Today is the 139th Opening Day in Phillies franchise history. Recently a question from a commenter prompted some searches into baseball-reference.com for the biggest performers in Phils’ Opening Day games.
Yesterday we covered pitchers, and here we’ll look at career leaders in Opening Day hitting, as well as some of the biggest single game performances.
Stats are since 1901, when baseball-reference begins tracking game-level details. It’s worth keeping in mind that these are stats when facing the opposing team’s best pitcher (and in many cases in cold, late March/early April weather).
Games and PAs
Rollins (69) edged out Schmidt (66) in plate appearances, and both are far ahead of Larry Bowa and Richie Ashburn.
Seven of Rollins’ PAs came in his first Opening Day, in 2001, and that ties the Phillies record for most in one OD game. However in that same game, Doug Glanville batted seven times on Opening Day for the second time in his Phillies career, having already done it in 1998.
One pitcher makes it onto this list, Robin Roberts in a tie for 12th with 40 PAs (Steve Carlton had 30).
BA, OBP, SLG, and OPS
The minimum for the rate stats is a relatively low 15 plate appearances, which means 91 players are eligible. The graph below shows when those 91 were with the Phillies — there was a dip when the Phillies were awful in the 1930s and ‘40s (and players lost years to the war), but otherwise they’re fairly well spread over the 120 years.
The 91 includes four pitchers: Roberts (40 PA), Carlton (30), Grover Cleveland (“Pete”) Alexander (19), and Chris Short (17).
1960s outfielder Tony Gonzalez has the highest batting average (.450) and OBP (.577), but on the OPS list he’s not even the highest Latin American player, edged out by Cesar Hernandez (1.091 to 1.077).
Cesar had a .722 Slugging percentage on opening days, the 4th highest in Phils history.
But the title of greatest Phillies Opening Day hitter is a battle between two stars of the early 1900s, Sherry Magee (1.245 OPS in 36 PA), and Gavvy Cravath (1.234 in 26).
Magee was from Clarendon, PA in the Allegheny National Forest, and was a five-tool player and the Phillies’ star from 1905 to 1914. Reading his bio reminds me of a more recent player, down to even the Phillies winning after his departure. The two players’ fangraphs lines (Magee is first):
But despite all he had accomplished in his decade with the Phillies, Magee remained unpopular with the infamous fans of the City of Brotherly Love. “For five years, prior to 1914, the local fans have roasted Sherwood Magee,” wrote a Philadelphia reporter. “They cheered his long swats as all fans do, but still they shouted for his release.” Ward agreed, attributing Magee’s lack of popularity to the generally-held belief that he was “a man who played for his own personal record and not for the good of the team.”
Those two are followed on the OPS list by Don Money, who had one of the great games in Phils Opening Day history, going 3 for 5 with two homers and a double in 1969. After Money are John Kruk and Chase Utley, who had arguably his best opener in the Phillies’ 2013 Opening Day loss, with a homer, triple, and single.
The top 20 in OPS (stretched to include Franco):
There’s a three-way tie for most Opening Day hits — it was set by Cy Williams in 1927, tied by Johnny Callison 42 years later, and tied again by Rollins 45 years after that. The most hits in a single OD game is four, by six players.
Cy Williams was a slugger known for home runs (and for reportedly being the hitter the “Williams Shift” was originally named for), but he has the Phillies’ most OD singles, including four of them in one of those four-hit games.
Doubles: there’s a four-way tie at the top, including Cravath, who had three of his doubles on Opening Day 1912.
Triples: Sherry Magee (from the golden age of triples) is the only Phillie to hit more than one, with three base hits in 1911 and 1914. A notable name on the triples list is Jeremy Hellickson, who legged one out on Opening Day 2017.
HR: Fittingly, Schmidt leads with five. The Phillies have had four 2-HR games on Opening Day, by Sherry Magee (1914), Lefty O’Doul (1929), Chuck Klein (1931), and Don Money (1969).
XBH: Jimmy Rollins has the most extra base hits (7), as well as the most total bases, as we’ll see below. Cravath (3 doubles) and Money (2 HR and a double) are the only Phillies with 3 XBH in a single Opening Day game.
Total Bases, Power, Runs, RBI, SB
TB: Rollins has the most Total Bases overall (29), while the biggest single game belongs to Don Money with 10 in 1969, from two homers and a double. Second most with 9 total bases in a game was Sherry Magee in his two-homer game of 1914. Utley’s 2013 opener was the biggest recent game, with 8 total bases.
ISO: Money is also the unlikely leader in Isolated Power on Opening Day (ISO is the difference between batting average and slugging percentage). While he went on to be a pretty good hitter with a long and productive career, in his four years with the Phillies he had a .241/.302/.371 line. That’s a .130 ISO (slightly above average for 1969-72), including 42 HRs in 2,097 PA. But on Opening days, he was 7 for 20, with 4 doubles and 2 HRs.
Runs: Schmidt leads in runs scored (11), but for a single game the only Phillie to score four times on Opening Day is Cody Asche (in the news yesterday). In 2014 he went 3 for 4, with a double and homer, as well as a walk, and drove in 2 to go with his 4 runs scored.
RBI: Chuck Klein (11) and Rollins (10) lead the all-time list. The high for a single opener is six RBIs: Sherry Magee did it in 1914, and it was equaled 96 years later by Placido Polanco when he had his career high for ribbies in the 2010 opener.
SB: Magee is the only one to have stolen four bases on Opening Days. The only Phillie to steal more than one in a single game was Ben Revere, with two in 2014.
CS: Six are tied with two each, but only Chuck Klein was caught twice in a single game.
Walks and Ks
BB: Schmidt is well out ahead in walks, and there’s a four-way tie for walks in one game, with three.
SO: Schmidt and Burrell share the lead in Ks, with 12. No Phillie has achieved the Golden Sombrero on Opening Day, but four Phillies have struck out three times more than once (Schmidt, Luzinski, Burrell, and Mickey Doolan).
K%: Burrell however stands alone with the highest K%. Somewhat surprisingly, of the four pitchers who qualified, only Chris Short makes this list.
At the other end of the K spectrum, Richie Ashburn played in 11 Opening Days, and never struck out. Almost as impressive, Larry Bowa only struck out once in his 12 OD games. Placido Polanco (0 in 30 PA) and Carlos Ruiz (1 in 33) represent the recent era.
Odds and ends
The leader in Sac Flies (3), who also shares the lead for intentional walks (2)? Garry Maddox.
He shares that lead in IBB’s with Mike Schmidt (understandably), but also Ruben Amaro (Sr), who got them while batting in front of the pitcher.
Tony Gonzalez was hit by a pitch 3 times in 26 PAs. Only two other batters were hit more than once: Dave Hollins, and Dick Bartell (both times in the 1933 opener, the only player to get hit twice in an OD game).
The Phillies have only had two lineups (including the pitcher), that have appeared together for more than one Opening Day:
- 1950-51 (both with Robin Roberts)
- 2003-04 (with Kevin Millwood)
A third lineup was repeated for the eight position players, but with two different pitchers:
- 2001-02 (Omar Daal and Robert Person)
This year’s lineup
As for this season, many of the hitters expected to be in today’s lineup have done quite well on Opening Day:
A combined .958 OPS, with a 162-game pace of 45 home runs? Yes please.
Without looking it up: before Jay Bruce last year, who had been the only DH in Phillies Opening Day history?