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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Friday, May 27, 2005

Phillies Phans v. Pat Burrell 

As most Phillies fans know, the last three seasons have been a real roller-coaster ride for the Phillies phenom. After compensating for the loss of Scott Rolen in ’02, Burrell was poised to inherit Rolen’s role as the team’s franchise player in ’03 but had an awful year. Burrell rebounded in ’04 with an inconsistent year, showing flashes of his old self here and there. The fear, entering the 2005 season, was that Burrell was never going to live up to the promise he showed in 2002, that he’d be a busted pick for the team and a real drain.

In the case of the Phillies Phans v. Pat Burrell, the defense has made a pretty convincing case for acquittal this season. Pat the Bat is back and with a vengeance. Here are his stats (as of Wednesday):

OBP: .409
SLG: .536
HR: 9
2B: 7
RBI: 37
GPA: .318
ISO: .220

Compare that with his 2004 stats:

OBP: .365
SLG: .455
HR: 24
2B: 17
RBI: 84
GPA: .278
ISO: .198

Definite improvement from 2004, which itself was an improvement over 2003. If Burrell’s stats hold and he continues at this pace, he’ll roughly get back to where he was in 2002:

Extrapolated stats: (based on current stats extrapolated out to the same number of plate appearances as 2002)

HR: 34
RBI: 140
2B: 26
K: 143
BB: 94
Runs: 57
GPA: .318
ISO: .220

Here’s what he did in 2002:

HR: 37
RBI: 116
2B: 39
K: 153
BB: 89
Runs: 96
GPA: .305
ISO: .262

He might be lagging in some power numbers still (a projected 60 extra-base hits as compared with 76 in 2002), but in many respects he’s an improved player from 2002: Burrell is a better run-producer circa 2005 as compared to 2002:

Runs Created per 27 Outs*:
2000: 6.07
2001: 5.65
2002: 7.10
2003: 3.69
2004: 5.69
2005: 7.77

* I use ESPN.com’s numbers here. Don’t ask me to replicate their formula. Basically, it approximates what a hypothetical team of nine Pat Burrells would score in nine innings.

So basically, Burrell has replicated his ’02 stats by trading a little power for the ability to get on base. (.138 BB/PA this year, .130 in ’02) This team is experiencing a power drain at the plate, but Burrell is still a threat and he’s one of the big reasons why the team is one of the best in the NL right now in OBP.

Bottom-line, Burrell is having a great year for the team. If the guys hitting behind him (e.g. David Bell, Mike Lieberthal, et al) were hitting better Burrell would be having a better season. This team might be struggling, but Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu aren’t the reasons why.

The defense rests. Case dismissed.

(21) comments

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Spotlight: Cory Lidle 

At the beginning of the season I wasn’t entirely sure of what to make of Cory Lidle. Talented pitcher, probably, but he had a spotty track record. The Phillies were his sixth team in eight years and he was a career .530 pitcher (61-54), with a 4.48 ERA. Sure he pitched well with the team in the ten games he played since joining the team in August of ’04, but he was coming from the Reds and had pitched poorly in their home-run friendly ball park.

How would he fare with the Phillies?

Pretty well as it turns out.

In the 19 games he’s started for the Phillies, this is how he’s doing*:

Won-Lost – ERA – BB/9 – K/9 – HR/9
2004: 5-2 / 3.90 / 2.45 / 4.76 / 0.43
2005: 4-3 / 3.75 / 1.87 / 5.46 / 0.47
Total: 9-5 / 3.83 / 2.18 / 5.10 / 0.45

That’s pretty darn good. Compare that to his exile in Cincy:

2004 (Reds): 7-10 / 5.32 / 2.66 / 5.62 / 1.44

His last start, a nine-inning complete game masterpiece against the Orioles, was tremendous, but not the best game his pitched this year. That was his 5-2 loss to the Brewers, where he was done in by the bullpen and lousy fielding. He K’d 11 Brewers in the game. Since beginning the year 0-2, Lidle has gone 4-1, his sole loss being the heartbreak against the Brew crew.

Lidle is pitching well, almost as well as Brett Myers, the team’s 4-2 Cy Young candidate. The Phillies have played o.k. defense behind Lidle, especially compared to Myers:

Lieber: .753
Myers: .748
Lidle: .706
Wolf: .685
Team: .697

The terrific fielding has helped obscure the fact that Lieber isn’t pitching well these days (his 4.01 ERA masks a 5.60 FIP), and it shields Myers 1.88 ERA from the fact that his FIP is a run higher (3.11 FIP). Lidle is actually pitching better than he looks: his FIP is 3.25, a half-run better than his 3.75 ERA. Here is the starting rotation’s FIPs:

Myers: 3.11
Lidle: 3.25
Wolf: 5.20
Lieber: 5.60
Padilla: 6.71

Not too shabby: while Lidle isn’t the K artist Myers is (5.5 per 9 innings to Myers 11.3), he surrenders fewer walks and home runs per nine innings than Myers. This shouldn’t be surprising, in retrospect, given what Lidle did with the Phillies in ’04: 3.69 FIP.

Maybe Lidle isn’t quite pitching as well as Myers (note: Myers is 4-2, but his record could just as easily be 7-1. The Phillies scored just one run in his 2-1 loss to the Cubs and Myers surrendered just one earned run in 21 and two-thirds innings in his three no-decisions), but he’s close and the Phillies need a good No. 2 starter to compliment Myers. Looks like they found one.

* Baffled by the stats? Here is a quick glossary:

FIP – Fielding Independent Pitching: (13*HR+3*BB-2*K / IP) + League Factor Evaluates a pitching by how he would have done with an average defense behind him by keeping track of things that a pitcher can control (walks, strikeouts, home runs allowed) as opposed to things he cannot (hits allowed, runs allowed).
DER – Defense Efficiency Ratio: (Batters Faced – (Hits + Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) / (Batters Faced – (Home Runs, Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) How often fielders convert balls put into play into outs.
Hr/9 – Home Runs allowed per nine innings.
K/9 – Strikeouts per nine innings.
BB/9 – Walks per nine innings.

(48) comments

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Since I've been gone... 

Yes, I’m back … I’ve been busy cleaning up my house and getting things in order. I finally feel like I don’t live in a storage unit anymore, so I’m going back to my prodigious blogging self.

What can I say about the Phillies these last two weeks or so?

-Since May 8, when he had the Phillies sole run in a 2-1 loss to the Cubs with a solo shot, Bobby Abreu has been on fire: he’s raised his OBP fifty-three points, hit 9 of his 12 home runs, had 21 of his 36 RBIs and raised his slugging percentage nearly two hundred points. He’s cooled off since going 2-for-4 against the Cardinals (5-for-17, no extra-base hits), but so far he’s still hitting and having a heck of a season.

-Abreu’s out-burst has had some positive impact on the team’s power numbers*: the Phillies are now twelfth in slugging (better than being sixteenth) at .399, and are third in OBP at .343 (thanks to an NL-leading .104 walks-per-plate appearance)… While it is good news that the Phillies are fifth in home runs at 46, they are sixteenth in the NL in doubles and fourteenth in triples. This team needs a little aggressiveness and speed on the base-paths. The Phillies are also just fifteenth in ISO, meaning they still aren’t hitting with any authority.

-Defense and pitching aren’t working out too well this season, despite some terrific performances.

Defensively the Phillies are slightly better than the league average in DER (.697, the league average being .696). Since ESPN & SI.com don’t publish team Zone Rating any more (I shouldn’t complain: they brought back individual fielding stats), I use DER as my team defensive metric.

Better than average good news? No really, given that this team was third in the NL in DER in 2004 and is only .001 above average. I really thought this team would jell in the field, but it hasn’t. I don’t think Phillies fans understand why this is a big deal: last year the team’s awful pitching was moderated a little by extraordinary fielding. Eric Milton looked good with Rollins, et al, gobbling up grounders left and right. He’s actually a lousy pitcher (17 home runs in 57 innings? Milton gives up 2.68 home runs per 9 innings pitched. Reds fans: we warned you!) but the Phillies fielding covered that up. With the Phillies seemingly improved pitching faltering again, we need the defense to step up a notch and turn in a big performance. So far, it hasn’t happened.

As for the pitching staff we’ve seen some great performances (Myers, Lidle), some okay (Lieber, Wolf), and some awful (Padilla, Floyd since the Cards game). I think the team’s bullpen looks awful and it disturbs me that Lieber has surrendered 14 home runs this year. That is too much for a guy who throws so many groundball outs.

May is going to a close and I think that there is real breakout potential there. Thome is returning to the lineup and hopefully prepared to bust out of his slump (hey Jim: Ryan Howard has as many home runs as you and in sixty fewer at-bats!). I think the team realizes that Padilla needs some work as well. Hopefully with the bright sunshine on the grass at Citizens Bank, the team will move ahead and finally break out of the cellar. I’m optimistic, although there are few reasons why I should be: we’ve been in last for over a month and the Nationals, the team we’d all figure would finish last, aren’t fading.

But hey, I’m an atypical Phillies fan.

Back the next two days with some thoughts on individual players.

*Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I talk about:
ISO (Isolated Power): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.
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)
ZR (Zone Rating): Is a stat which measures a player’s defensive ability by measuring plays they should have made. Admittedly, this is a stat left open to subjective opinions.
Defense Efficiency Ratio: (Batters Faced – (Hits + Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) / (Batters Faced – (Home Runs, Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) How often fielders convert balls put into play into outs.

(3) comments

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

A Post Tomorrow .... 

Cross my heart ...

(0) comments

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