Philadelphia Phillies 2013 Statistical Preview: Hitting
The Infield Core
The core of the 2008 Phillies’ World Series champion offense is still intact. Not surprisingly, five years later, their three big-name veterans are all question marks going into 2013. How they fare will likely determine just how effective Philadelphia’s offense can be.
The priciest of those three is first baseman Ryan Howard. Last year, coming off a torn Achilles suffered as the Phillies were eliminated from the 2011 playoffs, Howard had by far his worst season in the majors. The Big Piece never found his rhythm in his 71 games, hitting just .219 with 14 home runs and 56 RBI. Always a high-strikeout hitter, Howard’s strikeout percentage was an astounding 33.9 percent, well above his career average. Even when Howard managed to get the ball into play, he had an unusually low batting average on balls in play (BABIP).
Second baseman Chase Utley seems poised to play his first healthy season since 2009, when he played at an MVP level. After posting on base plus slugging percentages (OPS) of over .900 earlier in his career, Utley has slipped to below .800 the last two seasons. If Utley can turn in something close to a full season, the Phillies will be much better for it rather than see replacement-level players in his place.
Jimmy Rollins was re-signed for another run with the Phillies prior to 2012. He’s remained effective on the basepaths as he’s passed his prime, stealing 30 bases last season while being thrown out just five times. The problem for J-Roll has always been getting on base. He posted a .316 on base percentage (OBP) in 2012, and his career .328 OBP is subpar for the leadoff role Rollins has filled for most of his career.
The Phillies still have one of the oldest teams in the majors, but they’ll get an injection of youth into their lineup this season.
After toiling in the high minors and on the Phils’ bench for the last few years, Domonic Brown is set to finally be a full-time starter. In previous stints with the big club, Brown struggled in fill-in and pinch hitting duties, hitting just .235 in 212 plate appearances last season. The former top prospect had a huge spring though, cranking home runs and hitting well over .300. If he falters, though, he’ll have Delmon Young breathing down his neck (if he ever gets healthy).
Ben Revere was acquired to fill the void left when Shane Victorino was dealt away last summer. With the Twins last season, the light-hitting centerfielder swiped 40 bases while only being caught nine times. Revere’s ability to make contact (.294 BA last season) and speed should be enough to finally supplant Rollins’ from his leadoff role. He’ll have to get his walk rate up to maintain a spot at the top of the order, though - Revere took a base on balls in just over five percent of plate appearances last year.