was to show you that with just a little bit of luck, the Phillies still have one of the top offenses in the National League. Give us a full year of Howard and Utley and the performances we hope and expect from Asche and Brown, the Phillies might make some noise.
Well, not so fast there, Skippy.
I wanted to see how the Phillies offense projects this season if Howard and Utley are healthy, if Domonic Brown can replicate 2013, if Asche can hold his own, and if the rest of the starters simply do their jobs. I'm not asking for 40 bombs from Howard, 100 runs from Revere, or a .300 batting average for Rollins. Just a healthy team and a little bit of good fortune.
The goal here is to set a baseline for the offense if the starters can stay on the field and perform the way they are expected.
Trying to take my own judgment out of the equation as much as possible, I didn’t pull partial season numbers or take certain splits to fit my agenda. Instead, I decided to use full seasons of data and let the numbers more or less speak for themselves. I most certainly had an agenda and tried to get the right stats to fit that agenda, but my decisions were limited to choosing the number of seasons to use. The only exception was Cody Asche since he had limited time in the majors and his .235 batting average last season is certainly not what we are banking on, so I came up with my own arbitrary numbers (which I will explain later).
Before we approach the actual results, here is the rationale behind the figures used for each player:
Carlos Ruiz – Chooch finished with a .268 average last season with 5 HR and 37 RBI in 92 games, which seems like a reasonable expectation, so I used his full 2013 stats and prorated them over an estimated 115 games played.
Ryan Howard – The Big Piece is not the guy with an incredible .959 OPS from 2005-2009, but he should not be the player with a .751 OPS over the last two seasons, either. Let's assume he is something in between, so I included his last two healthy seasons in 2010 (.859 OPS) and 2011 (.835 OPS) along with his last two unhealthy seasons and prorated them over an estimated 140 games played.
Chase Utley – If Utley is healthy, we can probably expect numbers similar to 2013 in which he hit .284 with 18 HR and 69 RBI in 131 games, so let's use his 2013 season and give him 130 games.
Jimmy Rollins – Jimmy's last two seasons were very similar and he isn't likely to vary much in either direction, so I averaged them both and used his average of 158 games played. Since he averaged over 650 plate appearances, for this exercise we will consider that a full season.
Cody Asche – With no basis for any true projections, I arbitrarily assumed a .260 average for Asche and, using his minor league statistics, downgraded everything by that factor and gave him 162 games at third base.
Domonic Brown – 2013 might actually be a close representation for DoBo since he was awful for a month, hot for over a month, and mediocre for the rest. So, let's use his 2013 stats exactly and estimate 139 games played.
Ben Revere – Same goes for Big Ben. I took his complete 2013 season stats and prorated over 162 games.
Marlon Byrd – Byrd was mediocre in 2011, awful in 2012, and great in 2013, so I just averaged the three with an estimated 140 games played.
Rather than complicate things and project the bench, let's assume the same bench numbers as last season, excluding the players no longer on the roster and adding Wil Nieves as the backup catcher. I then adjusted the plate appearances to match the exact total of PA's as last season and replicated the offensive totals for pinch-hitters, designated hitters, and pitchers.
Here are the prorated totals for each player along with the backup totals listed beneath. Since Revere, Rollins, and Asche each are slated to play a full season, they have no backups listed. The hitting totals for pitchers, pinch-hitters, and designated hitters are also included.
Put it all together, and here are the Phillies 2014 estimated offensive totals and NL ranks based on last season:
Yes, you see that correctly, even with full years of Howard and Utley, identical production from Domonic Brown, and reasonable production from Asche, the Phillies still project to finish 10th out of 15 NL teams in runs scored. Even in a damn near best case scenario, the Phillies have the 6th worst offense in the league.
That, my friends, is depressing.
It paints an awfully bleak picture for the possibilities in 2014. It is a team with a decent batting average, but minimal power and the least amount of walks in the league. As a result, it is a below average offense overall. Even worse, on a roster of old, declining players with a history of injury problems, it is hard to imagine the results going anywhere but down from here.
It wouldn't be so problematic if the Phillies had the 2011 pitching staff that dominated the league, but the Phillies are working with a pitching staff that ranked second-to-last in the NL in 2013 in team ERA, starting ERA, and bullpen ERA, better than only the Rockies in all categories.
These results, for me, are very disheartening. I never expected much from the Phillies with so many old players and injury concerns, but at least there was the hope that if they were healthy that there was enough left of this core to dominant. Well, that carpet of hope was pulled out beneath our feet.
Which brings us to the heart of the issue and a realization we haven't faced in close to a decade: the Phillies are just not a good baseball team.
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