The Decline of the Phillies’ Running Game
At the pinnacle of their success in the 2007-11 era, the Phillies were one of the most formidable base-stealing teams around. With a fearsome foursome of Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, and Jayson Werth, the Phillies not only stole with frequency, but with efficiency as well. Much of that can be traced to former coach Davey Lopes, one of baseball’s foremost base-stealing threats in his playing years, and a base-stealing guru as a coach.
Per Baseball Prospectus, the Phillies led all of baseball in SBR (Stolen Base Runs) in 2007 (8.56) and 2008 (7.66), ranked third in 2009 (2.52), ninth in 2010 (1.00), eighth in 2011 (1.89), and ninth last year (2.47).
This year, however, is a completely different story. They have the second-worst SBR in baseball, behind only the Angels (-2.82 to -1.71). That is a catastrophic collapse in what has, for a long time, been the Phillies’ most recognizable asset. This season, the Phillies have stolen 24 bases, which is the ninth-highest total of 15 National League teams. They have been caught 12 times, the third-highest total in the NL, for a stolen base success rate of only 67 percent.
Ben Revere has been the team’s biggest base running threat having stolen eight bases in 11 attempts (73%), but his .290 on-base percentage has put him on the base paths too infrequently for his speed to be utilized to its fullest potential. After Revere, the sidelined Chase Utley has stolen five bases in seven attempts (71%), marking the first time since 2010 he has been caught two or more times in a season. After Utley, Jimmy Rollins has stolen four bases in seven attempts (57%), Domonic Brown two in two attempts, and John Mayberry two in four attempts. Then, Freddy Galvis, Laynce Nix, and Carlos Ruiz have each stolen a base in their only attempts.
When one looks at the roster, it is very difficult to identify even one legitimate base-stealing threat, let alone the four that the Phillies had in the past. It is both related to the Phillies’ overall inability to get on base (.301 on-base percentage ranks 11th of 15 NL teams) and a problem in and of itself, based on the personnel the Phillies have tasked with the job of creating offense. When you depend on old, injury-prone, one-dimensional players, your offense will be predicated on stringing together hits or multi-run home runs (which, by the way, the Phillies really don’t do).