What Philly Is Overreacting To: The Phillies' Offense

What Philly Is Overreacting To: The Phillies' Offense

At 26-16, the Philadelphia Phillies are leading the National League. They trail only the upstart Cleveland Indians for the best record in all of baseball. Still, the silence of their bats remains a glaring issue. The Phightins have scored just nine runs in their last five games, and needed both a gem from Cole Hamels and fiery close from Ryan Madson to win a 2-1 ballgame Tuesday evening. Indeed, the team has squandered many a good performance from its starting rotation as of late, making last night's victory all the more nerve-racking.

As a club, the Phils are sixteenth in the majors in batting average (.249), seventeenth in runs batted in (165), nineteenth in on-base percentage (.315), twentieth in total runs scored (170), and twenty-third in slugging (.371). All of those numbers, you will notice, are below the league median.

With all that in mind, fans and commentators have begun to discuss line-up changes and roster adjustments as if Ruben Amaro and Charlie Manuel have been left to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic. But, are we getting ahead of ourselves? Discussion after the jump…

The date at the top of this post reads May 19th, meaning the Phils are just about a month and a half into their 2011 campaign. Traditionally, this group of players, under this manager, have proven a slow-starting ball club. This year, however, the team rushed out of the gates to assume its spot at the top of the standings.

Here's the point, Major League Baseball plays a 162-game season. There will always be multiple highs and lows throughout that season. Swoons will happen and are expected regardless of their timing.

Yes, the Phillies dropped four in a row prior to last night. But, believe it or not, the 2008 WFC's lost a staggering six in a row in June of that year, going 5-13 during an 18-game stretch.

Or, if you don't want to compare this team to those of years past, consider the following. In 42 games, the Phillies are 17-2 when scoring four runs or more. The team average for runs scored in the 2011 season is 4.04 per game.

Moreover, just look at this line-up. Does anyone expect this particular group of guys—no offense to Pete Orr, Michael Martinez or Dane Sardinha— to be posted up in the clubhouse in another month? How about another two weeks?

Asked on Tuesday's pre-game show about what his club needs to get going, Ruben Amaro refused to play the injury card, stating that teams need to fight through injuries (Charlie Manuel shared the same sentiment after last night's game) and that the Phillies shouldn't be making excuses. He did immediately make the comment, however, that his team will be exploring all its options leading up to the July 31st trade deadline, meaning the club has the potential to look radically different in another two months. With the prospect of a trade, or even multiple trades, and the return of injured veterans, such a premise seems inarguable.

That said, I'm not suggesting that the return of Chase Utley will suddenly make the Phillies one of the most feared lineups in the game. In fact, Amaro should be doing everything possible not to rush him back. As we have seen over the past two seasons, a physically-hampered Chase Utley, despite all his effort and guile, pales in comparison to his performance when healthy.

Think of it this way—it might be time to come to grips with the fact that the Phillies have lost some of their offensive mojo. Jimmy is getting older, Chase is always injured, and Ryan has no one to protect him, because Jayson bolted for Washington. Still, didn't we already know this well before opening day? None of these facts, sorry for the pun, came out of left field.

The idea from the very start was that this team's pitching would be good enough to make up for its offense. For the first month, the offense was electric. Recently, it hasn't been. But, you know what? In all likelihood, this, too, shall pass.

Instant Replay: Cubs 4, Phillies 1

ap-jerad-eickhoff-phillies-cubs.jpg
The Associated Press

Instant Replay: Cubs 4, Phillies 1

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs continue to dominate the Phillies with extra-base hits and terrific starting pitching.
 
They beat the Phils for the second day in a row Saturday. The final score at Wrigley Field was 4-1. Right-hander Kyle Hendricks went the distance for the win. The Phils scored in the ninth inning to avoid a shutout.
 
The Phils have been held to two or fewer runs 18 times and one or fewer 11 times. They are averaging just 3.22 runs per game.
 
The Cubs, who lead the majors with 33 wins, have stroked nine extra-base hits in the first two games of the series and four of them have been homers. The Phils have just three extra-base hits, all doubles. One was a misplay by the Cubs’ outfield.
 
The Phillies are 1-4 on this six-game road trip, which started in Detroit.
 
The Phils have lost six of their last eight games and are now just three games over .500 at 26-23.
 
Starting pitching report
Eickhoff was not nearly as efficient as he was in his previous start when he threw just 85 pitches in seven innings in a 5-0 win over Atlanta. This time, Eickhoff threw a season-high 109 pitches over six innings. He gave up eight hits, four for extra bases and four runs. He walked one and struck out seven.
 
Eickhoff was tagged for three extra-bases hits in the first inning, a home run and two doubles. For the season, Eickhoff is 2-7 with a 4.07 ERA.
 
Hendricks held the Phillies to five hits, three of which were singles. He was not overpowering, but his command was exceptional. He did not walk a batter and struck out seven while throwing just 104 pitches.
 
Jon Lester held the Phillies to one earned run in 6⅓ innings Friday.
 
Bullpen report
The Cubs didn’t need one. Andrew Bailey and Elvis Araujo pitched scoreless ball for the Phillies.
 
At the plate
The Phillies had just five hits. Ryan Howard returned to the starting lineup and went 0 for 3 to drop to .154.
 
The Cubs, who hit three home runs Friday, got their power game going early as Dexter Fowler led off the bottom of the first inning with a solo homer against Eickhoff. Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist both doubled in the inning as the Cubs went up 2-0 in the first. Heyward doubled home a run in the second inning.
 
Up next
The Phillies and Cubs close out the series Sunday afternoon. Vince Velasquez (5-1, 2.75) pitches for the Phillies against right-hander John Lackey (4-2, 3.83).
 
The Phillies return home Monday night to open a 10-game homestand that will see Washington, Milwaukee and the Cubs comes to town.

Police: Pelicans guard Bryce Dejean-Jones shot and killed in Dallas

usa-bryce-dejean-jones.jpg
USA Today Images

Police: Pelicans guard Bryce Dejean-Jones shot and killed in Dallas

DALLAS -- New Orleans Pelicans rookie Bryce Dejean-Jones was fatally shot after breaking down the door to a Dallas apartment, authorities said Saturday.

Officers were called early Saturday and found the 23-year-old player collapsed in an outdoor passageway, Senior Cpl. DeMarquis Black said in a statement. Dejean-Jones was taken to a hospital where he died.

A person living at the apartment was sleeping when he heard his front door kicked open, Black said. The man retrieved a handgun and fired when Dejean-Jones began kicking the bedroom door.

Dejean-Jones was from Los Angeles and it wasn't immediately clear why he was in Dallas.

"We are devastated at the loss of this young man's life (and) who had such a promising future ahead of him," the Pelicans said in a statement.

In his only NBA season, which ended in February because of a broken right wrist, the 6-foot-6 guard started 11 of 14 games and averaged 5.6 points and 3.4 rebounds.

He was part of the 2014-15 Iowa State team that went 25-9, captured a Big 12 title and made a fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. He was fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 10.5 points in 33 games. He shot a career-best 47.6 percent in his lone season as a Cyclone. He also played at Southern California and UNLV.

"This is a very, very sad and tragic day for everyone that's a part of the Cyclone basketball family," Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said.

Former Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg added in a statement that Dejean-Jones was a "passionate and talented player that lived out his dream of playing in the NBA through hard work and perseverance."

Stanley Cup: Offseason moves send Sharks to final after missing playoffs

usa-logan-couture-sharks.jpg
USA Today Images

Stanley Cup: Offseason moves send Sharks to final after missing playoffs

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- After watching the San Jose Sharks miss the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade, general manager Doug Wilson set out to remake the team last offseason.

Individually, none of the moves sent shockwaves through the NHL. The Sharks hired a coach who made the playoffs once in seven seasons as an NHL coach, traded a first-round pick for a goalie who had been a backup his entire career, added two playoff-tested veterans for depth at forward and defense and signed an unheralded Finnish rookie.

Together, the additions of Peter DeBoer, Martin Jones, Joel Ward, Paul Martin and Joonas Donskoi to a solid core that had underachieved proved to be the right mix to get the Sharks to their long-awaited first Stanley Cup Final appearance.

"I thought this team has a lot of the pieces of that puzzle," Martin said. "Doug did a great job bringing guys in that he did, to make that push for it. I don't think many people would have guessed that we'd be here right now, but I think we believed."

The players all said the disappointment of blowing a 3-0 series lead to Los Angeles in 2014 and then missing the playoffs entirely last season served as fuel for this season's success.

DeBoer also credited former coach Todd McLellan for helping put the foundation in place that he was able to capitalize on. The Sharks became the second team in the past 10 seasons to make it to the final after missing the playoffs the previous season, joining the 2011-12 Devils that pulled off the same trick in DeBoer's first season in New Jersey.

"Everyone was ready for something a little bit fresher and newer, not anything that much different," DeBoer said. "The additions that Doug made, it just came together. I inherited a similar team in New Jersey when I went in there. First time they missed the playoffs for a long time the year before I got there. I think when you go into that situation, when you have really good people like there was in New Jersey when I went in there, like I was with this group ... they're embarrassed by the year they just had, and they're willing to do and buy into whatever you're selling to get it fixed again. I think I was the benefactor of that."

The transition from McLellan to DeBoer wasn't seamless. As late as Jan. 8, the Sharks were in 13th place in the 14-team Western Conference and seemingly on the way to another missed postseason.

But with Logan Couture finally healthy after being slowed by a broken leg early in the season and the move by DeBoer to put Tomas Hertl on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, the Sharks rolled after that and made the playoffs as the third-place team in the Pacific Division.

In-season additions of players like depth forwards Dainius Zubrus and Nick Spaling, physical defenseman Roman Polak and backup goaltender James Reimer helped put the Sharks in the position they are now.

"With the new coaching staff we needed to realize how we needed to play to win," Thornton said. "Once that clicked, and that probably clicked maybe early December, I think after that, we just exploded. I think that's really when we saw the depth of this team. Everybody plays a big part."

That has been especially true in the playoffs when longtime core players like Thornton, Couture, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau got the support that had often been lacking during past postseason disappointments.

Jones has posted three shutouts in the playoffs, including the Game 7 second-round clincher against Nashville and back-to-back games in the conference final against St. Louis. He has proven more than capable of being an NHL starter after serving an apprenticeship as Jonathan Quick's backup in Los Angeles.

Ward scored two goals in each of the final two games of the conference final and has 11 points this postseason. Donskoi exceeded expectations just to make the team as a rookie and has solidified his spot on the second line with five goals and nine points.

Martin's steady play has allowed offensive-minded defenseman Brent Burns to roam at times and given San Jose a strong second defensive pair that had been missing in previous seasons.

Zubrus and Spaling played a big role as penalty killers and on the fourth line, while Polak has been one of the team's most physical players.

"Doug did a great job this summer, this season," Couture said. "A lot of credit needs to go to him for the guys he brought in."