Friday, August 27, 2010

Et Tu, Placido?

The ignominy of the Astros' four game sweep of the Phillies won't be eased any time soon.

This was the first time the Phillies had been swept in a four game series at Citizens Bank Park since they took up residence. They chose to do it against an Astros team that could best be described as mediocre through and through.

In three of the four games the Phillies received starting pitching more than adequate to have won. In the fourth game, however, their starter threw batting practice. In none of the four games did they receive adequate offense or base running. Jayson Werth continued to make a case for worst base runner among starting position players in the National League, getting picked off second base to kill a potential rally one night and making an ill-considered dash for home in the fifth inning of yesterday's game on a short fly to right. Werth was thrown out for the third out of the inning.

Kyle Kendrick, the starter and loser in yesterday's game, might have numbers that are within the norm for fifth starters around the league but the truth is he gives his team no reason to expect he can win every time out. Yes, the last part of that sentence might fly in the face of the first part, but I'd be willing to bet if you could get an honest answer out of his teammates, they'd say to a man that every time this guy takes the hill they don't hold out much hope. He's over his head against most big league hitters.

Chase Utley and Ryan Howard continue to struggle since returning to the lineup. Utley, at least, stung the ball hard yesterday and may be coming out of his funk, but one game isn't an adequate sample. He does seem to be swinging over a lot of breaking balls.

Howard seems to have little or no clue of the strike zone at the this point. Earlier in the season he gave every indication he did, so I am willing to grant his weeks on the Disabled List screwed up his timing and plate discipline. That said, the Phils don't have the luxury of waiting for him to find what he lost. On the other hand, they aren't about to sit him in favor of Mike Sweeney or Ross Gload. He's famous for carrying a team in September, so he'd better get his mojo back quickly!

Shane Victorino has been in quite a funk, too. For a switch hitter he's woefully overmatched from one side. He ought to consider batting one way for a while. Jimmy Rollins is on a pace to see his offensive numbers decline for a third straight year. The site of Jimmy hitting a pop fly and looking down in disgust has become all too familiar. If anything, he's regressed in his already tenuous plate discipline. It's long past the time when Jimmy resembled a prototypical lead off man and long past the time that his free swinging habits compensated for his lack of on base percentages.

Even Placido Polanco's one day atop the leader board for batting average seems a long time ago as he, too, has struggled at the plate.

Ben Francisco got picked off third base the other day, hardly encouraging his manager to give him another start.

Domonic Brown has been buried by his manager, reduced to coming off the bench, a job that even veterans have difficulty performing well. He isn't going to learn the pitchers seeing them every third day.

Speaking of all of this offensive ineptitude, the Phillies owe a public apology to Milt Thompson, the unfortunate victim when one had to be found to pay for the team's batting woes. Greg Gross hasn't proved to have any answers either, but, then, hitting coaches rarely if ever do with the possible exception of the late, great Charlie Lau.

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