Phillies’ Offensive Success Is Not Sustainable

In the comments for yesterday’s post, I mentioned that the Phillies’ offensive success so far is, while nice, not sustainable. I felt it worthy of its own post.

Through six games, the Phillies have a team offensive BABIP at .423. In the previous three years, it has fallen in the .280-.295 range. Needless to say, the offense is due for a regression by that fact alone.

We can break down exactly how the Phillies are succeeding, however. They have a .357 BABIP on ground balls, .195 on fly balls, and .762 on line drives. The National League averages last year were .235, .137, and .719 respectively.

If the Phillies had the NL average BABIP on each batted ball type instead of what they have currently, they would have ten fewer ground ball hits, seven fewer fly ball hits, and two fewer line drive hits for a total of 19 fewer hits. They would have 57 hits rather than the 76 they have currently.

If we use the same distribution of hits (79 percent singles, 20 percent doubles, one percent triples), the Phillies go from 56 singles to 45, from 14 doubles to 11, and no change in triples. Thanks to the work of Tango, we know the run values for singles, doubles, and triples relative to an out: 0.77 runs for singles, 1.08 runs for doubles, and 1.37 runs for triples. So the 11 fewer singles account for 8.5 runs, three fewer doubles account for 3.2 runs, and of course there’s no change in triples. All told, the Phillies’ unsustainable offense has led to nearly 12 extra runs, or 1.2 extra wins (assuming an NL-average BABIP circa 2010).

It is a good thing, though, that the Phillies lead the Majors in line drive rate at 25.6 percent per FanGraphs. They also have the lowest fly ball rate at 28.5 percent. What that means is that the Phillies are hitting the ball hard and they’re finding gaps in the defense — fly balls turn into outs more frequently than grounders and line drives. No, it’s not sustainable, but there could be some lasting effects as we move further into the season.

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14 comments

  1. awh

    April 08, 2011 08:23 AM

    “Phillies’ Offensive Success Is Not Sustainable”

    Bill, not to be disrespectful, but I have one comment to the headline of this thread(and I don’t even need to read the thread to make the comment):

    Duuuuuh.

  2. awh

    April 08, 2011 08:54 AM

    OK, Bill, more seriously:

    The Phillies have averaged 7.11 RPG so far this season. That alone is unsustainable.

  3. Scott

    April 08, 2011 09:50 AM

    Of course it’s not sustainable. This is baseball. Teams get lucky (high BABIP), get unlucky (low BABIP), and sometimes they’re middle of the road (league average BABIP).

    The Phillies’s BABIP will experience all of the above throughout the course of the season, and hopefully they’re fortunate enough to make the postseason and their BABIP is above average through the World Series.

  4. Tyler

    April 08, 2011 10:11 AM

    Obviously it is not sustainable, but why are you even talking about this on here anyways? Yeah IF the phillies had the NL average BABIP they would have 19 fewer hits, but they don’t. They’re are hitting above average right now and there’s no reason to shoot it down. They’re playing well and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  5. Ian

    April 08, 2011 10:14 AM

    So Ryan Howard won’t be batting .480 for the entire season?

  6. Scott G

    April 08, 2011 10:56 AM

    Bill,

    I actually enjoyed the breakdown. I also don’t think you were trying to unleash something no one knew, rather just give an explanation for the Phils “hot” start.

  7. Richard

    April 08, 2011 10:57 AM

    I fully expect Howard to maintain a .588 BABIP.

  8. TMC

    April 08, 2011 11:36 AM

    I want to be clear here that I like this site and, although I’m not fully versed in many of the advanced stats, I truly do appreciate their value, and I appreciate blogs like this for helping me to understand the game better through statistical analysis. Seriously.

    But surely posts like this (or, rather, Bill’s pressing need to immediately follow a blowout win with a post like this) are the reason that the saber community is so often labeled a bunch of humorless killjoys.

    Sometimes it seems like the motivation is much less about understanding the game better or increasing one’s enjoyment of the game, but rather about being RIGHT and letting everyone know you’re appreciating the game on a higher level than them.

  9. Bill Baer

    April 08, 2011 11:41 AM

    Enjoying the current run of offensive success is not mutually exclusive with recognizing its unsustainability.

    As an example, I enjoy celebrating Christmas with my family even though I know that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. :)

  10. Phil Nicholas

    April 08, 2011 12:06 PM

    I think the Philly batting success is a result of a shift from power to small ball. There is a lot less pressure to hit singles rather than HRs. They are learning to score in other ways which is good. Can it sustain, not at this level however I am incline to take small ball into the playoffs over power with our possible pitching staff.

  11. AJK

    April 08, 2011 02:43 PM

    “We can break down exactly how the Phillies are succeeding, however. They have a .357 BABIP on ground balls, .195 on fly balls, and .762 on line drives. The National League averages last year were .235, .137, and .719 respectively.”

    Interesting stuff. How much of a sample size do we need before we can legitimately start saying the Phillies have improved over previous years, or that they are having a lucky year? Or perhaps even that the baseball is livelier this year on a league-wide scale?

  12. Vinny

    April 08, 2011 02:56 PM

    Hey Bill..I’ve got a party this weekend! You wanna come crash it and be Debbie Downer? lol

  13. feeox

    April 08, 2011 08:09 PM

    Wait…the Phillies aren’t going to score 1100+ runs this year? I believe that Willy “Pip” Valdez might have something to say about that.

  14. COAL HAMLETS

    April 09, 2011 03:04 AM

    Wait, you mean Kyle Kendrick won’t win the Cy Young and Wilson Valdez won’t win MVP?!

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