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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.

Friday, August 27, 2004

62-65... 

Well, I remember a few weeks ago complaining that the Phillies were playing inconsistently: winning a game, then losing, then winning two and losing two. The Phils would consistently log 5-5 records in their last 10. Now the Phillies are playing consistently: sweep a lousy team, get swept by a playoff rival. It is supremely irritating to watch, especially given what a massive payroll the Phils have, to see teams like the A’s and the Indians out-play the Phillies. If they spend a fraction of what the Phils do and do better, what are we doing wrong?

Time enough for finger-pointing and recriminations in the off-season.

Our time is better spent analyzing exactly how impossible it is for the Phillies to make the playoffs right now: let’s say that the Phils play .700 baseball for the rest of the season. Forlorn hope, I know. A .700 record in the last 35 games would give them 25 wins, coupled with their 62, and the Phils finish the regular season 87-75. That might give them an outside shot at it. For the wildcard. The division title is an impossibility: if the Braves play .500 baseball they’ll still win because they’ll have 91 wins. The wildcard: the Cubs have 71 wins and are in front in the wildcard race, so if they play .500 baseball, they’ll finish with 88 wins. So the Phils have a shot. Distant, forlorn, maybe, but a shot.

Naturally, of course, getting swept by the Brewers would effectively kill any shot they have. The bottom line is that these are gimmie wins that the Phils need badly because there is the spectre of the Florida Marlins, a team the Phils have gone 7-24 against in two seasons, on the horizon.

Here are some interesting stats:

Starters: (BB/PA; Post All-Star Break)
Thome: .176
Abreu: .133
Bell: .092
Burrell: .113
Rollins: .090
Polanco: .047
Lieberthal: .060
Byrd: .000

Bench:
Michaels: .086
Glanville: .055
Utley: .044
Pratt: .125
Perez: .024

I love to keep track of walks per plate appearance (that's what BB/PA means) because it focuses on how consistent a player is. If they draw walks they are getting on base, and if they get on base the hits will follow.

Things I noticed … in 82 total plate appearances since the All-Star break, Marlon Byrd has failed to draw a walk. That is simply inexcusable. I used to be very high on him, particularly after he played so well in the latter half of ’03, but no longer. I’m sorely disappointed in his performance in the lead off slot and I think that the Phillies need to think about a serious upgrade at centerfield and in the leadoff slot in the off-season. (Phillies leadoff hitters hit just .334 in OBP this season. Too low.)

Compare with Part I of 2004:

Starters: (BB/PA; Pre All-Star Break)
Thome: .160
Abreu: .188
Bell: .110
Burrell: .158
Rollins: .081
Polanco: .066
Lieberthal: .068
Byrd: .076

Bench:
Michaels: .202
Glanville: .051
Utley: .036
Pratt: .096
Perez: .052

What happened to Jason Michaels? Finally getting into the starting lineup killed the poor guy’s stats …

I’m looking forward to this weekend. I’ll be watching the mighty Cardinals juggernaut roll into Pittsburgh this weekend. My best man snared tickets to Saturday’s game for us. Very generous of him.

(2) comments

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Off topic... 

Tonight on the History Channel (if you can resist the allure of pre-season football), @ 8:00 Barbarians: The Vikings. It is a terrific program, talking about how the Vikings were smart and ruthless warriors who made a small fortune ransacking cities and nations. I admit a certain ancestoral pride in hearing about Viking dominance and exploration: "Berquist" is a Swedish name. Terrific program.

(2) comments

Is stealin' a crime?  

A few weeks ago, after I got done reading about how stolen bases were held in such disfavor by sabremetrics acolytes, I tried to figure out if the numbers supported their contention that stolen bases were counter-productive because they didn’t impact the game much and players caught stealing were “wasted outs”. I tested the numbers and discovered that, aside from the St. Louis Cardinals, the top run-scoring teams were the ones that didn’t try and played the station-to-station baseball so derided by practitioners of baseball’s conventional wisdom. Score one for the stat geeks.

I revisited the numbers and found that things had changed, a little:

1. Milwaukee: 130 attempts (98 successful; 75%)
2. St. Louis: 121 attempts (86 successful; 71%)
3. Los Angeles: 114 attempts (83 successful; 73%)
4. Montreal: 106 attempts (78 successful; 74%)
5. New York: 104 attempts (87 successful; 84%)
6. Florida: 96 attempts (66 successful; 69%)
7. Philadelphia: 94 attempts (75 successful; 80%)
8. Pittsburgh: 86 attempts (50 successful; 58%)
9. Houston: 85 attempts (60 successful; 71%)
10. Atlanta: 81 attempts (54 successful; 67%)
11. Chicago: 75 attempts (51 successful; 68%)
12. Cincinnati: 71 attempts (52 successful; 73%)
13. San Diego: 63 attempts (42 successful; 67%)
14. Arizona: 63 attempts (35 successful; 56%)
15. Colorado: 61 attempts (36 successful; 59%)
16. San Francisco: 50 attempts (33 successful; 67%)

At the risk of making a fairly obvious observation: the teams that don’t succeed don’t steal and teams that do succeed, try more. (Shocking, I know.) But were the teams stealing bases successful offensively? Well …

Top 5 Runs Scored:
1. St. Louis: 672 runs scored
2. San Francisco: 662 runs scored
3. Colorado: 658 runs scored
4. Philadelphia: 628 runs scored
5. Chicago: 606 runs scored

These five teams have been, fairly consistently, the best in the league in terms of scoring runs. Here again, the stat attack on CW holds up: the Rockies and Giants are the two worst NL West teams at base-stealing. And Chicago isn’t much better. The Phillies are fairly in the middle, and the Cardinals are the exception to the rule.

Now things get interesting ...

Bottom 5 Runs Scored:
16. Montreal: 484
15. Milwaukee: 497
14. Arizona: 498
13. Pittsburgh: 548
12. Florida: 549

Aside from Arizona, these five teams make up half of the eight teams that base-steal the most. The obvious correlation between the two bits of data are that teams that steal bases don’t score runs. But is that true? I noticed a few other things that threw a little cold water on my conclusions:

There is nothing wrong with successfully stealing a base. Who can argue that having a guy on second is worse than having him on first? Scoring position, no double-play, etc. The problem is with players caught stealing. Losing base-runners effectively lowers your on-base percentage, so you are best off not trying. The problem is, with 35 players caught stealing, the Cardinals waste base-runners like nobody’s business. They are second-worst after the Pittsburgh Pirates (36). And the Cardinals are first in the NL in runs. And the Cards are scoring more than Paris Hilton at a frat party. Which means:

1. Maybe losing 25-30 base-runners a season isn’t so bad to a team’s offense. Or,

2. Think how good the Cardinals would be if they stopped running on the base-paths. 1,000 runs easy.

But it is true that the Phillies, Rockies, Cubs and Giants, the other four top run-scoring teams, were also amongst the teams with the fewest base-runners caught stealing. Again, the Cards are the exception to the rule. Then I noticed … Montreal, Milwaukee, Arizona, Pittsburgh and Florida all ranked 11-15 in the NL in ISO (poor San Diego continues to bring up the rear in ISO). Along with San Diego, these teams ranked 11-16 in terms of slugging percentage. A stronger case can be built that lacking power in the lineup is a bigger … make that a much bigger ... factor than unsuccessful base-stealing.

Something to think about…

(30) comments

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Phillies Report: 8-25-2004 

Games behind Braves: 10.0
Games Behind Chicago: 7.5
Games Left: 36.0

Now that they’ve dropped 2 to the Astros, a team they are competing with for the wildcard, the Phillies continue to dig themselves a hole. Whatever help they did to their cause in Milwaukee is gone now… The problem is that they are running out of time and are slipping further behind. They are making mistakes they need to correct before they can think about making up grounds. I don’t think that ESPN bothers to include them in their wildcard updates any more.

Things I noticed … Since the All-Stear break Jimmy Rollins has hit more home runs (5) and has a higher slugging average (.500) then Mike Lieberthal (1 and .364) … Since the All Star Break Jason Michaels has really stunk it up: .182 BA; .247 OBP. Doug Glanville (!) has played better: .267 BA; .300 OBP … now if you’ll excuse me, I have to wash out my mouth with soap … Jimmy Rollins & Bobby Abreu on the base-paths: 53 steals in 61 attempts (87%); rest of team: 22 steals in 33 attempts (67%) … the Phillies starters have pitched better since the break: Wolf, Milton, Millwood, Myers and Padilla all have lower WHIPs than the team itself. Corey Lidle and Paul Abbott, two pitchers the Phils brought in to help the starters, have higher post-break WHIPs.

From the rest of the league … terrific move up in the standings from the Boston Red Sox. They basically cut their deficit in half in a week. I still doubt they can catch the Yankees, but that's pretty good. They'll be the wildcard team … Meanwhile, the Indians challenged in the AL Central and then collapsed. The Twins got it in the bag … heck of a battle between the A’s, Angels and Rangers for the AL West. I’d still place my cash on the A’s.

(3) comments

Monday, August 23, 2004

The Philadelphia Phillies & The Art of Losing Baseball Games 

Games out of the wildcard: 6.0
Games out of the division: 8.5

Record in home-stand: 1-9
Record in current road series: 3-0

Go figure.

It has been a while since I was able to tabulate team-by-team rankings, so here you go:

Team GPA (Gross Productive Average): (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA:
1. Colorado: .272
2. St. Louis: .271
3. San Francisco: .271
4. Philadelphia: .263
5. Chicago: .261
6. Atlanta: .260
7. Los Angeles: .258
8. Houston: .258
9. Cincinnati; .257
10. San Diego: .254
11. Florida: .251
12. New York: .251
13. Pittsburgh: .248
14. Milwaukee: .242
15. Arizona: .242
16. Montreal: .238

Interestingly, despite hitting poorly in the second-half of the season, the Phils are still in fourth place in GPA. For most of the season the Phils, Cards, Rockies, Cubbies and Giants dominated the top 5, but Atlanta and Los Angeles have dramatically moved up in the rankings and closed the gap. One team I’ve enjoyed seeing improve has been the Padres. True their slugging average (.403, 13th in the NL) isn’t that great, but they’ve improved their OBP (.340, 5th in the NL) and they’ve been improving their offense.

Otherwise, the Phillies haven’t collapsed as much as I suspected they would statistically. They are fourth in ISO, fourth in RC27, first in Secondary Average [ESPN’s stat to measure a player’s contribution to an offense: (TB – H + BB + SB – CS) / AB = .SecAvg], etc. The Phils still have a patient eye at the plate too. Check out the walks per plate appearance stat:

Top 5: BB/PA
1. San Francisco: .110
2. Philadelphia: .102
3. Cincinnati: .095
4. Houston: .094
5. Colorado: .090

I suspect that their place in the standings will erode. Consider team GPA’s in the NL East since the All-Star Break:

Atlanta: .271
Montreal: .263
Philadelphia: .253
New York: .253
Florida: .250

The team-by-team pitching stats remain unchanged:

Team WHIP (Walks plus hits by innings pitched): (BB + H) / IP = WHIP
1. St. Louis: 1.25
2. Los Angeles: 1.29
3. Milwaukee: 1.31
4. Chicago: 1.31
5. San Diego: 1.31
9. Philadelphia: 1.40

Team ERA (Earned Run Average): (ER * 9) / IP = ERA
1. Atlanta: 3.71
2. Chicago: 3.72
3. St. Louis: 3.77
4. Los Angeles: 3.79
5. New York: 3.93
13. Philadelphia: 4.64

I looked at ESPN’s DIPS ERA stat and saw that the Phillies DIPS ERA ranked 12th in the NL, which suggests that good defense is saving the Phils pitchers from an even worse fate … I looked at the DIPS stats because my future father-in-law was arguing that the Pirates pitching staff is under-rated about two weeks ago. I expressed skepticism, given their high WHIP, but there is evidence to support his claim: the Pirates DIPS ERA is sixth in the NL, and the Pirates play awful, awful defense, according to STATS, INC. They are dead last in the NL in Zone Rating. Having Craig Wilson stumble more than Tara Reid after a party in the Hamptons (sorry for the pop culture reference) in right has been painful to watch. The other night against the Cards, he badly lost a pop-fly and a routine fly ball out turned into a triple … not that the Phils defense is particularly good, according to STATS, INC: they are seventh in Zone Rating (.850), but third in fielding percentage (.986) …

Interesting, while the Phils post-all star break WHIP is slightly better (1.37), their ERA is much, much worse: 5.12 … Hmmm …

I had better get rolling. Hope ya’ll are having a good day.

(6) comments

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