Sunday, December 28, 2014

Progress report: A look at the sum of the Phillies' parts through 29 games

The record says the Phillies are an 83-win team. The run differential says something else. A quick reset of the season so far.

Progress report: A look at the sum of the Phillies' parts through 29 games

Phillies right fielder Marlon Byrd. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)
Phillies right fielder Marlon Byrd. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

It is May 5th, and the Phillies have a better winning percentage than three of the five teams who participated in the National League playoffs last season. Then again, we’re less than a fifth of the way through the season, which is why we can do all kinds of half-empty/half-full exercises like. . .

The Phillies have a better record than the Cardinals, Reds and Pirates. Happy face!

or

The Phillies trail the Mets and are tied with the Marlins. Sad face.

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So let’s look beyond the wins and losses and try to get a feel for the sum of this team’s parts.

Overall 

According to the Pythagorean Win-Loss formula developed by Bill James, the Phillies should have a record of 13-16. That’s based on the number of runs they have scored versus the number of runs they’ve allowed. They’ve been outscored by 11 runs on the season, which is the 12th-worst run differential in the NL. For comparison’s sake, the Cardinals have outscored their opponents by 11 runs, while the Reds have outscored their opponents by 17 runs (the Pirates have been outscored by 15 runs).

So while the Phillies’ actual record says that they are an 84-win team and are exceeding expectations, their scoring/run prevention says they are a 72.5, which is right around where Vegas expected them to be. Of course, the only record that matters is the actual record.

Offense

The two most pleasant surprises for the Phillies thus far have been Jimmy Rollins and Marlon Byrd, who both enter today with a .772 OPS. Byrd has proven to be a huge defensive upgrade in right field over Delmon Young, and has rebounded from an ugly start to provide the middle-of-the-order right-handed bat that he was signed to be.

Rollins, meanwhile, is hitting .274/.347/.425 and doing all kinds of things that we did not see last year. The on base percentage is the biggest bonus. The last time he finished a season with an OBP of .347+ was 2008, when he hit .277/.349/.437 with 11 home runs and 47 steals.

Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz are both exceeding expectations as well, although they are probably closer to where I thought they would be. Ryan Howard is right around where I thought he’d be at .248/.320/.468 and six home runs.

On the flip side, Cody Asche, Domonic Brown and Ben Revere have all struggled big time. Revere is hitting .283, but it’s a hollow .283. He has just two walks and two extra base hits in 109 plate appearances. Man cannot live on singles alone.

Brown has only five extra base hits in 113 plate appearances with a .301 OBP and .612 OPS. Asche is at .221/.293/.368.

I’d expect Utley, Rollins and Ruiz to normalize a bit, while Brown is bound to heat up.

Anyway, here are where the Phillies rank in the National League.

Runs per game: 7th (4.07)

On base percentage: 6th (.315)

Home run percentage: 11th (2.0 percent)

Extra base hit percentage: 11th (6.9 percent)

Walk percentage: 10th (7.7 percent)

Strikeout percentage: 9th (21.4 percent)

The Phillies have had the platoon advantage in 64 percent of their plate appearances, second most in the National League behind the Padres, who have gone lefty-on-righty or righty-on-lefty in 66 percent of their plate appearances.

Phillies hitters are averaging 3.85 pitches per plate appearance, sixth in the National League.

Rotation

The rotation has seen strong performances from A.J. Burnett, Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick, with Cole Hamels trying to find his groove after a late start to the season.

Of the Phillies’ 29 games, 17 have featured quality starts, the sixth best percentage in the National League. They are allowing 4.45 runs per game, third most in the NL, thanks to a bullpen ranks near the bottom of the league in inherited runners allowed to score (32 percent, 12th) and average number of outs recorded per relief appearance (2.8, 13th)

Bullpen

The bullpen ranks last in the NL with a 4.89 ERA. They logged the third-fewest innings of any bullpen in the NL at 81. Enough said.

Bench/Depth

Here’s an underrated area of concern: Phillies’ pinch hitters have an OBP of .237, third-lowest in the National League, behind only Chicago and Atlanta (both at .216).

The bench issue highlights the biggest concern with this Phillies team as it attempts to sustain the moderate success it has produced in its first month of action. Somebody is bound to get hurt. Jimmy Rollins appeared to tweak something yesterday and is out of the lineup today. It might not be him, but the odds say that the Phillies will have to do without one of their regulars for a stretch at some point this season. They simply don’t have the depth to adequately fill in for whoever that injured player happens to be. That goes for lineup, rotation, and bullpen.

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