The Phillies are starting the process of digging out of the wreckage of their season this week and that means a lot of press conferences.
We've heard from Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins and now, general manager Ruben Amaro -- as everyone shares their thoughts about what went wrong and what the future might hold. Amaro is the first one to offer some concrete thoughts about what the team needs to do differently when they get back to work for 2012. To little surprise, his focus was on an offense that didn't answer the call against St. Louis.
"Ability-wise, there is no question in my mind this is a championship caliber lineup and championship caliber players. We have to go about it in a different way. I have talked to Greg Gross and talked to Charlie. We have to have a different mindset or different approach than we did in ‘08 or 2010. We don’t have nearly as much power, [we] have to be better with two strikes, better situational at-bats. Those are frankly things we have to change."
Amaro didn't explicitly mention a lack of patience at the plate, but it was implied by everything else he mentioned. The team finished eighth in the National League by seeing 3.80 pitches per plate appearance in 2011 and they saw fewer pitches than any of the other teams during the NLDS. The season-long total was their lowest in a decade and surely contributed to their lowest team on-base percentage since the 1997 season.
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So give points to Amaro for recognizing the problem. The question now is how you go about fixing it? The Phillies are a veteran team whose hitters all have pretty well-established ways of doing business at the plate. Getting them to alter that approach might result in more patience, but it could come at the expense of other offensive skills that suffer from the new emphasis.
That raises the question of whether or not Amaro will have to address this problem from outside the organization. Losing Raul Ibanez should help. Placido Polanco was a pretty big transgressor on the impatience front, so the team could move to a different look at third. But they are going to have to do other things -- sign Rollins, deal with Ryan Madson or another closer, perhaps lock up Cole Hamels -- which would mean Amaro will have to be creative to solve the problem of his team's offensive approach.
Seeing more pitches is just one part of the equation. As Amaro mentioned, the team has become fairly reliant on the homerun as a way to score runs. That's a less successful strategy in baseball today than it has been in past years and it clearly didn't work out well for the Phillies against the Cards. The makeup of the Phillie lineup might make a change on this front even more difficult than improving the patience up and down the order.
They say the hardest step in solving a problem is admitting that you have one in the first place. We'll find out. Amaro admitted the problem Tuesday, but fixing it seems like a difficult task without shaking up the roster.