New Phillies bring same, impatient approach

New Phillies bring same, impatient approach

January 23, 2013, 12:30 pm
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Days after the Phillies were eliminated by the Cardinals in the 2011 NLDS, Ruben Amaro Jr. explained the importance of the Phils changing their offensive approach. On the surface, that meant more plate discipline and better situational hitting.

Then the Phils saw their team on-base percentage drop in 2012 for the fourth straight year, to .317. The approach didn’t change and the Phillies were a mediocre offense. They were 24th in walks. Four of the top five teams in walks made the playoffs last year, as did six of the top nine.

This offseason, the Phillies had money to spend and the ability to add some guys who have power or get on base. And they didn’t.

Sure, trading for Ben Revere and Michael Young and signing Delmon Young adds new energy to a Phillies lineup that stagnated with guys like Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence swinging at pitch after pitch in 2012. But neither Revere nor the pair of Youngs take free passes much at all. Those three players combined for 82 walks last season, or as many as Jayson Werth had by himself in his final year with the Phillies.

With the offseason mostly complete, it’s accurate to say that the Phillies saw and still see 2013 as a transitional year in which they hope several of their reclamation projects work out. Both Youngs fit that description, as do Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay, two stars returning from injuries.

Amaro avoided overspending on fringy talent or giving excess years to non-superstars like B.J. Upton. That was a positive this winter. Both Youngs are on the books only for 2013, as is free agent pitcher John Lannan. Revere won’t be going anywhere for a while, but he is young and cost-controlled. Seven months ago the Phillies had little to no financial wiggle room under the luxury tax threshold and now they have that.

But this lineup, on paper, looks like one with plenty of zeroes and ones in its future. Lots of 1-2-3 innings. When these guys aren’t hitting, they won’t be contributing offensively.

It’s the difference between a Delmon Young and a Josh Willingham. When Willingham went into a funk last May, he hit .220 but walked 19 times. Young walked 20 times all season. The Phillies actually tried to acquire Willingham in the Revere trade but the Twins declined. It can’t be overstated how much one player like Willingham would have changed the Phillies’ offseason and the potential of their 2013 offense.

Now, the new lineup could work. Maybe Howard comes back and homers 37 times and Chase Utley hits close to his career average of .288/.376/.500. Maybe the change of scenery brings life back to Michael Young’s bat and he again hits .300, as he’s done seven times in the last decade. Maybe Delmon Young’s pull power plays well enough at Citizens Bank Park that two- and three-run homers make up for stretches where he walks three times in 66 games, as he did last year from May 9 to July 24. Maybe Revere gets on base enough at the top or bottom of the lineup to wreak havoc on the bases and create easy scoring opportunities for the middle of the order.

Or maybe all of these maybes don’t work out, and a third straight season ends with the easy conclusion that these Phillies need a more patient approach to hitting.