Friday, August 15, 2014

Low Team Slugging Pctg Not Entirely Players' Fault

I've been playing around with the offensive stats from this and years past. I had a thought one day that this year's cool temps were a factor in the team's low slugging percentage and looked back as far as 2008 for context. The Phillies' offense has declined over the years, evidenced by scoring less & less runs and going shallower into the postseason each year since the Championship Parade despite good pitching. However, as a meteorologist, I knew the cool weather is affecting most of the nation, so I looked at team slugging stats. Here are the highest team slugging percentages per season since 2008, ranked from lowest to highest:
  1. 2014 (.441)
  2. 2013 (.446)
  3. 2012 (.453)
  4. 2010 (.454)
  5. 2011 (.461)
  6. 2008 (.462)
  7. 2009 (.478)

2014 is the lowest over the past 7 years. This summer has been cool. I won't get too deep into the meteorological aspects, but take this "stat": Philadelphia has only had about seven days with highs at or above 90°, well below avg. Now, we know that pitching has been stellar over the past years, so you cannot blame just cool weather, but many hitting experts & managers (Charlie Manuel was one) call the summer months "hitting season," which is made true by the fact that air density is inversely proportional to temperature, so as temp. incr., air density decreases and balls fly further as a result. So, with lower temps this summer, the air density hasn't decreased much over the past few months, which is not much help to hitters trying to get those doubles & homers.


As for the Phillies' batting woes, it's hard to blame the weather & good pitching. Given the low slugging pctgs. league-wide, it's not a big problem that the team can't score runs via homers & doubles. The major issue is the lack of hitting w/ runners in scoring position (RISP). Their .243 batting average w/ RISP is 20th in the majors & 9th in the NL. I looked at IBBs, K-rate & BABIP (Batting Avg. on Balls In Play), to gauge whether this is due to lack of skill or bad luck. The team's .285 BABIP w/ RISP is a little low (usually the league avg. each year is .290-.300) but not excessive. The team's 21.6% K-rate  w/ RISP is 3rd-highest in the NL, and that's why this team is not driving in runs. They lack the skill to put balls in play.

Here's something interesting. The team (in RISP situations) is ranked 4th w/ 34 batters walked intentionally, with Chase Utley's (3rd in the batting order) 9 IBB ranked 10th in MLB. Ryan Howard's (batting 4th in the order) 28.8% K-rate w/ RISP is the 8th highest rate in MLB. So, this strategy of walking Utley to face Howard is working well for teams. It didn't pay off for the Astros, but it has worked well before that. It's clear that Howard, unless he's on a tear/ roll, should be placed further down in the lineups from now on.

That's all for now. Tonight, the Phillies take on the Giants at 10:15 PM ET (7:15 PM PT) with Hamels (6-6, 2.37 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 8.99 K/9) facing Bumgarner (12-9, 3.22 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 8.78 K/9).

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