Brett Oberholtzer: The Phillies White Flag of Surrender

I have been wanting to write about the Phillies’ run differential, its predictive value, and the overall construction of a team that combines the truly awful and the dominant, for a while now. The grander discussions of Pythagorean record will have to wait for another day because I want to talk about the amazing and horrifying thing that is Brett Oberholtzer. I think it is best if we just start with the stat line.

14.0 Innings Pitched 9.64 ERA 25 Hits 8 Home Runs 7 Walks 14 Strikeouts

Opposing batters are hitting .385/.444/.815 over 72 PAs

I don’t know how to describe how bad that it is, it is basically peak Barry Bonds with much less walks. But that is not what is entirely interesting about this, what is interesting is the usage. Oberholtzer is clearly providing more fuel to the fire and making bad situations worse, but what if those situations are already pretty bad. Here is his usage:

  • Bottom 4th – man on first – 2 outs – down 6 runs – Leverage Index: .09
  • Top 4th – bases empty – 0 outs – down 6 runs – Leverage Index: .08
  • Top 6th – bases empty – 0 outs – down 5 runs – Leverage Index: .08
  • Bottom 2nd – bases empty – 0 outs – down 1 run – Leverage Index: 1.05 (Charlie Morton injury)
  • Bottom 6th – man on second – 1 out – down 2 runs – Leverage Index: .23

A leverage index of 1 is average leverage, the lower the number the less the leverage. On the season Oberholtzer has an average leverage index of .26 which is the 6th lowest among pitchers with at least 10 innings this year, and it would be far and away the lowest if it were not for his relief appearance after Morton was injured. Pretty much Oberholtzer has been who the Phillies have sent in to protect the rest of the bullpen.

This opens up some questions, like should the Phillies replace Oberholtzer and what does this tell us about the 2016 Phillies. The answer to the first question is, probably but it does not really matter. As we can see by the leverage of Oberholtzer’s appearances that games are essentially over when he enters them. A better pitcher would keep games closer, but as bullish as I am on some parts of the 2016 Phillies, the offense is not one of them. The 2016 Phillies as currently constructed are never going to come back from 5+ runs down, it just isn’t going to happen. So if that situation arises, the goal is to get to the end of the game with everyone healthy and keeping as many people rested and available for the next game where the outcome counts.

The second part of this is what is the predictive value of this. Let’s set aside Oberholtzer’s one leveraged appearance in which he gave up 3 runs in 2+ innings and left with the win. That leaves us with 4 appearances where the collective leverage was low enough that it really did not matter who pitched. In those 4 games, Oberholtzer allowed 12 runs to score that were his fault, plus both inherited runners. That is 14 runs given up in situations that were lost causes. The Phillies currently stand at a run differential of -23. If we just remove the Oberholtzer forfeits we take the at to a -9, raising the expected W-L based on run differential from 9.9 wins to 11.7 wins.

Because of players like Brett Oberholtzer within the Phillies’ team construction, they defy conventional thought on usage and predictive outcomes. You can look at their current record and outcomes and say what they possibly should be, but because they are playing at the extremes they are going to break existing models.

Author: Matt Winkelman

Matt Winkelman
Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has appeared on Phuture Phillies, The Good Phight, and TheDynastyGuru.