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.

Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

CHICAGO -- Dwyane Wade scored 22 points in a triumphant Chicago debut, Jimmy Butler had 24 and the Bulls won their season opener, beating the Boston Celtics 105-99 on Thursday night.

Wade nailed a 3 from the corner in the final minute to make it a five-point game. Taj Gibson added 18 points and 10 rebounds, and the new-look Bulls got off to a winning start after missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2008.

Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 25 points. Avery Bradley had 16, and Jae Crowder 14 points, but the Celtics came up short after opening with a win over Brooklyn the previous night.

The Bulls remade their roster in the offseason, jettisoning one hometown superstar and welcoming another when they traded Derrick Rose to New York and signed Wade to a two-year deal worth about $47 million in a move that stunned Miami.

The three-time NBA champion and 12-time All-Star is off to a good start with the Bulls after 13 seasons with the Heat.

Wade hit 4 of 6 3-pointers in this game after making just seven all of last season (see full recap).

New-look Hawks roll past Wizards
ATLANTA -- Dwight Howard dominated the boards in his Atlanta debut, Paul Millsap scored 28 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. ignited the new-look Hawks to a 114-99 victory over the Washington Wizards in their season opener Thursday night.

Howard grabbed 19 rebounds to go along with 11 points, just what the Hawks expected from their new center, and it certainly wasn't unusual for three-time All-Star Millsap to lead the way in scoring.

But Hardaway's performance was totally unexpected given the way he struggled in his first season with the Hawks, when he was largely confined to the bench and even forced to spend time in the D-League.

He scored 21 points, matching his high in an Atlanta uniform, and broke open a close game with back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth. The Hawks, who led only 81-80 heading to the final period, outscored the Wizards 33-19 over the final 12 minutes (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

MONTREAL -- Max Pacioretty scored the tiebreaking goal in Montreal's three-goal third period as the Canadiens beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 Thursday night for their sixth straight win.

Alex Galchenyuk and Torrey Mitchell also scored to help Montreal improve to 7-0-1. Carey Price made 29 saves to win for the fourth time in four starts this season.

Alex Killorn scored the lone goal for the Lightning, who lost against an Eastern-Conference opponent for the first time this season. Ben Bishop stopped 23 shots.

With the scored tied 1-1, Pacioretty got the go-ahead goal at 10:23 by beating Bishop glove-side. Blown coverage by the Lightning left the Canadiens' captain all alone on the edge of the face-off circle, and Bishop couldn't see the shot with Andrew Shaw posted firmly in front of goal.

Montreal remains the only NHL team still undefeated in regulation (see full recap).

Crosby's late goal gives Penguins win over Islanders
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby scored the tiebreaking goal late in the third period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.

Patric Hornqvist, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel also scored -- each getting his third of the season -- to help the Penguins win for the third time in four games and improve to 5-0-1 at home.

Crosby, playing for the second straight game after missing the first six with a concussion, scored with 2:25 left as he caught a pass from Scott Wilson at the top of the crease and quickly turned to his forehand to put the puck behind Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak.

Kessel added a power-play goal to cap the scoring 32 seconds later.

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 35 shots while starting for the eighth straight game.

Travis Hamonic and Shane Prince scored for the Islanders, and Halak finished with 31 saves (see full recap).

Streaking Red Wings win marathon shootout vs. Blues
ST. LOUIS -- Henrik Zetterberg scored in the eighth round of a shootout to give the Detroit Red Wings a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Zetterberg's goal gave the Red Wings a six-game winning streak.

In the shootout, St. Louis' first shooter, Alexander Steen, scored but then Vladimir Tarasenko, Kevin Shattenkirk, David Perron, Nail Yakupoc, Robby Fabbri, Patrick Burgland and Dmitrjij Jaskin all came up short.

Gustav Nyquist scored on Detroit's second attempt but Frans Nielsen, Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheehan and Darren Helm all missed.

St. Louis had the better chances in overtime. Center Jaden Schwartz missed a wide-open net early in the extra session. Jori Lehtera was stopped on a breakaway midway through the period by Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek (see full recap).