The Phillies will finish 2005 with a number of outstanding individual performances on offense. Here’s a rundown:
-- Jimmy Rollins picked a good time to turnaround a bad season ... at least partially.
He’ll finish below most of his totals from 2004, but overall, I’d take this season over last because his production came in a meaningful spot. A dramatic increase in doubles has been key. On Aug. 23, he ranked sixth on his team in doubles with 19. Since then, he’s climbed to the team lead with 35. As Jimmy goes, so goes the Phillies, and it’s no surprise the offense has been on a roll since the turn-around. There’s nothing quite like a leadoff double to get the juices flowing. With his tremendous speed and newly-found ability to drive the gap, J-Roll accounts for the most dynamic presence in the lineup today.
-- It’s pretty amazing the Phils milked out a solid season from Kenny Lofton. Splitting time with Jason Michaels (Lofton has about 50 more ABs), Lofton contributed a tremendous amount of hits with 112 coming over 337 at bats. Next to his productive stint with the Cubbies in 2003, this has been arguably his best pound-for-pound season since 1999 in Cleveland. As of today, he’s batting .332 with a .392 OBP and .419 SLG. He’s been a solid replacement of Placido Polanco as a No. 2 hitter. Like Polly, he doesn’t punch out much and likes to put the ball in play. Polanco’sproduction was not badly missed in the No. 2 hole. In terms of batting Win Shares, Polanco has 11, and Lofton has 10. Charlie Manuel's centerfield platoon of Lofton and Michaels ranks as one of the best strategies of the season, and solved the problem in center field for at least this season.
-- It’s hard to believe this is Chase Utley’s first full season and that he started out on the Phillies' bench. To me, his contributions exceed stats, though 25 home runs is nothing to ignore. His clutch hits and die-hard hustle gave the Phils something they haven’t had in years – a player that leads by example. I can't wait for the day fans get to see him in October.
-- This isn’t going to be a career year for Bobby Abreu, but it’s still another extremely productive season, once again paced by walks and runs. His totals aren’t far off his career average, and the advanced numbers still peg him as one of the best producers in the game. Bobby is gifted at figuring out ways to reach home plate. By getting on base, he makes the players around him better.
-- A strong case can be made that Pat Burrell is the team MVP. He’s having his best season since 2002 and is finally living up to expectations the team hoped for when they gave him a long-term contract. He’s an outstanding No. 5 hitter, tallying 113 RBIs, best on the team and among the best in the National League. Three more gives him a career high. Best of all, his on-base percentage of .389 is by far the best of his career. It’s pretty amazing for a player that looked clueless two seasons ago.
-- Ryan Howard (See my Sept. 22 post for my thoughts on big Ryan.)
-- Credit should also go to Jason Michaels for making the most of his few chances in center field. I’m convinced that Michaels and Lofton are better strictly part time, and the stats will back me up on that. Michaels has drawn a boatload of walks for an excellent OBP of .400. He never tries to do too much in his limited chances.