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Phillies Stat Notes: Not striking out too much, and hitting well with RISP

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The Phils arrive in KC with the fourth best record in the NL, third most runs scored, and fifth lowest ERA

Summary

At 5.22 runs per game, the Phillies have been the 3rd highest scoring team in the NL, despite being only 11th in home runs.

On the prevention side, they’ve allowed the 5th fewest runs, thanks largely to great pitching over the last three weeks or so.

They’ve overachieved their stats on both sides of the ball, so to speak: they’ve scored more than they should (as only the 6th best hitting team by wRC+), because they lead the NL in batting average with runners in scoring position, at .286 (as well as OPS, a lusty .912).

On the pitching side, their total runs allowed and ERA (3.94) are better than their FIP (4.34), partly because they’ve stranded the most runners in the NL at 77.2%, a level that’s probably not sustainable.

Preseason projections had them at 86-90 wins for the season, and (current 95-win pace notwithstanding), they haven’t demonstrated yet that those projections were off the mark, in either direction.

Standings

The Phillies have opened up a four-game lead in the East, as each of the other contenders have had issues of their own, particularly on the mound. The Phils have scored the most runs in the division, while also allowing the fewest, and both by a pretty good margin.

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 so far:

Offense: +13 runs (i.e. 13 runs better than average)
- Somewhat above average hitting: +13 runs
- Average baserunning: 0 runs

Run prevention: -4 runs vs. average
- Below average starting pitching: -7 runs
- Slightly above average bullpen: +2 runs
- About average fielding: +1 run

The net total is that as a team they’ve been 10 runs better than average:

Batting

The Phils continue to do three things well:

  • hit doubles (2nd in the NL)
  • draw walks (3rd)
  • hit with RISP (1st)

Overall they’ve been the 6th best hitting team in the NL so far (101 wRC+). While their hitting with RISP has pushed their scoring up to 3rd, they’ve been somewhat more inconsistent than the NL’s average, i.e. somewhat more feast-or-famine, though not as much so as some other teams.

As a result, they’re 4th in the NL in how often they’ve scored 5+ runs, but only 8th in scoring 3 or more.

They remain one of the more patient teams in the league, with the third most pitches per PA (4.04), and the third highest walk rate at 10.4%, though that’s been dropping recently.

Having fewer strikeouts is always better, all else being equal, but K rates are up across MLB, and not just because hitters have more aggressive swings. Pitchers throw harder, and have nastier stuff. As the game evolves it’s important to judge players against their peers, and the Phils have actually struck out less than most teams. In fact when we consider that teams that see more pitches and work deeper counts tend to strike out more, the Phillies are really striking out less than expected, and have one of the best BB/K ratios in the league.

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.

That wOBA trend by week is not attractive...

Batting — Individual

Cesar Hernandez has been on fire lately, joining Rhys Hoskins for what has really been a two-man show at the plate.

Over the last 30 days:

Hoskins: .284/.398/.568 (.967 OPS, 156 wRC+)
Hernandez: .357/.413/.531 (.943 OPS, 151 wRC+)

Below are weighted Runs Created (wRC+) for each Phillie, by week. Runs vs. Average then compares that to the average MLB hitter, given the same number of plate appearances. And finally OPS by week:

Pitching

Phils pitchers haven’t been missing many bats (14th in K%), though they also are walking fewer than most teams (3rd lowest BB%). Their K-BB% differential is about average at 14.1%.

The pitching has come on strong after a rough start:

first 18 games: 4.53 ERA (9th in the NL)
last 18 games: 3.34 ERA (3rdNL)

Their starting rotation has gotten especially good results:

first 18 games: 4.74 ERA (10th)
last 18 games: 3.08 ERA (3rd)

However the starters’ FIP (3.76, 6th), and xFIP (4.32, 8th), show that their 81.5% strand rate probably has a lot to do with the low ERA. So while they’ve clearly improved, thanks to Aaron Nola settling in, and Nick Pivetta replaced by Jerad Eickhoff, there’s some regression to be expected.

Pitching - Individual

In the first chart 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 second chart has a similar breakdown, but by Game Score.

And below are each pitcher’s games, with the Game Score for each one on the right.

The pitching line is green for QS, red for “bad” (like above), yellow for all others, and the Game Score is highlighted green if it’s 60+ (and dark green if 80+ but there aren’t any of those yet).

Eflin and Eickhoff have joined Arrieta, along with the gradually improving Nola, in stabilizing the rotation.

References

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