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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 22, 2005

Ready for the weekend ... 

With the Phillies 1-0 loss to the Dodgers last night the team has slipped to fourth in the NL East and fifth in the wildcard.

NL East
Nats 54-42 (-)
Braves 54-42 (-)
NY Mets 49-46 (4.5)
Phillies 49-47 (5.0)
Marlins 47-46 (5.5)

NL Wildcard
Nats 54-42 (-)
Braves 54-42 (-)
NY Mets 49-46 (4.5)
Astros 49-46 (4.5)
Phillies 49-47 (5.0)
Cubs 48-47 (5.5)
Marlins 47-46 (5.5)

This weekend's series against the Padres is important because if the Phillies get swept the High Command might decide to have a firesale and scrap the season. So let's hope the Phillies win some game this weekend.

Other news ... the Phillies dealt Worrell to the D-backs for Matt Kata, a career .310 OBP hitter. I am not impressed.

On non-baseball news, I saw on ESPN News last night that T.O. thinks a trade would be best for all. Honestly, as much as I loved what T.O. brought to the team in '04, I do agree that the team will be fine without him. Greg Lewis will have a breakout year.

Enjoy your weekend. I intend to discuss fielding at home v. fielding on the road, David Bell, ancient history and sabremetrics, and some other topics, very soon!

(8) comments

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Phillies Pitching: Reconsiderations 

I absolutely love to be a contrarian, to point out when conventional wisdom fails to explain something. Last year I was in full contrarian mode when the complaints about Citizens came out:

“The park is killing Phillies pitching.”

“Oh really,” I replied, “How do you explain that the Phillies had a higher road ERA (4.61) than home ERA (4.33)?” Silence.

Naturally I thought I was pretty smart. I had poked holes in the conventional wisdom about Citizens. I knew something nobody else did …Well, I also pride myself on being intellectually honest, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t note something interesting that I recently noticed.

The Phillies aren't really pitching very well these days. Check out their current ERA ...

Team ERA (NL Rank): 4.53 (12th)

Not good. I was curious about whether the trend of the Phillies Home ERA being higher than the Road ERA held true this season. Check out the result:

Home ERA (Rank): 5.13 (13th)
Road ERA (Rank): 3.82 (2nd)

That is a 1.31 varience in favor of the Phillies road ERA, compared to a -0.28 varience in 2004. Curious, I looked at the 2003 season, the Phillies last in the Vet:

Home ERA: 3.48
Road ERA: 4.67

A -1.19 Road "advantage". Curious, I tabulated some more road / home variences:

Home / Road
HR/9: 1.53 / 1.00
BB/9: 2.90 / 3.24
K/9: 7.24 / 6.59

Statistically, aside from the Home Runs, the Phillies pitch better at Home than on the Road. Based on the dramatic difference between their Road and Home ERAs, this shouldn't be true. I have two theories about this:

1. Citizens really is killing Phillies pitching because they keep surrendering fluke home runs.
2. Citizens really is killing Phillies pitching because the Phillies aren't as good at home as they are on the road in terms of defense.

Theory #2 is something I intend to explore in the near future.

Standings update ... with their 10-2 loss to the Dodgers last night the Phillies are now 5.0 out of first and 4.5 out of the wildcard.

(4) comments

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Today's Standings.... 

I noticed today that Yahoo! Sports is starting to keep track of the Wildcard standings. The Phillies, by the way, are in second for the wildcard, 3 & 1/2 games behind the Braves.

NL East
Washington: 54-40
Atlanta: 53-42 (1.5)
Philadelphia: 49-45 (5.0)
New York Mets: 47-46 (6.5)
Florida Marlins: 46-46 (7.0)

NL Wildcard
Atlanta: 53-42
Philadelphia: 49-45 (3.5)
Chicago Cubs: 48-45 (4.0)

Stay Tuned!

(9) comments

Fielding Win Shares 

I am, as always, looking for new and exciting stats and information about fielding, that most mundane of baseball activities that excites and tantalizes sabremetricians as the holy grail of the numbers game. How do you quantify an activity that has so many unknowns, so many variables?

I typically look at stats like Zone Rating or Range Factor when evaluating a player's defensive skills, but today I am going to look at Fielding Win Shares or, more specifically, Fielding Win Shares per 1,000 innings.

Win Shares are, simply, an effort to quantify a player's contributions to his teams fortunes. Typically the bulk of a player's Win Shares come from either their prowess at the plate (for position players) or their abilities on the mound (pitchers). Fielding Win Shares dive a little deeper and give you an idea about how a player contributes to his team's defense. To put each player's contributions in perspective, I've average them all out by 1,000 innings (e.g. David Bell has 2.6 Fielding Win Shares to Chase Utley's 2.4, but Bell has played significantly more innings).

Here are the Phillies Fielding Win Shares per 1,000:

Infield:
Jim Thome: 1.15
Chase Utley: 3.73
David Bell: 3.67
Jimmy Rollins: 2.89
Placido Polanco: 5.40

No real surprise here: Win Shares have always loved Placido Polanco. Another non-surprise is how badly Jimmy Rollins rates: I've been disappointed to see Rollins rated in the middle-to-bottom of the pack in things like ZR and RF all season. For playing a vital role in the Phillies fortunes with his glove, he doesn't seem like a particularly good fielder.

David Bell's high rating brings up another point I've been making: David Bell might be an awful hitter, but he's a darn good defensive third baseman. Keeping that in mind should make Phillies fans a little happier.

Catchers:
Pratt: 6.19
Lieberthal: 4.22

No surprise here: Mike Lieberthal has been having a rough season and Todd Pratt has a good glove. Still, it is worth noting that Lieberthal is the Phillies top rated defender amongst the regulars.

Outfield:
Bobby Abreu: 2.44
Pat Burrell: 2.09
Jason Michaels: 5.76
Kenny Lofton: 5.35

Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell don't play for the Phillies because of their gloves: they are defensive liabilites at the corner outfield positions. Jason Michaels and Kenny Lofton are both pretty darn good in center and make a very good platoon in centerfield. As long as Michaels can stay out of trouble, the Phillies defensive alignment will remain strong.

Fielding Win Shares. I'll revisit this subject soon.

(6) comments

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Wells-for-Howard? 

Wells for Howard?

Apparently, according to the Inquirer, the Phillies are discussing a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates that would involve sending Ryan Howard to Pittsburgh in exchange for the Pirates former ace, Kip Wells. Let’s assume the deal would be a straight Wells-for-Howard swap. Here’s what each team would be getting:

Phillies: Wells

Wells is the White Sox former first-round pick in the 1998 draft. The Buccos, who acquired him in 2002, had high hopes for him, but he never quite seemed to reach his full potential. Wells best MLB record was 10-9 in 2003, and his ERA has ballooned in 2004 and 2005. Here are Wells current stats:

ERA: 4.85
FIP: 5.15
G/F: 1.25
HR/9: 1.32
BB/9: 4.59
K/9: 6.92

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
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). 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.

The number that pops out at me are his walks and home runs allowed. Those are awful numbers to put into the Phillies rotation: simply put, for any pitcher to survive at Citizens Bank Ballpark they have to be stingy with the home runs and not surrender many walks, so home runs allowed can be kept in the solo category. Note that Wells career BB/9 is 3.98, a very high number in my opinion.

Clearly the Phillies have a hole in their rotation to fill with Gavin Floyd still recovering from his stint in the majors, Randy Wolf with Tommy John surgery and Vicente Padilla with … whatever his afflicting his career. Wells would round out a pretty decent rotation with Cory Lidle, Jon Lieber and Brett Myers, but his upside is pretty marginal. He’s a high-maintenance pitcher: he gets strikeouts, but he gives up a lot of walks and a decent number of home runs (to be fair, Wells career HR/9 rate is lower than this year: 1.05). I’d caution that Wells stats are achieved in a pitchers park: PNC Park. Seeing what he’d do at Citizens Bank would be a totally different story.

Pirates: Howard

The Pirates need some help and Howard would probably be able to supply it: the Pirates are below the league average in pretty much everything: ISO, OBP, Batting Average, Slugging percentage, etc. Ryan is a monster talent, which is why the Phillies are loathe to part with him: he looks like another Jim Thome, a slugging first baseman with a talent for getting on base. If he played daily I know he’d get a chance to show off his tremendous skills.

Conclusions: For the Pirates this deal would be a no-brainer. They’d be shedding a decent pitcher (on a staff loaded with arms) and pick up what they need: a big bat. The Phillies, on the other hand, would make out worse: they wouldn’t be acquiring a pitcher who could help them much and they’d be losing a tremendous talent. Yes, Thome is the incumbent 1B and the team apparently thinks that Howard can’t play anything else., but I think he could step in and be a passable 3B or outfielder. The idea of Thome, Utley, Burrell, Abreu and Howard playing in the same lineup in 2006 is a tantalizing prospect. I’d hate to see it vanish.

Bottom-line: Bad idea.

(4) comments

Monday, July 18, 2005

Player Profile: Chase Utley 

Every Phillies season the blogging community picks out a particular player to adore. Last year it was Pitcher Ryan Madson. This year it is apparently Second baseman Chase Utley. Bloggers across the Phillies blogosphere have heaped praise on the Phillies second-baseman. e.g, Jason Weitzel at Beerleaguer went so far as to make the argument that the Phillies real first-half MVP was Chase, not Bobby Abreu.

Phillies bloggers loved Ryan Madson in 2004 because he was the ray of sunshine in a pitching rotation that was cloudier than a nor’easter. While Madson was mowing down opposing batters, the Phillies pitching corps surrendered 214 home runs and generally got shelled. Madson surrendered just six home runs in his 77 innings pitched, about half per nine innings than the Phillies corps surrendered.

Why Is Chase Utley so great? And why do bloggers love him so much? Because Chase is doing what the rest of this team cannot: hit the ball.

Chase is having a great year at the plate: .397 OBP, .528 slugging percentage, 32 extra-base hits (12 of them are home runs), and 56 Runs Created (third on the team). He’s running forty-seven points ahead in his OBP (on a team that is already one of the top OBP teams in the MLB), and .112 points ahead on his slugging percentage on a team that badly needs some power. In fact, Chase is actually leading the team in slugging percentage:

Utley: .528
Burrell: .521
Abreu: .509
Howard: .453
Lofton: .424
Team: .416

Impressive. But what is impressing bloggers far and wide is when you consider the tremendous step Chase has made over his last two seasons:

OBP / SLG
2003: .322 / .373
2004: .308 / .468
2005: .397 / .528

OBP (On-Base Percentage): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
SLG (Slugging Percentage): Power at the plate. (Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage)

The jump in OBP is tremendous, but I’ll get to that in a second: the steady improvement in slugging percentage (.095 from ’03 – ’04, .060 from ’04 – ’05, .155 overall) is of note. Chase is developing his swing and turning into the power hitter all projected him to be. His OBP is a new and mildly surprisingly phenomenon … Consider: when Jack Wilson got selected to the 2004 All-Star team he was the recipient of a tremendous increase in batting average (Wilson went from a .256 BA to .308 in ’04) while his OBP practically remained the same (.303 in ’03, .335 in ’04). So Wilson’s struggles in 2005 aren’t surprising: he got a bunch of lucky hits and returned to be the ballplayer everyone figured he’d be: a solid but unspectacular hitter in the .250 – .260 range … Chase’s new ability to get on base is a product of a savvy eye. He has nearly doubled the number of times he draws walks at the plate:

Walks per plate appearance (BB/PA):
2004: .052
2005: .115

Chase got 15 walks in 267 At-Bats in 2004 and with 271 under his belt this season he has 36 already. This is a skill that Chase will kept with him for a long time to come: power hitting comes and goes, but a good eye stays constant. Look at Jim Thome: whatever his struggles at the plate with power, his OBP remains tremendous.

Speaking of power, Chase has got tons of it, unusual for a second baseman. Traditionally a position for light-hitting utlity-types, Chase has transformed the pivot into a power spot. Check out Chase’s ISO stats:

ISO
2003: .134
2004: .202
2005: .217

ISO (Isolated Power): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.

Not your average second baseman. In fact, Chase is leading all NL 2B’s in slugging percentage:

Utley (PHI): .528
Kent (LA): .505
Biggio (HOU): .488
Giles (ATL): .454

Let’s move on and consider what second basemen are expected to do: field the ball. Typically the second-baseman is your second-most important fielder, after the shortstop, because he sees the second-most balls into the field of play. He also has to help turn the 6-4-3 or 4-6-3 double play. In short, the second baseman has to be on his toes. Chase is pretty good here as well. Consider Chase’s Zone Rating:

NL 2B’s:
Grudzielanek (STL): .875
Utley (PHI): .857
Counsell (ARI): .856
Castillo (FLA): .835

That’s pretty darn good. ZR measures a player’s defensive “zone” by how they do with balls they “should” get to, rather than fielding percentage, which measures how they do with balls they do get too.

Fielding Win Shares:
2004: 2.0
2005: 2.4

Fielding Win Shares per 1,000 Innings:

2004: 3.89
2005: 3.78

Conclusions: Let’s remember Bill James 2005 assessments for Chase:

OBP: .333
SLG: .478
HR: 24
RBI: 103

I think he’ll far exceed them. Chase is more than just the blogging communities favorite player. He’s the second-best Phillie this season, after Bobby Abreu, and probably the sole reason why this team hasn’t sunk out of playoff contention just yet. With his glove and his bat, he’s clubbing the big extra-base hits and turning the double play, the Phillies season rests on Chase glove. Consider this: in just half a season he has already come close to tying his career total in Win Shares:

Win Shares
2003: 5
2004: 8
2005: 11

Is Chase the Phillies MVP? I dunno, but he is their MIP, their Most Important Player.

On another note … With yesterday’s 8-4 victory over the Florida Marlins the Phillies are squarely in the hunt after taking three of four from their arch-nemesis from the last two seasons. This team is still in the hunt.

For tomorrow: I’m working on a piece about Moneyball I hope to finish soon. Stay tuned.

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