If the Phillies are going to advance to their third World Series in 4 years, they just might have to do it in a manner that defies precedent.
Ruben Amaro Jr. expressed a strong belief yesterday that he will not be making a significant move before the July 31 trade deadline. And there is reason to believe that he isn't simply feigning disinterest, as he has the past couple of winters before signing Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee to free-agent contracts. The recent admission that the Phillies are currently noncompliant with baseball's income-to-debt ratio gives plenty of credence to their claim that they are short on disposable revenue. And despite his history of offseason misdirection, Amaro has been relatively forthcoming about his wish list for the past couple of trade deadlines.
"I wouldn't expect it," the general manager said.
That means no upgrade to an offense that entered yesterday eighth in the league in runs, which means no righthanded bat to add to the lineup, which means the Phillies will need some significant internal improvement to avoid a power imbalance that no World Series team has possessed in the past decade.
Not since the 2000 Yankees has a team won a League Championship Series without a righthanded hitter who finished the season with more than 21 home runs. Since then, only four teams advanced to the World Series without at least one hitter on each side of the plate who posted an OPS (On base percentage plus slugging percentage) of over .820: the 2003 Marlins, '05 Astros, '05 White Sox and '06 Tigers.
But the other 16 featured significant power from both sides of the plate, from the '10 Giants (righties Pat Burrell, Juan Uribe and Buster Posey, lefty Aubrey Huff) to the '08 Rays (righty Evan Longoria, lefty Carlos Pena) to the '07 Rockies (righties Matt Holliday, Garrett Atkins, Troy Tulowitzki, lefties Todd Helton, Brad Hawpe) to the '02 Angels (righties Troy Glaus and Tim Salmon, lefty Garret Anderson).
Entering yesterday, the Phillies did not have a single player with an OPS above .820, and only two with an OPS greater than .750 (switch-hitter Shane Victorino at .812 and lefty slugger Ryan Howard at .803). Only Howard, with 13 home runs, had a strong possibility of reaching 20 (he was on pace to finish with about 34). Raul Ibanez, who entered yesterday with eight, could get there. But both are lefties, as are power-hitting second baseman Chase Utley and rookie rightfielder Domonic Brown.
The Phillies' top righthanded hitter has been Placido Polanco, whose .750 OPS trailed only Howard's and Victorino's. But Polanco is a not a serious home-run threat. Ben Francisco, now a fourth outfielder who entered yesterday hitting .224 with a .716 OPS, led all Phillies righties with six home runs.
Amaro said he thinks the Phillies have enough balance. Victorino entered yesterday with four home runs in 36 at-bats against lefthanded pitching this season and had hit .299 with an .873 OPS against them in his career. Last night, he batted fifth. Jimmy Rollins has posted slightly better, but hardly Ruthian, power numbers from the right side of the plate over the last 3 years (13 home runs and a .424 slugging percentage in 448 at-bats).
Among the righthanded bats who could be available, Oakland outfielder Josh Willingham would make a lot of sense. But he would be owed slightly in the neighborhood of $2.5 million for the rest of the season, and it sounds like the Phillies would have difficulty supporting even that kind of salary.
"We've got plenty of power," said Amaro, who added that the Phillies made their big move in the offseason with the signing of Cliff Lee. "They haven't hit with power. But we have it. They haven't performed like they can, yet. But they will."
And if they don't?
"Then we'll live with it," he said.