The Phils come into the All-Star break with the seventh-best winning percentage in the National League. Since 2007, the Phillies have never ended the season with the league’s best winning percentage — the Dodgers topped them last year, the Cubs in ’08 and Arizona and Colorado both did in 2007.
Compared to the 2009 season, the Phillies have actually gotten a little bit better at preventing runs overall in 2010. The problem is that the offense has gotten worse at a rate that exceeds those improvements.
In 2009, the Phils sported the league’s most dominant offense. They scored 5.06 runs per game. The Rockies had the second-best mark for runs per game at 4.96 and nobody else was very close. Eleven of the teams in the NL scored less than 4.6 runs per game.
The thing that’s easily forgotten is that compared to the rest of the league, the Phillies still have a good offense in 2010. It’s just not as good as it was last year. Only four NL teams, the Reds, Rockies, and Dodgers, have scored more than the 4.71 runs per game that the Phillies have scored this season.
Offense in the league is also down this year, but just a little. In 2009 the average NL team scored about 4.43 runs per game and in 2010 they have scored about 4.39 runs per game so far.
Still, the dropoff for the Phillies is bigger than the dropoff overall for the league:
So the ’09 Phillies scored about 114.2% of the runs per game as the average NL team while the ’10 Phillies are scoring about 107.3% of the runs per game as the average NL team.
If the Phils wanted to stay about as good as they were before overall, it would be helpful if they could make up the difference with improvements in preventing runs. And they have gotten better in 2010, but not enough to make up for the offensive dropoff.
The Phils were sixth in the NL in runs allowed per game in 2009 and are sixth again in 2010. You have to look a little further inside the numbers than that to see the improvement.
So the Phils allowed about 97.6% of the runs per game as the average NL team did in 2009 and about 93.7% of the runs per game as the average NL team in 2010.
That’s better. It’s just not enough better to cancel out the drop off from the hitters.
Still, it’s good news that the Phillies are better at preventing runs than they were last year. I think it’s also reasonable to conclude that even if the Phillies continued to be the fourth-best team in the league at scoring runs and the sixth-best team at preventing them they would wind up with better than the seventh-best record overall after enough games were played.
The best news for the Phils, though, is that the offense can be so much better it has been in the first half of the year. If you’re looking for places to improve, I’d start with the 312 plate appearances that the Phils gave to Wilson Valdez and Juan Castro in the first half in which the duo combined to on-base .258. If they can give most of those opportunities in the second half to Utley, Rollins and Polanco and avoid injuries to key hitters, the offense is a lock to get better.
The second place I’d look would be with Raul Ibanez, who seems likely to improve on his 243/326/397 line for the year after the break.