Just a season ago, the Phillies laid claim to one of the most anemic offenses in the league. They finished dead last in both hits and batting average and ranked in the bottom ten in runs scored. Quite frankly, the offense was a complete disaster in 2018.
Unwilling to suffer through a similar offensive campaign, Phillies GM Matt Klentak and Co. executed perhaps the most aggressive free agency period in team history. Philly welcomed tons of new faces- namely Bryce Harper, Jean Segura, J.T Realmuto, and Andrew McCutchen- but it’s the additions of Segura and McCutchen in particular that I’d like to highlight.
As I mentioned earlier, the Phillies hit total was worst in the league last season. A large reason for their lowly output was due to a lack of production at the top of the lineup. Accumulatively, the #1 and #2 hitters in the Phils 2018 lineup finished with batting averages of .255 and .218. The lack of production at the top of the lineup not only allowed opposing pitchers to settle in and get comfortable early in ball games but dampened the impact of the heart of the Phils lineup since they were usually batting with no runners on base.
After acquiring former all-stars McCutchen and Segura this offseason, however, the Phillies have experienced a huge spike in production atop the lineup. In order to properly examine the impact they’ve made offensively, I’ll break them down one at a time.
While McCutchen isn’t exactly chasing Ted Williams batting record with his .243 batting average, the veteran outfielder has been a steady presence at the leadoff spot. McCutchen is currently leading the National League in walks (34) and is second to only Mike Trout (41) in that category league-wide. His plate vision, though tremendous, goes beyond simply drawing walks.
Despite boasting a less than stellar batting average, McCutchen has been one of the tougher outs so far this season. His 4.51 pitches per plate appearance are second only to teammate Rhys Hoskins. McCutchen has also only swung at 17.1% of pitches outside of the strike zone, according to FanGraphs, which puts him slightly ahead of Trout (17.7%) for the league lead.
Having a veteran player with such a strong sense of discernment regarding balls and strikes at the leadoff spot has completely transformed the Phillies offense. Not only do the Phils get a good feel and view of what an opposing pitcher is bringing to the table early in the ballgame, but his high walk rate affords the heart of the Phils lineup to bat with at least one runner
on more often than not. Hopefully, he begins racking up more hits, but the former NL MVP has already begun to make his presence felt at the leadoff spot.
Slotting in right behind McCutchen at the two-hole, Segura has played like a man possessed since arriving in Philly. In just 36 games, the 29-year old shortstop has notched 48 hits- with roughly a third of them being of the extra-base variety. Additionally, Segura has already recorded 16(!) multi-hit games this season.
After failing to generate any amount of consistent offense out of the two-hole last season, Segura has been a godsend for the Phillies with his uncanny ability to rack up hits religiously. His .322 batting average ranks 11th in the league at the time of writing and he has easily been the Phillies most productive batter in 2019.
Alongside McCutchen, Segura has solidified a highly-productive 1-2 punch atop the NL East-leading Phillies lineup. In fact, I’d hardly call it a stretch to say that they are currently pacing the suddenly-explosive offense in Philly.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports