The Phillies fell back into 2nd place in the NL East last night, and if you’re wondering where to place blame look no further than the second half of the order. The combined bats of Raul Ibanez, Wilson Valdez, Carlos Ruiz are an excellent place to start:
Since the fourth inning of the team's 6-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers last Monday, the three hitters are a combined 1 for 63. That's a batting average .016, and no, that's not a misprint.
Ibanez is 0 for his last 25. His batting average has dropped to .171.
Now THAT right there is a hitting slump. I’m fascinating by slumps because they’re such an enormous source of agitation for both players and fans, and yet stat experts will tell you that slumps are too small of a sample size to judge any one hitter, and that hitters usually recover to hit somewhere near their career average.
But here’s why that isn’t terribly comforting news. Ibanez has a career average of .282. Ruiz has a career average of .259. Valdez has a career average of .241. All of them -- if they remain in the lineup -- will likely recover to get back close to those averages. The problem, of course, is that none of those averages are all that great. And Ibanez is four million years old (NOTE: Approximate), so it’s not like he’s going to return to his hitting prime.
This is what you get when you have a number of average hitters in your lineup. All of these guys are a slump waiting to happen. That they all started slumping simultaneously is just a sign that the Phillies are going to need a great deal of help from both their starting rotation and the top of their lineup if they want to get back into first and make a deep playoff run. Because while 1-for-63 is an eye-opening stat, it’s something of an inevitable occurrence when you have weak spots in your batting order.