In recent posts I’ve suggested that the sluggishness of the offense had to do with the problems the team had hitting right-handed pitching this season. You can also look at it as a problem with the offensive production in the infield.
As I mentioned before, the Phillies catchers, led by Carlos Ruiz, were very good offensively last year as the Phils posted the second-best OPS at the position overall.
So the problem isn’t with the catchers.
It’s not in the outfield, either. It might be in 2011 if Werth leaves, but it wasn’t in 2010.
That doesn’t leave a whole lot left.
The table below shows what the players playing at the four infield positions, first, second, third and short, combined to do in 2010 compared the players at the same positions for the other NL teams. The teams are ordered by OPS.
By OPS, the Phillies’s infielders were ninth-best offensively in the NL in 2010. The Phils were in the middle of the pack or worse in average (eighth), on-base percentage (tenth) and slugging (ninth) by their infielders. Only the Cardinals and Padres saw their infielders hit fewer doubles than the Phils this season.
Ninth-best offensively in the league isn’t what the Phillies are looking for. Wilson Valdez’s 363 plate appearances on the year (353 of which came as an infielder) are part of the problem, but not all of it. The team is built around the very reasonable belief that Utley and Howard are elite offensive players and they weren’t in 2010.
The outfielders, on the other hand, were just fine.
By OPS, the guys playing the outfield positions were third-best in the NL last season. Only two NL teams got more home runs from their outfielders and the Reds and the Rockies both hit just one more than the 70 for the Phils. The Phillies got 274 RBI from their guys playing the outfield, which was the most in the league. Only the Cards had a better on-base percentage.
It wasn’t too long ago that the Phils were among the best offensive teams in both the infield and the outfield.
Here, for example, is how the numbers looked for the infielders in 2007:
So, by OPS, in 2010 there were only seven teams that got less production from their infield. As recently as 2007, there were only two teams that got more, and the two that did, the Brewers and the Fish, only did so by a tiny margin. Back in 2007, the guys playing the infield for the Phils combined to hit 112 home runs and drive in a league-high 418 runs. In 2010, Phillies infielders combined to hit 72 home runs and drove in 340 runs.
The outfielders were also slightly better relative to the rest of the league, but the difference wasn’t nearly as dramatic. Here’s what the outfield numbers for 2007 look like:
The Phillies claimed 22-year-old infielder Carlos Rivero off of waivers from the Indians. Rivero has played shortstop almost exclusively in the minors and put up a 255/315/361 line over 2,156 plate appearances.