Phillies’ offensive offseason follows championship trend

Rhys Hoskins, Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Rhys Hoskins, Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images) /

The Phillies improved the roster offensively, with little change defensively. Why average defense in exchange for more offense has them looking like champions.

Last year, the Phillies were historically bad on defense, with the worst Defensive Runs Saved Above Average ever (-136) and ranking 26th in Defensive Value (-40.6). And, as hard as it is to believe after winning 80 games, their offense was almost as bad. They had the second worst Runs Above Average (-14)  and ranked 18th in Offensive Value (-16.2).

To make matters even worse, their starting pitchers, who had the best Wins Above Average in the league, only received 4.4 run support, ranking 17th. The acquisitions of Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura, J.T. Realmuto, and Bryce Harper were massive improvements in production at the plate, but they only offer a marginal improvement in the field. If recent history is any indication, offense value is the key to winning the World Series.

Let’s look at the individual increase in offensive value (Runs Above Average). Swap out Nick Williams, Scott Kingery, Carlos Santana, and Jorge Alfaro, who were all starters for the majority of last year. Insert the aforementioned additions into their spots. The total value of offense lost is -11.2 (yes, they actually gain 11.2). The total value of offense gained is 72.

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  • Santana: 7.2
  • Williams: 2.0
  • Alfaro: -1.1
  • Kingery: -19.3
  • Harper: 29.9
  • Realmuto: 21.9
  • McCutchen: 11.7
  • Segura: 8.5

That would mean the team value would increase by 83.2, bringing their total to 67 (not including pitchers), and have them ranked sixth. Being inside the top 10 would put them in prime position to compete for a championship.

But what about defense, you might ask. Well, in that regard, the Phillies actually decreased in value by 10.4. While that must be an area of improvement this season, addressing the offensive stymies was a more pressing matter towards their championship aspirations.

Over the last nine seasons, the World Series champion has been in the top five on offensive value six times. They have been in the top five of defensive value only twice, with the Astros in 2017 finishing third-worst in that category. Even further, eight of the nine champions significantly increased their offensive value, with an average increase in value of roughly 93 compared to the year prior.

Defensively, only one team (Cubs, 2016) actually improved, with the average differential being a decrease in value of 12.3. Combating their poor defensive value, the Astros had an absurd offensive value of 173.3, more than double the second-ranked team. Why am I dwelling on the 2017 Astros? Because they’re a perfect example of how offense trumps defense in today’s game.

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Defensively, there will be an improvement. Rhys Hoskins moves back home to first base. Harper was forced to play out of position in center most of the year, so he moves back to his comfort zone in right. Realmuto is a slight drop-off from Alfaro, but still an above-average defender. Segura is coming off the best defensive year of his career and is an upgrade from Kingery.

McCutchen has never been a stellar defender, but he’s certainly more serviceable than an out-of-place Hoskins. Where they will make the biggest impact is at the plate, and today’s game showed exactly the effect they will have.

McCutchen led off Opening Day with a home run, and drew a lead off walk to score his second run on the Hoskins’ grand slam. Segura recorded two hits, and scored both times he got on. Harper may have been 0 for 3 with two strikeouts, but he struck fear into the heart of Brian Snitker and the Braves staff, and drew an intentional pass to load the bases for Hoskins.

In the fourth, Realmuto kept the inning alive by drawing a six-pitch walk with two outs, and later scored off a Cesar Hernandez single. They were responsible for six of the 10 runs scored, and the offense gave Aaron Nola six runs of support in his six innings of work to start the season with a win.

Next. Four things learned from a big win on Opening Day. dark

Balls are going to fly out of Citizens Bank Park left and right, and a lot of runs will be scored. Get your popcorn ready, this team is going to be fun to watch into late October.