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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.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Stats... 

Here are how the Phils are doing, stat-wise...

GPA (Gross Productive Average): (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA
Thome: .352
Abreu: .342
Burrell: .299
Bell: .282
Lieberthal: .257
Rollins: .248
Polanco: .242

Platoon:
Michaels: .281
Glanville: .172

Bench…
Utley: .258

I’ve been mildly surprised by Pat Burrell’s performance of late. He’s been drawing more walks and getting a few more hits. He’s bounced back from last year and I’d say that he’s a lock to win NL Comeback Player of the Year, although David Bell is a possible finalist for the award too.

ISO (Isolated Power): .SLG - .BA = .ISO
Thome: .375
Abreu: .270
Burrell: .211
Bell: .196
Lieberthal: .186
Rollins: .110
Polanco: .108

Platoon:
Michaels: .105
Glanville: .045

Bench… Utley: .229

No real surprise that Utley would be a big upgrade over Polanco in terms of power stats … I didn't have time to calculate the NL's team-by-team GPA stats, but ...

NL Top 5: ISO (Isolated Power): .SLG - .BA = .ISO
1. Colorado Rockies: .186
2. Philadelphia Phillies: .180
3. Chicago Cubs: .180
4. St. Louis: .176
5. New York Mets: .168

I’m very surprised by the Mets run to the top five in ISO after trailing for so much of the year. This team didn’t seem to be hitting for much power until late.

NL Top 5: RC27*
1. Philadelphia Phillies: 5.43
2. Colorado Rockies: 5.36
3. St. Louis Cardinals: 5.30
4. San Francisco: 5.15
5. Chicago Cubs: 5.06

*Runs Created per 27 Outs: ESPN’s formula for Runs Created is simply too complex for me to replicate easily here. This is their stat based on what a hypothetical team of nine of the same player would score.

No surprises here, these are the top offensive teams in the NL…

I had better run. I'll have a few more thoughts on Monday...

(28) comments

Big Trade in the works? 

I read on the net that the Phils are exploring a blockbuster trade with the Cards that would send Millwood and Polanco to the Cards for Steve Kline and Matt Morris. A few thoughts…

-It would be odd to send Polanco back to the team we got him from for Rolen, wouldn’t it?

-I guess that Kline angered LaRussa a few weeks back and that might be a reason why he’s on the chopping block. If we get Kline are getting someone else’s problem?

Going strictly by the numbers, this one is a probably a good deal for the Phils.

-Millwood v. Morris looks like a straight-up-swap of starters. Both are 29. Millwood’s thrown about two hundred more innings in his career than Morris, so Millwood probably has a little more wear-and-tear in his arm. Their 2004 season-to-date:

Morris: 1.21 WHIP; 4.33 ERA (9-6)
Millwood: 1.49 WHIP; 5.15 ERA (6-5)

Naturally, because Morris hurls in more of a pitchers park, this is a little off and needs to be park-adjusted, but Morris has a clear edge there. Poor Millwood has had a difficult season that (unlike Milton) could be chalked up to Citizens: Home ERA: 5.43; Road ERA: 4.86. On the other hand, Millwood basically collapsed in the second half of 2003 (Pre-All Star: 1.17 WHIP; 3.60 ERA; Post-All Star: 1.36 WHIP; 4.58 ERA); and he seems to be wearing down quickly in ’04: after having a respectable 3.38 ERA in April, he lodged a 6.59 in May and a 5.00 in June.

Morris on the other hand has seemed to log a more consistent performances (’03: 1.18 WHIP; 3.76 ERA). There is no telling how Morris would react to pitching in Citizens, but certainly Millwood looks awful these days. Maybe a change in scenery would benefit him and the Phils could use a fresher arm.

-Kline v. Polanco: I’m sure when Chase Utley heard about this deal he probably jumped for joy … Polanco has been a disappointment in ’04, largely due to his injury that gave Utley so much playing time.

I’ll confess that I am not a big fan of Placido Polanco. His career OBP isn’t that great (only about forty points over his BA). He is probably a better defensive second-baseman than Utley, but I’m not sold on the idea that Utley is as bad at the pivot as people say. Also, Polanco's going to be a free agent in the off-season, so why not deal him for an arm now?

Kline looks like a capable arm for the bullpen, which we could need. Is it worth going with Chase Utley for the rest of the regular season? Who will bat second in the lineup? (Bell?) Could this need for a two slot hitter hasten Byrd’s return from Scranton? These are unanswered questions, but my take on it is that the Phils would do well to make this deal (might also make signing Morris in the offseason easier) because it would give them sorely needed arms in exchange for a second baseman having a bad year and the starting hurler who has seen better days. If the Cards will take ‘em, I say do it…

(3) comments

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Thou Shalt Not Steal... 

The other day in my post on clichés I noted that one of the things I had always taken for granted was the fact that you have to steal bases and "manufacture" runs to be successful in baseball. Moneyball certainly shattered that (check out Chapter Twelve: chiefly Lewis' recount of the discussion between Ray Durham and the A's coaches about base-stealing and Beane's argument that the A's offense was better than the Twins in '02 because they sac bunted fewer times and attempted fewer steals, thus wasting fewer outs).

The June 27th Red Sox-Phillies game where Bowa sent Polanco to steal second with one out has reinforced my belief that Beane is probably right when he argues that base-stealing is too risky: Polanco was thrown out heading to second, so the Phils went from having a base-runner with one out to having no one on with two outs. Abreu's double, which could have scored Polanco (debatable, I grant you), went for naught as Thome struck out to end the inning. Had Polanco not tried to steal, the Phils probably would have scored a run to tie the game at 4-4, or had runners at second and third with one out. Thome's strikeout, instead of ending the inning, would have brought up Pat Burrell with an RBI opportunity.

So the A's argument that playing "stattion-to-station" baseball is a valid one because you run the risk that you are running yourself out of a big inning when you steal.

I wanted to test this assumption out, so over the weekend I looked up the top run-producing teams in the NL by looking at their runs created per 27 outs (RC27) stats on ESPN.com:

RC27: Top Five Teams... (as of July 6, 2004)
1. Phillies: 5.48
2. Colorado: 5.37
3. St. Louis: 4.27
4. Chicago: 5.14
5. San Francisco: 5.07

Here are the worst teams...

RC27: Five Worst Teams...
12. San Diego: 4.54
13. Milwaukee: 4.52
14. Florida: 4.50
15. Arizona: 4.47
16. Montreal: 3.75

What are the top teams attitudes towards base-stealing? Well, the Phils are 7th with 44 steals and have made fifty-eight attempts, which is middle-of-the-pack. The Cardinals have stolen 57 bases on 76 attempts (throwing cold water on my point a little), but then I noticed that the Giants are dead-last in the NL with just 21 steals (34 attempts), and the Cubs (24 on 41 attempts) and Rockies (25 on 45 attempts) are near the bottom in terms of steals too (13th and 12th respectively). It is a remarkable bit of information: three of the top five offenses in the NL are also three of the five most steal-adverse teams in the NL.

Conversely, offensively-challenged teams like the Brewers (81 steal attempts), Expos (70 attempts) and Marlins (67 attempts) try to steal a lot. (I note that the Fish's Jack McKeon has earned earned the ire of sabremetrics-types for dismissing the use of stats in the Sports Illustrated baseball preview issue). The sole exception to the rule seems to be the Cardinals, who hit with power and have speed to burn on the base-paths. Indeed, the Cardinals seem to be the exception to the rule. What got my attention was that the teams that fail to score runs not only run a lot, but that they are fairly successful at it: the Expos succeed 77% of the time, the Mets 79% (46 of 58), etc.

They steal, they are successful at it, and they still fail to "manufacture" runs.

(Walk, don't run!)

Pretty neat stuff. At a minimum it is another argument that the sooner Bowa ditches the "small ball", the better it is for everyone.

(A little off the subject of steals, but check out this piece from Hardball Times derriding ESPN's "Productive Outs" stat. Productive Outs are another no-no to sabremetrics believers: the most precious thing you have are your 27 outs, so why waste them playing for just one run? Larry Mahnken wrote an earlier piece on the subject too. Both are very good.)

(5) comments

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Teams that Scare Me... 

There are certain teams you simply don't want to face in the playoffs or in the late-season pennant race. Last year's edition of the Marlins filled me with dread because they won so many one-run games (30) and seemed to have momentum on their side down the stretch. I've identified three teams that I think would be awful to face-off with in the post-season:

1. The San Diego Padres.

The Padres offense doesn't look too formitable at first, but these guys are a good, good team: they are 17-9 in one-run games thanks to a dominating closer (Trevor Hoffman), and they are pitching well with a 3.75 ERA (3rd in the NL) and a 1.30 WHIP (4th). The Pads are also fourth in the NL in ZR (.855). This is a team that is playing good-to-outstanding pitching and defense, and teams that do that play tough baseball. Their pythagorean win-loss record works out to be 87-75, which I tend to think will be good enough for the post-season.

The Padres lineup also hits for some power on the road, so this could be a difficult team to match up against in the playoffs: they can win a 2-1 pitchers duel at Petco and then out-slug you 8-6 at your park.

Imagine facing David Wells in a deciding game in the NLDS or NLCS: a veteran, savvy pitcher with a WHIP of 1.01 and an ERA of 3.03 ... The Phillies could really be in trouble if they see these guys.

2. The Los Angeles Dodgers.

One name: Eric Gagne. This guy is inhuman. Okay, his consecutive save streak just ended, but Gagne is the big reason why the Dodgers are 16-7 in one-run games and 6-1 in extra inning games. The Dodgers lineup doesn't frighten me, but they could get better in a hurry with John DePodesta at the helm as GM. This guy could swing a deal to bring in a big-time player like Griffey, Jr. that could make these guys a juggernaut.

3. New York Mets.

This is a young team with a formitable rotation: Glavine has an absurdly low WHIP of 1.05, and Leiter and Traschel are both playing well too. Plus, they played the Phils surprisingly well this year until this series.

(This would be my reaction to a Padres-Phils NLCS / NLDS...)

(8) comments

A few random, non-baseball thoughts... 

I try to steer clear of making this a journal-of-my-life sort of blog but I have a couple of digressions …

-I wonder what everyone thinks of Kerry’s decision to pick John Edwards as his running-mate. I try to steer clear of politics on A Citizens Blog despite the fact that it is my other big area of interest after sports because I don’t want to get off-subject, and I don’t want to alienate people who might not care for my politics. (I’ll tease everyone with these two tidbits: I’ve interned on Capitol Hill twice; and I drove a car in a Presidential motorcade.) I’ll just say that Edwards has an inspiring story and worked hard to get where he is in life. I doubt that I’ll ever be the success as a lawyer he was, but it did interest me that he met his wife in law school, much the same way that I met my future wife.

It is sort of on my mind this afternoon because Kerry’s big announcement was made about two miles from where I live in Pittsburgh, and Kerry’s wife Teresa is from this area. Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, one of the other VP potentials, is originally from Pittsburgh too: apparently he is a huge Steelers and Pirates fan. Odd that Pittsburgh is such a small city and yet it seems to be ground zero for the fall campaign.

-I love spy / espionage movies and TV shows: my favorite TV show is Alias, and I think I could pretty much be certified as an expert on James Bond. I guess that I like genre so much because it combines suspense and action together and plays to the Walter Mitty side of every guy: sitting in a library reading about estate and trust law you can’t help but day-dream about doing something, anything, else … Anyway, Spike TV is running Bond movies this month (yesterday they tortured us with some of Roger Moore’s worst work as 007) and they’ll be running some Connery films later in the month. This saturday at 4:00 PM is You Only Live Twice, one of the more underrated 007 movies. They don’t get back to classic Connery movies like Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger until later in the month.

I’m also looking forward to The Bourne Supremacy on July 23 too: I thought that the first movie (The Bourne Identity) was pretty exciting, and I am looking forward to seeing what happens next. I guess this is a trilogy of novels by Robert Ludlum, so there will be a third film coming along in two or so years. Aside from Troy I haven’t seen any movies this summer, so I guess I’ll catch it after the bar exam.

-Speaking of which … starting next week I may not be posting more than one or two times a week due to my studies. Look for me to return in full-force on July 29.

(1) comments

Last night's game... 

I actually got to watch a little of the Phillies-Mets game on ESPN2 last night. I never get to see too much footage of Citizens Bank, so I loved the opportunity to get to see some sweeping shots of the park. Citizens looks like a stunning, green oasis. It is really beautiful.

(Afterwards ESPN2 showed the Astros-Padres game. Jeez, Petco is a gorgeous park. Imagine watching baseball just a few blocks from the beach…)

As for the game: I was cringing after Abbott got hammered in the first (Abbott v. Glavine seemed to be a matchup the Phils were destined to lose), but I was impressed by how the bullpen entered the game and shut the Mets down: Abbott allowed seven base-runners in his four and 2/3, but Worrell, Madson, Cormier and Wagner allowed just two in the other four and 1/3 while striking out seven to Abbott’s two. The bullpen’s work has been stifling this season.

(It was mildly surprising to me that the Phils got just four extra-base hits last night and not one was a home run.)

Well, first place is ours by three games now. Better yet, we are beating a team that is fast-shaping up to be our competition in the NL East now. Be nice if we could take at least two of the next three from the Mets and start to put a little cushion between us and them.

(6) comments

Monday, July 05, 2004

GPA (as of July 5, 2004) 

The consensus I've been reading is that the NL's exclusion of Bobby Abreu has outraged a lot of Phils fans (though not, I would suspect, Tom over at Shallow Center). I'm inclined to agree with most that Abreu got a raw deal. Certainly, with his bat, there is little argument:

GPA / ISO
Starting Lineup:
Thome: .355 / .381
Abreu: .344 / .272
Burrell: .298 / .210
Bell: .284 / .202
Lieberthal: .255 / .186
Rollins: .252 / .113
Polanco: .240 / .115

Thome's 0-for-8 against Baltimore really battered his GPA, although Abreu has been on fire of late (in the last seven games: .416 BA; .611 OBP, ten runs, ten RBI's). His .444 OBP is the highest it has been this season, I think.

The Platoon:
Glanville: .182 / .048
Michaels: .295 / .120

Good to see Michaels in the line-up tonight...

Bench:
Utley: .249 / .216

I heard a rumor posted in a comment today that the phils are considering dealing Polanco to the Yankees for Loften. As much as I want Chase to get some playing time, what an awful deal that would be: Polanco is hardly my favorite Phillie, but Loften is thirty-seven and he has only played thirty-two games this season. His OBP is decently good, but not that good. If the Phils are planning to deal Polanco, do it for a starting pitcher.

More later. (Phils and Mets are tied at 3-3 as I write...)

(0) comments

The All-Star Roster... 

I'm happy to see Jim Thome heading to Houston for the All-Star game.

He certainly deserves it, but I am bitterly disappointed to see Bobby Abreu get snubbed.

-He's having another one of his terrific years: he is third in NL outfielders in OBP, sixth in BA, and fifth in slugging average. You can't tell me that Miguel Cabrera is a better player or more deserving of going to Houston than Bobby Abreu.

-Unfortunately I don't really think that the Phils have anyone else deserving of a trip to Houston ... aside from Doug Glanville?

(Kidding! Sorry for the raised blood-pressure ...)

-I know that MLB wants to fans to be involved, but Jason Giambi as the AL's starting first baseman? That's just wrong. It's also, I suspect, a product of the voting power of Yankees fans: coincidence that the AL starting infield is either current (Giambi, A-Rod, Jeter) or ex (Soriano) Yankees?

-David Ortiz should start at first for the AL, and anyone saying differently doesn't know what they are talking about.

Way to go, Jim!

(7) comments

D-Fence! D-Fence!  

I usually hate it when people use clichés because they are so worn out and by the time people have gotten around to telling them for the 4,158th time, they actually aren't even true anymore. I usually hate that sort of group-think, which is why I think that I have taken to sabremetrics so enthusiastically: this is a way of thinking about baseball that has blown up all of the clichés I had taken for granted: that sacrifice-bunting works, that stealing bases works, that batting average is an accurate judge of a player's abilities, etc. That thinking outside of the box, that rejection of clichéd thinking, that embrace of information, really impresses me. So I hate the fact that I'm going to use a clichés now:

Offense wins the glory, Defense wins the championships.

But it is a cliché that is largely true: the 2000 Baltimore Ravens were probably the worst offensive team I have ever seen win the Super Bowl, but their defense might just have been the best I have ever seen. In baseball the 1989 Orioles went from being a lousy team to a good one based on an emphasis on defense. The strength of those Yankees teams in the mid-1990s were their tough defense and stifling pitching. (e.g., the World Series winning '96 team was ninth in the AL in runs scored.) In the NBA and NHL teams that win are the ones that play stifling defense, like the Jersey Devils and the Detroit Pistons.

I've been intruiged by fielding as a stat because (as anyone who has read Moneyball knows) good pitching usually masks a faulty defense. Zone Rating (ZR) by Stats, Inc., is the best tool to accurately gauge a player's defensive contribution though it isn't a perfect one by any means. ZR works by Stats, Inc., dividing the field into quadrents and gauging whether a player should have gotten to a ball hit towards him. ZR critics has hastened to point out to me that ZR is still a subjective stat (the decision that a player "should" have gotten the ball is subjective) and it is prone to wild fluxuations. I agree (more on that later). Here are the ZR stats as of July 2, 2004:

ZR:
1. Chicago: .864
2. Montreal: .857
3. Philadelphia: .855
4. San Diego: .855
5. Milwaukee: .855
6. Florida: .852
7. St. Louis: .851
8. Los Angeles: .850
9. Houston: .846
10. San Francisco: .844
11. Cincinnati: .844
12. New York: .838
13. Atlanta: .836
14. Arizona: .834
15. Colorado: .829
16. Pittsburgh: .824

(Jason Michaels has a ZR rating of .870 in seventy-four innings in centerfield.)
A few weeks ago the Phils were in the middle of the pack and now they are third? Seems a little fishy to me. Still, I am going with what I have because it is the best I've got.

(David Bell: .789 ZR; 4th of 12 regular NL Third Basemen.)

(3) comments

Pythagorean Wins... 

I saw on another blog that the Phils are projected to win the division with 89 wins largely on the strength of the fact that they have been under-performing on their Pythagorean win-loss and the Fish have been over-performing. Hmm, sounds like a replay of 2003, doesn't it?

2003: (Real / Pythagorean Records)
Phillies: 86-76 / 90-72
Marlins: 91-71 / 87-75

I read (as of July 3, 2004) the Phils projected pythagorean record at 88-74. The Marlins, unless I have my math wrong, will go 79-83. The basic fact is that the Marlins have been dramatically out-performing their pythagorean numbers: they have actually been outscored this year 354-to-347, but are 41-39 largely on the strength of the fact that they are 13-8 in one-run games and the Phils are 10-11.

(0) comments

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Pitching... 

I’ll join in on the chorus of voices complaining about the Phils pitching staff in a moment, but first some data on the starting rotation:

Win-Loss / WHIP / ERA (stats as of July 3, 2004)
Millwood: 6-5 / 1.46 / 4.93
Milton: 10-2 / 1.54 / 4.68
Myers: 5-5 / 1.52 / 5.28
Wolf: 3-3 / 1.17 / 3.08
Padilla: 4-5 / 1.42 / 4.07
Abbott: 0-2 / 1.58 / 5.03

I’d comment on how badly Milton’s win-loss record obscures the fact that he isn’t really pitching all that well, but I suspect that my comments would be cumulative to what has already been made. Wolf and, to a lesser extent, Padilla are the Phils two best pitchers in 2004.

Myers? Not that good. Millwood? Not that good. Milton? Not that good. As for adding Abbott, that’s subtraction by addition (hmm, any coincidence that the Devil Rays began winning basically since they dealt him?...)

I’m bitterly disappointed in how the Phils rotation has played and I wonder if the Phils wouldn’t just be better moving Millwood to the Yankees in the next few weeks for prospects, which the Phils could then use to acquire a top-flight starter from someone else.

Meanwhile, the bullpen is doing better in many respects …
Saves / WHIP / ERA
Wagner: 11 / 0.81 / 4.15
Worrell: 8 / 1.27 / 3.73
Madson: 1 / 1.20 / 2.23
Cormier: 0 / 1.43 / 4.23
Telemaco: 0 / 1.45 / 4.88
Hernandez: 0 / 1.73 / 5.28

Wagner has pitched well, despite his ERA. Madson, Wagner and Worrell make a pretty good 1-2-3 punch for the later innings of a big game. I’m a little surprised that the Phils don’t do better than their 10-11 in one-run games.

I wonder why: have the Phils starters failed to come together because Citizens is messing with their heads? Or are they just not developing into the players we assumed they'd be? I think that it might be a combination of both, but the Phils staff posted uniformly bad stats in the second half of 2003, so there may not be any "Citizens" factor at work here. In the case of Millwood it looks to be his mileage catching up with him.

Let's hope Wolf is the Phils Game 7 starter and not Mr. Abbott...

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!!!!!!!

(2) comments

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