Yesterday, Evan delivered a piece here that should get us all excited.
Yes, this is a weekend of enthusiasm in the city of Philadelphia. Our favorite baseball team is the lone unbeaten squad left in the game, and the fans are already staking out spots for the inevitable victory parade to be held in late October. This, of course, has been mostly due to the instant gratification that coincides with the team’s big offseason acquisition (sorry, Jose Alvarez), Bryce Harper, coming through with majestic moonshots to thrill even the most cynical of fan. It was a weekend where we reclaimed that sense of....winning.
What interested me the most may have been missed as the recurring theme about this team’s offense in their performance this weekend. I’m talking about that result of an at bat that obviously inspired a heavy metal band to write a song about it. Yes, I’m talking about the walk.
This team likes to walk.
So far, in these early three games, they have demonstrated that patience by drawing a walk 20 times. It was something to behold really. Against the Braves, they showed that they will wait out the starting pitchers by making them work to throw strikes. By doing this, they got into the Braves’ bullpen early and often. When any of the pitchers did throw strikes, it felt like the Phillies’ offense punished them.
Now, let’s put this into perspective as well. They were fortunate that the Braves, through injury, were forced to rely on starters on Saturday and Sunday that, prior to this weekend, had thrown a total of 13 major league innings. They did not have to face Mike Foltynewicz or Mike Soroka, two impressive pitchers projected to make the rotation, but are currently hurt. In the past, facing such young and inexperienced starters usually spelled disaster for the Phillies, but this isn’t that lineup anymore. They have a mantra that has been preached for over a year now and we as fans finally got to see what happens when that mantra is carried out properly. Sure, guys like Carlos Santana walked a lot last year, but the batter behind him did nothing about it. This year, it already feels different.
So where does this three game set fit historically in the Phillies’ past? Let’s have some fun. Using Play Index, we can look for how often these types of things have happened in the past. For example, this marks only the second time since 1908 that a Phillies team has started their season with three consecutive games of at least 5 walks in each game.
When you look at the damage being done once the team gets on base with the walk, the context gets a little more narrow. This is the only time in the team’s history where they have walked at least 5 times and homered at least twice in the first three consecutive games.
If you wanted to expand that search and look for how many times the team has walked at least 5 times and homered at least two times in any consecutive games, regardless of whether it was starting the season or in the dog days of August, we see that this past three game series is tied for the longest streak of such games in team history:
Now, the thing you’ll probably notice about that particular search is that for that type of streak, this current Phillies team has a) the lowest batting average, and b) the third most strikeouts. That is a testament to how this team looks to be built. We’ve seen all spring and from last year that batting average will not be a priority for this team. With players like Harper, Rhys Hoskins and Maikel Franco in the lineup, the “swing for the fences” approach will still take precedence among the hitters. The difference between this and last year’s team is that thus far, they have shown the ability to hit the ball out of the park after walks were taken.
Yes, yes, I am aware of the “small sample size” argument that is here. Frankly, I don’t even think they’ll do it again in the next game. But for a fleeting second, let’s savor the fact that the lineup construction, something Gabe Kapler has wanted since he took the job as manager last year, finally allows the team to function like it was built.
I found a gif that represents the Phillies’ lineup: pic.twitter.com/gMgnBcbi98— Ethan Witte (@ethan_witte) April 1, 2019
If they can approach even in the slightest bit this type of production multiple times during the season, they’ll be a force in the National League for the duration.