Wednesday, May 25, 2005
What can I say about the Phillies these last two weeks or so?
-Since May 8, when he had the Phillies sole run in a 2-1 loss to the Cubs with a solo shot, Bobby Abreu has been on fire: he’s raised his OBP fifty-three points, hit 9 of his 12 home runs, had 21 of his 36 RBIs and raised his slugging percentage nearly two hundred points. He’s cooled off since going 2-for-4 against the Cardinals (5-for-17, no extra-base hits), but so far he’s still hitting and having a heck of a season.
-Abreu’s out-burst has had some positive impact on the team’s power numbers*: the Phillies are now twelfth in slugging (better than being sixteenth) at .399, and are third in OBP at .343 (thanks to an NL-leading .104 walks-per-plate appearance)… While it is good news that the Phillies are fifth in home runs at 46, they are sixteenth in the NL in doubles and fourteenth in triples. This team needs a little aggressiveness and speed on the base-paths. The Phillies are also just fifteenth in ISO, meaning they still aren’t hitting with any authority.
-Defense and pitching aren’t working out too well this season, despite some terrific performances.
Defensively the Phillies are slightly better than the league average in DER (.697, the league average being .696). Since ESPN & SI.com don’t publish team Zone Rating any more (I shouldn’t complain: they brought back individual fielding stats), I use DER as my team defensive metric.
Better than average good news? No really, given that this team was third in the NL in DER in 2004 and is only .001 above average. I really thought this team would jell in the field, but it hasn’t. I don’t think Phillies fans understand why this is a big deal: last year the team’s awful pitching was moderated a little by extraordinary fielding. Eric Milton looked good with Rollins, et al, gobbling up grounders left and right. He’s actually a lousy pitcher (17 home runs in 57 innings? Milton gives up 2.68 home runs per 9 innings pitched. Reds fans: we warned you!) but the Phillies fielding covered that up. With the Phillies seemingly improved pitching faltering again, we need the defense to step up a notch and turn in a big performance. So far, it hasn’t happened.
As for the pitching staff we’ve seen some great performances (Myers, Lidle), some okay (Lieber, Wolf), and some awful (Padilla, Floyd since the Cards game). I think the team’s bullpen looks awful and it disturbs me that Lieber has surrendered 14 home runs this year. That is too much for a guy who throws so many groundball outs.
May is going to a close and I think that there is real breakout potential there. Thome is returning to the lineup and hopefully prepared to bust out of his slump (hey Jim: Ryan Howard has as many home runs as you and in sixty fewer at-bats!). I think the team realizes that Padilla needs some work as well. Hopefully with the bright sunshine on the grass at Citizens Bank, the team will move ahead and finally break out of the cellar. I’m optimistic, although there are few reasons why I should be: we’ve been in last for over a month and the Nationals, the team we’d all figure would finish last, aren’t fading.
But hey, I’m an atypical Phillies fan.
Back the next two days with some thoughts on individual players.
*Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I talk about:
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)
BB / PA (Walks per plate appearance): (BB / PA = .BB/PA Avg)
ZR (Zone Rating): Is a stat which measures a player’s defensive ability by measuring plays they should have made. Admittedly, this is a stat left open to subjective opinions.
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.
On the other hand, the basic elements are STILL there, and some of it is coming together. If it can all come together at the same time, this could be a special team.
Also something to remember: the Phillies have had THE TOUGHEST schedule in the league. http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/stats/rpi?sortColumn=sos
Will that make any difference? Maybe, maybe not. I have to think if we ever start playing easier teams, things will even out.