I have always liked the long ball over small ball. The Phillies have won that way. With Howard and Utley out of the lineup the team and the organization have been exposed for having very little homer run power. Heck, if Travis Mattair had not been drafted in the Rule Five Minor League Draft by the Cincinnati Reds last December he would now be leading the entire Phillies organization with his six home runs he has hit this year in the Reds system.
A saying that came into vogue in the 90’s was “chicks dig the long ball”. It came about by a Nike commercial where Heather Locklear did not care anything about the Cy Young trophies of Greg Maddox and Tom Glavine but was enthralled with the home runs of Mark McGuire. Chick are not digging many long balls with the Phillies this season. Without Howard and Utley in the lineup, Shane Victorino and Carlos Ruiz are tied with the team lead with five home runs. At AAA Erik Kratz who is on recall with the Phillies leads with three, Jiwan James leads Reading with three, Big Jim Murphy leads Clearwater with four and Brian Pointer tops Lakewood with five long balls.
What is more troubling might be who is not leading in home runs with Lehigh Valley and Reading. Domonic Brown was expected to be the next great power hitter coming up through the Phillies system . In 2010 he hit 20 homers in only 93 games combined with Reading and Lehigh Valley. So far this year he is yet to go deep with the IronPigs. At Reading who would have thought Jiwan James has become the leading power guy and last night was batting out of the five hole. Once upon a time Sebastian Valle was the great power hope in the organization behind the plate. In 2010 between Lakewood, the SAL playoffs and the Mexican Pacific winter league Valle hit 26 homers. Last year he hit only five homers for Clearwater and two in Mexican winter ball. So far this year Valle has hit only one homer for Reading hitting out of the clean up spot in the order.
When we look at the combined home runs of the AAA and AA teams of the other National League East teams the Phillies’ Lehigh Valley and Reading teams are last in combined home runs. Reading is still scoring runs with a high slugging percent but are doing it not with the long ball. Lehigh Valley is near the bottom in most offensive categories in the International League.
Could it be the ballparks that have resulted in so few home runs? Certainly the parks at Williamsport and Lakewood are not inducive to the long ball. Several years ago a study for MiLB. com showed that Bowman Field in Williamsport and the ballpark in Lakewood were two of the most difficult to hit home runs in all of the minor league ball. I recall last summer big Jim Murphy saying that he lost at least five home runs by mid season because of that park. When Baseball Betsy and I visit Lakewood we always like to sit briefly in the picnic area high up above the left field wall. I get vertigo every time just looking down on to the field. The barriers there that make up that wall to knock down sure home runs seem as high as the Green Monster in Fenway but much deeper. So Big Jim definitely has a point. In Clearwater the wind always seems to be blowing from the left field foul pole to the right field foul pole which tends to knock down any drive to left. Reading should be a launching pad for home runs. The walls are close and the wind is always blowing out. Can’t wait until Big Jim gets a chance to play there.
With the Phillies organization suffering a home run power outage from top to bottom, the quickest way for any player to move up the organization would be to hit some long balls. Remember more than chicks dig the long ball!.