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Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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Monday, April 25, 2005

The Week That Wasn't... 

Getting hammered by the Mets, dropping a game to the Rockies and getting slaughtered by the Braves in Atlanta. No, it was not a good week to be a Phillies fan. A cursory look at the numbers (note: I wrote this Sunday before the completion of the Atlanta massacre) tells the tale:

By-the-Numbers:
FIP: 4.90 (14th)
DIPS: 4.92 (14th)
K/9: 5.94 (10th)
ERA: 5.38 (15th)
DER: .683 (13th)
Runs: 79 (tied, 6th)
Slugging percentage: .388 (13th)
Home Runs: 15 (10th)
ISO: .129 (14th)
XBH: 46 (10th)

What the stats mean:
ISO (Isolated Power): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.
OBP (On-Base Percentage): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
XBH: Doubles + Triples + Home Runs
BB / PA (Walks per plate appearance): (BB / PA = .BB/PA Avg)
K/9 – Strikeouts per nine innings
ERA – Earned Run Average: (Earned Runs * 9) / IP = ERA
FIP – Fielding Independent Pitching: (13*HR+3*BB-2*K / IP) + League Factor Evaluates a pitching by how he would have done with an average defense behind him by keeping track of things that a pitcher can control (walks, strikeouts, home runs allowed) as opposed to things he cannot (hits allowed, runs allowed).
DIPS – Defense Independent Pitching Statistic: Basically FIP, but a more complex, park-adjusted formula.
DER – Defense Efficiency Ratio: (Batters Faced – (Hits + Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) / (Batters Faced – (Home Runs, Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) How often fielders convert balls put into play into outs.

There are few phases of the game wherein the Phillies are excelling. They aren’t scoring runs, they aren’t hitting home runs or doubles, they aren’t keeping guys off the base-paths, they aren’t playing good defense, and they aren’t striking guys out. They are failing at almost everything.

The Phillies are doing three things well: not issuing walks (tied for second-best in walks allowed), steals (12 of 13, best stealing percentage in the NL, although they are just fourth in the NL in steals behind the Astros with 20), and drawing walks (third-best walks-per-plate-appearance and OBP in the NL):

Steals: 12 of 13 (92%)
BB Allowed: 46 (2nd)
OBP: .366 (3rd)
BB/PA: .108 (3rd)

So things are grim. To say that the Phillies have gotten off to a rough start is an understatement. Nobody would have expected a lineup featuring Pat Burrell, Jim Thome, Chase Utley and Bobby Abreu to be thirteenth in the NL in slugging. I also expected more from the pitching staff, and in particular the bullpen. Lieber and Myers are both pitching well, but the staff has gotten hammered badly of late.

But nobody should panic yet. Scope out the standings:

NL East
Florida: 11-7
Braves: 10-8 (1.0)
Mets: 10-8 (1.0)
Nationals: 9-9 (2.0)
Phillies: 8-10 (3.0)

A three game lead this early in the year is statistically insignificant. Phillies fans should console themselves with this thought: we’ve gotten lucky, or rather, the Marlins (our competition) have been unlucky. Check out what the standings would look like based on Pythagorean win-loss records:

NL East
Florida 14-4
Atlanta 11-7 (3.0)
Mets 11-7 (3.0)
Phillies 7-11 (7.0)
Nationals 7-11 (7.0)

In other words the Phillies could be seven games back just eighteen games into the season. The Phillies are 3-2 in “close games” (defined as games decided by 1 or 2 runs on Hardball Times website), while the Marlins are 2-4. If the Marlins record reflected their Pythagorean record, the Phillies season would be in serious trouble. As it stands right now, the team is probably fine. Three games is a single series, and the Marlins have faded in the summer months in seasons past.

Solutions: Let’s wait to see how Thome starts to do. This team isn’t crushing the ball the way they ought to, so there is a lot of blame to go around: Thome, Abreu and Bell all have slugging percentages below .400. The three have 17 XBH’s in 19 games combined. Pat Burrell has hit more home runs (5) they have combined (3). We expect Abreu to be more of an OBP kind of guy and we forecasted Bell’s foibles at the plate, but Thome’s struggles have been epic. He’s never looked this awful before and he is a traditionally slow starter. When your leadoff man is out-slugging you (Rollins: .364 v. Thome: .350), you are in trouble.

I’d like to see the Phillies … (as I slip into armchair quarterback mode) … make Chase Utley a full-timer and bump him up to fifth in the batting order behind Burrell. The only other guys on the team hitting the ball with any authority are Kenny Lofton (with a rather eye-popping .175 ISO), Pat Burrell (.284 ISO) and Chase Utley (.219). If the Phillies want to see Placido Polanco in the lineup let’s drop David Bell for a while until his back heals and put Polanco in.

Interesting fact: I was scanning The Hardball Times stats and I noticed something very interesting. The most unlucky team in the MLB right now are the Milwaukee Brewers: at 6-11 they have lost all six close games and their Pythagorean record should be 9-8. Here are the current NL Central Standings:

St. Louis: 11-5
Chicago: 8-9
Cincinnati: 8-9
Houston: 8-9
Pittsburgh: 6-11
Milwaukee: 6-11

Here are what the Pythagorean records should look like:

St. Louis: 10-7
Houston: 10-7
Milwaukee: 9-8
Chicago: 9-8
Cincinnati: 7-10
Pittsburgh: 4-14

I think the Brew crew is going to play .500 ball this season.

And anyone else shocked (and a little smug) with how badly the Yankees look? They have the worst defense in the AL (by far, I might add) and the tenth best pitching staff in terms of FIP ERA. They are still potent at the plate (though their batting average with balls put into play – BABIP –is .312, better than the AL average of .299, which suggests they’ve been a little lucky at the plate), but they look pretty much exactly like last year’s model: all offense and no defense. At this rate I think the Red Sox are going to crush them for the division title and I’m intrigued by how this might embolden small-market also-rans like the Blue Jays and Devil Rays to get into the mix and compete with the Evil Empire instead of selling off players.

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