Friday, July 01, 2005
Simply put, Thome's struggles are the reason why the Phillies are struggling. When Thome was signed in the 2002-2003 off-season he was expected to be the main cog in the Phillies attack, the big bat in the middle of the order. He was in 2003 and 2004, hitting 40+ home runs each year and being the leader they sought. Right now Thome's .358 slugging percentage is about two hundred points off his career average. He's actually running about sixty points behind the team average: not good when he's hitting fourth or fifth in the lineup.
The Phillies have a lot of money invested in Thome, but the fact of the matter is that they've got a shot at making a run for the playoffs and leaving Thome's struggles impact the team's success is no good. Drop him in the lineup, or sit him in favor of Ryan Howard and use Howard's play as trade-bait (since the Phillies seem more interested in trading him than developing him). Right now the Phillies have to get Thome out of the way.
I'll be gone for a few days: check back on Tuesday.
Thursday, June 30, 2005
The Phillies have a lot of work over the next few weeks. If the team is going to get back into the thick of the pennant race than the next 20 games, 16 of which are at home, are where they need to do it.
-Nice article today at The Hardball Times about one-run games and team’s records in them.
-I noticed the Oakland A’s have won six in a row and 9 of their last ten. I think Billy Beane has them turned around.
-The Phillies and Yankees have virtually the same record.
-Everyone is talking about Derek Lee for the MVP, why not Bobby Abreu?
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Aaron Gleeman notes some of his 2005 All-Star picks at The Hardball Times today. While I agree with him that All-Stars shouldn’t be chosen based solely on the first half of the season, I disagree with his decision to look back upon the last several years of a player’s career. An All-Star is a guy playing well now, darn it!
Essentially, Aaron thinks the sole Phillies who should be going to the game are Bobby Abreu and Billy Wagner. Fine choices, but I think that Chase Utley and Pat Burrell ought to go as well.
The Case for Chase: Chase is leading NL 2B’s in GPA and slugging. He’s playing well on a team struggling and has stepped into Placido Polanco’s role as the Phillies starting 2B. He's hitting for power and average, and he's playing good D: he'd rank third among NL 2B's in ZR (if he had enough innings). Chase is a present and future All-Star.
As for Pat Burrell, I admit that there are a lot of great leftfielders out there, but Burrell has resurrected his career and returned to his 2002 form. Let's recognize that his last two years were flukes and send him in.
Just my thoughts....
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
The cities of New York and Philadelphia are great natural rivals: geographically proximate with histories going back to the colonial era, Philly and New York are made to dislike each other. New York is arrogant, Philly nurses a deep-rooted inferiority complex. New York is the cultural center and biggest city in America, while Philly should have be (and could have been had George Washington not decided to plop our nation’s capitol in a swamp). I grew up in Chester County and used to do my clothes shopping at the outlets in Lancaster: it used to amuse me to listen to the tourists from New York, down for the day to check out the Amish, a people whose lifestyle is very antithetical to theirs. I’d stand there and listen to them point and exclaim in raspy New York accents their utter amazement someone could live without a TV, a radio, or a car. I thought these New Yorkers were pushy, annoying and I was glad to see them leave.
So the Phillies and Mets are great natural rivals the way the Nats, Marlins and Braves cannot be. The Nats are too new, and Marlins and Braves are blah teams (colorless, bland) from blah cities. There is heat and intensity from New York and Philly, and a bit of history: the Philadelphia A’s and Yankees had a terrific rivalry during the 1920s and early 1930s.
With the Phillies sliding fast after their scorching 12-1 home-stand (record since: 3-9), the Mets-Phillies series should be a desperate one to see which team can hang in the NL East pennant race. The loser of this series is going to be stuck in fifth, languishing far behind the team that won’t die, the Washington Nationals. Here is how the teams match up:
Batting: Offensively the Phillies are an impressive team. Not an offensive juggernaut the way I expected (largely thanks to Jim Thome’s struggles), but they lead the NL in OBP (.348), while the Mets are thirteenth. Aside from OBP and Runs scored, the Mets have a decided advantage at the plate. They are much more explosive than the power-challenged Phillies:
Phillies / Mets
OBP: .348 (1st) / .326 (13th)
SLG: .411 (11th) / .417 (8th)
HR: 75 (9th) / 79 (7th)
Runs: 349 (3rd) / 327 (8th)
ISO: .141 (14th) / .158 (7th)
BB/PA: .100 (1st) / .084 (9th)
Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I use 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)
BB / PA (Walks per plate appearance): (BB / PA = .BB/PA Avg)
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.
The Mets lead the NL in stolen bases (56 in 76 attempts), but the Phillies aren’t far behind (51 in 67 attempts) in third place.
What struck me, looking at the Mets stats, was that they should be doing a lot better than this: Carlos Beltran has been a disappointment (9 home runs, a .429 slugging percentage?), and the rest of the offensive lineup wasn’t improved enough during the offseason, in my opinion. David Wright (.384 OBP) and Mike Cameron (.414 OBP / .555 SLG) are playing well, as is Cliff Floyd (.347 OBP / .538 SLG), but Piazza and Beltran have been mediocre. Kazuo Matsui, despite predictions he’d play better this season, is really struggling: .288 OBP.
The Phillies, in contrast, have an emerging murderer’s row with Jim Thome (.365 OBP), Bobby Abreu (.436 OBP), Pat Burrell (.387 OBP) and Chase Utley (.382 OBP). Aside from Thome’s struggles at hitting for power (.373 SLG), the Phillies do have a fearsome foursome. Abreu, Burrell and Utley are all hitting over .300 in Gross Productive Average. After those four, the Phillies have some real struggles: Jimmy Rollins, their leadoff man, has a .318 OBP. David Bell’s GPA is a measly .225. The Big Four are (mostly) getting the job done, but their teammates aren’t.
Pitching: I’m mildly surprised to see the Mets with such better pitching stats. True, Pedro has been spectacular and worth every penny the Mets paid, but the rest of their rotation doesn’t impress me. First, here are the stats
Phillies / Mets
ERA: 4.56 (12th) / 4.12 (8th)
WHIP: 1.35 (7th) / 1.34 (5th)
K/9: 6.80 (6th) / 6.85 (5th)
DIPS: 4.63 (12th) / 4.09 (5th)
FIP: 4.56 (12th) / 4.03 (5th)
More stats defined:
WHIP – Walks plus hits by innings pitched: (BB + H) / IP = WHIP
ERA – Earned Run Average: (Earned Runs * 9) / IP = ERA
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).
DIPS – Basically the same thing as FIP, but with a more accurate formula.
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.
K/9 – Strikeouts per nine innings.
Kris Benson’s 3.90 ERA obscures the fact that his FIP (4.72) is nearly a run higher. Tom Glavine’s ERA is +5.00. The Mets bullpen, thought to be a weakness, is actually decently ok. The Mets need to ride Pedro’s arm and pray he doesn’t break down.
As for the Phillies, I think Cory Lidle is the most under-rated starter in the NL. I’m disappointed that Jon Lieber has struggled the way he has, but I think the Phillies have a decent 1-2 punch with Lidle and Myers:
Fielding: I find it difficult to evaluate team fielding now that CNNSI and ESPN have removed team fielding stats (and no, I don’t have the time to manually write them), but if you scope out DER, the Phillies are third (.705) in the NL and the Mets are seventh (.691). As both teams are running ahead of the league average (.691), I think we can safely say that the Phillies and Mets are pretty good defensively.
Because so much is at stake I expect the Mets and Phillies to be a hard-fought series and maybe the beginning to a good rivalry. Both these teams should be good in the long-term. Both are natural rivals.
New York v. Philly. Let the battle begin.
Monday, June 27, 2005
For now, scope out this link to the Phillies recent draft history. Note that the team has had a lot of recent success: Pat Burrell, Brett Myers and Chase Utley, the team's #1 picks from 1998 to 2000.
Check out Peter Gammons recent column: apparently the Phillies tried shop Ryan Howard to the Blue Jays for Ted Lilly but the Blue Jays refused.