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Posts Tagged ‘Batting Average’

Ryan Howard Is The Hottest Man In Philadelphia

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Fri, May 22, 2015 10:10 AM Comments: 6

A few weeks ago, we noted that Ryan Howard seemed to be heating up at the plate. He was seeing the ball well, getting lots of solid contact, and finally started to hit some home runs.

Since then, he’s hit .324/.370/.632, with five home runs–including one off a lefty yesterday–and 11 RBI. His 1.002 OPS is 7th in the NL among qualifiers over that time, and his .309 ISO (isolated power, or simply slugging percent minus average) is 5th. His hard hit % (46.8%) is third in the NL, and, if you want to really get advanced, both his wOBA (.429) and wRC (15) are good for seventh in the league as well.

Every single one of those numbers–OPS, ISO, hard hit %, wOBA, and wRC–leads the Phillies not only in May, but for the entire season as well. He also leads the team in home runs (9), and RBI (21).

He went from hitting .194/.247/.417 in April, to hitting .257/.307/.521 for the season, as of yesterday. That’s about a 24.5% increase across the board in three weeks. Prior to the season, ZiPS projected Howard to hit .234/.310/.415, with a total of 18 home runs on the season. He has half that, and it’s not even June yet. So far, he’s outperforming expectations. According to FanGraphs, he’s the most valuable hitter on the Phillies (excluding baserunning).

Trade value status: increased. He might even be on track to hit his way out of Philadelphia. 

He’s been good. Really good–just not Bryce Harper good. But there’s always a catch, right? He’s still striking out a ton–actually a bit more (27.5%) than he was in the first month of the season (25.6%). His line drives are slightly down as well. His BABIP is at .405 in the month of May, which is just a bit higher than his mark of .208 in April.

Putting those things together, it’s easy to say that no, he won’t be able to keep up this outstanding pace. He’ll likely come down to earth. ZiPS projects him to hit .238/.310/.436 the rest of the way, with 15 more home runs and 57 more RBI. He’s been hitting a home run every 16.78 plate appearances this year (once every 14.6 PA in May). ZiPS says that’ll come down to about once every 22.8. And stats aside, I simply can’t see this continuing for much longer, especially from a guy of his age and injury history. 

But he is the hottest player on the Phillies right now. That’s a fact. Who thought we’d be saying that, almost two months into the season?

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Inside Chase Utley’s Slump

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Wed, May 13, 2015 08:00 AM Comments: 11

PHOTO: Billy Hurst/AP

PHOTO: Billy Hurst/AP

Slumps are a part of baseball. Heck, they’re a part of life. Only there aren’t usually TV cameras and thousands of people watching your every day life. So when Chase Utley began the 2015 season with a lengthy slump at the plate, I didn’t think much of it. “He’ll come around,” I thought. But so far he hasn’t. His slump has continued and continued, as we are in the middle of May and it still looks like Utley is having difficulty finding his swing–although he is four for his last eleven. But I’m not talking just statistics. Baseball is more than that. He’s looked decidedly un-Utley-like at the plate. And it’s even bled into his fielding and baserunning as well, because he hasn’t looked like The Man™ in any phase of his game. It’s been tough to watch at times. Let’s take a deeper look at his slump.

He started the year just 1-for-14, and his batting average reached the .200 mark just one time all season. One! That was after he went 3-for-3 with two home runs against the Mets on April 14 at Citi Field. Two of those hits and one of those home runs came off Matt Harvey. After that game, he was hitting .200/.267/.440. Since then, he’s hit .096/.183/.151 (not counting last night). Oof. Here’s a visual of how his batting average has fluctuated game-by-game over the last three seasons:

As you can see, his highest average so far this year is still lower than his lowest average from 2013-2014. It’s an extreme drop off.  So what causes such a change? First, I’ll take a look at his plate discipline. His walks are way down–6.9% is the lowest since 2004. And he’s actually seeing fewer pitches in the zone than he has over his career.

He’s swinging at pitches slghtly less than he has in the past. But according to FanGraphs, he’s swinging at more pitches outside the zone than usual, as well as not swinging at pitches inside the zone as often. His contact and whiff rates have been normal. Here’s a heat map on what pitches he’s swinging at (the top is 2015, the bottom is his career prior to 2015):

 Next, I’ll look at his batted ball data. He’s pulling the ball slightly more than normal–47.7% this year compared to 45.6% over his career. However, he’s hitting the ball to center a lot more than normal (38.6% compared to 33.1%), and hitting the ball the other way a lot less than normal–21.3% for his career, but just 13.6% in 2015.

Still, the big change, I think, is in the quality of his contact. He’s getting “hard hits” (according to FanGraphs) less than half of the time compared to his career average. He’s hitting less line drives and more ground balls as well. Here’s a visual on the types of hits he’s getting:

His ground balls and fly balls have generally fluctuated, but his line drives are clearly down. It’s a lot to digest, so, to summarize, Utley’s struggles are in all likelihood a result of a lot less hard hit balls, in addition to a lot less line drives. Other things obviously factor in, but those are the main issues. There’s no way to really tell if, or when, he will snap out of it. It’s not like he’s getting bit by the BABIP “luck” bug. His is absurdly low (.118), but there’s reasonable explanation with his batted ball data.

The longer this slump goes on, the worse it’ll get. He’s in his own head–it’s a bit different when you slump to start the year. When you slump mid season, your numbers will just dip a little bit. When you slump to begin the season, your numbers will go low and stay low. And we are seeing that with Utley. I won’t make any outlandish predictions based on this slump, because I seriously doubt this is what Chase Utley is anymore. But it is concerning, and something we all will be keeping an eye on as the season progresses.

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Is Ryan Howard Heating Up? 

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Thu, April 30, 2015 09:18 AM Comments: 3

PHOTO: Laurence Kesterson/AP

PHOTO: Laurence Kesterson/AP

Ryan Howard hit another home run last night, giving him four on the season. All four of them have come within the last eight games. Over that span, he’s hitting .214/.290/.643 (a .933 OPS), and has two walks and eight RBI to go with it.

In those eight games, the Phillies as a whole are are hitting .239/.289/.351. Howard accounts for 9.7% of their plate appearances, but 67% of their home runs and 29.6% of their RBI.

Over the last week, he’s been hitting the ball hard 36.8% of the time (according to FanGraphs), which is best on the Phillies and up from his season average of 33.3% (fire emoji). However, his BABIP has been absurdly low. It’s at .063 over the last week and .205 on the season. This is easily explainable. Howard pulls the ball 54.2% of the time in 2015 (68.4% over the last week). With the insane amount shifts he sees, tons of hard-hit balls to the right side get swallowed up for outs. By my count, about 63% of his outs in play in 2015 have come on the right side, with many of them being fielded in shallow right field. This explains his low season batting average of .191.

Still, Howard has been producing over the last week or so. He’s looked good. I think it’s a little much to expect him to hit a home run every seven or eight plate appearances, which is what he’s been doing over the last eight games–that would equate to about 82 home runs over 162. But I don’t think it’s too much to expect him to produce for the Phillies. Remember, there were a lot of people, myself included, that believed Howard shouldn’t start for this team. Yet, now he’s on pace for 35 home runs and 86 RBI.

He’s moved himself up to fourth on the Phillies–behind Odubel Herrera, Freddy Galvis, and Cody Asche–in advanced stats like wOBA and wRC+, and he’s doing it with a BABIP at least 168 points below the three ahead of him and a batting average under .200. We are still in the first month of the season, so a lot can obviously change–small sample sizes can be extremely deceiving. But Howard has been one of the better Phillies hitters, and, for now, deserves some praise.

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Small Ball? Not So Much

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Mon, April 27, 2015 09:01 AM Comments: 6

PHOTO: AP

PHOTO: AP

Coming into the season, the Phillies offense wasn’t expected to be much of anything. So manager Ryne Sandberg figured that the best way to get these guys to produce would be small ball. Here’s what he told MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki in March:

That’s something that I’m stressing this spring. We’re working on it. We’re practicing it. If it’s not a bunt, it could be a hit and run. Get a baserunner, make something happen–really to set the tone for the season. … I look at our bats and our type of team, and I think we’re going to have to be good at that game.

And so far in 2015, they’ve been trying. Kind of. They’ve been one of the worst teams at the plate–last in the league in total runs and runs per game, last in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS, and more. But they have the most sacrifice bunt attempts (17) and successes (8) in all of baseball. However, their 47% success rate is near the bottom of the league at 26th. So in reality, they aren’t that good at sac bunts, they just lead the league because they attempt so many.

So what about other forms of “small ball”? I define small ball as advancing the most baserunners as possible. That can come in the form of bunts and steals, but also things like going 1st-to-3rd on a single to right, or advancing a runner from 2nd to 3rd on a ground ball. Elias/ESPN classify a “productive out” as (1) successful sac bunt by a pitcher with one out, or (2) advancing any runner with none out, or (3) driving in a baserunner with the second out of the inning. A failure is determined as making an out without advancing the runner(s). Using that criteria, the Phillies are 11th in the league in with 22 successes in 61 opportunities. So at least they’re in the top half in that category.

But how about baserunning? They have 10 stolen bases in 13 attempts, which is about the league average. However, they haven’t been very good on the basebaths. According to Baseball Reference, the Phillies have taken extra bases (defined as taking more than one base on a single or more than two on a double) at a rate good for third-worst in the league. Furthermore, they are 2nd-to-last in the rate at which any baserunner scores on a batter’s play. They are last in total baserunners that scored and last at advancing a runner from second with none out as well.

So, the Phillies are trying the small ball thing with lots of bunts, but they don’t do the other things that are required to make “small ball” successful. If they really want to stress this play style, they need to do a better job, as Andy Reid would say, of situational hitting and running the bases. They could vastly improve their run output if they just improve in those areas.

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2014 Player Reviews: Jerome Williams

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Mon, November 03, 2014 11:00 AM Comments: 11

PHOTO: AP/Chris Carlson

PHOTO: AP/Chris Carlson

The Phillies claimed pitcher Jerome Williams off waivers from the Rangers back on August 10. They needed starting pitching help, and likely didn’t want to go with Sean O’Sullivan for the 5th spot in the rotation.

Williams, however, didn’t appear to be all that good of an option at the time. He posted a 6.71 ERA for the Astros and Rangers up to that point in 2014. Many Phillies fans didn’t even know who he was, had never even heard his name before. We cleared that up, though.

But then something great happened. He was good. Not good-for-a-fifth-starter good, either. He posted a 2.83(!!!) ERA for the Phils in nine starts. The 32 year old averaged just over 6.1 innings and about 2.2 runs (including unearned) per start. For comparison, Cole Hamels averaged between 6.2 and 7.0 innings and exactly two runs per start, and A.J. Burnett averaged just under 6.1 innings and 3.58 runs per start.

Williams, who generally used his fastball and sinker the most, never really pitched that well, despite his outstanding ERA. His K% was just 16.5% and his BB% was 7.4%. League averages for NL starters were 19.5% and 7.1%. His K-BB% was 9.1%, with the league average being 12.4%. Many of his other stats were at or close to league average.

One thing that sticks out, however, was his BABIP. While he was surrendering around the league average in line drives, ground balls, and fly balls, the ones that were in play were turned into outs at a higher rate than average–his BABIP was .257, and the league average was .294. .257 was the 8th-lowest among NL starters with at least 50 innings pitched. Combine that with his solid (8.5%) HR/FB rate, and we’ve got a pretty good explanation for his great ERA, despite his average peripherals.

GRADE: A+

I don’t see how Jerome Williams can receive any other grade. He came to the desperate-for-starting-pitching-help Phillies and gave them all that they could ask for and way more. I would feel pretty comfortable saying that Williams’ performance-to-expectations ratio was the highest on the Phils. He was outstanding, and pitched himself into a new contract in Philadelphia.

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2014 Top Moments: #1 J-Roll Breaks Hit Record

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Wed, October 29, 2014 12:00 PM Comments: 18

We are finally at our top moment of 2014. This time, we look at when Jimmy Rollins broke the franchise hits record.

We all knew it would happen. Barring injury, Jimmy Rollins was sure to break Mike Schmidt‘s franchise hits record in 2014.

And he did just that.

IMG_3176.JPG

PHOTO: AP

Schmidt’s record was 2,234 hits. J-Roll notched his 2,235th on Saturday, June 14. He lined a single off Edwin Jackson in the 5th inning in front of 31,524 fans at Citizens Bank Park. The game was then delayed while celebrations took place. Schmidt came out and got Jimmy’s bat and gave him a hug. The entire Phillies team also came out to celebrate with J-Roll.

Rollins has been with the club since 2000, and is a potential Hall-of-Famer. He’s been the face of the Phillies for several years, and has given us countless memories. He provides a unique combo of power and speed from the shortstop position, and is an exceptional fielder. He won an MVP in 2007, and is at or near the top in almost every offensive category in Phillies history. This moment is more of a result of what Jimmy has given us over the years, which is a ton. If we did a countdown of top moments of the last 10 years for the Phillies, this one would still be near the top.

This concludes our top moments countdown. Hope you enjoyed! Here are the others.

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2014 Top Moments: #4 Ben Revere’s First Home Run

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Thu, October 23, 2014 10:05 AM Comments: 6

We are continuing with our 2014 Top Moments countdown, this time taking a look back at Ben Revere‘s first MLB home run.

PHOTO: AP

PHOTO: AP

Ben Revere had over 1,400 major league at-bats coming into the game against the Rockies on May 27. There were 23,159 in paid attendance that night at Citizens Bank Park, but an hour-and-22 minute rain delay subsequently caused fans to leave and the stadium to be nearly empty.

Revere had grounded out three straight times–one to first and two to third. Coming into his fourth at-bat in the seventh, the situation was this: The Rockies had just taken the lead on a three-run home run by Wilin Rosario. Revere, the second batter of the inning, was facing lefty Boone Logan, who was usually pretty darn good against lefties–a 1.71 ERA and 1.58 xFIP against lefties in 2013.

It was a 1-1 count, and Logan threw an 91-MPH inside fastball. Revere turned on it perfectly, sending it over the right field fence into the first row. As expected, the entire Phillies dugout ignored him at first before celebrating. It broke the longest homerless drought for an MLB player since Frank Tavares for the Pirates in the 70′s.

ESPN’s home run tracker had the home run at 357 feet, and, in the part of the ballpark it was, would’ve been a home run in just six MLB ballparks. What makes his home run even more surprising, outside of the fact that he’s never hit one before, is that he doesn’t usually have success hitting the ball to right field. Most of his success is up the middle or to left field. He also doesn’t typically hit fly balls, as the majority of his hits are grounders or line drives. He even said that he “usually gets in trouble” when he hits fly balls. Here’s a chart from Fangraphs:


Source: FanGraphs

Over his career, he has a .178 average on fly balls, a .242 average on grounders, and a .676 average on liners. For comparison, the MLB average in 2014 was .202 on flies, .212 on grounders, and .712 on liners. Revere hits .280 when pulling the ball (2014 MLB average .319), .327 when hitting it up the middle (2014 MLB average .324), and .358 to the opposite field (2014 MLB average .298).

Revere would go on to hit another home run, this time against the Nationals on September 5. This home run tied the game for the Phillies in the top of the ninth–a game they would eventually win. It traveled 401 feet–would’ve been out in all 30 ballparks–and came off of Washington’s closer Rafael Soriano.

His two home runs ended up being a part of a special season for Revere, who would compete for the NL batting title and finish with 49 stolen bases. His first home run was a treat for Phillies fans, and a sigh of relief for Revere, who was just waiting for that moment to happen. He said he wants to get 400 more, but somehow I don’t think that will happen.

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Ken Giles, And The Battle For Closer In 2015

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Fri, August 29, 2014 11:00 AM Comments: 6

PHOTO: (AP/Chris Szagola)

PHOTO: (AP/Chris Szagola)

Ken Giles has been good this year. Really good. The 23 year old, flamethrowing reliever was called up on June 8 after Mike Adams was placed on the disabled list with shoulder issues. Giles had a 1.88 ERA and 12 saves in the minors for Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley prior to the call up.

He was only expected to fill in for Adams and provide some spark in the late innings ahead of Jonathan Papelbon.

But he’s done so much more.

In 32 appearances and 33.2 innings, Giles has given up just six runs–five earned, good for an ERA of 1.34. He doesn’t give up many home runs (0.27 per 9), and doesn’t allow much contact–battersare making contact at a rate 67.4% against him, 4th in the NL. He has a 5.33 K/BB ratio, which is 8th in the NL (relievers, min 30 IP), and largely due to his absurd amount (48) of strikeouts. Among NL relievers with at least 30 innings pitched, both his K/9 (12.83) and his K% (38.1%) are in the top five. An interesting and unrelated note–Jake Diekman is right up there with Giles in both those categories.

Giles has an average velocity of 97.1 on his fastball, second in MLB to only cyborg Aroldis Chapman of the Reds. He also throws a nasty slider, and, according to PITCHf/x data, is the 16th most valuable in the league. 32 of his 48 strikeouts (two thirds) have come via the slider, and opponents are hitting just .137/.154/.157 against it. He’s given up just one extra base hit in 208 sliders thrown (0.48%).

The fastball-slider combo reminds me of another Phillies closer–Brad Lidge. His fastball velocity hovered around 95 MPH before he began to lose it (the average fell to about 89 MPH by 2011) and his slider was valued at 4th in all of baseball from 2007-2011. About 81.8% of his strikeouts came via his slider, and opponents hit just .190/.251/.301 against it. They’d only make contact on 54.8% of swings against it, and hit just 35 extra base hits in 2202 total pitches seen (1.6%).

PHOTO: (AP/Laurence Kesterson)

PHOTO: (AP/Laurence Kesterson)

The current closer for the Phillies–Jonathan Papelbon–has been as good as ever in 2014. He has an ERA of 1.60 (11th in NL), a K/BB ratio of 4.15 (21st in NL, and a fastball valued at 4th best in the NL. Many of his numbers this year are somewhere near his career bests, even though his fastball velocity is down. I should also mention that a few of his numbers are somewhere near his career lows as well. He gets a lot of flack for his comments to the media and his slow pace on the mound, but there’s no denying he’s been good this year.

But what about next year? The Phillies have been openly trying to trade Papelbon, or “Cinco Ocho”, as he likes to call himself–no no avail. In that article, Ken Rosenthal ponders that the lack of interest in Papelbon might be due to his falling velocity and his personality, but that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. doesn’t think so.

Regardless, the Phillies will have to make a decision on Papelbon for next year, because Giles seems ready to take over at closer and I don’t think it’s likely that Papelbon can continue to pitch at this level. If they want to go with Giles, they will have to get rid of Papelbon in some capacity, whether it be via trade or release, because Papelbon will not want to be a setup man, even though he’s really helped groom Giles this year.

I think Giles deserves it, and I think Papelbon will regress next year, and has rubbed Phillies fans the wrong way too often for the Phillies to sell him as the closer over Giles in 2015.

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Just Who Is Jerome Williams?

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Mon, August 25, 2014 07:00 AM Comments: 14

PHOTO: (AP/Chris Carlson)

PHOTO: (AP/Chris Carlson)

Jerome Williams is not a household name. Many Phillies fans are still wondering just who he is. And I don’t blame them. In the scorebook, he’s the guy who’s thrown three straight gems for the Phillies.

August 12: 5.1 innings and 2 earned runs against a tough Angels team.

August 18: 7 innings, one earned run against the Mariners.

August 24: 8 innings, one earned run against the Cardinals.

All together, that’s just four earned runs given up in 20.1 innings–a 1.77 ERA.

But who is he? The 32 year old grew up in Hawaii, and prior to coming to the Phillies, he’s played for (starting with most recent) the Rangers, Astros, Angels, Nationals, Cubs, and Giants.

Continue reading Just Who Is Jerome Williams?

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Can Ben Revere Win The Batting Title?

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Sat, August 23, 2014 11:10 AM Comments: 12

All Placido Polanco Ben Revere does is hit. He’s been a hit machine recently, and has pushed himself up to 2nd in the NL in batting average, only behind Justin Morneau of the Rockies.

But can he pass Morneau? Revere has been on an outstanding hot streak since June, leading MLB in average over that span. He also hasn’t struck out or walked much, either.

Why he will win it

Revere has finally settled into his groove. He’s seeing the ball extremely well, and his lack of patience is made up for with his stellar ability to make contact. Only Denard Span of the Nationals makes contact at a higher rate than Revere.

He’s on a hot streak right now, and his confidence at the plate is at a season high. He’s making it look easy.

Morneau, on the other hand, hasn’t been as good lately. If (a big ‘if’) Revere doesn’t cool off, he’ll win the batting title easily.

Why he won’t

While Revere undoubtedly can make contact with the ball at an extremely high rate, the contact he makes isn’t necessarily good. He leads MLB in contact %, but also ground ball %, and obviously ground ball/fly ball %. He doesn’t hit many solid line drives, as most of his hits are ground ball singles.

He doesn’t walk, and doesn’t hit for any kind of power, which means his plate appearances usually end in either a single or an out. Out of 477 plate appearances so far, only 29 have not ended in either a single or an out.

He can easily be dealt with by having pitcher sort of “pitch around” him, knowing he will still swing. Although he doesn’t chase balls out of the zone too much, he hardly ever sees pitches out of the zone. He’s seeing the most in-the-zone pitches in all of baseball according to Fangraphs. However, he’s 6th in MLB in the rate at which he makes contact with pitches outside the zone. If pitchers pitch around him more, I think Revere will struggle a ton.

There’s also the injury factor to consider. He is often limping around the field after his PAs.

Verdict

I don’t think he’ll do it. I would love to see it, but I just don’t think he will stay this hot through September. I think he’ll cool off and finish in the top 3 in the NL in average. He just doesn’t make enough solid contact to sustain such a high average, in my opinion. However, he’s been fun to watch these last few months, a rarity with this current Phillies team.

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