In recent seasons, the Phillies seemingly have forgotten how to do damage to opposing pitching. Not only has their power been sorely lacking, but their plate discipline was relatively non-existant in 2012-13 under Charlie Manuel. At least through the first eight games, that has changed.
This new approach at the plate has paid dividends. To score, you need baserunners. The Phillies are getting them.
Through the first seven games, the Phillies ranked first in the NL in pitches per plate appearances with 3.95. Two members of the lineup, Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz, rank in the top 10.
(Note: they’ve slid to fifth in the NL after Wednesday’s game).
In 2013, Phillies hitters saw an average of 3.78 pitches per plate appearance, 10th in the NL. They scored 3.77 runs per contest, 13th in the league. Their .306 OBP was better than only the Cubs and Marlins.
Heading into Wednesday night’s game, the 2014 Phillies were getting on at a .350 clip. It’s only a few games, and the numbers will inevitably even out, but it’s a sign that the approach has changed. Instead of hacking without a plan, these Phillies are making the opponent work.
Take for instance Tuesday’s game against the Brewers in which innings-devouer Kyle Lohse was bounced in the fifth inning having thrown 107 pitches. A nice stat from my colleague Corey Seidman: Lohse has tossed the 3rd-fewest pitches-per-inning since the start of 2013 at 15.1 per inning. The Phils made him throw 28 in first and kept making him work hard throughout his start.
On Wednesday night, Matt Garza threw 27 pitches in a sloppy first inning. That number was inflated due to a balk and an error, yet the point still stands.
If the Phillies can continue this new trend, the season may take on a different meaning as we get into the summer months. What has overshadowed the discipline at the plate is the recent inability to get runners home, putrid defense, and a shaky bullpen.
Since Saturday against the Cubs, the Phillies are 6 for 40 with RISP. Again, runners on, going nowhere.
If they can’t straighten those issues out, the numbers above will mean very little.