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Phillies Stat Notes: Chasing history good and bad, and the dying bunt

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Miscellaneous random topics from the season’s stats to date:

Strikeouts

The Phillies have had the 2nd highest strike out rate in MLB so far, at 25.6%, but that doesn’t hold true throughout their lineup. Three Phillies are playing enough to qualify for a batting title, and are striking out less than 16% of the time:

Odubel Herrera 15.0%
Maikel Franco 15.5%
Carlos Santana 15.9%

Having three qualifiers below 16% (granted, an arbitrary threshold) ranks as the second most in MLB, behind only the Tigers, with five.

Franco and Santana have never struck out very much, especially for players with some power.

However it’s yet another improvement for Herrera, who struck out at a 22.2% rate in his first three years in the majors, a little above the non-pitcher average of 20.6%.

He did keep his Ks down to only 10.9% in August last year, before jumping back up to 23.7% in September, so it will be interesting to see how long he can sustain this lower rate.

Jorge Alfaro

Alfaro is hitting better lately, and following his very good first season in 2017 (.874 OPS, 127 wRC+), he’s recently gotten this year’s line up to an .665 OPS and 73 wRC+. The bad news is that after his astronomical .420 BABIP last year, it’s very high again this year at .394, and that can’t be sustained by anyone for any amount of time. And with a K% this year of 43.2%, any regression to his BABIP will mean a further plummet to his overall stats.

And it’s that K rate, along with a very low walk rate, that makes Alfaro fascinating. With 205 major league PAs under his belt, Alfaro has 73 Ks (35.6%) and 9 walks (4.4%).

Of those 9 walks, 5 have been intentional, leaving 4 non-intentional walks. That’a ratio of 18.3 Ks for each non-intentional walk (NIBB). For a sense as to how unusual that is, here is the entire list from major league history of players with 200+ PAs, and at least an 18-1 K to NIBB ratio:

Alexandro Sanchez, 1982-87 (215 PA): 66 Ks, 1 NIBB —> 66.0 to 1
Joe Cannon, 1977-80 (232 PA): 54 Ks, 1 NIBB —> 54.0 to 1
Eliezer Alfonzo, 2006-11 (624 PA): 158 Ks, 8 NIBB —> 19.8 to 1
Jorge Alfaro, 2016-18 (205 PA): 73 Ks, 4 NIBB —> 18.3 to 1

Also, for reference, here is the list of all 21 players since 1900 with at least 8 Ks per walk (of any kind). Besides Alfaro and Sanchez, who was a Phillies international signing, the list also includes Kim Batiste (120-14), and 2018 Phillies Spring Training NRI Matt McBride (43-4).

Aaron Altherr

Aaron Altherr’s career stat line doesn’t look terrible, but is not very exciting either: in 900 major league PAs, he’s batted .241/.325/.440, for a .764 OPS and 102 wRC+.

However that includes a 2016 season in which he broke a wrist bone in Spring Training, and was still recovering from that after he returned in late July. Call it cherry picking if you like but Altherr’s 2016 can justifiably be considered not representative of how he plays when healthy. The wrist injury was a serious one, and it showed in his 2016 numbers: .202/.304/.293, a .597 OPS and 63 wRC+.

If we look at only 2015 and 2017 (and his 2018 start to date), Altherr’s numbers are quite respectable for a corner outfielder:

668 PAs, .255/.334/.492, for an .827 OPS and 117 wRC+

In 2017, among 24 qualifying right fielders, both the OPS and the wRC+ would have tied for 9th. Altherr has gotten the majority of the playing time in RF, the team has stuck with him while he worked out of his slump, and it’s understandable why they have.

Chase Utley

There aren’t many 39 year old players around any more, and even when there are, they tend to settle in a corner infield or outfield position. So when, even in his part-time role, Utley go on base 28 times in April, he became the first 39+ year old middle infielder to get on 25+ times since Derek Jeter in 2014.

But let’s recap two other milestones he reached in April:

First, two stolen bases early on gave him 153 for his career, in 174 attempts, moving him back to the top of the all-time most efficient base stealers, with a 87.931% success rate, moving ahead of Alexi Casilla’s 87.912%.

The challenge now is that he has to essentially never get caught again, given how little time he probably has left in the majors.

For every time he does get caught, he will need to steal at least 8 bases successfully to stay on top, but he’s only stolen a total of 8 over the last two years combined, when he was “only” 37 and 38.

Or, as Rujasu noted, “hope for Casilla to continue tearing it up in York and get another shot at the majors (where he promptly gets caught stealing once or twice and drops down the leaderboard).”

Secondly, Utley was hit by a pitch for the 200th time in his career, becoming only the 8th player in history with 200+. And with three of those from the ancient history of the 19th century, he’s only the 5th player since 1900 with 200+:

Craig Biggio 285
Don Baylor 267
Jason Kendall 254
Ron Hunt 243
Chase Utley 200

Odubel Herrera

Odubel has now reached base safely in 32 straight games. He has a ways to go to challenge the all-time record held by Ted Williams. That’s variously described as 86 games, or 84 (per Baseball Almanac, and Baseball Reference).

The Phillies’ record is 56 games* according to bb-ref, set by Mike Schmidt from August 1981 to May 1982. These are the streaks in Phillies history of 40 games or more:

Mike Schmidt, 1981-82 (56)
Chuck Klein, 1930 (49)
Bobby Abreu, 2000-01 (48)
Chuck Klein, 1931 (44)
Pete Rose, 1982 (41)
Don Hurst, 1929 (41)
Willie Montanez, 1974 (40)

*All Baseball-Reference lists are since 1908, when the detailed game stats begin

In more recent franchise history, Odubel is the 7th Phillie since 2000 to get on base in 32 straight games. The others:

Bobby Abreu, twice: Aug 2000-Apr 2001 (48 games), and June-July 2006 (34)
Chase Utley, twice: June-Aug 2006 (35), and Sep 2008-Apr 2009 (33)
Jimmy Rollins: Aug 2005-Apr 2006 (38)
Pat Burrell: May-June 2002 (34)
Darin Ruf: Sep 2012-Aug 2013 (33)
Jim Thome: Apr-May 2004 (33)

In case you missed it, Ruf’s streak was covered spectacularly by Justin.

Sacrifices Dying Out

With the acceptance of sabermetrics by teams in recent years, sacrifice bunts, which had held steady at close to 1% of all plate appearances up to as recenty as 2011, have quickly dropped to where they have been less than half of 1% so far this season.

Sacrifice bunts by pitchers have been dropping, but the effect is especially pronounced for position players.

In the majors so far this year, there has been a total of 69 sacrifices by non-pitchers for the 30 teams. Essentially, the average team has a non-pitcher sacrifice once every 13 games (and it’s about the same in both the NL and AL). It was once every 4 games in 1990, and once every 3 in 1980.

With sacrifices by position players dropping more rapidly, 2017 became the first season in history in which there were more sacrifice bunts by pitchers, than by position players.

The white points for 2018 are projected based on season-to-date stats:

Rhys Hoskins

Rhys Hoskins has been slumping lately, and he is no longer on the history making start in either HRs or RBIs at the start of a career. Though he’s still hanging on to a tie for 9th most HRs all-time in a player’s first 80 games, with 22.

However it’s worth noting that no one in baseball history* has walked more in their first 80 games in the majors, than Hoskins has, tied with Yankee outfielder Charlie Keller at 62.

They’re both just one ahead of Carlos Santana, who walked 61 times in his first 80, along with former Philadelphia A’s first baseman Ferris Fain.

*again, since at least 1908