Friday, June 02, 2006
I’m very surprised at how well the Dodgers are playing. The other day I had stated that no team in the NL West looked strong. I retract that: the Dodgers are starting to play with some momentum and I’d expect for them to start to perhaps pull away from the pack in the West. They look strong and most surprisingly, they look young: there are a lot of young players playing key roles on the Dodgers roster these days. The Dodgers make a tremendous contrast to the geriatric Giants. Makes you think that the Dodgers are building towards a juggernaut, a talented team full of young players playing in a so-so division.
-I’m amazed at how well the Detroit Tigers are playing and I wish them well: my father was born in Detroit, so I have some ties to the area and – not to sound like Napoleon Dynamite – but Tigers are my favorite animal. (Tiger fact: did you know that Tigers are typically bigger than Lions?) (And yes, I think Ligers are cool too.)
-I hate seeing the A’s struggle below .500 … they’ll turn on the engine in the second-half of the season, but it still makes you nervous to see them flounder.
Enjoy your weekends. I’ll have new posts on Monday!
Thursday, June 01, 2006
With one notable exception. I think the Phillies are clicking on most cylinders. David Bell is always going to be a problem. But these days the Phillies real problem starts at the top of the order with Jimmy Rollins. As a lead-off hitter, J.Roll isn’t getting the job done. And he’s getting to be an anchor on the Phillies offense.
As I write this, Jimmy Rollins has a .255 batting average, a .317 On-Base-Percentage and a .394 slugging percentage. These are terrible declines for a player whose career averages coming into this season for those were .273, .328 and .414 respectively. J.Roll’s GPA has declined from a respectable .251 to .241.
Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
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.
When the season began the attention was squarely focused in on J.Roll’s pursuit of Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Since J.Roll’s pursuit ended just a few days into the season, he’s really been on a tail-spin offensively. The decline in J.Roll’s skills has impacted the Phillies team offense: Phillies lead-off hitters (i.e., J.Roll, who has 220 of the Phillies 243 plate appearances – 90% – hitting in the #1 slot) rank thirteenth of sixteen NL teams in terms of OBP (.317, far behind the Cards at .394), and are seventh in slugging percentage (.386). Phillies lead-off hitters also rank twelfth in terms of walks-per-plate appearances (BB/PA) at .078. The Phillies lead-off hitters aren’t working the count: we rank fifteenth in terms of pitches per plate appearance.
Drawing walks has always been a problem for J.Roll: he isn’t that patient at the plate historically, though to his credit he has worked on it in the past (e.g., he trained with Tony Gwynn in the 2003-2004 off-season) and has seen his strikeouts decline (108 in 2001, 103 in 2002, 113 in 2003, then 73 in ’04 and 71 last year).
I think that his pursuit of DiMaggio has ruined his skills as a lead-off hitter: the pressure to get that hit each game has led to a break-down in J.Roll’s discipline at the plate. Instead of taking a 3-0 pitch to draw a walk, he’d swing and put the ball into play. I think that the pursuit of DiMaggio got to J.Roll’s head and as a result he’s become a free-swinger at the plate. That’s not what this team needs. This team needs someone who will accept a day where the stat line reads: 0-3 with two walks.
The solution? I oppose dealing J.Roll. He’s got a good glove. And once he gets some patience back he’ll be the same old player we are used to. I say demote him to seventh or eighth in the order and bump Aaron Rowand to lead-off hitter. Rowand is hitting well, he’s getting on base, he’s got some pop off his bat … he could give Utley, Abreu, Burrell and Howard a potential base-runner they could work with. Right now I think the best thing for J.Roll is to regain his swing and protect David Bell and Mike Lieberthal / Sal Fasano at the bottom of the order.
I got a lot of posts yesterday on this subject and I want to quote "Mike":
When Jimmy is on, he is on, and he posts a .440 OBP and when he's not, he's not and posts a .310 OBP. Take it for what it's worth, but he is like the tide - he goes up and down and will continue to do so
I think that Mike is absolutely right. When J.Roll is on a roll he is probably the best leadoff hitter in the game with his unique blend of speed and power. The problem is that when he is not he's an anchor at the top and above all, I think that a leadoff hitter needs to be the model of consistency because he dictates a lot of what the hitters behind him can do. Until J.Roll gets on a roll, let's bump him back and make him earn the right to hit as #1. Maybe the challenge will wake him up.
More tomorrow on other subjects. If anyone has any additional thoughts on the idea that smaller parks help teams defensively, let me know. I'm very intruiged by the subject.
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Sure, the Phillies are just above .500, but one thing bodes very well for the team this season is their record against the NL East.
2006: 13-7 (.650)
2005: 38-37 (.506)
2004: 39-37 (.513)
With the MLB’s unbalanced schedule, the Phillies are going to be playing a lot of game against the Marlins and Nats down the road and that is a very good thing. In the past the Phillies have feasted on weak NL West teams to give them the edge:
2005: 22-9 (.710)
2004: 20-9 (.690)
Their record this season is o.k.: 8-5, which is a mild surprise because of how weak the NL West looks this season. The Phillies terrible 5-10 record against the Central is more excusable given that the Central actually looks pretty decent this season, with four of the six teams at .500 or better. Aside from the Pirates and Cubs, all of the teams look pretty good. I am especially impressed with the Brewers, whom I think are going to be in the playoff race in September. Thank goodness we don’t have to play them again!
In the final two months of the season they play 35 of 57 games against NL East foes. The Phils are going to be playing a lot of games against the Nats and Marlins, two of the four worst records in the NL. Oh, and we also get Tampa and Baltimore in inter-league play. Score!
Ryan Howard has been on fire of late. He’s leading the team in slugging at .614 … Interestingly, the Phillies have six players slugging above .500: Howard, Burrell (.552), Utley (.538), Abreu (.522), Rowand (.507), and Victorino (.522) …
Jimmy Rollins is really causing the team problems. His OBP is just .318 and .327 when he’s batting lead-off. That’s really terrible and something needs to be done. Bat Rowand (.353) first, deal J.Roll, do something because not having a table-setter is wasting a lot of the middle order’s firepower.
The Phillies continue to be the second-worst fielding team in the NL. The heck is going on? This is a topic in need of a little inspection.