Quite a bit has changed since the last time these two teams met. The external pressure on Phillies’ manager Gabe Kapler and his team has declined, as Philadelphia sits just a half game out of first in the NL East. The Mets have been scuffling, but hopefully the lineup mishaps on Wednesday were a sign of rock bottom and not a sign of things to come. If this is the worst it gets, it is a pretty fortunate place to land, all things considered, as the Mets are still just 3.5 games out of first. They will have to face the surging Phillies, though, a young team that seems to be in the process of exiting their rebuild. The credit for their success can be passed out to both the pitching and hitting, but this stats preview focuses mostly on their offensive contributors.
Herrera’s Resurgence: After an elite 2016 (5.6 WARP), Odubel Herrera followed that with a still above average 2017 (3.3). He is back to his playing at a superb level, though, leading the Phillies in WARP at 1.9. Part of his success is due to a more selective approach at the plate, as Herrera is swinging at just 33.7% of pitches out of the zone, compared to 40.3% last season. Unsurprisingly, his strikeout and walk rates have benefited, as he is striking out in just 15.1% of his plate appearances (22.4% in 2017) and walking at 9.6% rate (5.5% in 2017).
Santana’s Struggles: Carlos Santana was a big piece in the Phillies’ offseason plan, but his early play has not lived up to his billing. His BABIP is a paltry .189, suggesting Santana has been the victim of terrible luck. He has shown some signs of life recently, though, hitting three home runs in his last seven games. The gap between his TAv and AVG is the fourth highest among players with at least 100 plate appearances, further evidence that he may continue to turn things around.
Franco’s Façade?: Maikel Franco has been solid for the Phillies this year, bouncing back from a forgettable 2017 (-0.7 WARP). But is his early success going to last? His plate discipline numbers paint a somewhat conflicting picture. His swings rates are up on pitches in and out of the zone, but his contact rates have moved in opposite directions. His in-zone contact rate is down 1%, while his out of zone contact rate is up roughly 7%. This is not exactly desirable, because out of zone contact usually means bad contact. As a result of his increased contact and aggressiveness, his strikeouts have gone down (15.2% to 13%) and so have his walks (6.6% to 5.7%). Can he continue his success with the plate discipline numbers trending in the wrong direction? From a surface-level view, probably not.
The Good: Aaron Nola has walked fewer than two batters per nine innings (Syndergaard is at 1.9 and deGrom is at 2.3).
The Bad: Two young players the Phillies are counting on – J.P. Crawford and Nick Williams- have combined for -0.7 WARP.
The Ugly: Jorge Alfaro has struck out in 44% of his plate appearances.
In new acquisition Devin Mesoraco’s All-Star 2014 campaign, only three catchers – Jonathan Lucroy, Buster Posey and Russell Martin – were more valuable offensively (according to VORP). Here’s to hoping some of that offensive potential is still in the tank.
Photo credit: Eric Hartline – USA Today Sports