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Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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United States, Pennsylvania, Wexford, Christopher Wren, English, Michael, Male, 26-30, baseball , politics.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Enter Mr. Wells... 

The Phillies signed Todd Pratt to a one-year deal yesterday, keeping one of the better backup catchers in the MLB on the roster for 2005. I know Pratt's stats don't seem impressive: .244 GPA, .109 ISO, .367 SLG, but he's a dependable catcher (he played in a quarter of the Phillies games last year) and a tough out (.351 OBP, 4.08 pitches per plate appearance, compared with the league average of 3.75).

It's interesting how little the Phillies roster continues to change: I was comparing Win Shares from the 2003 and 2004 seasons and I was struck how nearly all of the players who were on the '03 squad played on the team in '04. I think Tyler Houston and Nick Punto were the sole players who left. With Pratt coming back again, the Phillies look set to return the same basic team that took the field in 2004, though hopefully with some improvements. The team stability is impressive, although you have to worry that the Phillies are poised to become the NL version of the Mariners, a team that seemed to get old overnight because management tinkered little with the team's roster.

Aside from adding Loften to centerfield, the big addition the Phillies are poised to make in the off-season is to sign free agent pitcher David Wells. The Phillies are apparently in the process of signing Wells to a contact to round out the starting rotation in the post-Milton / post-Mill wood era. I have always been struck, watching Wells, that in terms of his personality he might be best suited to play on the ’93 Phillies, that loveable collection of goofs and castoffs who went to the World Series. In the new post-Bowa era I think Wells personality will mesh well with the team. These guys are veterans of countless campaigns, like Wells. Wells will fit in well.

What about his pitching? Well, I think Wells would probably do well with the Phillies: he threw 197 2/3 innings in 2004 at the age of 41, while making 31 starts for the Padres. He averaged six and a third innings per start, not bad at all. (Eric Milton averaged a bit under six innings a start.) Wells 3.73 ERA and 1.14 WHIP were better than his career averages of 4.03 and 1.24 … of course the Petco factor has to be discussed … as we all know the hysteria and panic over the home-run-friendliness of Citizens was perhaps only matched by the hand-wringing over the spaciousness of Petco Park in San Diego, the other ballpark that opened up in 2004. I suspect that time will reveal that Petco isn’t quite as spacious as some would believe, but the data suggests that Petco might be the most home-run hostile ballpark in the MLB: according to ESPN’s Park Factors Page, Petco was the most difficult park to hit a home run in last year. Petco’s 0.691 was 30th of 30 parks. It wasn’t any easier to get a hit there either: Petco’s hit factor was just 0.895, better than just Safeco and Great American Ballpark. If there was ever a pitcher’s park, Petco is it. So how would Wells do moving from Petco to Citizen’s? Pretty well, I suspect. What I like about Wells is that his control of the strike-zone appears to still be good: in 2003 and 2004 he threw just 20 walks and 101 strikeouts, a five-to-one ratio. His 0.9 walks-per-9-innings was the stingiest of the Padres pitchers. This is important stuff because strikeouts and walks are things that a pitcher can control independent of park factors. If Wells is still mowing them down at 41, who is to say he can't still do it at 42?Also, Wells is more of a groundball kind of pitcher: his 1.49 G/F ratio would be better than Myers, Milton, Millwood, Padilla, Wolf, Abbott and even Lidle. This is the sort of pitcher that the Phillies need to bring to Citizen’s if they want to have a successful team. Naturally Wells age is a handicap. He’d be 42 next May and the Phillies would be fools to give him more than a one year deal or a two-year deal loaded with incentives.

You also have to wonder about the defense factor. Wells benefited from very good defense in 2004: his DER was a sterling .726, almost as good as Milton’s .737 and better than the Padres team average of .695. The Padres were third in the NL in ZR (.858), although their infield was just seventh (.822) … An “average” defense wouldn’t have hurt Wells too much though: the variance between his actual ERA (3.73) and FIP ERA (3.91) is pretty small: -0.18.

Provided that the Phillies infield is strong in 2005, I think that Wells would pitch well for the Phillies. I hope they sign him.

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