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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.