May 8, 2013, 11:30 AM EST
No doubt the fireworks have been fun lately. But that each of the Phillies last 12 home runs have been solo shots — in this case, the product of poor on-base ability — is less than good.
Eventually, that inability to optimize what little power they’re getting is going to hurt. As if it hasn’t already.
Take Game 1 in Cleveland, for instance. Roy Halladay gets mushed for four runs in the bottom of the first. The Phillies had gone down in order in the first, and Ryan Howard got gassed for out No. 1 of the second. Delmon Young crushes one to right, but trots the base paths alone.
With men on, Young’s effort trims that hole to one or two, and the entire complexion of the game changes.
Sure, Halladay gave up more runs later. But the Phillies also whiffed on a chance to keep it close in the sixth, when Chase Utley roped a solo shot himself. That doesn’t do anything about Doc’s eight earned or the bullpen’s six. But maybe it keeps a then-12-2 game more competitive.
Maybe they’re not so deflated for Game 2.
This isn’t some two-week thing, either. Of the Phillies 22nd-in-baseball 30 home runs, 21 have been of the one-run variety. That’s a 70% rate, of an already-low HR total. That’s remarkably poor.
Remember, while the major league average solo home run rate this year is only 59.6%, that figure is also diluted by the teams that hit a lot of home runs and so are more likely to rip solo shots because they’re so often clearing the bases.
Example: the Braves, a good-but-not-great on-base club, have ridden solo on 68.2% of their ML-best 44 homers.
The Phillies are losing runs, if not games, over this. Of the flimsy 125 runs they’ve drummed up this year, good for only T-22nd in baseball, only 44 have been generated by homers. By comparison, the Tigers have hit only one more home run than the Phillies this year, yet because they’ve kept the solo shots to a lean 32.0% have scored 16 more runs off homers.
Among the reasons Detroit’s scored the third-most runs baseball: that they’ve scored so many on homers. Among the reasons Detrtoit’s scored so many runs on homers: baseball’s top on-base percentage, .352.
That was the Phillies once. In 2007, despite rocketing the second-most homers in the game (213), they were by virtue of their third-best-in-baseball .354 OBP able to keep their solo home run rate at only 54.9%. No surprise, they scored 892 runs that year, good for second in the sport.
Not to pour on Jimmy Rollins, but, save for their seven-hole hitters, the Phillies are actually run-of-the-mill at putting men on base at every other spot of the order. Yet between Rollins and Ben Revere (who for a while hit No. 7), their .268 team leadoff OBP is third-worst in baseball.
(More sorrow over Jimmy’s top-of-the-order production this year, in relative terms.)
They’re getting their power where you would want it. The team leaders in home runs — Utley (7), Howard (6) and Brown (6) — most often hit Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 6. They’re just not getting on base where they most need to.
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