When you think of why the Phillies are a good baseball team, there are some obvious reasons – Chase Utley is one of the best players in the game, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee are top-notch LHPs, and Ryan Howard can hit a baseball a very long way. However, there are also some less notable reasons why the Phillies have succeeded this year, including a pretty remarkable ability to stay out of the double play.
The Phillies hit into 90 double plays this year, fewest of any team in baseball. In fact, no team has hit into fewer than 90 double plays in a full season since 1992, when the Braves hit into just 82 twin-killings. Philadelphia hit into 41 fewer DPs than the Dodgers, or basically one fewer every four games.
What’s even more amazing, however, is that the Phillies avoided double plays while also putting a lot of men on base. In general, the best way to avoid making two outs on one play is to have a bad offense that rarely gets anyone on, but Philadelphia racked up the baserunners this year and still managed to avoid the 6-4-3 with regularity.
While there’s no single cause for double play avoidance, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the Phillies have been able to pull this off, given the types of players they employ. They have a roster full of guys who run well and prefer to hit the ball in the air. As a team, they had a GB% of just 40.4%, fourth lowest in the game.
Forty-seven percent of Chase Utley’s balls in play were flyballs – it’s really hard to turn two on a guy who uppercuts the ball and can run well when he does hit it on the ground. Those are the two main reasons Utley hit into only five double plays all season. That total was matched by Shane Victorino, and they were two of only six players in baseball with 600+ PA to hit into five or fewer double plays on the season.
It’s a little thing, but it’s one of those little things that can add up over the course of a season, and can play a big role in a short series like the NLCS. If the Dodgers find themselves having to pitch out of a jam, they better go for the strikeout, because they’re probably not going to get the rally-killing double play to bail them out. Not against this Phillies team.
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