Is it a pipedream that Ryan Howard needs to hit 30 home runs again and post an OPS closer to .800 than .700 (he had a .690 OPS last season)?
By Sam Bush
The Phillies’ offense got off to a non-start on Monday in their 8-0 opening day loss to the Red Sox.
“I mean, it’s one game,” Grady Sizemore said afterward.
“Just one game out of 162,” manager Ryne Sandberg said.
And no one expects Phillies ace Cole Hamels, who allowed four home runs in five innings, to be that bad in his next start.
Hamels is 14-16 with a 4.12 ERA in 38 career starts in April. He is 94-68 with a 3.16 ERA in 238 appearances the rest of the season.
But can the same be said about the offense?
Phillies president Pat Gillick and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said last month that the team was not going to score a lot of runs in 2015. The Phils scored 619 runs last season and 610 runs in 2013, which were two of the four lowest-scoring seasons for the club in a non-strike-shortened year since 1972. The front office then traded Rollins and Marlon Byrd in the offseason and did not replace them with comparable talents.
The Phillies followed those moves with a .641 OPS in spring training, which was the lowest mark of any team in baseball.
“You can’t put any stock into spring,” Sizemore said.
“It’s going to come in time,” Ben Revere added.
The lack of power throughout the Phils’ lineup certainly hurts. Small ball is a well-intentioned philosophy, but teams that rely on small ball (i.e., bunting, putting runners in motion, etc.) rarely seem to score runs consistently.
So the Phillies must hope a few things happen if they expect to surprise anybody offensively this season: Revere and Odubel Herrera both need to hit better than .300 and use their legs to cause havoc on the basepaths. Chase Utley will have to hit like he did in the first half of last season (.794 OPS) and not like the second half (.674 OPS).
Ryan Howard needs to hit 30 home runs again and post an OPS closer to .800 than .700 (he had a .690 OPS last season). Carlos Ruiz has to stay healthy and give the Phils some much-needed production from the right side of the plate.
Cody Asche needs to take a step forward and Freddy Galvis has to be better than a .220-type hitter.
The Phillies would love to see prospect Maikel Franco crush the baseball in Triple-A and get back to the big leagues sooner rather than later. For that matter, they would love to see some of their top prospects take big steps forward in the Minor Leagues.
But the prospects are long-term solutions. The Phils are hoping for some short-term answers as early as Wednesday.
The players tried to be optimistic in the wake of their season-opening setback.
“It’ll come up,” Revere said about the offense. “I believe it 100 percent. I’ve got faith in all these guys. We’ll come back and change people’s minds.”