BtB on the Phillies

Beyond the Box Score, one of the best Saber-slanted general blogs out there, had a couple of interesting articles involving the Phillies this week. One contained good news, and the other had bad news. I’d just like to highlight both of those articles with a little bit of commentary afterwards.

Lucas Apostoleris (@DBITLefty) compiled a list of pitches that induced the most swings-and-misses in baseball last year. It was not surprising to see who was #1. Among pitchers with 250+ swings, Cole Hamels‘ change-up induced whiffs the most, with a whiff rate of .480. Roy Halladay‘s curve ranked tenth at .427. In the 100-249 swing range, Ryan Madson‘s change-up ranked second at .645 behind Jonny Venters‘ slider at .656. I’ve been saying for a while that Hamels’ and Madson’s change-ups are among the best in baseball. It’s good to see that the statistics back this up.

Bill Petti (@BillPetti) investigated if the Phillies could still make the playoffs without Chase Utley. While he ended up concluding that they could, the article didn’t leave me feeling that optimistic.

So it’s feasible the Phillies could still make the playoffs (although it’s interesting that no team, regardless of runs allowed, has made the playoffs in the past 10 years by scoring less than 684 runs). But what if they don’t have a historic runs allowed year? What if they do no better than last year’s 640 runs allowed?

In that case, the Phillies would need to score 715 runs. If you remove Utley for the entire season you are now talking about finding another 154 runs. Unfortunately, Wilson Valdez isn’t gonna get you there.

I don’t buy the doomsday scenarios involving the Phillies’ offense. With horrendous production from Jimmy Rollins, all of the injuries, and a mediocre bench, the Phillies still managed to score 772 runs, second-most in the National League behind the Cincinnati Reds. Even losing Utley, I find it hard to believe that the Phillies don’t score 750+ runs. Many look at the trend of the Phillies’ run scoring over the past few years and conclude that the offense has been in steep decline, but that is not the case. Rather, the loss of runs is commensurate with a league-wide drop in offense. The Phillies have been at least one standard deviation above the mean in runs scored since 2006.

Year PHI RS Lg AVG St Dev
2006 865 771 51
2007 892 763 61
2008 799 734 62
2009 820 718 61
2010 772 701 58

A handy line graph to illustrate the trends:

The gap between the 2010 squad’s run production and the league average is about the same as it was in 2008 when they won the World Series. Now, going into 2011, the Phillies will be keeping many more runs off of the board with the best starting rotation in baseball.