During this past off-season, the Philadelphia Phillies lost Jayson Werth to free agency. Werth accounted for the largest number of Runs Created for the Phils last year (114.9 according to Fan Graphs). Additionally, the Phillies offense started the season without Chase Utley, who has just returned from the disabled list. I, like many others, assumed the offense would naturally decline due to these losses and general ageing.
Despite the challenge of replacing Werth's bat in the long term and Utley in the short term, the Phillies have scored exactly 10 less runs as of June 1st this year compared to last year.
That's a whopping difference of .18 runs per game. Yes, the Phillies have played five more games, but based on league scoring this year their offense ranks just about the same--middle of the pack. Combine that with their stellar rotation and Philadelphia actually has a better winning percentage to this point in the season (run differential is basically identical).
So how'd they manage this trick?
I took the offense from this year and last year and calculated the percent of runs created by each batter to get a sense of who has picked up the slack for Utley and Werth. The graph above plots 2010 and 2011's run created distribution side by side.
Here's what we find:
- Ryan Howard is having a better year to this point, creating about 3-4 more runs to this point in the season. Right now, he's the anchor of the Phillies offense whereas Werth occupied that position last year.
- Placido Polanco has also stepped up, generating approximately 5 more runs this year than last, largely fueled by a higher OBP.
- Ben Francisco has stepped in to provide some solid offense from Werth's old position in right field. Now, he hasn't been Werth, but he has produced 60 total bases and generated 19 runs, which has certainly helped to stem the loss of Werth's offense. In limited playing time last year, Francisco generated about .08 runs per plate appearance. This year he's increased that to .10.
- One of the biggest differences, though, has been the everyday presence of Jimmy Rollins. To this point last year, Rollins had only generated about 12 runs and only accounted for roughly 5% of the Phillies' runs scored. While Rollins isn't exactly setting the world on fire with the bat, he's managed to generate 15 more runs created largely due to being healthy and in the line-up everyday. Last year, Rollins managed only 41 at bats by June 1st. This year? 224. Rollins was much more dangerous as a hitter early last season (.24 runs created per plate appearance), but he was limited due to injury. This year he's playing everyday and putting up a respectable .11 runs created per plate appearance.