offense

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it

So just how bad was it this year?

We can all agree that it wasn’t good. But how bad was it? I’d say the Phillies were better than the Marlins in the National League this season. If want to argue for more than that, you’re on your own.

There are 15 teams in the National League. Twelve of them won more than the 73 games that the Phillies won this year, although three of them, the Rockies, Brewers and Mets, won just one game more (74) than the Phillies and the Giants and the Rockies both won 76. The Phillies won more games than the Cubs (66) and the Marlins (62).

The Phillies scored more runs per game than each of the teams they finished ahead of in the wins column (Miami and Chicago). They were 13th in the NL in runs scored with 3.77 runs per game. The Cubs were 14th at 3.72 and both Chicago and the Phils buried the Marlins. The Fish scored an NL-worst 3.17 runs per game.

Here’s the runs scored per game in the NL for 2013:

Team
STL
COL
CIN
ATL
ARI
WSN
LAD
NLavg
MIL
PIT
SFG
NYM
SDP
PHI
CHC
MIA
G
162
162
162
162
162
162
162
162
162
162
162
162
162
162
162
162
R
783
706
698
688
685
656
649
649
640
634
629
619
618
610
602
513
R/G
4.83
4.36
4.31
4.25
4.23
4.05
4.01
4.00
3.95
3.91
3.88
3.82
3.81
3.77
3.72
3.17

Again, Phillies were bad at scoring runs this season, but better than the Cubs and way better than the Marlins. Everyone was better than the Marlins at scoring runs this year. By a lot. The 3.17 runs per game scored by the Fish was the lowest runs scored per game number for any NL team since the Padres scored 3.02 runs per game in 1971. 1971? If you think about it relative to the average number of runs scored in the NL by year, it’s not quite as bad. The 3.17 runs scored per game for the Marlins this year was about 79.25% of the league average of 4.00. You only have to go back to the ’03 Dodgers to get a mark that bad. In 2003, Los Angeles scored 3.54 runs per game in a season in which the league average was 4.61. 3.54 is about 76.8% of 4.61.

Still, the point is that the Marlins was truly awful at scoring runs this season.

Chicago and the Fish were way better at preventing runs than the Phillies, though. The only team the Phils were better at preventing runs than this season was the Rockies:

Tm
ATL
PIT
LAD
CIN
STL
WSN
MIA
NLavg
NYM
MIL
CHC
SFG
ARI
SDP
PHI
COL
G
162
162
162
162
162
162
162
162
162
162
162
162
162
162
162
162
RA
548
577
582
589
596
626
646
655
684
687
689
691
695
700
749
760
RA/G
3.38
3.56
3.59
3.64
3.68
3.86
3.99
4.04
4.22
4.24
4.25
4.27
4.29
4.32
4.62
4.69

Note that there was some separation between the Rockies and the Phils, the two worst teams in the NL at preventing runs this year, and the rest of the group. The Phillies, 14th in the league in runs allowed per game, allowed 4.62 runs per game. The Padres were 13th in the league in runs allowed per game and allowed 4.32 or .3 of a run per game less. Three tenths of a run is a lot. It’s also the same amount that separates the team in the league that was seventh-best at preventing runs, the Marlins at 3.99, with the Diamondbacks who were twelfth in the category at 4.29.

The league average for ERA was 3.73 in 2013. There were only two teams that threw to an ERA over 4.00 and they both did it by a significant margin — the Phillies at 4.34 and the Rockies at 4.44.

So among all the NL teams, the only teams that the Phillies were better than at either scoring or preventing runs for the season were the Marlins, the Cubs and the Rockies. The Phils were better than the Cubs and Marlins at scoring runs and better than the Rockies at preventing them.

The Rockies, of course, were way better at scoring runs than the Phillies. They scored more than half a run more than the Phils and finished second in the NL in the runs scored.

The Cubs and the Marlins both prevented runs a lot better than the Phils. The Fish allowed 3.99 runs per game, which was better than the league average. The Cubs were worse than the NL average at 4.25 runs per game, but still better than the Phils as the Phils allowed .37 runs per game more than the Cubs. The Phils scored .05 runs per game more than Chicago.

As you can probably guess, being miserable at scoring and preventing runs relative to the teams you’re competing against will hurt your statistics that are based on the number of runs you score and allow.

Here are the Pythagoran records for the NL teams, along with their actual records and “luck” as reported by Baseball-Reference. Luck is just a team’s actual wins minus their Pythagorean wins.

Tm
STL
ATL
CIN
LAD
PIT
WSN
ARI
MIL
COL
SFG
NYM
SDP
CHC
PHI
MIA
Actual
97-65
96-66
90-72
92-70
94-68
86-76
81-81
74-88
74-88
76-86
74-88
76-86
66-96
73-89
62-100
pythWL
101-61
98-64
93-69
89-73
88-74
84-78
80-82
76-86
76-86
74-88
74-88
72-90
71-91
66-96
64-98
Luck
-4
-2
-3
3
6
2
1
-2
-2
2
0
4
-5
7
-2

So the Phils are 13th in actual wins but 14th in Pythagorean won/loss record, ahead of only Miami and five Pythagorean wins behind the 13th-Pythagorean place Cubs. Their luck mark, their actual wins minus Pythagorean wins, is seven, which means they won seven more games than would have been expected based on their Pythagorean winning percentage. Seven is the highest mark for any team in the NL this year and the highest for any NL team since the 2010 Houston Astros.

So based on Pythagorean winning percentage, the Phillies were better only than the Fish and only better than the Fish by two games.

Again, there are only three teams in the league that the Phils were better than at either scoring or preventing runs — the Rockies, Cubs and Marlins. It’s pretty hard to mount an argument that the Phillies were better than an NL team other than those three given that all of the other 11 teams in the league 1) had a better actual record than the Phils 2) had a better Pythagorean record than the Phils 3) scored more runs per game than the Phils and 4) allowed fewer runs per game than the Phils.

Among the three teams that they either outscored or were better than at preventing runs, they clearly weren’t better than Colorado. The Rockies and Phillies allowed about the same number of runs on the season, but the Rockies had an elite offense that was second in the league in runs scored while the Phillies were 14th in runs scored. Colorado won more actual games and had a Pythagorean record that was ten wins better than the Phils. I don’t think there’s any argument to be made that the Phillies were better than the Rockies this year.

That leaves the Cubs and the Marlins, the only two teams in the league to win fewer games than the Phillies.

The Cubs won a lot fewer, seven, and finished at 66-96. They did it with a -5 luck as the table above shows, suggesting that, unlike the Phillies, their actual record was a lot worse than you would expect based on the number of runs they scored and allowed.

Unlike the Rockies, who were a miserable team at preventing runs that scored a ton of runs, Chicago was, like the Phillies, bad at both. The Cubs and Phils scored a very similar number of runs, separated only by .05 runs per game, while the Cubs were a whole lot better at preventing runs. Despite being worse than the average NL team at preventing runs, they still allowed more than a third of a run (.37) less per game than the Phillies did. That difference in the number of runs they allowed per game leads them to Pythagorean record that’s five games better than the Phillies despite the fact the Phils actually won seven more games.

Were the Phillies really worse than the Cubs this year? I think they really were.

And the Fish? I think the Phils were actually better than the Marlins, winning 11 more games with a Pythagorean record that was two games better. Miami’s offense was heinous, plating a full sixth-tenths of a run fewer than even the weak Phillie offense per game, but they did a much better job of preventing runs, allowing a better-than-league-average 3.99 per game while the Phils were 14th of the 15 teams in the category.

Mounting an argument that the Marlins were actually better than the Phillies would require one to make the case that Miami’s success at preventing runs was so much better than the Phillies that it was enough to overcome the fact that the Phils fared much better at producing runs.

The Phillies scored about 5.75% fewer runs per game than the average NL team and allowed about 14.36% more runs per game. The Marlins scored about 20.75% fewer runs per game, but were better than league average at preventing runs, allowing about 1.24% fewer runs than league average per game. If you combine each of those numbers for the teams, the Marlins wind up at about -19.51, which is slightly better than the -20.11 for the Phils.

Simpler than that would be to point out that in the same number of games, the run differential for the Marlins was better than the run differential for the Phillies. The Phillies allowed 749 runs and scored 610, which is a run differential of 139. The Marlins allowed 646 and scored 513, a run differential of 133.

Let’s not get nuts, though. They’re the Marlins. They allowed Adeiny Hechavarria, Rob Brantly, Greg Dobbs and Jeff Mathis to combine for 1,344 plate appearances in 2013 in which they put up a 215/270/290 line. The Phillies won 11 more games and had a better Pythagorean record and that’s good enough for me.


Fore!

The Phillies are 4-5 through their first nine games of 2013. Relative to the rest of the league, they’ve scored runs at about the same rate they did over the past two years while allowing a lot more so far this season.

Year Record RS/G (NL Rank) RA/G (NL Rank)
2013 4-5 4.67 (7) 6.00 (15)
2012 81-81 4.22 (8) 4.20 (8)
2011 102-60 4.40 (7) 3.26 (1)
2010 97-65 4.77 (2) 3.95 (4)
2009 93-69 5.06 (1) 4.38 (6)
2008 92-70 4.93 (3) 4.20 (3)

The team ERA for the year is 6.04, which is the worst mark for any team across either league. The Brewers are second-worst in the NL at 5.47. Phillie pitchers have been bad against righties, but they’ve been absolutely decimated by lefties. Lefties are 45-for-118 against them for the season with a 381/434/636 line.

The Phillies are on pace to allow 972 runs this year. The good news is there’s no chance that will happen. If it did, it would be the most runs allowed by an NL team since the Rockies allowed 1,028 in 1999. No NL team has allowed 900 runs since 2004 (Colorado (923) and the Reds (907) both did it that season).

Lannan (0-0, 3.86) faces righty Ricky Nolasco (0-1, 3.97) tonight in Florida. Lannan has made one start on the year and it was good as he held the Royals to three runs on five hits and no walks over seven innings. He didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning in that game. The Phillies play 17 games in 17 days starting tonight, so let’s hope we see their starters at least in the sixth and seventh over the next few days against the Fish. Nolasco has made two starts on the year, allowing five runs over 11 1/3 innings while walking five.


Minor details

Even with Delmon Young likely to start the year on the DL, I’m still not sure we’re going to see Darin Ruf playing a whole lot of left field in 2013, unless he demonstrates real soon he can handle the position defensively. Given that Ryan Howard plays first and will for a while, I’m not sure there’s anywhere else for him to play.

Either way, Ruf got 37 plate appearances with the Phils in 2012 and walked in just two of them, a walk rate of 5.4%. So should we be worried that he’s going to continue to drag down the Phillie walk rate in left field in 2013?

I don’t think so. First, cause I’m still not sure how much we’re going to see Ruf in left field in 2013 and second because he’s likely to walk a lot more than 5.4% if he’s given enough chances to hit.

Here’s how Ruf’s walk rates at various levels compare to fellow corner outfield candidates Domonic Brown and John Mayberry:

Darin Ruf
Year & Age Level PA BB%
2009 (22) Rk/A- 201 8.5
2010 (23) A/A+ 547 8.6
2011 (24) A+ 554 10.1
2012 (25) AA 583 11.1
All minors - 1,885 9.8
@ AAA - 0 -
Majors MAJ 37 5.4
Domonic Brown
Year & Age Level PA BB%
2006 (18) Rk 131 9.2
2007 (19) A-/A+ 328 8.8
2008 (20) A 516 12.4
2009 (21) Rk/A+/AA 454 10.8
2010 (22) AA/AAA 389 9.5
2011 (23) A+/AAA 195 15.4
2012 (24) Rk/AAA 261 7.7
All minors - 2,274 10.6
@ AAA - 531 10.0
Majors MAJ 492 10.4
John Mayberry
2005 (21) A- 302 8.6
2006 (22) A 533 11.1
2007 (23) A+/AA 548 8.8
2008 (24) AA/AAA 565 6.0
2009 (25) AAA 358 9.5
2010 (26) AAA 547 7.1
2011 (27) AAA 122 4.1
All minors - 2,975 8.2
@ AAA - 1,502 7.2
Majors MAJ 848 7.4

Couple of things. First, Darin Ruf is old. He turned 26 in July. Mayberry is really old, but we’ve had time to get used to that. The Phils took Ruf out of Creighton University and he didn’t get his first minor league plate appearance until his age 22 season. In 2011, he had a very nice year at Clearwater, hitting 308/388/506, but did it during his age 24 season. Domonic Brown, on the other hand, was taken out of high school and had already been to Double-A (for 162 plate appearances) by the end of his age 21 season. Brown reached Triple-A during his age 22 season while Mayberry and Ruf were both in A-ball or lower during their age 22 year.

Mayberry played three years at Stanford before debuting in the Northwest league in his age 21 season.

Bottom line for me when you look at the walk rates for those three guys across all levels, Brown is going to walk the most of the three. I’d guess it will be close between Ruf and Mayberry, but I’d bet that when their careers are over, Ruf will have walked in a higher percentage of his plate appearances than Mayberry. Especially in the unlikely event that he keeps hitting 50 or so home runs a year.

Mike Schmidt seems more optimistic about Michael Young’s chances of being a first ballot Hall of Famer than I am.

Laynce Nix has a bone spur in his right foot. The linked article suggests he’s not expected to miss time as a result of the bone spur.

The Phillies play an intrasquad game today. They play the Astros on Saturday and the Tigers on Sunday.


Juan of the problems

In 2012, Phillie left fielders walked in about 6.3% of their plate appearances, which was the 15th-best walk rate in the 16 team NL. So what went wrong? Well, the Phillies gave about 80% of their plate appearances at the position to Juan Pierre and John Mayberry and those guys didn’t walk.

Here’s how the percentages of plate appearances and walks for the Phillie left fielders break down for 2012:

Player % of PA BB% as LF
Pierre 60.2 5.0
Mayberry 19.8 5.8
Brown 8.3 6.9
Nix 3.7 15.4
Wigginton 3.6 24.0
Ruf 3.0 4.8
Others (2) 1.3 0.0
All PHI LF 100 6.3
NL avg LF - 8.0

Juan Pierre just doesn’t walk and you shouldn’t expect him to. His career walk rate is 5.7% and he was around that mark while playing left field at the position last year.

Mayberry has been better at drawing walks than Pierre for his career, walking in about 7.4% of his chances, but walked in just 5.8% of his plate appearances while playing left field for the Phils in 2012.

Below them there’s some weird stuff with the guys who got a smaller number of plate appearances. The walk rate for the team would have been even worse had Wigginton and Nix not combined to bizarrely walk 10 times in their 51 plate appearances (about 19.6%). The left fielders other than Wigginton and Nix combined to walk in about 5.3% of their plate appearances for the Phils.

To the degree there’s good news on this front, it’s that Brown, and hopefully Ruf, are both likely to walk at much higher rates going forward than they did in their time playing left field for the Phillies in 2012.


Left way behind

Back to walks. To recap — the Phillies were great at walking as a team as recently as 2007, when they led the league in walk rate. In 2012 their walk rate was down to 15th in the league. If you look at the hitters position by position, the two biggest drops have been at first base and left field.

In 2012, Phillie hitters walked 187 times less than they had in 2007. Two positions, left field and first base, combined to walk 141 fewer times in 2012 than they had in 2007.

I posted about Ryan Howard and first base last week. Left field is the big one, though. In 2012, the Phillies walked 85 fewer times in 2012 than they had in 2007.

Here’s the walk rate for Phillies left fielders over the past eight years and the rank for that walk rate among NL teams:

Year BB% for LF NL Rank
2012 6.3 15
2011 6.8 13
2010 9.8 6
2009 8.6 9
2008 15.4 1
2007 17.4 2
2006 14.8 3
2005 13.9 2

So, again, Phillie left fielders used to be great at walking, in the top three in the league at drawing walks in the position from ’05 to ’08. They’re awful now, 15th in the league in walk rate for left fielders in 2012. In 2007, their left fielders were nearly three times as likely to draw a walk in a given plate appearance than they were in 2012 (okay, about 2.76 times as likely).

The answer to the question why Phillie left fielders walked 85 less times in 2012 than they had in 2007 has two parts. The first is that their left fielders used to be really great at drawing walks and the second is that their left fielders from ’12 were unusually bad at drawing walks.

They used to be great in this area because of Pat Burrell. Burrell left after 2008 and the walk rate for the team’s left fielders has gone pretty hard in the wrong direction since.

From 2000 to 2008, Pat Burrell got 5,388 plate appearances for the Phillies and walked in 14.6% of them. That seems important, so here it goes again — from 2000 to 2008, Pat Burrell got 5,388 plate appearances for the Phillies and walked in 14.6% of them. 5,388 plate appearances over nine years is an average of about 599 a season.

I’d show you the list of Phillies since the end of the 2008 who have gotten at least 150 plate appearances in a season and walked in at least 14.6% of them if I could. There is none. Nobody has done it. Ryan Howard seems like the primary candidate — he was over 14.6% in both ’06 and ’07, but his best mark since the end of 2008 is 11.7% in 2011. A 14.6% walk rate isn’t close to the best of Burrell’s career — he topped a 14.6% walk rate in five different years, ’05-’08 with the Phillies and 2011 when he was with the Giants. In 2007, Burrell walked in 114 of his 598 plate appearances for the year, which was a career high 19.1%.

For the record, here’s who has led the Phillies in walk rate in the years since Burrell left among players that got at least 150 plate appearances:

Year Player PA BB%
2012 Utley 362 11.9
2011 Brown 210 11.9
2010 Ruiz 433 12.7
2009 Werth 676 13.5

Matt Stairs got pretty close to topping 14.6% in 150 plate appearances, but didn’t quite get the PA. In 2009, Stairs walked in 23 of his 129 plate appearances, which is 17.9%.

This article from the Phillies web site suggests that Hamels could start on opening day with Halladay pitching game two of the season. Manuel seems to reinforce the notion that Rollins will hit leadoff in the same article.

More on that here. I’m going to be real surprised if Rollins isn’t hitting leadoff. I think the bigger question is where Ben Revere is going to hit. My guess is that the left-handed hitting Revere hits second against righties early in the season. Less sure where he’ll hit against lefties. Lower seems like a good guess.


Young at hurt

Multiple articles at the end of last week raised doubts that Delmon Young would be able to start the year on the active roster for the Phillies.

This suggests he could miss much or all of April.

That puts a dent in my efforts to guess who the hitters are who will start the year with the Phillies. You can see the post about my most recent guess, from the end of January, here.

Here’s how I thought the guys on the team and other candidates looked at that point:

Other candidates
1 Kratz D Ruf
2 Howard H Quintero
3 Utley S Lerud
4 Rollins K Frandsen
5 M Young E Inciarte
6 Nix T Gillies
7 Revere L Collier
8 Brown J Mitchell
9 Mayberry C Hernandez
10 Galvis M Martinez
11 D Young P Orr
12 A Blanco
13 J Fields
J Mather
T Joseph
C Asche

I had guessed that Quintero and Frandsen would fill out the two remaining spots, assuming the Phils go into the year with 13 hitters.

Since then, in addition to the news that there’s a good chance Delmon Young will start the season on the DL, the Phillies have added Yuniesky Betancourt, who will be in camp as a non-roster invitee, and signed second baseman Matt Tolbert to a minor league deal.

Here’s how I think the locked up slots look now on the hitter side:

Other candidates
1 Kratz D Ruf
2 Howard F Galvis
3 Utley D Young
4 Rollins Y Betancourt
5 M Young H Quintero
6 Nix S Lerud
7 Revere K Frandsen
8 Brown E Inciarte
9 Mayberry T Gillies
10 L Collier
11 J Mitchell
12 C Hernandez
13 M Martinez
P Orr
A Blanco
J Fields
J Mather
T Joseph
C Asche

I moved Galvis and Delmon Young from the column on the left to the column on the right and added Betancourt to the list of candidates.

If those nine players are truly on the team and the Phils start the year with 13 hitters, that leaves them four open spots.

Of those four, one would have to be filled by a backup catcher and the other by someone who can backup short.

I still think Quintero beats out Lerud to be the backup catcher.

I’d also guess Galvis gets a roster spot to backup short, beating out competition for the job that would presumably include Betancourt, Blanco and Martinez.

I would still guess that one slot goes to Frandsen. Not sure the Phillies need him, but I’m guessing they were impressed with his .338 batting average from last year.

That leaves one slot. Of the 12 slots I’ve filled, four are filled with outfielders — Revere, Brown, Nix and Mayberry. If Delmon Young is healthy it seems clear to me that he’s the final guy. Based on what we read at the end of last week, it sounds like that’s not going to happen. I think that means that Ruf gets the final spot and starts the year with the team.

It seems like the key issue there is whether or not the Phillies truly believe that Mayberry can backup center field. As a Phillie fan, I don’t think you want to see Mayberry spend much more time playing center. I’d guess they will feel okay with that, though, and give the final spot to Ruf. If Revere gets hurt it’s going to be a big problem, but the Phils are, hopefully, going to need to solve it by acquiring or calling up another center fielder, not by giving Mayberry defensive innings there.

Anyway — four slots left based on my table above. My guesses are Galvis, Quintero, Frandsen and Ruf. That would give the Phillies 13 hitters — Kratz, Quintero, Howard, Utley, Rollins, Michael Young, Brown, Mayberry, Revere, Nix, Galvis, Frandsen and Ruf.

Michael Schwimer is still in the mix for the Phils, but I’m going be pretty surprised if we see him pitch a whole lot for the team in 2013.

This article reviews the backup catching options. Humberto Quintero is an elite defensive player — I think that’s why the Phillies acquired him and that’s why I think he’ll win the job. He’s a really bad hitter.

Freddy Galvis doesn’t care what people think of him.


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