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Is the Phillies offense good, bad or something else?

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Trying to make sense of the Phillies’ confounding offense is not easy.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies got off to a great start in their series against the Atlanta Braves on Monday, getting a terrific pitching performance from Nick Pivetta, and just enough offense — two home runs from Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr — to secure a huge, 3-0 victory.

The day before, the Phils managed just two hits and one run against the Cardinals in a 5-1 loss, but scored seven runs the day before in their 7-6 come-from-behind victory in St. Louis.

With a lineup filled with mostly young players, some of whom don’t play every day, as well as a few key veterans, the Phillies lineup has been sometimes outstanding, sometimes frustrating, and sometimes downright unwatchable.

Below is how the Phils’ rank in some key offensive statistics (NL only).

Phillies Offensive Ranks

Statistic Total Rank (NL)
Statistic Total Rank (NL)
Runs 209 T-4
Home Runs 52 6
Doubles 69 11
Stolen Bases 23 7
Caught Stealing 11 11
AVG 0.239 6
OBP 0.325 4
SLG 0.4 7
wOBA 0.316 6
wRC+ 98 5
fWAR 5.4 9

Their 209 runs are tied for 4th-most in the National League. So, no matter what you read moving forward, that’s the bottom line. They’re scoring enough runs to win. But are they scoring in a way that’s sustainable?

Their team batting average of .239 seems terribly low, and there are only two regulars with averages over .250 — Cesar Hernandez (.278) and Odubel Herrera (.348). Of course, Herrera leads the NL in batting over Atlanta’s Nick Markakis (.341), but the Phils feature seven position players with averages all under .250.

But oddly enough, their team-wide .239 average is still 6th-highest in the NL. Incredibly, there are nine National League teams with a worse average, and the Phils’ on-base percentage of .325 is 4th-best. They’re also hitting home runs at a pretty good pace, 52 so far this year, 6th-most the National League. And in case you haven’t noticed...

So, a high on-base percentage and a decent number of home runs seems to be the name of the game for the Phils’ offense thus far.

There is one area in which the Phillies’ offense is excelling this year, and that is drawing walks.

Phillies Plate Discipline

Statistic Total Rank (NL)
Statistic Total Rank (NL)
BB% 10.8 1
K% 25.5 13
O-Swing% 27.8 4
Z-Contact% 84 12
SwStr% 11.5 13

The team’s 10.8% walk-rate is tops in the National League, as are the numbers of pitches seen per plate appearance, at 4.12. Only the Dodgers and Cardinals are seeing as many as 4 per PA, Hernandez leads the team at 4.45 P/PA, 3rd-highest in the NL, Rhys Hoskins’ 4.41 is 4th, and Carlos Santana’s 4.32 is 6th.

Of course, running all those deep counts has led the Phils to pile up the strikeouts, too. Their 25.5% strikeout-rate is 3rd-highest in the NL. While they are swinging at 27.8% of pitches out of the strike zone, 4th-lowest, they also aren’t making great contact on pitches in the strike zone, 84.0%, which is 4th-lowest in the league. That’s why they are swinging and missing 11.5% of the time, 3rd-highest in the NL.

So, the Phillies are walking a ton, but running all those deep counts has also led to a lot of whiffs.

Not Hitting It Hard... Or Are They?

On Monday, there were two different sets of hard-hit data that threw into question just how often the Phillies hit the ball hard.

Prior to Monday night’s game, Sports Info Solutions had the Phils’ hitting the ball “hard” 22.2% of the time, the worst mark in baseball. That seems really low, especially when you look at StatCast’s numbers, which say something different.

As for Fangraphs’ numbers, here are the batted ball data from them heading into Tuesday.

Phillies Batted Ball Data

Statistic Total Rank (NL)
Statistic Total Rank (NL)
Hard% 31 14
Soft% 19.7 10
LD% 19.4 15
GB% 43.7 7
FB% 37 3
HR/FB 13.2 5

Fangraphs agrees with SIS’ numbers, giving the Phils a hard-hit rate of 31.0%, 2nd-lowest in the National League. Their soft-hit rate of 19.7% is 10th out of 15 teams, and they rank dead last in line drive percentage, 19.4%, which helps explain the low batting average.

However, they do have the 3rd-highest fly ball rate in the NL, and a 13.2 home run per fly ball rate that ranks 5th-best has certainly helped them score runs via the dinger.

So... Good, Bad, or Something Else?

It is really hard to know what we have in the Phils’ offense thus far. The team appears to have two consistent contributors, Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera, the latter of which is making an awfully strong case for early-season NL MVP. But outside of that we see maddening inconsistency.

Rhys Hoskins has been very streaky this year and is mired in a hard-to-believe 10-for-74 funk that has seen him hit .135/.244/.270 with a .514 OPS in his last 20 games. Carlos Santana, despite a hot start to the month of May, is still hitting way under .200 (.186), although he’s carrying a .313 OBP thanks to a consistent 14.4% BB-rate, and his ISO of .230 is actually way higher than his career mark of .198.

Aaron Altherr and Nick Williams have bounced back and forth with their playing time, with each getting some big hits along the way, but Williams is hitting .233/.313/.372 and Altherr is batting .202/.324/.386. Jorge Alfaro has been better at the plate recently, with his .255 average 3rd-highest on the team, even with an insane 40.9% K-rate. And Scott Kingery, despite his clutch RBI triple on Saturday against St. Louis, has been lost, too, hitting .216/.264/.336. Maikel Franco has had his moments, but he’s doing this again...

... and is batting .252/.286/.448 with a wOBA of just .309 and a wRC+ of 93, none of which are all that great.

At this point, the Phils’ plate discipline is saving their hides, and is proof that even if a team isn’t getting a bunch of hits, drawing walks gives them a chance. The Phillies have been opportunistic with those walks, with their .263 average with runners in scoring position is 3rd-best in the NL. They’ve also allowed them to take advantage of some decent luck this year, with a .299 BABIP that is tied with the Pirates for 4th-highest.

In the end, this offense has a lot of holes, and slumps by Hoskins, Santana and Kingery have not helped. One would expect Hoskins and Santana to emerge from their funks, although it’s possible Kingery might have to spend some time in AAA when J.P. Crawford returns from the DL in order to get his swing, plate discipline and confidence back.

For the moment, a terrific effort by the starting rotation and a decent bullpen has propped up an offense that has done just enough to help but still has yet to find its footing.

And not for nothin’, how good would Manny Machado’s .343/.420/.663 slash line, 15 homers and 43 RBI into the mix at midseason look in the middle of this lineup? A person can dream.