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Phillies Stat Notes: Third in the NL, with an OK cleanup hitter

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Phils return home from a disappointing road trip, still holding a postseason berth

Summary

The Phillies still have the 3rd best record in the NL, and if the season ended today they would face the Brewers in the Wildcard game.

After bouncing around league average for most of the year offensively, they’ve now fallen to 11th in both overall hitting (wRC+), and average runs scored.

Their team ERA is now 3rd best in the NL, and the fielding-independent metrics rank the Phillies’ pitching 2nd (FIP) and 3rd (xFIP). In fact the Phils staff leads the NL in pitching WAR (per Fangraphs). That very good pitching is hampered by poor defense, which, despite signs of improvement, still ranks 14th at Fangraphs.

BsR = Fangraphs’ Baserunning Runs metric

Standings

With Atlanta sweeping Miami yesterday while the Phillies were idle, the Braves now have a one-game lead in the NL East.

The Nationals remain 7 games out of first, and 6 back of the Phillies.

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: -10 runs (i.e. worse than average)
- Below average hitting: -17 runs
- Above average baserunning: +7 runs

Run prevention: +44 runs
- Well above average starting pitching: +54 runs
- Above average bullpen: +15 runs
- Awful fielding (-25)

The net total is that as a team they’ve been 34 runs better than average:

Batting

Compared to last year

The Phils, have fallen to 11th in both scoring (4.32 runs per game), and overall overall hitting (91 wRC+). Their batting average has now dipped to next-to-last, but is supplemented by the league’s best walk rate (9.9%).

*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 second in the NL in pitches per PA (4.04), just behind the Dodgers.

They are about average in taking the first pitch, but get to deep hitters’ counts at the second highest rate in the NL. They’re also the second most likely team to take a pitch in those counts.

They are dead last in both making contact (74.3% of their swings), and in the quality of contact when they do connect: they are last in both Hard-hit rate (30.0%), and Line drive rate (20.0%).

The Phillies currently lead the NL in Fangraphs’ Baserunning Runs metric, which captures base stealing as well as baserunning in general. They’ve been one of the more conservative base stealing teams in the league, ranking next-to-last in attempts, but they’ve been excellent at getting extra bases while also making very few outs on the basepaths.

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.

They are coming off arguably their worst week of the season offensively. This was the 19th week, and this is how it ranked for key stats:

Runs/game (2.50) – 18th
BA (.184) – 19th
OBP (.272) – 18th
SLG (.272) – 19th
OPS (.543) – 19th
wOBA (.247) – 19th

These graphs show the Phillies’ two key offensive stats throughout the season - first wRC+ for overall hitting, and then average runs scored per game:

Batting — Individual

Below are the Phillies hitters 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.

The dearth of green highlighting in those far right columns indicates very few bright spots in the lineup at the moment. Asdrubal Cabrera, Maikel Franco, and Nick Williams have been the most reliable recently, OPS-ing in the .800s over the last two weeks-plus.

Rhys Hoskins and Odubel Herrera are slumping especially hard at the moment:

Below is how each hitter’s OPS has progressed over time.

Raise your hand if you expected Franco and Williams to be 2nd and 3rd on this list before the season started:

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.

Again, nothing much good last week, with the possible exception of Cesar and Nick W. Williams in particular has been steady since at least early July:

Pitching

Phillies pitching leads the NL in WAR, and is now tied for 2nd in MLB (behind only the Astros).

They also lead the NL in WAR for starting pitchers, not surprisingly, and are 3rd in MLB (behind the Astros and Indians).

Phillies starters are 4th in the NL 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.

And of course, the various stats all agree that the Phillies’ fielding has been really bad for the season to date:

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.

Phillies starters lead the NL in Quality Starts with 61, three more than Washington.

Also along the lines of Who Would Thunk? ...

The bullpen had a 2.55 ERA in July, lowest in MLB. In fact, even including the start of August, the pen’s 2.73 ERA is still lowest in all MLB since July 1st.

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+).

Miscellaneous

Santana and Cleanup Hitting

Carlos Santana has been a controversial figure among a segment of the fanbase, and even more so because he’s been used as the #4 hitter for most of the season.

Sure he gets on base, his critics say, but “his job” is to drive in runs.

It’s worth noting though that Santana has hit well with runners in scoring position, better than most cleanup hitters.

Avg cleanup hitter… .264/.354/.442 (.796 OPS)
Santana………..……… .270/.427/.539 (.966 OPS)

Avg cleanup hitter… 1487 RBI in 4380 PA with RISP (34 RBI per 100 PA)
Santana…..…………… 51 RBI in 124 PA with RISP (41 per 100 PA)

Looking at RBI opportunities more generally:

The hitters with the 50 most PAs in the cleanup spot this year have theses averages:

267.4 runners on base when they came to bat
40.2 of those runners knocked in
15.0% of baserunners driven in

Santana has these stats this season (from all spots):

322 runners on base when he came to bat
49 of those runners knocked in
15.2% of baserunners driven in

Never mind that no one in the lineup (not even the cleanup hitter) has only one job — that’s not the case in today’s game, and in fact it’s never been the case. Every hitter comes up in a variety of circumstances, and their job is dictated by those situations. And as Paul laid out recently, Santana can be viewed as stretching the concept of what jobs a 4th hitter has, including setting the table for those behind him.

Team HR Streaks

At the start of last weekend’s series, Toronto was at 13 straight games with a HR and looked like it may threaten the Phillies’ MLB-season high of 16. Welp, that’s where the Blue Jays stopped, and the Phillies will stand alone at the top for at least a while longer:

The Phil’ streak is also tied for second longest in franchise history, behind an 18-game streak by the 2008 team.

Extra Base Hit Streak

Also coming to an end last weekend was the Phillies’ streak of getting an extra base hit in 110 straight games. It’s the longest streak in MLB this season, and it was the second longest such streak in franchise history, behind only a 129-gamer by the 1929-30 team:

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 was anything more than a statistical oddity. Note, for example, the lower slash line for this year’s streak.

References

Phillies hitters (fangraphs)
Phillies pitchers (fangraphs)
Team hitting stats (fangraphs)
Team pitching stats (fangraphs)
Team stats (baseball-reference)