2019 Phillies Week 5: April Games DO Matter

The Phillies are relevant again. With that, people are hanging on every win and loss (and being Philadelphia fans, hanging more on the latter than the former). After every loss, a deluge of posts erupts from the geyser of bad takes that is the Phillies Official Facebook Group (which I am not-so-proudly a member of).

First, the knee-jerk reactors – “THAT WAS UGLY. THE SEASON IS OVER.”

Then, the counter-reactors- “IT’S STILL APRIL, STOP SWEATING.” (Yes, they exclusively use all-caps in my mind).

Finally, the counter-counter reactors – “GAMES IN APRIL MATTER JUST AS MUCH AS GAMES IN SEPTEMBER.”

Honestly, I think these takes have something to them. (Except for the “season is over” ones. Those are just silly.) If you lose a division by 1 game, you can point to an April loss and say “that’s the difference between 2nd place and a division crown”. That being said, there’s something that April can afford that September can’t, and that’s wiggle room. There are so many things that can happen in the months between, so many ways that a season can break. While each game counts the same in the standings, September games mean much more for playoff odds.

These reactions made me curious – what team’s playoff odds have fluctuated the most in April? Not what odds have improved or fallen the most, but the team who’s odds have changed the most on a game-by-game basis. These are the teams you can point to and say, “April has mattered to these teams”, because every game has had a disproportionate impact on their playoff odds.

For example, on April 18th the Phillies had an 11-7 record and a 54.2% chance of making the playoffs. The next day they lost, dropping their record to 11-8 and their playoff odds to 49.4%. Then on April 20th, they won and improved their playoff odds to 54.2%. If you were to just take the start and end dates, you’d say “their odds didn’t change at all, thus the games didn’t matter”. Going game-by-game, we can see that they’re odds fluctuated a lot, actually – by 9.6%! – so the games were actually VERY important to their playoff odds.

Crunching the numbers for every team for the month of April (thank you, FanGraphs + Excel) , here’s every team’s “Playoff Odd Volatility”.

As you can see, the Phillies are near the very top. April matters for every team – but it’s mattered more to the Phillies than most. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the Marlins and Orioles – two teams that were expected to be bad, are bad, and have playoff odds super glued to 0.0%.

So if your point of view is “it’s early, don’t worry”, that’s absolutely valid. The season is long, and a lot can happen. Just remember that we are in a tight division, and the chart above should help put in perspective that every game matters – especially to us.

Phillies Recap

Weekly Record: 4-2

Standout Hitter: Rhys Hoskins. Rhys keeps up his torrid pace. Another two home runs brings his season total to 9, which ranks 9th in baseball. It’s not just homers, though – his OPS this year is 1.011, 7th among all qualified hitters and one spot behind some guy named “Mike Trout”. Last year’s refrain was “Sign Nola”. It’s time to pivot to “Sign Hoskins” – he’s a beast.

Standout Pitcher: Jerad Eickhoff. Remember him? He’s been excellent filling in for the faltering Pivetta – 0.00 ERA for the week, lowering his season average to 2.12. He’s been so good filling in that the team is considering sending Pivetta to the bullpen. Pitching depth is important – you never know exactly who’s going to take a step back or get injured. Having a solid option like Eickhoff in reserve keeps the team from floundering when things go bad.

Sit-Down Hitter: Bryce Harper. .067. That’s his BABIP for the week. He walked as often as he struck out, and his power was good (.200 ISO). But the BABIP dragged his production way down. No more, Mr. Bryce Guy. Let’s shake it off.

Sit-Down Pitcher: Vince Velasquez. “He’s been great this year!” I shouted last week, which of course prompted him to have his worst start of the year. It wasn’t a disaster by any means – 3 ER in 3.2 innings, which shouldn’t have scored if not for a Williams throw that was way off line and a failure to challenge a call at first. If those things go the other way, he’s out of the inning with 0 runs scoring, and he’s not in this post. But because they did score, he ended up with a 7.36 ERA, bad enough to be my sit-down pitcher of the week.

Around the League Round-Up

  • Pitcher Wins are overrated, but Noah Syndergaard’s latest win can’t be debated – a complete game shut out, and he hit a homer for the team’s only run. He put the team on his back, for sure.
  • From Reddit – A Dodgers fan had two foul balls hit to him in the same game, and dropped a plate of food both times he went for it. Thankfully, he seems to get one of the foul balls. At least the food didn’t die in vain.
  • When you want to watch a baseball game but also need your personal space, try “Two Non-Competitive Teams on a Weekday™”.

  • Avid Giants fans and official Shrek rock group “Smash Mouth” weighed in on Harper being booed. It didn’t go well.

  • Yes, the Phanatic is the best mascot in baseball. But I gotta tip my cap to this.

  • Mike Trout is good at baseball. Like, really good. You don’t need me to tell you that, but to put it in perspective – by career WAR, he’s passing Hall of Famers every month now. Here’s a list of the hall of famers he passed in April. These aren’t fringe guys – it’s just that Trout happens to be one of, if not the, best player ever.
  • Doing something uncoordinated but turning it into something cool.

The Phillies are 17-13. Go Phillies.

One thought on “2019 Phillies Week 5: April Games DO Matter

  1. Great job (again), Dave. However, I still find this sabermetric stuff hard to fathom. Is it really that much more reliable of a predictor of performance than the basic stats? Definitely a discussion over a few beers.


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