The Phillies mustered just two runs in yesterday’s loss to the Atlanta Braves, marking the 21st time this season that the Phillies have scored three or fewer runs in a game this season. As they have played 39 games, that comes out to 54 percent. There is a lot to blame for the lack of offense:
- A league-wide drop in offense. The average NL team scores 4.18 runs per game, down from 4.33 last year and way below the 4.70-ish average for much of the 2000’s.
- Injuries. The Phillies have been without Chase Utley and Domonic Brown all year, but have also had to endure injuries to Carlos Ruiz, Brian Schneider, and Shane Victorino as well. Their replacements have been unspectacular.
- Bad luck. As explained here, the Phillies have been hitting the ball hard, but haven’t been able to find the open areas on the field. We should expect that fortune to even out somewhat going forward, but it hasn’t yet.
- Opposing pitching. The Phillies have played the Braves nine times (23 percent of their schedule thus far), who have had the best pitching in the Majors thus far. The Marlins have the NL’s fourth-best pitching staff and have played five games against the Phillies (13 percent) while the Nationals are sixth and have played the Phillies six times (15 percent).
- Bottom-third of the lineup. The 7-8-9 hitters (counting pinch-hitters but not pitchers) have collectively posted a .611 OPS, which is the second-worst in the league. The league average is .675. The Phillies’ 1-2 hitters have the best OPS in the league at .850 but have no one ahead of them to help advance around the bases either because it is the start of an inning or the bottom of the lineup did not produce.
To get an idea where the Phillies compare to the league average relative to past seasons, I used a formula very much like OPS+, only for the runs per game average. Simply put, I divided the Phillies’ average by the league average and then multiplied by 100. Above 100 is above-average; below 100 is below-average.
|Year||PHI RPG||NL RPG||RPG+|
This essentially accounts for the overall decline in offense. Relatively speaking, the 2011 Phillies offense is the franchise’s worst since 2002, just two percent better than the league average. Thankfully, the lack of offense is somewhat nullified by the great pitching staff.
One factor that hasn’t contributed to the Phillies’ decline in offense is their base running. While their overall stolen base total (25) ranks eighth in the league and their 78 percent success rate is below that of previous years, the Phillies have actually improved in nearly all facets of base running. Using Equivalent Base Running Runs (EQBRR) and its components from Baseball Prospectus, we can see exactly how the Phillies have fared on the bases.
* 2011 numbers are prorated
GAR: Ground advancement runs; SBR: Stolen Base Runs; AAR: Air Advancement Runs; HAR: Hit Advancement Runs; OAR: Other Advancement Runs
Believe it or not, the best base runner on the team thus far has been Wilson Valdez. He has contributed 2.6 EQBRR thus far, ahead of Rollins at 2.3 and Victorino at 1.9. Due to his lack of playing time, Valdez has had less opportunities than the other two — 32 to Rollins’ 51 and Victorino’s 62. While Valdez’s base running has been nice, it isn’t nearly enough to make up for his other offensive shortcomings.
During the winter, I pointed out that Romero should be used strictly as a LOOGY — a left-handed, one-out guy:
Here are the facts, using Romero’s career splits:
- vs. RHB: 6.8 K/9, 6.9 BB/9, .292 BABIP, 5.34 xFIP
- vs. LHB: 8.2 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, .266 BABIP, 3.61 xFIP
Unfortunately, Charlie Manuel has not obliged, giving Romero the platoon advantage (LHP vs. LHB) in only 39 percent of his match-ups. While Romero hasn’t been abysmal, he has been anything but flawless. His walk and strikeout rates are equivalent at 4.8 per nine innings. Against the 16 lefties he has faced, his peripherals lead to a 2.39 xFIP. Against the 25 right-handers, his peripherals lead to a 6.20 xFIP.
Kendrick is in a similar situation. Despite his 1.83 ERA, he has not pitched well. His 6.40 SIERA is dead last among all Major League pitchers with at least 19 innings pitched. The handedness of the batter hasn’t mattered much this season, but for his career, Kendrick has a 4.11 xFIP against right-handed batters and a 5.46 xFIP against lefties. If Kendrick is to be used, it should be only against right-handed batters, even though the Phillies seem to value his ability to pitch multiple-innings.