Technically, of course, the Phillies are already 14 games into the second half, but the All-Star break is nominally the half-way point in terms of the pace of a season, as well as what defines the halves for purposes of categorizing stats. This year the first half is unusually long, thanks to starting the season a few days earlier. The Phils’ first half (95 games) is 42% longer than their second half (67).
Only three times since the first All-Star game in 1933 have the Phillies played more than 95 games in the first half: 1973 (97), 2008 (96), and 2013 (96). They also played 95 in two other years, 1974 and 2014:
(Orange lines show the halfway point of the schedule)
Considering that the Phillies were expected to be around .500 in 2018, arriving at the All-Star Break in first place, with the 3rd best record in the NL, and on a 90-win pace, cannot be considered anything but wildly successful, at least in terms of results.
Nevertheless they are a flawed team, and some of the reasons behind their early success are probably not sustainable:
- The offense, which had performed in spurts and was around the middle of the pack overall for most of the first half, has struggled over the last three weeks and has now slipped to below average: 11th in the league in runs per game, and 10th in overall hitting (wRC+), buoyed some by excellent baserunning (2nd in the NL in Baserunning Runs).
- There are a number of fielding metrics, including advanced stats, and they all agree that the Phils’ defense has been awful.
So how have they overcome these issues to win as much as they have?
- Excellent starting pitching, much to almost everyone’s surprise. Many of us expected Aaron Nola to have a good year, but few expected anything like what we’ve seen: 12-3 record, 2.30 ERA, and an equally excellent 2.60 FIP. He has already accumulated 5.9 WAR (per bb-ref), and in the unlikely event that he continued that amazing pace, he would finish the season with 10.1 WAR. That would be only the 5th 10-WAR season by a pitcher in the 2000s, and only the third 10-WAR season by Phillies pitcher in the past 100 years (joining Steve Carlton’s 1972 and 1980).
- They are 20-8 in one-run games, by far the best record in MLB. That should not be expected to continue, and they are more likely to be around .500 or slightly better in one-run games going forward.
- That 20-8 record means they’ve made the most of their ability to score and prevent runs — they’ve won 4 more games than their run differential would predict, which again, is not likely to continue. If they generate the same run differential in the second half, it will more likely mean about 35 more wins, which would put their season total at 88 — enough to keep them in the race for a wildcard, at least.
BsR = Fangraphs’ Baserunning Runs. They haven’t stolen much, but they’ve been extremely efficient at taking extra bases on fly balls/passed balls/etc. while rarely getting caught, having made by far the fewest outs on the bases in MLB this season.
The Phillies one half game ahead of the Braves, and 5 1⁄2 ahead of the Nationals, who are not out of this by any means.
The color coding here tells a fairly simple and consistent story for the Phils:
- the offense is below average, after hanging around the middle of the pack for most of the first half
- the pitching is very good, ranking near the top in several key categories
- their fielding is awful, among the worst — if not the worst — in the NL
Runs vs. Average
The graph below shows Runs above average for each team in the NL, by each aspect of the game, as measured at Fangraphs.
For the Phillies:
Offense: -5 runs (i.e. worse than average)
- Below average hitting: -10 runs
- Above average baserunning: +5 runs
Run prevention: +32 runs
- Well above average starting pitching: +49 runs
- Slightly above average bullpen: +5 runs
- Awful fielding (-22)
The net total is that as a team they’ve been 27 runs better than average:
Compared to last year, and to the Padres
The Phillies continue to supplement a below average BA (.236, 12th), with a high walk rate to end up with a somewhat above average OBP (.319, 7th).
The Padres are the worst hitting team in the league, even after adjusting for their pitcher-friendly park:
*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).
The Phillies are back in the lead in pitches per PA (4.04), and they continue leading the league in walking (10.1% of the time), but also have the second highest strikeout rate (25.0%).
They are dead last in both making contact (74.2% of their swings), and in their Hard-hit rate (29.4%). Line drive rate has inched from the bottom to “only” 2nd worst (20.1%).
Progress over time
The graphs below show how some key stats have progressed. On the left is the weekly performance (with a dotted line showing the NL average for each one), and on the right is the cumulative season-to-date number. Batting Average and BB% together drive a team’s On Base Percentage, and Batting Average and ISO combine to form Slugging Percentage.
Batting — Individual
Below are the Phillies ranked by OPS, along with how they compare to the MLB average OPS at their position. To the right are their OPS over the last 30, 14, and 7 days.
Maikel Franco, and Andrew Knapp have hit very well for over a month now.
And with Alfaro’s solid hitting, over the last 30 days, Phillies catchers rank:
- third in MLB in OBP (.390), and second in Slugging (.578)
- second in MLB in overall hitting (156 wRC+, just behind Texas’ 158)
- first in MLB in WAR (fangraphs), with 1.3, ahead of the Cubs (1.1) and Rays (1.0)
For the season to date, Phillies catchers are 7th in MLB in WAR.
Below is how each hitter’s OPS and wOBA have progressed over time.
These graphs are very busy — start with the names to see how they currently rank, and then follow each line to the left to see how they got there.
The Runs Created stat, which has gone through various iterations, starting with Bill James in the 1980s, takes all of a hitter’s stats and estimates how many runs they should translate to. Fangraphs calculates a version of that called weighted Runs Created (wRC) which is a counting stat version of wOBA.
The table below shows wRC for each Phillie, by week (the first is more like a week and a half). It quantifies the ups and downs we’ve seen: the hot starts by Hoskins, Hernandez, and Herrera, and more recently, the upsurge from Franco, and cooling off by Santana.
It’s worth noting that even with his recent slump, Santana has still been their best hitter overall since May 1st (tallest short person etc.), edging out Nick Williams:
Santana .823 OPS, 122 wRC+
Williams .817 OPS, 121 wRC+
Phillies starters are up to 4th in ERA, though that’s still likely lower than it should be because errors (and unearned runs) don’t adequately capture the impact of bad fielding. Based on FIP*, Phillies starters rank 2nd in the NL.
As noted above, and as has been the case all season, tstats all agree that the Phillies’ fielding has been really bad:
Pitching - Individual
Below is a high-level break down of each starter’s games:
QS is the typical definition (6+ IP, 3 or less ER)
“bad” is any start with more ER than innings pitched, and
“other” is all the rest.
The Phillies lead the NL in Quality Starts with 49, and after a rough June, the rotation has posted a 3.07 ERA so far in July, to go with a 2.56 ERA by the bullpen:
And below are each pitcher’s games, with the Game Score for each one on the right (highlighted green if in the 60-79 range, dark green if 80+).
Team HR Streaks
Houston failed to homer last Monday, and so the Phillies’ 16-game HR streak from May remains the longest in MLB this year:
Extra Base Hit Streak
The Phils have now hit at least one extra base hit in 91 straight game, the longest streak in MLB this season. It’s also the fourth longest such streak in franchise history:
Obviously it doesn’t take an offensive juggernaut to hit one extra base hit in a game, so this is not to imply that it is anything more than a statistical oddity.
On Base Streaks
Shin-Soo Choo passed Odubel’s 45-game on-base streak recently, and is now up to 51 games. It’s the first streak of 50+ games in more than 10 years: