Graph of the Intermittent Time Period

If it seems like the Phillies’ starting pitching hasn’t been as good this year as it was last year, it’s because it hasn’t. The fearsome foursome of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt contributed to a league-best 2.86 ERA — nearly a half-run better than the next-best team, the San Francisco Giants. This year, that ERA rose to 3.81, only the sixth-best mark in the league. It’s been a rough year: Halladay had an injury problem, Lee has dealt with incredibly bad luck, and Vance Worley‘s season recently ended with elbow surgery. It hasn’t all been bad news, though, as Kyle Kendrick has had two incredibly good runs of pitching and Tyler Cloyd has looked mostly good since being called up recently.

It is generally difficult to compare something so broad as “starting pitching” from one year to the next, but we can get a rough idea using game score. While far from a perfect metric, it does give us an idea as to how the pitching has changed between 2011 and ’12. The following chart shows the frequency of Phillies starters’ game scores by buckets, with 50 being the average.

Percentage-wise, the 2012 Phillies had more “elite” pitching performances, game scores of 71 or higher. Meanwhile, the 2011 Phillies had more “slightly above average” performances, game scores between 51 and 70. The latter matters more because they occur more often: 64 of 140 games fell between 51-70 this year, and 70 of 162 occurred last year. Meanwhile, only 23 games reached 71 or higher this year, and only 46 did last year.

In terms of individual performances, all four of Halladay, Lee, Hamels, and Worley saw their average game score decline. The now-departed Joe Blanton saw a modest increase, Kendrick stayed about the same, and Cloyd has been about as good as Oswalt was last year, though in 20 fewer starts.

2011:

2011 Average GS Starts St Dev
Cliff Lee 64.1 32 18.6
Cole Hamels 62.1 31 15.8
Joe Blanton 46.4 8 13.1
Kyle Kendrick 52.5 15 15.2
Roy Halladay 63.3 32 13.1
Roy Oswalt 51.4 23 15.0
Vance Worley 56.4 21 16.6
Total Average 58.8 162

2012:

2012 Average GS Starts St Dev
Cliff Lee 57.2 25 15.0
Cole Hamels 60.0 27 12.5
Joe Blanton 51.9 20 18.7
Kyle Kendrick 51.2 20 19.4
Roy Halladay 55.0 21 17.1
Tyler Cloyd 51.3 3 21.6
Vance Worley 48.6 23 14.1
Total Average 54.2 139

Another interesting item to look at is the standard deviation of each pitcher’s game score in both seasons. The standard deviation tells you the spread of data around the average — the larger the number, the more volatile the pitcher was overall. For instance, Halladay’s average game score in 2012 is 55 with a standard deviation of 17, so roughly 68% (why 68%?) of his starts fell between a game score of 38 and 72. Indeed, 21 of his 32 starts (66%) were between those two numbers.

From 2011 to ’12, Lee, Hamels, and Worley saw their standard deviation shrink along with their average game score, so not only were they worse on average, but their starts overall were more frequently mediocre, rather than sometimes elite. Put another way, Lee’s 2011 standard deviation of 19 is partially due to eight of his 32 starts producing a game score of 80 or better. This year, only one of his starts — a memorable one — was 80 or better.

I don’t mean to imply that more volatility in starters is always a good thing. Cy Young favorites in their respective leagues, R.A. Dickey has an average game score of 63 with a standard deviation of 19, while David Price has an average game score of 61 with a standard deviation of 16, for example. However, because runs cannot go below zero, it is more rewarding to post a game score 19 above your average rather than 19 below, since there’s almost no change in win expectancy if you allow five runs instead of six, as opposed to a huge swing in win expectancy if you allow one run rather than two.

The Phillies’ starting pitching problems have been rather easy to diagnose this year: age and injuries, mostly. But it’s also true that the staff as a whole declined and was, perhaps, too consistent.

Another Look at the Phillies’ Playoff Chances

With a sweep of both yesterday’s double-header and the series overall with the Colorado Rockies, the Phillies moved to within six games of the second Wild Card in the National League. The 81-60 Atlanta Braves appear to be the presumptive first Wild Card winner, 5.5 games ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals in second place. Behind the Cardinals are the Dodgers (1.5 games), Pirates (2.5), Brewers and Phillies (6.0), and Diamondbacks (6.5). In their last 10 games, the Phillies have gone 8-2 when they were previously considered dead in the water. Of the teams ahead of them, the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Pirates have losing records in the same span of time, creating some space for the Phillies to enter the mix.

Baseball Prospectus had the Phillies at 0.2 percent to make the playoffs before yesterday’s double-header (they haven’t yet updated), while Cool Standings puts them at 0.7 percent following the games. While 0.7 percent looks better than 0.0 percent, the difference is not that meaningful — the Phillies still have a long road ahead of them.

In prior looks at the playoff race here, we assumed that 89 wins would be the threshold for the second Wild Card, but as it stands currently, 87 wins would be enough. The Cardinals, currently in the lead, have a .536 winning percentage. In order for the Phillies to win the Wild Card at 87 games, no other team in the mix can win more than 86, obviously. So what is the minimum winning percentage for the Phillies, and what is the maximum winning percentage for the others?

The Phillies have to win at least 18 of their remaining 22 games, an .818 winning percentage. The Cardinals can play no better than .500 baseball at 11-11. The others can, at best, experience only moderate success.

Team W L Wpct
STL 11 11 .500
LAD 12 9 .571
PIT 14 9 .609
MIL 17 5 .773
ARI 17 4 .810
PHI* 18 4 .818

*Minimum winning percentage; others are maximum.

The Phillies’ remaining schedule is as follows:

  • Sept. 10-12 vs. Marlins (.447)
  • Sept. 13-16 @ Astros (.314)
  • Sept. 17-19 @ Mets (.464)
  • Sept. 21-23 vs. Braves (.574)
  • Sept. 25-27 vs. Nationals (.614)
  • Sept. 28-30 @ Marlins (.447)
  • Oct. 1-3 @ Nationals (.614)

Realistically, the Phillies would have to sweep the Marlins in both series, as well as the Astros and Mets, then win at least five of their nine remaining games with the Braves and Nationals. At any rate, finishing out the season at least 18-4 would bring them to 24-6 to close out the season, an .800 winning percentage. If the Phillies were to accomplish this feat, it would be more improbable and more impressive than each of their late-season runs to claim the NL East crown in 2007 and ’08. Even if it’s not likely, it is nice that the Phillies are still playing somewhat meaningful baseball in September after all of the adversity they went through in the previous five months.

Graph of the Intermittent Time Period

The graph above charts the number of pitches Roy Halladay has thrown at each velocity along the spectrum in which his cutter and sinker sit, from 2009-2011. On top of that, colored lines indicate his average velocity for the two pitches for the entirety of 2012 (yellow), his pre-DL stint (red), and his post-DL stint (blue).

This is another way of visualizing what we already know, but I thought it was worth looking at. While Halladay’s results have been undeniably better since his return (in particular, his strikeout to walk ratio has jumped back up to a Doc-ian 7.5), the underlying issue hasn’t necessarily been fixed. By itself, the fact that his velocity is lower after the DL stint shouldn’t be sounding any alarms. Splitting up the sample like this in the first place is nudging us toward Mike Fast no-no territory. More importantly, though, it’s only natural to expect flagging velocity when you drop a 6 week rehab period into the middle of a 35 year-old veteran starter’s season. Still, it would be comforting to the more worry-prone of us to see some immediate improvement, if only for the assurance that next season will be another 200 or so innings of the usual Doc.

There is also the possibility that the nagging lat injury is hampering Roy’s command. In comparison to previous seasons, Halladay has had problems getting his cutter down and in against left-handed batters, and his sinker down and in against right-handed batters (click for larger):

In the case of the cutter, lefties in 2012 are chasing less (21.1% in 2012 to 33.3% in 2011, putting it in play more (47.9% to 44.2%), and managing a .336 wOBA as compared to .209 in 2011. For the sinker, righties in 2012 are swinging more (49% to 43.1%), missing less (6.8% to 13.9%), and posting a .309 wOBA as compared to .219 in 2011. In all of these cases we’re talking about a sample of around 500 pitches, and we can’t say for sure that it’s linked to his back issues, but it’s not a comforting picture. Given where the Phillies are in the standings, having just decided against pushing Vance Worley any further, it’s still worth considering the merits of giving Halladay the extra rest, in the effort to dial his velocity back up to previous levels by opening day of 2013.

Graph of the Intermittent Time Period

It should come as no surprise that the Phillies are vastly ahead of every other team in baseball in offensive production from the catcher position. Before finding himself on the disabled list, Carlos Ruiz was posting MVP-caliber numbers, including a 154 OPS+. As soon as Ruiz went down, though, another incredibly productive catcher popped up for the Phillies in Erik Kratz, who has a 183 OPS+ in 26 games. 14 of his 19 hits have gone for extra bases. The lone wolf is Brian Schneider and his 76 OPS+.

Just how much production have the Phillies received from their catchers compared to the rest of Major League Baseball? Before we look at a pretty bar graph, let’s look at the ranks:

Rate Stats

  • Batting average: .311 (1st)
  • On-base percentage: .377 (1st)
  • Slugging percentage: .546 (1st)
  • On-base plus slugging (OPS): .924 (1st)
  • Weighted on-base average (wOBA): .391 (1st)

Counting Stats

  • Doubles: 40 (1st)
  • Home runs: 20 (7th; 3rd in NL)
  • Extra-base hits: 60 (1st)
  • Runs batted in: 75 (4th)
  • Strikeouts (fewest): 67 (4th)

This chart shows each team’s weighted runs above average (wRAA) from their catchers.

Team wRAA
PHI 32.0
SFG 25.5
MIL 22.0
STL 16.3
ARI 13.7
LAD 3.6
ATL 0.7
COL -3.4
PIT -6.7
CIN -7.0
HOU -8.7
WSN -17.4
MIA -19.6
CHC -20.1
NYM -22.5
SDP -23.4

The difference between the Phillies and Padres, just in terms of offensive production from their catchers, is about 55 runs, or roughly five and a half wins. Both Ruiz and Kratz’s seasons to date are total aberrations and we are very unlikely to ever see them approach this level of offense again, so it’s a good time to sit back and appreciate just how good they both have been in 2012.

Graph of the Intermittent Time Period

This was one of the more popular and most-heavily requested features last year. With the recent injury to Freddy Galvis, the latest of many, it’s time to break out the first injury chart of 2012.

Name DL Injury $/Game $ to Date Cost
Ryan Howard* 58 Ruptured L Achillies $123,457 $7,160,506 $7,160,506
Chase Utley* 58 L patellar chondromalacia $94,358 $5,472,764 $5,472,764
Cliff Lee 19 L oblique strain $132,716 $7,697,528 $2,521,604
Roy Halladay* 9 R latissimus dorsi $123,457 $7,160,506 $1,111,113
Jim Thome 36 Lower back strain $7,716 $447,528 $277,776
Laynce Nix* 26 Lower L calf strain $7,099 $411,742 $184,574
Michael Martinez* 58 R foot fourth metatarsal $3,003 $174,174 $174,174
Placido Polanco 4 L knee contusion
L ankle sprain
L finger laceration
$39,611 $2,297,438 $158,444
Michael Stutes* 42 R rotator cuff $2,994 $173,652 $125,748
David Herndon* 35 R elbow inflammation $3,056 $177,248 $106,960
Jose Contreras* 6 R flexor pronator $15,432 $895,056 $92,592
Carlos Ruiz 4 R thigh strain
L wrist sprain
$22,840 $1,324,720 $91,360
Hunter Pence 1 L shoulder contusion $64,198 $3,723,484 $64,198
Vance Worley 19 R elbow inflammation $3,056 $177,248 $58,064
Ty Wigginton 1 Shoulder soreness $24,691 $1,432,078 $24,691
Chad Qualls 2 R heel soreness $7,099 $411,742 $14,198
TOTAL 378 $674,783 $39,137,414 $17,638,766

* on disabled list

(click to enlarge)

As expected, Howard and Utley lead the way as they are two of the team’s more expensive players ($20 million and $15.3 million, respectively) and have yet to play a game in 2012. Lee and Halladay are the other two players who have cost the Phillies over $1 million through June 6. The data illustrates the risk of assigning large sums of money to aging, injury-prone players. GM Ruben Amaro’s gambling hasn’t paid off yet this season.

. . .

Unrelated, but I just want to thank you for continuing to tune in to the Crashburn Alley podcast, despite our erratic scheduling. If you have been enjoying the show, please rate it five stars and leave some feedback on our iTunes page. Make sure to click “View in iTunes” when you’re on that page.

Likewise, thanks to everyone who has purchased “100 Things Phillies Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die“. Due to contractual issues, a Kindle version of the book has been delayed but I have been told it should be available shortly. I will let you know exactly when it will go up on Twitter. In the meantime, don’t forget to get a gift for Father’s Day.

Graph of the Intermittent Time Period

The Phillies scored more late-inning runs tonight, scoring six runs in the ninth inning to cushion their lead in an eventual win against the New York Mets in the series finale. Their late run-scoring has become a trend as we move into June. It is an odd phenomenon, considering that the Phillies have one of the worst benches in the league (.611 OPS). Nevertheless, here is what their run-scoring distribution looks like:

The ninth-inning breakdown by player:

Name PA BA OBP SLG OPS
Shane Victorino 23 .227 .261 .591 .852
Freddy Galvis 23 .174 .174 .261 .435
Hunter Pence 19 .412 .474 .765 1.238
Carlos Ruiz 17 .400 .471 .667 1.137
Jimmy Rollins 17 .154 .353 .154 .507
John Mayberry 16 .133 .188 .133 .321
Placido Polanco 15 .357 .357 .500 .857
Ty Wigginton 14 .417 .429 .750 1.179
Juan Pierre 14 .538 .571 .538 1.110
Mike Fontenot 5 .667 .800 .667 1.467
Hector Luna 4 .333 .500 1.333 1.833
Laynce Nix 4 .250 .250 .500 .750
Brian Schneider 4 .250 .250 .250 .500
Pete Orr 4 .000 .250 .000 .250
Jim Thome 2 .000 .000 .000 .000
Cliff Lee 1 .000 .000 .000 .000
Cole Hamels 1 .000 .000 .000 .000

I tend to go with Occam’s Razor in explaining this — it’s merely coincidental. It will be interesting to see if this holds at the end of September, or if this has merely been a fluke.

Phillies Reliever Usage, Graphically

Much has been made about the sub-optimal usage of relievers by manager Charlie Manuel lately. The Phillies are 0-4 in extra-inning games and in each of those four games, their $50 million reliever Jonathan Papelbon was never used. The Phillies also lost in nine innings on April 8 in Pittsburgh when Papelbon could have — and some would argue should have — been used. How, exactly, have the relievers been applied, though?

I arranged each plate appearance for each Phillies reliever from the beginning of the season through last night and created bar graphs indicating the leverage index. (Last night’s data not included as this post was compiled prior to the game. Unfortunately.)

As you can see, Jonathan Papelbon has had yet to face a batter with a leverage index greater than 4.00. The only other relievers in that same group are Jose Contreras, Joe Savery, and Mike Stutes. In fact, Papelbon’s highest-leverage plate appearance (3.78 on April 12) is the 20th-highest among Phillies relievers. The 20 ahead of him have all come on the road, however, and due to Manuel’s insistence that closers cannot be used in tie games on the road, he has been left to rot in the bullpen while inferior relievers stood on the mound only for the Phillies to lose the game.

Pitcher Date Inning H/A bHWE aHWE bLI aLI
Sanches 5/2/2012 9 A 0.65 0.50 6.40 2.18
Schwimer 5/4/2012 11 A 0.65 1.00 6.38 0.00
Schwimer 5/2/2012 8 A 0.34 0.75 6.07 4.49
Qualls 5/4/2012 8 A 0.63 0.50 5.44 2.22
Qualls 5/4/2012 8 A 0.38 0.78 5.37 3.34
Bastardo 4/8/2012 8 A 0.38 0.27 5.34 4.75
Qualls 5/4/2012 8 A 0.77 0.63 4.95 5.44
Herndon 4/8/2012 9 A 0.82 0.62 4.90 4.56
Bastardo 4/8/2012 8 A 0.27 0.59 4.75 3.46
Herndon 4/8/2012 9 A 0.62 1.00 4.56 0.00
Schwimer 5/2/2012 8 A 0.75 0.87 4.49 0.42
Bastardo 4/18/2012 11 A 0.68 1.00 4.42 0.00
Sanches 5/2/2012 9 A 0.69 0.60 4.36 4.21
Schwimer 5/2/2012 8 A 0.21 0.34 4.32 6.07
Bastardo 4/7/2012 9 A 0.61 0.50 4.28 2.24
Schwimer 5/4/2012 11 A 0.60 0.65 4.26 6.38
Sanches 5/2/2012 9 A 0.60 0.65 4.21 6.40
Qualls 5/4/2012 8 A 0.38 0.34 4.08 3.58
Kendrick 4/8/2012 8 A 0.38 0.29 4.04 3.32
Papelbon 4/12/2012 9 H 0.85 1.00 3.78 0.00

Note: A lower-case b indicates the stat before the PA was started and a lower-case a indicates the stat after the PA was completed. LI stands for Leverage Index and HWE stands for the home team’s Win Expectancy.

The following chart shows the percentage of a reliever’s own total PA have come in each leverage bucket. Two out of every three (66%) of Jonathan Papelbon’s PA have come with the leverage index under 1.00. As the leverage goes up, Papelbon’s appearance percentage goes from 66% to 20% to 7% to 7%.

This chart shows each reliever’s share within each leverage bucket. Jonathan Papelbon has had 30% of the Phillies’ bullpen’s PA in the 0-0.99 and 1-1.99 buckets.

Papelbon has shown to be the Phillies’ best reliever so far, averaging more than a strikeout per inning and more than three strikeouts for every walk. Why one wouldn’t consistently use him in the most important of situations is mind-boggling.

Special thanks to David Appelman of FanGraphs for providing me the data to play with, and to Matt (@Slap_Bet) for Excel help.

Regarding last night’s debacle involving Papelbon, my only comment is a link to this Wikipedia entry.

The Phillies Offense, Visually

By now, everyone is firmly aware that the Phillies haven’t been hitting. They’ve managed two or fewer runs in five of their last six games and, looking at the personnel, it doesn’t portend to get significantly better until Chase Utley and Ryan Howard return from the disabled list, which may not come for another two or three months.

Just how bad has the offense been? I compared the Phillies’ wOBA by position to the National League average, then converted the difference into runs.

Pos PHI wOBA NL wOBA RAA
C .277 .320 -2.1
1B .335 .331 0.2
2B .251 .316 -3.1
3B .219 .308 -4.9
SS .272 .310 -2.1
LF .304 .298 0.3
CF .342 .355 -0.7
RF .305 .332 -1.5

It ain’t pretty. Note that the run values are through roughly 70 plate appearances, so for a fun mental exercise, you can multiply by 10 for a full season’s performance.

If the offense continues to flounder — and we have good reason to expect it should improve slightly, at least — then the Phillies will have a tough remaining five months of the regular season, and they will have to rely even more on their starting rotation.

The positions that stick out are second base and third base. Freddy Galvis, known for his glove and not his bat, has been filling in at second for Chase Utley, someone who twice posted a wOBA north of .400 (2007 and ’09). By comparison, the .250 wOBA of Galvis looks like a steep fall — and it is. Third baseman Placido Polanco has had a terrible start to what may be the end of his career. Now 36 years old, Polanco has had difficulty with just about everything opposing pitchers have thrown at him, and while he has never been known for his plate discipline, he has only drawn one walk in 54 plate appearances.

With the aging roster and the potential escape of soon-to-be free agents Cole Hamels and Shane Victorino, 2012 may be the Phillies’ best shot to win another championship. If it’s going to happen, they will need the offense to pick itself up by the bootstraps and score some more runs.

Phillies Opening Day Trivia

In today’s Opening Day start against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Roy Halladay allowed a paltry four base runners in eight innings of work. He served singles to the first two hitters he faced in the first inning, then held the Pirates hitless the rest of the afternoon. The only two times the Pirates reached base after that was when Halladay hit Andrew McCutchen with a pitch in the fourth inning and Clint Barmes in the eighth.

What does that look like in graph form? The following graph shows how many base runners were on at the time of each at-bat. There’s not a lot to show.

Halladay used his curve 22 times out of his 92 total pitches (24 percent). One of them was this beauty:

Halladay’s game score of 83 is his best Opening Day start of his career, in which he has made ten. The nine prior to today:

Date Tm Opp Rslt App,Dec IP H ER BB SO HR Pit GSc BF
2010-04-05 PHI WSN W 11-1 GS-7 ,W 7.0 6 1 2 9 0 88 68 27
2011-04-01 PHI HOU W 5-4 GS-6 6.0 5 1 0 6 0 101 64 24
2006-04-04 TOR MIN W 6-3 GS-8 ,W 7.2 5 2 0 4 2 88 63 29
2005-04-04 TOR TBD W 5-2 GS-8 ,W 7.0 9 2 0 7 0 91 58 29
2007-04-02 TOR DET W 5-3 GS-6 6.0 6 2 1 4 0 104 53 26
2008-04-01 TOR NYY L 2-3 GS-7 ,L 7.0 7 3 2 3 1 95 52 27
2009-04-06 TOR DET W 12-5 GS-7 ,W 7.0 6 5 1 2 2 99 46 27
2004-04-05 TOR DET L 0-7 GS-7 ,L 6.2 10 6 2 9 3 111 35 32
2003-03-31 TOR NYY L 4-8 GS-6 ,L 5.2 7 3 4 2 2 103 31 28
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/5/2012.

Additionally, today’s 1-0 win marked the 22nd time the Phillies were held scoreless or to just one run on Opening Day, but just the third time they emerged victorious.

Date W / L RS RA Season Postseason
April 9, 1913 W 1 0 88-63
April 15, 1930 W 1 0 52-102
April 5, 2012 W 1 0 N/A
April 17, 1902 L 0 7 56-81
April 14, 1908 L 1 3 83-71
April 14, 1910 L 0 2 78-75
April 14, 1925 L 1 3 68-85
April 17, 1934 L 1 6 56-93
April 14, 1942 L 1 2 42-109
April 14, 1953 L 1 4 83-71
April 6, 1973 L 0 3 71-91
April 8, 1975 L 1 2 86-76
April 7, 1978 L 1 5 90-72 Division Champ
April 6, 1979 L 1 8 84-78
April 5, 1983 L 0 2 90-72 NL Pennant
April 9, 1985 L 0 6 75-87
April 7, 1987 L 0 6 80-82
April 10, 1990 L 1 2 77-85
April 8, 1991 L 1 2 78-84
March 31, 1998 L 0 1 75-87
April 5, 2004 L 1 2 86-76
April 5, 2009 L 1 4 93-69 NL Pennant

Finally, Freddy Galvis became the 41st player to ground into at least two double plays on Opening Day. With two in his first two at-bats, he had the opportunity to join Albert Pujols as the only players to hit into three, but Galvis was able to avoid joining that infamous club. Pujols accomplished his feat last year on March 31 against the San Diego Padres.

A bit of trivia from the Inquirer’s Matt Gelb:

twitter.com/magelb/status/188017186739191810

Terrifying Thought Experiment #1

Earlier today, Ryan Lawrence posted his best guess at the Phillies’ opening day roster. Everything about the offense, including the starting lineup, looks pretty grim:

C Carlos Ruiz
1B Ty Wigginton
2B Freddy Galvis
SS Jimmy Rollins
3B Placido Polanco
LF John Mayberry, Jr.
CF Shane Victorino
RF Hunter Pence

BN Jim Thome
BN Laynce Nix
BN Brian Schneider
BN Pete Orr
BN Juan Pierre

SP Roy Halladay
SP Cliff Lee
SP Cole Hamels
SP Vance Worley
SP Joe Blanton

RP Jonathan Papelbon
RP Chad Qualls
RP Antonio Bastardo
RP Mike Stutes
RP Kyle Kendrick
RP Jose Contreras
RP David Herndon

(I took out Lou Montanez and subbed in David Herndon, as Lawrence was planning for 6 relievers instead of 7 only because a fifth starter won’t be needed until April.)

Last season, the pitching staff allowed 529 runs, which is very good. Historically good, in fact. If you put every team since 1947 in the same 4.5 runs per game environment, the 2011 Phillies staff ranks 18th out of 1550 post-integration pitching staffs in runs allowed. And that’s without a park adjustment; 14 of the teams ahead of the Phillies had pitcher-friendly park factors on their side. The brightest beacon of hope for 2012 is that the pitching staff will still be extremely good, but it probably won’t be as good as it was last season. The simplest reason is that it is very difficult, even in the more pitcher-friendly environment of late, to allow as few as 529 runs. Beyond that, there are a few candidates for regression, like Cole Hamels and Vance Worley.

If you take the ZiPS projections for the pitching staff that Lawrence came up with and adjust it to fill, say, 1450 innings (this is about what most teams needed last year), you get a runs allowed total of 606. On the one hand, ZiPS is probably a bit bearish with regards to some of the best pitchers on the staff, but, on the other, we’re assuming no injuries or bad fortune will take their toll. So 606 is a reasonable enough estimate. Assume, furthermore, that the National League run environment will be the same as it was last year: 4.13 runs per game. With these two numbers, we can use the Pythagenpat formula to get a picture of what is needed from the Phillies offense in 2012 (click for large):

The upshot is, in a tougher NL East, the Phillies need to score around 730 runs to be in the 95 win ballpark and be reasonably certain of winning the division. Keep in mind: last season they scored 713 runs, and, thanks to an inordinate amount of success with runners in scoring position, that total was probably higher than their team OPS of .717 portended. Without delving deeply into hitter projections, the opening day offense predicted by Ryan Lawrence above is not nearly as good as the sum contributions that the Phillies got last season. Per Fangraphs, Ryan Howard produced 92 weighted runs created last season, and has not yet even resumed baseball activities since the setback with his surgery wound; his ETA right now is indeterminate, as is his 2012 effectiveness. Chase Utley, missing to begin 2011, produced 61 weighted runs created. He returned on May 23rd last season, and I think most people would count that as an optimistic projection for 2012 given the tone of the updates we’re being given on him.

This is to say nothing of the potential for regression facing John Mayberry, Jr., the likely ineffectiveness of Ty Wigginton, and the fact that Juan Pierre, who by wRC+ was the 10th worst qualified hitter in baseball last season, is penciled in as a bench contributor. The offense above is likely to score significantly less runs than in 2011, which could put the Phillies in the 92 win range or worse. Particularly now that two wildcard spots are available, this will probably still be enough to make the playoffs. But with the substantial improvements made by the Marlins and the Nationals, and with the Braves still being a contender, the division is by no means the guarantee that it was in the last two seasons. The Phillies, who know the sting of a short series so very well, may be facing a single game win-or-go-home proposition if they don’t look outside the organization for reinforcement.