October 02, 2019
The Phillies were an immensely complicated team in 2019. Expected to at least finish with a winning record — if not contend for a playoff spot and NL East title — the team struggled to stay afloat and ultimately became the eighth straight Phils team to miss October baseball.
The front office spent over half a billion dollars this offseason and improved by a single win over the 2018 club. There are dozens of explanations for the Phils' failure to meet expectations, from the manager to injury woes to a frail pitching staff. But the only number that matters at the end of the day is the number of wins — and Philly finished at exactly .500 after all the hype and anticipation of last winter's never-ending offseason.
In an attempt to do a postmortem on the ugliness we had to sit through during our summer, here's a look at 10 interesting numbers that help to explain the season that was:
After Andrew McCutchen went down, the Phillies spiraled at the leadoff spot, with Kapler trotting out everyone from Bryce Harper to Rhys Hoskins to Roman Quinn. The team hit .237 from that spot, which is the third worst in baseball — well below the MLB average of .265. Here's a look at the ugliness:
Wondering why Kapler didn't simply stick with Hernandez, who led off just 37 times in the 103 games without McCutchen? We are too. Kapler's tinkering may have cost the Phillies a solid batting order this season and may cost him his job.
The Phillies paid $44.5 million to injured players in 2019 according to Spotrac.com. The 22 different players on the injured list combined to spend a total of 1,616 days unable to suit up, if you include spring training. Of those 22 players, 13 were pitchers — including 10 relievers (and six of their best preseason bullpen arms).
|Days on IL*
*Including spring training
[NOTE: While the chart above says Herrera only missed 16 days, that doesn't include the four months he missed while suspended after he was arrested for domestic violence in late May. In other words, you can basically add another 120-plus days to the number missed by Phillies players this season.]
Oof. While there is really no excuse for a talented team playing much worse than expected, the Phillies were hard pressed to succeed on the mound with so many players shuffling in and out all season long.
We broke it down when we looked into which Phillies players should stay and go for 2020, but the Phillies had 11 pitchers start a game in 2019 and just one — Aaron Nola — had better than the MLB average in ERA and WHIP.
Philly was stuck with mundane arms like Nick Pivetta, Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez and their failure to develop quality starting pitching cost them dearly in 2019. Here's a look at the damage done by the starters this year:
|Aaron Nola (34)
|Zach Eflin (28)
|Jake Arrieta (24)
|Vince Velasquez (23)
|Nick Pivetta (13)
|Drew Smyly (12)
|Jerad Eickhoff (10)
|Jason Vargas (11)
|Cole Irvin (3)
|Enyel De Los Santos
Nola was the Phillies' best pitcher this year to be sure, but he wasn't reliable when the team needed him the most. With just over a month to go in the regular season at the end of August, the Phillies still had playoff hopes and looked to Nola to stop the bleeding when things looked like they might spiral out of control. Instead of being a slump buster, Nola went 0-3 with a 6.51 ERA over his last five starts.
Rhys Hoskins played at an All-Star level for the first three months of the season, hitting .263 with 20 homers and an impressive on base percentage of .401. For whatever reason, he decided to free-fall in the second half of the season. The big first baseman hit just .180 with nine homers after the All-Star break. His play was so dreadful, the once future of the franchise is now the subject of trade rumors (still at just 26 years old).
The Phillies pitching staff allowed the fifth highest total of homers of any team in baseball. In contrast, the offense hit just 215, creating a glaring advantage for visiting teams at the hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park. Phillies pitchers also had one of the worst home run rates in baseball.
The Phillies had a black hole at third base. The WAR the team generated at that position was the fourth worst of all MLB teams in 2019. You can mostly blame Maikel Franco for that, though Scott Kingery, Sean Rodriguez, Brad Miller and a few others did start there.
Just two positions on the team overall, right field and catcher, were above 0 (or, above a replacement level player) in positional WAR. Not surprisingly, those were the spots manned by J.T. Realmuto and Bryce Harper.
It wasn't ALL bad. Believe it or not, the Phillies were one of the best baserunning teams in baseball, accounting for 10 runs more than the average team due to their decisions on the base paths (which is what Rbaser measures). They also stole bases efficiently, picking their spots and converting 78 of 96 opportunities, one of the best ratios in baseball.
Another really impressive stat was from the arm of Harper, who gunned down a career high-tying 13 base runners from right field. In all, the Phillies played very solid defense in 2019 and Harper almost quietly had one of his best career years.
J.T. Realmuto had a lot of stats we could include on this list, but his 43 runners caught stealing has to be the headliner. He gunned down 47 percent of would-be base stealers, well more than the league average.
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