Ridin' Solo: Phillies Lack of Multi-Run HRs is Not Good

Ridin' Solo: Phillies Lack of Multi-Run HRs is Not Good

No doubt the fireworks have been fun lately. But that each of the Phillies last 12 home runs have been solo shots -- in this case, the product of poor on-base ability -- is less than good.

Eventually, that inability to optimize what little power they're getting is going to hurt. As if it hasn't already.

Take Game 1 in Cleveland, for instance. Roy Halladay gets mushed for four runs in the bottom of the first. The Phillies had gone down in order in the first, and Ryan Howard got gassed for out No. 1 of the second. Delmon Young crushes one to right, but trots the base paths alone.

With men on, Young's effort trims that hole to one or two, and the entire complexion of the game changes.

Sure, Halladay gave up more runs later. But the Phillies also whiffed on a chance to keep it close in the sixth, when Chase Utley roped a solo shot himself. That doesn't do anything about Doc's eight earned or the bullpen's six. But maybe it keeps a then-12-2 game more competitive.

Maybe they're not so deflated for Game 2.

This isn't some two-week thing, either. Of the Phillies 22nd-in-baseball 30 home runs, 21 have been of the one-run variety. That's a 70% rate, of an already-low HR total. That's remarkably poor.

Remember, while the major league average solo home run rate this year is only 59.6%, that figure is also diluted by the teams that hit a lot of home runs and so are more likely to rip solo shots because they're so often clearing the bases.

Example: the Braves, a good-but-not-great on-base club, have ridden solo on 68.2% of their ML-best 44 homers.

The Phillies are losing runs, if not games, over this. Of the flimsy 125 runs they've drummed up this year, good for only T-22nd in baseball, only 44 have been generated by homers. By comparison, the Tigers have hit only one more home run than the Phillies this year, yet because they've kept the solo shots to a lean 32.0% have scored 16 more runs off homers.

Among the reasons Detroit's scored the third-most runs baseball: that they've scored so many on homers. Among the reasons Detrtoit's scored so many runs on homers: baseball's top on-base percentage, .352.

That was the Phillies once. In 2007, despite rocketing the second-most homers in the game (213), they were by virtue of their third-best-in-baseball .354 OBP able to keep their solo home run rate at only 54.9%. No surprise, they scored 892 runs that year, good for second in the sport.

Not to pour on Jimmy Rollins, but, save for their seven-hole hitters, the Phillies are actually run-of-the-mill at putting men on base at every other spot of the order. Yet between Rollins and Ben Revere (who for a while hit No. 7), their .268 team leadoff OBP is third-worst in baseball.

(More sorrow over Jimmy's top-of-the-order production this year, in relative terms.)

They're getting their power where you would want it. The team leaders in home runs -- Utley (7), Howard (6) and Brown (6) -- most often hit Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 6. They're just not getting on base where they most need to.

Crazy how no one could've seen this coming

Tranquillo Barnetta will not return to Union next season

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USA Today Images

Tranquillo Barnetta will not return to Union next season

Tranquillo Barnetta is going home.

In an abrupt announcement on Tuesday, the Union declared that the skillful Swiss attacking midfielder will not renew his contract with the club and will return to Switzerland following the 2016 season to play for his hometown club, FC St. Gallen.

According to MLS Players Union, Barnetta’s exit will free the Union of $687,500 next season.

“The entire soccer community here was so welcoming and I’m so thankful to everyone at Philadelphia Union for making me feel so appreciated,” Barnetta said. “Playing in front of my friends and family and making plans for life at the end of my career where I want to live is a force I can’t resist.”

Although the timing of the announcement is a surprise, the move isn’t one. With Alejandro Bedoya now in the mix, currently playing out of position in a box-to-box midfield role, the Union will replace Barnetta with Bedoya at the center attacking midfield spot. It’s a position that Bedoya is comfortable in, playing there with his previous club, FC Nantes.

Bedoya played for the injured Barnetta in the center midfield spot last Saturday and scored his first goal of the season in a 1-1 draw with Toronto FC.

But even with Bedoya ready to take over, the Union will miss Barnetta. Since joining the Union in 2015, Barnetta, 31, has been one of the better possession playmakers in MLS, scoring six goals and seven assists in 37 games.

“Tranquillo has been a key piece in what we’re trying to build here in Philadelphia but we appreciate his decision to return to Switzerland,” said Union sporting director Earnie Stewart, whose club has three matches left in the 2016 season, and will likely make the playoffs. “We look forward to continuing to push for the postseason.”

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

The Eagles are 3-0. They’re alone atop the NFC East and have been the biggest surprise of the young NFL season.

Doug Pederson’s message to his team: You haven’t done anything yet.

Although the Eagles are riding high, Pederson doesn’t want his team to change its outlook or hard work. That’s what teams have to worry about once they’ve found some success.

“The biggest thing is complacency,” Pederson said Monday. “You think you've arrived. You think you are all that. When that creeps in, that's when you get beat. It's my job not to let that creep in. I've got to keep the guys focused and grounded. I told them this week they're going to travel and go home and people are going to pat them on the back and say how great they are.

“But next Monday, I'm going to tell them, ‘Hey, we're back to work. We're 0-0. This is Game 1 and let's go.’ That's just the way it has to be. You are building for one ultimate goal and that's a few weeks down the road. That's what you are trying to get to. But you can't get there unless you take care of the next opponent. It's my job to keep them focused that way.”

Being 3-0 (they’re one of five 3-0 teams) gives the Eagles a head start, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee them a playoff spot. This is the ninth 3-0 start in franchise history. They’ve made the playoffs just five times in the previous eight. And they recently missed the playoffs after starting 3-0 in 2014 under Chip Kelly.

In NFL history (before this season), there have been 276 teams to start with 3-0 records. Of them, 200 (72.3 percent) have made the playoffs.

“We just have to approach it the same, one day at a time,” Pederson said. “That's the way this business goes. You are on top of the world one minute, and you can be at the bottom of the heap the next. Just got to keep things even-keeled and can't get too high, can't get too low. Approach it the same. Like I mentioned earlier, you can't substitute for hard work. That pays off on Sundays. We just have to stay the course. Again, a lot of football left.”

While the Week 4 bye comes pretty early, the Eagles have a couple key players who will use the time to get healthy. And Connor Barwin pointed out that the bye is coming about closer to the halfway point between when the team started its tough training camp and the end of the season.

Pederson told his players to use the week to get away from football and free their minds. Meanwhile, Pederson and his coaches will use the extra time to self-scout and prepare for the final 13 games of the regular season.

With a first-year head coach and a rookie quarterback who was thrust into action a week before the opener, expectations outside (and perhaps inside) the building were tempered.

The Eagles aren’t an underdog anymore.

“We kind of enjoyed flying under the radar, but obviously a win like this against a team like the Steelers will open some eyes around the league,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “For us, nothing different. We’ll keep our preparation the same. We’ll stick our heads down and focus on the work day to day and understand what’s gotten us to 3-0.”

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