All these Phillies strikeouts: Overrated or underrated issue?

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All these Phillies strikeouts: Overrated or underrated issue?

It feels like the Phillies have struck out a billion times this season.

The actual number is 747. Third-most in the majors, ahead of only the Rangers and Padres. The Phils have struck out 72 more times than the league average.

The strikeouts are glaring on nights the Phillies struggle to score, nights like Monday and Tuesday against the Yankees.

The question is: Are the K's actually harming the Phils as much as the raw number indicates? Obviously, strikeouts are boring for fans to watch and are unproductive outs. But a strikeout with nobody on base is nearly the same thing as a groundout to shortstop, with the word "nearly" only used there because of the very small chance of an error.

Runners in scoring position

The Phillies have struck out in 24.2 percent of their plate appearances with runners in scoring position this season. It's the fifth-highest rate in the majors.

There's one big "however," though.

The Phils also have the second-highest walk rate with runners in scoring position. As a result, their .353 OBP with RISP is fourth-best in the majors and their .785 OPS is fifth. They also rank in the top 10 in runs driven in with runners in scoring position and have just 10 fewer than the Yankees.

You only draw walks by running deep counts. When running deep counts, strikeouts also become more likely. So, yes, the Phillies have struck out a lot in these key situations, but I'd argue the impact hasn't been as drastic as you might think given their other successes with RISP.

Men on third, less than two outs

This is the clearest type of situation when a strikeout kills you. And you know what? The Phillies actually have the sixth-fewest K's with a runner on third and less than two outs. 

In those situations, the Phils have hit .367 and driven in 99 runs in 148 plate appearances. That, too, ranks in the top 10 in terms of success rate.

High-leverage situations

In high-leverage situations, the Phillies' strikeout rate is smack-dab in the middle of the pack, 15th in the majors and right on par with teams like the Cubs and Brewers. 

Men on first, less than two outs

Advancing a runner from first with less than two outs is meaningful. It also requires a specific type of out — a deep fly ball or a softly hit ground ball.

With men on first and less than two outs, the Phillies have struck out 81 times, which is seventh-most in baseball.

Psychological impact

There's an outside-the-lines factor at play here and that's how much the strikeouts can demoralize the fan base. If you don't believe that, just take a look at Twitter or the comments section of any Phillies post on this site after a loss.

The Phillies struck out 15 times on Monday and 10 more times on Tuesday.

They've had six games already this season with 15 or more K's. In no other year in franchise history have the Phillies done that more than four times. And there are 85 games still to play.

They also have three more games with double-digit strikeouts (39) than any NL team this season.

The Phillies are on pace to strike out 135 more times than any year in team history. This after setting new franchise records each of the last two seasons.

In conclusion

They've swung and missed a ton. It's frustrating and at times boring to watch. It adds a lot of inactivity to games.

But it's tough to look at any of this data and suggest the Phillies would be in a much different position whatsoever if they were grounding out or flying out instead of striking out, specifically because the majority of those K's have come in spots when there wasn't much opportunity of making a productive out.

Not suggesting that it's OK they're striking out this much. It's not, and any team would prefer to be making more contact than less. It's just that it hasn't really affected their run-scoring chances as much as you might think.

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What MLB's sliding scale proposal could look like from Phillies perspective

What MLB's sliding scale proposal could look like from Phillies perspective

Tuesday's meeting between MLB and the players' association kicked off an important week for a sport that knows it needs to quickly solve its financial battle and return to our screens.

According to multiple reports, the financial plan proposed to the players on Tuesday involved a sliding scale that would give the largest percentage of prorated salaries to players earning the least, and the smallest percentage of prorated salaries to players earning the most.

In simpler terms: If the players were to sign off on this plan, it would mean Bryce Harper ($27.5M in 2020) would get a lower percentage of his prorated salary than would Rhys Hoskins ($605,000).

The rationale of this reported proposal is pretty clear: There are so many more players earning close to the league minimum than there are superstars earning eight figures per year. If the players earning the least are given the highest percentage of their prorated salaries, it means a large chunk of the league would be close to earning what it would've if the March agreement regarding full prorated salaries remained untouched.

Let's use the Phillies as an example. In 2020, they were set to pay: 

• Bryce Harper just over $27.5M
• Zack Wheeler $21.5M
• Jake Arrieta $20M
• Andrew McCutchen $17M
• Jean Segura $14.85M
• Didi Gregorius $14M
• David Robertson $11M
• J.T. Realmuto $10M

They have seven more players set to make between $1.5 million and $8.5 million. The remaining 25 players on the 40-man roster, plus all the non-roster invitees and pre-arbitration players, all fall below that line.

This, from Joel Sherman of the NY Post, paints a slightly clearer picture of how it could shake out:

One person who had been briefed on the proposal said the expectation is that players due to make $1 million or less in 2020 would be made close to whole on a prorated basis for games played. Thus, if someone were making the MLB 2020 minimum of $563,500 and 82 regular-season games (almost exactly half a season) were played, they would receive roughly half their pay, about $282,000.

But players at the top of the pay chain such as Gerrit Cole and Mike Trout would get less. If that were in the 50 percent range — as an example — then Cole, who was due $36 million, this year would receive half of about the $18 million he would be due for half a season or roughly $9 million.

From a Phillies perspective, if those percentages are close to accurate, it would mean Harper would earn somewhere around $6.9 million of his $27.5 million salary. For Wheeler, that number would be about $5.4 million. For Arrieta, $5 million. And so on.

That is just an example, though. It is currently unclear how many different prorated tiers there would be, what the percentage would be for each, and whether the players would even sign off on this.

However, there are other factors at play. MLB could also elongate what we expected to be an 82-game season to closer to 100 games. The additional revenue of more games on local and national TV could mean a slightly higher percentage of salaries for players.

And, per the Post, "there also would be a kicker in which the players would receive a greater percentage of the salaries if the postseason is played — MLB receives the lion’s share of its national TV money from the playoffs."

There are some hurdles with this plan. There is the potential of pitting players against each other within their own union based on the different tiers of prorated pay. There is also the potential of a few superstar players feeling it's not worth it to play. What if you're Mookie Betts and you agree to play for a fraction of your salary and then suffer a bad injury that diminishes your free-agent value? 

There is no doubt that everyone in baseball is in this together and it benefits all sides to have the game return this summer. But there is still much more negotiating to be done.

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Important week on tap for MLB — can season actually begin in early July?

Important week on tap for MLB — can season actually begin in early July?

Signs point toward meaningful MLB news coming this week. 

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Saturday announced that teams could return to their facilities to train, which is meaningful nationwide given the fact that New York has had more than twice as many cases of COVID-19 reported as any other state.

In Tampa, Tropicana Field was reopened for limited workouts and more than a dozen Rays players participated. The Astros have announced that Minute Maid Park is open for workouts, too. The Angels' spring training complex is open to all players on their 40-man roster.

MLB and the players' association are scheduled to meet today. Understandably, the players' union has, so far, been unwilling to accept another pay cut on top of what it thought agreed to in March with prorated pay. Team owners have been adamant that it is not financially viable to pay players a half-season salary with no fans in stands. From their side, the losses would be too steep and would affect future finances.

Will the sides reach a compromise? They have to. We saw again over the weekend how many Americans are starved for sports when 5.8 million tuned into the Tiger Woods-Peyton Manning vs. Phil Mickelson-Tom Brady golf match, a number slightly higher than The Last Dance documentary received. 

MLB didn't need any more evidence that returning was crucial, but there it was. All parties feel a sense of urgency because the league doesn't want baseball to dip further in popularity, and the players want to play and get paid. If the sport were to disappear for a period of 18 months, it will fall off the radar for many casual fans. And a portion of die-hards will be so frustrated by the sides' inability to come to a financial agreement at a time when so many are suffering physically, mentally and financially and craving the escape of sports that even their viewership habits could change. 

MLB cannot afford that. It is not at the height of its popularity like the NBA.

The goal, when this is worked out, is still to hold Spring Training II in mid-June and open the season at the beginning of July. The closer we get to those dates without an agreement, the less likely it becomes that the regular season could start so soon. Players will need two or three weeks to prepare regardless of when a deal is struck.

It also looks increasingly likely that teams will stay within their own divisions. There would still be a good amount of interleague play between teams in close proximity to one another (think Yankees and Orioles for the Phillies), but the three-division, 10-team format idea is not as necessary if teams can play in their home states as opposed to just Florida, Texas and Arizona.

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