One of May's worst offenses has sent a distress call to Chase Utley.
It’s bad. It’s real bad. It’s not the worst offense of the month, but yesterday the Phils trotted out what has devolved into the weakest attack going at the present moment, measured out over nine-game period, in which they’ve scored a paltry 15 runs while banging out a whole nine extra-base hits. They’re also just 5-for-36 (.138) with RISP over that span. The RISP numbers suggest they aren’t as bad as they appear, just unlucky, but that’s baseball’s cruel equilibrium. It’s baseball’s way of leveling the lucky BABIP totals from earlier this year.
But the story here can only partially be told through stats. Nobody needs to pitch to Ryan Howard when he’s flanked by non-producers like Ben Francisco and Raul Ibanez, who should pose a constant power threat, but aren't. Pitchers are doing the same to Carlos Ruiz, who never sees a fastball anymore. Placido Polanco, for all his talent, is really just a complimentary piece, signed to bring out the best in his teammates through situational hitting and applying pressure. Pete Orr, Michael Martinez and Dane Sardinha wouldn’t start regularly in Triple-A. Meanwhile, Charlie Manuel waits for his annual hot-bat bailout, where someone unexpectedly catches fire. I was hoping that John Mayberry had caught that kind of spark, but his bat is now smoldering.
So here’s Utley, back from the dead. What are the expectations? Using PECOTA, Bill and Crashburn Alley predicts how many wins Utley will add over the Orr-Valdez-Martinez Trio, and it is significant. But obviously, there’s no way to account for knee tendonitis and all the other wear and tear. Still, it’s hard to temper expectations that better days are ahead, and better days for a 28-18 team is a nice place to live.