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

The Sixers are the perfect distraction from the Sixers

The Sixers are the perfect distraction from the Sixers

There's your Philadelphia 76ers season in a nutshell, huh? Nerlens Noel gets traded for an all-lemon pack of Starbursts, Ben Simmons' right foot is still apparently stuck in a beartrap, Joel Embiid can't get himself dismissed from the nurse's office, and Jahlil Okafor is forced back into +1 status after everyone else passed on going to the concert with Bryan Colangelo -- and the Ballers still go out and beat one of the best teams in the East in their first game back from the All-Star break. Nearly everything about the Sixers is depressing right now, except for the team themselves. They're cool. 

Kudos to Brett Brown, man. The team is playing with such fluency and energy right now that it can withstand some losses in personnel without the drop-off being particularly dramatic -- at least for the moment. Replacing Embiid and Noel with Okafor and Holmes for as long as we'll have to do it will catch up with us in time, but for now, all you can do is marvel at the pace, cohesion and (with some mildly glaring moments of exception) discipline that Brown has the guys playing at the moment. I doubt there are five coaches in the league having a more impressive season than him right now. 

But the players were pretty good in this one, too. Dario Saric had 20-11-4 in his first start in three weeks, continuing his unlikely Rookie of the Year surge with his third-straight double-double and fourth game of 20-plus in his last six games. The All-Star Break hasn't cooled Robert Covington's hot hand, as the shooter went 5-9 from deep last night and is now 17-31 on threes over his last four games, also posting a 20-10 night with his 25 points and 11 boards. (Also three assists and four steals, whatever.) Richaun Holmes dunked over some people and reminded a handful of fans why they've gotten way too excited about him at various points earlier in the year. Good times were had by all. 

Games like last night's also just remind you how marginal the difference between winning and losing is. As they've been wont to do forever, the Sixers blew their considerable lead to the Wizards late in this one, which would've undoubtedly resulted in a tragic loss in years past. But these days, the leads are a little bigger going into the Sixers' fourth-quarter tailspins, and their defense is just a little tighter on critical possessions, and that's the difference between losing on a Bradley Beal buzzer-beater and hitting just enough free throws to squeak out a mildly secure 120-112 victory. 

Anyway, after an impossibly discouraging week of Sixers happenings, it turns out some actual Sixers basketball is just what we needed. Hopefully their level of play will continue to get better as news of their off-court developments invariably keeps getting worse .

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

TORONTO -- DeMar DeRozan scored a career-high 43 points and the Toronto Raptors rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat the Boston Celtics 107-97 on Friday night.

DeRozan shot 15 of 28 from the floor as he surpassed his 42-point effort against the Houston Rockets on March 30, 2015, helping the Raptors overcome the absence of fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry. Lowry sat out with a right wrist injury.

Serge Ibaka, acquired by trade from the Orlando Magic last week, scored 15 points in his debut, while fellow newcomer P.J. Tucker, picked up from the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, had a game-high 10 rebounds and nine points in his first game for his new team.

Isaiah Thomas scored 20 points for Boston, which also got 19 points each from Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart (see full recap).

Westbrook triple-double lifts Thunder over Lakers
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook scored 17 points in his 28th triple-double of the season, and his new teammates fit in seamlessly as the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 110-93 on Friday night.

Westbrook also had 18 rebounds and 17 assists for the 65th triple-double of his career.

It was the first game for new Thunder players Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, acquired Thursday in a trade with the Chicago Bulls. Gibson scored 12 points and McDermott added eight, even though they arrived Thursday night and weren't even available for shootaround on Friday.

Alex Abrines and Andre Roberson each set a career high with 19 points, and Steven Adams added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder.

D'Angelo Russell scored 29 for the Lakers (see full recap).

Pacers beat Grizzlies to snap six-game skid
INDIANAPOLIS -- CJ Miles made five 3-pointers and scored 17 points, Paul George had nine points and nine rebounds after remaining with Indiana following the trade deadline, and the Pacers snapped a six-game losing streak with a 102-92 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.

Monta Ellis finished with 16 points, Myles Turner scored 12, and Lavoy Allen, Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young each added 10 for the Pacers.

The Pacers outscored the Grizzlies 64-42 across the middle two quarters and never relinquished their lead, leading by as many as 27 points in the second half. The Grizzlies finished the game shooting 41 percent from the floor (35 for 84).

Troy Daniels had 13 points for Memphis and Marc Gasol scored 12. Indiana outrebounded Memphis 50-39 and scored 29 points off 17 Grizzlies turnovers (see full recap).