At 10-7 in the first 17 games, the Phillies have the 4th best record in the National League. If the season ended today (having avoided facing most of the good teams in the league), they would be among three teams (with Atlanta and St. Louis) that are tied for the two wild card spots.
The Phils come home to face the Pirates, who have been surprisingly good so far, thanks mostly to one of the best offenses in the league in the early going. Pittsburgh has the 3rd best record in the NL at 12-6, behind only the Mets (13-4) and Diamondbacks (12-5).
As for the Phillies, despite most of their hitting stats hanging around the middle of the pack, including most importantly the comprehensive wRC+, they have managed to score the 3rd most runs, at 5.18 per game.
It helps that they’ve done relatively well with runners in scoring position, ranking 4th in batting average (.269). They have 70 RBIs in those situations, 2nd in the NL and only one behind the Braves.
Interesting to note that the NL East has been the best division in the NL to date, with their teams averaging an 88-win pace (per 162), compared to 78 for the Central and 80 for the West. Though at this point that’s probably attributable to a small-sample fluke, particularly with respect to scheduling and having faced worse teams overall.
By just looking at their average runs per game, the Pirates and Phillies seem to be close offensively, with the Bucs leading the NL at 5.50 per game, and the Phils 3rd at 5.18.
However looking a bit deeper, the Pirates have been more consistently good, scoring 4 or more runs in 67% of their games, compared to 57% for the Phils.
And furthermore the Pirates’ basic stats are all at or near the top of the league, while the Phillies’ key stats are around (or just below) the middle of the rankings.
Getting on base
The Phillies’ OBP is 7th in the NL (.324), as a result of two extremes: a .226 batting average that is near the bottom, and what is now the highest walk rate in league (and all MLB in fact), at 12.4%.
The Pirates are getting on base more (.334, 4th in the NL), and are doing it with a much higher average (.265, 2nd), along with an average-ish walk rate of 9.1%.
The Phils are a little below the middle in both home runs, averaging 1.00 per game (9th), and also the more general power measure ISO* (.149, 10th).
The Pirates are 4th in home runs (1.11 per game), and 2nd in the league in ISO (.174), behind only Arizona.
*ISO, short for Isolated power, is the difference between batting average and slugging percentage, and essentially measures the average extra bases per at bat (1 for a double, 2 for a triple, 3 for a HR).
Patience has been the Phillies’ biggest virtue in the first 3 weeks, and they are at or near the top in many of the plate discipline stats. They are 2nd in the NL in getting into hitters’ counts, and when they do get into those 2-0/3-0/3-1 counts, they are more likely to take the next pitch than any team in the NL — part of the reason they lead in walk rate, as mentioned above. Though along with that come more strikeouts, and so the Phils’ K% ranks 12th in the league (i.e. the 4th highest).
The Pirates on the other hand have also been able to get into hitters’ counts (3rd in the NL), but then have been swinging away, with the lowest take rate in those counts. They also have the lowest K% in the league, at 17.8%.
By BB/K ratio, the Pirates are 2nd (0.51), and the Phillies 4th (0.49).
Phillies have been sacrificing less than most teams, but they also haven’t been good at making productive outs, or at advancing runners from second base with no one out. They are near the top though in getting runners in from third with less than two out (61% of the time, 3rd).
The Phils lead the NL in base running, as measured at Fangraphs, including base stealing (2nd in both stolen bases and stolen base attempts), as well as running the bases effectively.
Other miscellaneous stats:
- The Pirates (8) and Phillies (7) are the NL leaders in sacrifice flies.
- 83.3% of the Phillies’ strikeouts have been swinging, the highest percentage in the NL.
- Phils are tied with the Mets for most grand slams in the NL (3). Boston leads MLB with 4.
- Per baseball reference, the Phillies have made the fewest outs on the bases in the NL (excluding caught stealing and pickoffs), with just one. That one that is counted here must be Odubel’s play at second base the other day.
It’s worth noting one other category the Phillies lead in is youth:
- they have the youngest batters in all MLB (weighted average of 26.2)
- they also have the youngest pitchers in all MLB (weighted average 26.7)
While the Pirates have had the better offense so far, the Phillies have been pitching better, ranking 6th in runs allowed, and 5th in ERA, vs. 10th and 12th respectively for the Pirates.
The Phils have allowed the second fewest home runs (0.59 per game), and have also issued the 2nd fewest walks (a 7.9% rate).
Their starters have the 3rd lowest ERA, 2nd lowest FIP, and 5th lowest xFIP*.
The Phils’ starters, as well as the staff as a whole, lead the NL in Pitching WAR, per Fangraphs.
*FIP (Fielding-independing pitching) is based only on the stats that are considered to be most controllable by pitchers: strikeouts, walks, and home runs.
xFIP takes that one step further by also assuming that home runs are only controllable by a pitcher to the extent to which they allow fly balls to be hit, and adjusts their HRs to the league-average rate of HRs per Fly Balls.
- Phillies pitchers are tied for the NL lead in HBPs with Milwaukee (11).