Thursday, July 28, 2005
It is astounding how the Phillies can fritter away opportunities as they do. After going 12-1 in a June homestand they go 3-10 and drop back to fifth place after climbing to third. Now, after going 9-4 in a July homestand, the team has been swept. Given that the team will play most of their games on the road for the rest of the year, this does not auger well for the Phillies 2005 season.
Up next: the Colorado Rockies. The team with the worst record in the NL. The team that plays in a genuine hitters park. If we can't beat these guys, we're done.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
The Phillies are blessed / cursed with a real enigma playing at short: Jimmy Rollins has been the Phillies incumbent starter at short since 2001. He has an intruiging combination of speed and power: 55 career home runs combined with 48 triples and 153 stolen bases. To many he struck observers as a young Ricky Henderson.
Triples / Home Runs / Steals
2001: 12 /14 / 46
2002: 10 / 11 / 31
2003: 6 / 8 / 20
2004: 12 / 14 / 30
2005: 7 / 8 / 23
Rollins problem, however, has been that he is a chronic disappointment as a leadoff hitter: his career OBP is a paltry .324 (.330 career OBP hitting #1). As a result Rollins has held on to his role as the Phillies leadoff hitter by a thread, actually losing it to Marlon Byrd for a while, before regaining it.
Rollins has also been something of a disappointment defensively. Despite his speed and hands Rollins hasn't exactly lit the world on fire with his glove. Check out this season's stats: Rollins is tenth among 15 NL SS's in Zone Rating (.846), and eleventh in Range Factor (4.28). Not good. Lest you think 2005 is an aberration, I'd note that Jimmy finished fourth in ZR in '04, and tenth of ten in Range Factor. Jimmy was eighth in both ZR and RF in 2003. In three seasons he's never done better than being in the top-half of one of six statistical marks.
I checked out Mike Humphries Defense Regression Analysis (DRA) and discovered that Jimmy had a +3 rating, i.e., having his glove in the field saved the Phillies 3 runs a year. DRA gives the Rollins defenders the strongest case for his abilities. (I note that DRA ranks Derek Jeter a -22 in DRA.) UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) gave Rollins a -11 rating for the same time period, a significant varience.
Bottom-line is that while DRA rates Jimmy as a positive rather than a negative, he still isn't a real top-flight defensive wiz. The problem with this is that the Phillies are trying to move in the direction of bringing groundball pitchers into the fold to combat Citizens reputation as a home-run-haven. Having defenders who can't get to every ball in the infield is poison for this team. The Phillies are blessed with tremendous fielders in David Bell and Chase Utley, but Rollins is something of a weak-point.
J-Roll is a tremendous talent, but I don't think he helps the Phillies much.
Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
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)
Zone Rating (ZR): Is a stat which measures a player’s defensive ability by measuring plays they should have made in their defensive zone. 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.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Bell signed with the Phillies in the winter of ’02 – ’03, inking a four-year, $17 million deal to play third base for the team, replacing Future Hall of Famer Scott Rolen as the team’s 3B. Bell was one of the Phillies three big winter acqusitions, along with Jim Thome and Kevin Millwood, as the team geared up for Citizens and their expectation of mounting a challenge to the Braves decade-long dominance of the NL East. Replace Rolen Bell hasn't done at the plate: while Rolen mounted an MVP campaign in 2004 with 120 RBIs, 34 HR's and a .334 GPA, Bell had a career year at the plate but fell well short of Rolen's stats: 77 RBI, 18 Home Runs, .278 GPA. (I note that Bell is actually pretty fair compared to Gold Glover Rolen in the field, but I'll get to that.)
Here is what Bell has done with the Phillies these last 2 & 1/2 years:
GPA / ISO / OBP
2003: .204 / .088 / .296
2004: .278 / .167 / .363
2005: .231 / .113 / .308
Career: .242 / .142 / .318
Bell was very much sought after during the 2002-2003 offseason, but it is important to remember that it was a bad year for free agents and the Phillies needed a new 3B. The oft-injured Bell (he's played more than 150+ games in a season just twice in his ten years) fit the bill, despite he fact that his career numbers should have caused the Phillies to think twice: his career high in home runs is 21 and his career-high OPS is under .800. Bell is a comparably average hitter: doesn't really hit for average or for power with any significance. He doesn't add anything to the Phillies lineup.
As a point of comparison, look at the difference between Bell’s GPA and the team GPA …
Bell / Team / Bell “Advantage”
2003: .204 / .259 / -.055
2004: .278 / .266 / .012
2005: .231 / .261 / -.030
And for team Slugging Percentage …
Bell / Team / Bell “Advantage”
2003: .283 / .419 / -.136
2004: .458 / .443 / .015
2005: .369 / .416 / -.050
Check out Bell's two seasons prior to joining the team:
Bell / Team / Bell “Advantage”
2002 (Giants): .442 / .429 / -.013
2001 (Mariners): .445 / .415 / -.030
So the bottom-line is that the Phillies over-paid for Bell's bat. While Bell has always played for some good teams (e.g., the '02 Giants lost the World Series in seven games, the '01 Mariners won 116 games), he's pretty much always been the weak link in the chain.
Another problem with Bell is that 2004 was a career-year for him that simply won't be repeated, ever. Bell posted career-highs in BA, OBP, SLG and 2B's. His numbers were dramatically out-of-character: he ran forty points over his BA, and fifty over his OBP and SLG. e.g., his .363 OBP was .032 over his previous career-high (.331 with the '99 Mariners). Bell's fall-to-earth this season is pretty much what he's going to do for the rest of his career: he's going to be a solid .240 BA, .300 OBP guy, maybe 15 or so home runs a year, etc.
Now Bell's glove is another issue. Mike Humphries Defense Regression Analysis (DRA) (click here to read about Mike's system and results) rates Bell very well. According to DRA Bell saves the Phillies ten runs a year with his glove, a factor that certainly makes his career .318 OBP easier to live with.
Currently for this season Bell is leading the NL in Zone Rating for 3B's:
He's also second in Range Factor. Bottom-line is that he is a very good defensive 3B, which raises an interesting issue: does his prowess with the glove excuse his foibles at the plate? Would the Phillies be better off with him gone?
This is a subject I'll be laying to rest for a while.
Monday, July 25, 2005
That's the good news. The bad news is that the Phillies have a lot to deal with: 37 of their last 63 games are on the road, where the team has a 19-25 (.431) winning percentage (vs. a .600 home percentage). There are just 4 & 1/5 games dividing the fifth-place Marlins from the first-place Nats and Braves, so this division is going to be competitive to the extreme, so I'd expect to see the Braves, Nats, Mets and Fish do some wheeling and dealing this week. More bad news for the Phillies is that the Houston Astros are coming on strong at the end of the year, making the push to snag the wildcard again.
Misc.: Isn't Ryan Howard making things more difficult in the Phillies offices? Can't deal Thome and he's playing thirty times better than Big Jim right now. One thing I really like about Howard is the fact that he's drawn eight walks in his last nine games: he's turning into a real OBP machine.
Eagles start training camp on Friday! I'm excited beyond belief, despite this T.O. saga, because I think this team can go 13-3 again and make it to the Super Bowl again. Anything is possible with this team.
Sneak preview for the week: a little more on David Bell, an examination of Jimmy Rollins defense and a few other topics.