Few, if any, are frightened by Charlie Manuel's collection of 2013 bats. But, as the game continues its offensive transition is dominant power needed to make a strong playoff push?
Without rehashing every recent season let's simply review 2012. During that .500 year (81-81) the Phillies finished eighth in the National League in runs scored (684), in home runs (158) and in OPS (.716) (on base plus slugging percentage).
No one needs to channel their inner digital diva to know that a team that finishes in the middle of the pack offensively and posted a modest team ERA (3.83, which was seventh in the League) was nothing more than average. Playoff ticket denial was also expected.
So many pixels were devoted to the Phillies' mound men over the years, that their aging former offensive rock stars likely need to be treated for symptoms related to attention withdrawal in recent seasons. But, the pitching-hitting talent scales have been addressed since last summer's trade deadline. As to whether the answers will offer new solutions is another question.
Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence were likeable players and wildly inconsistent swingers. Placido Polanco was a shell of his former self last season. A math degree isn't needed to know that they represented one-third of the Phillies' 2012 lineup.
Ben Revere has replaced Victorino in center field. His OPS has been significantly lower than the “Flyin' Hawaiian's” during the past two seasons.
The team's current right field platoon is projected to include Domonic Brown and John Mayberry, Jr. It's challenging to know if both young men can jointly eclipse the overall production that Pence offered, despite his undisciplined plate approach.
Michael Young has replaced Polanco at third base. While this Texas Rangers' perennial team player had an off-year last season, he's still got game. Young had more hits (169) than any Phillies' player last season. He's not “Polly” with the glove, but he's also no Ty Wigginton. He should prove to be an offensive upgrade over the 2012 version of Polanco.
Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins are a year older, as is every other living human being on the planet. Howard is the only one who should be markedly better this season, as his Achilles' tendon is healthy again.
Carlos Ruiz is a question mark. While Erik Kratz is a competent backup, “Chooch” must be an effective starter for at least 120 games. There's no way to determine how he will perform late in the season without “supplemental” help.
And then there is the growing legend of “Babe Ruf”. Darin Ruf could become the new baby face of this franchise. He might benefit from a dual platoon with Laynce Nix in left field and hit 20+ home runs. He could begin the year at Triple-A and then slowly work his way into the lineup by late spring, or early summer. Last year might also have been the high-point of his professional career.
A seasoned hunch must include the realization that this 26-year-old has a smooth swing, a positive attitude and the baseball gods on his side. Barring a major injury, Ruf's presence will help the Phillies' lineup to improve this season.
If Ruf can exhibit half of the power that he did in 2012 (when he hit more than 50 combined home runs from early spring through late fall), the story of this Phillies' season has potential.