September 04, 2020
The Phillies have won nine of their last 10 games and are firmly entrenched not only in a race for a playoff spot this season, but also for the NL East, as they more than held their own against the division leading Braves earlier this week.
But let's take it a step further. Are the Phillies more than just playoff contenders? Are they contender contenders?
We dug through the wealth of statistics at baseballreference.com, and the betting odds over at TheLines.com to find 10 numbers that suggest that, perhaps the Phillies are indeed a team to be reckoned with.
The Phillies score the third most runs per game in all of baseball. This is a pretty easy stat to kick things off with, and their penchant for scoring runs is certainly encouraging.
There are only two other MLB teams that get on base more than the Phillies do (the Mets and the Cardinals). Moving Rhys Hoskins into the No. 2 batting spot was a stroke of genius by manager Joe Girardi, as he's been able to maximize Hoskins' knack for walks. As a result, Hoskins is in the top 10 in runs scored. Bryce Harper leads all NL batters with 28 walks.
The Phillies have 251 strikeouts this season. What does that abstract number mean? Well, considering the first place Cubs have struck out 361 times (in just two more games played), this is a remarkable show of discipline for the Phillies, who are putting the ball in play and therefore giving themselves chances to score runs — which, as we documented, they are doing quite well. Advance metrics take this further, confirming that Phillies hitters make contact 75.8% of the time that they are at the plate, a top five number.
This is a complicated statistic that we are going to try and frame as a positive one. The Phillies have the third most runners stranded by a pitching staff in the league. That could be, and is, an alarming number when looked at in the context of giving opposing hitters opportunities as base runners. The Phillies also have a WHIP of 1.461, the third worst in the league. The Phillies bullpen has been better of late, and has gotten some good experience getting outs with runners on base. The fact that they haven't blown more relief chances with so many runners every single game is a testament to the good work the Philly hurlers have been able to do to preserve games.
The Phillies starting pitchers have a combined WAR so far (through 32 games) that is the second highest of any starting rotation in baseball, behind only the Indians. This is thanks almost entirely to the top two men on their staff, Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola. Here's a brief look at the entire staff's wins above replacement:
|Aaron Nola||4-2, 2.45 ERA||2.2|
|Zack Wheeler||4-0, 2.20 ERA||2.2|
|Zach Eflin||2-1, 4.45 ERA||0.5|
|Jake Arrieta||2-4, 6.49 ERA||0.0|
|Spencer Howard||1-1, 5.40 ERA||0.1|
The Phillies have a .333 batting average (1st), .569 slugging percentage (2nd) and 13 RBI (3rd) when hitting as a pinch hitter or substitute during a game. Having a hot bench is a rare and valuable asset to a baseball team and the Phils can only hope the trend continues.
The Phillies, when trailing in a baseball game this season, have top four numbers at the plate in batting average, on base and slugging percentage, which helps explain how they have been in nearly every game they've played this season — including a near epic 10-run comeback last week.
The Phils have a top 5 number in percentage of times a runner on base comes around to score. A lot of that success could be credited to having a healthy Roman Quinn and aggressive base stealing operation. Last season, the Phillies were just around the league average in stolen bases, with an 81% success rate. In 2020, they are 85% successful and are in fourth in stolen bags in the NL
The Phillies have leaped into second place in the NL East, and currently hold the second best odds of winning the division, according to consensus odds from TheLines.com. They are in prime playoff position, currently due to the expanded 16-team playoff field.
If the purpose of this article was to get you hyped that the Phillies could, indeed actually contend for a World Series, based on pretty much every aspect of their play this season — aside from the shaky bullpen — the sports betting world is slow to come to that realization. As of Friday, TheLines.com credits the Phillies with the 13th best chances of winning the World Series and fifth best of winning the NL Pennant. It certainly could be worse. With a month of season left, however, that could change quickly.
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