Through 85 games, the Phillies — as a team — have hit 82 home runs. Only five teams in baseball have fewer dingers than the Fightins this season, a group that admittedly includes the NL-leading San Francisco Giants. But the Phillies have been roundly unproductive at the plate this season; ranked 29th of 30 teams in OPS (.684), 28th in slugging (.390), 26th in batting average (.241) and dead last in on base percentage (.293).
For a good part of April and May, the Phillies were right in the thick of the NL East race, thanks to stellar starting pitching and solid performances from the bullpen. The offense was, most of the time, nowhere to be found.
From the start of the season through June 20, when the team capped a six-game home skid without scoring more than two runs in any game, the Phillies sat at 30-41, scoring five or more runs just 14 times.
In the 14 games since, however, the bats that have come alive, as the Phils have scored five or more runs in nine of those contests. Since June 21st, the team is 9-5, inching back toward .500 for the season, thanks in part to 83 runs scored (5.93) per game, up nearly three full runs per game from the team’s average over the first 71 games of the season (3.11).
Of the 82 homers this year, 22 have been hit in the last 14 games, accounting for 34 of the team’s 83 runs in that span.
There’s really no way to explain the sudden power surge. Even manager Pete Mackanin is having a hard time, telling reporters — via Philly.com — after Tuesday’s 5-2 win over the Braves, “I think the wind started blowing out for us. I don’t know how to explain it, but I’m happy.”
Mackanin should be happy, as not only has the team started to win again, but everyone seems to be hitting. In Tuesday’s victory, the homers were hit by Maikel Franco — his third homer in as many games — Tommy Joseph, Cody Asche and Peter Bourjos, who continues to defy logic with his production at the plate.
Bourjos was literally one of the worst hitters in baseball just five weeks ago, so bad that if the Phillies had any other options besides burning a year for one of their top minor league prospects, Bourjos would have surely been sent down to the minors or outright released.
When Cody Asche rejoined the team after injury last month, it looked like Mackanin would go with Asche and Rule-5 pick Tyler Goeddel in the corners, and the Phillies’ lone All-Star Odubel Herrera patrolling centerfield. But right then Bourjos started to make the most of his opportunities, and has rewarded Mackanin for giving him the nod over Goeddel. From Todd Zolecki at MLB.com:
Bourjos has been on fire lately. He is hitting .464 (32-for-69) with five doubles, three triples, three home runs, nine RBIs and a 1.260 OPS in 22 games since June 11, when he was batting .192 with a .501 OPS. Mackanin credited Bourjos’ current streak for the Phillies’ offensive revival.
“I just feel a lot more comfortable and obviously more confident with everything that I’m doing,” Bourjos said. “I’m allowing the ball to get deeper and not over-swinging, and I think that breeds confidence in the fact that I’m not scared to get to two strikes where before I didn’t want to get to two strikes because I felt like I was going to chase.”
It really is inexplicable how a player could go from the worst in baseball to the best in a matter of weeks, but Bourjos is arguably the best hitter in the game right now. And the Phillies’ offense has sparked because of it.
The trade deadline is still a few weeks away, but already GM Matt Klentak is fielding questions about Bourjos being a potential trade piece, which is just incredible given where he was at the plate a month ago.
The recent wins aren’t just a credit to the rejuvenated offense. The Phillies seem happy with their pitching rotation, as Aaron Nola has begun to settle back in, while fellow youngsters Vince Velasquez and Jerad Eickhoff have both looked extremely solid lately, as each boast an ERA around 3.30 through 14 and 17 starts, respectively. The Phillies’ other young starter, Zach Eflin, just threw a complete-game on Tuesday, the first win of his career. And the Phillies Opening Day starter, Jeremy Hellickson, is another likely candidate to be dealt for prospects at the trade deadline.
For a while, when the Phillies were still competitive in the NL East race, we forgot this year was a reboot, to build for the future and figure out what the team has and where the biggest needs will be.
June’s disappointing slide has the team 11 games back in the division and seven back in the Wild Card, giving the organization renewed focus of finding the pieces to win for years to come, not this year.
Still, the way the bats are swinging right now, winning this year is pretty darn fun again.