Thursday, July 31, 2014
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Phillies' situational woes are historic

It hardly served as the defining image of another defeat Sunday - Ty Wigginton's botched attempt at fielding a grounder in the 10th inning did that - but Shane Victorino's swing in the first inning was so emblematic of a numbing season that continues to spiral into hopelessness.

Phillies' situational woes are historic

The injured Freddy Galvis currently leads the Phillies in situational hitting. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
The injured Freddy Galvis currently leads the Phillies in situational hitting. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

It hardly served as the defining image of another defeat Sunday — Ty Wigginton's botched attempt at fielding a grounder in the 10th inning did that — but Shane Victorino's swing in the first inning was so emblematic of a numbing season that continues to spiral into hopelessness.

These Phillies are historically bad at situational hitting.

When Victorino swung at the second pitch from Jason Hammel and popped it into foul territory behind third base, he failed to score a runner from third base with less than two outs. It was the only such chance of the day.

The Phillies are dead last in baseball with a 38 percent success rate when batting with runners on third and less than two outs. They have batted 117 times with that situation and only 45 have yielded a run in some way, whether it be via a hit, groundout or sacrifice fly.

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That is the worst rate for any team since at least 1948.

Baseball Reference keeps play-by-play data from 1948 on and few teams have even come close to the Phillies' futility. Only the 1965 Mets had a rate below 40 percent; they scored 39 percent from third with less than two outs. That team finished 50-112 and only 47 games back.

What does this mean? Of course, the sample size is small. The Phillies have played 62 games. Ultimately, their success rate in those situations should normalize and at least approach the league average. Such a miserable rate through 62 games could implicate bad luck as a factor.

But there is no disputing the Phillies have mostly been terrible in these situations. Think about how many times a runner has stood on third and when all it takes is a medium-sized fly ball or groundout to score him, a Phillies hitter pops out or whiffs. 

Here is how each individual player has performed in those situations:

  Advances
  <2,3B Scr % ▾
Freddy Galvis# 4 3 75%
Pete Orr* 3 2 67%
Carlos Ruiz 12 8 67%
Shane Victorino# 15 8 53%
Hector Luna 2 1 50%
Juan Pierre* 8 3 38%
Ty Wigginton 13 5 38%
Hunter Pence 20 7 35%
Jimmy Rollins# 9 3 33%
Brian Schneider* 3 1 33%
Placido Polanco 4 1 25%
Jim Thome* 4 1 25%
John Mayberry 12 2 17%
Joe Blanton 2 0 0%
Mike Fontenot* 1 0 0%
Roy Halladay 1 0 0%
Cole Hamels* 1 0 0%
Laynce Nix* 3 0 0%
Team Total 117 45 38%

Consider this: If the Phillies had simply equaled the major-league average (51 percent) in those situations, it would have resulted in 15 additional runs scored over the season's first 62 games. The Phillies have already underperformed their pythagorean record — with 261 runs scored and 262 allowed, they should theoretically be 31-31 instead of 29-33. Another 15 runs over 62 games would predict a .526 winning percentage using pythagorean record, which would represent a three-game swing from the current 29-33.

But that only exists in some fantasy world. Reality says the Phillies are worse than any team in the last 64 years in key situations and it has cost them.


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