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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, July 15, 2005

Fun With Win Shares 

First I want to comment on last night’s 13-7 win over the Florida Marlins: I think Charlie Manuel’s decision to move Bobby Abreu to cleanup is

A) Long-overdue, and
B) just the thing to spark this team

Abreu is the Phillies hottest batter right now so he's just the man to drive in those runs. I also love seeing Chase batting third: with Abreu and Burrell behind him he ought to see a lot of good pitches and he can work on developing his eye a little. I like the new lineup: I see a Murderers Row developing, particularly if Thome returns and gets back to something approaching his old skills: each of these guys could be a 30 home run, 100 RBI guy.

Anyway, back to our topic for today: Win Shares, developed by baseball stat guru Bill James as a means of encapsulating a player’s contribution to his team’s fortunes, are always a fun stat to look at and argue about.

Here are the Phillies Top Ten Win Shares contributors.

Total Win Shares:
Bobby Abreu – 19
Pat Burrell – 13
Chase Utley – 11
Jimmy Rollins – 10
Brett Myers – 9
Billy Wagner – 8
Cory Lidle – 8
Kenny Lofton – 8
Jason Michaels – 8
Placido Polanco – 7

I'm mildly surprised to see Jimmy Rollins fourth on this list - he certainly isn't playing well in my opinion and his defense isn't so good that he's helping the team with his glove. He’s tenth in Fielding Win Shares amongst NL Shortstops.

As for Burrell, Abreu and Utley, they are the Phillies stars this season, a combined 15 Win Shares above their expected total. What is surprising is who isn't there: David Bell and Jim Thome aren't in the Phillies Top Ten. Thome has four Win Shares in his limited playing time. He's struggling at the plate and has always been a defensive liability, so his meager 4 isn't surprising.

Bell also has four, but what's interesting about Bell's Win Shares is where they come from:

Fielding: 2.6
Batting: 1.9

Bell is actually leading the team in Fielding Win Shares, though Utley edges him out when you adjust for innings played:

FWS per 1,000 Innings:
Utley: 3.89
Bell: 3.67

Clearly the best thing that David Bell has going for him is his glove, a point that I've made a few times here in A Citizen's Blog.

As a point of comparison, here are the Phillies 2004 Win Shares:

2004:
Abreu - 37
Rollins - 26
Thome - 22
Bell - 20
Polanco - 17
Burrell - 15
Michaels - 11
Madson - 9
Wagner - 9
Lieberthal - 9

I think I'd be pointing out the obvious if I stated that Thome and Bell's 42 Win Shares won't be equaled this season (currently: 8). Thome's decline is partly explained by his injuries, but Bell's decline is truly staggering. He almost certainly won't crack double digits this season in Win Shares, a tremendous decline over last year. Bell's performance has baleful implications for the Phillies play at third base in 2006, the final year in his deal.

There you go, Fun With Win Shares. I haven't discussed them in a while, so you can count on this being a recurring topic in the not-so-distant future.

Tune in Monday for some more discussions of the Phillies: I'll have comments on their series with the Marlins. They have nine more consecutive home games until July 25th. So far they are 3-1 on this home-stand.

(17) comments

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Player Profile: Brett Myers 

Brett Myers was the Phillies first selection in the 1999 draft. A big part of the Phillies plans for several seasons, Myers was expected to be a big reason why the Phillies 2004 rotation, which boasted Kevin Millwood, Eric Milton, Randy Wolf and Vicente Padilla, was supposed to be one of the best in the National League. Naturally, things did not work out that way. Myers had an awful year in 2004, surrendering 31 home runs on his way to a 5.52 ERA, an 11-11 record and a 1.47 WHIP. Many doubted Myers would recover. I was optimistic, noting that Myers 31 home runs seemed a fluke: his groundball-flyball ratio was a robust 1.39. He seemed like a pitcher who could succeed at Citizens in a way that Eric Milton couldn't because he threw groundball pitches.

Myers is off to a strong start in 2005 and has stepped up to become the Phillies ace in a way that Jon Lieber hasn't. Myers is 6-5, but his record doesn't even come close to showing how well he's pitched. In six of his seven no-decisions Myers surrendered two runs or less. His record could easily be 12-5 right now. Myers ERA is an impressive 3.20, more than two runs lower than it was in 2004. Let's start by noting how much better Brett is doing this year as compared with last:

2005 / 2004
ERA: 3.20 / 5.52
WHIP: 1.14 / 1.47
K/9: 8.82 / 5.93
BB/9: 2.73 / 3.17
HR/9: 1.09 / 1.58

Myers has cut down on home runs, which obviously has had a large impact on his ERA. A tremendous change not simply explained by the "luck" factor: namely his nearly three extra strikeouts per 9 innings is a big jump in performance, not attributable to his renewed ability to prevent surrendering the longball. He seems to have newfound velocity on his pitches.

What's interesting is to look deeper into Brett's stats. Here is now he did in 2004 on a few "sabremetric" pitching stats:

FIP: 5.20
DER: .707
G/F: 1.39

He pitched better than his ERA indicates, though there is scant different between a 5.20 and 5.52 ERA. I note that he did keep the ball down and the Phillies played good defense (but not great, as in the case of Eric Milton: .737 DER) behind him. I really felt he could do better and he really has:

2005:
FIP: 3.74
DER: .727
G/F: 1.44

His FIP indicates that he isn't quite pitching as well as he seems, but those are stats Phillies fans want to see: keeping the ball down, giving the fielders a chance to make plays.

Is Brett the Phillies ace current and future ace? Right now he is, though I had expected Jon Lieber to fulfill that role. Brett is largely carrying the Phillies starting rotation:

Myers / Starters
ERA:
3.20 / 4.28
WHIP: 1.14 / 1.35
K/9: 8.82 / 6.54
BB/9: 2.73 / 2.96
HR/9: 1.09 / 1.28

Corey Lidle is pitching well, but now that Brett has come into his own he's clearly the Phillies best pitcher: he's young (just 24) and has a great future ahead of him because of his ability to notch strikeouts and keep the ball down. He should be able to get Part II of the Phillies season off to a strong start tonight against the Marlins.

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to 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).
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.
G/F – Groundball-to-Flyball ratio.
Hr/9 – Home Runs allowed per nine innings.
K/9 – Strikeouts per nine innings.
BB/9 – Walks per nine innings.

(5) comments

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

All-Stars... 

Decent night for the Phillies at the All-Star game: Bobby Abreu went 1-for-2 with a walk and Jimmy Rollins singled in his sole at-bat. Now it is back to the grind. Coming up is a huge four game set against the Marlins at home which kicks off on Thursday. Simply put: the Phillies must win these games (or three of them at least) to stay in the race. Dropping three or worse would be horrific.

Stay tuned for some more comments: I'm working on a profile of Brett Myers at the moment.

(0) comments

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

MVP / LVP 

At the midpoint of the year it is time to start drawing conclusions for this season and making second-half predictions. I'll get to the predictions in a moment, but let's talk about individual performances. Who are the Phillies Most Valuable Player (MVP) and Least Valuable Player (LVP)? The envelope please ...

MVP: Home Run Derby winner Bobby Abreu is the Phillies MVP. He's leading the team in OBP (.428, team average: .346) and in slugging percentage (.526, team average: .405). 21 steals, 18 home runs, 17 doubles ... Abreu is a machine at the plate. He's got a great eye and great bat control: few players can hit for power and still have more walks (67) than strikeouts (65).

Abreu is the model of consistency: since joining the team in 1998, he's hit better than .400 OBP seven of his eight years (assuming he'll do so this year). His career walk-to-strikeout ratio is nearly one-to-one, tremendous for a power hitter. With his start in the All-Star game tonight and his victory in the Home Run Derby, I'm glad to see him get some recognition.

LVP: This is close because I think you have some viable candidates, including Jon Lieber, Jimmy Rollins, David Bell and Mike Lieberthal. But I think the Phillies LVP is Jim Thome. Expected to anchor the Phillies middle order, Thome has had an awful season: his .352 slugging percentage is .200 off his career average and .229 off his 2004 average. Thome, the Phillies highest paid player, is the big reason (but not the only one) the Phillies are in the middle-to-bottom of the pack in most of the power stats like slugging percentage and ISO. After largely carrying the team in 2003 and 2004, it seems like Thome has given out at the plate.

Predictions: I don't want to revise my preseason predictions too much. I still like the Marlins in the NL East and the Cards in the Central. I tend to think that it will be the Padres in the West, but the Dodgers could still challenge. As for the wildcard, I see the Braves.

Plenty of interesting races in the AL. The East is wide-open. Perennial second-tier teams like the Orioles and Blue Jays have a shot, although I think the Red Sox will take it. In the Central I think the Twins can make up the ground on the White Sox, and I think the A's, so dismissed of late, can take the Angels. Look for the Yankees as a wildcard.

(10) comments

Monday, July 11, 2005

STATE OF THE PHILLIES 

Once a year the President of the United States must journey to the U.S. Capitol to brief the Congress (and the people) "from time to time" on the state of the American union. Until Woodrow Wilson chose to address the Congress in person the message was traditionally delivered to the Congress and read there. Today, with the TV cameras and the like, it has become the President's bully pulpit to address the people directly (a function, partly, of the decline of the Congress in the triad of American government: the President holds virtually all of the power today in American government. The current Presidency is probably the most centralized in recent American history). The President can take his message to the people directly and sit down the major decision-makers and force them to listen to his words.

I'd dearly love to see Ed Wade troop before the cameras and address Phillies phandom personally. Pack ticket holders and passionate Phans into Citizens Bank Ballpark and let him justify and promote decisions the team has made. Somehow I doubt it will ever happen, but this is the speech I'd like to see Ed Wade give:

My friends, Phillies fans, I must confess to you that things are not well. Since we won 12 out of thirteen home games last month we have gone 9-16 and dropped from second to fourth place. The team with the fourth largest payroll in baseball is playing .500. This season, like last year and the year before that, has been a major disappointment.

Despite boasting powerful bats we rank just
11th of 16 teams in Slugging Percentage. Despite playing in a park friendly to sluggers we rank just 13th in Isolated Power and eighth in home runs. True, we are fourth in the league in runs scored, but this team could be so much more at the plate.

We are discouraged to see our two big free agent acquisitions from 2003, David Bell and Jim Thome struggle so mightly. If you had told me at the beginning of the year that Jim Thome's On-Base-Percentage (.360) would be higher than his slugging percentage (.352), I'd have told you that you were crazy. David Bell, meanwhile, has followed his career year last year with a true horror show: .302 OBP, .359 SLG, just one home run on the road in 158 AB's.

As for the rest of the team, we rewarded Jimmy Rollins with a new contract while he struggles at the plate so badly we removed him from the leadoff spot because of his poor OBP (.309), a decision many don't agree with, but we feel that Jimmy has talent and couldn't let him escape as a free agent in the offseason. Mike Lieberthal appears to be in a career freefall at the plate, though we feel he is a solid catcher.

I am pleased with the development of Chase Utley, whose bright promise let us feel comfortable to deal Placido Polanco to the Tigers. I am also happy to see that Pat Burrell has returned to his 2002 form, justifying our decision to make him the focal point of the team. I also pleased that Bobby Abreu was recognized for having another terrific year. Should we be in contention late in the year I expect to see him recieve some MVP recognition.

Whether or not Ryan Howard continues to be in our plans for 2006 and beyond is something I cannot say.

We continue to be frustrated by our struggles on the mound. We are 12th in ERA and 12th in DIPS ERA. We have surrendered 113 home runs this year, second-to-worst in the National League after the the Cincinnati Reds, the team with everyone's favorite pitcher, Eric Milton.

I am as perplexed as anyone by Jon Lieber's struggles (8-8, 5.13 ERA, 1.39 WHIP). We signed him because he is a groundball pitcher ideally suited for surviving Citizens Bank Ballpark. I am stunned he's surrendered 22 home runs in 105 innings. As for the rest of the pitching staff, I am pleasantly surprised: Brett Myers (6-5, 3.20 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) has turned in a wonderful season, as has Cory Lidle (8-6, 3.65 ERA, 1.22 WHIP). I am particularly proud of our decision to sign Cory, a move many scoffed at but looks very savvy now.

The rest of the rotation is a mixed bag. We sent Gavin Floyd back to the minors to recuperate from some bad outings after his magnificent performance against the Cardinals at the start of the year. We also hope that Vicente Padilla will regain his old form and take Randy Wolf's place in the rotation.

I'm pleased to see Ryan Madson (3.65 ERA, 1.03 WHIP) and Billy Wagner (2.23 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 20 Saves) are playing well, though like all of you I am outraged by his defeatest comments of late. We hope that Tim Worrell will be healthy and able to add depth to the bullpen, part of the reason we dealt Placido to the Tigers for Urbina. Don't be surprised if we do what we do every year this year: trade for relief pitching.

Our sole bright spot appears to be in the field, where we are second in the NL in Defense Efficiency Ratio (DER) behind Milwaukee. Some of our teammates are having stellar seasons with their gloves. Whatever his faults as a batter, David Bell is a terrific fielder, currently second in the NL among 3B's in Zone Rating and first in Range Factor. We are also pleased with the development of Chase Utley, currently second amongst NL 2B's in Zone Rating. Whatever our faults at the plate and on the mound, this team plays tough with the glove.

The bottom-line, my friends, is that we have disappointed and have learned valuable lessons. We are also still in the hunt: do you think the Nationals will continue their winning ways? We will be there when they fall.

We are also just five games out of the wildcard race! Remember the wildcard? The wildcard team has won the last three World Series. Have faith. Thome will hit, Lieber will keep the ball down and this team will go on a tear. And we won't be passive at the trading deadline either. Trust me.

Thank you, and goodnight.

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to 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)
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.
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.
WHIP – Walks plus hits by innings pitched: (BB + H) / IP = WHIP
ERA – Earned Run Average: (Earned Runs * 9) / IP = ERA

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