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June 21, 2023

Phillies among best in baseball at wasting opportunities

The Phillies have the third most total bases with the table empty. They can set it. But they can't score runs with the pressure on.

A simple look at the stat sheet from the Phillies' 4-2 loss to the Braves Tuesday confirms it. Philadelphia just can't bring runners home.

With 11 hits in the game, the Phils mustered two runs, stranded eight runners and went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position. That's bad. That's not going to get the job done.

They were able to keep Spencer Strider on his heels but they couldn't get over the hump, continuing a trend that must be bucked for the Phillies to make a second straight postseason run.

"Anytime you can put pressure on a guy, especially somebody that's had our number a little bit, I thought we had some opportunities to get runs in there and it just didn't happen for us," Bryce Harper said (via NBCSP).

This season, the Phillies have hit a measly .240 with runners in scoring position — a number that is 24th of 30 MLB teams. Their slugging percentage is even worse at just .349 (28th). This number should be much higher in theory, with power up and down the lineup and games in hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park. The squad has just 10 home runs with RISP. Only the Royals have less.

"Just being over-aggressive, trying to do too much," Phillies manager Rob Thomson added Tuesday.

Their conservative small-ball game also leaves something to be desired. The Phillies are the only team in the majors without a sacrifice bunt with a runner in scoring position this year. They also have just 20 sac flies. 

The entire thing is a bit odd. Philadelphia has the fifth-best batting average in the majors with the bases empty. They have hit 11 triples with no one on (the second most) and 50 solo homers. They have the third most total bases with the table empty. They can set it. But they can't score runs with the pressure on.

It has to be dumb luck right? So much of baseball is. Their batting average on balls in play is .325 with the bases clear and .299 with runners in scoring position. But they also have 30 percent fewer homers in the final three innings of games than the first three and have a lower batting average as the game goes on.

They have been surprisingly good at holding on to leads this season, with a 16-7 record in one-run decisions, but just five of their 38 wins have been of the comeback variety — and two were back-to-back walk-off wins during their last homestand. 

For whatever reason, the numbers say the clutch is nowhere to be found for the 2023 Phillies. This might not keep them from getting into the postseason, but for anyone who watched their miracle run through the Cardinals, Braves and Padres last fall, it was clutch at-bats that fueled their success.

If they continue to play the way they are, but get it together in high-pressure spots again, watch out.

"I don't think we've reached our stride yet with our offense," Thomson said. "There's still more in there."

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