The Phillies acquisition of White Sox center fielder Aaron Rowand, coupled by the offseason trade of Jason Michaels and loss of Kenny Lofton, added strikeouts to the lineup and stripped them of hitters who got on base and put the ball in play.
When the Phillies acquired Rowand in the deal that sent Jim Thome to Chicago, my first reaction was “Where is he going to hit in the lineup?” The Phillies still don’t know.
Rowand brought a reputation for hardcore defense, but today, the 29-year-old center fielder is perhaps the oddest fit in the entire lineup. He has some power, but not clean-up power. He has some speed, but doesn’t get on base enough to lead off. He doesn’t hit for average, and he strikes out a lot.
Through no fault of his own, the Phillies simply don’t have excellent No. 2 hitters like they did last year in Jason Michaels and Kenny Lofton, and overall, they have too many hackers and not enough finesse contact hitters to put the ball in play. Their 633 strikeouts is fourth in baseball, and rising fast.
Snell, Taubenheim, Park, Janssen ... this is the list of mediocre or sub-mediocre pitching they have not hit against recently. Like pitching, the offense is completely broken.
It never got this bad last season. Michaels, who played less, would dutifully get on base against left-handers, reaching base at a .401 clip. Lofton, perhaps the most underrated player from the 2005 team, hit .335 with a .392 OBP and 22 SB.
The center field platoon from 2005 gave the Phillies everything this team doesn’t have: efficiency. The 2005 Phillies were also among the most efficient teams in manufacturing runs between bags. Lofton was one of the best at it. Hitting Lofton and Michaels second also meant the RBI hitters could be more evenly distributed though the rest of the lineup, on down to Ryan Howard, who was hitting sixth.
Rowand, typically batting sixth, is hitting .261 with a .309 OBP, worst among regulars besides catcher. It’s become an expansion of the black hole. Rowand, David Bell, catcher, pitcher. Adding Burrell on days he hits fifth, over half the lineup is comprised of some of the most inefficient run producers on the team.
If the Phillies want to make it work with Rowand, the team must find a way to add No. 2-type production from some other area once the season is over. Some ideas include a high-average, low strikeout third baseman or corner outfielder, sacrificing power for efficiency.