Sunday, July 5, 2015

Some numbers as the sky falls

We get it. We've heard your emails, tweets, comments, calls... you're worried. The National League Championship Series from a season ago has spawned an inferiority complex among a fan base. At the very instant that a baseball juggernaut like the Phillies stumbles — believe it or not, that happens in a 162-game season — immediately all fingers are pointed to those six games against San Francisco.

Some numbers as the sky falls

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"That rest thing drives me crazy, if you want to know the truth," Charlie Manuel said when asked about resting his players. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
"That rest thing drives me crazy, if you want to know the truth," Charlie Manuel said when asked about resting his players. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

We get it. We've heard your emails, tweets, comments, calls... you're worried. The National League Championship Series from a season ago has spawned an inferiority complex among a fan base. At the very instant that a baseball juggernaut like the Phillies stumbles — believe it or not, that happens in a 162-game season — immediately all fingers are pointed to those six games against San Francisco.

See! It's happening all over again!

No, the Phillies have not played good baseball of late. In 12 of their previous 13 games, they have scored three or fewer runs. And, well, they have still won five of those 13 games (a .385 percentage). 

Yet the Phillies remain on pace for 103 wins. Yes, eight games still remain in this season. Baseball past is littered with examples of momentum benefitting a team, hurting a team, and doing nothing to a team. The Phillies will not lose a postseason series because they could not beat St. Louis and Washington in meaningless games.

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What we will offer are some interesting numbers about the offense for various reasons...

— Shane Victorino, at once a candidate to finish in the top 10 for NL MVP, is hitting .118 in his last 105 at-bats since Aug. 24. His OPS has dropped 81 points in that span, from .940 to .859.

— Ryan Howard has started only seven of the Phillies' last 15 games. The Phillies are 3-5 without him in the lineup. And one of those wins came directly because of his late substitution. A healthy Ryan Howard is an integral cog in the lineup. (Surprise!)

— Since acquiring Hunter Pence on July 30, the Phillies have fielded their ideal postseason lineup exactly four times. All four of those games were victories.

— Chase Utley's 12.7 percent line drive rate ranks 195th out of 196 major-leaguers with at least 400 plate appearances. (Only Washington's Wilson Ramos has a lower one at 12.6 percent.) Utley's OPS is 62 points lower than a season ago and 135 points lower than 2009.

— Against lefthanders, Utley is hitting .196/.293/.324 in 116 plate appearances. Only eight of his 36 extra-base hits have come off lefties. Victorino remains deadly against lefthanded pitching with a .310/.424/.612 slash line in 140 plate appearances. His 1.037 OPS against lefties is ninth best in the majors.

In the postseason, is it time to split Utley and Howard to avoid the Javier Lopez Effect again? The numbers say yes.

— Yes, obviously the Phillies would like to score more runs, but their record when scoring three or fewer is astounding. They are 30-44 in such games for a .405 winning percentage. The next closest is San Francisco at .326. After that, it's Detroit at .302.

Historically, the Phillies could set some marks. Right now they rank in the top 15 winning percentages with three runs or fewer since 1950. Until recently, only the 1969 Mets had a better winning percentage:

Rk Tm Year G W L W-L% RS RA
1 NYM 1969 84 38 46 .452 153 249
2 STL 1967 63 28 35 .444 118 181
3 NYG 1951 57 25 32 .439 126 189
4 STL 1968 94 41 53 .436 164 261
5 PIT 1992 79 33 46 .418 155 264
6 LAD 1963 80 33 46 .418 143 257
7 NYY 1951 55 23 32 .418 109 188
8 HOU 1979 84 35 49 .417 156 272
9 BAL 1970 65 27 38 .415 138 199
10 ATL 1995 58 24 34 .414 120 197
11 NYG 1954 56 23 33 .411 105 174
12 PHI 2011 74 30 44 .405 143 230
13 ATL 1992 74 30 44 .405 145 249
14 CLE 1954 57 23 34 .404 112 191
15 ATL 1993 72 29 43 .403 135 221

Unbelievably, of the 11 teams ahead of the Phillies on that list, seven won the World Series. Two others won league pennants. Two did not win either.

I believe we've had this discussion before: At its core, these Phillies are a very talented team that relies heavily on their pitching and defense. The offense must simply score enough to win, and on most nights, that will require few runs.

Back to the jumping line at the Walt Whitman.


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