In 2005, the Phillies scored 807 runs, which was the second-most in the National League. The 865 they scored this past season was the most in the NL. If you measure offensive production using OPS, they improved at four positions, catcher, first base, shortstop and left field and got worse at four positions, second base, third base, center field and right field.
As a group, the four
players the Phillies used at catcher in 2006 were very successful. Mike
Lieberthal's 209 at-bats led the group, and he hit 273/316/469. Chris Coste
had a great year with the bat, hitting 328/376/505 in 198 at-bats. Fasano
(243/284/386 in 140 at-bats) and Ruiz (261/316/435 in 69 at-bats) brought
the numbers down a bit, but the big year from Coste was enough to offset
them for the group.
In 2005, Lieberthal (263/336/418 in 392 at-bats) and Todd Pratt (251/332/394 in 175 at-bats) caught for the Phillies.
Catcher remains a question mark going into the 2007 season. The Phillies have relied on Lieberthal to carry the load for most of the past 11 seasons. Ruiz and Coste seem like the best in-house candidates, but they have 267 at-bats of major league experience between them.
The Phillies offense got
a huge boost from Ryan Howard this season as he hit 313/425/659 in 581
at-bats with 58 home runs. He was second in the NL in OPS.
In 2005, Howard (288/356/567 in 312 at-bats) shared time with a largely ineffective Jim Thome. Thome hit 207/360/352 in 170 at-bats, dragging the positional numbers for the Phillies down. The .352 slugging percentage was particularly surprising. Tomas Perez also appeared at first base in an absurd 24 games for the Phillies in 2005. For the year he hit 233/289/277.
The Phillies are extremely strong at first base, and looks like they will be for several years.
Second base produced
virtually the same OPS in '06 as it did in '05. Chase Utley got almost all
of the time this season and had an outstanding year, hitting 309/379/527 in
In 2005, Utley got just 543 at-bats and hit 291/376/540, hitting 39 doubles, just one fewer than the 40 he hit in 2006 in 115 more at-bats. He slugged 13 points higher and walked 69 times in '05, just 63 in '06. All the extra walks in '05 gave him a very similar on-base percentage for the two years, despite the fact that he hit 18 points higher this season.
Polanco also saw significant time at second for the Phils in '05. For the year he got 158 at-bats in which he hit an impressive 316/376/418.
Overall, the Phillies numbers at second base were down a tiny bit in '06, but they were still great, the best in the league, each of the last two years. Second base is a tremendous strength for the Phillies and looks like it will be for years to come.
Third base is not a
tremendous strength for the Phillies. After an awful 2005 season at the
position the Phillies got worse in 2006. There's not a lot of hope in sight
within the organization.
David Bell and Abraham Nunez got most of the time for the Phillies in 2006. Bell hit 278/345/398 in 324 at-bats with the Phillies this year, while Nunez was even worse at 211/303/273 in 322 at-bats for the season.
Bell got most of the work at third base in 2005, hitting 248/310/361 in 557 at-bats.
Third base has been a catastrophe for the Phillies for two straight seasons. It looks as if they will have to go outside of the organization to find help if they're going to prevent another catastrophe next season.
Jimmy Rollins has
been the Phillies shortstop in both 2005 and 2006, getting nearly all the
time both years. He
hit for more power in 2006, hitting 277/334/478 in 689 at-bats compared to
290/338/431 in 677 at-bats in '05. In 2006 he hit for a slightly lower average but offset the dip
with a power surge, slugging 47 points higher as he banged out career highs
in home runs (25) and doubles (45).
There's no question who the Phillies will have playing shortstop for the next few years, and Rollins should keep the Phillies offense producing with the top teams in the league at the position.
Pat Burrell got the most
time in left for the Phillies, appearing in 126 games. Dellucci spent
significant time there as well, appearing in 45 games. Victorino appeared
in left in 44 games for the Phillies, most of them early in the season
before he took over center full-time following the Aaron Rowand injury.
Burrell hit 258/388/502 in 462 at-bats for the Phils this season. Dellucci
292/369/530 in 264 at-bats and Victorino 287/346/414 in 415 at-bats.
In 2005 the position belonged more exclusively to Burrell. He appeared in left 153 games and hit 281/389/504 in 562 at-bats for the year.
Left field remains a question mark for the Phillies. The team is clearly interested in trying to offload Burrell's big contract, but, for the time being he remains with the team. It will be a hard bat to replace if it needs replacing, especially in an outfield full of question marks for 2007.
It's easy to forgot how
good the combination of Kenny Lofton and Jason Michaels were offensively for
the Phillies in center field in 2005. In 2006, Aaron Rowand played there
for about two-thirds of the season with Victorino taking over towards the
end. For the year, Rowand hit a disappointing 262/321/425 in 405 at-bats,
while Victorino hit 287/346/414 in 415 at-bats.
In 2005, Kenny Lofton hit an impressive 335/392/420 in 367 at-bats. Jason Michaels also hit well, 304/399/415 in 289 at-bats.
Center field remains another question mark for the Phillies, who may or may not try to bring back Rowand for a second season. Victorino seems to be the other candidate. Either way, without bringing someone in from outside the organization the Phillies have a ways to go to get back to their '05 levels of offensive production from their center fielders.
In 2006, the bulk of the
time in right went to Bobby Abreu, Dellucci and Jeff Conine. Abreu hit
277/429/434 in 339 at-bats for the Phils. Dellucci 292/369/530 in 264
at-bats and Conine 280/327/390 in 100 at-bats.
Abreu got virtually all of the time in right in 2005, starting 158 games and hitting 286/405/474 in 588 at-bats.
The Phillies took a big fall in terms of production in right field this season, dropping from second in the NL to sixth. And that was with nearly 100 games of Abreu in right. They're certainly not likely to approach Abreu-like numbers from 2005 in the near future, but hopefully they can get close. There's nobody they have in the organization that could get them close in 2007 unless Dellucci were to return as part of a left-right platoon, and that looks highly unlikely at this point.
In playoff action yesterday, the Cardinals beat the Padres 6-2 to advance to the NLCS against the Mets. Chris Carpenter held San Diego to two runs over seven innings and St. Louis blew the game open with a four-run sixth inning.
St. Louis faces the Mets on Wednesday in New York. Detroit faces Oakland in game one of the ALCS tomorrow night.