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Phillies Stat Notes: Pounding the ball in the early going

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Bryce Harper and the rest of the lineup are generating excitement

It’s that time again, when we begin taking a closer look at the Phillies’ stats, and how they compare to the rest of the National League.

Before we get too far into it (and at the risk of regretting this later), feel free to suggest aspects of the team to track in the Stat Notes, or other ways to display what’s already here. All suggestions will be considered, based on the effort involved, the author’s interest in the topic, etc. For a better idea of what the format looks like once the season gets going, take a look at the final Notes from the 2018 season: Phillies Stat Notes: Analyzing The Collapse.

Finally, since we are only a week into the season, huge caveats about small samples apply. If any of the numbers below appeared for a week in say June, a) we probably wouldn’t notice, and b) even if we did we would know to put them in context of the season to date. If a team with a .730 OPS to that point had a week at .915, we would rightly see it as a temporary hot streak. In early April, it’s a bit tougher to know what to expect, but nevertheless extreme numbers should be viewed with some suspicion.

Without further ado...

Summary

No surprise, the Phillies are near the top in most hitting categories. As often happens in any seven day period, the Phils aren’t the only team that’s been really hot at the plate.

Their .915 OPS is 3rd in the NL, behind the Cubs (.925), and Dodgers (.945). Heck, the Cubs have a .330 average as a team, and are 1-4.

The Phils’ pitching has been average-ish or worse so far, including giving up more than their share of walks, as John laid out today.

The one surprise is the fielding number, but that’s to be taken with an asteroid-sized grain of salt so early in the season. Last year’s team had the worst defense in the league, statistically, and the eye test agreed. We expect their fielding to be better this year, and while they have (mostly) looked quite a bit better so far, it will be interesting to see how much of an improvement shows up in the stats.

Note: Rankings are among the 15 NL teams rather than across MLB, since having one league using nine true hitters while the other uses eight (as BaseBa’al intended), can give skewed results.

BsR = Fangraphs’ Baserunning Runs metric

Standings

The Phils have the NL’s 3rd best record at 4-1 (behind the Mets’ 5-1, and Brewers’ 6-1), but they do have the highest run differential, outscoring opponents by an average of 3.4 runs per game.

Terms - Pitching

FIP (Fielding-independent pitching) is based only on the stats that are considered to be most controllable by pitchers: strikeouts, walks, and home runs.

xFIP takes that one step further by also assuming that home runs are only controllable by a pitcher to the extent to which they allow fly balls to be hit, and adjusts their HRs to the league-average rate of HRs per Fly Balls.

Note that .246 average at the bottom of the above table, for the NL as a whole. By comparison, all American Leaguers combined so far in the (very) early going are batting a paltry .220.

So MLB overall has a .233 average. Last year’s average was .248, the lowest since 1972, with the AL slightly higher (.249) than the NL (.247).

The lowest ever was .237 in 1968, and while I doubt we will approach anything that low when the season is all said and done, it’s something to watch over the next month or so.

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: +11 runs (i.e. better than average)
- Well above average hitting: +11 runs
- Average baserunning: 0 runs

Run prevention: -3 runs (i.e. worse than average)
- Below average starting pitching: -3 runs
- Slightly below average bullpen: -1 run
- Slightly above average fielding: +1 run (Again, SMALL SAMPLE!)

The net total is that as a team they’ve been 8 runs better than average:

Batting

In the table below, the first columns have the first week’s stats, and the next columns show how those compare to last year’s.

*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).

Below are more in depth stats on various aspects of the offense. As we’ve seen, the Phillies have been patient, taking the first pitch 77% of the time, and are second in the NL in pitches per PA (4.21), behind only the Nationals (4.24).

Normally a 15.4% walk rate would be well out in the NL’s lead, but again in small samples lots of teams can post extreme numbers.

Like last year, when they led the NL in TTO or “three true outcomes” (Ks, walks, HRs), the Phils have a high percentage again, at a whopping 43.3% of all plate appearances, behind only St. Louis in the NL.

The Phils have the league’s best ratio of “good” to “bad” swings — 2.63 times as many swings at pitches in the zone, as compared to pitches outside the zone.

Batting — Individual

Below are the Phillies hitters ranked by OPS, along with how they compare to the MLB average OPS at their position. The columns to the right aren’t very useful yet...

Bryce Harper and Maikel Franco have been torrid, and both are among MLB leaders in several categories:

AVG: 1) Harper .500 (tied with Albies), 18) Franco .400
OBP: 1) Harper .652, 2) Franco .591 (with Albies)
SLG: 1) Harper 1.188, 3) Franco 1.000 (with Yelich, Pederson)
OPS: 1) Harper 1.840, 2) Franco 1.591
wOBA: 1) Harper .709, 4) Franco .604
wRC+: 2) Harper 326, 8) Franco 263

By WAR, per Fangraphs, Harper is in a virtual tie for the MLB lead at 0.8, and Franco in a tie for 8th (0.6).

Harper’s .625 BABIP can be worrisome, until we realize he has only put eight balls in play (with five falling in).

Harper and Franco are also cornering the market in intentional walks. MLB leaders:

Franco 5
Harper 3
Trout 2
Shaw 2
21 guys w/1

Franco and Harper have 24% of all the intentional walks in MLB so far this year.

Pitching

In 2018, Phillies pitching led the NL in WAR, per fangraphs. They were 3rd in the NL in WAR for starting pitchers (behind the Dodgers and Mets).

So far this year, their runs allowed have been about average, and their WAR, and the FIP that it’s based on, have been even worse.

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.

Zach Eflin’s scoreless start only went five innings so it’s categorized as “other”...

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+).

References

Phillies hitters (fangraphs)

Phillies pitchers (fangraphs)

Team hitting stats (fangraphs)

Team pitching stats (fangraphs)

Team stats (baseball-reference)