Saturday, May 29, 2004
I went the University of Pittsburgh for four years ... Terrific school, by the way, for those who are considering college or those considering where to send their kids to college ... Anyway, one of the nicer things about the neighborhood of Oakland (the section of Pittsburgh pretty much swallowed by Pitt & CMU) is that there are remnants of Pittsburgh's baseball past still preserved. Forbes Field was located in Oakland and a little of the old outfield wall is still on the Pitt campus. Home plate is also still on the campus - under a glass case on the first floor of what used to be Forbes Quad (which I think its called Posvar Hall now). Because I was a liberal arts major (History & Political Science) I had lots of classes in Forbes/Posvar: when I was in class my thoughts often turned to the fact that it was kind of awe-inspiring to think that I was sitting just feet away from where Maz hit his home run in Game Seven of the '60 World Series.
(Click here for some pics of the wall and the home plate.)
Little-known fact: the location of home plate is not actually where the real location was: the actual home plate was located where the first floor men's room is.
A little plug for my alma mater: as I said, I went to Pitt and I love the school. The community Pitt is located in is a fun and exciting place where there were lots of things to do. I got a terrific education from (mostly) terrific teachers at top-notch facilities. Best four years of my life.
Friday, May 28, 2004
Meanwhile, the Phils zoomed from 10th to 7th on the CNNSI power ratings. After the surprising Reds, the Phils are #2 in the NL. The fish are #9, the Mets, Braves and Expos are in the second division. So far so good. I think what has been surprising about this season in the NL East has been that the Fish are as good as they are: I just chalked them up as a fluke, easily dismissable, but they have proven to be tough, tenacious and worthy foes. I fear these guys.
-Other observations: Yankees & Red Sox are #2 and #1 respectively. It looks to be the #1 playoff race in '04, although the real battle might come when they meet in the playoffs: does anyone expect the loser to not be the AL wildcard?
-I see that the A's are north of .500 ... It is disappointing to see the A's doing so poorly: 11th in OBP, 8th in slugging percentage, 10th in runs, 10th in OPS. Aside from home runs (4th) and doubles (6th) it looks like they aren't having any luck whatsoever in scoring runs this year.
-I'm impressed by the fearsome offensive machine that Theo Epstein has built in Beantown: I still think that the Red Sox are fated to win it all.
Big update on Monday!
Thursday, May 27, 2004
5) He has more RBI's than games played.
4) His OPS is .951
3) His OPS at Citizens is 1.503
2) He's struck out just three times in 54 at-bats.
1) He's committed just one error in 109 innings logged at second base.
Chase is pretty terrific ... Losing to the Braves sucked, but the Phils are still just a game and a half in back of the fish. Aside from the Expos the NL East looks pretty tough this year (the Mets .500?), so winning this division will be an honor.
Jayson Stark commented on ESPN's Phillies page that the home-run rate at Citizen's is close to that of Coors: 3.00 to 3.04 ...
House-keeping: I pruned the blogroll a little more. I also adjusted some positions on the order. Anyone want to suggest sites for inclusion just email me the links. I'd love some more informative sites like Hardball Times or Baseball Primer. Put "site suggestion" in the subject heading.
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
One thing that has me intrigued: in his 1977 book, James complains about errors and fielding percentage as a measure of defensive ability. I understand the point and I agree wholeheartedly: that fielding percentage is subjective and that it doesn’t measure a player’s ability to physically get to the ball because even in an error the player gets something right- he interacts with the ball. My question is this: is there ANY way to develop objective defensive stats? Has anyone tried? (Has James?) It was said that in Willie Mays glove triples went to die: how do you statistically quantify that? How do you objectively measure that statement? How do you factor in why teams were afraid to ran on sacrifice flies hit to the Giants centerfield in the 50’s and 60’s? That guys didn’t try to stretch doubles in triples and singles into doubles? I’ve complained about Bell’s defensive miscues (9 errors, a .913 fielding %, last I checked), but I am wondering if maybe Bell is doing better than I thought …
Anyway, I enjoy Lewis’ writing and I am understanding the tenets underpinning the theories of sabremetrics. Has anyone else read / is reading the book?
Monday, May 24, 2004
-I don’t see any real surprise team: sure, the implosion of the Giants is a mild surprise, as is the unexpected strength of the Padres and Dodgers, but I think that the NL West was so wide-open to begin with that it really hasn’t surprised anyone.
-I looked up the Phils stats on Yahoo Sports and I was pleasantly surprised by one stat in particular: the Phils are fairly middle of the pack in the NL in terms of BA (.264, 8th), but they are a sterling third (.345, just .009 behind the Astros) in OBP. The Phils are also third in slugging average with .450, and third in runs … A far cry from last year’s team, which struggled to claw out runs, now the Phils are, statistically, third in the majors behind the Astros and Rockies in most categories. Given how well the Phils are pitching, how well they are hitting, this team has just two flaws:
-upper-order hitting (Byrd and Rollins need to get on base more);
-finding enough playing time for Chase Utley. Seriously, this guy has been fantastic.
Alright, I had better get going, but first …
… a few non-baseball thoughts …
Anyone here a fan of Alias? I watched the season finale last night and I was really disappointed. The past two finales have been pretty big deals, but last night’s was really anticlimactic.
…and forgive me for being preachy for a moment, but…
-My fiancée and I did some running this afternoon and stopped by Petco. They had a number of cats there: some had been abandoned, one had its owner die, some had been declawed (which is really an awful thing to do to a cat- imagine having your fingers cut off) and mistreated. The cats were being sponsored by the local animal league, so the adoption fee was pretty small, but the cats that pet stores typically have are a hundred or more dollars. We own two cats and I’m proud to say that they were both pretty bad off when we took them in: one was a stray and the other was badly abused. We rescued both from a life on the street. It struck me, looking at the cats, that it is awful when people go into pet stores and buy cats for a few hundred: shelters are overflowing with strays, some of whom have been badly abused and are in need of a good home. If you are thinking about getting a dog or a cat, please try to adopt through a shelter of some kind. It broke my heart looking at those cats, thinking that some weren’t going to be adopted and might have to be euthanized [sic].
Sunday, May 23, 2004
What is impressive about Utley's stats thus far, to me, have been his consistency at the plate: he has gotten a hit in his last seven games, including today against the Padres.
In addition to Utley's impressive stats, Utley's reputation as a tough, blue-collar kind of ballplayer also works in his favor for fans and fan-bloggers: here is the kind of guy that Phillies fans can really identify with, the kind of guy we want turning double plays at Citizens for years and years to come.
Naturally, of course this becomes a bit of a conundrum for Larry Bowa: what do you do now that Polanco might be ready to return? Matt Lombardo at PhillyBaseballNews.com has suggested that the best solution would be for Bowa to start platooning Polanco and Utley and prepare to deal Polanco later in the season. (More on that later.) Lombardo dismisses the idea of removing Bell from third, noting that Bell has (like Burrell) decisively bounced back from last season's hellish campaign. Indeed, lost in all of the talk about Burrell and Thome and Utley has been the fact that, quietly, Bell is having a terrific season: .286 BA .363 OBP .471 SLG, with 20 RBIs, 11 doubles and five home runs. What has really impressed me about Bell in 2004 has been his ability to control the strike zone: 22 K's, 16 BB's. Aside from his defense, Bell has been playing well and in a reason why the 2004 edition of the Phillies is so much better than the 2003 one.
But what about Polanco? I'm not convinced that he deserves to be uprooted from his perch at the pivot at second base: he is only batting .223, but his OBP is a more respectful .304 (I note that Polanco has controlled the strike zone well: he has 9 BB's and 7 K's, two fewer strikeouts than walks.) Polanco is in a slump, but he'll most likely break out of it. Polanco's real problem this year has been that he simply hasn't been hitting with any power this season: his .313 SLG average is about eighty points off his career and well over one hundred off 2003. Polanco has contributed just one RBI to the Phillies offense (partly explained by Rollins and Byrd's failure to get on base, but still) in 27 games.
But could the Phillies make do with Rollins and Byrd leading off? Could Utley hit in Polanco's second spot in the order? I broached the subject of Utley hitting in the two slot and several people have pointed out that it would be a square peg in a round hole: Utley is a classic #5, #6 hitter, a guy to protect Burrell and Thome and Abreu in the here and now. He probably isn't enough of a contact hitter: his power belongs lower in the order to take advantage of having runners on.
Of course the flip-side of that is that Byrd and Rollins haven't been consistent all this year and for most of last year. In fact Rollins and Byrd have been the model of inconsistency (although, in all fairness to Rollins I note that he has improved on his control of the plate: in the past he's had a 2-to-1 K/BB ratio, and thus far in 2004 he's at 16-to-13, a marked improvement): the Phillies keep hoping that both will begin laying down the hits but (so far) it hasn't happened. (Rollins: .240 BA / .298 OBP; Byrd .248 BA / .329 OBP. Byrd in particular has me disapointed: he has struck out over twice as much as he's walked in 2004.) When Thome and Abreu and Burrell come up to the plate they've had few baserunners to take advantage of: I note that Thome has a ridiculously low number of RBIs (22) for as many home runs (11) he has and how high he hits in the order. Burrell and Abreu have been batting Thome home, not Byrd and Rollins. Maybe having a doubles machine like Utley in at the two slot will help Thome a little: having a runner on second is a heckuva lot better than having one at first and not having one on at all, isn't it?
Sidenotes. I'm still amazed by Bobby Abreu: he hits with power (.605 SLG), for a high average (.299 BA / .414 OBP) and he controls the plate with amazing ability (32 K, 30 BB). This guy is going to go down as one of the Phils greats.
Anyone catch that bit in Sports Illustrated about how little opening a new ballpark helps a team in the standings? (p. 88; May 17, 2004) The article noted that, on average, a team improves just .011 in the standings, or just two wins. I think that this year is proving to be an exception to that rule: I think that the Padres look pretty darn good (best in the NL), and the Phillies are playing better than last year.
Next up: two in Shea against the Mets. Should be a pleasant trip. These next two or so weeks the Phils get to face-off with the Braves and Mets, then enter interleague play.