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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  1. Greg

    July 30, 2011 02:19 PM

    This just showcases the importance of Chase Utley in the lineup. Before he came back, the Phillies scored 3 or fewer runs 27 times (out of 46 games, or 58.7% of the time). Since he came back, 25 times (out of 59 games, of 42.4% of the time). MUCH better. We’ll see if that comes down even more now that we can “Pence”il in our new right-handed bat in the lineup behind Howard.

  2. The Howling Fantods

    July 30, 2011 02:25 PM

    They have the second most runs scored per game in the NL since Utley returned.

  3. JB Allen

    July 30, 2011 03:50 PM

    Bill – That was awesome. Thanks! It looks like there isn’t a significant difference for teams with similar run totals as to how they score those runs along the curve.

  4. Bill for Blog Mayer

    July 30, 2011 04:19 PM

    Articles like this are why I love reading this site. Good job.

  5. JB Allen

    July 30, 2011 10:42 PM

    I’m sorry, but one last thing: that 2009 curve is wild. It makes me think that the 2009 Phillies had not just a potent offense, but an incredibly efficient offense, one that was capable of generating runs any number of ways, depending on what worked best at any given time. I’ll take a look at baseball-reference for 2009 to see if other high-scoring teams had similar results.

  6. Andy

    August 01, 2011 11:23 AM

    Love the website. And I usually agree with what you write. But I think the run analysis (great info, BTW), especially compared with the Rockies and the Brewers, reveals that the Phillies are WAY more inconsistent than those teams. I’m no statistician but here’s my take: the Phills are scoring 0-2 runs/game 6% more often — that’s 6 games during the first 100 games and it’s not just one hot-streak away from being equal. The Phills also are scoring 10+ runs 6% (i.e. 6 games) more often than the Brewers and 3% more often than the Rockies. That’s not balanced and more imbalanced than other offensive clubs. Bottom line, though, this team is great and the imbalance has not hurt them.

  7. Jake

    August 02, 2011 09:07 AM

    I would love to see the 2008 season added to that last graph. The phillies clearly had a better offensive year in 2008. I think most fans still remember that year and think that is the norm for the Phillies, so anything less is upsetting. That might be the reason for all the complaints about the Philies offense the last couple of seasons.

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