This is the first Graph post of the 2011 season. Hooray! Sadly, it’s not a particularly encouraging graph. I’ve complained about the Phillies’ plate discipline on several other occasions here on the blog, but it’s worth pointing out until the problem is fixed. The Phillies haven’t scored more than four runs in a game since they scored 10 runs against the Atlanta Braves on Saturday April 9.
Here’s a graphical look at the Phillies’ overall plate discipline:
In only four of their 14 games have the Phillies beaten the 2010 National League average of 3.83 pitches per plate appearance. The current league average is 3.77; the Phillies’ overall team average is 3.59. Only three players are better than the average: Jimmy Rollins (3.91), Ben Francisco (3.89), and Carlos Ruiz (3.83).
As of this writing (after Sunday’s games, but before Baseball Reference updated), the Phillies are third in the National League in on-base percentage at .349, but .298 of that comes from batting average. The Cincinnati Reds led the league in batting average last year at .272, and the NL average was .255, so we should expect the Phillies’ average to fall even further down. Subsequently, their OBP and thus their run-scoring, will suffer as well — unless they start drawing walks.
In last week’s post examining the Phillies’ power potential, I talked about how much the absence of Chase Utley and Jayson Werth will be felt, and that is just as true in terms of on-base percentage as well. Werth has a career .365 OBP and Utley is at .380. One of Utley’s unique on-base skills is his propensity to get hit by pitches. He led the league from 2007-09 with 76 total plunks, looking quite Biggio-esque in the process. The HBP’s represented about 10 percent of Utley’s total times on base, which is quite significant.
Charlie Manuel has been known as a miracle worker when he gets his hitters in the batting cages, but plate discipline is not something that can be learned overnight. If the Phillies don’t fix this problem soon, we could be in store for offensive droughts we haven’t seen since May 22-27 last year, when they were shut out in four of five games.