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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Thursday, July 22, 2004

See you July 29... 

As I have the bar exam in a few days I won’t be posting much until July 29. 
Well, the Phils win over the Fish, coupled with the Pirates win over the Braves (thank-you, Pittsburgh) puts the Phils back in first place with a 50-44 record.  Last year the Phils were 53-41 at Game 94 and were four games ahead of the Marlins, safely in second place. 
I was deeply impressed by Millwood’s performance on the mound last night: maybe his second-half will be better than his first.  At a minimum, it was nice to see the Phils win a tight one at home against the Fish. 
Here are the Phils stats:
Starting Lineup: GPA / RC27
Thome: .349 / 9.37
Abreu: .339 / 10.00
Burrell: .283 / 6.16
Bell: .283 / 5.98
Lieberthal: .253 / 4.50
Rollins: .241 / 4.68
Polanco: .232 / 3.74
The Platoon:
Ledee: .304 / 6.97
Michaels: .264 / 5.36
Glanville: .179 / 1.96
Bench / Scranton:
Byrd: .210 / 2.84
Utley: .249 / 4.70
Pratt: .214 / 2.67
Perez: .256 / 5.09
Starting Lineup: ISO
Thome: .369
Abreu: .264
Burrell: .190
Bell: .189
Lieberthal: .181
Rollins: .105
Polanco: .095
The Platoon:
Ledee: .229
Michaels: .096
Glanville: .040
Bench / Scranton:
Byrd: .079
Utley: .216
Pratt: .039
Perez: .216 
I’ve noticed a disturbing drop-off in the Phils offense of late:
July 2: .269 / .183
July 16: .266 / .176
July 21: .264 / .172
I think the Phils are fundamentally strong, but they’ve been slipping of late: they’ve fallen to fourth in ISO.  One interesting stat: the Phils are second behind the Giants in the NL in walks per plate appearance:
1. San Francisco: .111
2. Philadelphia: .107
3. Cincinnati: .099
4. Colorado: .091
5. Houston: .091
I noticed that MLB gave the 2006 All-Star game to Pittsburgh.  I’m definitely getting tickets.  If any one wants to make the trip on the turnpike we could have an informal Phils blogger convention. 
I had better run.  I hope everyone is doing good.  I’m not looking forward to the next few days, but after that: freedom!

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Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Deja vu, all over again... 

Last year I remember a comedian chortling about a guy who woke up after being in a coma since '91.  Look how much the world changed, the comedian said: the President is named Bush, we're at war with Iraq and the economy is lousy. Sort of astonishing when you think about it.
Even the baseball world hasn't changed that much since the Gulf War: the Braves are in first and the Phillies are trailing.  Same old, same old.  I'm unhappy by what I've been seeing and I hold fast to my prediction that the Phils will end up in 3rd at the end of the season.  19-25 against division foes simply won't get the job done when most of your games are against division foes down the stretch. 
Not good.

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Burrell & Schmidt... 

Last year, when the Phils began the season there was a lot of talk about the team’s prospects and I remember in particular: it was said by Mike Schmidt.  Schmidt had been watching Jim Thome and Pat Burrell crush baseballs in batting practice.  Admiring their power in the batting cage, he remarked to a reporter that they could combine for one hundred home runs in 2003.  I read that and I was instantly dazzled: 100 home runs? That’s Maris & Mantle territory, I thought.  Imagine the possibilities … Well, needless to say that didn’t happen in ’03: Thome led the NL with 47, but Burrell just just 21 for a total of 68.  (In ’02 they came closer to 100, albeit on different teams: Burrell hit 37, Thome hit 52 for a total of 89.)

But while hitting 100 home runs probably isn’t a realistic goal, Burrell and Thome could try to equal the duo of Greg “Bull” Luzinski and Schmidt himself:   

Luzinksi and Schmidt were a formidable pair who powered the Phils to three division titles from ’76-’78 and then to the World Series in ’80.  Luzinski hit 202 home runs between 1973 and 1980, while Schmidt hit 282.  Their power at the plate was pretty much unmatched during that time period.  Luzinski, unfortunately, isn’t as widely remembered by Phils fans as Schmidt, due in part to the fact that when the team won in ’80 Luzinski was on the down-slope of his career and Schmidt is remembered as one of the best third-baseman of all time, as well as the superstar of the ’80 team. 
Luzinski and Thome do bear a pretty fair approximation to one another.  When both were 26, these were their numbers:
Luzinski (1977):  39 HR; 130 RBI; .394 OBP; .594 SLG
Thome (1997): 40 HR; 102 RBI; .423 OBP; .579 SLG
Physically both Thome and Luzinski bear a striking resemblance to one another too.  So if Thome is playing Luzinski, Burrell must be playing Schmidt, which raises certain questions, not the least of which is: is Pat Burrell Mike Schmidt's heir? …
Let me start by noting that Schmidt is a real icon.  One of just five (?) players to have his number retired.  (My grandfather took my cousin Christopher to Mike Schmidt Night when they retired his number.  I got to go to Steve Carlton Night, which was really fun: that night was the first time I ever got to go to Geno’s.  Still the best cheesesteak I ever had.)  Mike Schmidt was on the down-slope of his career when I began paying attention to baseball back in ’89, but his legend and mystique were intact.  You watched Mike Schmidt at the plate because you never knew if he was hitting it out. 

When Burrell was selected in the draft in ’98, I’m sure that more than a few people thought of him (more than the Phils third baseman of the day: Scott Rolen) as Schmidt’s heir apparent as the team’s slugger and star.  Burrell is charismatic player and a good fit for Philadelphia.  After playing a little as a rookie in ’00, Burrell locked down the left-fielding job in ’01, had a break-out year in ’02, a horrific slump in ’03 and has bounced back in ’04:
’01: 27 HR; 87 RBI; .346 OBP; .469 SLG; .273 GPA
’02: 37 HR: 116 RBI; .376 OBP; .544 SLG; .305 GPA
’03: 21 HR; 64 RBI; .309 OBP; .404 SLG; .240 GPA
’04: 15 HR; 62 RBI; .391 OBP; .474 SLG; .295 GPA

What did Mike Schmidt do in his first four full seasons?:
’73: 18 HR; 52 RBI; .324 OBP; .373 SLG; .239 GPA
’74: 36 HR; 116 RBI; .395 OBP; .546 SLG; .314 GPA
’75: 38 HR; 95 RBI; .367 OBP; .523 SLG; .296 GPA
’76: 38 HR; 107 RBI; .376 OBP; .524 SLG; .300 GPA
What is remarkable about Mike Schmidt was how unbelievably consistent he was for the next decade: from ’74 to ’87 his slugging percentage was in the .500’s pretty much every year. 
How does Burrell stack up to Schmidt?  It is difficult to say because his 2002, 2003 and 2004 seasons are all over the place.  (You’d also have to league-adjust Schmidt’s stats to now: 38 home runs was a lot in 1976, but it isn’t what it used to be.)  Burrell’s 2002 was terrific and his 2003 was awful, a season-long slump far worse than anything that Schmidt suffered.  His 2004 season-to-date has been something of a paradox: in many respects Burrell’s’04 is better than ’02: his OBP is higher, and while his home runs and slugging average are down compared with ’02, Burrell has turned into a much more selective hitter, lowering his walk-to-strikeout ratio from 0.58 to 0.67 and increasing his walks per plate appearance from .130 to .158 …

On the other hand, Burrell hasn’t been that much of a consistent performer at the plate in '04.  Check out Burrell’s month-to-month stats:
April: .276 / .132
May: .372 / .333
June: .244 / .170
July: .258 / .134
Season: .295 / .203

A decent April, monster May and a so-so June-July …
The most interesting thing about Burrell’s 2004 season has been the Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr. Hyde road / home difference:
ISO: 2004
Home: .274
Away: .117
The vast majority of his home runs this season have been hit at Citizens.  The difference between Burrell on the road (OBP machine hitting singles and the occasional double) and at home (power machine clubbing home runs and doubles by the bushel) is fairly dramatic.  Ironically, Burrell hit better away than at home his last two seasons:
2003 / 2002
Home: .185 / .237
Away: .204 / .288

My thoughts: I think that Burrell will eventually find his way back to his 2002 form.  I think that the effect of the 2003 season on his confidence was so dramatic that he’s still trying to regain his form, even though he is playing fairly well this year.  I think the test of Burrell’s longevity will be how he performs next year when he puts 2003 a full season behind him.  Will he regain his stroke on the road and improve his overall slugging average?  That is the key to Burrell’s future development: hitting the ball on the road with something like the consistency he hits the ball at home. 
With Thome, Abreu and Bell all well into their 30’s, Burrell is the team’s future and I think that he’ll be around for a long time.  Will he be the superstar Mike Schmidt was? Probably not: I don’t see Burrell putting forth the consistent play that Schmidt did in the next decade.  But I think that Burrell stands a good chance of giving the Phils another eight-to-ten seasons of stellar play in left.
Will we be taking our kids (or grandkids?) to Pat Burrell Night?  I tend to doubt it.
But I will take ‘em to Geno’s.

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Monday, July 19, 2004

Team stats …  

I decided to do a large sample because I had a few minutes and compare it to about two weeks ago …
ISO (Isolated Power): .SLG - .BA = .ISO
1. Colorado: .181
2. Chicago: .180
3. Philadelphia: .176 (July 2: .183; down -.007)
4. St. Louis: .176 (July 2: .171; up +.005)
5. Atlanta: .168 (July 2: .160; up +.008)
6. New York Mets: .164 (July 2: .157; up +.007)
7. Cincinnati: .161
8. Arizona: .160
9. San Francisco: .157
10. Florida: .153
11. Houston: .151
12. Los Angeles: .150
13. Pittsburgh: .144
14. Milwaukee: .138
15. Montreal: .131
16. San Diego: .123 (July 2: .118; up +.005) 


What’s caught my eye since I did this last has been the dramatic rises of Atlanta and the Mets.  They look like the teams that have had the largest jumps in the last two weeks: the Braves have improved their ISO power by .008, and the Mets .007 …

The Phillies have lost some ground, declining from .183 to .176 … What I think is remarkable about that piece of information is the fact that this .007 decline for the Phils occurred when the team was playing two weeks worth of games at home
GPA (Gross Productive Average): (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA
1. Colorado: .269
2. San Francisco: .267
3. St. Louis: .267
4. Philadelphia: .266 (July 2: .269; down -.003)
5. Chicago: .260
6. Atlanta: .256 (July 2: .251; up +.005)
7. Houston: .256
8. Cincinnati; .255
9. Los Angeles: .254
10. Florida: .251 (July 2: .250; up +.001)
11. New York: .250 (July 2: .245; up +.005)

12. Pittsburgh: .249
13. San Diego: .248
14. Milwaukee: .247
15. Arizona: .245
16. Montreal: .226 (July 2: .228; down -.002)

Atlanta is climbing in the ratings, largely because J.D. Drew is still hitting so well (curse him!) and Chipper Jones is starting to break out of his season-long slump.  I still think that the Mets are the bigger threat to the Phils than the Braves because of their pitching.

I fear the Fish, but I have to admit that they look terrible these days.   
Next up: the Braves.  They need to win to Atlanta. They need to put someone away. 

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A 2-2 split with the Mets: a wasted opportunity to put a little space between the Phils and the rest of the NL East.  This runs the Phils record against the division to 19-24. 
Mets: 18-18
Braves: 28-15
Marlins: 22-13
Expos: 11-28
This team can do better.

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Sunday, July 18, 2004

Not bad... 

A nice 8-2 win over the Mets was just what the doctor ordered.  I watched the Fox Sports take on the game, which wasn't bad but I still prefer Harry Kalas, et al. They know more about the team and are better in tune with what is going on than the national broadcasters, who probably spend half their time sitting in Yankee Stadium.
McCarver did, in the eighth, make a good point about Worrell having a harder task hurling the 8th than Madson in the 9th because he had to face Piazza and the rest of the Mets middle order.  This was before the Phils broke it open in the top of the 9th.
Anyway, 2 out of 3 is good, but the Phils need to win today to keep ahead of the Braves and to open a little distance on the Mets.  A 2-2 split just isn't good enough: we need to open some distance here. 

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Stats! Here are the Phils up-to-the-minute stats ...
Starting Lineup:
Abreu: .343 / .269
Thome: .348 / .358
Burrell: .293 / .203
Bell: .280 / .199
Polanco: .237 / .102
Rollins: .241 / .106
Lieberthal: .257/ .187
The Platoon:
Michaels: .280 / .104
Glanville: .179 / .043
Utley:  .260 / .226
Pratt: .209 / .041
Starting Lineup:
Abreu: 10.07
Thome: 9.00
Burrell: 6.70
Bell: 5.90
Polanco: 3.96
Rollins: 4.57
Lieberthal: 4.80
The Platoon:
Michaels: 6.18
Glanville: 1.77
Utley:  5.21
Pratt: 2.51
What the stats mean:
GPA (Gross Productive Average): (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA
ISO (Isolated Power): .SLG - .BA = .ISO
RC27 (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. 
Little stats I noticed …

Abreu is leading the Phils in pitches per plate appearance at 4.3 pitches per.  Jimmy Rollins qualifies as the Phils least selective hitter with just 3.4 pitches per.  Pat Burrell clocked in just behind Abreu, much to my surprise, at 4.2 pitches per. 
After briefly flirting with a .300 GPA, Burrell is at .293 …
With Byrd’s absence, and Glanville’s lack of ability, Jason Michaels is making a powerful argument (despite Ledee being back) to be made the every day centerfielder:

Michaels: .280 GPA / .417 .OBP / 6.18 RC27
What really impressed me was that he’s outdrawing OBP-machine Abreu in walks: .200 per plate appearance against Abreu’s .189 … Michaels doesn’t have much speed (one for two in steals despite getting on base fifty times.  Rollins has eighteen steal attempts in just 124 base-running appearances), but what the Phils need at center right now is an OBP machine.  That looks to be Jason Michaels. 
I do have to give some grudging respect to Polanco: his BB/K ratio is practically one-to-one, which is pretty darn good. 

Thome is mired in a slump.  During the Phils fourteen game home stand Thome entered into a slump: he hit just two home runs, knocked in six RBIs and saw his OBP and SLG averages decline from .421 / .720 to .403 / .645 …

Coincidence that the Phils went just 8-6 during this stretch? 

Citizen’s Factor: Chase Utley 
Home: .315 GPA; .328 ISO
Away: .214 GPA; .139 ISO

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