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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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Focus on Pat Burrell 

Why does everyone hate Pat Burrell? In 2005 I convened a “trial” of Pat Burrell where I acquitted him of being a bad player. That season Burrell finished second in the N.L. in RBI with 117, tying him with some guy named Albert Pujols. Heard of him? That Pujols guy was the N.L. MVP that season and Burrell finished seventh in the voting, with just 65 points to Pujols 378. Pat never even figured in the MVP discussions. This past year the Phillies sat Burrell down during the run to the playoffs and kept trying to deal him - publicly - to Baltimore. With the 2007 season fast approaching there is once more “trade Burrell” talk in the wind and the distinct possibility that the Phillies former superstar of the future is on the chopping block for the Orioles.

I am going to stop right there. 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)
Walks per plate appearance (BB/PA): BB / PA = .BB/PA Avg
Slugging Percentage (SLG): Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage. Power at the plate.
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 If you use ESPN’s version be advised that it is pitifully is out-of-date. James adjusted RC after the 2004 season ended.
RC/27: Runs Created per 27 outs, essentially what a team of 9 of this player would score in a hypothetical game. Divide Runs Created into Outs, multiply by 27.

I have a few thoughts on Pat ….

First off, I am biased: I have long been a champion of Pat Burrell. I like him, I have his jersey, I’d hate to see him go. That said, there is a major reason why I like to see Pat Burrell in a Phillies uniform. The Post-2003 Pat Burrell has been an important cog in the Phillies offense and the team would really struggle on offense, especially with Burrell backup David Dellucci wearing a Cleveland Indians uniform and with Carlos Lee and Alfonso Soriano, the Phillies two major free agent targets, wearing the Astros and Cubs unis. If the Phillies deal Burrell, they are left with an outfield consisting of Aaron Rowand, Shane Victorino, Michael Bourn and Jeff Conine. The four combined for 19 home runs in 1,025 plate appearances in 2006. Pat had 29 homers in 567 plate appearances in 2006.

Simply put, unless the Phillies bring aboard another power-hitting threat, the Phillies will leave Ryan Howard exposed in the Phillies lineup. Get past Rollins and Utley, and the Phillies have no real power threat after Ryan Howard. Ryan Howard’s 37 intentional walks in 2006 will be more like 60 or 70 in 2007.

As I mentioned above, Pat Burrell has really changed as a player since the 2003 campaign. For those who don’t recall, the Phillies final season at the Vet was a nightmare Pat Burrell would like to forget. After hitting 37 home runs with 116 RBIs in 2002, Pat was expected to team with Jim Thome and possibly hit 100 home runs together in ’03. Instead Pat hit just 21, struggled for most of the year to get his batting average above .200, and saw his Runs Created drop from 120 in '03 to 64 in '04.

Pat came back in 2004 and made adjustments to his game, struggling at some points in the season before finishing strong. His last two campaigns have been rather good:

Home Runs / RBIs / OBP
2005: 32 / 117 / .389
2006: 29 / 95 / .388

Here is how Runs Created per 27 outs, my preferred all-around stat, sees things:

2000: 5.94
2001: 5.63
2002: 7.31
2003: 4.00
2004: 5.80
2005: 7.05
2006: 6.79
Career: 6.07

Burrell’s ’02 campaign was extraordinary and not to be repeated. What impresses me was that he was able to bounce back from his struggles in '03 and regained his form. How did he do it? Already a fairly choosy player at the plate, Burrell worked hard on milking counts for all they are worth. Check out pitches per plate appearance:

2000: 4.24
2001: 4.03
2002: 4.09
2003: 4.14
2004: 4.21
2005: 4.27
2006: 4.32

2000-2003: 4.11
2004-2006: 4.27

Burrell actually ranked first in pitches per plate appearance in the N.L. last season and second in 2005 to teammate Bobby Abreu, who also had more in ’06 but narrowly failed to qualify thanks to his trade to the Yankees. Burrell ranked sixth in the N.L. in 2004 as well.

That ability to work counts led to more walks, which lead to more opportunities for the Phillies to score. From 2000-2003, Burrell’s walks per plate appearance (BB/PA) were an outstanding .124. From 2004-2006, they rose to an astronomical .155. His strikeout-to-walk ratio fell as well from 2.02 – 1.00 to 1.53 – 1.00.

Impressively, Burrell didn’t sacrifice power that much, rounding out his game to make himself a more complete player. His raw power at the plate, which took a hit in ’03 and ’04 (Pat rehabbed his batting eye and took an extra year to get the power back in his swing), came back in ’05 and ’06. Again, Pat probably won’t equal that career year he had in 2002, but he’s a major threat to go yard:

2000: .203
2001: .212
2002: .263
2003: .195
2004: .199
2005: .222
2006: .245

Pat’s .245 was second on the team to Ryan Howard’s .346. Pat was better than David Dellucci (.239), Chase Utley (.212), and Jimmy Rollins (.200), all fearsome hitters who pack a big punch in their swing.

So why do the Phillies seem intent on dealing Pat to the Orioles? For one, Pat makes a lot of money (eight figures in 2007), and has a no-trade clause that seems to be driving Pat Gillick wild. Pat also has long-term issues with his heel that might become bigger issues in the future. We have no idea what his defensive scores really were in 2006 on things like Plus / Minus or on keeping runners on base, but I will note that Pat did score near the bottom in most defensive categories in 2006, so he’s becoming a defensive liability.

But can the Phillies afford to deal him? I say no: he’s probably the only threat the Phillies have now to prevent teams from intentionally walking Ryan Howard. With Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley hitting ahead of Ryan Howard, there would be nobody to protect Ryan without Pat. Who could the Phillies bat fifth? Aaron Rowand? He had just 12 home runs and 47 RBIs in 2006 (4.22 RC/27). Rowand struck out 76 times and walked just 18 with just a .163 ISO. Shane Victorino has no power in his swing: he hit just six home runs in 2006 and had a .127 ISO. Batting Jeff Conine behind Ryan Howard was a total fiasco: he had just one home run and hit a .110 ISO.

Unless any deal with Pat involves the Phillies getting a power hitter in return (and the whole reason why the Orioles want Pat is that they need a powerful bat), the Phils would make a major, major mistake by shipping Burrell off to the Orioles or some other team. Teams would be foolish to actually throw Ryan Howard strikes when the Phillies would have no ability to make those teams pay.

Hey Pat Gillick: quit hating on Pat Burrell. The Phillies need him for 2007.

I agree with you, the way the team is presently constituted, they can't afford to trade him. He drives me nuts, but at this point, I see him as a necessary evil. More importantly, I think Gillick & Co. is seeing that too.
I also agree.

When you consider those numbers - and I like your runs / 27 outs stat, as well ... it reminds me of the Tiki Barber stat vs. the Eagles (avg. 5 yds. per carry) - and you consider the way the market EXPLODED this off season, rewarding hitting talent like Soriano and pitchers like (eventually) Zito, Burrell is a relative bargain producing the kind of numbers you'd want in a power hitter.

I think what remains to be debated is where in the batting order to place Burrell. My feeling is let him bat fourth ... and have Howard protect him in the five spot. I suppose that could create a situation where two lefties bat in a row, but that would (in my mind) solve the problem.
Ryno should hit third, behind Utley and in front of Burrell.
I heard someone ask why Pat hitting second, with Ryno then Utz would be bad, and generally, I would not be opposed to trying it. I know Pat has his gimp foot, but he would be on base much more than anyone else who could hit here.
Regardless, I can't get to the idea of Howard hitting fifth. I want his big bat front and center, baby!

It saddens me that the city has soured on Patty B. But even more, the real Pat Burrell seems to hate us with a vile passion. Even if he were to put up 2002 numbers, and leave in adoration, his heart is eternally besmirched.
Nice, and accurate, piece on Pat. Burrell hating is purely irrational, but nobody ever said Phillies' fans were rational, as a group.
I agree with the sentiments and stats - nice post. I don't even want to understand the booing - it's ugly, if I was bringing a kid to the game I wouldn't want a bunch of adults booing and jeering anybody on the field, it's unsportsmanlike, it's undeserved, they used to boo Schmidt and to this day I don't like it. I do like Pat Burrell and through all the boos, the guy has been loyal to the Phillies and to the fans. He would have had the very same money in Baltimore but he wanted to stay here - and it was in the Daily News, he wanted to stay here to give back to where he had been at least previously treated well.

The stats back up what is visible by watching Pat too. He is a very talented athlete and a very good power hitter. God willing, if he remains healthy, he has the ability to finish well within the top 100 HR hitters of all time. It is true he's had ups and downs, but how many players haven't. 2002 and 2005 were great years. And I agree, he's rebounded well from 2003, obviously his worst year. He adds power production to this line-up and I agree it would be a loss to the Phillies if he were traded. It was a loss with Abreu too.
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