The Worst Inning . . . or Let's Play 8!

Do you get a horrible feeling in your stomach when the Phillies enter the ninth inning of a game?  Does the last frame, that was so enjoyable last season, make you pray for rain?  Even with Brad Lidge officially out as the team's closer, we saw this weekend that nothing's going to be easy at the end of the game for the Phillies.

Let's start with the pitching.  It doesn't take a genius to realize that the Phillies have been bad in the ninth inning this year.  As you can see from the stats below, the Phillies' pitching staff is in fact at its worst in the ninth inning:

Inning BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+ RA
1 0.268 0.324 0.473 0.797 0.294 109 107 4.65
2 0.274 0.333 0.459 0.792 0.303 109 111 4.01
3 0.261 0.318 0.409 0.727 0.308 92 94 3.77
4 0.268 0.334 0.433 0.768 0.298 103 98 4.59
5 0.287 0.330 0.469 0.799 0.310 110 107 5.23
6 0.263 0.328 0.445 0.774 0.287 104 96 4.21
7 0.226 0.307 0.341 0.649 0.270 73 76 3.33
8 0.249 0.333 0.388 0.720 0.294 92 98 4.09
9 0.272 0.347 0.453 0.800 0.321 112 130 5.37

The bolded entries are the team's worst for that category. The first five columns after the inning are the stats of the opposing team against the Phillies' pitching staff for that inning. The next column shows tOPS+, which is the team's OPS for that inning relative to the team's overall OPS. sOPS+ is the team's OPS for that inning relative to the entire league. RA is the team's runs given up in that inning standardized to a 9 inning game (like ERA, but with all runs).

Looking at this chart it's quite clear that the ninth inning is the big trouble spot for the Phillies. The team gives up an .800 OPS to its opponents, which is 30% higher than the average across baseball for the ninth inning. Other teams score more than 5.37 runs per nine in that inning. (I say "more than" because I can't find the actual innings for the 9th innings for the Phillies, just the number of 9th innings they've pitched. As some games end after the Phillies pitch 0, 1/3, or 2/3 of an inning, the actual RA is higher than what I have here.  If anyone knows where I can find actual innings rather than games player for each inning, please let me know and I'll update these charts.) Brad Lidge and his 7.51 ERA and -3.28 WXRL (over 9 wins worse than Mariano Rivera!) certainly has contributed much to this awful performance, but the other pitchers have been bad as well.

What makes the entire ninth inning trouble for fans to watch is that the hitters are no better. Here's the same information as the chart above but for Phillies' hitters:

Inning BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+ RA
1 0.281 0.365 0.497 0.862 0.311 120 125 6.11
2 0.251 0.315 0.439 0.753 0.287 92 101 4.23
3 0.247 0.318 0.430 0.748 0.273 91 99 5.41
4 0.284 0.337 0.497 0.834 0.310 112 113 5.33
5 0.264 0.329 0.463 0.792 0.293 102 106 5.34
6 0.241 0.328 0.417 0.745 0.259 91 89 4.79
7 0.268 0.352 0.452 0.803 0.303 106 116 5.43
8 0.254 0.343 0.432 0.775 0.281 99 112 4.32
9 0.229 0.311 0.400 0.710 0.261 82 104 4.27

Again, the worst performances for each stat are in bold. As you can see, the Phillies' worst triple-slash stats and OPS come in the 9th inning, as does their second worst RA (although that might be a bit higher for the same reasons noted above). This at least makes a bit of sense, as the Phillies often face other teams' closers in the ninth inning. But, that still isn't comforting to a fan who watches the ninth inning hoping for the Phillies to be productive at the plate.

The bottom line here is that the Phillies as a team are at their worst both pitching and hitting in the ninth inning. There are two solutions for the team: bludgeon the other team to death in the first 8 innings or petition the commissioner to have playoff games end after 8.

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