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.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

New Faces II: Cole Hamels, Danny Sandoval & Scott Matheson 

As I noted last week there are some few faces on the block with Chris Roberson, Chris Coste and Carlos Ruiz now starting to get some real playing time on the Phillies roster. After playing so long with a static roster with familiar faces (Pat Burrell, Bobby Abreu, David Bell, Mike Lieberthal, Jim Thome), the Phillies have seen a lot of their farm talent move up and start playing big in the majors. In 2004 and 2005, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, two products of the Phillies system, have moved up to become All-Stars. Coste has played well and Roberson and Ruiz seem to have promising futures as bench players for the Phils in 2007 and beyond.

I thought I might focus on a few other newbies who might be making a splash on the Phillies roster in the coming days and years, specifically, Danny Sandoval, Shortstop; Scott Matheson, Pitcher; and Cole Hamels, Pitcher.

Danny Sandoval. Shortstop.

I feel bad for Danny Sandoval, the Scranton Red Barons shortstop. He plays the same position as Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies entrenched shortstop, and he’s just six months younger than J.Roll. At the age of 27, he’s taken just five major league at-bats. His pro prospects, simply put, aren’t promising.

Take a look at Sandoval’s minor league stats and you get an idea as to why his pro career prospects seem to be fading:

2006 / 2005
OBP: .289 / .379
SLG: .328 / .436
ISO: .072 / .105

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
Isolated Power (ISO): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.
On-Base Percentage (OBP): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
Slugging Percentage (SLG): Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage. Power at the plate.

Danny seemed to take a major step backwards in his 2005 production. He isn’t a consistent threat to get on base: in 2006 he drew just 14 walks in 344 At-Bats. In 2005 he drew 31 in 390 At-Bats. He doesn’t draw enough walks to demonstrate that he’d be a consistent threat to get on base. When you are hitting below .300 in terms of OBP in the minors, you have problems.

Another problem is that Danny doesn’t seem to add much speed or power to a team’s offense. Look at the speed issues: in 2006 he hit 68 singles and drew 14 walks, and yet he attempted just 2 steals. In 2005 Danny was more aggressive on the base-paths, attempting 22 steals after hitting 102 singles and drawing 31 walks. The problem was that Danny was caught in 11 of those 22 attempted steals.

Danny adds nearly no power to a team’s lineup: having a .072 ISO is terrible. Of his 88 hits in 2006, just 20 went for extra-bases and 17 of those were doubles. If you aren’t a consistent hitter, if you don’t hit for power and if you don’t have speed, then you are offering little to your team on offense. Maybe Danny is a terrific fielder – I can’t say – but offensively, he contributes little. Don’t expect to see Danny Sandoval sitting on the Phillies bench in 2007, unless J.Roll suffers a major injury. He won’t be playing in the majors.

Scott Matheson. Pitcher.

With all of the hype surrounding Cole Hamels and the talk about the struggles Ryan Madson and Gavin Floyd have been through, it isn’t surprising to see that Scott Matheson has been lost in the middle.

At the moment Scott’s numbers look pretty pedestrian: 4.85 FIP ERA (compared with the team average of 4.71), 5.2 strikeouts per nine innings (compared to the team average of 6.6), 3.5 walks per nine innings (above the team average of 3.4), etc. His minor league stats suggest that he’s got more to offer:

K/9: 9.55
BB/9: 2.49
HR/9: 0.41
WHIP: 1.02
ERA: 3.32

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).
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.
Hr/9 – Home Runs allowed per nine innings: (HR * 9) / IP
K/9 – Strikeouts per nine innings: (K * 9) / IP
BB/9 – Walks per nine innings: (BB * 9) / IP

What is surprising to me was how short Scott’s stay with the Red Barons was: just 21 and two-thirds of an inning worked. I complained about Cole Hamels brief stint with the Red Barons, but he threw 23 innings of work. The Phillies trusted Scott enough to have him jump Triple-A ball and get into the majors.

Will Scott be one of the Phillies five starters next season? Assuming the team gambles on Brett Myers and keeps him for 2007, he’ll have a shot to be the No. 4 starter after Cole Hamels, Jon Lieber and Myers. Scott’s competition are Gavin Floyd, whose career has a big question mark next to it; Ryan Madson (ditto) and Randy Wolf, whom the Phillies would probably like to deal in the off-season.

I am hopeful Scott delivers a strong performance Thursday against the Mets. In the future though, I'd say that I can see Scott in the majors in 2007 as one of the Phillies starters.

Cole Hamels. Pitcher.

I’ve been a skeptic on Cole Hamels in the past: too much hype, I objected, too much pressure on him to be the next Steve Carlton. However, I am willing to admit that he’s looking more and more like he’s going to live up to the hype and maybe be the best pitcher the Phillies have had since #32. Cole Hamels might get his number retired one day. I really like what I see. Monday Night'sdominating performance over the Mets suggests that he is going to be the ace pitcher this team hasn't had in a long, long time.

First scope out FIP ERAs amongst the starters:

Hamels: 3.97
Myers: 4.09
Lidle: 4.58
Lieber: 4.58
Madson: 5.29
Floyd: 6.98

Cole’s 3.97 (this number predates Monday's performance, by the way) is much better than the team’s 4.71 or the league average of 4.55. Clearly, he’s doing something right. Namely, he’s striking a lot of guys out (10 per every nine innings, or more than one every inning), and he’s starting to get a handle on his walks allowed, something I’ve faulted him for. Simply put, you can’t hope to be a successful pitcher for the Phillies if you allow a lot of “cheap” base-runners. By striking the opposition out and by keeping guys off the base-paths, Cole Hamels is doing a great job and keeping the ball away from the Phillies fielders, who are doing a lousy job this season.

Check out another reason why I am starting to warm up to Cole: he doesn’t allow many line-drives. In fact, while the Phillies as a team are allowing 20% of the balls to be put into play to be line-drives, Cole is allowing just 16%. That is the best percentage on the team amongst pitchers with at least 20 innings of work. The low number of line-drives is helping the fielders behind him: they are converting .697 of the balls put into play into outs, better than the team average of .679, but still pretty peutrid.

As the days do by, I am increasingly enthusiastic about Cole’s chances of making it in the majors and being the sort of “money” pitcher that the Phillies have been looking for. He’s the Phillies best pitcher right now. He’s a guaranteed lock to be the Phillies Opening Day starter. And he’s only getting better.

I was at Steve Carlton Night in 1989 and I remember Harry Kalas remarking that Steve Carlton was the brightest light in the Phillies darkest days, noting that the ’72 Phillies were a terrible team that lost nearly every night, but when #32 took the mound they expected that they would win. Carlton won 27 of the team’s 59 games in 1972. I look at Cole Hamels and I think that regardless of how awful the Phillies look, when he takes the mound they’ve got a good chance to win. I’m objecting to those comparisons to #32 less these days because they are looking more apt, more on-target, more appropriate.

He’s the Phillies biggest new face.

The Phillies took game two in dramatic style, jumping out to an 11-2 lead by the end of the fourth inning and holding on for a 11-4 win. Yet again the starters did well, seven of the eight got a hit. Randy Wolf even went 2-for-2 and scattered four hits in seven innings of work. Not bad at all. Tonight, Jon Lieber vs. Tom Glavine.

>Randy Wolf, whom the Phillies would
>probably like to deal in the off-season.

Wolf's contract is up at te end of the year, I expect the phils to resign...

but there is NO chance of "dealing" him, as they dont have him under contract.
Whoops, my mistake. Given that Wolf is making $9 mil this season I don't expect to see him return to the Phils except at a massive paycut and I do not see that happening...
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