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The Impressive Numbers Behind the Phillies' Fast Start

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Yes, it’s early. But the Phillies have charged out to a 7-2 start, and have won each of their first three series. We’re not ready to project a win total (which, incidentally, would be 126 at their current pace) based on nine games, but we are ready to recognize the reasons for their impressive start.
 

1. J-Roll and Victorino Heard Mike Schmidt Loud and Clear: Back in Spring TrainingRyan Howard Photo: AP Barbara Johnston , Mike Schmidt called out Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino, saying that they both needed to do a better job of getting on base, running, and scoring.

So far, the Phillies’ two spark plugs have done just that, with a combined batting average of .369, 10 multiple-hit games, 14 runs scored, and 5 stolen bases. Their production may be one of the leading factors for our next item.

2. Six Runs Per Game is a Great Game Plan: The Phillies seem to have rediscovered their old formula for winning baseball: scoring a ton of runs. Their 6.55 runs per game is second best in Major League Baseball, and if that type of output continues when their starting pitchers find their groove, those 100-victory projections will seem conservative.

3. Hitting .334 as a TEAM: When you consider that only two INDIVIDUALS in Major League Baseball hit .334 or better last season (Josh Hamilton, .359 and Carlos Gonzalez .336), it’s pretty remarkable that the Phils’ entire roster is batting a combined .344 through the first nine games.

 4. White-Hot Pinch Hitting: Phillies pinch hitters are an unbelievable 10-for-17 (.588) with 6 RBI through the season’s first nine games. It’s a very encouraging development for a team whose 2010 bench could be described as punchless.

5. Relief Pitching Outshining Heralded Starters:  You may have heard something about the Phillies’ starting rotation being pretty decent. Through the season’s first week-and-a-half, however, the Phillies oft-questioned relievers have been phenomenal. Through nine games, the bullpen staff has logged 30.2 innings with an ERA of 1.46, 24 strikeouts and 8 walks. How does that compare to the greatest starting rotation ever assembled? Well, the Phantastic Five got out of the gate a little slower, with an ERA of 4.74.

6. Ben Francisco: So Far, So Good: Over 162 games, Francisco may not put up Jayson Werth’s numbers, but that wasn’t really the expectation anyway. However, his first nine games are making it seem as though a platoon is not the solution in right field. Ben has hit .306 with an OPS of .903 so far. He strikes out a lot (10 K in 33 AB), but his power numbers have made that less of an issue. And only because I can’t resist, I will point out the bearded Phillie-hater is planted firmly on the Mendoza line in his first nine games as a National.  See you Tuesday, Jayson.

7. Ryan Howard Being Protected Just Fine: How many times did we hear about the Phillies’ ability to protect Ryan Howard being one of the keys to the 2011 season? You would think that a player who has averaged 46 homers and 136 RBI over the last five seasons would be given more credit for his ability to protect himself. Well, Howard is now sandwiched between Jimmy Rollins and Francisco, and he seems to be fine with being a member of that trio. Howard is hitting .361 with 4 doubles, 2 homers and 11 RBI in only nine games.

Matt Babiarz was born and raised in the Philadelphia area.  He graduated from the University of Alabama, but remained a very close observer of the Philadelphia sports scene.  He recently began covering the Phillies for Philly2Philly.com.   You can also read his work at Bleacherreport.com within the Philadelphia Phillies section

Matt can be contacted at mattbabz@comcast.net  

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Ryan Howard Photo: AP Barbara Johnston