With less than two weeks to go before baseball season ends, now's a good time to begin looking back at the most surprising developments, stats and trends for the Phillies in 2017.
In no particular order, we'll run these throughout the fall, starting today with Nick Williams' success against left-handed pitching.
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Williams has had an impressive rookie season overall, but his success against same-handed pitching has been the biggest surprise in Year 1.
In the upper minor leagues in 2015 and 2016, Williams hit .223 with a .583 OPS.
As a major-leaguer, Williams has hit .288 against lefties with a .780 OPS, a double, two triples and two homers.
Makes me think back to a conversation with Williams in the summer of 2016, when things started to click for him vs. lefties.
"I've been seeing lefties a lot better lately," Williams said then. "A lot of them kind of do the same thing to me and that helps. I just want to master, really figure out what I'm trying to do and what they're trying to do to me. I didn't like when [managers] thought I couldn't hit a lefty and they would call a guy in from the bullpen just to pitch to me. It bothered me, I didn't like that, them thinking it could just take a lefty to get me out. I worked on it, worked on it, and I got better at it.
"Breaking balls away, sometimes they try to come in, but usually if they throw me a breaking ball that's a strike, it's a good pitch to hit. There's a couple times you can tip your hat to them for hitting a certain spot, but really, when lefties throw me a breaking ball for a strike, it's a good pitch to hit. Just staying patient and the one that's an inch off, two inches off, just bite your lip and take."
Williams won't place high in NL Rookie of the Year voting because it's been an impressive class with Cody Bellinger (the lock), Rhys Hoskins, Paul DeJong, Josh Bell and Kyle Freeland. (I think the Padres' Dinelson Lamet will be the third-best player among that group next year.) In other years, he'd be more of a top-five consideration.
Consistency over 300 PAs
Williams' strong summer has been overshadowed by Hoskins-mania, but his production has been consistent.
Through 302 plate appearances with the Phillies, Williams has hit .286/.338/.475 with 14 doubles, four triples, 10 homers and 48 RBIs.
Project that over 162 games and you get 32 doubles, 9 triples, 23 homers and 108 RBIs.
That doesn't mean that if Williams plays 162 next season he'll absolutely hit all of those marks, but it's an idea of what a full, healthy season from him might look like.
"Nick Williams looks like the Phillies' rightfielder of the next six years" couldn't have been said with nearly as much certitude just six months ago.
Still think the Phillies waited too long?
I'd argue this is more indicative of the Phils' front office moving Williams along the right way.
They wanted him to show more plate selection before bringing up to the majors and he obliged, walking eight times in his final 13 games at Triple A after walking eight times in his previous 65 games.
(Since this is the internet and at least a few will be inclined to label me a Phillies apologist for those previous two paragraphs, I do think they waited at least two months too long with Hoskins, maybe more.)
Williams just turned 24 on Sept. 8. He celebrated with a three-run homer off of Max Scherzer and a 4-for-5 night at Nationals Park.
He's shown power to all fields, and though he's never been much of a base stealer, his speed stands out.
Finding a decent comp
So Williams has hit .286/.338/.475 in his first 302 plate appearances.
Before this season, Justin Upton hit .268/.347/.472 over a decade (wow, does time fly).
Pretty similar, right?
Back to that 162-game projection for Williams of 32 doubles, 9 triples, 23 homers and 109 RBIs.
From 2007-16, Upton averaged 32 doubles, five triples, 27 homers and 86 RBIs per 162 games.
Williams' 300 plate appearances are far, far different from Upton's 6,000. But if Williams can start hot next season and remain consistent throughout 2018, a left-handed hitting Justin Upton with a skill set to bat second through sixth ain't bad.
So, is this sustainable?
Williams has a .376 batting average on balls in play. The league average is .300, so some will be quick to holler out that Williams will regress.
But keep in mind that just because the league average BABIP is .300 doesn't mean all players end up there. From 2014-17 in the minors, Williams' batting average on balls in play fell in the .355 to .365 range.
And this season, there are 33 players with a BABIP of at least .350. So it's not necessarily a major fluke that Williams has hit the way he has to this point.
When putting the ball in play, fast players like Williams get on base more often than those with average speed. Williams already has 10 infield hits. (Make it 11 after his infield hit off lefty Tony Watson last night.)
Next April and May are going to be really important for Williams. He'll start facing pitchers for the second, third and fourth times, and the rest of the league will have a better idea of how to get him out. These early returns are promising, though.