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Phillies Lacking Plate Discipline in NLDS

After the first two innings in Game One of the NLDS, when the Phillies made six outs on 12 Kyle Lohse pitches, you knew something was wrong. The Phillies aren’t a bad team in terms of plate discipline, though certainly not as good as they had been in years past. They ranked right in the middle of Major League Baseball during the regular season, averaging 3.8 pitches per plate appearance. However, in the NLDS so far, the Phillies have averaged 3.4, 3.6, and 3.4 pitches per plate appearance in Games One through Three, respectively.

Here’s a look at the individual hitters:

Hitter P/PA
Halladay 4.5
Utley 4.2
Howard 4.1
Madson 4.0
Rollins 3.4
Victorino 3.3
Ruiz 3.3
Mayberry 3.3
Ibanez 3.3
Pence 3.2
Polanco 3.1
Lee 3.0
Francisco 2.5
Hamels 1.5
Average 3.5

When Roy Halladay is leading the team in pitches seen per plate appearance, your team is not performing optimally. Only four hitters (two non-pitchers) are above the average, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

The following chart plots the average number of pitches seen per batter in each inning along with the runs they scored in each inning. (Click to enlarge)

The Phillies have scored in three of the nine innings in which they averaged at least four pitches seen per batter; six times in 14 innings in which they averaged at least 3.33 pitches seen per batter; and just once when they averaged 3.25 or fewer pitches seen per batter.

Taking pitches doesn’t just help directly with run-scoring, though — it helps with tiring the opposing starter, forcing his team to dig into their bullpen earlier than they would prefer. That helps with both the game currently being played as well as future games with that team. The Cardinals, who have been working Phillies pitchers very well, have forced Ryan Madson into the game in each of the first three games in the series. Madson has thrown 43 pitches total, the most he has thrown in any three consecutive team games since August 8-10, all against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Madson didn’t pitch again for a week, but the Phillies don’t have the luxury of awarding time off in the post-season.

Although the Cardinals trail the series two games to one, it’s hard to argue that they haven’t been playing a more professional brand of baseball than the Phillies, even if they have been extremely BABIP-lucky (.403) throughout the series.