This is the second post for The Broad Street Line, a recurring series we’re running at Philly Views.
We’ll take a look at some of the underlying stats that are typically a better determinant of our favorite teams’ success than the widely-distributed, but often limited stats you’ll usually see.
You can read the first post here.
These stats may either support or refute the popular opinion of Philly teams, but they will help us see past the surface level and better understand our teams (except the Flyers, because I don’t watch them).
Here we go.
According to Cleaning the Glass, the Sixers’ defense ranks 11th in the NBA, allowing 105.7 points per 100 possessions. However, that dips to 99.9 with Joel Embiid on the floor, which would easily be the best in the NBA. I wanted to look at what Embiid is doing to cause this precipitous drop.
-8.5 Percentage points
Sixers’ opponents are hitting 65.7% of their shots at the rim, 4th worst in the NBA. For a team with a premier defensive big man in Embiid, you’d think that number would be lower. But the problem is not with Embiid—the problem is with the Sixers’ other big men.
Dario Saric is not a great defender. Richaun Holmes and Amir Johnson struggle to defend quicker players, though Holmes has some highlight reel blocks.
Blocks are great, and Joel Embiid sure gets a lot of them. Embiid ranks third in the NBA in blocks, swatting 2.9 fools per 48 minutes, behind only Kristaps Porzingis and Kevin Durant.
However, when he’s not blocking shots, he’s still altering them, leading to opponents hitting 8.5% fewer of their shots at the rim with Embiid in the game than when he’s on the bench. With Embiid on the court, teams shoot 61.6% at the rim, which would rank in the top 10 in the league.
+6.4 Percentage points
Beyond that, his mere presence in the game acts as a deterrent to attacking the rim. As a result, opponents shoot 6.4% more of their shots from the long midrange with JoJo on the court. Even when he’s not rejecting shots, he’s forcing opponents to take bad ones. As such, opponents take fewer shots at the rim and fewer shots from short midrange.
They trade layups and short floaters for long twos. That’s a good trade for the Sixers’ defense.
Against the vast majority of bigs, Russell Westbrook is getting to the rim and finishing on a switch. Embiid forces him to pass into a contested long two. It goes in, but it’s not an efficient shot for most teams.
-6.1 percentage points
All of that adds up to a defense that is one of the stingiest in the league with Embiid on the floor. With Embiid on the bench, opponents have an eFG% of 53.6%, which would rank 7th in the NBA. With him on the floor, opponents shoot 6.1 percentage points worse at 47.5%. That’s worse even than the league-worst Chicago Bulls’ mark.
And that’s to say nothing about his offense.
The Phillies made a splash over the weekend, trading away Freddy Galvis to the Padres and signing former Cleveland Indians slugger Carlos Santana to a three-year deal. Galvis had been the longest tenured Phillie before the trade, while Santana had been with the Indians even longer, since the 2010 season.
OFFICIAL: #Phillies have signed first baseman Carlos Santana to a three-year contract. The deal includes a club option for 2021.
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) December 20, 2017
With the signings of veteran relief pitchers Tommy Hunter (2 years, $18M) and the once and future Phillie Pat Neshek (2 years, $16.25M), the Phillies have already laid out $94.25 million in commitments to Major League free agents.
That’s nearly three times as much as they spent the entire last offseason, when the team laid out $36.7 million for Andres Blanco, Jeremy Hellickson, Joaquin Benoit, and Michael Saunders, and the Phillies are reportedly not done as they seek a starting pitcher in a trade.
This shows that the front office believes they have turned a corner in the rebuild and are ready to compete for a playoff spot, perhaps as soon as next season.
Since he became the full-time starter in Cleveland in 2011, Carlos Santana’s on-base percentage has been nearly identical every year. In fact, the difference between his highest and lowest on-base percentage has been just .026 points over those seven seasons, with his lowest being .351 and his highest at .377.
Compare that with Odubel Herrera, whose OBP went down .036 points as he increased his power from 2016 to 2017.
With his ability to get on base, Santana should add some plate discipline to a lineup that’s ranked in the bottom third of the league in walk rate in each of the past three years. With the addition of J.P Crawford and Rhys Hoskins, whose plate disciplines are both well-regarded, we should be watching a lineup that forces pitchers to throw pitches in the zone.
That will be a welcome change for a team that had the 9th highest chase rate in the MLB last year at 30.9%. In a small sample last season, Crawford and Hoskins both ranked in the top 6 in walk rate among MLB players with at least 80 PAs. Yes, it’s a small sample, but it’s certainly an encouraging for two rookies.
Much has been written about Carson Wentz’s impact on the Eagles. Now we’ll have to see what the team looks like without him, and where they stand in the NFL hierarchy.
Number 1 Center
According to Pro Football Focus’ rankings, Jason Kelce is the top center in the NFL. His run blocking is special, due to the quickness he shows when blocking out in the open field.
Oh man, Jason Kelce was a one-man wrecking crew on this Jay Ajayi run. pic.twitter.com/4LCcJPjwba
— Dave Zangaro (@DZangaroNBCS) December 18, 2017
However, Kelce did not make the Pro Bowl. On an NFC roster riddled with Eagles, including our fallen angel Carson Wentz, Zach Ertz, Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks, Fletcher Cox, and Malcolm Jenkins, Kelce stands out as one of the most egregious snubs.
There was much concern over how the Eagles offense would fare with Nick Foles at the helm, and while Foles is certainly no Wentz, he showed what he could do with a good offensive line and a solid stable of pass catchers and running backs on Sunday.
— NFL (@NFL) December 17, 2017
In that start and his several other garbage time appearances, Foles posted a 109.1 Passer Rating, which tops the league among quarterbacks with at least 50 pass attempts this year (Foles has 52).
It would be foolish to expect that performance to continue, as Foles was aided by a special Special Teams performance that often left him with a short field. But Foles’ play on Sunday was encouraging. If only we could say the same about the defense.
+207.8 and +13.7
The Eagles defense was supremely disappointing this weekend, as the loss of Carson Wentz means any Super Bowl hopes for this year are pinned on the defense.
They allowed 207.8 more yards and 13.7 more points than the Giants averaged this season coming in. The defense entered this game averaging less than 300 yards and 19.2 points allowed per game, and they allowed nearly that much over the Giants’ season average.
If this team has any hope in the playoffs, the defense needs to play better than it did last week.