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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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Pity Pat?: Focus on Pat Burrell 

It is hard to pity a guy who is going to make $10 million bucks this season, but I do pity Pat Burrell. If Pat played in New York with the Yankees or Mets, he’d be a superstar, a fixture in the endorsements, a darling of the media. Instead, he plays in Philly, where people talk smack on his game and complain that he isn’t the second-coming of Mickey Mantle. Is Pat Burrell over-paid? Sure. Is he over-criticized? Definitely. With the season coming down to the wire he’s probably the Phillies most important player, the one who needs to shine in order for the Phillies to make the playoffs.

To start, I am surprised to still see Pat wearing a Phillies uniform: I was certain he’d be dealt at the trading deadline and apparently he nearly was to the Orioles, but the deal got nixed. Does dealing Pat make sense? Yes it does, and I won’t be surprised to see him playing somewhere else in 2007, because while he is a great player, his $10 mil salary is too much. As great as Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell are, the Phillies can’t afford to pay them $25 million dollars next season. I personally expect to see Pat end up in Boston with the Red Sox for 2007, where he could replace Manny Ramirez and get spelled as a DH every so often. Given how much the Red Sox value OBP and their need to get rid of Manny, it would be a great fit.

That said, Pat is going to be vital to the Phillies pennant push. The thing I like about Pat is that he is a grinder who wears a pitcher down. Look at how sees the most pitches in an Plate Appearance:

Bobby Abreu: 4.47
Pat Burrell: 4.23
David Dellucci: 4.03
Ryan Howard: 4.01
Chase Utley: 3.89
David Bell: 3.66
Jimmy Rollins: 3.63
Shane Victorino: 3.45
Aaron Rowand: 3.40

As a consequence, only Bobby Abreu was better at drawing walks:

BB / PA:
Abreu: .208
Burrell: .160
Howard: .121
Dellucci: .093
Bell: .088
Utley: .078
Rollins: .078
Victorino: .049
Rowand: .043

Walks per plate appearance (BB/PA): BB / PA = .BB/PA Avg

That ability to milk a plate appearance and force the pitcher to work hard to get an out is going to be vital down the road as the Phillies are coming up against pitching staffs full of guys who have thrown 200+ innings and are starting to feel like their arms are giving way. With Bobby gone, Pat has become the team’s grinder.

Pat is also a powerful bat. People forget that he had 117 RBIs in 2005. He’s got some strength at the plate. He’s second on the team in Isolated Power. He’s got just as much pop as Chase Utley and Ryan Howard:

ISO / HR / 2B / RBI
Howard: .329 / 39 / 16 / 102
Utley: .223 / 21 / 33 / 74
Burrell: .252 / 23 / 15 / 71

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

Without Pat in the lineup, the Phillies would really be struggling to create runs: with their anemic batting average with runners in scoring position (BA / RISP), they rely on power to score runs. Without Pat and his 23 home runs, the Phillies would be struggling to score runs.

I won’t defend Pat’s struggles w/ BA / RISP however. He’s done a lousy job hitting with RISP: .237, off of the team average of .248, which is, of itself, the worst in the NL. This is a phase of the game where he seems to struggle and I suspect his tendency to take pitches plays a role here. He’s drawn 29 walks w/ RISP, whereas Chase Utley seems to be a little more aggressive and has just 10. Chase, incidentally, is the only Phillie hitting well w/ RISP: .340

Aggressiveness can be a virtue at certain junctures of the game …

So Pat is a valuable bat for his power and his ability to grind. I also note that he’s had a lot of success in his career against the Mets. With this four game series looming so important to the Phillies and with another series coming up later in August again the Mets, Pat’s ability to hit Mets pitching is paramount: last year he hit six home runs and had 14 RBIs against the Mets. For the simple fact that he’s a Mets-killer, the Phillies should consider themselves lucky that he’s still on the roster.

That said, I have to admit that I’m seeing the end of the road for Pat Burrell as a Phillie. They cannot continue to keep paying him eight figures, and this season he isn’t playing nearly as well as he did in 2005. Check out Pat’s Runs Created per 27 Outs and Win Shares Winning Percentages for the last three years:

2004: 5.7 / .509
2005: 7.3 / .720
2006: 6.2 / .577

Runs Created (RC): A stat originally created by Bill James to measure a player’s total contribution to his team’s lineup. Here is the formula: [(H + BB + HBP - CS - GIDP) times (Total bases + .26[BB - IBB + HBP] + .52[SH + SF + SB])] divided by (AB + BB + HBP + SH+ SF). ESPN’s version is out-of-date, however, I’d note,in case you try to use it. James adjusted RC after the 2004 season ended. I got these numbers from The Hardball Times. Runs Created per 27 outs is essentially what a team of 9 of this player would score in a hypothetical game.

I think 2005 was Pat’s last great statistical season. He’s be a solid 90 Runs Created, 30 Home Run, 95 RBI player for 2007, but the Phillies can’t afford to pay him $10 million bucks. You can see the slow decline of Pat Burrell’s skills starting, but he’s still a good player. If the Phillies make the playoffs, I suspect that the lion’s share of the credit will be his.

Well, you could not have asked for a better start to the Phillies – Mets series than with the Phillies 13-0 butt-kicking of the Mets last night. Simply put, it was the most impressive performance I saw from the Phillies in 2006 (and maybe 2005 as well). They were able to drive Pedro Martinez from the mound in the first inning and score at-will for the rest of the game. Most impressive was Cole Hamels, who scattered four hits over eight innings, didn’t walk a single batter and K’d nine Mets. That was a masterful performance and the kind of pitching line that you’d expect to see from Roger Clemens or Curt Schilling. Spectacular start. Let’s see how they do tonight.

Walks are great, but I must say I like the Phillies "new look" offense's aggressive style more. Abreu was more than happy to take the walk and put the pressure on someone else. Utley and Howard try to get it done themselves, and it is becoming evident that they will succeed.
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