PhilsMonth! – Bunts! Bunts! Bunts!


Welcome to PhilsMonth! A fun* look back at the past month for everyone’s favorite baseball team – the Philadelphia Phillies!

* Amount of fun experienced may vary

Observant readers will notice that this column used to be called PhilsWeek! I realized that it would be too depressing to talk about the Phillies in depth each week, so this is now a monthly thing.

The month of April was not a good one for the Phillies. Preseason predictions were not kind to the Phillies, but so far they seem to be correct. The Phillies finished April with a poor 8-15 record.

Why did the team struggle? Apparently, if you have a team that doesn’t have much power, doesn’t hit well with runners on base, and whose pitching staff gives up a lot of walks, you’re going to lose a lot of games.

Super Important Storyline of April: Bunts!

Before the season, there was plenty of talk about the Phillies wanting to play with more of a “small ball” approach. It made some sense. The team doesn’t have much power, so they would need to manufacture runs. Manager Ryne Sandberg has certainly attempted to follow through with that plan, calling for frequent bunts.

Apr 27, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Philadelphia Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg (23) looks on as his team plays the St. Louis Cardinals during the seventh inning at Busch Stadium. The Phillies defeated the Cardinals 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

There’s just one tiny problem: The Phillies have proven to be utterly incompetent when it comes to bunting.

It seems like every time they have runners on first and second with less than two outs, Sandberg will have the next batter bunt. And it seems like every time they do, the lead runner gets thrown out on third base.

Perhaps the worst bunt of the season was delivered by Cody Asche. In a tie game, with a runner on third and one out, Asche thought it would be splendid time to lay down a sacrifice. It proved to be a bad strategy. Asche popped up his bunt, and the runner was left stranded on third.

The futility is especially frustrating because based on the way the coaching staff talked in Spring Training, bunting was the team’s primary focus. Then again, considering how poorly they’ve performed in all areas of the game, it shouldn’t be a shock that they can’t execute a bunt well either.

Phillie of the Month: Odubel Herrera

There were a few bright spots in an otherwise dismal month. Perhaps the brightest was the team’s rookie center fielder.

Odubel Herrera. Image Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Often times, teams will select players in the Rule 5 draft with the future in mind. The player might not really be ready for a major league roster at the moment (or in the case of Michael Martinez, ever), but the team likes his potential, so they’ll essentially sacrifice a roster spot to keep him around.

Thus far, Odubel Herrera hasn’t been a waste of a roster spot. He’s actually been one of their best players.

The speedy Herrera has consistently gotten on base at the top of the order, and despite very limited experience at the position, he’s handled center field capably. At the very least, he looks like a younger Ben Revere. At best, the Phillies may have found their center fielder of the future.

Phlashback of Phutility: Ruben Amaro, Jr.

Here’s a guy that Phillies fans might have heard of.

Phillies fans were optimistic at the start of the 1992 season. Unfortunately, much of that optimism went away on Opening Day when Lenny Dykstra had his wrist broken by an errant Greg Maddux pitch.

Ruben Amaro, Jr. Image Credit:

David Manning


At first, there was reason to hope that the team wouldn’t miss a beat. Dykstra was replaced by a young rookie who took the baseball world by storm. In his first start, Amaro went 3-4 with a home run. He followed that up by hitting two more home runs that week.

Sadly, the good times didn’t continue for Amaro. He later admitted that the early success went to his head and he began to overswing. By the end of the season, his average had plummeted to .219.

He managed to hang around as a fringe major leaguer for the next six seasons, including a second stint with the Phillies in 1997. Once his playing career ended, he accepted a front office job with the team in 1999.

To the dismay of some fans, he remains employed by the team to this day

Statistical Oddity

Before the season, if I had told you that one of the Phillies starting middle infielders would have an OPS more than twice as high as his tandem-mate, it might not have been a huge surprise.

I’m not sure which is more shocking: That Freddy Galvis has arguably been the team’s best offensive player or that Chase Utley has arguably been the worst. (Although honestly, there’s a lot of competition for the title of worst right now.)

Just think if the Phillies hadn’t traded Jimmy Rollins. The Phillies could have had THREE regular infielders hitting under .200.

The Good News

Part of the Phillies’ offensive problems have been due to facing some very good pitching. As they begin to face some weaker pitching, the offensive numbers should improve somewhat. I mean, they’ve been so bad, it’s would be almost impossible for them not to get at least a little better.

The Bad News

Any improvement might be minimal. It’s likely that guys like Ben Revere, Utley, and Carlos Ruiz will improve as the season progresses. It’s also possible that there will be some regression from Herrera, Galvis, and Cody Asche, who have all hit relatively well in the early going..

Tweet of Importance

What’s Ahead

The Phillies’ lineup isn’t likely to be blessed with a new power source any time soon, so there’s a good chance that the small ball approach continues.

Our only hope is that they can figure out a way to mix in a successful bunt now and then.

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