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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, November 06, 2004

Thank you ... 

A Citizen's Blog crossed the 6,000 hit milestone yesterday. I appreciate all of your interest in what I have to say.

Thanks.


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Friday, November 05, 2004

D-fence... 

Baseball Prospectus just published its 2004 gold glove analysis: Placido Polanco earns an honorable mention at second base, but none of the other Phillies show up. Jimmy Rollins had a good year at short, but Prospectus doesn't agree.

I expect to have Part I (of 3) of my Season In Review for the Phillies put together for Monday.

Release dates (tentative):
November 8: Part I (defense)
November 15: Part II (pitching)
November 22: Part III (hitting)


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Charlie in Charge... 

Charlie Manuel took the reins yesterday as the Phillies 50th manager. The reaction from the Phillies blogosphere (check out Tom Goodman's thoughts on Manuel at Swing & A Miss, as well as Balls Sticks & Stuff, and Shallow Center) and media have been positive, the reaction from the fans less so. Jim Salisbury makes a good case for Manuel in the Inquirer and while I hate to play the echo chamber, I agree with him.

Bowa was a classically Philadelphia kind of guy: tough, firey … but Manuel is a better fit for this team. He’s been successful in the past (remember, he took the Indians to the 2001 ALDS) and his personality meshes well with this team: he's calm, a good friend of Thome and a smart manager. This team needs a player's coach, who won't let the player walk all over him. I think Manuel is the man.

The differences in personality between Manuel and Bowa remind me of the differences in personality between Generals Omar Bradley and George S. Patton. Most people who watch the film Patton come away with two thoughts: 1) George C. Scott turned in a masterful performance as Patton (which I agree with wholeheartedly); and 2) Patton was a brilliant general, which I disagree with. Patton uniquely understood how technology had changed warfare, which made him a brilliant tactician, but as a strategist Patton was a poor general: he launched unnecessary attacks, took too many risks and failed to heed advice that countered his assumptions. Bradley, in contrast, was a savvy general who lacked Patton’s charisma, but was a better planner and a complex strategist. The Army Group (the 12th, I think) functioned better under Bradley’s leadership than it would have under Patton’s.

Similarly, I think this team will function better under Manuel than Bowa. Was there any doubt that Bowa’s yelling and screaming wore thin with this veteran team? By all accounts the Phillies player had simply started to tune Bowa out, which means they lost respect for him as a leader. I doubt any team can really be successful while regarding its leader as a distraction or an irritant. And you have to wonder how Bowa’s reputation played with Phillies efforts to recruit free agents…

Manuel’s relationship with Thome will hopefully help Thome recover from what was, for him, a subpar end to the year. The question will be whether or not the Phillies will be more talented in 2005, a question that will depend greatly on whether the team can resign Placido Polanco and if it has the common-sense to let Eric Milton go, as it should. Resign Polanco, upgrade the pitching (i.e., letting Milton walk: the whole addition by subtraction thing) and find a decent centerfielder, and the Phillies should win 92-95 games in 2005 under Manuel’s leadership.

Blog on...

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Thursday, November 04, 2004

Here's Charlie! 

In a surprise to nobody, the Phillies picked Charlie Manuel to be their coach for 2005. The news conference is today.

I certainly wish Manuel well: I hope he's the right guy for the job. He certainly has said a lot of the right things and his American League mentality might be just what the doctor ordered for the Phils. Hopefully he'll give Phillies fans a better idea of his philosophy today at the news conference. Certainly his personality is a welcome change.

Here's ESPN's take on the decision here.

In other news ... Aaron Gleeman has annointed Placido Polanco as the top free agent second baseman, over the Astros Jeff Kent. Uh-oh. I guess we figured there would be a bidding war for Polanco's services, but I'm sure we'll see interest from the A's, Dodgers and Cardinals now.

Aaron and Baseball Prospectus both complained about baseball's decision to award a Gold Glove to Derek Jeter, pointing out numerous problems with Jeter's defensive abilities. I suggest reading both entries on the subject. The Phillies defensive alignment is an issue I'll be returning to in the near future.

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Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Ryan Madson: Good or Great? 

One of the few bright spots on the Phillies pitching staff in 2004 was Ryan Madson. The rookie played in 52 games for the Phillies and generally pitched well ... well, aside from his only start of the season, when he gave up six runs on three home runs in two-thirds of an inning in Chicago. But generally Madson pitched well and became beloved by most Phillies bloggers for his strong performance. Data suggests that Madson probably won't have a season as strong as this in 2005, but he might be uniquely suited to succeed pitching at Citizens.

Here are Madson's 2004 numbers:
W-L: 9-3
WHIP: 1.13
ERA: 2.34

Madson significantly out-performed the Phillies pitching staff:

Team WHIP: 1.36 (Madson: -0.23)
Team ERA: 4.45 (Madson: -2.11)

The secret of Madson's success in 2004 was his ability to make hitters ground out: Madson had a ground ball/fly ball ratio of nearly two-to-one: 1.92, much better than the Phillies team ratio of 1.09, second worst in the majors after the Dodgers 1.07 ... Madson, despite the disasterous start in Chicago, gave up comparitively few home runs: 0.7 per nine innings, better than the team's 1.3 per nine. Madson's ability to throw ground ball outs is a powerful argument for the Phillies to use him more in 2005 as either a starter, or increasing his work in the bullpen.

Meanwhile, it must be noted that Madson is unlikely to repeat his stellar 2004: according to Hardball Times' stat page, Madson was the recipient of unusually good defense from the Phillies. Consider the varience between his actual ERA and Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) ERA:

ERA: 2.34
FIP: 3.60
variance: +1.22

FIP is a stat designed to figure out what a pitcher would have done with an average defense playing behind him. And the Phillies did play terrific defense with Madson: their DER* is .727 with him on the mound, as opposed to the team average of .703 ... clearly, defense helped Madson greatly in 2004, more than any other Phillies pitcher (despite getting terrific defense, Billy Wagner's FIP increases just 0.06, though the Phillies had a .764 DER with him on the mound), which makes you wonder if Madson's formitable performance in 2005 can be repeated. We'll see, but the California-born right-hander has certainly earned a big role on the Phillies pitching staff for '05.

* Defense Effeciency Ratio: percentage of balls put into play the the pitchers fielders convert into outs.

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The Long Night 

I suspect many of us went to bed last night not knowing who our President was … kind of reminds you of four years ago, doesn’t it?

I spent the morning looking at the news results and here are a few thoughts I had:

Enough politics … as I said, the Phillies were likely to take care of the Manager’s job after the election and it seems likely that Charlie Manuel is the man. According to the Inquirer's Todd Zolecki, the Phillies recalled Manuel and it isn’t likely that they want a follow-up interview. I bet that they’ll offer the job to Manuel today and make the announcement Thursday or Friday.

So what do I think of Manuel? He seems like a nice guy and I’m sure that he’ll get along better with the Phillies than Bowa. This is a veteran club. They don’t need someone riding them for mistakes and screaming at them as a motivational tool. They are (or should be) plenty motivated. Given Manuel’s relationship with Thome, I hope Thome will feel more comfortable in 2005.

I don’t know much about Manuel’s philosophy, but I hope he is wedded to the “Moneyball” philosophy of drawing walks and clubbing homers. His Indians teams seemed to approach the game that way, so I’m hoping that he’ll embrace the confluence of the cozy confines of Citizen’s, as well as the Phillies personnel, to try and bash the Phillies to a pennant. Manuel doesn’t strike me as a “bunt the runner over” kind of guy the way Jim Leyland, a career National League manager, does.

Probably a good choice.

Speaking of Leyland, I was surprised to see him back out of the Mets job. I think he took one look at that mess and realized that was a career-killing job if there ever was one.

Hardball Times' Ben Jacobs has some thoughts on potential trades. The two that caught my eye were the likelihood of the Cubs sending Sammy Sosa to the Mets and the potential for seeing one of the Big Three in Oakland dealt. I wonder if the Phillies would consider swinging a deal for Mulder or (on the cheap) Zito. Getting Hudson would cost a pretty penny.

The Sosa deal could be a big one: Sammy's been on the decline these last two years, but you have to wonder if playing in New York would re-energize him and give him new purpose. I don't see the Mets upgrading much in the off-season, but getting Sammy would make them a lot more dangerous.

More later ...


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Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Milton: What now? 

Pitcher Eric Milton is an interesting question mark for the Phillies, one visitors to A Citizens Blog have asked me about in emails: "Will the Phillies re-sign him?" The organization has been fairly cryptic on the matter, so it is impossible to tell. His $9 million dollar salary might make that difficult. Milton and Kevin Millwood together accounted for $20 million of the Phillies $93 million-dollar payroll in 2004, a season in which they collectively went 23-12, with an ERA of 4.79 and a WHIP of 1.39. The duo didn't succeed in hurling the Phillies to the World Series as anticipated and now both are free agents. Given Millwood's arm problems the Phillies aren't likely to resign him, so the question becomes: is it worth re-signing Milton? Will he be the Phillies ace in 2005? I say probably not:

Milton had what could best be described as a mediocre season in 2004: 14-6 record, 1.35 WHIP and an ERA of 4.75. He was a pretty fair microcosim of the Phillies pitching in 2004. The team had a 1.36 WHIP and an ERA of 4.45. Milton's 2004 numbers were right in line with his career ones: 1.29 WHIP / 4.76 ERA. So why not re-sign him? He had a winning record, correct?

A closer look at the numbers reveals a significant problem, which was that he was the beneficiary of considerable run support and terrific defense from the Phillies.

First the run support issue: the Phillies scored 6.54 runs per start when Milton pitched, a fantastic number. The Phillies usually provided their starters with 5.17 runs per start. The Braves Russ Ortiz benefitted from just 5.14 runs per start on his way to posting a 15-9 record. Milton's 14 wins would probably be much smaller had the Phillies bats provided him with fewer runs to work with.

The argument was made during the season that many of the Phillies starters had their ERAs and WHIPs negatively impacted by how hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Ballpark is. The idea that Citizen's impacted Milton's numbers is a load of bunk: of the Phillies starters Padilla, Wolf, Millwood and Lidle all had better road ERAs than Milton, who was only slightly better than Myers on the road. Despite having a road ERA of 5.12, Milton went 8-3 in his road starts, a terrific instance of when a win-loss record isn't an accurate measure of a pitcher's abilities.

Despite the conventional wisdom that Citizen's impacted his pitching, Milton actually pitched well at Citizen's in 2004:

Citizen's WHIP / ERA
Milton: 1.29 / 4.40
Millwood: 1.45 / 4.95
Wolf: 1.41 / 4.95
Myers: 1.36 / 5.77
Lidle: 1.05 / 3.06
Padilla: 1.38 / 4.96
Abbott: 1.52 / 4.68

However, Milton's run of luck at Citizens probably won't continue in 2005. No other Phillies starter had a smaller groundball / flyball ratio:

Milton: 0.57
Wolf: 0.81
Abbott: 0.93
Millwood: 1.12
Padilla: 1.16
Myers: 1.39
Lidle: 1.48

Given how often Milton's pitches turn into flyballs, he is a bad bet to continue hurling at Citizens.

Milton was also the beneficiary of exemplary defense:

DER / FIP
Millwood: .673 / 3.83
Milton: .737 / 5.39
Wolf: .713 / 4.58
Lidle: .741 / 3.70
Padilla: .713 / 4.65
Abbott: .735 / 7.89
Myers: .707 / 5.21
NL average: .695 / 4.31

What the stats mean ... DER (Defense Effeciency Ratio): Percentage of balls put into play that the pitcher's fielders converted into outs (minus home runs). FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching): I'll let Hardball Times own definition speak for itself: "Essentially an approximation of what the pitcher's ERA would be with an "average" defense behind him. The formula is (13xHR + 3xBB - 2xK)/IP plus a league-specific factor (around 3.20). It works like DIPS ERA, if you're familiar with that, but it's a lot easier to compute and explain." Click here for the Phillies pitching stats.

Anyway, the numbers speak for themselves: aside from Paul Abbott, Milton was arguably the Phillies worst pitcher in 2004. He benefitted from considerable fielding by the Phillies and would have had an absurdly large ERA with an average team fielding behind him. Phillies fielders effectively converted balls put into play into outs for Milton.

In the final analysis, Milton was fortunate to have a mediocre season in 2004, because his 2005 will only get worse. He isn't the Phillies ace and he shouldn't be given a salary to reflect that. The Phillies would better spend their time pursuing other pitchers if they want to upgrade the starting pitching via the free agent market. If Steinbrenner wants to throw money at him, the Phillies should just let him. Don't bring Eric Milton back, Ed Wade. You'll regret it ...

Links from the last several days ... Aaron Gleeman argues in favor of a new curse: the Twins decision to let David Ortiz go to the Red Sox after the 2002 season. Ortiz had the climatic hit in Games 4 & 5 of the ALCS and he clutch hitting was sorely missed by the Twins in the ALDS. Ben Jacobs goes through the Red Sox roster, player-by-player, citing their contributions (or lack thereof). Brian Gunn analyzes the Cardinals failure in the World Series ... Bill Buckner hopes that Red Sox fans will get off his back now ... Jim Leyland as the Phillies manager? I doubt it. He'll be in New York with the Mets, I think. This is Charlie Manuel's job to lose ... Todd Helton a Yankee? Watch out Boston, Steinbrenner is finally making some smart decisions ... Aaron rates the free agent first basemen, not exactly a position the Phillies need help at. Yesterday he rated the catchers and said some nice things about Todd Pratt. Not much else going on.


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Vote! 

Today is election day, America’s secular holiday. I’ve voted in the last two Presidential elections and I intend to do so today, though this will be the first time I have ever been at my polling place on election day. Since I’ve been eligible to vote I have voted in all but one or two primary elections, which makes me a rarity amongst my generation … I’ll spare everyone the usual “voting is a sacred duty” speech in favor of this simple example of why voting is important: when apartheid ended in South Africa they had free and fair elections for the first time in history. Black men and women stood in lines for hours and hours in the baking hot sun to cast their first ballots ever. It was something they and their fathers and mothers before them had protested and fought for the last half century for. People had died for the right to vote. People had gone to prison for the right to vote.

And they finally had it. They treasured the right to vote. Surely you can too?

That said, I understand that we are all weary of politics. We’ve all gotten bombarded with political advertising, particularly since most of us live in Pennsylvania, a “swing state” critical to Bush and Kerry’s political strategies. I will be eager for this election to be over, because I’m bitterly disappointed by how devoid of content, of actual discussion of the issues this election has been. This has been a real mess.

I got interested in politics after the 1992 election because the choice between the three candidates really got people talking and thinking about the issues. Throughout high school and college I was in the thick of things, interning on Capitol Hill, writing for my high school and college newspapers, volunteering, etc. Not anymore: I didn’t bother to watch any of the debates this time and I hit mute whenever political ads were on TV. In part it is because my mind was made up about who I was voting for some time ago, but the two political parties, the Republicans and Democrats, are killing the American political system with their name-calling and demagoguery and their embrace of politics as theatre.

Some of the blame lies with Kerry and Bush, some with their political advisors / handlers like Karl Rove, and some with the media: over the last decade Fox News, CNN and the rest of the cable TV channels have sought to make news pseudo-entertainment, theater of the absurd. Programs like “The O’Reilly Factor” and “Hannity & Colmes” have made politics and government angry screaming matches where the first casualty is truth, and the second is information: do people actually come away from watching that garbage informed? No. Pundits and politicos sprout one-liners, seeking to score points for “their side”. And don't think I'm letting the people off easy either: “The O’Reilly Factor” exists because people watch it, and the media thinks that what America wants. People should have rolled their eyes when Arnold used the phrase "girlie men", but instead they roared with approval. What's wrong with you people?

I applauded when Jon Stewart had the guts to go on “Crossfire” and tell the truth: the American media treats politics as entertainment and has dodged its duty to inform the people. I think that is one of the reasons why the blogging community has taken off over the last eighteen months or so: people haven’t been informed, they know it, and they are seeking out what other people have to say. It is how a lot of the real stories about the Iraq War have come out.

So vote. And then get informed. Seek out actual news. If people stop watching Fox News and CNN, maybe the networks will respond and finally begin to do their civic duty: educating the public. Then maybe the politicians will grow up and act like adults again.

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Monday, November 01, 2004

Nomah! 

Nomar Garciaparra has decided to test the free agent pool. Two observations:

1. I doubt he'll sign with anyone other than the Cubs.
2. I wonder if his trade to the Cubs, during the season in which the Red Sox win the World Series, will be the defining moment of his career.

Aren't the Cubs a mess? Nomar, their collapse at the end of the season, Sammy's unhappiness at batting sixth, the fact that they play in such a competitive division ... these guys are going to have to fight to stay in it in 2005. If the Mets are interested in Sammy, as reported, then the Cubs would be fools not to deal him, given how much he'll make in 2005 and how little he contributed in 2004.

The Hardball Times Baseball Annual is on sale starting next week. I want it, I want it, I want it! Check out some of the stats they've got.

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New Manager... 

It looks likely, according to the Inquirer's Todd Zolecki, that the Phillies will hire their new manager before the week is out. Grady Little and Don Baylor have seemingly fallen by the way-side in the search, and I don't sense that Russell or Pendleton are serious candidates. In my mind it comes down to three candidates:

1. Charlie Manuel
2. Jim Fregosi
3. Jim Leyland

I think it will be Manuel because the players on the team know him and like him already, and his approach to baseball seems in line with the Phillies walk and slug the ball strategy. Fregosi has a chance because he has coached the team to the World Series and the Phils love to return guys associated with success to the franchise. Leyland is a distant possibility: he seems low-key, which is what the team needs, but he has never been associated with the team before and he hasn't coached in some time.

I think the Phils will name Manuel as the new skipper on Wednesday or Thursday, after the election has been decided.

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