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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, March 04, 2005

Calm down, it's just preseason... 

I saw that the Phillies dropped their first preseason game 9-1 to the Detroit Tigers yesterday and hung my head. It's just the preseason, but with so much bad karma left over from 2004, we want the team to get off to a fast start. This was not an auspicious begining, particularly in light of how badly the Phillies pitchers did.

On the plus side Kenny Lofton played well in center. If Lofton plays 150+ games and keeps at a high level, then the Phillies are getting what might be the final piece to their regular lineup puzzle: a top-flight every-day centerfielder who can hit.

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Thursday, March 03, 2005

THT Rankings 

The Hardball Times ranked how the thirty MLB teams did this off-season. the Phillies clock in at #19, largely based on how little they did (beyond allowing Eric Milton to leave and bringing aboard Jon Lieber, both moves they applaud), and how much their competitors (Marlins, Mets, Braves) did. I don't want to agree, but they have a point.

Pirates fans, your team was 26th. The Reds were 27th. (Why Eric Milton? Why?)

Let's extend our condolences to Tigers fans. Your team did the worst this offseason.

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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Injuries… 

Vicente Padilla and David Bell have apparently sustained injuries this spring:

-Bell is in Dallas having his bad back checked out. David Bell injured is hardly new news for us: he missed 77 games in 2003 and 19 last year. Despite his injury-plauged career the Bill James Handbook rated him just a “medium” injury risk.

If Bell goes down for some (or most) of the season the Phillies lineup will look very different: Utley will probably move up to bat sixth in Bell’s slot. Placido Polanco, the Phillies multi-million dollar utility man, will probably move over to third base (where he played in 2002 after he was dealt for Scott Rolen). While Bell has been rated a strong defensive third baseman, Polanco is probably superior and might even represent an upgrade on Bell at the plate:

2004:
Bell: .363 OBP / .458 SLG / .167 ISO
Polanco: .345 OBP / .441 SLG / .143 ISO

Keep those numbers in mind with the fact that Bell had a career year in ’04 and Polanco hit poorly. Here are the Bill James numbers:

Bell: .325 OBP / .402 SLG / .145 ISO
Polanco: .335 OBP / .427 SLG / .132 ISO

-Padilla: the loss of Padilla is very troubling. Apparently he won’t be able to pitch in the Phillies first series of the year against the Nats. We were all hoping for a big season from Padilla, a groundball pitcher who probably would have been the best No. 2 behind we ace Jon Lieber. Let’s hope this injury is one he’ll return from shortly.

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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Stark's Lineup Ratings... 

ESPN's Jayson Stark ranked the NL's best lineups and ranked the Phillies third, after the Cardinals and Marlins. Hard to disagree with that. The Cards might have one of the finest 2-through-5 lineups in baseball history, so to be in the same league as them is tremendous. The big story of the article is the Marlins new rank, which seems to be thanks to their acqusition of Delgado. I've said it once and I'll say it thirty more times (or one hundred): the acquisition of Carlos Delgado was far more significant than Carlos Beltran for 2005. It makes the Marlins the team to beat in the NL East.

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Monday, February 28, 2005

Also starring Mike Lieberthal as the Grizzled Veteran… 

There are certain clichés to movies that you can rely on. E.g., Tara Reid always plays a boozy blonde. Disaster movies always feature the hero as a scientist warning the blissfully unaware of the impending doom. Horror movies always have the people who go into the darkened room with the serial killer. My favorite is Hollywood’s habit of casting the catcher character in baseball movies as the grizzled, worldly veteran. Think of Tom Berringer in Major League and Kevin Costner in Bull Durham. The catcher is the blue-collar Joe squatting behind the plate, nursing a bad back, fighting off the lingering thought that his career might be over, that his best days are behind him. It’s a great arch-type for Hollywood.

Straight out of central casting, here is the Phillies Mike Lieberthal. Long-time veteran, fighting off injuries, sensing that the Phillies are shopping for a replacement … the question is whether his best days are truly behind him. I’m an optimist about a lot of players on the Phillies roster like Pat Burrell and Jon Lieber, but I’m a pessimist about Lieberthal’s 2005 campaign. I just don’t think Lieberthal will contribute much to the Phillies lineup in '05 and his future with the team is fairly bleak.

Let me preface my comments by noting my own vision of what a catcher should be: tough, dependable, he should have a rapport with the pitching staff and he should never be the team’s A, B or C option at the plate. Mike Piazza is a tremendous player, maybe one of the great offensive catchers in history, but he was a tremendous liability defensively for the Mets and he always declined at the end of the season offensively. Piazza was a non-factor in the ’99 and ’00 playoffs. Lieberthal isn’t the Phillies A,B or C option. He fits the mold of what I see a catcher should be: a vet who is a strong defensive presence and a good bat.

Defensively Lieberthal stacks up okay vis-à-vis his NL counterparts: (I’m going to compare Lieberthal to the Marlins/Dodgers Paul Lo Duca, the Pirates Jason Kendall and the Braves Johnny Estrada, three of the better catchers in the NL in 2004.)

Fielding Win Shares:
Lieberthal: 3.7
Estrada: 3.0
Kendall: 6.8
Lo Duca (LA): 5.3
Lo Duca (FLA): 1.8

I hesitate to use a stat like Catcher’s ERA (CERA) because it is so much out of the control of the catcher (was it Lieberthal’s fault that Milton served up so many home runs in 2004?), but it certainly paints a grim picture of Lieberthal’s struggles with the pitching staff. Lieberthal finished third worst (4.65) in the NL, just a little better than the Reds Jason LaRue (4.92) and the Rockies Charles Johnson (5.68). Estrada (3.77) and Lo Duca (3.83) were #’s two and three in the NL.

I put more faith into how often catchers throw out base-running threats and, more importantly, how often teams run against a player. Here again Lieberthal falls behind. In stolen-base percent he was just twelfth of fourteen (21.3%). Third worst. Only the Braves Estrada (18.6%) and Johnson (20.3%) were worse. Lo Duca and Kendall were much better:

Lo Duca: 27.9%
Kendall: 36.3%

Teams didn’t run against Lieberthal with any particular frequency:

Attempts per 1,000 innings:
Kendall: 81.0
Estrada: 82.5
Lieberthal: 85.1
Lo Duca: 116.8

Though it did catch my eye that Lo Duca was such a target for base-stealers. I’d also point out in Lieberthal’s defense that the Phillies don’t exactly deliver the ball to the plate with speed: their throwing motions are more concerned with their windup than the speed of their delivery. So we’ll give Lieberthal the benefit of the doubt and state that he has a good enough arm.

How did he do at the plate? Again, we’ll compare him to his peers:

Lieberthal: .335 OBP / .447 SLG / .176 ISO / .262 GPA
Estrada: .378 OBP / .450 SLG / .136 ISO / .283 GPA
Kendall: .399 OBP / .390 SLG / .071 ISO / .277 GPA
Lo Duca (LA): .351 OBP / .444 SLG / .143 ISO / .269 GPA
Lo Duca (FLA): .314 OBP / .376 SLG / .118 ISO / .235 GPA

He’s a more explosive bat than Kendall, Estrada and Lo Duca, who are really singles hitters. His .176 ISO is one of the tops amongst NL catchers (the Cubs Barrett had a .202 ISO), a rare talent. Lieberthal .176 ISO is actually exactly his career average on the subject, though his extra-base hits were more home runs than doubles in 2004.

(I read somewhere in passing that Lieberthal led the Phillies in grounding into double plays in 2004. I looked it up and found that he did GIDP 19 times, which seems like a lot.)

So what to expect from Lieberthal in 2005? I expect a decline in his stats, though his ’04 numbers were remarkably consistent with his career averages:

2004 / Career
BB/PA: .070 / .073 (-.003)
ISO: .176 / .176 (.000)
AB/HR: 28.0 / 27.4 (+0.06)
OBP: .335 / .340 (-.005)
SLG: .447 / .452 (-.005)

Here’s what Bill James predicts:

OBP: .334
SLG: .448
GPA: .262
ISO: .169
HR: 16
2B: 30
Runs Created: 71

Not bad, but certainly not great numbers for a guy who made $7.5 million bucks in 2004 and has a history of injuries in a position where players often get injured. I think 2005 will be Lieberthal’s swan song for the Phillies. The team will probably start looking to the future and try to develop a player to push him for the catcher’s job in 2006.

The life of a grizzled catcher.

What the stats mean:
GPA (Gross Productive Average): (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA. Invented by The Hardball Times Aaron Gleeman, it measures a players production by weighing his ability to get on base and hit with power.
ISO (Isolated Power): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.
RC (Runs Created): Measures how many runs a player “creates” for his team. The formula used by Bill James is fairly complex: look at p. 397-398 of the Bill James Handbook.
OBP (On-Base Percentage): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
BB / PA (Walks per plate appearance): (BB / PA = .BB/PA Avg)

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