Here in 2016, it hasn’t been a good idea to look at league leaderboards if you are a Phillies fan. This week I mistakenly stumbled into the dark and dreary nether-regions of Baseball Reference and Fangraphs and waded into the Phils’ outfield numbers.
I barely made it out alive.
But here I am, with tattered clothes, cold and, yes, a little frightened, to present to you the bad news.
The Phillies outfield has been all kinds of terrible this year, something I’m sure has not escaped your attention.
But were you aware just how bad they’ve been?
Through 150 games, the Phils’ outfield has combined for an OPS of .678. That is the second-worst mark in franchise history, behind only the 1992 Phillies outfield that posted an OPS of .668. Here is a fuller list.
Their batting average of .242 is tied for 2nd-worst with the 1970 squad. Their .309 on-base percentage is third-worst, behind only the 2014 and ‘92 outfields, and their .369 slugging percentage is second-worst, again, behind that awful 1992 team.
Their 35 home runs are tied for 6th-worst, their 76 doubles are 7th-worst, and their 612 total bases are third-worst.
Of course, the season is not quite finished yet, so perhaps they can move up a notch here and there. But for the most part, you can see this is a history-making group of outfielders.
The scary part is, were it not for Odubel Herrera, this outfield might go down as the worst in the history of baseball. Collectively, the team has an fWAR of 0.1. Herrera is at 3.3, which puts the rest of the group at a collective -3.2 fWAR.
Now, let’s take a look at that ‘92 bunch.
Stan Javier, second in fWAR in 1992. I would’ve needed 50 guesses on that one. But despite finishing with a lower OPS, the 1992 Phillies outfield actually posted an fWAR of 4.2, far better than the 2016 Phils’ 0.1.
In fact, if we’re judging by fWAR, here’s where the 2016 Phils’ outfield ranks in team history.
So as of now, the Phillies’ outfield fWAR of 0.1 is fifth-worst in team history.
That 1970 team was brutal. Johnny Briggs led the team with an fWAR of 1.6 and hit .270/.342/.434 with 9 HRs and a wRC+ of 106. Only one other player was above replacement level, Byron Browne, at 0.1. The remaining nine outfielders that season all played below replacement level.
It’s also easy to forget how bad the 2013 outfielders were.
I see you Delmon Young. And let’s pour one out for Domonic Brown, shall we?
Of course, it’s not fair to close the book on the 2016 outfielder crew. Herrera is still a 3-to-4 win player, which is pretty good. Aaron Altherr has really struggled this season, and may not be more than a bench player, but it’s too soon to say for sure. And Roman Quinn looks like an exciting young player as well.
Not only that, the Phils have a couple of prospects in Nick Williams and Dylan Cozens who could potentially provide some answers there. But both will start at AAA next year and both still have a lot to prove.
The Phillies probably need to add at least one productive, potential three-win player to the outfield mix next season. Ian Desmond (.288/.340/.458, 22 HRs, 104 runs, 20 SBs, 4.0 fWAR), Yoenis Cespedes (.287/.356/.548, 30 HRs, 81 RBIs, 3.2 fWAR), Josh Reddick (.276/.342/.397, 9 HRs, 102 wRC+, 1.1 fWAR), or Jose Bautista (.228/.359/.433, 18 HRs, 114 wRC+, 1.1 fWAR) could all be free agent options if the team decides to go outside the organization for help.
And on the trade market, perhaps one of three intriguing free agents after the 2017 season would be available. A down season from Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen (.252/.334.426, 23 HRs, 105 wRC+, 1.1 fWAR) could have the Pirates looking to sell. Minor injuries have submarined the previously perennial MVP candidate’s season.
Kansas City’s Lorenzo Cain (.287/.339/.408, 9 HRs, wRC+ 97, fWAR 2.5) and Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez (.298/.351/.514, 25 HRs, 99 RBIs, 110 wRC+, 2.2 fWAR) are potential trade targets as well. Of course, the Phils would likely want to sign a player like this to a deal beyond 2017.
If the Phils want to get more production from their outfield next year, it’s likely going to have to come from the outside. And while it might not make the Phillies a contender, it could go a long way to helping them improve next season, something that should be a goal for 2017.