Five of the Phillies eight regulars are fighting an uphill battle to meet their own personal performance standards.
A couple of nights ago, Charlie Manuel talked about how the offense has been dragging because a number of players have produced below expectations, a simple point that resonates strongly among the many theories as to why the offense keeps scuffling the way it has. Even before Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Shane Victorino went on the shelf, they were falling short of their career norms, so it isn't as simple as injuries.
Aside from late bloomers Jayson Werth and Carlos Ruiz, in addition to steady contact hitter Placido Polanco, the Phillies are like salmon swimming against a current. They’ve fallen into what appears to be their third team-wide scoring slump of the season. But individually, the reason for the mass malaise could boil down to the effects of aging. A player’s peak is considered to be 29. The average age of the Phillies’ starting eight is almost 32. At right is a very applicable table from a study done by J.C. Bradbury of Baseball Prospectus earlier this year. His explanation follows below:
“The table reveals that player skills peak at different times, often quite far apart from each other," Bradbury writes. "Hitters peak in batting and slugging average at 28 while continuing to improve in their home-run hitting and walking abilities until 30 and 32, respectively. Home runs rising beyond the peak for doubles and triples indicates that foot-speed on the basepaths fades before hitting power. In addition, batters may be using veteran knowledge to better manage the strike-zone or possibly becoming more friendly with umpires to walk more and hit with power as they age. Again, veteran know-how appears to be playing a role in improving performance to compensate for diminishing physical skills. It's also been observed that athletic feats that involve quick bursts of speed and strength peak earlier than skills that rely on more endurance and knowledge.”To me, this is as good a reason as any when discussing the Phillies general hitting woes. Howard will be 31 in November, Utley and Rollins will turn 32 this fall, Victorino will turn 30 and Ibanez just turned 38.