For the most part, the sustained success over the Phillies run atop the National League east has been as a result of the offense and their ability to create runs. Dating back to 2007, when they first won the division, they've been on or near the top of the league in runs scored, with the one exception occurring last season, when they hovered just better than league average.
One of the reasons that they've been able to have such success on offense is their consistency, not only concerning the performance of the hitters, but also concerning the physical presence of the personnel that are used to fill out a lineup card.
From 2007 to 2010, there wasn't a lot of questions when it came to knowing who would play were on the field, and you could remain fairly certain that the lineup would be about the same on a nightly basis once you account for injuries and players needing off days.
Sure, a player might get moved around in the lineup to facilitate some kind of offensive spark, but you – and most importantly, Charlie Manuel – knew who he was going to pencil into the lineup. Ryan Howard was going to be at first, Chase Utley at second, Jimmy Rollins at third, and so on.
It wasn't until 2011 that Charlie Manuel had his work cut out for him, when a series of injuries and depth issues reared their head, making it a daily adventure when it came to putting a team on the field. Chase Utley missed the first month a half, and just about every other player dealt with some kind of malady that would cause leave the team with their “everyday lineup” for less than 10% of the season.
Thankfully, they had a pitching staff that was able to counteract the lack of offense caused by injuries, age, and depth issues, and it enabled them to win a franchise record 103 games.
But now, through four games, the Phillies have used four different lineups. And so far, only four players (Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins, Hunter Pence, Freddy Galvis) have appeared in every game, as the rest of the lineup is content to take part in some sort of continuous platoon role, in hopes that someone can stand out and force Charlie Manuel to start them on a daily basis.
The way I see it, that's a problem. It's a problem because you are mixing and matching every single day, and it's a problem because Charlie has to, often times, pick between the lesser of two evils when filling out the lineup card. With the exception of Victorino, Polanco, Rollins, Pence and Ruiz, it's an absolute crapshoot when it comes to deciding who gets to play everyday when you have to pick between John Mayberry, Laynce Nix, Ty Wigginton, Freddy Galvis, Juan Pierre, and Jim Thome.
And even thought I will forever be critical of Charlie Manuel (his decision to have Shane Victorino bunt on Sunday was mind-numbingly stupid), there isn't a whole lot that he can do when half of his offense is so-so, and the other half is just bad.
Is a steady, consistent lineup the answer? I don't know. It would be nice if somebody stood out and made Charlie play him every day (there is also a certain outfielder at Lehigh Valley who would be a nice addition to the roster), but for now, it looks like a revolving door around the field. And, to be fair, we are all of four games into the season, so it's too early to judge based on this sample size, but the fact that Charlie Manuel seems to be throwing a dart at a wall to pick his lineup is really, really disconcerting.