Is 2016 Offense Worst in Phillies History?
In a season once illuminated by a delightful yet fleeting month-and-a-half of overachievement, the Phillies uninspiring offensive attack has once again grabbed the headlines as they enter the meat of their summer schedule. Manager and resident mad scientist Pete Mackanin has done everything in his power to concoct a productive lineup, testing 68 different batting orders through the first 77 games. Who can blame him?
The team’s recent streak of hot hitting hasn’t significantly boosted the their overall numbers, or even put more tallies in the win column for that matter. Led by none other than offensive tour de force Peter Bourjos, the Phils have nearly doubled their run production in their last six games, posting six runs per contest, but have generated just a 2-4 record to show for it. In their first 71 games on the year, they scored all of 3.11 runs per game. While this offensive hot hand is surely just a blip on the radar, a faint mirage in the early summer heat, it got me thinking: just how bad is this offense really?
Well, buckle up.
Entering this week, the Phillies had the worst team batting average (.232), worst on-base percentage (.286), second-worst slugging percentage (.375) and second-worst OPS (.661) in the majors.
They had scored the second fewest runs (257) and recorded the second fewest hits (582), doubles (107) and RBIs (243). Only two teams have walked fewer times than the Phillies, and just four have hit fewer homers. Without the woeful Atlanta Braves licking their wounds in the National League East cellar, Philadelphia would rank last in runs, RBIs, slugging and OPS.
You and I know the Phillies offense doesn’t stack up against today’s competition. We know they can’t hang against the premier rotations in the league, or even the mediocre ones. Even when not facing Jake Arrieta in a three-game set, they get overmatched by Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey. Archie Bradley and his 5+ career ERA casually strutted into Citizens Bank Park just over a week ago and shut down the Phils in game three of a four-game sweep in which the Phillies managed to plate only five measly runs.
For a rebuilding club constructed with an emphasis on pitching and defense, some offensive dysfunction is to be expected, if not forgiven. But, however forgivable the concept of offensive inadequacy, it can’t be ignored. The team, as currently constituted can’t hit the ball. It’s simply that bad.
In the last 35 seasons, only three teams have posted a lower season-long batting average then the .232 mark the Phillies held entering this week. Thirteen have held a lower OPS and no team has had a lower OBP since the 1972 San Diego Padres.
But when viewed in the framework of the franchise’s lengthy lineage, the picture grows even gloomier. For context, franchise records below refer only to Philadelphia Phillies teams beginning in 1890, excluding the seven years between 1883-1889 when the franchise functioned as the Philadelphia Quakers.
In 2007, the Phillies became the first major professional sports team to suffer 10,000 losses. From 1918 to 1948, they finished better than fifth (out of eight) in the National League only once, averaging slightly worse than a seventh place finish. In 24 of those 31 seasons, they finished in seventh or eighth. They’ve finished with a winning percentage below .400 more than once every five seasons over their 127-year history. But while the Phillies faithful have experienced dark times before, offensively speaking, 2016 may be the nadir.
This season’s .232 team batting average is tied for the worst in franchise history with the 1942 Phillies. No team in Phillies history has ever had a lower OBP, and their current .661 OPS is the lowest of any Phillies squad since the Watergate scandal.
The Phillies 74 wRC+ is the majors’ 12th worst since 1950 and fourth-worst since 1970. It is the second-lowest in franchise history, just a hair better than the 73 wRC+ of the 50-win, 103-loss 1940 Phillies. Their .284 wOBA is worst in franchise history and one of the 30 worst ever compiled after the deadball era.
Their 21.9 K% is the highest in team history, and the 35th highest in major league history. Not helping things is their minuscule walk rate of 6.5%, just shy of last season’s franchise-worst 6.4%.
The Phils are currently on pace to post their sixth-fewest runs per game (3.34), fourth-fewest walks per game (2.34), third-most strikeouts per game (7.83) and second-fewest hits per game (7.55) in franchise history.
Such struggles have become the flavor of the day for Phillies fans, as has been the case for much of the team’s history. Numerically speaking, however, 2016 is on track to be the worst of them all.
(All stats took into account the Phillies’ first 77 games of 2016, prior to Monday night’s contest in Arizona.)