Andrew Perna. 10th June, 2011 - 12:21 pm
Stacked with pitching, the Phillies have been the antithesis of the slugging team they were not long ago.
Philadelphia featured an offense that ranked in the top ten of most offensive categories in each of the last seven seasons, but in 2011 they have struggled to produce runs. Heading into Friday night's action they ranked in the bottom half of baseball in runs (17th), home runs (19th), batting averaging (20th), on-base percentage (19th) and on-base plus slugging (22nd).
Prior to May 23rd, there were two possible answers for their offensive woes: Chase Utley and Jayson Werth.
Utley, who didn't make his season debut until that day because of lingering right knee issues, has returned to the lineup, but Werth isn't coming back.
Werth signed a seven-year, $126 million contract with the Nationals this past winter. It was believed to be above market-value and he already appears to be unhappy in Washington, D.C.
He's hitting .244/.346/.424 with eight home runs and 23 RBIs and Washington is 27-36 on the season, putting them in last place in the National League East division that Werth was used to dominating as a member of the Phillies.
So what has Utley's return meant for Philadelphia's offense?
The second baseman isn't hitting the cover off the baseball, but he's clearly still rounding into form with just 15 games under his belt. He's hitting .228/.343/.333 with a single home run in 57 at-bats.
The Phillies, 37-26 on the season, are 8-7 with Utley in the lineup.
Philadelphia has averaged 4.4 runs per game in their 15 contests with Utley.
Without him, they posted just 3.8 runs per game.
Utley has primarily hit third since his return, which has forced opposing pitchers to go after him with Ryan Howard on deck. Since Utley's return, Howard is hitting .264 with three home runs and 12 RBIs.
Those numbers don't look very impressive, but Howard is hitting just .241 for the season.
The Phillies took a two-game lead over the Braves into Friday night's action and once Utley's bat rounds into form they should pull away in the division.