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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.

Friday, June 09, 2006

A Look @ Win Shares 

I realized suddenly the other day that I hadn’t looked at the Phillies Win Shares for the 2006 campaign yet. Win Shares, for those not in the know, are a stat developed by Bill James to calculate a player’s overall contribution to his teams fortunes. They are broken down by batting, fielding and pitching and added together to get a total number.

Not surprisingly, some players are having great seasons by Win Shares. Here are some of the Phillies top performers:

Bobby Abreu: 14
Chase Utley: 13
Ryan Howard: 8
Aaron Rowand: 6
Brett Myers: 6
Pat Burrell: 6
Tom Gordon: 6
David Bell: 6
Jimmy Rollins: 5
Shane Victorino: 5

What’s interesting to me (and I feel like this is a common theme to my blog this week) is what a surprise it is to see David Bell on the positive side of the ledger. His fielding is where he’s making a big impact: 1.7 Fielding Win Shares … David Bell earned 9 Win Shares in all of 2005, so having 6 right now ain’t bad.

Poor Pat Burrell: Win Shares don’t really care much for him. He’s at just six and his winning percentage is just .548, worse than Aaron Rowand (.604), Ryan Howard (.855), Chase Utley (.903), and Abreu (1.004). He’s doing a bit better than David Bell (.513), but aside from Jimmy Rollins (.352) here isn’t much better than any other Phillies regular.

Jimmy Rollins needs to step things up: his five Win Shares are pretty lousy. If you look inside his numbers 2.4 go to his batting and 2.7 to his fielding. He simply isn’t getting the job done at the plate. Win Shares have always liked J.Roll: he had 21 last year, 24 in ’04, 19 the year before that. He could end up with a career-low 12-14 this season.

Abreu, Utley and Howard are clearly the Phillies superstars. Of all of them, Chase Utley is the one that most impresses me: he is exceeding his expected Win Shares by six. Unlike Abreu, who is a one-dimensional player (hitter), Chase is really doing a lot of good work for the Phillies in the field. Chase is really the glue holding this team together. If he got injuried the Phils would be in trouble.

Consistency thy name is Bobby Abreu. Scope out his previous seasons:

2005: 25
2004: 33
2003: 28
2002: 29
2001: 26
2000: 23
1999: 26
1998: 26

Bobby is on a pace for a career high this season: he should get 35 or so Win Shares. Not bad at all.

Enjoy your weekend all! See you on Monday!

(11) comments

Thursday, June 08, 2006

David Bell: Actually Doing O.K. 

The other day I was surprised to see that David Bell is, remarkably, actually having a decent season for the Phillies at the plate. As I noted yesterday, Bell is one of the few Phillies hitting well with runners in scoring position: .296 as of today.

I’ve always had a love / hate attitude towards David Bell. On one hand, I felt that the Phillies made a major mistake signing him to a mega-deal prior to the 2003 season for a player with spotty numbers (his career high in home runs remains just 21 with the Mariners in 1999). Entering his season Bell’s career OBP was just .318. And he wasn’t much of a slugger either: .396 career slugging percentage.

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)
SLG (Slugging Percentage): Power at the plate. (Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage)

On the other hand one of the best-kept secrets in baseball was that David Bell was/is a terrific defensive third baseman. In 2005 he led third basemen with a +24 Plus / Minus rating. Scope out a few of the numbers:

Plus / Minus:
2003: +6 (9th)
2004: +22 (3rd)
2005: +24 (1st)

Bell’s Relative Range Factor* also indicated that he was pretty good:

2003: 1.075
2004: 1.065
2005: 1.079

* Range Factor: (Putouts + Assists) * 9 / IP. Essentially measures how much a player is involved in defensive plays. Bill James Relative Range Factor (RRF) is a complicated formula that makes it pitching neutral (Range Factor usually depended on if the pitchers behind you were flyballers or goundballers). A number greater than 1.000 indicates that a player is better than average.

Offensively, this season David Bell has stepped out and has gotten some hits. As I write this Bell has 23 Runs Created (4.84 per 27 Outs), which still makes him one of the worst hitters in the Phillies lineup, but is a marked improvement over 2005 (just 55 Runs Created for the whole season, and 3.44 per 27 Outs). Bell’s OBP and Slugging numbers are high this season too: .337 and .411 … Bells .254 GPA* is actually pretty respectable and an improvement over his 2005 performance: .230 … Bell has also tried to work the count a little and get on base via the walk more: his .090 BB / PA (walks per plate appearance) is pretty good and comparable to other Phillies like Ryan Howard (.096) and Chase Utley (.092). It is also decidedly better than the Phillies leadoff man, Jimmy Rollins: .074 …

* 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.

Defensively David Bell has appeared to be afflicted by the sickness that is permeating the Phillies defense generally: he’s just not doing that well. Right now Bell ranks tenth of fourteen NL 3B’s in Zone Rating (my alternative defensive stat since I don’t get Plus / Minus numbers until the end of the season. 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). If you look at Range Factor Bell’s stock goes way up: he’s third, but that might be a function of the Phillies pitching staff being loaded with ground ball pitchers.

(Oh, and there is no way I can calculate Bell’s RRF: James formula is too long.)

So David Bell isn’t doing that bad. This will almost certainly be his final season with the Phillies and part of me will be sad to see him go: if there could ever be a designated fielder position, David Bell would be a perpetual All-Star. The other part of me will recognize that despite Bell’s defensive skills, and despite his improvement this season, Bell is still a mediocre player. Still, sorry to see the guy go.

The Phillies swept the D-backs pretty impressively, running their roadstand to 5-2. Now comes a big series with the Nats. Let's see if they can keep this up.

(14) comments

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

BA/RISP 

Monday I was writing about how the D-Backs seemed to be greater than the sum of their parts and that the Phillies seemed to be less, and I focused my attention on one particular area where there were a big, big difference between the two: Batting Average With Runners In Scoring Position (BA/RISP). As I write this, the Phillies are fifteenth in the NL in BA/RISP at .233, just .001 better than that offensive juggernaut, the Chicago Cubs. Meanwhile, the D-Backs were third of sixteen teams at .284. (NL average: .263) That success at driving in runners enabled the D-Backs to score 9 more runs despite hitting 22 fewer home runs than the Phillies.

So why are the Phillies struggling with runners in scoring position? More importantly, who? Here are the Phillies BA/RISP numbers:

Chase Utley: .351
Bobby Abreu: .320
Mike Lieberthal: .316
David Bell: .300
Aaron Rowand: .294
Shane Victorino: .269
Ryan Howard: .232
Pat Burrell: .229
Jimmy Rollins: .175
Sal Fasano: .118

This is a facet of the game that the Phillies were much, much more successful at in 2005: .278 (.017 better than the league average). Before I make any conclusions, here is what some of the Phillies did in 2005:

BA/RISP:
Rollins: .325
Burrell: .313
Utley: .309
Abreu: .303
Bell: .242
Howard: .241

Some players seem to be pretty consistent at this: Ryan Howard can’t hit with runners in scoring position (.241 in ’05, .232 in ’06), Bobby Abreu and Chase Utley can, and Pat Burrell seems to be struggling at it in 2006. To me the two shockers are Bell and Rollins:

-David Bell is playing like a totally different player when he has runners in scoring position. I’ll comment a little on this tomorrow: Bell really seems to be playing better this season than last.

-The heck happened to Jimmy Rollins? His 2006 BA/RISP is about half that of 2005. I said this last week and I think it bears repeating: J.Roll’s pursuit of Joe DiMaggio killed his fundamentals and as a result he’s now really, really struggling.

I hope the Phillies start to improve and soon. They can’t continue to squander opportunities to score runs. At the moment the Phillies have 276 Runs Created as a team and 269 runs scored, compared with the D-backs 270 Runs Created and 278 runs scored. The Phillies are one of the best teams in the NL at creating opportunities to score runs. Now they need to capitalize on those opportunities. Their inability to drive in runners leaves them on base and makes the Phillies offense far too inefficient.

-Well, the Phillies are 4-2 on this road trip thus far. I'm eager to see how Ryan Madson does this evening. The decision to move Madson back to the bullpen and keep Gavin Floyd in the rotation didn't make a lot of sence to me given that Ryan actually seemed to have a better handle on things. I think Ryan will do fine.

Tomorrow: David Bell.

(1) comments

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Thome / Rowand deal: Preliminary Thoughts 

With the season one-third complete I thought now might be a good time to examine the Phillies big off-season transaction: their decision to deal Jim Thome to the White Sox for Aaron Rowand. (Apparently I wasn't alone with the thought. Jim Salisbury wrote a column in the Inquirer Sunday on the very same subject. Read it here.) Was the decision to deal their star player a good one? Who benefited?

Let me start by noting that Jim Thome is having a monster of a season for the White Sox. As I write this his GPA is a whopping .359 and his ISO numbers are .366 … In just 52 games Thome has 51.2 Runs Created and creates 10.36 runs per 27 outs. The man homers once every nine At-Bats. Those are fearsome numbers.

What the stats mean:
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.
Runs Created: A stat originally created by Bill James to measure a player’s total contribution to his team’s lineup.
RC/27: Runs Created per 27 outs, essentially what a team of 9 of this player would score in a hypothetical game.
ISO (Isolated Power): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.
BB / PA (Walks per plate appearance): (BB / PA = .BB/PA Avg)

Offensively, Aaron Rowand is having a pretty good season: .285 GPA / .210 ISO. Those numbers are above his career averages of .266 & .171 … So far this season Rowand has 25.7 Runs Created, for a 6.14 RC per 27 outs. That’s pretty good and makes him a potent hitter next to players like Abreu and Howard and Utley. He’s probably contributed more punch to the Phillies lineup than expected … Impressively he isn’t a “Citizens Bank” hitter: his road GPA is actually higher than his home GPA (.326 vs. .261)

If there is a phase of the game at the plate that Rowand conspicuously fails at, it is in drawing walks. Simply put, he’s terrible at it: .030 BB / PA, better than just Mike Lieberthal (.013) and by far the worst on the team. Rowand’s problem is that he doesn’t work the count: he sees just 3.23 pitches per plate appearance, worst on the team. Even Jimmy Rollins, a player that I complain never works the count is better than Rowand: 3.43 pitches-per, .074 BB / PA.

Defensively Rowand has been a major disappointment: he’s made some nice plays and his catch that broke his nose was the most talked about play in baseball that day. However, the numbers don’t support the idea that Rowand is living up to his reputation as a defensive wizard. As I write this, he has a Zone Rating of .860, ranking him tenth of eleven NL centerfielders. Even Steve Finley, a player whose defensive skills are in a marked decline has a better ZR than Rowand. Rowand also ranks just eighth in Range Factor.

Confused about what I’m talking about?:
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.
Range Factor (RF): (Putouts + Assists) * 9 / IP. Essentially measures how much a player is involved in defensive plays.

Thome, never known of his glove, has been relegated to DH duty. So far the deal has been a mild disappointment: Rowand hasn’t been the defensive presence he was expected to be and while he had contributed with his bat, he hasn’t been that great offensively. True, Thome is having a great season for the White Sox, however, Ryan Howard is also having a great season and his progress should be a factor in this analysis. Howard has just one home run fewer than Thome (19) and has 41.4 Runs Created with a .315 GPA and a .316 ISO. Simply put, the downgrade from replacing Howard with Thome is virtually nil. Oh, and Ryan Howard is nine years younger than Jim Thome.

So the Thome – Rowand deal, in the long term, will probably still benefit the Phillies (Thome was actually quoted in the Inquirer as saying that the deal benefitted both he and Ryan Howard), though at the current time you’d have to say that it was a wash. Rowand is probably doing better offensively than Jason Michaels- our likely CF in 2006 had the Rowand deal gone undone -would, though Michaels would probably be a stronger defender based on what we've seen. The difference between Howard and Thome is nil. The Phillies advantage lays with the fact that they went much younger in their lineup and got players whose upsides are impressive.

-Phils won 4-3 against the D-backs in an impressive game where they drove Brandon Webb off the mound without a win. Tonight Cole Hamels goes for the Phils. Notice the struggles facing the Atlanta Braves: their loss to the Nats last night drops them 7 back of the Mets and two and a half back of the Phils for second. The Braves are in serious danger of falling to fourth place.

(9) comments

Monday, June 05, 2006

Know Thy Enemy: The D-Backs 

I have to admit to being surprised to see the Arizona Diamondbacks leading the NL West. I had the team written-off in the preseason as an also-ran: little talent, coming off a series of bad seasons … bah! … Either this is a testament to how mediocre the NL West is, or the D-backs are a team much greater than the sum of their parts.

There really isn’t ay superstar on the D-backs roster. Collectively it is a bunch of little-known faces: Eric Byrnes and Chad Tracy (who?) are leading the team with nine home runs each. Shawn Green, the team’s perpetually under-achieving slugger, has four home runs. Four.

And yet the D-Backs have a potent offense, averaging 5.25 runs-per-game, .045 better than the NL average. Their success has been in timely hitting: they rank third in the NL in Batting Average with Runners In Scoring Position (BA/RISP). They’ve been getting hits at the right time.

The secret to the D-Backs success has been their better-than-expected pitching. Brandon Webb is 8-0 with a 2.01 ERA … Not that anyone has noticed. The D-backs FIP ERA is third in the NL. This is a much better pitching staff than they look.

The Phillies make a counter-point to the D-Backs: they always seem to be much less than the sum of their parts. Despite having potent weapons like Bobby Abreu, Pat Burrell, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the lineup, the Phillies score just 4.98 runs a game. Ok, better than the NL average, but why have the D-backs scored 278 runs to the Phillies 269?

Well, they are hitting .233 with RISP. Not the worst in the NL, but let’s not celebrate being better than the Chicago Cubs (.232). The Phillies are awful, trailing the league average in BARISP by thirty points.

The Phillies have really struggled on the mound of late, with the decision to send Gavin Floyd to the minors and Cole Hamels absence high-lighting a problem: the Phillies have pitching talent but they aren’t clicking. Perhaps Hamels return will improve matters, and Gavin Floyd has to be addition-by-subtraction.

So I’d be worried going into this series. On paper, the Phillies are much better than the D-Backs. But games aren’t played on paper and the D-Backs are a team that is much better than the sum of their parts.

Nice 6-4 win for the Phillies last night. Escaping L.A. with a 2-2 split is a mild victory. The Phillies also jumped back into second place and are a game and a half above the Braves.

Inquirer writer Marcus Hayes writes that Ryan Franklin wants to go to the rotation. Read it for yourself here. Favorite quote: "Franklin could hardly do worse." Yes he could.

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