Phillies Offense is Just Fine

Oh no! The Phillies have been shut out in three out of their last four games and they have been held scoreless in 37 out of the last 38 innings. Clearly something is amiss!

Since a 12-run outburst against the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 17, the Phillies’ offense has collectively hit for a .203 AVG, .282 OBP, and .309 SLG — worse than Eric Bruntlett‘s career numbers. In those eight games, the team has scored only 15 runs, an average of under two per game. This has got to be uncharted territory for the high-octane Phillies offense, right?

Incorrect. Here are some offensive droughts the Phillies have endured over the past few years:

2009

  • May 9-14: 5 games, 14 runs, .176/.291/.320
  • June 16-26: 10 games, 35 runs, .208/.279/.344
  • July 28-August 4: 7 games, 17 runs, .218/.279/.331
  • August 25-September 7: 13 games, 31 runs, .236/.294/.417

2008

  • April 5-10: 6 games, 20 runs, .231/.326/.392
  • June 3-12: 9 games, 33 runs, .226/.318/.365
  • June 17-26: 8 games, 15 runs, .181/.257/.252
  • August 1-9: 8 games, 21 runs, .207/.321/.368
  • August 14-21: 7 games, 19 runs, .203/.252/.323

2007

  • May 15-23: 7 games, 27 runs, .218/.285/.389
  • June 4-11: 8 games, 31 runs, .255/.325/.433
  • August 8-16: 8 games, 32 runs, .227/.304/.373
  • August 18-25: 7 games, 26 runs, .249/.295/.414

As you can see, the Phillies have traditionally hit at least four offensive skids per season. This will hold true for any similarly potent offense or starting rotation or bullpen. No team will average five runs per game and score exactly five runs every game. Sometimes they will score ten and another time they will score zero; sometimes they will score six and another time they will score four. We tend to overlook the times the Phillies’ offense is on fire because we expect it. The Phillies averaged 7.7 runs per game from the start of the 2010 season until April 16.

To quote J.C. Bradbury of Sabernomics on streaks:

Occasionally, these things happen in clumps (like the Braves losing nine games in a row), and fans are quick to respond with disdain and frustration. For example, the data below represent wins (w) and losses (l) in a 162-game season for a .500 team, generated randomly via a computer program (Stata code: generate x=round(uniform(),1)) . Note that this team actually finishes below .500 and has several streaks of wins and losses. In fact, there is an 18-game span where the team has two five-game losing streaks and one six-game losing streak while going 2-16. I imagine the sports pages would have a field day with this team as being one of the worst in baseball, when in fact it is an average team.

l l l l w w l l l w w w w l w w l l l w l w l l l l l w l l l l l w l l l l l l w w w l w w w w w w l w w w l w w w l w w l w w l w l l w w w l w w l l w w l w w w w l l w w w w w l l w w w l l l l w l l w l l l l l l w w w w l w l w w w w w w w l w w l l w w l w w l w w w l w l w l l w w w l w w l w w l w l w w l l l w l
[…]

This has to be frustrating for management, because the belief that random fluctuations represent real and easily-correctable problems can have financial consequences. A good team that plays poorly can translate into losses at the gate. A GM may look at his roster and see a good team that he doesn’t want to change, but “hang on and be patient” doesn’t resonate well among fans who demand answers. How can a GM signal that things are going to get better when the team is already configured optimally?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Phillies at the moment. They are still one of the best offenses in baseball even without Jimmy Rollins and a fully healthy Carlos Ruiz and a struggling Raul Ibanez and a powerless Ryan Howard (71% of his hits have been singles compared to 50% last year). Imagine how fun it will be if and when Rollins is 100% healthy and Ruiz isn’t banged up and Ibanez gets on one of his patented hot streaks and Howard stops hitting like David Eckstein.

That the league’s best offense has been shut out in three out of their last four games has not sat well with most Phillies fans and talking heads. However, the storyline would be a lot different if the Phillies had squeezed just one run in each of those shut-outs. It’s not so much that the Phillies’ offense has been rendered impotent over the last week-plus, but that the label of being shut-out — three times — is a Scarlet letter.

Just as I advocated when Cole Hamels was struggling, Phillies fans need to just ride out this wave of poor play. It is not representative of the big picture; things will turn around.

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31 comments

  1. hk

    May 27, 2010 03:42 PM

    Thanks Bill. People in this town need to relax. I can’t believe the amount of panic I have been hearing from fans and even hosts on sports talk radio. It is a four game losing streak, after which they (a) are in 1st place by 3 games in the loss column, (b) are tied for the best run differential in the league and (c) are still on pace to win 94 games, which should win the division by 6 or 7 games.

  2. phatti

    May 27, 2010 04:26 PM

    No, it’s the end of the world! This would have never happened if we hadn’t traded Cliff Lee! We need to bring back Pedro! And promote Dom Brown! Fire Ruben now!

  3. cliff1222

    May 27, 2010 08:45 PM

    Just a thought. Would you be as calm about Phillies’ seasonal slumps if there were no wild card?

    Since my blog is about baseball’s hidden pennant race, I’ll be interested in this weekend’s Phillies/Florida series. Sorry, I’ll be rooting for the Marlins

  4. Nik

    May 27, 2010 10:21 PM

    JRoll being out is really hurting us right now.

  5. Mediocre Hamels

    May 28, 2010 12:21 AM

    I’m pretty sure getting shut out 3 straight games and 4 out of 5 games is pretty uncharted

  6. Nik

    May 28, 2010 01:13 AM

    It could have easily been 5.

  7. Jim Quinn

    May 28, 2010 09:38 AM

    I am not so concerned with the shutouts as I am with the putrid pitching. Hamels is shakey at best,but will be a decent #3 guy for the rest of his career. Moyer is WAAAAYYYYY over the hill and hasn’t pitch two good games in a row in three years. In fact, the only time he plays well is when he faces impatient young line-ups. His wins are strictly a result of good run support. Kenrick is terrible. He always has been. Blanton will come around once his extended spring training is over. Halladay rocks. As Nolan Ryan said (and Halladay quoted in spring training) every pitcher has 10 great starts and 10 bad starts per season. It’s what you do with the ones in between that matters. At some point, this team needs to realize that patchwork pitching won’t get them to another WS win. Last year showed that clearly. Go get some arms!

  8. Bill

    May 28, 2010 10:54 AM

    The offense will be fine… but I question Ibanez. The guy hasn’t been the same hitter since he got hurt last year, and his OPS is .760 this year…

  9. Paco McNulty

    May 28, 2010 11:02 AM

    I think the more alarming thing is that since they got caught stealing signs in CO they are 7-8 and looking terrible at the plate.

  10. Mediocre Hamels

    May 28, 2010 12:48 PM

    Are any of those offensive struggles even close to 5 games and 3 runs? Nope. 6 games 20 runs or 5 games 14 runs would be hitting the cover off the ball for the Phillies right now.

  11. hk

    May 28, 2010 03:20 PM

    Last year, the Phils lost 9 of the first 10 games following their series with the Red Sox and in 2008, the Phils lost 6 of 7 after playing Boston.

  12. Mark

    May 28, 2010 05:56 PM

    A couple things to add to your points:

    1. Will Rollins ever be 100% healthy?

    2. Do you think more emphasis is placed on the current drought because it came against two of the bigger market teams in the game?

    3. At what point (if any) can the Phillies say out with Ibanez and in with Domonic Brown?

  13. Duane

    May 28, 2010 07:07 PM

    Bill,

    Thanks for trying to calm everyone down. Its amazing, its as if no one has been watching these guys the last 3 years. They go through a drought all the time, like this specifically no, but a drought none the less. If we win 96 games, we have to lose 66, so chill out everyone. We have still scored more runs than anyone in the NL east, and have still had less runs scored on us than anyone else in the NL east. The Baseball gods require sacrifices, and horrendous losses will mean great offensive outputs later. Ebb and flow people. On another note, Cole was great last night. He is looking better with every start. I may be giving Charlie too much credit, but I think the unusual rotation and showing confidence in those bullpen guys like Baez, Herndon, and Romero(who’s heads everyone else wants on a platter) will pay dividends down the road.
    Sorry no stats to support that. Call it a hunch.

  14. LH

    May 29, 2010 03:41 AM

    Thanks for the sanity check.

  15. Sophist

    May 29, 2010 03:55 AM

    Raul just had a slow start. He’s .286/.381/.467 in the last 33 games.

    Just for comparison, his 2002-2008 no. were .292/.352/.481. I think he’ll have some power surge in the Summer and end up with a SLG over .500, but nowhere near last year.

  16. hk

    May 29, 2010 10:02 AM

    Jim Quinn, define or quantify a “decent #3 guy for the rest of his career. What MLB teams have #3 starters who are better than Hamels?

  17. E

    May 29, 2010 11:47 PM

    bill,

    do you have the graphic of balls/strikes during Halladay’s game? Seems like he got a TON of help.

  18. Richard

    May 30, 2010 06:18 AM

    Those ball/strike graphics are interesting. I was watching the game, and it was clear Halladay was getting the strike just off the plate pretty consistently, but it also seemed that the strikezone was more or less consistent for both sides. These seem to confirm that–in fact, the Marlins pitching got the most egregious call… if I’m reading them right.

  19. E

    May 30, 2010 11:22 AM

    Thanks Bill. I read somewhere all 6 strike outs looking were not strikes.

    Halladay is hard enough to have success against, not even factoring in him getting all types of calls.

    Obviously this isn’t a shot at him, he can’t control what calls he gets, but it was almost like the ump was helping him… not that he really neeeded it.

  20. Curly

    May 30, 2010 03:01 PM

    8 games, 72 innings, 7 runs. I’m still basically a believer in the randomness of game to game performance, but this is getting ridiculous. Is it totally out of the question to suspect that some of Werth and Ruiz and Utley’s early performance was due to “special scouting”?

  21. Bill Baer

    May 30, 2010 04:20 PM

    I guess the Phillies’ hitters’ performances since 2007 are to be thrown out the window. Once Billmeyer got caught, they reverted back to the David Eckstein-esque hitters that they were.

  22. David

    May 30, 2010 06:30 PM

    I agree wholeheartedly with this statement: “Phillies fans need to just ride out this wave of poor play. It is not representative of the big picture; things will turn around.” However, I’m still going to pick at a nit. ;) I’d argue that it should be “Phillies Offense will be Just Fine” rather than “is”.

    The Phillies have now been shut out in 5 of the last 8 games, and have scored 7 runs in that span. The BA/OBP/SLG numbers have all tanked. The Phillies were only shut out once in the previous 41 games, 7 times each in all of 2009 and 2008 and only three times over the course of 2007. (The Phillies were not shut out in any of the 32 games of those three postseasons, either.) Over 559 games, that’s almost exactly one shutout for every 31 games played. At that rate, given that the Phillies were last shut out three times in a row in 1983, the odds of it happening again by now isn’t so bad, actually: one in 5863, or 36 seasons. However…getting shut out five times in eight games? One in 40,401, more than the Phillies have played games in their entire history!

    Now, I realize my one in 31 number is rather arbitrary, but my point is this: three shut outs in a row, no need to panic, it was bound to happen again. At least we’re still in first place. Five times in eight games? This is very much pushing the borders of normal variation in performance, though still no need to panic. The Phillies will bounce back and start hitting again (and the pitching seems to be just fine – though it does smart to only give up three runs in an entire series and not sweep it), but I sure hope Charlie Manuel is doing more than giving his guys time to get out of the current slump.

  23. Richard

    May 30, 2010 07:45 PM

    This has been a perfect combination of factors in this slump. Victorino had been very hot, as had Werth and to a lesser extent Utley. They were bound to cool off. But Victorino & Utley have at least managed to get on base here and there, put some wood on the ball. Werth is ice cold. Striking out constantly, and looking bad doing it. Since that monster homerun against Boston he has only had one at bat that I can recall him looking halfway decent, when he singled against Dickey in NY. Howard has been getting the occasional hit, ditto Ibanez…. but once they’re on, you’re down to Castro and the slumping/injured Ruiz, or maybe you have the bases loaded with the pitcher up. Throw some bad luck (especially in the near no-hitter) and some unknowns, some knucklers, and some genuinely good pitching, and you have a very bad offensive week.

    Here’s a question I have. Or two. The Phillies are known for doing very poorly when they haven’t seen a pitcher (this may only be anecdotal evidence, of course; I haven’t run any numbers). Do they not scout these pitchers? Come up with a game plan? What is Milt Thompson’s job? Similarly, where is he, or Manuel, when it comes to telling these guys to work counts? They have the ability to squeeze out some runs when the hitting isn’t there, but even that has frozen up, Friday’s game aside.

  24. Dave

    June 02, 2010 01:00 PM

    OK…bill when you posted this you couldnt have known, but even after two straight thumpings in which we actually scored multiple runs, the phillies have only scored 13 runs in their last 10 games. find me a streak of 10 games where a team was that inept and made the playoffs at any point in baseball history…since the deadball era its never happened.

  25. Phylan

    June 08, 2010 10:19 PM

    In order for Pujols to be twice as valuable, then he would have to drive in twice as many runs and score twice as many runs, given he is the same situation as Howard

    haha

    hahahahaha

    ahahahahahahahahhahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahaha
    hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah

  26. Danny

    June 08, 2010 10:20 PM

    Howard, you just currently lack the mental capacity to understand these numbers, so you dismiss them as “incorrect.”

    I would encourage you to try to learn about some advanced statistics because they can help you understand the statements Bill writes.

    It’s clear that you don’t believe everything you read, so I would hope that you have some ability to comprehend advanced material in a sport I would imagine you love so very much.

    Driving in runs and scoring runs are a byproduct of an entire lineup, not just one player. If nobody is on base, you can’t drive in many runs, and Howard has nothing to do with other players getting on base. If nobody knocks you in, you can’t score many runs, and, again, Howard has nothing to do with other players getting on base.

    So please explain to me your statement regarding value and its correlation to RBI and runs scored? It has almost no correlation — it’s just what you’ve been fed by the media and every other outlet ever since you started watching baseball.

    It’s sad that you continue to believe something just because it’s what you were told when you were younger. And frankly, it’s just plain wrong.

  27. eitheror

    June 09, 2010 10:20 AM

    Howard, if I may summarize:

    Value=(RS+RBI)

    so 2xValue = 2(RS+RBI)

    Things not included in value:

    -Defense
    -Position
    -Consideration of the fact that RS and RBI on an individual level are terrible measures of a player.

  28. Bill Baer

    June 09, 2010 10:48 AM

    If the discussion here looks weird, it’s because I have deleted some comments from a troll. Antagonists will not have a platform here.

  29. bureaucratist

    June 13, 2010 11:09 AM

    More than two weeks later, what’s your take on this now, Bill? Do you still think this is just how the statistical distribution is falling, or are the Phillies maybe not very good? This is not a ten-game skid; it is the new Phillies. Unfortunately.

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