Believe the Hype

During the off-season GM Ruben Amaro assembled quite a formidable pitching staff. It required swiping Cliff Lee from the clutches of the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees, but he did it. The pre-season hype was quite exaggerated. “Best rotation of all time,” some would say. “Historically great,” others crowed. Many chalked it up to the excitement of having Roy Halladay, Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels — all veritable aces in their own right — wearing the same uniform.

As the first half of the regular season wraps up, however, the Phillies really are embarking on rarely-seen terrain. After yesterday’s 3-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics, they have allowed 257 runs in 79 games, a pace of 527 runs (500 earned) over a full 162-game season. According to a Baseball Reference search, only 30 teams have allowed 530 earned runs (the database cannot search for overall runs allowed) or fewer in a season. Bob Gibson‘s 1968 St. Louis Cardinals lead the pack at 409 ER allowed.

Rk Tm Year ER
1 STL 1968 409
2 CHW 1966 440
3 SFG 1968 442
4 NYM 1968 449
5 DET 1968 449
6 PIT 1968 454
7 NYY 1968 455
8 LAD 1963 466
9 OAK 1968 476
10 STL 1969 477
11 SFG 1967 478
12 ATL 1968 479
13 LAD 1964 487
14 PIT 1965 495
15 ATL 1974 500
16 CIN 1964 501
17 STL 1985 505
18 STL 1966 505
19 LAD 1983 506
20 MON 1988 508
21 HOU 1980 511
22 MIN 1967 511
23 BAL 1964 512
24 NYY 1978 516
25 SFG 1965 521
26 SDP 1978 522
27 SFG 1964 523
28 NYY 1964 527
29 STL 1973 528
30 NYY 1970 530
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/27/2011.

Of course, the offensive environments in those years was different than it is now. At least, it was. As this chart will show…

…the offensive environment of the past 20 or so years has been much different than it had been previously. As such, we should adjust for era when we try to compare seasons. That is what a stat such as ERA+ attempts to do.

When we do that for the 30 teams mentioned above, we find one team below average (1968 Oakland Athletics), eight between 100-109, 119 between 110-119, and two above 120 (1969 Cardinals, 1974 Atlanta Braves).

The 2011 Phillies have an ERA+ of 125, which is higher than any of the 30 teams that had allowed 530 or fewer earned runs. If you exclude Joe Blanton, every member of the starting rotation has an above-average ERA+:

Even the bullpen is to be commended as the Phillies have the sixth-best bullpen ERA in the National League at 3.10. Five relievers have an above-average adjusted ERA:

David Herndon is right on the edge at 99 as well.

The pre-season hype may turn out to be completely justified. If the Phillies continue to pitch as well as they have throughout the first three months, they could finish with the best pitching staff since the 162-game schedule was implemented for both leagues in 1962. While the league-wide decline in offense explains some of the Phillies’ success on the mound, it doesn’t explain nearly enough.

(By the way, the Braves are right behind the Phillies with a team ERA+ at 124.)

Leave a Reply

*

10 comments

  1. Evan

    June 27, 2011 10:15 AM

    Trotting KK out there instead of an ineffective Oswalt is bound to lead to some badness that may contribute to derailing a historically low RA total.

  2. COAL HAMLETS

    June 27, 2011 01:17 PM

    Worley is a capable starting pitcher with some upside, but I don’t think he’ll ever be confused with an Ace. Kendrick on the other hand is just a ticking time bomb, waiting to suck right when it will hurt the Phillies the most. Joe Blanton can’t come back soon enough, assuming that he’s finally healthy of course!

  3. Dan

    June 28, 2011 03:36 AM

    Am I the only one who looked at this and is only thinking of Bastardo?

    I expected great things from our starters, they were a known commodity. I also expected great things from Bastardo after seeing him pitch last season, but a 401 ERA+??? That is godly. If (and this is a big if) he keeps up this pace, maybe he should just be elected into the HOF automatically. The highest ERA+ for a season so far is 295… and that was in the 1800s.

    I am completely blown away. Did someone calculate something wrong? I wasn’t expecting his numbers to be THAT good. I woulda been happy with half of that.

  4. COAL HAMLETS

    June 28, 2011 04:58 AM

    That 401 ERA+ has to be some kind of mistake, as great as Bastardo may be…he is not THAT good. Maybe it was a typo or heck knows what.

  5. Bill Baer

    June 28, 2011 05:18 AM

    ERA+ is (league ERA/pitcher’s ERA)*100.

    So, Bastardo is (3.81/0.96)*100 which is 397. I think Baseball Reference adjusts for park as well, so that’s where the additional 3 points come from.

    Prior to getting BABIP’d to death on Sunday, Jonny Venters had a 0.56 ERA, which is a 680 ERA+.

  6. Sauce

    June 28, 2011 09:58 AM

    With their five projected starters (including Blanton) and projected closer (Lidge), they are eating 79´000´000 of the 187 million, so they better be on top of these categories.

    So, not only the preseason hype should be justified, but also the huge amount of money they cost.

    Just to toy around, if we add some of the other pitchers salaries to the equation, their pitching staff is as expensive as the whole Braves payroll!!

  7. BrandonG

    June 28, 2011 10:11 AM

    Bastardo also has a 99.1% strand rate, a .153 BABIP, 4.18 BB/9, and only a 28% GB rate. But he does have a very good swinging strike rate, at 15.8%, 6th best in the league

  8. PitchingBeatsHitting

    June 28, 2011 11:46 PM

    Hypers, here’s where we are. Giants and Braves pitching are certainly as strong or even better than the Phils. All three are good pitching teams, but the Phillies are not as good as all the hype.

    RK TEAM BK WP SB CS CS% WHIP K/BB K/9 P/PA RS ERC% DIP%
    1 San Francisco 2 18 55 28 34.00 1.24 2.38 8.30 3.91 0.15 96.00 102.00
    2 Milwaukee 3 33 49 12 20.00 1.26 2.86 8.10 3.87 0.18 94.00 96.00
    3 Atlanta 0 30 63 19 23.00 1.18 2.64 7.82 3.83 0.14 95.00 106.00
    4 LA Dodgers 4 24 53 17 24.00 1.34 2.33 7.62 3.81 0.19 97.00 96.00
    5 Philadelphia 4 10 51 19 27.00 1.19 2.95 7.61 3.78 0.14 101.00 108.00

    RK TEAM OBP SLG OPS BLSV SVO SV% HBP IBB H 2B 3B HR TB
    1 Atlanta .297 .335 .632 13 38 66.00 24 34 626 113 16 46 909
    2 San Francisco .308 .334 .642 8 35 77.00 21 25 603 128 8 41 870
    3 Philadelphia .301 .350 .651 2 24 92.00 24 21 652 119 11 49 940

  9. Dan

    June 29, 2011 08:15 PM

    So Bill, I guess you would say that ERA+ doesn’t work well with relievers or starters with few IP?

    That would make sense then. Thanks for the explanation of the stat, I’m a lot less familiar with ERA+ than I am with stats like xFIP and WAR.

  10. Vaughan

    July 05, 2011 07:47 PM

    Greatest Team since the days of the Tugger!

    The Phillies have not taken to Doc Halladay’s nickname, but they love it when the Good Doctor is operating on the mound, as I told my fellow fan, the great Elle (Mona Lisa) T. I know the Jays Ace is the missing piece. Nice work from the team,everywhere.Go Phillies!

Next ArticleFirst-Half Phillies Awards