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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, June 04, 2005

Don't You Love... 

... articles that describe the Phillies as "surging"? They were two games out of first place this morning. Given how badly they've played, that ain't bad...

(0) comments

Friday, June 03, 2005

.500 & Loving It! 

Nice to see the team at .500 and poised to move up in the standings in a big way. Next up, the D-backs, a team ripe for the plucking … I was mulling over the Phillies pitching situation last night when I came to a realization: the current staff of Lieber, Lidle, Wolf & Myers is probably the best the team has had in long while. Check out these numbers:

2005: Starters / Relievers
WHIP: 1.31 / 1.49
ERA: 4.16 / 5.74
FIP*: 4.45 / 4.77
K/9: 6.55 / 7.30

* I’m using 3.20 as the league factor here.

Mind you that the “starters” includes Vicente Padilla and Gavin Floyd. They’ve been pitching very, very well. Now compare that to last season …

2004: Starters / Relievers
WHIP: 1.40 / 1.29
ERA: 4.91 / 3.68
FIP: 4.95 / 4.19
K/9: 6.41 / 6.88

Not too shabby. Notice how favorably the numbers compare to 2003, when the Phillies played in the Vet (a pitcher-friendly park) with an Eric Milton-less rotation:

2003: Starters / Relievers
WHIP: 1.32 / 1.35
ERA: 4.20 / 3.72
FIP: 4.15 / 4.07
K/9: 6.75 / 6.31

I'll have more on this later, but these are some interesting numbers, aren't they?

(6) comments

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Spotlight: Jimmy Rollins 

What's wrong with Jimmy? When the 2005 season started I had high hopes for Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies leadoff man and shortstop, to have a big year. He had dramatically improved during the 2004 campaign by cutting his strikeouts and developing a savvier eye at the plate. Sadly that hasn't happened in 2005 thus far:

.318 OBP / .380 SLG / .112 ISO / .238 GPA*

Pretty meager stats, especially for a lead-off guy charged with getting on base and setting the table for the rest of the lineup. When Jimmy began playing for the Phillies I had high hopes he'd be a big-time threat like Rickey Henderson, a tough out capable of wounding you with a home run or a steal in equal measure. Last year, for example, Rollins had 69 extrabase hits (14 of them home runs) and thirty stolen bases. Few teams have leadoff hitters with SLG's over .400 (Rollins: .455)

Rollins seemed to turn his game up a notch in 2004. Look at the rise in OBP and decline in strikeouts:

Strikeouts / OBP:
2001: 108 / .323
2002: 103 / .306
2003: 113 / .320
2004: 73 / .348

The improved bat control led to more productivity:

Runs Created*
2001: 96
2002: 71
2003: 76
2004: 108

* I'm using the formula from Bill James 2005 Handbook here.

Win Shares:
2001: 20
2002: 16
2003: 19
2004: 25
2005: 3 (thus far)

The problem is that Rollins has reverted from his patience in 2004 to his old free-swinging ways. Rollins averages 3.28 pitches per plate appearance, the worst amongst all Phillies regulars. Although, in the interest of total honesty, Rollins wasn't that choosey in 2004.

Another problem for Rollins has been simple bad luck: Rollins is running far behind his projected stats. According to Hardball Times new PrOps stat Rollins is unlucky: his 0.635 OPS (OBP + SLG = OPS) is running 0.110 behind his projected OPS. i.e., Rollins may be really unlucky compared to 2004. In 2004 Rollins had a .304 BA when balls were put into play. This year he's hitting just .250 in the same situation. Maybe he'll start hitting again.

Or maybe the problem is deeper than that: Jimmy Rollins 2004 campaign was something of an exception for him. It was a career high in Win Shares, career high in OBP, career high in slugging percentage. Maybe 2004 was simply Rollins career year and his .325 career OBP is more representative of his abilities. Bill James projected Rollins at .335 OBP and .429 SLG for 2005, not that much off what he's doing currently.

Defensively Rollins has been a disappointment as well: his .838 Zone Rating is 9th amongst 14 regular NL SS. He's tenth amongst the NL SS's in Range Factor. These are both declines from 2004. This is no small problem because Shortstops are your key defensive players (after your catcher): they see the most of the balls put into play. Rollins struggles defensively partly explain why the Phillies have slipped defensively in 2005: the third best team in the league in Defense Efficiency Ratio (DER) in 2004, they are eighth this year. The slip in the quality of defense has been problematic for the Phillies: the pitching staff needs all of the help they can get.

I feel bad for Jimmy: he's a free agent for 2006 and I figured that he'd have a terrific year and be one of the big free agents on the market this fall. Probably not going to happen now. Let's just hope that Rollins can rediscover his skills, because this team can't make things happen with a leadoff hitter creating just 26 runs in 50 games.


* Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I talk about:
GPA (Gross Productive Average): (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA. Invented by The Hardball Times Aaron Gleeman, GPA measures a players production by weighing his ability to get on base and hit with power. This is my preferred all-around stat.
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)
Zone Rating (ZR): 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.
Range Factor (RF): (Putouts + Assists) * 9 / IP. Essentially measures how much a player is involved in defensive plays.
Defense Efficiency Ratio (DER): (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.

(11) comments

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Education of Chase Utley 

When the 2005 season began the Phillies made a momentus decision that has had serious repercussions for their season: despite promising Chase Utley the starting job at second last year the team decided to platoon Utley at second base with the team's 2003 and 2004 incumbent, Placido Polanco. The decision has had baleful effects on the Phillies season: angering Utley (who is more than justified in having any feelings of betrayal, I might add), irritating Polanco (who still wants to be a full-timer), and depriving a punchless lineup of one of its most explosive bats.

Utley is a tremendous talent, the fifteenth overall pick in the 2000 draft, and clearly the Phillies second-baseman of the future. The team's decision to offer arbitration to Polanco (probably a bid to get draft picks when he signed with the Cardinals, as expected) was an awful mistake when Polanco accepted their offer and expected to get his old job back. Chase is younger, cheaper and more durable than the talented, but oft-injured Polanco. Here is how Chase is doing...

Batting: Chase is exactly what the Phillies lineup needs with Thome struggling. I'm also rather impressed by his developement this season. In his first two years with the Phillies Chase was a slugger-in-the-making, a guy who swung for the fences and seemed to have trouble rounding out his game. While Chase continues to pound out the extrabase hits, he's added the ability to get on base:

On-Base Percentage:
2003: .322
2004: .308
2005: .366

Okay, Chase had improved his batting average this season (.300 to .266 in '04 and .239 in '03), but a lot of that is an improved skill at drawing walks. Look at Chase's Walks per Plate Appearances (BB/PA):

BB/PA (Total Plate Appearances)
2003: .072 (152)
2004: .052 (287)
2005: .090 (134)

Much better. Chase has also added a little more power to his arsenal, improving his slugging percentage (.468 in '04, .542 in '05) and his Isolated Power (ISO): .202 in '04, .242 in '05. He's a more explosive bat and a much more potent offensive threat than his platoon-mate, Placido Polanco: .338 OBP, .343 SLG.

Here are Polanco & Utley Gross Productive Average (GPA) stats:

Utley: .300
Polanco: .238

Frankly, Polanco is a big reason why the Phillies are 15th in slugging and 16th in ISO. Also frankly, Polanco's bat is a big reason why the Phillies are struggling. This team needs power at the plate to be successful and Chase Utley can supply that.

Defense: Statistically Polanco is besting Utley here. The two have played virtually the same number of innings (Utley 232, Polanco 202), but Placido has turned twice as many double plays (22 to 11) as Utley. I didn't bother to look up the pitchers each one played behind (I'd expect Polanco & Utley to be turning more double plays with Lidle on the mound rather than Wolf or Padilla), but that seems like a dramatic difference. Utley has had more chances (119 to 114) than Polanco, but Polanco seems to have played a little better:

Zone Rating / Range Factor
Utley: 4.72 / .813
Polanco: 5.06 / .921

Generally speaking, Utley would be middling if he qualified innings-wise amongst NL second basemen: at .813 he'd be 7th amongst 12 NL 2B's. Polanco would be leading the NL. (Polanco and Utley would both rank 5th amongst NL 2B's in Range Factor.)

Conclusions: I'm impressed by Chase's development this season and dearly wish the Phillies would junk the platoon and play him full-time. I don't think Polanco's glove justifies the drag he puts on the lineup. I think Chase is strong defensively and his bat is what this team needs to get some extra-base hits. I also think Chase is improving dramatically. I note that Chase seems likely to surpass Bill James 2005 projections for him:

(to-date) / (proj.)
OBP: .366 / .333
SLG: .542 / .478
GPA: .300 / .269
ISO: .242 / .203

If the Phillies want to play Polanco then put him in at third for David Bell. I wish this team had the eyes to see that Chase Utley is one of their strongest assets.

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I talk about:
GPA (Gross Productive Average): (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA. Invented by The Hardball Times Aaron Gleeman, GPA measures a players production by weighing his ability to get on base and hit with power. This is my preferred all-around stat.
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)
Zone Rating (ZR): 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.
Range Factor: (Putouts + Assists) * 9 / IP. Essentially measures how much a player is involved in defensive plays.
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.

(68) comments

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Rare Mid-Day Post... 

... a couple of things caught my eye that are of note:

David Gassko wrote an interesting article at The Hardball Times ranking the General Managers. The formulas and ideas are interesting, though I am skeptical. They ranked the Red Sox Theo Epstein #1 (sure), Billy Beane #3 (okay), Paul DePodesta third-worst (...not sure I agree...) and the Phillies Ed Wade #5 (huh?). Watching this underachieving team struggle to win 86 games the last two seasons despite having one of the top five payrolls in the majors, I am skeptical.

Nice story from Peter Gammons about the surprising Brewers. About time the establishment stand up and take notice that the Brew crew are pretty good and are just about the only team that can catch the Cards for the NL Central. Always count on Gammons for the cutting edge story.

I have some thoughts on Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins coming up.

(45) comments

The Next Two Weeks... 

The Phillies kick off a 13 game home-stand today against the San Francisco Giants. It has been a rough two months but the team is still in the hunt in a competitive division. i.e., all is not lost Phillies fans.

To date the team has played 31 of its 51 games on the road. The team’s home record (10-10) isn’t good enough to justify an argument that the team will certainly improve by playing their next 13 at home (and 35 of their next 48 at home), but you get a sense that the Phillies could make a break for fourth and third one of these days soon. Thirteen consecutive home games, Thome back in the lineup … they should do better than .500 these next two weeks. If they can’t put together a run these next two weeks then I think their chances of playing in the post-season in ’05 are pretty shot.

Here are the series outlooks...

Phillies v. Giants: Good chance here of taking 2 of 3. The Giants look pretty weak without Bonds. The big guy has left the team scrapping for runs and relying on defense to compensate for the fact that their pitching is so-so. The Giants are .500 largely thanks to their 16-7 record in one-run games, which keeps them running two games ahead of their Pythagorean win-loss record.

Phillies v. D-backs: I wouldn’t be surprised if the Phillies win 3 of 4 or even sweep the D-backs. This team is running seven games ahead of their Pythagorean win-loss record (seven!), the biggest variance in the MLB. It is remarkable that this team is nearly .600 despite getting outscored on the field by twenty-plus runs. This team is substandard defensively, average in pitching and average at the plate. Their 18-10 record in one-run games is pretty darn good and, quite frankly, a fluke. I suspect they won’t be able to keep it up though and this East Coast swing could really hurt them.

Phillies v. Rangers: The Phillies play the Rangers for the first time in history, the final MLB team they have yet to play. The Phillies will need to fight to come out ahead in this series because the Rangers are playing well, putting together good pitching and explosive hitting to surge into contention as the Mariners and A’s fell by the wayside. In the cozy confines of Citizens’, I could see the Rangers clubbing a lot of homers.

Phillies v. Brewers: I remember the day when the Brewers were an automatic “W”. No longer. The Brew crew is surprisingly tough stuff: top NL team in DER, good pitching, improving hitting. They’ve gotten past their early struggles and have emerged as the Cardinals sole (and very unlikely) competition for the NL Central. Their 8-14 record in one-run games obscures the fact that they are much better than their .500 record reflects. This team is running four games behind their Pythagorean win-loss record. This could be a rough series.

Conclusion: I’m hoping the Phillies go 8-5 or 9-4 on this home-stand. I think they’ll split 3-3 the Rangers and Brewers series, but they’ll have a lot of success against the Giants and D-backs. This is also an opportunity for guys like Jim Thome to get rolling. Thome has had some fearsome Junes before and now would be a good time to explode with a 20+ home run month. Thirteen games in the warm weather in the friendly confines of Citizens Bank?

If this team is still 15th in slugging and 16th in ISO after June 12th, then Ed Wade and Charlie Manuel should be fired.

(9) comments

Monday, May 30, 2005

The Numbers Game 

Here are some interesting numbers for the Phillies ...

GPA:
Abreu: .353
Burrell: .311
Bell: .225
Utley: .302
Polanco: .247
Lieberthal: .257
Lofton: .317
Thome: .248
Michaels: .274

Runs Created (as of May 28, 2005):
Abreu: 50.7
Burrell: 32.6
Rollins: 26.2
Utley: 21.3
Bell: 17.2
Polanco: 16.7
Lieberthal: 15.3
Michaels: 13.9
Lofton: 13.8
Thome: 12.3
Perez: 5.1
Pratt: 4.8
Offerman: 3.9
Howard: 2.3

Mind you that Utley got those 21 Runs Created on half of the plate appearances of Jimmy Rollins. Check out Runs Created per 27 Outs*:

RC27:
Abreu: 11.55
Lofton: 8.46
Burrell: 7.88
Utley: 6.09
Michaels: 5.62
Polanco: 4.66
Rollins: 4.54
Lieberthal: 4.30
Thome: 4.07
Bell: 3.68

* This is a fun stat meant to measure how many runs a hypothetical nine man team of this player would score.

There are three Phillies hitting over .200 in ISO:
Abreu: .253
Utley: .240
Burrell: .215

Phillies who should be hitting .200 or better: Thome: .107 ... note that Thome had a .307 ISO in 2004.

David Bell is having a rough season compared to last year: .081 ISO, .321 OBP vs. .167 ISO & .363 OBP in 2004.

On to the pitching staff ... it's been two months since the start of the season for the Phillies and I was curious about how much stingier the Phillies new pitching staff is with home runs compared to Eric Milton, et al., in 2004. Well ... turns out not very:

Home Runs per 9 Innings:
2004: 1.32
2005: 1.32

Well that's mildly discouraging. Some Phillies have made tremendous strides on this front. Brett Myers surrendered 1.58 home runs per 9 in '04. This year it's 0.97 per 9. Not too shabby.

What has surprised me has been Jon Lieber: 1.81 home runs per 9. One of the reasons why the Phillies picked up Lieber in free agency has been his ability to avoid surrendering walks and home runs. Already this season Lieber has surrendered nearly as many walks (17) as he did in 2004 with the Yankees (18). Lieber also gave up nearly a home run fewer per 9 innings: 1.02 in 2004. Good news is that his groundball/flyball ratio is consistent: 1.43 in '04 v. 1.42 in '05.

Fielding ... Bell might be having an awful year at the plate, but he's been quite the glove for the Phillies: second in the NL in Zone Rating amongst 3B's, and first in Range Factor. Bell's performance is a great reason why bloggers don't pay attention to flawed stats like fielding percentage and errors, both of which Bell leads NL 3B's in.

Confused about what I’m talking about? Stats Defined:
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)
GPA (Gross Productive Average): (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA. Invented by The Hardball Times Aaron Gleeman, GPA measures a players production by weighing his ability to get on base and hit with power. This is my preferred all-around stat.

(1) comments

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