Thursday, August 28, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Five observations: Revere, Schierholtz, and the small sample size fallacy

Don't let the non-alarmists fool you. There is plenty of reason to worry about the Phillies offense.

Five observations: Revere, Schierholtz, and the small sample size fallacy

The Phillies´ Ben Revere reacts after striking out. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
The Phillies' Ben Revere reacts after striking out. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

Five facts and/or observations from yesterday's 1-0 and 11-2 losses to the Reds. . .

1) Ben Revere has not hit a ball out of the infield in his last 10 plate appearances. The last time he had a base hit that left the infield was April 12 in Miami. That was 21 plate appearances ago. Revere is the only player in the major leagues with at least 55 plate appearances and no extra base hits. His batting average is down to .194, and his on-base percentage down to .242.Thus far, he has led off every game for the 6-9 Phillies.

2) Nate Schierholtz hit a two-run pinch-hit double in the Cubs' 4-2 loss to the Rangers on Tuesday night and is now hitting .361/.425/.667 with five doubles, two home runs, three walks and five strikeouts in 41 plate appearances. Compare that to the performance of Phillies right fielders: .182/.294/.295, two doubles, one home run, seven walks, 13 strikeouts, 51 plate appearances. Schierholtz also has an outfield assist, which gives him one more than the three players who have started in right field for the Phillies. It's early, of course. But the Phillies' tack with Schierholtz was curious even at the time they decided to non-tender him this winter. The 29-year-old had already established himself as a solid rotational outfielder from 2009-12 before the Phillies acquired him as part of the package that saw Hunter Pence head to San Francisco. His .319 career on base percentage was higher than those of Laynce Nix, John Mayberry Jr., Domonic Brown and Delmon Young, and was the same as Ben Revere's. His .727 OPS was better than Nix, Brown and Revere. And he is the best defensive right fielder of the bunch. Schierholtz ended up signing with the Cubs for $2.25 million, which is right around what we would have projected him to make through arbitration. Again, it's early. But certainly worth keeping an eye on.

3) You might try to argue that the first 15 games of a 162-game season is too small a sample size to render any meaningful judgements about a baseball team. If this was the NFL, we would be one game into the year. But sample sizes are arbitrary, as are the start and end points of a season. The reality is that the sample that we can use to judge the Phillies encompases all 15 games of this season plus all 162 games of last season and all 167 games of the season before and, you could argue, all 171 games of the season before that. The sample also encompases the performances of the new variables (Ben Revere, Delmon Young, John Lannan, etc.) over that same stretch of time. Point is, none of what you are watching is new or unexpected. The Phillies replaced a .340 career OBP centerfielder that had some pop with a .320 career OBP centerfielder that had yet to hit a major league home run. They went with Mayberry Jr. and Nix in rightfield even though that combination did not work the season before. Question is: what evidence is there to suggest that the problems that have plagued the Phillies over the first 15 games will not continue to be problems? Ryan Howard's career trajectory suggests that he will get hot at some point. Jimmy Rollins will have much better stretches than the first couple of weeks here. Provided both of those things happen, and Carlos Ruiz returns, the Phillies should have an offense that is similar to what it was during the second half of last season. But given this year's rotation, and the hole they are currently digging themselves, that might not be enough to contend for the postseason. And even if it is, nothing over the last three years suggests that they are close to capable of matching up in a postseason series with top-shelf pitchers like Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia, whom they will face tonight and tomorrow.

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4) One bright spot over the first few weeks has been Antonio Bastardo. The numbers say that the velocity on his fastball still isn't where it was during his dominant 2011 campaign. But he appears to have better movement on it this year. More than anything, he appears confident with it. He is attacking hitters, something he did not always do last year. The seventh, eighth, and ninth innings do not appear to be a problem. Now, the Phillies just need to get there with a lead.

5) Chase Utley has six hits in his last 30 at-bats, but three of them have gone for extra bases, and he has only struck out twice. He can't do it all by himself.

David Murphy Daily News Staff Writer
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