The main topic on blogs and talk radio for this version of the Philadelphia Phillies is the lack of offense. They don't hit home runs anymore. They don't play small ball. Other then Polanco, they can't move a runner over. All are legitimate concerns. They are not the 2008 version of the Fightin' Phils. That's for sure. Think about it. The lineup of that team was Rollins, Victorino, Utley, Howard, Burrell, Werth, Feliz, Ruiz, Pitcher. An opposing pitcher didn't get a break till Pedro Feliz was up. They bludgeoned teams with their bats. A typical game was like 10-6, with 3 home runs. As long as they had the lead by the 8th inning the game was over. The 2011 lineup is vastly different. Victorino, Polanco, Rollins, Howard, Ibanez, Francisco, Ruiz, Valdez, Pitcher. After Howard who in this lineup scares opposing pitchers? I know the pulse of Philly sports fans, "The sky is falling!" Wait a minute before you jump off the bandwagon. There is a team that I think is similar to this team that won it all, they won the one division American League by 12 games with 103 wins. I'm talking about the 1968 Detroit Tigers.
The 1968 Detroit Tigers had a team batting average of .247. They had one future Hall of Famer miss two months with a broken arm, Al Kaline. Are the Phils missing a major piece? I can't remember, but they show video of him running every chance they get. They had probably the best catcher of his generation, Bill Freehan. He is probably the best catcher you never heard of, think Thurman Munson without the plane crash. Sorry, he was a stinking Yankee, I couldn't resist. They did hit some home runs, nothing earth shattering. The starting Shortstop was Ray Oyler, he hit .135. He had only 29 hits in 111 games played. Their leading hitter was Willie Horton; he hit .285 with 36 HRs and 85 RBI. Ryan Howard would have to strikeout 300 times to end up with just 85 RBI's. I know, it could happen, but you can put down 120 RBI's minimum for the 'Big Piece'. It's a safe bet. So how did they win a seven game classic over the St Louis Cardinals with meager offense? Pitching.
They had Denny 'I didn't Embezzle that money' McClain. He was the last pitcher to win 30 games in a season. He won the AL Cy Young and MVP with a 31-6 record and a 1.96 ERA. They had Mickey Lolich, who threw 3 complete games in the World Series. He was the World Series MVP. As much as I'm a super baseball geek, I didn't recognize many other names on their pitching staff. Earl Wilson? Joe Sparma? Fred Lasher? John Hiller? Anyone? They did it with 2 aces in a 4 man rotation. The Phillies, sorry Joe, have 4 aces in a 5 man rotation. Come playoff time Joe Blanton will be in the bullpen if he's on the playoff roster at all. Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Hamels, repeat.
So the lack of offense will be frustrating at times this season. Howard will strikeout. Victorino will pop out. Jimmy will swing at the first pitch. Polly..Well, he does everything right at the plate. Valdez will ground into double plays. It will be a grind, but with a staff this good they will still win 100 games. It's a different style then 2008 but it can be just as effective. It's not how you won, it’s how many.