WE GON' HIT

 

“We gon’ hit,” Charlie Manuel reassured earlier this season, as the Phillies seemed to be temporarily underachieving.  I concurred, and had a few things to say myself on the matter*:

 

http://www.thegoodphight.com/2008/7/9/567725/phillies-team-babip

 

http://www.thegoodphight.com/2008/7/14/571275/phillies-hitters-babips-mo

 

Yes, it seemed inevitable that the Phillies would turn themselves around.  In the first of my two posts linked above, I pointed out the remarkable similarities between the Phillies walk rates, strikeout rates, homerun rates, and extra base hit rates in recent years, and expressed a belief that the team’s BABIP, inexplicably low at the time, was destined to turn around and our run scoring ability would too.  The logic was simple—teams that are actually performing poorly by some underlying change in ability would have some indication of this in their more robust and stable statistics such as the ones listed above.  Indeed, the lack thereof seemed to indicate performance was coming.  In the second of the two posts above, I took a peak at the players individually and was even more assured that improvement was coming.

 

It has not.

 

Looking through the statistics now in more detail, I am prepared to make a confident prediction: “we gon’ hit.”

 

(This data does not include Tuesday’s or Wednesday’s game.  I’ve had trouble posting since I wrote it Tuesday afternoon and I’m posting an abridged version now.  I’ll add extra information in a fan post on the side.)

 

That said, anything can happen in a 38-game time span.  Even the Nationals could go on a surge and score 200 runs in 38 games.  So, it is quite possibly that we end up suffering more bad luck or are blessed with incredible good luck, but the general point I am making is that it really does seem that we should have been hitting way better than we have, and we should again.

 

Looking through my posts this year, it should be pretty clear that I am not flailing optimist.  Indeed, I have beaten the doomed-bullpen drum all year.  I have been warning the rise of the Mets all season.  MattS is no homer!

 

Updating and correcting some of the data in my first post on this subject, I present the following table.


HR rate BB rate K rate BB/K BABIP XBH rate RS/G
2005 0.030 0.101 0.171 0.590 0.306 0.087 4.981
2006 0.038 0.096 0.185 0.520 0.302 0.097 5.340
2007 0.037 0.098 0.184 0.532 0.311 0.102 5.506
2008 0.039 0.095 0.179 0.530 0.279 0.097 4.798

We are still hitting homeruns, walking, striking out, and getting extra base hits at the rate we have been for the past couple of years.  There is reason to expect that we should be able to perform better offensively than we have.

 

In the fanpost, I posted a table with BABIPs for each time in the league this year and last.  Our Phightin’ Phils are second to last in the entire major leagues, only ahead of Cincinnati.  In the last row, I have computed the correlation between the BABIPs in 2008 and 2007.  While that much correlation is definitely significant, both related to underlying skill level and park effects, it is not strong enough correlation to believe that a team that is hitting .279 on balls in play has been anything other than very unlucky.  It is not that common for hitters to have underlying skill levels such that you would expect a .279 BABIP.  This team is unlucky.

 

I have since updated another table since my previous post, but I left in our numbers before the all-star break to make a point.**

Player BABIP BB% K% LD% GB% FB% HR/FB AVG OBP SLG
Rollins 08 0.280 8.8 10.1 22.0 45.2 32.2 6.8 0.266 0.333 0.431
08 ASB 0.283 8.5 10.0 24.4 42.6 32.9 7.1 0.270 0.334 0.433
career 0.300 7.4 13.3 21.6 42.0 36.4 7.8 0.276 0.331 0.441
Victorino 08 0.299 8.4 11.8 18.9 43.9 37.2 8.2 0.282 0.350 0.438
08 ASB 0.301 9.2 10.8 18.4 44.5 37.1 5.0 0.279 0.351 0.406
career 0.301 7.2 13.4 18.7 46.1 35.2 7.5 0.276 0.340 0.415
Utley 08 0.286 9.1 16.8 22.8 32.2 45.1 16.9 0.284 0.368 0.559
08 ASB 0.289 9.8 16.1 23.9 31.4 44.8 18.2 0.292 0.373 0.586
career 0.323 8.9 18.1 21.4 36.7 41.9 14.1 0.297 0.373 0.529
Howard 08 0.276 11.3 34.5 21.8 42.9 35.3 30.0 0.232 0.320 0.483
08 ASB 0.275 11.8 35.6 20.0 43.4 36.6 32.6 0.233 0.324 0.511
career 0.334 13.8 33.9 23.2 397.0 37.1 33.8 0.277 0.379 0.579
Burrell 08 0.286 17.6 24.9 20.0 35.2 44.8 20.9 0.266 0.393 0.559
08 ASB 0.301 18.3 25.2 20.9 32.9 46.2 20.4 0.275 0.406 0.570
career 0.300 14.9 28.1 21.0 32.8 46.2 17.0 0.259 0.369 0.489
Jenkins 08 0.284 7.8 23.0 20.9 44.1 35.0 11.7 0.241 0.300 0.387
08 ASB 0.286 6.9 23.6 20.8 38.8 40.4 9.7 0.240 0.292 0.384
career 0.325 8.2 25.2 22.7 42.3 35.1 16.9 0.275 0.344 0.490
Feliz 08 0.262 6.6 12.4 15.1 46.3 38.6 10.4 0.256 0.304 0.424
08 ASB 0.265 7.1 10.2 15.9 46.6 37.5 10.4 0.263 0.315 0.429
career 0.271 5.2 17.0 16.7 43.8 39.5 11.6 0.253 0.290 0.432
Ruiz 08 0.250 11.8 14.6 15.9 55.1 29.0 3.3 0.220 0.322 0.280
08 ASB 0.227 11.1 14.1 15.3 54.0 30.7 4.0 0.203 0.305 0.271
career 0.270 10.4 13.5 17.5 49.3 33.2 5.6 0.245 0.331 0.358
Werth 08 0.305 11.9 26.4 23.3 39.3 37.4 20.8 0.264 0.356 0.479
08 ASB 0.313 11.3 25.4 24.1 40.5 35.4 21.4 0.272 0.358 0.479
career 0.336 11.9 30.2 24.0 38.2 37.8 14.7 0.260 0.353 0.441
Coste 08 0.301 4.9 19.1 23.0 35.6 41.4 11.1 0.270 0.322 0.451
08 ASB 0.295 5.3 16.0 22.6 35.0 42.3 12.1 0.278 0.333 0.481
career 0.323 4.4 17.0 23.6 39.1 37.3 11.9 0.293 0.339 0.463
Bruntlett 08 0.247 9.3 15.9 19.6 49.1 31.3 3.9 0.215 0.298 0.292
08 ASB 0.261 9.0 14.2 20.0 47.5 32.5 5.1 0.234 0.316 0.319
career 0.282 9.5 19.0 20.6 41.8 37.5 5.4 0.240 0.316 0.343
Dobbs 08 0.360 5.1 21.7 23.7 31.3 45.0 8.5 0.301 0.339 0.458
08 ASB 0.404 5.6 22.2 23.9 34.8 41.3 5.3 0.325 0.365 0.444
career 0.324 6.3 20.5 20.0 36.3 43.7 6.8 0.274 0.320 0.421
Taguchi 08 0.254 9.1 16.3 17.9 59.7 22.4 0.0 0.213 0.284 0.275
08 ASB 0.250 9.6 15.2 17.9 60.7 21.4 0.0 0.212 0.288 0.273
career 0.314 7.0 14.1 21.3 48.7 30.0 5.5 0.279 0.333 0.385

Before I discuss the players individually, I have constructed a new table in which I list the players BABIP this year and last year, and break it down into each type of batted ball.

Player BABIP LD% GB% FB% LDBIP GBBIP FBBIP
Rollins 2007 0.300 0.20 0.36 0.44 0.717 0.257 0.130
2008 0.279 0.20 0.46 0.34 0.718 0.181 0.153
Victorino 2007 0.302 0.16 0.47 0.36 0.730 0.280 0.122
2008 0.299 0.19 0.43 0.38 0.710 0.288 0.092
Utley 2007 0.362 0.22 0.38 0.40 0.792 0.294 0.175
2008 0.281 0.22 0.33 0.46 0.725 0.200 0.123
Howard 2007 0.328 0.26 0.32 0.42 0.750 0.187 0.121
2008 0.272 0.20 0.43 0.38 0.702 0.164 0.159
Burrell 2007 0.276 0.20 0.31 0.49 0.714 0.243 0.094
2008 0.281 0.19 0.35 0.46 0.732 0.224 0.119
Jenkins 2007 0.301 0.22 0.42 0.36 0.766 0.192 0.130
2008 0.280 0.20 0.45 0.35 0.738 0.163 0.169
Feliz 2007 0.257 0.16 0.43 0.41 0.680 0.214 0.135
2008 0.261 0.14 0.47 0.38 0.667 0.248 0.117
Ruiz 2007 0.283 0.19 0.47 0.35 0.729 0.220 0.136
2008 0.250 0.17 0.55 0.29 0.714 0.195 0.070
Werth 2007 0.389 0.21 0.42 0.37 0.744 0.338 0.220
2008 0.302 0.19 0.39 0.42 0.718 0.222 0.171
Coste 2007 0.298 0.18 0.43 0.39 0.700 0.277 0.108
2008 0.299 0.21 0.37 0.43 0.657 0.266 0.149
Bruntlett 2007 0.306 0.23 0.47 0.30 0.680 0.235 0.152
2008 0.247 0.18 0.50 0.33 0.655 0.222 0.039
Dobbs 2007 0.311 0.16 0.38 0.46 0.718 0.286 0.182
2008 0.357 0.24 0.32 0.44 0.906 0.167 0.173
Taguchi 2007 0.315 0.21 0.50 0.29 0.707 0.277 0.079
2008 0.254 0.16 0.61 0.22 0.545 0.244 0.067

 

I have posted a few more detailed comments in a fanpost on the sidebar.  Here are the highlights:

 

--Rollins .181 BABIP on groundballs this year is way below league average, despite his usual infield hit percentage.

--Victorino’s plate disciplined has worsened in the second half, but his BABIP has not fallen because of an improved line drive rate.

--Utley’s line drive rate BABIP’s from 2005-08 have been .811, .860, .795, and .725.  That seems like bad luck.

--Howard has been very unlucky on line drives this year-- .822, .795, .750, and .702 in the last few years.  Since the break, his line drive rate has been almost 30%.

--Burrell has a .242 BABIP since the break.  Even with a higher groundball rate, that seems ridiculously low.

--Jenkins’ numbers are consistent with him aging.

--Before the break, Feliz seemed to have improved in Philly, but either regressed or was playing hurt for a while.

--Ruiz still is hitting way too many groundballs, but his luck has turned around quite a bit on BABIP as could have been expected.

--Werth’s line drive rate has always been high as his BABIP until now.  With a high line drive rate, his BABIP seems low due to bad luck.

--Coste is about as expected.

--Bruntlett is bad but his .247 BABIP makes him seem even worse.  He’ll regress to the mean.

--Taguchi is older than he’s ever been and now he’s even older.

--Dobbs is hitting .906 on line-drives.  His BABIP has already started to regress since the break.

Summing up, let’s look at another table, comparing the Phillies to the rest of the league in 2005-2008:

Player BABIP LD% GB% FB% LDBIP GBBIP FBBIP
TEAM 05 0.306 0.21 0.42 0.37 0.731 0.237 0.123
TEAM 06 0.302 0.20 0.44 0.37 0.738 0.237 0.137
TEAM 07 0.311 0.19 0.41 0.39 0.741 0.253 0.146
TEAM 08 0.279 0.19 0.43 0.38 0.716 0.207 0.131
NL 05 0.295 0.19 0.45 0.36 0.728 0.229 0.135
NL 06 0.298 0.19 0.44 0.37 0.729 0.234 0.137
NL 07 0.301 0.20 0.44 0.37 0.719 0.245 0.134
NL 08 0.296 0.19 0.45 0.36 0.715 0.228 0.146

 

Overall, it seems like with the exception of a few hitters trying to adjust in light of their unlucky numbers, it doesn’t seem like there is any reason that the team should be hitting .279 on balls in play.  While a few players seem to be playing over their heads, the majority of the team is playing well below their abilities.  The team still hits line drives on 19% of balls in play, just like last year, and yet has fallen back to the league average level of success when doing so.  While that does seem like regression to the mean, a team with so many gap hitters should be above average.  In fact, the team beat the league average on line drives in play by 22 points last year.  The team only has a .207 average on groundballs.  That is way below the league average of .228.  The last three years, the team did better than average on groundballs.  It seems like more balls should find holes from here out and that should be a key reason why the team should improve.  The team as a whole is still distinctly below average on flyballs that stay in the park too, hitting just .131 on them.  The league average is .146.  Before anyone claims that the small stadium is the cause, notice that the team outperformed the league on this statistic in 2007, matched them in 2006, but underperformed them in 2005.  It seems like this is just one of the unlucky years.

 

The Phillies are an elite offensive team.  They do not have the runs to show for it, but they still have the potential to score five and a half runs a game, and I expect them to score another 200 runs in their final 38 games.  Hopefully that’s enough!

 

*There were a few calculation errors in earlier posts.  While they did not qualitatively alter the results, there are some discrepancies that are reflected in the updated data in this post.

 

**Technically, these are the numbers from the day before the all-star break, not including Sunday, July 13th.

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