Phillies’ Spring At-Bats Provide Hope For Offensive Rejuvenation

Ryan Howard's ability to hit left handed pitchers this Spring shows he may be back to his old self.An offense in decline.

That pretty much sums up what Philadelphia Phillies fans have witnessed over the last four years.

In 2009, the Phillies scored 820 runs, reaching their second straight World Series appearance, but the runs were harder to find in 2010 as they scored 772.

In 2011, that number dropped to 713, and in 2012, the run total hit a 15-year low with just 684.

Fortunately for the Phillies, during the decline, the pitching has been strong. That is why during the 2011 season when they scored just 713 runs, they still won 102 games.

Last season, despite a woeful offense, the Phils still managed an 81-81 season.

Just ask starting pitcher Cliff Lee about how a little more offense could have changed the Phillies season.

This spring, however, provides a new hope that the offensive woes are a thing of the past.

Ryan Howard and Chase Utley both return for their first spring training together in three years, and both are looking more like the players who hoisted a World Series trophy in 2008.

Through 25 games, Howard is batting .338 with seven homers, 16 RBIs and 16 runs scored. In 21 games, Utley has posted a .270 average, four homers, 14 RBIs, nine walks and 10 runs scored.

No one expects Howard’s .338 average to continue through the season — although, it would certainly be welcomed — but it undoubtedly provides promise that Phillies fans can expect a return to 25 to 30 home runs and close to 100 RBIs.

Just adding a healthy Howard and Utley makes a huge difference for the Phillies, who also brought in Michael Young and Ben Revere during the offseason.

Revere has been better-than-advertised, batting .316 with 14 runs scored and seven walks, and Michael Young, who had a rough 2012 season in Texas, is batting .261 with 12 RBIs and 10 runs scored.

Young’s average is a bit lower than what the Phillies want during the regular season, but the RBI and run totals are just right.

That’s what Young was brought in for. They needed an offensive boost at third base, and Young is going to provide just that.

“Michael’s going to be really valuable for us,” Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said on Phillies.com. “He’s going to have a big year for us.”

He may not be the only one.

Domonic Brown appears to be ready to have a breakout season.

Brown was expected to be in a battle for the starting right field gig, but he’s made it no competition whatsoever.

Batting .373 this spring with seven homers, 17 RBIs and 24 runs scored, Brown has put a stranglehold on a spot in the daily lineup.

“He, like we’ve always known, has the talent to be a good hitter,” Manuel said. “At the plate, he’s got better balance, lowered his hands some, and definitely got a good stroke going. He’s got a strong bottom hand and that creates a quick bat.”

That quick bat will be key in helping the offense return in Philly.

With Revere and Jimmy Rollins at the top, followed by a healthy Utley and Howard, the Phillies have a strong top of the lineup. When you add in Young and Brown, the Phillies have the potential to drastically improve from the 684 runs they scored last season.

And that would help them compete with the Nationals and the Braves.

Yes, there are some starting pitching concerns with Roy Halladay and the back-end of the rotation, but similar issues were around at the start of 2008.

The Phillies ran to the World Series behind a strong offense and a strong bullpen. That was the difference.

That is why it will be so important for Brown to develop into the big-time hitter the Phillies need.

That is why it will be crucial for Young to collect the clutch hits like he did in Texas.

And that is why it will be necessary to have Howard and Utley play like they did three years ago.

Put all three of those nuggets together and you’ll see another 760 to 780 runs from the Phillies this season.

It would be the perfect spike to end a dreadful four-year decline.

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Jimmy Johnson

Jimmy Johnson is a Philadelphia native, who graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2005 with degrees in media communication and criminal justice. He got his masters degree in electronic media in 2009. He was a member of The Pitt News, rising to sports editor, and he's also worked for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Lewistown Sentinel and the Reading Eagle, covering everything from the pros to the collegiate level to the prep level. He runs the Twitter account @Jimmysjargon providing witty and (hopefully) funny commentary on sports, specifically Philadelphia sports.