COMMENTARY | The additions were skeptical at best. The Philadelphia Phillies, staring at a free agent class of outfielders rife with possibility, made a trade with the Minnesota Twins to pick up young centerfielder Ben Revere. Then they waited before gifting the Philadelphia area with the reigning ALCS MVP, Delmon Young, whose resume doesn't go much farther in baseball circles outside of the crown he holds and the racial epithets he's spewed.
In the midst of a tumultuous 2012 season that saw inconsistency and injury leave the Phillies clawing to a .500 record, the club unloaded veteran outfielders Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence in an effort to bolster a farm system depleted by their efforts to strike championship gold for the second time since 2008. The additions of Roy Halladay and Pence, amongst others, left the coffers of the Phils' minor-league system dry. Everything has its price.
The remaining cogs in the outfield were John Mayberry, Jr., older by the minute and still as unproven and below average as his first day in the show. Domonic Brown was the franchise's last blue chip prospect, but the club had never given him a prolonged look and we still don't have all the answers (although we've seen some signs of competence). Laynce Nix, the journeyman, gave you some left-handed pop off the bench. With Young's ankle tweaked at the start of the season, even Freddy Galvis has logged innings in the pastures beyond the infield dirt.
Free agent options this past off-season included Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton and Michael Bourn. To general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr.'s credit, the price tags on these players were likely way too high for the production you would receive. Hamilton, who received a similar contract the Phillies are stuck with in Ryan Howard's $125 million deal, has been awful thus far for the Los Angeles Angels. Upton has been a strikeout machine for the Atlanta Braves and Bourn has missed all but 13 games with a finger injury for the Cleveland Indians, although he's been reactivated.
The early failures of those signings don't necessarily mean that they may not have been more successful someplace else, like, say, Philly. But this much is clear -- what was left behind has been the dead weight holding this Phillies team down.
Yes, Jimmy Rollins has been abysmal for two weeks. Yes, Ryan Howard has a new enemy, the high fastball, and hasn't hit for power or gotten on base consistently yet. Yes, we've endured the unfortunate Roy Halladay situation. But when a third of any National League lineup hits with the ineptitude Philly's outfielders have displayed the overall production is going to be minimal, and the easiest statistic to pinpoint when looking at the Phillies' poor start to the season is a simple lack of tallies on the scoreboard.
Statistically, here is where the Phillies' outfield stood in most major statistical MLB categories entering games on May 13.
Home Runs -- 21st with 13 (Brown has 6)
RBI -- Tied for 26th with 44
Runs Scored -- Tied for 29th (meaning dead last) with 50
Stolen Bases -- You would think with Ben Revere this would be a positive category, but they're tied with 5 other teams for 20th with just 9, and they've been caught 5 times
Average -- 23rd at .238
On-Base Percentage -- Tied for 27th at .301 -- the only team worse is the Houston Astros
Slugging Percentage -- 28th at .366
Fld (Fangraphs' fielding runs above or below average) -- 22nd at -4.1
BsR (Fangraphs' base running runs above or below average) -- 24th at -0.4
WAR -- 28th at -0.2 (Baseball-reference registers a below zero WAR rating as a player that needs to be replaced. Apparently that is the current collective value of the Phillies' outfield)
It's understandable to blame Ben Revere's light stick for these numbers, but if you scan the Phillies' outfield, and go deeper than their mediocre to deplorable batting averages, the production is simply non-existent. In fact, Revere would be the most luke warm of all the outfielders at the plate over the last week. Their outfielders are on par with the Miami Marlins and just slightly better than the Astros. Let's be clear, if any part of your club is just on par with any part of those two clubs, you have serious problems.
Down on the farm, first baseman turned leftfielder Darin Ruf is starting to hit. Ruf has gone deep four times in his last 53 ABs and is hitting a gaudy .415 in that span. The Phillies need to add offense to this lineup, and if that means sacrificing some defense to get it (although they say Ruf has been competent), then they need to bring Ruf back to Philadelphia. The move would serve to help the offensive woes of the outfield while giving the Phillies the look they need to decide Ruf's future in the organization. If that move means there are nights Revere sits against left-handers, so be it. If that moves spells the end of the line for Mayberry, Jr., so be it. If that move means Delmon Young platoons, so be it.
The Phillies are holding their rotation together with chewing gum right now, and we don't know how long it is going to stick. Jonathan Pettibone has been fantastic, but his numbers will even out. Tyler Cloyd did a fine job on May 10 in Arizona, but he isn't a viable fifth starter on a contender.
Without more production from the outfield, you've been looking at the team you will see all summer -- one of abject mediocrity. Let's hope the powers that be realize it before treading water isn't good enough to stop a fire sale.
Pete Lieber is a freelance writer who has covered the Phillies for more than three years and followed the team since the Bull, Garry Lee Maddox and Bake McBride showed us what an outfield should look like. Follow him on Twitter at @Lieber14.
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