Since it’s mid-April, we need to remember the caveat of “it’s early,” but there are some trends developing with the 2018 Phillies that could tell us a little about what the club is trying to do this year.
For one, enough has been said about the team’s early plate discipline. The club leads the major leagues at 4.23 pitches per plate appearance, quite a bit above the Diamondbacks at 4.1. It’s been said that P/PA doesn’t necessarily lead to better outcomes, but it’s good to see the team wearing down suspect pitching.
But the Phillies also lead the league in another category, which at least in recent years could lead to better offensive outcomes. 41.7 percent of the Phillies’ batted balls are fly balls, which is first, ahead of Minnesota (41.4 percent) and then a slew of teams below 39 percent. They also hit fewer line drives than almost every team (17.7 percent, 29th of 30). This leads one to believe that the Phillies’ approach, at least early this year, has been to get the ball in the air.
That’s a decent idea if you’re the Phillies. For one, there’s plenty of work that shows baseballs are more juiced than ever right now, which makes sense because home run rates have climbed over the past few seasons.
We know players are working to improve their launch angles – basically the angle at which they hit the ball, causing the ball to go up in the air and not down to the ground – primarily because, yes, there’s something weird going on with the ball and home runs.
Also, and you probably know this: Citizens Bank Park is a really good ballpark for home runs, leading the majors in home run factor at 1.409 last season. If there’s a strategy Phils coaches should employ for hitters, it’s to get the ball in the air.
And so far that’s happening. Rhys Hoskins, Carlos Santana, Aaron Altherr and Maikel Franco have each put at least 50 percent of their batted balls into the air. Scott Kingery and J.P. Crawford do so at least 40 percent. Team trailers include Jorge Alfaro (18.8 percent), who’s having a rough start to the season, and Cesar Hernandez (26.5 percent), who of all people should be hitting the ball on the ground.
But, again, it’s early, so things are bound to change. Still, these returns show that maybe the Phils have a strategy employed for 2018 that could benefit them especially when the mercury rises and they enjoy more home games.