NL Standings and Key Stats
Both the Phillies and the Brewers have been able to win more than their run differential would predict. These are the two teams with the worst pythagorean projection in the NL -- even the Reds' 16-0 no-hit loss yesterday couldn't quite drag them down to the bottom two in the league.
Note, too, that the 12-4 Cubs have essentially won two FEWER games than their run differential predicts.
Comparing Phillies Stats to Last Year, and to the Brewers
Note, while the Phillies may not be the worst hitting team in the NL, their runs scored per game are far below anyone else's, almost a full run less than the Braves (see above).
But let's be clear, the Phillies' offense has been horrendous. The Brewers have also been among the worst in the NL, but as all the orange and red indicates in the "PHI vs. MIL" column, the Phillies have been much worse.
One area where the Phils are middle-of-the-pack instead of terrible, is their pop, with the 10th highest Isolated Power, and 9th most home runs per game.
We'll also have the "pleasure" of watching the league's two worst teams in stolen base success rates. In the years of excellent runners like Rollins, Utley, and even Victorino and Werth, they were perennially the leader in SB%, and even as recently as last year they were 5th in the NL at 73%. They are currently last in the NL at only 55%, with the Brewers only better by the slimmest of margins.
As bad as the Brewers' hitting has been, it's their pitching that has really stunk so far, ranking near the bottom in nearly every category.
The Phillies meanwhile continue leading the NL in K/9, and their starting rotation still ranks high in FIP (3rd), and in fact leads the NL in the xFIP metric (xFIP excuses the Phillies' high HR/FB rate as largely uncontrollable).
Aside from the starting rotation, the other notable improvement for the Phillies in the early going (though with small sample warnings) is in the defensive ratings. While still not great, they are at least more around the middle of the pack, which is far better than last year's.
After a rough start in James Russell's first 4 1/3 innings (9 runs, 5 walks, 9 hits, 2 home runs) the Phillies announced on Wednesday that they were designating him for assignment. And then today after he cleared waivers he was outrighted to AAA Lehigh Valley.
But what if Russell were allowed to pitch like this for 200 innings. Say, for example, if the Phillies were tanking.
- He would need to face 1,246 batters to get those 600 outs (the most in a season since Phil Niekro in 1979)
- He would give up 415 hits (the most since 1899)
- And 415 runs (most in the majors since 1883, by the Phillies', nee Quakers' own John Coleman)
- All 415 would be earned, shattering the old MLB record of 291, by, yes, the same John Coleman of the '83 Quakers)
- 92 home runs (nearly doubling the record of 50 by Bert Blyleven in 1986)
- 231 walks (most since 1892)
- with fWAR of -13.8 (record low by a pitcher is -2.2, Steve Blass 1973, and -4.0 by a position player)
The pitcher who took Russell's spot on the roster is Philadelphia area native Andrew Bailey (Voorhees, NJ, and Paul VI High School). If and when Bailey takes the mound for the Phillies, he will become the 1,992nd player to appear in a game for the franchise, as they inexorably march to number 2,000. Complete list of the (as of now) 1,991 is here - it includes all players, even though its titled a "Batting Register".
When Rollins got his 850 and 851st extra base hits this week, he inserted himself into very good company again:
Jimmy Rollins on another exclusive list:— schmenkman (@tgpschmenk) April 21, 2016
All players in history with 450+ SB, and 850+ XBH.#Phillies #WhiteSox pic.twitter.com/7CLc4umyim
He is off to an ok but not great start, but he does have five extra base hits this year in the White Sox' first 16 games. If he continues playing as much for the entire year (3 out of every 4 games), Rollins is on pace for 51 extra base hits for the season.
For a frame of reference, these are the only two seasons in history with 50+ extra base hits by 37+ year old shortstops:
Honus Wagner 1912 (62 XBH)
Honus Wagner 1915 (55 XBH)
As we already know, no one in baseball, hitter or pitcher, had more WAR than Utley (per fangraphs) over the decade from 2005 through 2014*.
1) Utley 59.4
2) Pujols 58.5
3) Cabrera 55.5
4) Wright 49.7
5) Holliday 47.1
Miguel Cabrera overtook him for 2006-2015, and is still leading at the moment for 2007-2016.
But it's amazing that Utley is still hanging around this high on the list, after battling injuries from 2010 on, and a horrible season in 2015. Position player leaders for the decade 2007-16, as of today:
1) Cabrera 48.5
2) Utley 45.5
3) Pujols 44.2
4) Beltre 43.6
5) Longoria 43.2
(Utley isn't as high in rWAR, though still top 10)
In fact, the list of things that would have to happen for Utley to again lead ALL position players in WAR for the decade 2007-16 isn't that long or entirely far fetched: a Miggy injury, a good season by Utley, and others continuing their recent years' trends.
This year Utley is being platooned, leading off against right-handed starters, and is off to a pretty good start: .302/.373/.415 (121 wRC+), and 0.5 fWAR. We'll see how long he can keep it up.
* (Pujols still led in rWAR, with Utley a distant second)
More on decade leaders in fWAR here.