Something funny happened on Thursday, and it had nothing to do with the outfielder on the mound in the seventh inning, or the 11 unearned runs, or the fact that all of it was broadcast on the same platform that Uncle Jimbo uses to rant about the Deep State. You might not remember it, nor even care, given the fact that there is currently a nine iron protruding from your computer screen. But before Thursday's doubleheader opener officially became a debacle, the Phillies somehow managed to hit four home runs. In doing so, they became the only team in the National League to have five such games at home this season. They also moved into a tie with the Brewers for the second-most home runs hit at home this season.
Yet none of that is the funniest thing about the funny thing. No, that honor goes to the fact that the Phillies can't seem to hit home runs anywhere except Citizens Bank Park.
There are lots of reasons to think that this team is not quite the level of contender that its record portends, and a lot of those reasons were on display during a 24-4 loss to the Mets in the first half of a doubleheader on Thursday. Included on that list is the fact that the Phillies now have fewer home games remaining on their schedule. That's a significant fact. Of the 14 major-league teams that entered Thursday with at least 64 wins, the Phillies were the only one that did not have a winning record on the road. Not only did they not have a winning record on the road — they were seven games under .500 on the road.
On the surface, that might seem to be one of those situational peculiarities that has little predictive value regarding the course of future events. But drill a little bit deeper into that 27-34 record and you'll find a pretty jarring reason why they have struggled to stack up wins on the road.
Of the 10 teams who entered Thursday in playoff position in the American and National Leagues, the Phillies were the only one that did not have a winning record on the road. There was an eight-game difference between them and the next worst team, the 32-31 Brewers.
On the road this season, the Phillies have averaged 3.9 runs scored per game, nearly a full run lower than their 4.8 average at home heading into Thursday's games. That sort of disparity suggests an offense that has had trouble getting in gear away from home. But when you look at their numbers, it has been almost entirely attributable to their performance in one aspect of the game.
Hitting home runs.
In 1,900 at-bats at home heading into Thursday, the Phillies had hit 78 dingers. Yet in 2,104 at-bats on the road, they'd managed to hit only 59.
The strange part about that is that their performance in every other aspect of the game has been virtually even at home and on the road.
Look at the following numbers, which are the percentage of their plate appearances at home that result in a given event:
Out: 67.5 percent
Strikeout: 24.9 percent
Single, walk, or hit-by-pitch: 23.8 percent
Double or triple: 4.2 percent
Home run: 3.6 percent
Now, on the road:
Out: 68.1 percent
Strikeout: 25.3 percent
Single, walk, or hit-by-pitch: 24.5 percent
Double or triple: 4.3 percent
Home run: 2.5 percent
To put those two data sets in perspective, here is the percent of change between the two, on the road versus at home:
Out: 0.9 percent
Strikeout: 1.6 percent
Single, walk, or hit-by-pitch: 2.9 percent
Double or triple: 2.7 percent
Home run: -31.3 percent
That's pretty remarkable. In every category except the long ball, the Phillies' production is virtually unchanged on the road versus at home. Yet they are hitting the ball out of the ballpark nearly a third less often.
>> READ MORE: Why Wilson Ramos is called 'The Buffalo'
The bulk of the regression has come from four of their top five home run hitters, with Rhys Hoskins, Carlos Santana and Odubel Herrera all boasting decreases of at least 32 percent. (Nick Williams' home run rate drops by about half that.)
The Phillies' home/road differential has been a frequent talking point this season. The mood in the clubhouse is that it's just one of those things.
"You get to sleep in your own bed," Hoskins said earlier this week when the Phillies returned home from another lackluster road swing. "You know your routine at home, what you do before the game that makes you feel most comfortable."
>> READ MORE: The Phillies had their signature win of this season