The Philadelphia Phillies 2012 lineup isn't dominant. But, it should allow the team a chance to compete through September's playoff drive.
The Washington Nationals, Miami Marlins, New York Mets and Atlanta Braves all have their own roster holes. So, this might be a season where no team is able to pull away from its National League East colleagues.
Days gone by
Manager Charlie Manuel formerly oversaw one of the most dynamic offenses in all of baseball. Today, his lineup stands in the middle of the National League pack.
In consideration of a thin bullpen and some new issues in the starting rotation, one has to wonder if a somewhat improving offense will be able to make a playoff push later this season?
From top to bottom
Is is possible that Jimmy Rollins could hit a few more balls in the air? We realize that the 2007 Most Valuable Player version of 'J-Roll' is gone. But, he seems almost incapable of maintaining any type of consistent approach at the plate.
Rollins .736 OPS (on base plus slugging percentage) last season was his highest mark since 2008 (.786). With 2010s health problems behind him, he appeared to be back on track in 2011.
This year, he is either working through some type of extended slump, or has begun a career decline. His .291 OBP (on base percentage) is nearly 40 points beneath his career average.
Regardless of whatever other options were available in the offseason, general manager Ruben Amaro, Junior's decision to stick with his long-time middle infielder is questionable. He was not re-signed to simply play strong defense, which he is still doing.
Juan Pierre gets a ton of hits and is doing more than has been expected of him. If John Mayberry, Jr. can increase his production to anywhere near his 2011 level, these two left fielders will have created a good platoon.
Hunter Pence isn't a perfect hitter, but he gets the job done. No need to over analyze this positive part of the lineup.
Shane Victorino is having an off-year during a contract run, which is unusual. While the centerfielder is streaky offensively, he generally does produce good numbers at the plate. I would expect him to move closer to his career averages, than away from them, as the season progresses.
Rookie Freddy Galvis already has one area of his game down pat. The 22-year-old is already one of the best fielding second baseman in the major leagues. His flashes of ability, combined with baseball street smarts, lead me to believe that he will eventually be a decent hitter as well.
Placido Polanco has been pushing his batting average toward his career mark of .300 and has a 1.000 fielding percentage this season. Those numbers alone tell me that he is healthy. If he can stay that way, while also getting some needed time off during the summer months, he will be a positive part of the team's offensive plans.
Ty Wigginton was a good offseason addition who has offered a nice plate performance so far this season.
The Phillies bench is better than last year's bunch. Their versatility should continue to offer Manuel a number of fine options during each game.
All hail the new bat man
Carlos Ruiz has been part of many of the Phillies early season offensive thrusts.
His ungodly numbers might be somewhat sustainable if he played any position other than catcher. Since that is Chooch's trade, we will see some leveling off of his bat fantastics later in the year. With good health, he should still make the All-Star team and crush his career regular season offensive highs.
The jump in his offensive numbers is no fluke. While he can't be expected to breathe such lofty offensive air forever, 'Chooch' has smartly closed many of the holes that had previously been seen in his swing.
Missing in the mix tape
Ryan Howard and Chase Utley haven't been included in this offensive mix tape, because they aren't on stage with the band.
While video of them has been seen and words have been spoken in their regard, the shadowy facts surrounding all things 6 and 26 isn't all that mysterious. Neither player really knows what to expect from himself this season. How could the Phillies, or the rest of us, know either?
Games to be played
The entire summer schedule has yet to be played and trade deadlines have yet to be crossed.
While the early returns on this season indicate a .500 team has emerged, there is plenty of time for progress to be made.
Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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