Reliving the 2017 Season: Philadelphia Phillies Edition | The Process Report

Reliving the 2017 Season: Philadelphia Phillies Edition

With the end of the regular season comes a time for reflection for the majority of baseball fans. What went right? What went wrong? You probably have a few ideas where your teams fell short or exceeded expectations, but what about a completely emotionless point of view? Throughout this season I have shown what batter and pitcher production looks like when we regress balls in play to look more like what the players should have seen using exit velocity and launch angle. The offseason will be no different as I take a team by team look at how the season fared for the team, while going a little deeper on a handful of players from each team. The order will mirror next June’s draft slotting so you can expect to find some depression leading to elation here. It’s going to take some time, but I would like to get two to three of these out each week which should allow for every team being covered before our glorious game returns to continue threshing our hearts.

Past: DET SFG

The Phillies woeful offense was fully deserved and just as bad as you think early on the year. They hit a little better as the year went along, but merely approached average during the best of times. However, actual results outstripped expectations by a fair bit during the second half of the season. Flipping over to the pitching and you’ll find that the arms were every bit as bad as the bats at the start of the year. Then it got pretty good over nearly all of the rest of the season. Actual results tended to be worse than expectations, but unlike the hitters looking better than they should have, this likely hid very real progression from a gaggle of young arms.

Looking at seasonal team totals we can see that those arms were collectively better than average by about eight runs. Strikeouts and walks were fairly close to league averages, but turning to balls in play we find that their expected production allowed on balls in play was a good bit better than average. Unfortunately, the actual results cloud this a bit as they underperformed the expected by nearly four percent. The bats did not hold up their end of the bargain, though, finishing up more than six percent worse than average, which equates to around 108 runs fewer than the average offense. Strikeouts and walks were both worse than average, and they didn’t hit with much authority, either. We see some overperformance here to the tune of about three percent, but both perspectives were a good bit worse than the league.

Let’s start with the good by looking at what went relatively well this year. It starts at the top as it looks like the Phils have found themselves a legitimate top of the rotation pitcher. Aaron Nola joined his teammates by seeing worse production on balls in play than he deserved, which was a very strong level. Add in the very good strikeout and walk numbers and you find a wonderful total package. The problem is when we move to the bottom to find that the rest of the rotation ranged from below average to bad. Considering that several of these guys were making their debut it stands to reason that they could get a little better as they adjust to pitching at the highest level. Volume was hard to find, but their should be a little bit of hope here going forward. The bullpen had some strong components that should continue going forth, though, they were able to flip a couple of these guys into potential future contributors, which is always nice in a lost season.

Nola showed continual improvement through the first two-thirds of his season, but during the time when he should have seen his best results his actuals mostly stayed a little worse. Then he went through a spike of poor performance before righting the ship to close the season. He saw his worst results during this time, which may have been a product of fatigue, but health seems like the biggest concern for the lad so it is a bit worrisome to see the spike. An offseason of proper maintenance could leave him poised for a breakout 2018, but pitcher health can never be assumed.

Eickhoff got off to a wonderful start that didn’t last all that long, and he, too, brings his own injury concerns. After getting hit fairly hard over the first half he started to settle in as a solid middle to bottom of rotation option, which I think should be his baseline going forward. As with Nola he will need to work hard to maintain his health, but there is a useful pitcher in there waiting to showcase his talent.

I see more of the same from Nick Pivetta who started slowly before adjusting to the league as something like an average pitcher. His results to close the season will probably leave a sour taste in his mouth, but he pitched much better than what the boxscore showed. Cutting back on the walks a little without losing the strikeouts is the recipe for any pitcher to take a step forward, and it is no different here. Regressing his production allowed on balls in play shows a guy that might make a decent enough buy-low knowing that he will be afforded plenty of opportunity in the coming year.

The bats for the Phillies had a mostly miserable season with the guys getting some of the most opportunity also not doing a whole lot with it. The left side of the infield featured Maikel Franco and Freddy Galvis on an everyday basis leading to both being the only guys to get 600-plus plate appearances. They were both worse than league average, though Franco got a little shorted on his production. Cesar Hernandez put up a league average line on the back of good walk/strikeout ratios, but his overperformance on balls in play still only saw him as something like a league average bat. Doing a little more on balls in play would help him take a step forward as a guy they would like to build around. Speaking of building blocks, Rhys Hoskins was a revelation in his first run on the rope. His 126 xwRC+ was easily the best on the team, and while he overperformed a little on contact his expected production on balls in play was very strong. Add in the elite walk rate to go with a league average strikeout rate and you’re looking at a core piece to the next great Phillies squad.

There was a time when Maikel Franco was one of the more highly touted prospects in the game, but he is now firmly entrenched in his post-hype years without a real breakout as of yet. Starting the year hot was nice to see, but the results didn’t match up then when they did come into agreement it was completely due to regression in his expected, not actual, performance. After plugging away as nearly an average stick he went through a vicious slump that was fully earned before closing the year on a relative high note. We’re living in a gilded age of third baseman offensive production so 2018 will be something of a make or break year for Franco. If he can be more like the guy that started so well he can be a useful piece going forward, but at some point the team will need to see him translate his power into games.

Odubel hits the ball well enough, but he has a lot of ground to make up when it comes to his non-ball in play events. The strikeout rate isn’t cringeworthy, but it comes with so few walks that the situation is worse than a quick glance might imply. Seeing a couple of production spikes throughout the year is wonderful, especially that very solid performance towards the tail end of the year, but slumps will always be a part of his game if he can’t figure out how to get on for free.

Tommy Joseph has always been a bat-first player. He closed 2016 fairly well and got off to a wonderful start this season, before turning into something like a league average guy, and then much worse, as the season went along. Everyday at bats will be hard to come by with the ascent of Rhys Hoskins so if the team thinks his late-season swoon had something to do with lost playing time then he could be a decent enough get for another team. Hitting like the guy that started the season would be a good first step in ensuring he gets all he can handle.

Leaderboards

 

Now that we have a few teams done we can start to look at leaders so that you have a good idea of context. Here are the top-20 batters and pitchers looked at so far.



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