Early Phillies Rankings by Position

Opening Day 2011. Good times. - Rob Carr

It's early yet, but how do the Phillies rank at each position against the other teams in the National League so far?

It's very early, but we've seen some Phillies get off to very good starts, and others who are struggling so far. Chase Utley, and to a lesser extent Cody Asche and Dom Brown, have started well. Marlon Byrd, Jimmy Rollins, and Ryan Howard have had their moments, but have seen more frustration than success overall. So it's interesting to see how the Phils stack up by position against other NL teams.

Two big caveats with this data, one a general one, and the other specific to Fangraphs:

1) Stats over any 8-10 games are going to be notoriously fluky. OPS and wOBA can be off the charts in one direction or the other based on BABIP, or the particular matchups a batter happened to face over that few games. WAR is especially unreliable over small samples, since it includes a defensive component that is especially prone to wild fluctuations.

2) The way Fangraphs calculates stats by position is that for a given player, it includes all of that player's stats in any position where that player has played at least 1/3 of their games. So in the Phillies' case for example, John Mayberry Jr's overall stats are included at both First Base and Left Field, and Jayson Nix's stats are included in summing up both Third Base and Shortstop. Worse, this kind of double-count is exacerbated by issue #1 in small samples.

Having said all that, after the first week-and-a-half of the season, below is how the Phillies' stats by position rank against the rest of the National League. We'll look at WAR, and two hitting stats, wOBA and OPS:

Fangraphs WAR

Utley is doing very well of course, although not quite as well as Emilio Bonifacio, who, by the way, is counted at both 2B and CF for the Cubs.

In addition to the issues mentioned above, another one inherent with WAR in small samples is that everything from 0.16, for example, to 0.24 (i.e. 50% higher) shows up as rounded to 0.2. And that's as it should be, WAR is far too much of an estimate to look for that kind of false precision, but it makes for some funky numbers. So at first base for the Phillies, for example, Howard's 0.0 fWAR, plus Mayberry's 0.2, adds up to 0.1 due to rounding.

The Phillies look good in Left Field, ranking second best in the NL, but the 0.5 fWAR includes Brown's 0.2, Tony Gwynn Jr's 0.1, and Mayberry's 0.2 (which is also counted at first base).

And Jayson's Nix's -0.2 drives down both the 3B and SS stats for the Phils.

Fwar_medium
Phillies 2014 FanGraphs stats

Hitting Rankings by wOBA

This has the same double-count issues as the WAR table.

Woba_medium

Hitting Rankings by OPS

While OPS offers a serviceable approximation of overall hitting effectiveness, wOBA is the preferred hitting stat since it more accurately reflects contributions in generating offense. However the OPS rankings below from baseball-reference.com do have the advantage of eliminating the double count issue. So for example, only Mayberry's four plate appearances while in the game at first base are counted towards the first base stats (as a result, the Phils look quite a bit worse here than they did in the wOBA rankings). It also doesn't help that Howard's one home run came as a DH and so isn't included.

Ops2_medium
Phillies stats by position from baseball-reference.com - click on a position to see player detail

We'll look at these rankings periodically as the season progresses to track how the Phillies are doing relative to the league at each position.

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