What We Know: 20 Games In

The Phillies are 9-11, five games back of first place in the NL East. Slow April starts are nothing new, but the past few years have featured more talent (on paper) than this year’s squad, leading to more confidence on a deeper level. The light at the end of the tunnel is the hope that two offensive pillars in Ryan Howard and Chase Utley will be returning in a month or so, but treading water until then will prove a dicey proposition, if it’s even enough to stay competitive with a hot Nationals squad (albeit one with a cupcake schedule to date).

Games 11-20 Recap

  • Record: 4-6
  • RS: 31; RA: 38
  • Notes: Cliff Lee hit the 15-day DL on April 21; Mike Stutes was also placed on the 15-day DL on April 24
  • Through 20 games, Cole Hamels has more hits and extra-base hits in eight fewer PA than Jim Thome
The surprise dynamic duo
There’s an unexpected but of offensive contribution coming for the new acquisition tandem of Ty Wigginton and Laynce Nix. In 81 combined PA (the majority of those being Wigginton’s), they’ve contributed a .329/.383/.548 line with three of the club’s 13 home runs. That’s certainly more than was expected of them entering the year, as Wigginton began his Phillies tenure with a .768 career OPS, and Nix with a .718 career OPS.
That said, it’s wet blanket time, but you could probably see this one coming: it’s not going to last. Wigginton fashions a .368 BABIP, .076 points above his career average and .053 points above his best single-season total. Nix, in a smaller sample, has a .467 BABIP, good for 4th-highest in the National League among those with at least 25 plate appearances. At this point, the Phillies are thankful for their good fortune in receiving this production, and the fact that both players have line drive rates at 20 percent (beyond that, the same 40/40 percent split in GB/FB, too) lends credence to their starts being comparable parts luck and skill. That said, it’s basically certain neither rate is sustainable, given the years of prior Major League info we have on both players. When they begin to fall back, the more talented core will have to step up; that includes Jimmy Rollins (.496 OPS), Placido Polanco (.595 OPS) and Shane Victorino (.699 OPS).
Pitching depths
Losing Cliff Lee to the DL puts a three-start onus on Kyle Kendrick to perform, and hopefully that’s as long a leash as he’ll get. Kendrick, who signed a two-year, $7.5 million deal this offseason (in case you forgot), had an abysmal start in Arizona April 23. His Bill James Game Score was 9.
In 4.2 IP before that start, he’d managed a sub-2.00 ERA despite walking on more hitter than he’d struck out, but now faces the harsh reality of a 9.39 ERA to go with three Ks and four BBs in 7.2 total innings in five appearances. In fact, since 2008 (485 total innings), Kendrick has a 4.62 ERA with a 4.2 K/9. It might not surprise you to learn that, since that 2008 season and among all pitchers with 400+ IP since that time, Kendrick’s K/9 is the lowest in baseball.
The Phillies will need some 2007 luck out of KK if they’re to manage in Lee’s absence.
Freddy Gloves
Freddy Galvis has quickly made a name for himself with great fielding at second base in Chase Utley’s absence. Utley was an impeccable fielder at his best, too, but with knee troubles lingering, it seems fair to wonder just how big the time split will be at second between Galvis and Utley when he returns.
According to BIS data, Galvis has made 14 GFPs (Good Fielding Plays, which contribute to stats like +/-) against just one DM (Defensive Misplay) in 20 games. His +4 is currently fourth in the league at second base, behind Kelly Johnson (+8), Alexi Casilla (+6) and Robinson Cano (+5), and his Runs Saved (4) are third, trailing only Johnson and Cano. The .560 OPS at the plate has been expected, but the play in the field has passed both the eye test and the stat test so far.

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14 comments

  1. Richard

    April 28, 2012 03:59 PM

    Actually, what the Phillies could use from Kendrick is more of his performance from the second half of last season, when he suddenly started striking dudes out.

    Also, I’m surprised you cited only the +/- for Galvis. UZR has him rated the second-best defender in the game (in the ridiculously small-sized early going, that is).

  2. Josh G

    April 28, 2012 04:26 PM

    Should we expect any more from Jim Thome? After 20 games he has 19 PA. I thought we would get more.

  3. Brian

    April 28, 2012 04:30 PM

    do you honestly WANT to see more of thome?

  4. Phillie697

    April 28, 2012 04:31 PM

    Are you seriously going to judge Thome on 19 PA?

  5. Josh G

    April 28, 2012 04:37 PM

    It’s impossible to judge him on 19 PA. 42.3% line drive rate looks sexy, though.

  6. Paul Boye

    April 29, 2012 12:44 PM

    Richard: I don’t pay much attention to UZR as a rule, but you said yourself another reason why I didn’t include it here. The sample for a rate stat like that is still too low to be stable. +/- isn’t much better sample-wise, but at least it’s a counting stat and seems to be a more comfortable fit here.

    As for Thome…well, it’s still early.

  7. LTG

    April 29, 2012 02:11 PM

    To pile on to Paul’s point about UZR: that stat in particular takes a very long time to stabilize. 3 years, I think. It is only useful for players who have been around a while and are not in steep decline.

  8. Scott Krier

    April 30, 2012 02:59 PM

    Yes, I feel capable of judging Thome on 19 plate appearances. At one point, his strike-out percentage was .600. That’s woeful. He is so so in the field and he’s taking up a spot that could be given to Podesnik or Brown. Cut him now. It’s an embarrassment to see him in the lineup. It’s an embarrassment to see him pinch hit. This is one experiment that ain’t working!

  9. Paul Boye

    April 30, 2012 03:45 PM

    I don’t believe Thome will be going anywhere until – at the very earliest – Howard is back. If even then.

  10. Ben

    April 30, 2012 05:16 PM

    @Paul UZR is a counting stat…UZR/150 is not. At any rate it is more descriptive than predictive. But better for Galvis to be scored well by it than the other way around.

  11. Alan Large

    April 30, 2012 09:15 PM

    I admire Jim Thome a hell of a lot. With that said, I do believe that it might be time for Jim to retire. Personally I believe that Jim would make a great scout of college teams. He has a great personality that goes along with his baseball knowledge.

  12. Brian

    April 30, 2012 11:11 PM

    thank you

  13. Bob DC

    April 30, 2012 11:51 PM

    I didn’t think Thome was that good when he was in Philly before. The turning point wasn’t when they acquired him but when they got rid of him to make room for Howard. Now Howard himself is at a crossroads.

    I picked the Phils fourth before the season started, and if they’re going to do better than that, they can’t afford any passengers.

    Thome has a great personality. Maybe, but there’s a steroids issue lurking in the background. Washington and Atlanta have players with good personalities who are playing winning baseball.

  14. UBIK

    May 01, 2012 12:24 AM

    To counter those 3 BAPIPs you mentioned, Thome, Victorino, and Galvis are looking at BAPIPs of .250, .222, and .222 respectively. The Phillies as a team are at .288 overall.
    I’m not actually sure if that is good or bad, recent offensive trends and line driver %s being what they are.
    Cole Hamels leading the team in BAPIP makes sense to me, in some inexplicable way.

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