Not even a full day removed from clinching the NL East for the fourth straight season, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. joined Sirius XM hosts Jim Memolo and Rob Dibble on the MLB Network Radio channel on Tuesday. I received the transcription from one of the MLB Network representatives. What you are about to read may surprise you.
Host, Jim Memolo: “We talked to you earlier in the year, hard to believe that this team actually got shut out five times in an eight game stretch at some point this year. But since we talked to you last you got Roy Oswalt, Jayson Werth has turned it around hitting-wise, which I think is a major part of what has happened with your team. Has your vision of this team for next year, and what you’re going to do with this team, changed from earlier in the season to now?”
Ruben Amaro Jr.: “Oh, I think it has. We actually had thoughts in the middle of the season, when we were playing right around .500 baseball, of breaking it up. (laughs) There was some concern that maybe guys were getting older, less productive. If you look up and down our lineup, I don’t know if there is any guy, other than maybe Carlos Ruiz, who is having a career year. We talked about this internally and yet we still are creeping up on 95 wins, which is amazing to me. I would have been the first to be able to tell you that I didn’t think we were going to get to 90 wins when we were right around the middle of July. So for us to kind of turn on the way we’ve turned it on, is even surprising to me. What’s great about this is that, one, we really haven’t had the kind of production that we typically would have from even the guys in the middle. Chase Utley hasn’t had his typical year. Ryan Howard hasn’t had his typical year. Jimmy Rollins obviously hasn’t had a great year, he’s had injury issues and such. We’ve got a lot of down production from a lot of guys and hopefully they can turn it on and come up with some offensive production as we get into the postseason.”
While the sentiment of blowing up the team may surprise you, it wasn’t that unreasonable. The Phillies had to go on a ridiculous run to get to where they are now. On July 21, they were 48-46, in third place, and seven games back of the Atlanta Braves. Since then, the Phils have gone 47-18, which is a winning percentage of .723. Using the PythagenPat method with runs scored and runs allowed (312-217), we come up with a .660 winning percenage. That’s still great but it is a difference of nine games between expected W-L and actual W-L, which is enough to jettison themselves out of first place. Going 16-6 (.727) in one-run games helped.
The big component of the Phillies’ second-half success is pitching. Since July 22, here’s how the Phillies’ starters have fared:
- Roy Halladay: 96.2 IP, 2.51 ERA, 88 K, 11 BB, .287 BABIP
- Roy Oswalt (since July 30): 81.2 IP, 1.65 ERA, 72 K, 21 BB, .221 BABIP
- Cole Hamels: 87.2 IP, 2.36 ERA, 86 K, 19 BB, .279 BABIP
- Joe Blanton: 80.2 IP, 3.24 ERA, 72 K, 20 BB, .328 BABIP
- Kyle Kendrick: 67.1 IP, 4.68 ERA, 31 K, 16 BB, .317 BABIP
With the exception of Blanton and Kendrick, Phillie starters — Oswalt in particular — have benefited from below-average BABIP. While the K/BB rates are awesome for everyone not named Kendrick, it is easy to see that the starting rotation has collectively pitched over its head. Were it to play out over a full season, the team’s 3.3 runs allowed average since July 22 would be by far the best in baseball, beating out San Diego’s 3.6 by a long shot.
Attribute their success to whomever or whatever you’d like, but it took a statistically improbable run to get them to where they are now. Not to take anything away from what they have accomplished, but going into the post-season, the Phillies are neither as good as they showed in their final 65 nor as bad as they appeared in mid-July. Getting most of the core healthy was key. Given the late-season injuries teams like the Braves, Twins, and Rangers are dealing with, the Phillies are almost back to 100 percent. That should help offset some of the regression.
“First Pitch,” with Jim Memolo and Rob Dibble, airs weekdays (7-10 am ET) on MLB Network Radio, XM channel 175 and SIRIUS channel 210 for subscribers with the “Best of XM.”