Is there a bright side to the Phillies' brutal weekend?
As ugly as it was, the Phils are rarely as bad as the product they put on the field Sunday, and they can usually count on better pitching, too. More than the offense, which scored two runs in the final two games this series, Sunday exposed all the pressure points on defense. The Phis committed three recorded errors and misplayed several balls, including a pair of bad reads by Hunter Pence in right field. Meanwhile, Jim Thome's first error - a throw behind Joe Blanton covering at first - led to a run.
Without question, the Phils are part of a league-wide epidemic of bad April baseball. They're mired in the basement alongside hacks like the Padres, and are actually fortunate to be 7-9 considering the offense has spotted them just 2.7 runs per game. The offense, which struck out 11 times Sunday and went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position, is visibly pressing and making poor judgements, like Carlos Ruiz hitting into a rally murdering double play on a 2-0 pitch, out of the zone, when the opposing pitcher had just walked a pair.
Indeed, without Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, the offense has struggled to find an identity, and this "retooled approach," which was talked about all spring, has not materialized. As much as the Phils seem enamored with Juan Pierre setting the table, baserunners do little good if they're left for dead.
If there's a bright side it's that the Phils can't possibly stay this bad with ducks on the pond. But that's still no substitute for talent. The Phils have a lot of hacks, too. The Phillies are shoehorning too many players into spots they don't belong. Every move seems to come at a tangible price. And we can name them: Thome at first; Rollins batting third; Pierre's inclusion has suppressed John Mayberry Jr. following a breakout year.
And so on. There are few, true fits, and there's no clear solution, except to pitch through it, hang in and hope for better luck.