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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, January 28, 2005

Citizens: Thoughts and Reconsiderations 

Back in November I made the argument that Citizen’s Bank wasn’t the hitter park advertised by the media. To support my case I noted that the Phillies had a higher batting average on the road (.268 vs. .266) and that aside from marginal increases in home runs (home: 113, road: 102) and runs (home: 424; road: 416) at Citizens, there was precious little evidence to support the argument that Citizen’s was Coors Field East. After looking at the 2005 Bill James handbook, I’m prepared to revise my particulars, but restate my thesis that Citizen’s isn’t a hitters park.

Here are the raw numbers from the handbook and Citizen’s rank amongst the sixteen NL parks:
Batting Average: 101 (7th)
Hits: 101 (7th)
Runs: 109 (3rd)
Home Runs: 123 (3rd)
Doubles: 90 (14th)
Triples: 117 (7th)

(A word to the unaware: James calculates his Park Factors by comparing what the home team and its foes hit at the park and in neutral parks. A number of 100 is neutral. Over 100 favors batters, under favors pitchers. A factor of 102 for home runs means it was 2% easier to hit a home run at that park than at a neutral park.)

So it was 1% easier to get a hit at Citizens, 9% easier to score a run, 23% easier to hit a home run, 17% easier to hit a triple, and 10% harder to get a double. So Citizen’s is a hitters park? Hardly. When it comes to getting a hit, Citizen’s is basically neutral ground. True, it is easier to score a run, but that’s due to Citizen’s friendliness to sluggers. I grant you, the 9% boost in scoring is significant, but it is largely explained by the 23% boost in homers. Aside from the friendliness to sluggers, Citizens is fairly middle of the pack. In contrast, Coors Field in Colorado is a true hitters park:

Batting Average: 119 (1st)
Hits: 126 (1st)
Runs: 145 (1st)
Home Runs: 123 (3rd)
Doubles: 123 (1st)
Triples: 144 (3rd)

The rarified air in the mile high city doesn’t explain why it is so easy to get a hit of any type (single, extrabases) at Coors Field. The park’s dimensions, its wide power alleys, explain why the Rockies are such offensive jauggernauts year after year. Coors is truly a park that magnifies a team’s abilities and makes them play as if they are something they are not. I think Citizen’s closest mate is U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, home of the White Sox:

Batting Average: 102 (5th of 14)
Hits: 102 (5th)
Runs: 104 (5th)
Home Runs: 131 (1st)
Doubles: 95 (9th)
Triples: 89 (7th)

Easy to hit a home run, but not that much easier to get a hit, an extrabase hit, or score a run there.

(I hestitate to include the data about triples because it wildly swings all over the place. I think that because triples are so rare in the game today that a team legging out a triple or two on the road swings the numbers wildly in one direction or another.)

I think that the media fixated so much in 2004 on Citizen’s hitters reputation because they couldn’t explain the poor play of the Phillies pitching staff any other way, and because the Phillies were coming from such a terrific pitchers park, the Vet:

The Vet (2002-2003)
Batting Average: 91
Hits: 89
Runs: 85
Home Runs: 92
Doubles: 92
Triples: 101

Little to argue with here. Those are all dramatic swings (e.g., 31% with the home runs), and I think that all of the chatter about Citizens is shock at the Phillies finally playing at a neutral / homer-friendly park.

Misc.: Peter Gammons, one of my favorite baseball writers, has a column this week at ESPN discussing the new-look New York Mets. Interesting points:

-Gammons suggests that the Delgado-led Marlins are now the team to beat in the NL East. I don't disagree.
-Gammons also notes that 2005 could be the Yankees last hurrah for a while. The team is soaking in multi-year contracts for under-performing players like Mike Mussina and Jason Giambi. They will have four players making $19 million in 2006. Yikes. Steinbrenner might suspect that time is running out for his gladiators. If they don't win the World Series this year, it could be curtains for the Yankee dynasty.

-Peter King's Monday Morning QB talks a little about the Super Bowl. Gotta love the opening quote from Rendell about the prospect of an All-Pennsylvania Super Bowl. Living in Steelers country (northern Allegheny County) and knowing how much Western PA voters love dem Stillers, it always surprises me that Republicans don't try to turn Rendell's Eagles allegiance against him. The '02 GOP candidate, Mike Fisher, did try a sad "bash-Philly" strategy when he fell behind in the polls, running TV spots in Pittsburgh talking up how much he liked the Pittsburgh Primanti Bros. cheesesteak compared with the Philly cheesesteak. You know you've lost when your campaign ads start huffing about which cheesesteak you like better. Anyway, this side of the state is getting Redder while the Southeast gets Bluer. Might explain why Republicans are so interested in recruiting Lynn Swann to run for Governor despite his lack of qualifications (namely, any experience in government whatsoever). I expect to see some sort of "I hate Philadelphia" strategy from the '06 GOP candidate.

Nice article from Kevin Mulligan at the Daily News comparing the 1980 and 2004 Eagles teams.

Show your pride in the Eagles this week by putting some Eagles Wallpaper on your laptop or PC. Click here for the Eagles Wallpaper page. I have this one on my laptop right now.

Enjoy the weekend, ya'll!

(5) comments

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Fourth Place, here we come 

I resisted commenting on the news that Carlos Delgado had signed with the Florida Marlins until my head had cleared and I could evaluate his signing more objectively. After thinking about the deal objectively, all I can say is ... CRAP! ... I give the Marlins credit for outfoxing the Mets and getting a great player. I'm shocked that Delgado wasn't more aggressively pursed or that his signing hasn't generated the attention Adrian Beltre or Carlos Beltran got. This is a tremendous player that the Marlins have signed. A player who could dramatically improve the Marlins so-so offense and possibily push them over the top in the NL East race. Truely this season will see a competitive, aggressive and bitterly fought four-way race for the NL East crown. Maybe the Marlins are now the favorites to win it?

Let's start with what Delgado did in 2oo4:

.372 OBP / .535 SLG / 32 HR / 99 RBI / 88 Runs Created

All this during a year in which he lost over thirty games to an injury. Prior to this season Delgado had 117 Runs Created or more for six consecutive seasons. To give you an idea about how consistently good Delgado has been, take a look at his Win Shares for the last decade...

Win Shares:
2004: 17
2003: 32
2002: 26
2001: 23
2000: 36
1999: 21
1998: 24
1997: 18
1996: 12

Delgado has a lifetime .390 OBP, .274 ISO and .314 GPA. Why he hasn't gotten more attention likely has to do with playing his career in Toronto rather than New York or Chicago. If Carlos Delgado had done this wearing a Cubs uniform, his face would be plastered all over every billboard in America.

So what will he do with the Marlins? Here are Bill James' 2005 Predictions for him:

.390 OBP / .565 SLG / 35 HR / 35 2B / 109 RBI / 110 RC / .284 ISO / .317 GPA

Even if James numbers are wildly off-target, the Marlins are still getting a tremendous player. Delgado's ability to draw walks and hit with consistency is astounding. Even though Delgado will be 37 when this contract expires, this is a tremendous deal for the Florida Marlins, one that I genuinely believe will eclipse the Pedro, Beltran and Hudson deals in importance when the season is complete. I think they are the favorites to break the Braves stranglehold on the NL East. Fourth place, here we come...

(10) comments

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

K-riffic! 

I pride myself on offering you information you simply cannot get anywhere else, which is why I follow things most conventional baseball writers don’t know about or don’t care about (e.g., Gross Productive Average, Isolated Power, etc.) Recently I was thinking about how often the Phillies strike out. One of the common complaints about the team in the media is that they strike out too often and don’t make contact with the ball. Two things occurred to me:

1. What’s so bad about a strikeout, compared with a pop-fly? Same result. Why is the sight of a guy trudging back to the dugout on strike three so much worse than trudging back to the dugout on a flyout to centerfield?
2. Are the Phillies really that bad at making contact? Do they strike-out a lot?

I sat down and ran the numbers, and here’s what I got. I don’t know of anyone who follows the stat of strikeouts per plate appearance, but here it is:

National League (K/PA):
1. San Francisco: .135
2. San Diego: .144
3. Montreal: .150
4. Florida: .157
5. Houston: .159
6. Arizona: .167
7. St. Louis: .172
8. Chicago: .172
9. Pittsburgh: .174
10. Philadelphia: .175
11. Los Angeles: .175
12. Atlanta: .183
13. Colorado: .186
14. New York: .187
15. Milwaukee: .211
16. Cincinnati: .213
NL average: .173

Do the Phillies strike-out too much? Well, they strike out at about the league average, so it’s hard to see how that’s “too much”. The Phillies look a lot like the Cubs: they hit with power and part of that sacrifice is striking out a few times instead of flying out. Given how good the Phillies are about drawing walks compared with the Cubs, I don’t think you could accuse the Phillies of being wild swingers at the plate. In fact, the Phillies were the NL’s second most selective team at the plate, averaging 3.84 pitches per plate appearance (just 0.02 behind the Milwaukee Brewers). The Cubs? Fifteenth of sixteen: 3.64.

Unsurprisingly, the teams with the lower strikeout rates happened to be the teams that got on base a lot: the Giants and Pads.

What amazed me was the gap between Milwaukee and Cincinnati and the rest of the NL. It’s not a gap so much as it is a gulf: .024 and .026 higher than the Mets, and the Mets are just .014 off the league average.

Another thing that amazed me was the lack of correlation between teams that are choosey at the plate and their strikeout rates. Logically, a team that is patient at the plate won't strikeout, correct? Well, what is the conclusion to derive from the fact that the least patient team at the plate, the Giants, had the lowest strikeout rate, and that the most patient team, the Brewers, had the second worst strikeout rate? Or that the second most choosey team, the Reds, had the worst strikeout rate?

NL (Pitches per plate appearance):
1. Milwaukee: 3.86
2. Philadelphia: 3.84
2. Cincinnati: 3.84
4. Montreal: 3.81
4. Los Angeles: 3.81
4. New York: 3.81
7. Colorado: 3.79
8. St. Louis: 3.78
9. Florida: 3.74
10. Atlanta: 3.73
11. San Diego: 3.72
12. Houston: 3.69
13. Pittsburgh: 3.69
14. Arizona: 3.68
15. Chicago: 3.64
16. San Francisco: 3.60
NL average: 3.75

Check out how that phenomenon worked out with the Phillies … Here is how the individual Phillies did in 2004:

Starting Lineup: (K/PA)
SS Rollins: .100
2B Polanco: .070
RF Abreu: .163
1B Thome: .233
LF Burrell: .243
3B Bell: .124
C Lieberthal: .130
CF Byrd: .179

Bench:
IF Utley: .139
IF Perez: .232
IF Howard: .310
OF Michaels: .231
OF Ledee: .186
OF Glanville: .120
C Pratt: .255

Team: .173

Again, what I found to be interesting was how choosey players like Pat Burrell (4.21 pitches per plate appearance), Jason Michaels (3.93) or Jim Thome (4.06) struck out more than Jimmy Rollins (3.41), Doug Glanville (3.68) or Placido Polanco (3.45). Ryan Howard was choosey, in his limited time with the team, averaging 4.43 pitches per his 42 plate appearances, and he struck out a lot.

Conclusions:

Do the Phillies strikeout too much? No.

Do patient hitters avoid striking out? Clearly no.

Which brings me back to the first point: what’s so bad about a strikeout? I think it is one of those things like conventional wisdom still has a hold of. “Teams that strikeout don’t score runs.” Or, “Teams that strikeout aren’t consistent.” Teams with low strikeout rates don’t necessarily have success at the plate: otherwise the Montreal Expos would have been offensive juggernauts instead of bottom-feeders. Three of the NL’s better offensive groups were the Cubs, Cardinals and Phillies, three teams that basically had the NL average for strikeouts. The Colorado Rockies may have been the NL’s best offense and they struck out .013 higher than average. So don’t fear the strikeout, Phillies fans. And the next time you hear someone complain "the Phillies strikeout too much...", tell 'em that they're wrong.

(14) comments

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Recent Deals 

Whew! Quite a couple of days for Eagles fans! Well, I think it's time to turn our attention back to the Phillies, who are just a few weeks away from starting spring training and making a run at the 2005 NL East division title. I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the Phillies recent signings. The Phillies recently inked one-year deals with three players and signed a free agent. Here are my thoughts on each deal:

Jimmy Rollins SS 1-year, $3.85 million

Rollins will be a free agent for the 2005-2006 off-season and if the Phillies expect to re-sign him to a long-term deal in October and November, forget it. As I’ve said, Rollins might be the best shortstop in the NL right now. He’ll command a multi-year deal making $10 million or more from teams like the Cardinals and Cubs at the end of the season. Why is Rollins such a hot commodity? He’s made tremendous strides towards lowering his strikeouts and becoming a more complete lead-off hitter. Look at his season-by-season on-base percentages and runs created:

OBP / RC
2001: .323 / 96
2002: .306 / 71
2003: .320 / 76
2004: .348 / 108

At just 26, Rollins has four complete seasons under his belt, and he’ll play quite a few more. He’s the rare lead-off man with power: his .455 slugging percentage and 14 home runs are very impressive and make him a unique weapon for the team. If I were the Phillies management I’d try to sign Rollins to some sort of multi-year deal during the season when he might be willing to settle for something in the range of $6-$8 million a year. If not, I'd expect him to sign a massive, multi-year deal with the Cardinals in November.

Placido Polanco IF 1-year, $4.6 million

We all know the saga of Polanco this off-season and I won’t spill too much ink here, aside to speculate on whether the Phillies might still bring Polanco back in 2006 if they can’t re-sign Jimmy Rollins in 2005. Polanco is three years older than Rollins, but he’s still a good bat and a terrific glove. If Rollins has a great 2005 and leaves in November, as I suspect he will, Polanco might still be a Phillie next year after all.

Vicente Padilla SP 1-year, $3.2 million

I really like Vicente Padilla, but there simply isn’t any other word to describe his 2004 other than “awful”:

ERA / HR9* / Win Shares
2004: 4.53 ERA / 1.2 / 4
2003: 3.62 ERA / 0.9 / 13
2002: 3.28 ERA / 0.7 / 14
*home runs allowed her 9 innings pitched.

The move to Citizens hurt him somewhat, forcing him to serve up a few more runs than usual. I still like Padilla a lot: unlike Wolf and Milton, Padilla got more groundballs (a good 1.16 G/F ratio, although not as good as Myers, Lieber and Lidle) and improved on his strikeouts rates: 6.4 strikeouts per 9 innings, compared with 5.7 in 2003 and 5.6 in 2002. I still think he could be the Phillies ace in the future and I think he’d be worth re-signing to a multi-year deal during the season.

Jose Offerman PH Minor League deal

I had no idea that Jose Offerman was still in baseball until I read that the Phillies had signed him. Apparently Offerman is one of the top pinch hitters in baseball (thanks for the info, Berks Phillies Fans), Offerman got 172 AB’s last year with the Twins. Here’s how he did:

.363 OBP .395 SLG .140 ISO .262 GPA

Offerman hit 12 for 29 (.414) as a pinch hitter with the Twins in 2004, tops in the AL. Interestingly, Offerman was a very patient hitter at the plate: 4.07 pitches per plate appearance would have ranked him eighth in the AL, if he had enough plate appearances to qualify.

Good signings. Let's see how they play out this season.

(14) comments

Monday, January 24, 2005

More data... 

I just saw something interesting this evening ... Dave Pinto at Baseball Musings just published an interesting analysis of team defense in 2004 based on variences between probabilities of performance and actual performance in team defense. Given my personal fascination with defense in the game of baseball (so nice of you to notice, Philadelphia magazine!), I thought this is worth noting. (BTW- Dave ranks the Phillies as the sixth best MLB defense in 2004.)

I'll expand on this sometime soon...

(3) comments

New Blog 

There's a new blog in town so I hope everyone will join me and check out Brush Backs and Knock Downs (I wish I thought of a title that cool), the newest Phillies blog on the block.

(0) comments

Best Sunday Ever 

How sweet it is … I was very pleased yesterday, watching the Eagles-Falcons highlights on Sportscenter, reveling in the Eagles triumph in the NFC title game. It was a fantastic game. The Eagles showed no weaknesses on defense, stuffing the Falcons running attack and collaring Michael Vick. The offense took the ball and moved with authority. Even with the wind in their faces they attacked the Falcons secondary and moved the ball with authority. I spent the afternoon on my couch howling with joy at every Eagles defensive stop, at every Eagles first down. The Eagles have to go into Jacksonville with confidence that they can get the job done, even against a veteran unit like the Patriots.

What about the Pats? I have to admit being impressed by the job that they did on the Steelers. That was a dominating performance to watch. The Eagles have their work cut out for them.

As readers of A Citizen’s Blog know, I live in the northern ‘burbs of Pittsburgh, so I’ve been getting a lot of Eagles fever and Steelers fever these last few months. I was happy watching Eagles fans celebrate in Philly, and I’m sure that people went into work this morning with a skip in their step and a smile on their face. I’ve been watching the Eagles since they lost the fog bowl to the Chicago Bears in ’88, so this is a terrific feeling: my team finally cleared the hump. Those losses in the NFC title game, that decade playing second fiddle to Dallas, it’s all at an end. The Eagles are going to their first Super Bowl in 24 years. Time to be proud.

Watching the post-game celebration I was also specifically happy for a few players: Brian Dawkins, the team’s emotional leader and gritty warrior, was crying with joy. He works hard and deserves a chance to win it all. Jeremiah Trotter was happy too, probably realizing how lucky he is to have found his way back to the Eagles after leaving in ’02. I’m happy for T.O. too: he and Kearse were the two missing pieces of the puzzle. They should both be proud.

But the guy I’m most happy for is Donovan McNabb: Getting booed on draft day, falling short in the NFC title game three times, getting criticized for not being accurate enough … He’s put up with a lot. I’ve been a defender of McNabb for years, and I’m happy to see my faith in him finally justified. When the chips were down, when they needed veteran leadership and big plays, Donovan delivered in a big way. If anyone doesn’t believe that he’s one of the three or four best QB’s in the game today, they are crazy.

I feel bad for Steelers fans. In the nine years I’ve lived here I’ve never seen Steelers mania at this level. 15-1, rookie QB … Not even when they went to Super Bowl XXX (my freshman year of college) have people been this fired up, this excited. The Steelers fans embraced the team and embraced #7 Ben Roethlisberger like nobody else. The day after Xmas there were people with #7 jerseys everywhere. The fans had utter and complete confidence in Big Ben to win it all, so this has to be shattering to watch. People around here know that I’m an Iggles fan, so it would have been fun to have had the battle of Pennsylvania in Jacksonville, but this morning I feel a great swell of pity for Steelers Nation. Waking up this morning must have been tough.

So now the Super Bowl. I’ll handicap the matchups closer to the game, but I think the game will be tight. Regardless of how the Super Bowl turns out, this is a big week for Philadelphia.

Tomorrow I plan to return to blogging the Phillies. Yeah, the Phillies. Remember them?

(6) comments

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