5 Early-Season Philadelphia Phillies Stats That Tell You All You Need to Know

Alec Snyder@@alec_snyder62Contributor IIIMay 9, 2014

5 Early-Season Philadelphia Phillies Stats That Tell You All You Need to Know

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    First baseman Ryan Howard has hit home runs again, but he's done little else.
    First baseman Ryan Howard has hit home runs again, but he's done little else.Laurence Kesterson/Associated Press

    As it stands, the Philadelphia Phillies are in a bit of a funk. After finding a way back to a game above .500 at 15-14, they lost four straight games to the Toronto Blue Jays—two at home, two on the road—to fall to 15-18. For the record, that places them dead last in the NL East.

    Forget that the Miami Marlins are tied with the Washington Nationals for first place. The Phillies are in dead last. That's just flat-out embarrassing.

    Although the Phillies are entrenched in a discouraging stretch, they have had their share of ups and downs this year, and the stats support this fluctuation. As the adage goes, the stats don't lie. Some stats are more significant than others, but there are clear front-runner statistics that have defined the Phillies' season.

    Here are five of those statistics that tell you all you need to know about their season to date.

Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez Optimism

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Gonzalez's Current Fastball Velocity: 95 mph

    When the Phillies signed Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez in August 2013, the deal that had already fallen apart once brought promise. Finally, the Phillies had dipped their collective toe into the water that is the Cuban free-agent market. More importantly, they shored up the rotation with a supposed right-handed power arm.

    Spring training was another story. He fell apart there, too, which left him in the minors to begin the season. It wasn't exactly how the Phillies planned his progression to go, but all that could be hoped was that it would work out.

    So far, it has been a shrewd move. In his most recent extended spring training outing, according to CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury, Gonzalez pitched three innings while averaging 93 miles per hour with his fastball and topping out at 95 on the radar gun.

    Here's to something going right for the Phillies. Hopefully, Gonzalez continues his improvement and eventually makes the majors sometime this season.

Middling Offense

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    AVG/SLG/OBP/OPS: .250/.310/.373/.683 (16th/21st/20th/21st)

    Home Runs: 23 (25th)

    Runs Scored: 123 (26th)

    A few weeks ago, Chase Utley wouldn't have deserved to be included as the likeness of this slide. However, he's gone cold since leading the majors in batting average, batting just .213 with a .544 OPS in the last two weeks.

    He, along with the rest of the Phillies offense, started out on fire. Jimmy Rollins was spraying hits like crazy. Ryan Howard hit a few home runs in very little time. Carlos Ruiz won NL Player of the Week honors at the end of April.

    Overall, though, the Phillies have been average at best. The team batting average sits near the middle of the pack, while their run creation abilities have been rather subpar. They aren't exactly scoring a ton of runs, either. And with an on-base percentage hovering far too close to .300 and a home run total that is less than the majors' top two leaders combined, the Phillies must improve on offense.

The Sandberg Effect

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    Laurence Kesterson/Associated Press

    Team Errors Committed: 17 (5th)

    Team Fielding Percentage: .986 (6th)

    Throughout spring training, it was chronicled by many a writer, including the Philadelphia Inquirer's Mike Sielski, that first-year manager Ryne Sandberg ran his team a little differently. As a nine-time Gold Glove Award winner, he had been a stellar defender, and he tried to implement the importance of defense in his players in February and March.

    In order to do so, he had his players go through rigorous fielding practices most days. To date this year, his method has worked. As evidenced above, the Phillies are among the best teams on defense through the first month-plus of the 2014 season.

    Not everything has been pretty. Jimmy Rollins committed a couple of errors in the early going, and Ben Revere still struggles to run a route to a fly ball. Tony Gwynn Jr. also tripped over himself against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 8 while running to make a catch—that resulted in a triple.

    Nevertheless, the results of Sandberg's defensive preaching have been promising. As long as he's at the helm, there's no reason that the defense should decline.

Rotation Mediocrity

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Rotation ERA: 3.97 (18th)

    Rotation WHIP: 1.41 (25th)

    Rotation BAA: .280 (27th)

    Even though the Phillies offense has been so-so, the same can't be said for the pitching staff. This applies to the rotation especially, as most of the team's starters have encountered their fair share of struggles at some point.

    A.J. Burnett struggled out of the gate but has been dominant in his last four starts. Cliff Lee has encountered some difficulty recently, while Cole Hamels has looked abysmal since making his season debut on April 23 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    What is perhaps most concerning is the team's opposing batting average. Hitters have batted .280 against Philly's starters this year, which is fourth-worst in baseball. Not exactly the kind of numbers the Phillies were looking for.

    The rotation is better than it's performed, though, and Lee and Hamels should pick up the pace. Kyle Kendrick has looked good, and Roberto Hernandez has been adequate, so if the top of the rotation can regroup, the rest of the season should be less painful from a pitching perspective.

Relief Woes

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    H. RUMPH JR/Associated Press

    Bullpen ERA: 4.97 (29th)

    Bullpen WHIP: 1.33 (14th)

    Bullpen BAA: .248 (20th)

    In 2013, the bullpen was a mess. Offseason acquisition Mike Adams blew up and got hurt, closer Jonathan Papelbon became a liability, and Antonio Bastardo was suspended for 50 games as part of the Biogenesis scandal.

    This offseason, the only major league move that was made to augment the bullpen was the trade for Brad Lincoln, previously of the Toronto Blue Jays. He's currently in the minors. Other major leaguers who made the Opening Day roster—B.J. Rosenberg and Justin De Fratus, for example—have been demoted, too.

    So what's left?

    That's been part of the problem. Minor league signings like Jeff Manship and Shawn Camp have been relied upon with varying success. Camp was recently outrighted in favor of Luis Garcia, who proceeded to surrender back-to-back home runs to Edwin Encarnacion and Juan Francisco against the Blue Jays in his first game with the Phillies on May 8.

    With a 4.97 bullpen ERA that is second-to-last in baseball and worst in the National League, the Phillies need to make a bold move to find a solution. It's been left on the backburner for too long and must be prioritized if the team plans on finishing games without concern.

    Note: All parenthetical rankings after listed statistics refer to MLB-wide ranks and are courtesy of ESPN.com.