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April 06, 2019

Get used to the Phillies stranding tons of baserunners this season

Phillies MLB
Andrew-McCutchen-Phillies-0406_USAT John Geliebter /USA Today Sports

Andrew McCutchen has proven, so far, to be an ideal leadoff man for the Phillies.

The Phillies are going to strand runners this year. That's just an unavoidable fact.

With a lineup loaded from top to bottom, Philadelphia already has a ridiculous on-base percentage through seven ballgames, and even though they've dropped two of their last three (after a 4-0 start), it's not for a lack of offensive chances.

In Saturday's frustrating 6-2 loss to Minnesota, the Phillies had 10 base-runners, and stranded seven. Twice they had the bases loaded — in the sixth and eighth innings. Only one run scored in both instances combined.

In the bottom of the 6th, trailing 3-1, Odubel Herrera wasted no time using a sacrifice fly to plate a run with the bags loaded, but when Cesar Hernandez tried to tie things up with one of his own, a leaping Bryce Harper was doubled up at home plate. Two innings later, after Herrera reached on an infield single to pack the bases up with two outs, Hernandez grounded out to end the second threat.

The rule of large numbers would suggest that the Phillies red-hot start can't last forever. Saturday was a good example of that.

Prior to first pitch, Philly was averaging more than eight runs per game. That's unsustainable. They also were averaging the seventh most stranded runners per game of any team with 7.67. That number probably is sustainable.

Last year, the Phillies' .314 on-base percentage was right in the middle of the pack. This season it's over .400 and well in first place. Yes, the sample size is small, and like we've seen with the frustrating one-run loss to the Nats or with today's ugly performance, the Phillies will fall to earth. But there is enough hitting up and down the roster to make it hard for the team to be susceptible to going into long slumps offensively. 

Six different Phillies batters have batting averages above .318 (Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, Jean Segura, Odubel Herrera, Maikel Franco and J.T. Realmuto — basically the entire team). Seven have an on-base percentage above that same moniker. 

The Phillies will drop games, as they did against the Nationals 9-8 last week. They will also have losses like their most recent, where a solid outing by Jake Arrieta over seven innings kept the Phillies in it. 

Arrieta danced around trouble but was solid for seven innings, but Seranthony Dominguez was the latest member of the bullpen to make things even harder for the star-studded offense. In the top of the ninth, with the Phillies up 3-2 and itching for their final chance to make a comeback, the second-year reliever gave up a three-run homer to pinch hitter Eddie Rosario to more or less put it away for the Twins.

Losses will happen. The season is 162 games long. 

The bullpen is an issue for another article. But the abundance of opportunities given by Phillies baserunners is something that'll make the team win a lot more than it loses.

Even with a four-run setback, the Phillies still have MLB's best run differential, but are now slightly off the pace to set the record for best start in big league history.

For what it's worth, the best start in Phillies' team history is the 19-6 mark shared by the 1911, 1993 and 1995 Phillies squads. Just the '93 team would go on to make the postseason. 

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