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2019 Phillies Preview: The Phillies have a critically upgraded new team

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I swear it by the old team and the new: The Phillies have really improved in some key areas.

MLB: Spring Training-Philadelphia Phillies at New York Yankees
LET’S GO
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies had a real metamorphosis this offseason; they went into it like Clark Kent going into a phone booth and came out of it as a veritable Superman. There’s four new starting position players equating to five new position changes and each and every one of them is profoundly remarkable. At some level, they can all be summed up by some sort of pertinent stat.

So here goes.

THE CONTRACT(S) NUMBERS

First, a little fun before we get into the heavy stuff. The Bryce Harper contract is 13 years long, extending through the 2031 season. The Phillies signed an enormous television contract in 2013 that took effect in 2015 and lasts 25 years, through 2040. The deal brings the team $100M (in cash) annually; Harper gets about 25% of that and will be in red pinstripes for just over half of it.

Perhaps of equal importance is that the team now owns 25% of the networks ad revenue which will, like an Ouroboros, feed off itself now that Harper is a Phillie. In other “theoretical” words, Harper’s presence will increase ad revenue which will increase Phillies revenue-share which will pay for Harper. He could basically be creating the very income the Phillies pay him…theoretically.

THE STRIKE OUT NUMBERS

The Phillies have switched out J.P. Crawford, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jorge Alfaro and to some extent Scott Kingery this offseason and replaced them with J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura and Andrew McCutchen. Last year between Alfaro, Kingery, Crawford and Cabrera (at shortstop and catcher) there were 339 K’s in 1084 at-bats; that’s replaced with JTR and Segura who combined for nearly the same AB’s, 1063, yet produced 171 K’s, or about half.

To illustrate how huge a difference this is, the Phillies K total from last year was third worst in MLB at 1520 which with Segura and JTR last year would have slipped to 1352, or 10th BEST in baseball.

THE WALKS

Since Rhys Hoskins played his first MLB game, his 124 walks is 10th most in baseball. Bryce Harper’s 132 is 5th, Andrew McCutchen is 10th at 110 and with 123 Cesar Hernandez is 7th. The 2019 Philadelphia Phillies every day line-up will possess four of the top 15 walkers in baseball from 2018. Consider that this is half of the regular starting line up that opposing pitchers will have to face day in and day out. What makes this even more amazing is that Carlos Santana is 3rd on that list and if he could’ve played third...

Wow.

This is a team that finished with second fewest walks in all of baseball when general manager Matt Klentak took over three seasons ago. Think about that for a moment, we’ll wait...

THE CONTACT

As improved as the Phillies were last season they still were second to last in contact percentage, right between the Orioles and White Sox. Jorge Alfaro was the worst in the sport at 61% and he’s replaced by JTR, who makes contact over 15% more often at 78.9%, 3rd best among qualified catchers.

At the shortstop position the Phillies were the 4th worst in making contact at 73.9%; Segura, who was fifth in all of baseball in contact, achieved a remarkable 88.3 contact percentage.

Along these lines also is Andrew McCutchen, who displays ridiculous discipline inside the zone; last year he was second only to Joey Votto at laying off of non-strikes. And again, the difference in outside of zone swing percentage going from Alfaro to Realmuto is going from 46.9% to 29.9%.

Contact also breeds the productive out, something the 2018 Phillies struggled with. The 2018 squad made a productive out 22.3% of the time, the absolute worst in baseball. Alfaro was 9th worst among the 357 players with at least 200 plate appearances only making the productive out 10.75% of the time and Realmuto was in the middle of the pack with a 25.7% success rate, 133rd on the list. Segura made the productive out 32.4%, and he’ll primarily be replacing Kingery, who moved the runner 25% of the time. Harper was among the best in the league at 34.6%.

Last year’s Phillies also struggled in other, more specific, situational batting areas like advancing a runner on second with no outs. These are crucial situations where it’s imperative the batter moves that runner to third – even if they make an out. That produces a runner on third with less than two outs, a scenario where it’s possible to score without a hit. That runner has a chance to score on almost every play that’s not a strikeout or an infield fly. The Phils had the lowest percentage in baseball of advancing the runner on second without an out.

THE HOME RUN

Although it’s tough to judge with ballpark factors, the Phillies have added at least some power this offseason, but the true amount remains to be seen. They got 29 home runs out of right field last year and Bryce Harper hit 34 on his own as a National, so there’s a reasonable expectation that with him hitting in Citizens Bank Park the yearly number could reach the mid forties.

Realmuto, Segura and McCutchen all played in some of the least hitter-friendly parks in baseball. All three will now play their home games in the very hitter-friendly CBP and a quick look at their stats says they should all enjoy a relevant increase in long ball quantity.

Segura hit 10 home runs last year at the tough T-Mobile Park, but when he played two years prior in Chase Field, a park very similar to CBP, he hit 20. For his career, Realmuto has 59 home runs, but almost two-thirds of them (37) were hit on the road. And while playing the vast majority of last season at the very tough Oracle Park in San Francisco, Andrew McCutchen only hit 20 homers, his lowest total in eight seasons.

Between the four players, it’s plausible to expect an increase of perhaps 30-40 more home runs for the 2019 Phillies over their 186 (15th in baseball) last year. For context, 30 more home runs over last year’s total would have moved them from 15th most to 6th.

And as an aside to these added home runs, if you consider the previous items covered - an increase in walks and contact and a decrease in strike outs – those home runs could easily have a much better chance at being more than just solo shots. Last year, the Phillies hit 107 solo home runs, which isn’t bad, 18th in baseball, but could definitely be improved.

THE CONCLUSION

When you consider that the Phillies were involved in as many one run games (41) and extra inning affairs (14) as they were, these changes have a great potential in scoring that one extra run – a run that may turn a loss into a win and an 80 win team into a 95 win club.

These improvements or adjustments or additions - whatever you want to call them - they have the potential to be incredibly impactful - more than anyone who doesn’t go to work at 1 Citizens Bank Way might have considered. While the moves individually seem big, when you step back and look at them as one cohesive picture, it’s really clear what they were doing and how they did it. Each move is so targeted, not only in what they were adding, but in who they’d be replacing.

It’s like they keyed in on a few areas, and then only kept the very best of what they had in those areas and replaced the rest with players that also excelled in those same qualities of what they kept. Seriously, a lineup with four of the top ten walkers from the previous year? That’s not something that just happened, it’s something that was conceived. That has to have never happened before and oh my god, is that going to be something to watch.