Thursday, July 10, 2014
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Are Phils RISP struggles overblown?

Lot of chatter today about Runners In Scoring Position, specifically about the Phillies' inability to hit in such situations over the past week. Since going 7-for-11 with RISP in a 12-5 win over the Cubs on Aug. 12, they are 7-for-29 (.241). While not good, it also isn't too far off their season average (.257).

Are Phils RISP struggles overblown?

Lot of chatter today about Runners In Scoring Position, specifically about the Phillies' inability to hit in such situations over the past week. Since going 7-for-11 with RISP in a 12-5 win over the Cubs on Aug. 12, they are 7-for-29 (.241). While not good, it also isn't too far off their season average (.257).

For fans, it can be frustrating to watch such a prolific offense struggle so mightily in such key situations. But I'm here to tell you to deal with it.

Why?

Because it is the tradeoff you make when you come to the ballpark to see a team capable of exploding the way the team exploded against Arizona righty Dan Haren tonight. The Phillies scored their first six runs on home runs: a two-run shot by Chase utley in the third, a three-run shot by Ryan Howard in the fifth, and a solo shot by Jayson Werth in the fifth. Of those six runs, three were scored with runners in scoring position.

In short, this team is not built to hit with runners in scoring position. It is built to score runs in bunches, primarily via the home run. I did some number-crunching to support this viewpoint:

Heading into last night, the Phillies were tied for 10th in the National League with a .257 average with runners in scoring position. But they were first in home runs. The numbers suggest that is not a coincidence:

1)  While the Phillies are tied for 10th in batting average with RISP, they are also fourth in the National League in runs scored with runners out of scoring position (27.2 percent of their runs).

2) Of the top five home-run-hitting teams in the National League, none rank in the top five in hitting with runners in scoring position. The Rockies are sixth (.267), the Brewers are 12th (.255), the Diamondbacks are 16th (.233), and the Cubs are 13th (.241).

Simply put, the Phillies have built an unconventional line-up that scores runs in unconventional ways. They are the only team in the league that has four players with more than 20 home runs. But there is a trade off. Take away one of those home run hitters and replace him with a guy who hits .300 and consistently hits with RISP, and their average with runners in scoring position would rise. But that's not the way the Phillies have chosen to do things. And while it can be mind-boggling to watch at times, it also leads to nights like Wednesday night.

Last year in the World Series, the Phillies had one hit in their first 28 at-bats with runners in scoring position. And they won the title in five games.

Is it prudent to rely on the long ball and pitching, which is the strategy the Phillies have taken? Maybe not according to Baseball Management 101. But they aren't a handbook team, which is why it will be very interesting to see how the rest of this year plays out.

 

David Murphy Daily News Staff Writer
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