The Phillies were aweful in April... no denying it, but why? What went wrong? Well, I take a look through the stats and see what was good (yes, there was one good aspect), bad, ugly, and improvement-bound.
WHIP: 1.49 (T highest)
K/9: 7.29 (18th highest)
ERA: 4.28 (10th highest)
Fldg. Pctg: .978 (5th lowest)
UZR: 1.6 (13th)
Pitching FIP: 4.47 (5th highest)
Pitching HR/9: 0.95 (middle of pack)
Pitching xFIP: 4.53 (5th highest)
We need to improve our pitching and our defense, although more so the former since we've improved greatly in fielding since that home Marlins' series. We have the highest WHIP (Walks & Hits per Inning Pitched) & are getting toward the bottom third in strikeouts per 9 IP and that has led to both high ERA and FIP (Fielding-Independent Pitching). Our bad defense is not a function of bad range (measured via the UZR - ultimate zone rating - stat), but making routine plays, which led to a lot of problems, but the pitchers did allow a lot of base-runners. We did ok in terms of limiting the long ball, especially after the first week, so xFIP (FIP plus HR taken into account) remains about the same ranking as FIP. April was ugly for pitching as a whole, but expect continued improvement, especially in FIP. Next, I see who's most to blame for our lack of success: starters (besides Harang) or relievers.
WHIP: 1.42 (8th highest)
K/9: 6.78 (18th best/ 12th worst)
HR/9: 1.19 (8th highest)
FIP: 4.71 (5th highest)
xFIP: 4.49 (7th highest)
ERA: 4.97 (7th highest)
WHIP: 1.61 (highest)
K/9: 8.20 (middle)
HR/9: 0.50 (9th lowest)
FIP: 4.03 (13th highest)
xFIP: 4.59 (3rd highest)
ERA: 3.03 (8th lowest)
These splits could change easily every five days, with some changing daily. However, I see that the bullpen still allows a god share of base-runners, but has been better at limiting the damage through better K/9 and lower HR/9. The conclusion: our rotation needs to improve the most. Once again, the bullpen is the strength of this team.
P/PA: 3.6 (T lowest but low spread amongst MLB teams)
K-rate: 18.3% (7th best)
BB-rate: 6.7% (7th lowest)
BABIP: .261 (2nd lowest)
wOBA: .270 (last)
There is not a lot of spread in the P/PA data: most teams are seeing about the same # of pitches per pate appearance... between 3.6 & 4.05. The Phillies, though are doing well with limiting strikeouts but they don't walk as much as they should (10% or better is the goal) and they're very unlucky - as Batting Avg. on Balls in Play (BABIP) shows. Given they're still last in weighted on-base avg. (wOBA), to help combat their low, soon-to-improve BABIP, the Phils need to walk more and continue striking out less.
SB: 10 (T-19th)
3B: 7 (T-2nd best)
Their stolen base rank seems more a function of getting on base and low no. of attempts (not shown) than their rate (not shown). Proving my point is the high no. of triples the Phillies have as I am a firm believer that 3Bs are more a function of speed than power compared to 2Bs. Look for them to steal more as their OBP improves, but I've noticed a decline in the Phillies in terms of the stolen base category: I firmly believe that's the result of another Rube blunder - not giving David Lopes the raise he deserved. Can the Phillies start stealing more bases as we get younger in the next few years? Possibly. But for now, look for their stolen base numbers to improve a bit as our OBP improves.
Power & Scoring
HR: 13 (T-2nd lowest)
ISO (isol'd power): .106 (2nd lowest)
wRC+: 68 (100 is avg) = last
Runs: 63 (lowest)
According to Sandberg earlier this spring, "The Phillies are not going to hit a lot of home runs this year." So far, the Phillies are proving that to be true. To compensate, the Phillies rank up there in bunts & bunt attempts (not shown). There's been some growing pains there, but I've seen much better from the team (especially from pitchers) over the past week-plus. Look for the offense, overall, to improve as the bats heat up (Howard, Utley, Ruiz, Asche, Ruf, "Frenchy", etc.), the on-base guys (Herrera, Revere; perhaps Galvis, Utley (again) & Ruiz (again); etc.) continue to get on and steal, and perhaps the team embraces & executes small ball well.
April was a rough month. Typical for a team full of Mr. Not-Aprils (Revere, Ruiz, Howard, Hamels). The Phillies are 8-15, on-pace for 56 wins (110 losses), which some expected. However, given the evidence above - Mr. Not-Aprils, low BABIP, improving Fdg. Pctg., great bullpen, etc.; I think the Phillies can squeeze out another win or two per month, putting a 63-99-or-better record within reach. We shall see what happens. Don't forget, we have a few prospects (Nola, Franco), DL players (Billingsley), and a recently-optioned Domonic Brown coming up within the next 1-2 months; and games are not won or lost on paper. On the flip side, Howard, Ruiz, Pap and Hamels are on the trading block, so expect some more losses if all of them are traded... although that could be offset by more wins in the case of a Howard trade.
Good luck, Phils! Looking forward to watching you guys improve!