The Law of Averages

Chase Utley doesn’t say much, but when he talks he can make a lot of sense.

During those seasons when the Phillies had the best offense in the National League, they had slumps like every team. And during those slumps reporters would ask Utley about all the runners they left on base. He normally would say something like, “Yeah, we’d love to score every runner we put on base, but the important thing is we’re getting runners on. If we keep doing that eventually we’re going to score.”

Like, Guys, it’s the law of averages. Relax. Seriously.

(I remember people wanted the Phillies to play small ball during those seasons because they relied too much on the home run. That sounds so ridiculous right now, doesn’t it?)

The Phillies left lots of runners on base during those seasons because they put lots of runners on base.

That’s not happening early this season.

The Phillies are seventh in the league in hitting at .243, but are 13th in on-base percentage at .278. The Phillies have walked just four times in their past five games.

In addition, the Phillies have walked one or fewer times five times in eight games. It obviously is a very small sample size, but that puts them on pace for 101 games with one or fewer walks. To put that in perspective, during the Phillies’ run of five consecutive National League East championships they had one or fewer walks 20 times in 2007, 24 times in ’08, 28 times in ’09, 26 times in ’10 and 27 times in ’11.

The Phillies also never finished a season ranked lower in the league in on-base percentage than batting average, meaning they were always finding ways to get runners on base. And that meant they always had a chance to score, no matter how poorly they were hitting at the time.

“We’ve got guys that have played for a long time,” Charlie Manuel said. “You can look at how much they have walked in the past. We definitely don’t teach walking, but we teach getting good balls to hit and working the count. If it’s a 3-2 pitch, be patient enough and know the strike zone enough. Don’t chase balls over your head or in the dirt. That’s basically what hitting is. There’s no way that we ever teach walking. By knowing the game, you’re going to walk, swing at good pitches and get strikes and balls to hit. If you haven’t done that in the past, it’s pretty hard.”

The early-season struggles come down to this: The Phillies are putting nobody on base, and they are hitting for no power. Their 13 extra-base hits are 15th in the league, while their 52 singles are third. It’s nearly impossible to score when a team is scattering singles. Mix in a few more base runners with those singles and maybe the Phillies can play small ball to scratch across a couple runs. But with nobody on base even small ball becomes irrelevant.  And without any power there’s no chance for those solo or two-run homers, either.

Now, it is early. It is just eight games. Ryan Howard reminded reporters of that before leaving the ballpark yesterday. But this is a trend we haven’t seen from the Phillies before. They don’t have the law of averages working in their favor.

“It takes a while sometimes,” Manuel said. “I still think we can score some runs. I think we’ll definitely have a better offense than you’ve seen. I know we’ve got better than that.”

*

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8 Comments

If it wasn’t for last year, I wouldn’t be so worried. But this team looks worse than last year’s lineup, mainly because of no Utley or Howard. But adding them, it is about the same. And we all know how that turned out. No easy answer and plenty of time to turn it around. But they never got into a consistent groove last year, and it doesn’t look good so far this year.

102-60

They don’t have a “small ball” team, so it’s silly to keep talking about it. Who has the bat control to hit and run, which is an integral part of small ball, outside of maybe Polanco? All this team can do is be aggressive on the base paths and hope for timely hitting.

I am still a hold out that hits can make runs, of course you have to hit and ‘score runners’, just hits for the sake of hitting doesn’t always do it. More than often though, if you can get on base, you put yourself into a better position to score, if those behind the hitters can move them also, either by a hit or home run.

Small ball doesn’t mean get a hit every inning and leave it at that, it means not relying on the home run to do everything for your team. At the moment, the Phils can’t do either real well, so it easy to pick one of them and say they’re not working.

There is no such thing as the “law of averages”. It’s a fallacious concept. There is such a thing as the Law of Large Numbers though, which states that as the sample size increases, all probabilistic events will approach their true mean (average). What this ISN’T saying is that because there were statistically anomalous events earlier, we will see statistically anomalous events that will “make-up” for what’s already happened. In other words, if the Phillies have been getting on-base below their true average already, we shouldn’t expect that they will get on-base above their true average going forward to counteract the original anomalous event.

All we can expect is for this team to prospectively be what the numbers suggest, and that is a team devoid of any real power (when Pence, and his career ISO of .193 is your best regular power threat, you have a power deficiency), few players who are going to walk much (Ruiz is the only real source of above average walking, along with Vic, to a degree), and maybe two who will hit for a high average (Vic and Pence). Basically, what you have is a bad offense. Is it as bad as it’s currently shown? Of course not, as it would be, by far and away, the worst offense to ever take a major league field. But let’s not kid ourselves; this offense as currently constructed is very poor, and without meaningful qualitative and significantly quantitative contributions from Howard and Utley this year, will undoubtedly finish in the bottom third of runs scored in the NL this year.

Nice, rational analysis fatalotti. Hope you stick around and keep posting.

lets take a step back and remember two thing. 1) any team which lost its 3 and 4 batters would be in same posistion. The offence is built so that 1-2 get on, 3-5 knock them in. 6-7 start again and 8 tried to get the pitcher up. We have 1-2 who have been getting on, the 3-4 haven’t been knocking them in, just moving them along. We need some more power, which will come when 1) Mayberry gets his sh*t together, Howard and Utley return, and Pence and JRoll stop presuring themselves and just hit like they always did. look at the 8th last night,

Laws of averages, big numbers, or whatever, it can only get better so “Lets go Phillies!”

I think they are who they are. There are no known RBI guys in that lineup except Pence. The fact that Galvis is among the team leaders in RBIs (just like he was in Spring Training) speaks volumes of the futility of the Phils offense. They used to get 5-6 runs off of 8 hits. Now they get 1-3 runs off 10 hits. They have become the Mets ……

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