A Numbers Game

Ryan Howard walked only 26 times in the first half of the season, ranking sixth on the Phillies. His total number for 2009 was 75.
Ryan Howard walked only 26 times in the first half of the season, ranking sixth on the Phillies. His total number for 2009 was 75.

First-half statistics show where Phillies need work

Posted: July 15, 2010

Reviewing a team's first-half statistics is a little like poring over a Daily Racing Form. There are a lot of interesting numbers. And in some cases, they accurately portray what has and hasn't happened.

But numbers alone can't predict what's going to occur in the horse race that is a baseball second half.

If, for example, Brad Lidge rediscovers himself, Ryan Madson doesn't kick anything, and J.C. Romero can control his fastball, the Phillies' woeful first-half bullpen statistics could be meaningless curiosities by August and September.

The same can be said for Raul Ibanez, should his 2010 be the reverse of 2009 and the leftfielder finishes with a bang and not a whimper.

And if a couple of those second-half numbers are attached to the uniforms of newly acquired Phillies who contribute immediately, a lot of ugly first-half stats will be rendered moot.

Still, as the third-place Phils begin the season's second half Thursday night in Chicago, a few numbers bear watching:

43 That's the Phillies' surprisingly low stolen-base total through 87 games. Only three NL teams - Chicago, San Francisco and Atlanta - have fewer. The Phils' speed game, once nearly as significant as their power, has been slipping. They stole 136 bases in 2008, 119 last year. Some of this year's running problems can be blamed on Jimmy Rollins' absences, of course. But how do you explain Jayson Werth's five stolen bases, or the five Chase Utley managed before going on the disabled list? Since the Phillies probably won't approach last year's home-run total of 224 - with 91 at the break - they will have to produce runs by other means. It's not as if they can't steal. Their success rate of 84 percent is baseball's best.

26 That's Ryan Howard's disturbing walk total - only sixth best on the Phillies. His dip in home-run power isn't nearly as dramatic. He collected 107 bases on balls in 2007, but his totals have continued to dip, to 81 in 2008 and 75 last season. Either opposing pitchers are less afraid of the Phillies' cleanup hitter or Howard has gotten even less selective. Only six of his walks have been intentional, compared to 35 in 2007. You'd think that with the way Werth and Ibanez have scuffled, no one would pitch to Howard.

93.9 That was the impressive average speed of Cole Hamels' fastball in his June 13 start against the Boston Red Sox. For whatever reason, Hamels rediscovered the hop on his heater in June. Through his first 12 starts, it averaged 90.8 m.p.h., according to the website FanGraphs.com. Last season it was 90.2, and in 2008 it was 90.4 m.p.h. With that added velocity complementing his change-up, and an uptick in run support, Hamels could be in for a big second half.

35 That's how many times Phillies batters have been hit this season. A hit-by-pitch often is the result of a batter's crowding the plate or a pitcher's being unable to find it. But occasionally it's meant to deliver a message. And even though this aspect of the game is fading away, batters who have been plunked appreciate it when one of their pitchers returns the favor. Phillies pitchers have hit only 25 opponents. That retaliation gap of minus-10 is significant when you consider that in 2009 it was plus-4, 75-71, and that opposing pitchers seem to be living inside against several of the Phils' struggling hitters.

17 That's the Phillies' anemic saves total at the all-star break. Only Arizona has fewer (16), but the Diamondbacks also have the second-fewest wins in the NL, 34. As inconsistent as their hitting has been, the Phillies won't make a run at the Braves unless they can get the back end of their bullpen straightened out.

553 That's the hitters' strikeout total. A club that everyone assumes is filled with free-swingers actually has fanned less than all but one of its NL rivals, the Houston Astros.

14 That's how many times Wilson Valdez has grounded into double plays. And that's in only 168 at-bats. Ibanez is second on the team, hitting into 10 in 292 at-bats. Even catcher Carlos Ruiz can't match Valdez's Dalrymple-ian pace. In virtually the same number of at-bats (159) as Valdez, Ruiz has bounced into only three double plays.

Contact staff writer Frank Fitzpatrick at 215-854-5068 or ffitzpatrick@phillynews.com.