Phillies Stat Notes: Taking the NL’s second best record to St. Louis

The Phillies head to the home of “baseball’s best fans” lol

Seven weeks into the 2018 season the Phillies have the 2nd best record in the National League, one game behind the Braves for both best record and the NL East division lead.

They’ve been the 4th best hitting team in the league so far by wRC+ (and the 4th highest in scoring), but even so the pitching has been even better, allowing the second fewest runs in the NL.


Standings

St. Louis comes into play in a tie for 3rd place with the Cubs in the NL Central, behind the Pirates and Brewers:


The NL West has been lagging behind the other two divisions so far, with the East posting the best record (an 87-win pace per 162 games), while the Central generating the better run differential and Pythagorean projection (also an 87-win pace).

Note the Dodgers in particular in the West, who, despite their substantial injury issues, have managed to score almost as many runs as they’ve allowed. However thanks in part to a rough start by their bullpen (10 blown saves), they’ve won five fewer games than their run differential would predict.

Batting

The Phillies are 4th in the NL in scoring (4.70 runs per game), and also 4th in overall hitting (wRC+ of 100). Despite their 20-run game, and two recent 11-run outbursts, they’ve more consistent than most teams, and they are 2nd in the NL in how often they score 3+ runs in a game, and scoring 4+.

With the 6th best batting average (.242), and a walk rate that’s again the highest in the NL (11.1%), they have the 4th best On Base Percentage.

Their power numbers have recently been catching up to their on-base skills, with Isolated Power now up to 6th in the league (even though HRs specifically are only 8th).

Baserunning: BB-Ref tracks a few related stats on effective baserunning:

  • Extra Bases Taken Percentage (XBT%) is the % of the time runners go more than station to station (i.e. go 1st to 3rd on a single, score from 1st on a double, etc.) — the Phillies are 9th in the NL in this category, or about average, at 44%.
  • Bases Taken (BT) are any bases advanced on fly balls, passed balls, wild pitches, etc. — the Phils lead the NL in this category, with 50 bases taken.
  • Outs on Bases (OOB) are outs made when runners try to advance, and do not include pickoffs or caught stealing. The Phillies also lead in this category, having made the fewest outs on the bases while trying to take a base, with only three.

However their base stealing has been only average, ranking 7th in steals and 10th in success rate, and so overall their baserunning is only about average, 7th in the NL in fangraphs’ Baserunning Runs.

I mentioned this a while ago, and it’s still true: there have only been two steals of home in the NL, one by the Phillies and one by the Braves. There have also only been two caught stealing at home in the NL — one by the Phillies and one by the Braves.


Below is the team’s progress on various key metrics, with a dotted line for each showing the NL average.

Batting average has been rising, and at .242 is finally at the NL’s overall average.

ISOlated Power is back up over the average for the season to date, thanks mostly to the pounding the Phils gave the Giants.

The walk rate has dipped, but is still well above the NL average of 9.2%.


Batting — Individual

Below is how each Phillie hitter’s OPS has progressed over the last month. And because wOBA provides a more accurate view of hitting, that’s included as well. Note for example that while Franco is tied with Cesar in OPS, Cesar is still well ahead in wOBA.


The two colorful columns in the middle below compare each hitter to the average OPS at that position: first the average at the position for last year’s Phillies, and then for last year’s NL average at the position.

Franco for example is 19% above what the Phils got from all their third basemen last year, and 3% above last year’s league average OPS for a third baseman.


Odubel Herrera leads all MLB in batting average, at .357.

Overall, he’s been the 8th best hitter in MLB, with a wRC+ of 169, in a virtual tie with Freddie Freeman for 2nd best in the NL, behind only Kris Bryant (174).

The Streak

Herrera’s on-base streak is now at 42 games, the 5th longest in Phillies history:


Among all major leaguers, 42 games is the longest on-base streak since Werth and Freddie Freeman both had streaks of 46 games in 2016.

And for streaks at the start of a season, it’s the 2nd longest in the majors since 2010, behind only Matt Holliday’s 45-game streak at the start of 2015.

Hail Cesar

With a HR and a triple yesterday, Cesar Hernandez brought his OPS back over .800. It’s worth noting how good he has been for two full years now. Below are the leaders in WAR (fangraphs) at second base over the past two calendar years, so since May 17, 2016:


Yes, Daniel Murphy has been hurt this year, but no one in the NL has produced more value at 2B over these last two years than Cesar.

Stars of the Middle

Along these lines, below is a list of MLB’s leaders in WAR (fangraphs) over the past 365 days. This list is littered with the usual suspects: Judge, Altuve, Trout, Stanton, etc.

But two rising stars from the middle of the country jump out: Jose Ramirez leads all MLB in WAR over this past year, thanks to a .320 average, 62 doubles (!), and 36 home runs.

And #5 on the list is the new star of these Cardinals, center fielder Tommy Pham:


Pham is continuing his torrid pace this year. Below is the list of this year’s leaders in fWAR among center fielders, and it’s interesting to note how similar Pham’s and Odubel’s overall numbers are so far:


Pitching

Phils pitching is now 2nd in the NL in ERA and 2nd in FIP*.

The Cardinals’ starting pitching has been solid as usual, but their bullpen is lagging, especially in the ERA estimators FIP and xFIP:


*FIP (Fielding-independing pitching) is based only on the stats that are considered to be most controllable by pitchers: strikeouts, walks, and home runs. xFIP takes that one step further by also assuming that home runs are only controllable by a pitcher to the extent to which they allow fly balls to be hit, and adjusts their HRs to the league-average rate of HRs per Fly Balls.

NL vs. AL Hitting

Finally just a general note about the two leagues. The AL has had the better overall hitting every year since the DH was introduced in 1973. The last point at the right is the partial 2018 season:


And so many assume that the AL generally has better hitters. That’s generally true, but only because of replacing pitchers with DHs.

If we track everyone but the pitchers, the leagues are much more even. And in fact, non-pitchers in the NL have hit better than those in the AL (including DHs) in each of the past four years, and in 16 of the past 19:


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