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.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Spotlight on: Bench Production 

The quality of a team’s bench is always an interesting topic and a little difficult to evaluate. Players contribute in many ways, from being positive clubhouse influences to filling particular roles.

At the moment I’d categorize the Phillies bench as less capable than last year’s version, which featured Placido Polanco for half the season part of a platoon with Chase Utley, and Jason Michaels as a part of a platoon with Kenny Lofton in centerfield. Subbing for Mike Lieberthal was the veteran Todd Pratt. Polanco and Michaels were super-subs, very dependable bats off the bench and Pratt was a great catcher.

Since then the team has dealt Polanco to the Tigers to clear room for Utley, dealt Michaels to the Indians to acquire Arthur Rhodes for the bullpen, and cast-off Tomas Perez, the team’s long-time backup infielder, and Pratt. In other words, the Phillies bench is entirely new. I also think it is basically a down-grade from what it was. More on that later.

Alex Gonzalez IF / Bats: Right

Gonzalez is a classic journey-man infielder. In 2004 alone he played for the Cubs, Expos and Padres before moving on to the Devil Rays as their third-baseman for last year. Gonzalez is a career .234 GPA hitter with little power to speak of: he’s a career .149 ISO. He doesn’t draw many walks (.068 BB/PA in 2005), and he strikes out a lot for a utility infielder (74 K’s in 349 ABs.)

Alright, 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)
BB / PA (Walks per plate appearance): (BB / PA = .BB/PA Avg)
SLG (Slugging Percentage): Power at the plate. (Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage)
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.
Runs Created: A stat originally created by Bill James to measure a player’s total contribution to his team’s lineup.

So far this season, Gonzalez is batting .083 (1-for-12) with one walk and two runs scored. He’s oh-for-six as a pinch hitter this season.

Defensively Gonzalez career lives and dies by his glove. The Fielding Bible says of him: “For years, Gonzalez was of the better defensive shortstops in baseball. He made a nice conversion to third base in 2005, kind of similar to A-Rod’s switch in 2004. [He] showed good instincts and reactions in his first season at the hot corner and has a strong and accurate arm to help him with the longer throws from third.” (page 164). The data doesn’t exactly back that up: Gonzalez finished 17th in Plus / Minus is 2005, at 0. His bunt defense left something to be desired too: .437, good for 21st amongst 27 3Bs.

Abraham Nunez IF / Bats: Switch

The Phillies are counting on a lot from Nunez, apparently planning on having him platoon with David Bell, the Phillies weak-hitting third baseman, often. Nunez has played five or so games at third so far this season.

Nunez is a good, jack-of-all-trades kind of infielder to have on the team: in 2005 he played 98 games at third base, 22 at second, 21 at shortstop, and pinch-hit 25 times. Nunez is also your classic light-hitting utility infielder: of the 120 hits Nunez had in 2005, 100 were singles (five home runs, thirteen doubles and two triples). In 2005 he had a .245 GPA, with a .076 ISO. He’s a career .223 GPA / .078 ISO hitter. He posted his career high in Runs Created with 54 and Win Shares, with 12 (double his next-best, six with the ’01 Pirates), in 2005. He is, when you consider that 2005 was probably a career year for him, simply put, not much of an offensive presence at the plate. I hope the Phillies don’t plan on making this platoon a permanent arraignment. Though I often criticize Bell’s skills at the plate, the ’06 Bill James Handbook rates him as a more dangerous threat:

'06 Prediction:
Nunez: .230 GPA / .085 ISO
Bell: .242 GPA / .135 ISO

So far this season Nunez is hitting .217 OBP (4-for-22, with a walk), with a .227 slugging percentage. He’s oh-for-five pinch hitting.

Again, like Gonzalez, Nunez is really a defensive presence: In 2005 his Plus / Minus rating was +9, ranking him tenth of twenty-seven third baseman. Far behind David Bell at +24 I might add. If you compare Relative Range Factor, Bill James’ reworking of his classic Range Factor stat to be more pitching / ballpark neutral, Bell again edges Nunez: 1.079 to 1.055 … Alex Gonzalez was 1.047, so it is interesting to note that the Phillies have three good-to-great defensive third baseman on the roster.

Nunez bunt defense was an average .492, ranking him fifteenth of 27 3Bs. Bottom-line, Bell is a better bat and better defender than Nunez. I'm not a fan of David Bell, so if I am making that argument, then I suggest that this platoon idea is pretty bad.

Shane Victorino OF / Bats: Switch

I find it really difficult to evaluate Shane because a lot of the data on him is incomplete. He only has 90 MLB At-Bats, and 73 of those were in 2003 with the Padres. (He had none in 2004 and just 17 with the Phillies in 2005.) He has a career total of one MLB Win Share.

He hit .303 GPA, .224 ISO with 18 home runs, 16 triples, 25 doubles and 99 Runs Created with the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Red Barons in 2005. He went five-for-seventeen with the Phils with four Runs Created in 2005. The Bill James Handbook thinks he’ll be a decent bat: .250 PA, .148 ISO in 81 games with 32 Runs Created.

Defensively I have next to no data to evaluate, though I note that he’s played seven games (10 and 1/3 innings) as a defensive sub in leftfield so far this season, subbing for Pat Burrell late in the game (though I think Burrell has an unfair and inaccurate rap as a poor defensive player). He’s played another eleven or so innings in center. So apparently he’s pretty decent.

David Dellucci OF / Bats: Left

The Phillies dealt for Dellucci later in the spring to strengthen what was shaping up to be a pretty weak bench. On paper Dellucci is a strong player: in 2005 he hit 29 home runs, had 81 Runs Created, with a .293 GPA and .262 ISO. Dellucci had 15 Win Shares, an good total (Pat Burrell had 24 in ’05, Bobby Abreu had 25). He looks like a powerful bat off the bench and a capable fill-in if Burrell or Rowand or Abreu go down.

I’m more skeptical: ’05 was largely a career year for him. The ’06 Bill James Handbook projects Dellucci to hit 20 home runs, with a .269 GPA, 61 Runs Created and a .210 ISO. He’s a slugger. Note that he had more home runs than doubles and triples combined in ’05: 29 vs. 22 (17 doubles and 5 triples). I’m not saying that he’s no-good – I actually think he’s got a good eye: he draws a decent amount of walks – but he’s not going to replicate those numbers again.

Defensively, Dellucci earns some praise in The Fielding Bible for playing “without fear … [because he] will go to any length, even physical harm, to make a catch.” However, The Fielding Bible goes on to note that Dellucci has a weak arm and limited range, limiting his effectiveness to leftfield, where he played 47 games in 2005. (Dellucci played three in center, three in right, pinch hit 16 times and DH’d 64 times.)

As a pinch hitter Dellucci was 3-for-10 with a walk and two home runs in 2005, a pretty good showing. He might be the Phillies best bat off the bench.

Sal Fasano C / Bats: Right

Ah, the saga of the journeyman catcher. I wouldn’t expect to see Sal Fasano hitting off the bench much because he isn’t much of a bat: he’s a career .238 GPA hitter. In 852 career at-bats he’s pinch hit four times, going oh-for-four with three K’s. He is a hitter of last resort.

Conclusions: The Phillies have a weaker bench then they have in a while. No longer are there bats like Placido Polanco and Jason Michaels waiting in the wings to give the Phillies a hit in a late-inning. So far I think it shows: Phillies pinch hitters are 4-for-32 with a .132 BA. That is, by the way, worst in the NL. Last year the Phillies were seventh at .233, the year before that sixth at .244 … We'll see how this effects the team later on in the season or if there are any injuries in the near future.

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