Martin's Reasons to be Optimistic about the Phillies - Offense - Feb 23

2022 offense vs. 2021. In 2022 the Phillies produced an average of 4.59 runs per game which was 7th in the majors. In 2021 - they produced a nearly identical 4.53 (12th). In spite of signing some big bats in Schwarber & Castellanos, they lost some big bats for parts of the season in Harper and Segura and thus - not really an improvement.

But our charge is to look forward to 2023.

(2022 Fangraphs WAR vs 2023 FG Zips projected WAR with ranking)

Shortstop 2022: 2.6/15th 2023: 5.8 /1st +3.2 Adding the predicted best shortstop in baseball

Right Fld 2022: .3/26th 2023: 1.8 /24th +1.5 Maybe no Harper all season, but Casty has to improve, right?

Centerfld 2022: .9/27th 2023: 1.5 /29th +.6 Full season of an improving Marsh is worth something

1st Base 2022: 2.2/16th 2023: 2.6 /11th + .4 Only a little improvement predicted for Hoskins

3rd Base 2022: 2.5/20th 2023: 2.5 /24th -0- No improvement predicted for Bohm

DesHitter 2022: 2.7/6th 2023: 2.3 /6th -.4 Maybe Hall can't hit as well? less Harper = decline

Left Fld 2022: 3.4/6th 2023: 2.9 /10th -.5 Schwarber slides back? maybe that's not what this is

2nd Base 2022: 3.8/11th 2023: 2.4 /22nd -1.4 Stott not?

Catcher 2022: 7.0/2nd 2023: 4.9 /5th -2.1 Big slide for Realmuto?

We wind up gaining about 1.3 wins against replacement. Improvement - but only a little.

In more detail...(& my predictions)

Shortstop - I'll buy that Turner (& Sosa) gets us a 3 win improvement over Didi & Stott et al.

Right Field - Fangraphs is predicting that Harper will play RF in around 15% of this years RF PAs. He may come back DHing. He played only 68 innings in RF in April of 2022 (about 5% of the season). In 2021, Harper was worth 5.8 in RF (see Trea Turner). There is a little Harper in that .3 RF in 2022. So that gives you an idea (compared to replacement) just how bad a season Castellanos had (-.7). Castellanos is projected to improve to 1.6. (still among the worst on the team, second only to Marsh). Castellanos previous WARs (21: 3.5, 20: .3, 19: 2.5, 18: 2.2, 17: 1.5, 16: 2.4) Improvement is improvement - I'll take it.

Centerfield - After coming to the Phillies, Marsh hit a .773 OPS & 114 wRC+ (138 PAs). Before that point, the Phillies various CFers (mostly Vierling & Herrera) combined for OPS of .588 & 64 wRC+. Now .773 doesn't reflect Marsh's career (he could return to mean a bit - or not - he could improve). And he was platooned for much of that and the Phillies want to at least start the season with him hitting both ways, and it's a relatively small sample (a month's worth of games). But it could reperesent improvement and .6 is improvement we'll take it.

1st Base. Fangraphs expects a .5 WAR improvement from Hoskins (2.2 to 2.7) most of which translates to a bump in first base production for the Phillies (they project Hoskins to be 86% of the '23 Phillies first base PAs). This is Hoskins' free agent year and players often respond to that. 2.7 would be Hoskins' best season. I'm game for this.

3rd Base. Fangraphs expects a .5 WAR improvement from Alec Bohm (1.5 to 2.0) but they are expecting Bohm to play only 80% of the PAs at 3rd and they expect his replacement will be Josh Harrison - who they are not expecting much from. I don't know what to expect from Bohm, maybe that's reasonable. I think his replacement will usually be Sosa, not Harrison (more on Harrison later), but I think Sosa & Harrison both might hit as well as Bohm by OPS (2022: .713, projected 23 .733). So I think we might might see improvement as I think whoever plays 3rd may play a bit better than what we got in 2022.

Designated Hitter. There are several reasons why DH might decline somewhat in 2023 as predicted above:

1) Harper could play even less - because he may be out three months instead of two and every day the DH is not Harper is a day we get less offense from the DH.

2) Hall as Harper's sub vs. RHP might not perform as well - it may have been somewhat of a small sample outlier and return to mean could happen.

3) The bench (Harrison, Sosa, Guthrie, Stubbs) brought in to fill for the "guests" in the DH spot (against LHP - Castellanos, Schwarber, etc..) may not hit as well in 2022 as Vierling, Maton, Sosa, Stubbs did last year. Sosa & Stubbs are back - but they had such great relatively small sample numbers we maybe shouldn't expect them to repeat. Maton and Vierling are now Tigers.

Another way to look at it. Harper in a good year is worth 5+ WAR. Even if he only plays DH and he's out half the season - he is capable of producing 2.5 by himself (DH is predicted at 2.3) so if we started replacement level production the rest of the season -we should be able to beat this projection. His rehab is going well. So that leaves us with this bet - can our bench hit better than replacement level at DH. Because even if you hit Schwarber or Castellanos or Bohm in the DH spot - you are bringing in a bench player - from an offensive point of view - you are bringing in a bench player to sub for Harper. That's a tough call, but I think a little decline from Des. Hitter is probably justified.

Left Field: Here's a mystery. Fangraphs predicts that the Phillies' LF WAR production will decline from 3.4 to 2.9 and yet they predict National League HR leader Kyle Schwarber will be over 80% of that and his WAR production will improve from 2.6 to 3.4. The mystery is satisfied when you look at the 17% of the time that Schwarber isn't playing LF - and his replacements projected for '23 are all projected to be replacement level (or lower) hitters: Harrison, Guthrie, Cave, Castellanos. But it's not like the other 20% of left fielders last year were amazing...

Schwarber may improve because

1) among MLB hitters - he was shifted on 3rd most of all players and gaps should open up for him to hit singles and doubles - and the outfield must play back because he has obvious HR power. Schwarber should benefit from the shift ban.

2) Although Schwarber had a big year for homers - it wasn't his career year - he has actually had two years including 2021 that were even better.

On the other hand Schwarber did benefit in 2022 from leading off - he got the most season PAs of his career by far and he had good protection - pitchers felt they had to pitch to Schwarber because every good Phillies hitter was behind him and putting him on was dangerous. He saw some strikes. I don't think he'll lead off this year. All in all - I don't think Schwarbs will decline in WAR production this year even if he doesn't hit 46 HRs, and I don't think his subs will be weaker than they were in 2022. So I think .5 decline is a bit severe, but let's move on.

2B or not 2B?: So that brings us to a 1.4 WAR drop at 2nd and Bryson Stott, and Josh Harrison.

Stott 2022 OPS .653, wRC+ 83, WAR 1.4

Zips Proj OPS .688, wRC+ 93, WAR 1.6

Harrison 22 OPS .677, wRC+ 98, WAR 1.4

Zipz Proj OPS .676, wRC+ 90, WAR .7

So you can see how this works under this stat logic - take out 2.5 WAR Segura and plug in this tandem and get a drop.

But as I've written before, I think this misses a couple of key indicators that it wouldn't have caught

1) Stott IS Segura. These projections were based on Stott's full season and in the first half - he stank. In the second half of the season - Stott hit OPS .735 wRC+ 106 (246 PAs) - which looks pretty much like Segura. Unless Stott has a sophomore slump, I think we can forgive him his rookie adjusting to the major leagues first half and believe that he can hit as well as his mentor - maybe better. Stott inconsistently applied his two strike approach and may still improve more.

As has also been pointed out - the Phillies did platoon Stott during the 2nd half, even though his stats show an anomolous reverse platoon split. So what happens if they platoon Stott with Josh Harrison (who also interestingly has an anomolous reverse platoon split)?

2) Harrison may improve...

over the last four seasons:

Harrison with Det & CHW PA: 766 OPS: .636

Harrison with WSN PA: 455 OPS: .789 w/ Kevin Long as hitting coach

I don't mean to join the Kevin Long cult - but is it coincidence that the Phillies keep collecting his former pupils who had their best years under his tutelege? maybe not. If Kevin Long can restore Harrison to half of what he did when he was with the Nats - then Stott or Harrison, platoon or not, Sophomore slump or not, the Phillies can get out of the second base slot offensively what they got from Segura (around .730 OPS, 100+ wRC+, 2+ WAR).

So I'm protesting a 1.4 WAR drop at second base - I don't see it. Harrison is a hedge against Stott regressing.

Catcher - Finally - FG is projecting a 2.1 WAR drop at catcher.

Here's the logic: JT posted a 6.5 WAR year in 2022. 6.5 is 11th in the majors - right in there with Mookie Betts, not far off of Freedie Freeman - that's pretty much not catcherly stuff. Even in JT's All star 2021 - he posted a 4.5. So the computer model predicts that JT's amazing '22 season should regress to a still great mean of 4.5-ish in 2023. Further, the model is sophisticated enough to notice that although JT continues to post around 550 PAs a season, the number of PAs at catcher has declined (projecting 75% of catcher PAs in 2023). And that brings Garrett Stubbs into the equation more in 2023 than it does in 2022. And although Mr. Stubbs 121 PAs last year produced an impressive .812 OPS & 128 wRC+, the model is suspicious of our dimunitive DJ. The FG Zips-DC projection is the harshest on Realmuto (& Stubbs) - other projections have him at 4.8 to 5.1. I think we'll see decline but maybe not to this extent.

The bottom line. I did a lot of this analysis on WAR - which does include defense and is position adjusted because it was convenient. And maybe it would have been better to use wRC+ but the team splits data was not as available.

I think the model may be taking a couple of wins away from what we can expect from the Phillies' offense, but overall I think it's not as optimistic as I am but not unreasonable and it shows improvement. I don't expect a drop from second base as it does - nor as big a one at catcher. But I don't expect that the big improvements in the Phillies from 2022 to 2023 will come from the offense (look to the pitching, esp. bullpen for that) - especially an offense that has even less Bryce Harper in it.

There are still reasons to be optimistic:

  • - Trea Turner
  • - Castellanos can't be worse, can he?
  • - Stott & Harrison can maybe even outperform Segura. Marsh could still improve
  • - The streak bros (Bohm & Hoskins) will be streaky but don't have reasons they should decline
  • - Schwarber has reasons to go up or down - so that may balance out

Even in a wild season of serious injuries, DFAs, and management changes, the Phillies had the MLB's 7th best offense in 2022 and there are good indications it could get somewhat better.

Martin's Reasons to be Optimistic about the Phillies - Fielding

Martin's Reasons to be Optimistic about the Phillies - Bullpen