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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Monday, September 18, 2006

Focus on Abraham Nunez 

Lost in all of the attention over the Phillies decision to send Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle north to New York was the fact that the Phillies executed another trade around the same time, sending David Bell to the Milwaukee Brewers for a minor league pitcher. I complained at the time about the decision, noting that while Bell was a poor hitter he was an excellent third baseman and his likely replacement, Abraham Nunez, was one of the worst hitters I had seen. I decided to revisit the deal and see how both Bell and Nunez are doing …

Let’s start with Bell. The Phillies did not sign David Bell to be their everyday third baseman in 2003 for Bell’s bat (and if they did, they made a terrible mistake). David Bell has been a so-so hitter most of his MLB career and his three and a half seasons with the Phillies are no exception:
2003: .204 GPA / .088 ISO / 27 Runs Created
2004: .278 GPA / .113 ISO / 87 Runs Created
2005: .230 GPA / .120 ISO / 55 Runs Created
2006: .255 GPA / .100 ISO / 41 Runs Created

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
Gross Productive Average (GPA): (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.
Isolated Power (ISO): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.
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 ((S * 1.125) + (D * 1.69) + (T * 3.02) + (HR * 3.73) + (.29 * (BB + HBP – IBB)) + (.492 * (SB + SF + SH)) – (.04 * K))] divided by (AB + BB + HBP + SH+ SF). If you use ESPN’s version be advised that it is pitifully is out-of-date, however. James adjusted RC after the 2004 season ended.

Bell’s best season with the Phillies was in 2004, when he had a .363 OBP, hit eighteen home runs and batted in 77 runs. Here is a good look at Bell’s production via Runs Created per 27 Outs as a Phillie:

2003: 3.0
2004: 6.1
2005: 3.6
2006: 4.8

2006 was an up year for Bell again: he was hitting a respectable .345 OBP and had a nearly a 1-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (38-to-32). His power was largely vacant – just six home runs – and he was hitting badly in the clutch – .247 – but he was doing better than he had in 2005.

Bell’s other benefit was his astonishing glove-work. In 2005, according to John Dewan’s Plus / Minus system, Bell led all MLB third basemen with +24 plays. In 2004 he was third at +22 and, despite missing huge stretches of the season with back problems, he was good enough for ninth with +6 plays. The Fielding Bible rates Bell as having “good range with good hands and footwork … [with] a quick release and good accuracy in his throws.” (See, page 162.) Bell is, simply put, one of the best defensive 3B’s in the game. Perhaps his sterling defense doesn’t erase his foibles at the plate, but they should be considered.

What made me apprehensive about dealing Bell was that Nunez, a light-hitting utility infielder, would be worse than Bell at the plate. To begin, I figured there would be a drop-off in terms of defense, but not a significant one. Nunez filled in for Scott Rolen at third in 2005 and did a good job: +9. How have Bell and Nunez done defensively for the Phillies. Here are their Zone Rating (ZR) numbers playing third for the Phillies and how Bell has done with the Brewers:

Bell (Brewers): .790
Bell (Phillies): .770
Nunez (Phillies): .777

Zone Rating (ZR): Is a stat which measures a player’s defensive ability by measuring plays they should have made. Admittedly, this is a stat left open to subjective opinions.

Not much of a difference. Here is Range Factor:

Bell (Brewers): 2.73
Bell (Phillies): 2.78
Nunez (Phillies): 2.45

Range Factor: (Putouts + Assists) * 9 / IP. Essentially measures how much a player is involved in defensive plays.

I don’t believe that is a statistically significant difference, but Bell does have an edge. I think that we can safely say that there is little-to-no drop-off from Bell to Nunez. It is at the plate that I figured there would be a major difference between Bell and Nunez. Here are Bell’s stats with the Phillies and with the Brew crew:

Phillies / Brewers
GPA: .255 / .214
OBP: .345 / .292
SLG: .398 / .331
HR: 6 / 2
K/BB: 1.2 / 2.0
BA/RISP: .247 / .229

Slugging Percentage (SLG): Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage. Power at the plate.
Batting Average with Runners in Scoring Position (BA/RISP): H/AB w/ runners on second or third.

Bell has slumped badly on being dealt to the Brewers … quite frankly he’s sort of an anchor on their offense. Cory Koskie, the injured Brewers third baseman they were looking for Bell to fill-in for the rest of the season while they tried to make the playoffs, hit .277 GPA, so Bell is a major downgrade. How is Nunez doing? Well ….

GPA: .187
OBP: .275
SLG: .253
HR: 2
K/BB: 1.9
BA/RISP: .193

There isn’t a single number there that is good. I’ll come back to that but I want to note the most astonishing stat: thus far this season Nunez has played in 107 games, had 300 plate appearances and logged 555 innings in the field. And he doesn’t have a single Win Share. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Bell has played just 38 games for the Brew crew and he’s already got a win share, even though he’s played badly. I think Ryan Howard picks up a Win Share every other game these days. Howard’s got 28 already and the season isn’t even over. Nunez has played so badly that he has a negative number. He has 1.5 Fielding Win Shares for his work at first with his glove, but he has -1.8 Batting Win Shares, for a total of -0.3 Win Shares. His Win Shares Above Bench are at -6. I can’t even fathom how terrible that is. Truly, I don’t think it could be worse.

The other numbers above reinforce all of that. A sub-.200 GPA? It is hard to believe that a non-catcher / pitcher could hit that badly and still get playing time. The Batting Average with Runners In Scoring Position (BA/RISP) is atrocious. It is amazing that the Phillies are continuing to lead the NL in most offensive statistical categories because Nunez is a virtual automatic 0-for-four every time he plays. Since 60% of his At-Bats are in the eighth slot, he’s really killing the Phillies offense because once the opposition gets past the Phillies #1-#7 hitters the #8 & #9 guys are virtually automatic outs. A Nunez At-Bat is an inning-killer.

For whatever his faults, David Bell is better than Abraham Nunez. He might be a streaky player, he might be a light hitter, but he plays good defense and he’s a better bat than Nunez by a mile. Look at Bell’s Win Shares with the Phillies:

Win Shares:
2003: 5
2004: 20
2005: 9
2006: 8

It is telling to me that despite struggling (Bell’s WSAB with the Phillies this season was a meager total of one), Bell has rolled up eight win shares to Nunez’s less-than-zero despite having just 40% more innings in the field and 22% more plate appearances. Bell has more Win Shares playing a few games with the Brewers than Nunez has all season!

I dearly hope that the Phillies intend to make finding a replacement for Nunez job number one in the off-season because the Phillies really need help at third base.

In the end was the decision to deal Bell the correct one? We’ll have to see if Wilfrido Laureano (the player the Phillies got for Bell) turns into any kind of a pitcher, but I doubt it. What did the Phillies do? They down-graded themselves at third base and got rid of a player who they weren’t planning on re-signing at the end of the season anyway for pretty much nothing in return. Huh? At the time I speculated that the team made a mistake and I stand by that. The decision-making process leaves a lot to be desired, and, frankly, if the Phillies miss out on the playoffs this downgrade might be a considerable factor. You can’t tell me that having Nunez in there won’t cost the Phillies a game or two down the stretch.

Tomorrow, a few words on David Dellucci.

Wildcard Watch! … I thought nothing would cheer me up after watching the Eagles blow a 24-7 lead and lose to the Giants 30-24 in overtime, but the Phillies mildly encouraged me with their weekend in Houston. When it is all said and done perhaps we will figure this as the decisive moment in the Phillies playoff run, but this can most definitely be said: the weekend sweep of the Astros was a major victory for the Phillies. Coupled with the Giants and Marlins struggles, the Phillies have moved out from the back to become the Dodgers prime foe for the wildcard … and speaking of which, the Padres moved into the NL West lead with a terrific victory in their series with the Dodgers. At the moment we have our sights set on the Dodgers … But the Phillies sweep of the Astros was a major victory and helps them gain some separation, plus it also knocks the Astros out of the running as well. Coming up they’ve got a three game set against the Chicago Cubs, the team with the worst record in the National League. Keep it going…

1. Los Angeles: 78-71
2. Philadelphia: 77-72 (1.0)
3. San Francisco: 74-74 (3.5)
4. Florida: 74-75 (4.0)
5. Cincinnati: 73-77 (5.0)

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