The massively improved bullpen helped the Phillies win the World Series in 2008, but the team also produced far fewer runs offensively. After scoring 892 runs in 2007, the Phils scored 799 in 2008.
Runs were down across the league last year. In 2007, NL teams combined to score 11,741 runs, about 734 runs per team. In 2008, they combined to score 12,208 runs, about 763 runs per team. The Phillies drop off was larger than the rate overall — across the league about 96.2% of the runs that were scored in 2007 were scored in 2008. The Phillies scored about 89.6% of the runs they had scored in 2007 in 2008.
Things would be easy to explain if the Phils had installed a forty foot wall in left field, but it doesn’t look like the problem was Citizens Bank Park. The difference in the average number of runs the team scored in their home and away games between ’07 and ’08 is actually larger for the team’s games away from home:
So where did all those runs go? To try and help understand I took a look at the offensive production by 11 different groups of players: the offense produced by players playing all nine of the positions (P, C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, RF) plus designated hitters and pinch-hitters. Those groups are not all equally important, of course. Pitchers got fewer at-bats than the players manning the other eight positions, pinch-hitters fewer than that and designated hitters fewer still.
For each of those 11 groups, I looked at the OPS they hit to and, using the technical version of the runs created formula, their runs created.
Of the 11 groups, both by OPS and runs created, nine were clearly worse in 2008 than they were in 2007. The only two that weren’t were pinch-hitters and third base.
Led by Dobbs, Phillies pinch-hitters were simply better in 2008 than they were in ’07. In 281 plate appearances, Phils’ pinch-hitters put up a 253/309/415 line a year after hitting 230/307/391 in 2007. The bad news is that of the 11 groups, designated hitter is the only group that got fewer plate appearances than the pinch-hitter group.
The other place where the Phillies were not clearly worse was at third base. This one was a split decision. The 245/295/400 line gave Feliz and cohorts a .695 OPS for 2008, which is better than .688 OPS (255/321/368) Nunez and pals put up in ’07. On-base percentage trumps slugging, though, so runs created thinks the ’07 group was a little bit better than last year’s.
The other nine groups were all worse than what they did in the previous year. But not by the same amount. Here’s the difference in the runs created for all 11 groups between 2007 and 2008:
The chart suggests that Phillies shortstops created 30 fewer runs in 2008 than they had in 2007 while, at the bottom of the list, pinch-hitters created about three and a half more.
If you add up the runs created numbers, they don’t equal the difference in runs that the Phillies scored in 2008 and 2007. They equal 125.8. If you adjust the chart so the total difference in runs created is the actual 93 runs (892 runs scored in 2007 minus 799 scored in 2008), the chart looks like this:
If you think back to 2008, four of the Phils’ best hitters had a worse year than they had in 2007. Burrell, Utley and Howard all had fantastic years, but all three weren’t as fantastic as they had been the year before. Rollins was much worse with the bat in 2008 than in 2007. At the top of the list you see all four of their positions in a row.
While first, second and left are all down in about the same level, though, shortstop is down a lot more. The position got hit with a double-whammy in ’08. First, Rollins’ production was way down. After hitting 296/344/531 with 30 homers in ’07, he hit 277/349/437 with 11 home runs in 2008. Second, after starting every game for the Phils in 2007, Rollins started just 132 in 2008. Bruntlett started the other 30 games, and although he hit well while playing the position (274/331/393) it still brought the numbers down for the position compared to the previous season.
In right field, the group led Victorino and Werth in ’07 put up more offense than the ’08 group led by Werth and Jenkins. Jenkins struggled badly for most of the year, hitting 252/308/383 in 266 at-bats while playing right.
Surprisingly to me, the Phils did well to keep pace in center field coming off a fantastic year with the bat from Aaron Rowand. By OPS, the Phils’ 292/354/470 line in ’08 was still the best in the National League. It was just a bit off the 311/377/507 mark of ’07, which was the best in the league that year by a wide margin. Coming into 2008, I would have guessed that center field would be the position where the Phils offense would be down the most compared the previous season. Not even close.
Catchers, pitchers and third basemen fared about as well in ’08 as they had in ’07.
Jimmy Rollins is okay with playing behind Derek Jeter in the World Baseball Classic and doesn’t want to talk about the Mets yet.
This from the Phillies web site seems to suggest that Kendrick could pitch out of the pen if he does not win the fifth starter job. I’d be surprised if they keep Kendrick on the team to pitch out of the pen.
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