With only one week in the books, the 2019 season has already proved more exciting than the last five combined. Bryce Harper has gotten off to a great start as a member of the Phillies, including a triumphant return to Washington and a moonshot of a first home-run. McCutchen, Segura and Realmuto are providing the offensive spike the team needed and Maikel Franco has been outstanding. On the downside (which there really isn’t much of), Aaron Nola had a bad outing in D.C. and David Robertson has looked shaky.
Overall though, the team is 4-1 and has already played in a prime-time game (with less than stellar announcers). Plus, Citizens Bank Park is packed again and the team is the talk of the town. I don’t want to hear about “bandwagon fans”, I’m just happy that the Phillies are back and that people are enjoying themselves.
While Harper and the Phillies have been playing with a-lot of emotion, it’s tough to find a metric to measure that. We can, however, take a look at how the team has done in various individual/team statistical categories through one week. It’s early, so a guy who hit .455 this week could hit .110 the next. With that in mind, here is the earliest analysis of the 2019 Phillies by the numbers.
Maikel Franco Leads Baseball In Intentional Walks
Perhaps the most mesmerizing aspect of the 2019 Phillies is the depth of their lineup. The team added four proven All Star bats – two of which are former MVP’s – and fundamentally transformed the team. The Phillies are so much better that Atlanta opted to intentionally walk Bryce Harper to get to Rhys Hoskins of all people. When would we have seen someone walked to get to Hoskins in 2018, or on any other team? Rhys made them pay by jacking a grand slam, but the point was instantly made that there is no easy out in this lineup.
Now as we talked about pre-season, the holdovers from the club’s previous years are bound to benefit. I personally thought that Odubel would see his numbers rise the most, but so far it has been Maikel Franco’s world. Through five games, Franco is hitting .400/.591/1.000 with three bombs and seven walks. Franco being buried in the eight hole has led to pitcher’s letting their guard down and Maikel is taking advantage.
His position in the order has also led to perhaps the most bizarre stat on this list. Maikel Franco currently leads the league in intentional walks with five. Only four other players have multiple intentional walks – Bryce Harper being one of them with three. It remains to be seen whether or not Franco can maintain this level of production with the bat, but so long as he’s hitting eighth he will be racking up intentional walks.
Harper Leads the League In Slugging %, OBP And OPS
Harper’s OBP currently sits at .652, the highest in the league and just North of Franco’s. It isn’t unheard of for Bryce Harper to be leading the league in OBP. He lead the league in that category in 2015 and is consistently among the top five for walks, including a league leading 130 last season. Harper is known for making things happen without even swinging the bat and we’ve already seen the effect his presence has via the Hoskins grand slam.
Although it is far too early to take stock in these stats, it is encouraging that Harper also leads the league in slugging % and OPS with 1.188 and 1.840 respectively. If these early returns are any indicator, Harper’s numbers at CBP are no fluke.
Phillies Hitters Are In The Bottom Ten For Strikeouts
Through five games, Phillies hitters have struck out 46 times. This number means that the Phillies find themselves within the bottom ten of the league for hitter strikeouts so far, which is huge. Tampa Bay has the most with 79 while the Angels have the fewest with 30.
Again, it is far too early to make much of this. The team needs to run into some more front-end starters like Scherzer to see if their K rates are truly down. Still, these numbers suggest a massive improvement from last season where the team had the third most with 1,520 K’s – just three away from the second most.
With strikeout machines Jorge Alfaro and Nick Williams replaced in the lineup by Realmuto and McCutchen, I expect the team will at least finish in the bottom fifteen. There is no way this team should be sniffing the top ten in hitter strikeouts again, let alone top three.
David Robertson Has Walked Five Hitters Across Two Innings
Of the team’s four wins, not one has been a save situation. While this is mostly thanks to hot hitting, late inning relief production has been less than ideal. David Robertson is expected to provide stability and veteran presence to a pen that struggled late in games last year. So far that hasn’t been the case and Robertson has been dreadful.
In just two complete innings of work, Robertson has allowed five hits, four earned runs and an alarming five walks. The worst of course came on Wednesday when Robertson walked in the game winning run and shut the door on a comeback attempt.
It’s only been two innings of work, but five walks and five hits is dreadful. Hopefully it’s just early season jitters because this team needs a reliable late inning option. Seranthony Dominguez is certainly looked at as the closer of the future but it would be nice for him to develop more. If Robertson continues to struggle, the pressure on Seranthony builds.
Still, I won’t be like the predictable chorus of reactionaries and freak out. It’s two innings out of a 162 game season. Give it time, but expect Kimbrel rumblings to ramp up if Robertson keeps struggling.
The Team Is Second In Slugging %, Third In OPS
Again, it is far too early to take stock in stats like slugging % and OPS that require larger sample sizes. However, it is worth noting that the team is off to a good start. As a unit, Phillies hitters are slugging .527 with an OPS of .915.
Essentially, the team has been clobbering the baseball and find themselves among the league leaders in extra base hits. While they may not stay in the top 5 all year, I’m willing to bank on them doing so given the limited sample size we’ve seen. Every hitter on this team is capable of 20 home runs with the exception of maybe Cesar and most can hit 25. There also aren’t any singles only hitters and the numbers prove it. Expect this lineup to keep mashing.
Aaron Nola Has Allowed Seven Earned Runs Through Nine Innings
Aaron Nola has looked a bit off to start the 2019 season. Through nine innings, Nola has allowed seven earned runs to go along with an uncharacteristic seven walks. Most of the damage was done in Wednesday’s contest with the Nats in which Nola was tagged for six runs and three long balls. His first outing was a-lot better but still saw him walk five batters over six innings.
While it sucks to see it, I have no worries about Aaron Nola in 2019. He has the demeanor of an ace and works at Greg Maddux levels of game speed. In just about any other season, Nola’s 2018 numbers would have netted a Cy Young Award. Like Cole Hamels before him, Nola seems like the best pitcher in the league who isn’t talked about as such.
In the end, Nola will hit his stride and get back to the All Star game. I’m sure of it.
Ultimately, It’s Only Been Five Games
Ultimately, none of these numbers mean much of anything because we have such a small sample size. However, many of the stats on this list are indicators of what we could expect as the season progresses. As more games are played we will get a better picture of this team’s identity and where they need to improve.
In the meantime, the Phillies are appointment television and I intend on enjoying the ride.