Before you jump down my throat, just hear me out.
Just like the Eagles relying on the big play to win games, the Phillies have relied on the big play as well, maybe even more so than the Eagles over the last 5 or 6 years. With guys like Ryan Howard on your team, why wouldn’t you? For the most part, this style has worked well for Charlie Manuel and the Phillies, and every team in the league I’m sure would love to have a guy like Ryan Howard on their roster, so they could do the same. The Phillies are built almost like an American League team, which is all well and good, but in my opinion, they have become too dependent on the power game.
Sure, you can never have enough homeruns–I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing, but just like pitching is important come playoff time, so is the ability to manufacture runs.
One thing the Phillies have not been able to do well under Charlie Manuel, at least not consistently, is play small ball. They’re always looking for the big play. How many times have you seen Jimmy Rollins pop up the very first pitch of an at-bat when there’s a guy in scoring position with two outs.
I’ve watched plenty of games thinking to myself, why aren’t they bunting here, or where’s the double steal? Why aren’t they working the count more?
Look at the St. Louis Cardinals for example. They didn’t have a better team than the Phillies. They didn’t have better pitching than the Phillies, but what they did much better than the Phillies, and ultimately every other team on their way the a championship last season, was play small-ball.
Even with a hitter like Albert Pujols on their team, they never put all their eggs in that one basket. Sure they got hot at the right time, but by the end of the season, they were a well balanced team, hitting for both power and average, and were lucky enough to get some timely pitching down the stretch.
The NFL has changed dramatically over the last decade. The rules have been heavily slanted towards the offense, and teams are now relying on big plays from the passing game because the NFL has made it easier to win that way. The running game has become an afterthought. It’s almost been taken out of the game.
There haven’t been any rule changes in baseball though, and you’ll never be able to take small-ball out of the game. Every team needs a power hitter, no doubt about it, but unlike in the NFL, playing the game the right way–the old fashioned way is still a viable way to win.
The absence of Ryan Howard’s offensive production is obviously not a good thing for the Phillies short term, however long term, I believe it could make the Phillies a better team, because it will force them to play a more conservative style, which is not really their comfort zone.
The common denominator in all championship teams, is the ability to hit homeruns and pitch well, but also steal bases, bunt, and work counts.