Reader Question: Phillies Run Scoring Distribution

J.B. writes:

Hey, Bill, is there any sort of breakdown how the Phillies score runs? Based on purely anecdotal evidence, it strikes me about 60% of the time the Phillies score 3-4 runs 30% of the time, the Phillies score less than that, and 10% of the time the Phillies score 8 or more runs.

I am exaggerating, and I’m sure there’s some nasty confirmation bias here, but my point is that the Phillies’ offense doesn’t look nearly as good if you throw out the occasional big game. Two question sets:

1. Is that true at all? Do the Phillies tend to have more “synergy” games than other teams?

2. Even if it is true, is that true of most teams? Do teams with offense levels comparable to the Phillies tend to score along the same curve (biggest hump at 3-4 runs, mid-size hump on the low end, and a small but significant hump on the high end)? Or are there significant deviations from this?

So here’s what the Phillies’ run scoring distribution looks like compared to all of Major League Baseball (click to enlarge):

The Phillies have played 105 games. In 29 of them (28 percent), they have scored 3-4 runs; in 34 games (32 percent), they have scored 0-2 runs; and in 17 (16 percent), they have scored eight or more. J.B. was close on the 0-2 and 8-plus run buckets, but way off on the 3-4 run bucket.

As for the second question, the team directly ahead of the Phillies in average runs per game is the Colorado Rockies. The team directly behind the Phillies is the Milwaukee Brewers. I added them to the graph (click to enlarge):

While there are small deviations, nothing jumps out as statistically significant. If we put them in buckets:

  • 0-2 runs: PHI 32%, COL 26%, MIL 25%
  • 3-4 runs: PHI 28%, COL 34%, MIL 35%
  • 5-7 runs: PHI 24%, COL 25%, MIL 28%
  • 8+ runs: PHI 16%, COL 15%, MIL 12%

The Phillies do appear to be slightly less “consistent”, but merely a good week for them or a bad week for the others could flip the tables, so it is not all that revealing.

Just for the sake of comparison, here is how the 2011 Phillies stack up with their 2009-10 iterations:

If the Phillies could have absolute control over their run-scoring, they would emulate the 2009 offense for sure, but also keep in mind just how much offense has declined since then. In ’09, the average NL team scored 4.4 runs per game; in ’10, that declined to 4.3; and now in ’11, that average is all the way down at 4.1.

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