Viewed as a whole, the Phillies’ results on the field in 2017 were not very encouraging. Below average in both hitting and pitching, they finished with the second-worst record in the NL. With Detroit the only other team with a worse record, that left the Phillies with a consolation prize of the 3rd overall pick in next June’s draft:
It’s worth noting though that after the All-Star Break their hitting was good enough to drag them up to the middle of the pack for the second half:
The Phillies’ record in 2017 took a step backward from the year before, from 71 wins (.438 W%) to 66 (.407). However that also included much worse performance (or “luck”, depending on your point of view), in one-run games.
In 2016 they did extraordinarily well in those close games, going 28-23 (.549 W%), while in the rest of their games they were quite bad: 43-68 (.387 W%). Their run differential would have predicted a 62-100 season, but thanks to bunching their runs so that they had “just enough” in so many close games, they outperformed that projection by 9 wins.
This year on the other hand, they did worse in one-run games, losing 36 of 57 (.368) to set a new franchise record for most one-run losses in a single season. That compared with 45-60 (.429) in the rest of their games.
So while only the Giants had a worse W-L record in the NL, the Phillies’ run differential (and the Pythagorean Record it would project) was “only” 5th worst, better than the Giants, Padres, Reds, and Mets:
And in the second half, as shown in the table below, both the Phillies’ record and their run differential improved to 7th best in the NL.
Below are the Phillies’ stats in key offensive categories, and where they ranked in the NL in both 2016 and 2017. Where stats for the halves are available, those are also shown.
For the season as a whole, the Phils’ offense improved from the very worst in the NL in 2016 (15th in both scoring and wRC+), to merely solidly below average this year (12th in scoring, 11th in wRC+).
Breaking it down by halves, before the All-Star break, the offense looked very much like the 2016 version: about 3.8 runs per game (at or near league-worst), and a wRC+ of 81.
They were the least likely to sacrifice, and among the least likely to try to steal a base.
The only bright spot for many was their league-leading pitches per PA at 3.96, although that stat’s correlation to good hitting is weak, at best.
After the break, there was improvement across virtually all key stats, resulting in a nearly 1 run per game increase in scoring to 4.77, good for 6th best in the NL:
The table below breaks down their hitting by position in each half. wRAA is Weighted Runs above Average.
So, for example, their Catchers were 4.7 runs worse than average before the All-Star Break, for a wRC+ of 84 (i.e. 16% worse than the average hitter), and ranking 15th out of 30 among MLB team’s catching corps. In the second half they improved to 5.4 runs better than average, ranking 8th out of 30.
With the fewer games in the second half, if they had continued the first half trend they would have been 4.1 runs below average after the break, so the 5.4 is an improvement of 9.5 runs, shown at the far right:
And the improvement in a graphical view...
So what happened after the break?
At Catcher, Jorge Alfaro came up and hit well, although his .420 BABIP is due for some serious regression.
Rhys Hoskins’ impact was split between 1B and LF, so it doesn’t stand out in this view. It’s actually a wonder that the numbers at First Base improved, given Tommy Joseph’s precipitous decline after the All Star Break (.635 OPS, 60 wRC+).
In Left Field, Howie Kendrick set a high bar in the first half, while the second half numbers are dragged down by below average hitting there from Altherr, Kim, Nava, and Williams.
At third, Franco was less bad after the break.
But the biggest improvements came at 2B, where Hernandez had a .832 OPS/122 wRC+, and in CF, where for several weeks Herrera was one of the best hitters in the game.
The pitching was below average but not terrible, and that was true both in the first and second half overall.
One bright spot in the season half was the bullpen, ranking 5th in the NL in ERA, and 2nd and 3rd in the fielding independent stats.
I was looking for the number of games that each NL team scored 3 or more runs this year, when I inadvertently forgot to specify a year, and found this:
The 2007 Phillies share the NL record (with the 1999 Giants) for most games in a season with 3 or more runs scored, at 137 (84.6%).
The major league record is, no surprise, held by an AL team: 1996 Seattle Mariners, with 140.
The 2007 Phils are also tied for 3rd in NL history for most games scoring 4 or more runs, with 117. They’re tied with, among others, the 1993 NL Champions. The only two teams with more both did it in the 154-game era: the Cardinals of the hitting-crazy 1930 season (125), and the 1953 Dodgers (121).
Pitches per PA at an all-time High (?)
Stats for the number of pitches in BB-Ref start in 1988, when the MLB average for Pitches per PA was 3.58. By 2017, it had climbed to 3.90.
That’s not a big surprise, given the rise in strikeouts over that time:
And then tracking those rates back to 1900...
So while we don’t have the stats to prove that the Pitches/PA stat is at an all-time high, given its relationship to walks and Ks, it’s a pretty safe bet.