The Phillies Offense: A New Hope
Well, we all knew the offense was not going to be good this year, and that is currently the case. The Phillies have been a little lucky with their 6-9 record as their Pythagorean W-L record is 4-11. Not that the advanced stat predictions are always right, as Jayson Stark noted recently, but still I think we can all agree that their record could be worse. It’s mostly been due to their lack of offense, and it is pretty darn bad. They have yet to get more than 9 hits in a game after 15 games. The last team to achieve that ignominy was the 1978 Mets. Not surprisingly they are last in the NL in runs, third from the bottom in hits, they may be 9th in home runs, but they are second to last in slugging percentage, a better indicator of power, last in on-base percentage and second to last in OPS (on-base plus slugging). They are also not hitting the ball very hard, as they are third from last in hard-hit balls. They are towards the top of the league in line drives, if that matters. Their offense was really bad last year, especially early one. It never really caught fire, but it did improve. Through the first few weeks they were on pace to score the second fewest runs in team history. As it turns out, it only became the 47th worst in team history. Right now, they are basically on the same pace they were last April and if things stay exactly the same they will finish with 399 runs scored. The 1942 Phillies scored 394, but it fewer games, of course.
This post is not to tell you what you already know (although their lowly pace might be news). It’s to maybe offer you some hope. One thing I can mention is that their BAbip (batting average on balls in play) is significantly lower than the league average, .263 to .297 which suggests they’ve been a little unlucky when hitting the ball; hitting at guys instead of in the holes. Ryan Howard is actually one of the lowest on the team at .179. That will only take you so far though, and their biggest problem is power and getting on base. If it seems like it’s been like that for several years now, it has. In 2015 they were second to last in the NL in OPS. In 2014 they were tied for 12th in the league. The year before that, they were also 12th. You have to go all the way back to 2012 before they make it to the middle of the pack in OPS. And we can’t blame Dom Brown anymore. So what can we look forward to? I think you will see Maikel Franco hit a little better, and that’s about it for the major league squad. Herrera is having a very nice year, even with the low batting average because he is getting on base. I think we will see a little more power from him as well. Ruf will provide a little more, too. After that, there’s really no offensive improvement available.
So wasn’t this supposed to be about hope? Yes, and that is in the minor leagues. You will see some of the guys in AAA up before the year is out, and probably before that, too. The Phillies don’t have any big-time hitting prospects, but there are some intriguing candidates. I don’t think you will see anyone from AA like JP Crawford, and I am okay with that because he is quite young still. Cam Perkins, LF, is a guy who had taken a step back last year after a good year in AA, but is on fire right now. He will almost certainly be called up for a tryout. Andrew Knapp has continued his torrid hitting. Now, he’s a catcher, and I don’t know if I see Rupp getting displaced for a younger guy this year (I could be wrong), but Knapp has played first base before. Of course, Ryan Howard is still there, still blocking younger players. Hopefully he can hit well enough to be traded to another team. Until that time, Knapp probably will stay where he is. Tommy Joseph (who for some reason looks about 40 in his team picture) is an intriguing name because of his history as a prospect turned often-injured catcher, turned surprising resurgence story. However, he also plays first base and I don’t know if I see the Phillies calling him up until September. If Nick Williams starts to hit, he will be another guy to keep an eye one. Hopefully he can start doing that as the weather turns warmer.
So, in the end, it will be another long season, which is no shock. But the pitching staff is generally better, and we may have some young hitter to watch soon.