A failed approach

Jimmy Rollins and the rest of the Phillies hitters aren't showing much patience at the plate. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)

Juan Pierre wore a T-shirt and shorts after the Phillies' latest loss, and his voice was all that could be heard in a silent clubhouse.

He was attempting to find some silver lining to another series loss, clinched by a 7-4 defeat to New York.

"Better than before when we weren't scoring any runs at all," Pierre said. "Pick your poison. Once you score, you want to keep scoring. But we're starting to move the ball better. A couple days got out of hand late and we couldn't bounce back. We're starting to move the ball throughout the lineup. That's a good sign."

True, but the Phillies once again scored early only to fold later. And there are concerning trends to an offense Charlie Manuel believes is pressing. 

"I think we're tight," Manuel said. "I think we try too hard. That's why we chase bad balls out of the strike zone when we're ahead in the count. I think that's why we swing at first-pitch bad balls and so on. I think when we have to do something, that's how they feel - we have to do something, and we have to do it right now."

The numbers support that statement.

When ahead in the count, Phillies hitters have an .845 OPS. That is the worst in baseball; the league average is .960. Incredibly, in the 395 plate appearances in which a Phillies batter is ahead in the count, he has drawn a walk only 69 times. Those 395 plate appearances are more than 11 other teams. But their 69 walks are the second-fewest in baseball. Only the Pirates (66) have fewer.

With a three-ball count, the Phillies have an OPS of .780. That is the worst in baseball; the league average is .975.

With a full count, the Phillies have an OPS of .552. That is the worst in baseball; the league average is .815.

What we're talking about is a systematic failure to succeed even when the situation favors the hitter. The Phillies actually rank 18th in the majors with a .476 OPS when the pitcher is ahead in the count. 

When last winter began, the Phillies talked about their hitters adopting a smarter approach at the plate: Play situational baseball; see more pitches; lay off the breaking balls when the count is in your favor. 

To even tread water, they must improve their offensive thinking.

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