Philadelphia Phillies fans are not ready to jump off of the Ben Franklin Bridge just yet, but things are getting tense in the City of Brotherly Love. Four games into the season is certainly very early be worried, but after three straight loses caused mainly by an inept offense, Phillies Nation is in a semi-panic. Just as most “experts” had predicted, the Phillies have started 2012 with an approach that is opposite to what made them successful over the past five years. Injuries and aging have caused what was once the top offense in the National League to become a poor excuse for “small ball.”
The Philly media outlets call what the Phillies are doing small ball, but it really isn’t. In order to play small ball, an offense must first have base runners, and over the first handful of games, the Phils have not had much success getting men on base. In all honesty, if you took the number three and four batters out of any lineup at the beginning of the season, you would expect to see a large decline in efficiency, but there seems to me more going on in Philadelphia then just the loss of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.
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The players do not seem to know their roles. Jimmy Rollins, who as a leadoff man rarely bunted, is now the number-three hitter and laying down bunts. The team has used a different first baseman in every game so far, and in some cases, the player has looked out of place on the field. Rookie Freddy Galvis has managed just one hit so far this season, and even though expectations are not extremely high for him, one hit in four games is not close to acceptable. The bottom of the lineup has, for the most part, been nonexistent.
It may be too early to be up in arms about all of this, but doubt seems to be everywhere around this team. Maybe this doubt is owed in large part to the bandwagon fans that jumped on after the 2008 World Series win and have never experienced a team that may have its struggles or maybe it’s just the clock running out on a franchise that had not had much success since the late 1970s. There is really no exact answer.
Not everything has been negative for the Phils. Roy Halladay looked amazing as usual in the first game of the season. He allowed two hits in the first inning and then was his normal self for the rest of the game. Cliff Lee followed up that performance with a decent outing, as well, and Vance Worley seemed to be in last-season form with an average start that saw him leave with the lead and then have the bullpen blow it. This sounds great, but if the offense doesn’t start doing something, then the Phillies could end up losing more games similar to how they were eliminated in last year’s playoffs.
Phillies fans might have to get use to seeing 1-0 and 2-1 games, which is something new around Philadelphia. It could also be the beginning of the end of a great run by the Fightins, but with the Phils pitching staff, 1-0 and 2-1 games might just be enough to stay in contention. Now is the time to show why stud pitching is so important. Survive with what you have, and stop worrying about what you do not.