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Walks and Wins: Will the Phils Miss Abreu?

Coming off the news of Ryan Franklin’s departure, the Phils beat the Braves last night 9-6.  It was a sloppy game that the Phillies should have dominated but one Atlanta could have easily stolen.  Brett Myers fell behind more batters than usual, but for the second time in two starts the offense provided him with the run support he needed.  Fortunately for Myers, Charlie Manuel pulled him after the fifth inning and did not allow him to completely meltdown; instead he earned his eighth win of the year.  Abraham Nunez, despite still failing miserably at the plate, came up with some very nice diving grabs to rob the Braves of base hits.  Pat Burrell, on the other hand, let another fly ball drop at his feet, after thinking Jimmy Rollins would come out and play his position for him.  The clincher tough was the five spot the Phils put up in the fifth inning, even though they surrendered three runs right back in the bottom of the inning. 

The big news out of last night was that Ryan Howard recorded his 39th home run of the year, along with RBIs number 100 and 101 in the fourth inning.  As you might know, Mike Schmidt holds the team record for homers in a season with 48.  This means Howard has 51 games to hit 9 home runs.  With an average of one home run in every ten at bats, he is on pace to hit 18 more (double what he needs to break the record) for a total of 57.  Still the 18 predicted home runs are more than his tally of 15 homers hit in August and September of last season. 

One factor that might prevent Ryan from breaking the record would be intentional walks, one of which he received last night in the fifth.  As a team the Phillies took six bases on balls last night to the Braves’ three.  Based on a recent Baseball Prospectus report on the correlation between walks and wins, the Phillies were expected to win last night.  Below, the chart on the left shows the winning percentage of teams based on how many walks they drew in a game since 2004.  The chart on the right displays the winning percentage of teams based on how many more walks they drew compared to their opponents in a game.  (apologies on the formatting)

Walks per game
0 257 602 .299
1 670 1223 .354
2 1116 1429 .439
3 1180 1172 .502
4 1105 881 .556
5 851 562 .602
6 543 279 .661
7 336 162 .675
8 188 67 .737
9 98 24 .803
10 45 9 .833
Walk difference per game
Diff W L Pct. ----------------- 0 926 926 .500 1 947 694 .577 2 895 549 .620 3 642 324 .665 4 510 160 .761 5 301 93 .764 6 165 33 .833 7 96 9 .914 8 34 8 .810 9 24 3 .889 10+ 9 1 .900

As you see, drawing 6 walks per game (as the Phillies did last night) corresponds to a .661 winning percentage and outdrawing your opponent by 3 walks corresponds to a .665 winning percentage.  So all the Phillies have to do is play like they did last night and they’re on pace for 87 wins.  Unfortunately though, last night was an anomaly for the Phils who normally average just 3.37 walks per game – and that’s with Bobby Abreu’s season numbers.  Minus Abreu, the Phils average a paltry 2.52 walks per game as he represented 0.85 of a walk per game.  Phillies pitchers meanwhile surrender on average 3.36 walks per game which ranks them 9th in the NL.  That means with Abreu the Phils had a predicted 50/50 shot at winning games, without him the odds are reduced to 43/57.

Of course walking more than your opponent doesn’t guarantee a win; in fact, a team that out-hits or out-homers its opponent is more likely to win a game than one who records more walks.  This just simply shows that walks do make it easier to win.  But now with Abreu in New York, unless the Phillies continue to be patient at the plate, they will likely find it a bit more difficult to win games.

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