Sunday, February 14, 2016

The inefficiency of singles

We're still playing around with the format here at Live Cheese, but the concept remains the same: a running log of real-time, or almost real-time, thoughts on today's series-finale against the Mets.

The inefficiency of singles

(Keith Srakocic/AP)
(Keith Srakocic/AP)

We're still playing around with the format here at Live Cheese, but the concept remains the same: a running log of real-time, or almost real-time, thoughts on today's series-finale against the Mets.

First up, the difficulty in manufacturing runs while relying primarily on singles. During yesterday's game, we looked at the Phillies' walk rate, which has been in steady decline over the past four years as players like Pat Burrell and Jayson Werth and even Raul Ibanez have moved out of the line-up. Out of the nine players in today's line-up, only Carlos Ruiz and Shane Victorino have a career walk rate that is better than league average (and Victorino's is only a hair above the league average).

The problem is that most major league batters have a 25 to 30 percent chance of hitting a single in an at-bat (in other words, most batters hit between .250 and .300). In order to score runs without extra base hits, a team must get a string of batters to defy heavy odds in the same inning. We saw this in the Phillies' first two offensive innings today. In the first inning, the first three batters all reached base by way of singles. But the Phillies ended up scoring just one run, a Jimmy Rollins single that drove in Juan Pierre from third. Hunter Pence grounded into a force-out that eliminated the lead runner. Ty Wigginton lined out ot the short stop, which did not advance any runners. And after Laynce Nix walked, Carlos Ruiz grounded out to first base.

In the second inning, Cole Hamels and Juan Pierre hit one-out singles, but neither player scored as Shane Victorino grounded into a force-out and Jimmy Rollins grounded out.

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Through three innings, the Phillies have produced seven baserunners and one run.

*The odds I gave at the start of this post are general in nature. If you go deeper into the numbers, you'll find that the average ball that is put into play has about a 30 percent chance of landing for a hit. Balls that are put into play on the ground are more likely to result in outs. Generally speaking, the faster a ball travels from point A to point B, the better chance it has at falling in for a hit. This is all pretty intuitive stuff. A team that has a bunch of hitters who do not regularly hit the ball hard is going to have difficulty stringing enough hits together to score runs.

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