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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, July 28, 2006

Wait 'Til Monday... 

According to Yahoo! Sports, the Phils have tried to deal Pat Burrell to the Orioles, and Burrell promptly nixed the deal. (Good call, Pat.) Meanwhile the market for Bobby Abreu has shrunk and the Yankees are offering next to nothing for him. I sincerely hope that Pat Gillick hangs onto Bobby if the Yankees don't come through with something significant because dealing your most important offensive player on a team that is struggling to score runs is a recipe for disaster. Wait until Monday. If Burrell and Abreu are going somewhere, it will be on Monday. Meanwhile, I'm hoping that Gillick manages to shop everyone else around too: Cormier, Rhodes, Gordon, Lidle ...

Big five game series with the Fishstripes this weekend. If the Phillies want to try and make a go of the playoffs they've got to win 4 of 5. My prediction: they'll win 2 of 5.

Have a nice weekend everyone! I'll be back Monday to comment on any deals that are made.

(5) comments

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Deal Aaron Rowand... 

I know that this post is going to be a little derivative of my previous posts assailing Aaron Rowand for this play this season, but with the trading deadline fast approaching I think that the Phillies would be fools not to take advantage of the situation and get some help for 2007 and beyond. The core of this team has been intact for a few seasons now and you have to worry about the Phils aging. New blood, and especially pitching, is needed.

When the season began I expected great things from Aaron Rowand. He seemed to be the ideal centerfielder for the Phillies: a tough, blue-collar kind of guy who’d dive through walls to make a catch. John Dewan’s The Fielding Bible rated Rowand the best defensive centerfielder in baseball in 2005. To me the addition of Rowand was picture perfect: the Phillies were strengthening the weakest part of their defense, the outfield.

As I write this, Aaron Rowand ranks tenth of twelve regular NL centerfielders in Zone Rating* at .865. There are nine other centerfielders who rank better than Rowand, including the aging Steve Finley. For being the top-ranked CF in 2005, this is a massive fall from grace for Rowand. Forget his terrific play at the wall against the Braves: Rowand has played terrible defensive baseball.

* Zone Rating: 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.

Offensively, Rowand has been poison to the Phillies lineup. Jason Michaels and Kenny Lofton were hardly fearsome hitters, but they were tough outs and very dependable. They could be counted to hit .350 or better in their OBP, steal a few bases and occasionally hit a home run or two. Here is how the Phillies Michaels-Lofton platoon fared in 2005 vs. Rowand in 2006:

GPA*:
Michaels: .283
Lofton: .281
Rowand: .250

* 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.

Pretty bad. The simple problem that Aaron Rowand has is that he has no discipline at the plate. Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell are two of the most selective hitters in baseball and their success is due to their ability to wait on the pitcher and force him to throw strikes or draw a walk. Rowand swings too often and at bad pitches. As a result, Rowand is dead-last on the team in terms of pitches per plate appearance and walks per plate appearance:

P / PA:
Abreu: 4.46
Burrell: 4.28
Utley: 3.93
Howard: 3.91
Bell: 3.67
Rollins: 3.59
Rowand: 3.41
Team: 3.82

BB / PA:
Abreu: .214
Burrell: .167
Howard: .095
Bell: .090
Utley: .084
Rollins: .079
Rowand: .034
Team: .091

Rowand has drawn just 14 walks this season and has struck out 57 times. Rowand hardly makes up for his inability to get on base by his power at the plate: he’s hit just nine home runs in 2006 and while his isolated power (ISO)* is a robust .174, it isn’t enough to detract from his struggles at the plate. In fact, out of all of the Phillies, Rowand contributes the least to the Phillies offense:

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

Runs Created per 27 Outs:
Abreu: 7.93
Utley: 7.70
Howard: 7.32
Burrell: 6.91
Bell: 4.78
Rollins: 4.78
Rowand: 4.59
Team: 5.04

Runs Created per 27 outs is essentially what a team of 9 of this player would score in a hypothetical game. Runs Created is stat originally created by Bill James to measure a player’s total contribution to his team’s lineup. Here is the formula ESPN (where I get it from) uses: [(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. James adjusted RC after the 2004 season ended. Just take a player’s Runs Created, divide by his number of outs and multiply by 27.

My solution to the Rowand problem is simple. As of this morning the White Sox have gone into free fall, having lost eight of their last ten games and watched as the Minnesota Twins roared past them by winning twelve of their last thirteen games and jumped into the wildcard. What would be better to the Sox and to the Phillies than sending Rowand back to Chicago as part of a deal for some pitchers and prospects? The White Sox would get a key player from last year’s World Series run, a sparkplug they need; while the Phillies would get to remove a clog in their offensive machine and a player who has been a colossal disappointment on defense. Win-win.

Does last night’s Phillies win over the D-backs change my pronouncement that the Phillies season is over? No. I stand by the statement. The Phillies season is over, all that this team can do is prepare for 2007.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Wait 'Til Next Year! 

With the Phillies 6-5 loss to the Arizona D-backs last night I think the Phillies have determined that they will be sellers rather than buyers at the trade deadline. Simply put, this team has thoroughly played itself out of the post-season race. As I write this the Phillies are sitting thirteen and a half games out of first place in the NL East and seven and a half out of the wildcard. Let’s chronicle the Phillies litany of woe:

-The Phillies sit in tenth place for the wildcard.
-The Phillies are just a game and a half ahead of the fifth-place Nats.
-The Phillies have fallen behind the Marlins, a team in the beginning of a rebuilding process.

Just to go .500 this season the Phillies are going to have to play some pretty good ball: they’d need to go 37-28 (.567) down the stretch to go .500. They haven’t shown me that they can play with enough consistency to finish with a winning record, let alone make the playoffs.

So that’s it. I am essentially declaring the Phillies season over. There is little to play for at this point beyond improving the team for a run in 2007. That is what Pat Gillick and his crew must do, and past history suggests that Gillick took Polonius’ advice to his son in Hamlet too seriously: “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” Now is the time to be a seller: the Tigers are desperate to make the playoffs and would probably pay any price, the Mets want to win badly, the White Sox are in the fight of their lives, there are nasty races in the Western divisions of the NL and AL. This is the time to sell.

This team needs to be blown up and rebuilt. They really only have five players who I’d deem untouchable: Cole Hamels, Jon Lieber, Chase Utley, Bobby Abreu and Ryan Howard. Everyone else, and I mean everyone, is expendable. If Gillick doesn’t deal Rheal Cormier, Arthur Rhodes and Tom Gordon on this pitching-starved market for prospects then he is a fool.

If Gillick can unload Aaron Rowand, I say take it. Rowand has been killing the Phillies offense with his free-swinging style and his much-ballyhooed defensive prowess is utterly undeserved based on his performance this season. Rowand is not the answer in centerfield.

I am loathe to see Pat Burrell leave town, but I am a realist. If dealing Burrell can get major help for the starting rotation, then I’d support such a move.

So that’s it, Phillies fans. Get ready for the firesale. Wait ‘til Next Year.

(5) comments

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Who Is Shane Victorino? 

A bench player? Pat Burrell’s defensive replacement? Bobby Abreu’s replacement?

Ever since the Phillies acquired Victorino back in 2004, I’ve been trying to evaluate him and figure out where he fits into the Phillies plans. I don’t think the Phils know themselves. On a team where Pat Burrell, Bobby Abreu and Aaron Rowand are firmly entrenched as the Phillies three outfielders, Victorino seems to be the odd man out. Will he continue as a bench player? I doubt it. I suspect that next year Victorino will be in the Phillies outfield in one way or another, and he might find himself starting even sooner than that …

Thus far this season Victorino has done the following at the plate:

OBP: .331
SLG: .419
ISO: .148
GPA: .254

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.
On-Base Percentage (OBP): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
Slugging Percentage (SLG): Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage. Power at the plate.

A passable performance on his part. Chiefly, Victorino has been used in the roles of defensive substitute (more on that later) and pinch hitter. Unlike David Dellucci, he really has not excelled at that role at all:

As PH:
At-Bats: 30
OBP: .237
SLG: .200

Like many of the Phillies, Victorino has had a lousy season hitting with runners in scoring position (RISP):

OBP: .227
SLG: .262

I’d have to say that there is nothing remarkable about Victorino’s performance at the plate this season. He’s hit the ball with a little power, done a good job getting on base, struggles with runners in scoring position, etc. If this is indicative of his future performance with the Phillies, I’d not impressed. His 159 At-Bats this season is more than his MLB total coming into this season: 90 (17 with the Phillies in 2005 and 73 with the Pads in 2003).

Let’s get to Victorino’s defensive metrics. Victorino had logged 297 innings of work as an outfielder in 2006, making no errors and having five assists. He seems to be doing a fine job, but that is difficult to judge. Victorino has entered several games as Pat Burrell’s defensive substitute, which suggests to me that the team has some confidence in his fielding abilities. We have no data on Victorino coming into this season: he played just 16 innings for the Phils in 2005 and didn’t have an opportunity to record an out.

It seems to me likely that Shane Victorino will be playing in the Phillies outfield sometime soon. If the Phillies deal Pat Burrell to the Tigers, a definite possibility, I suspect that Victorino will take over as the Phillies starting left-fielder. I can’t see Shane as much of an upgrade from a player who I think is a dangerous bat, but he would have the benefit of being cheaper.

This morning the Phillies are sliding back further, now six and a half games out of the wildcard. The Phils need to be careful: fifth place is a possible finishing point for this team.

(6) comments

Monday, July 24, 2006

No Place Like Home?: The Phillies Offense and Citizens Bank Ballpark 

The subject of Citizen’s Bank Ballpark and its effect on the Phillies fortunes will be, I suspect, a continual topic for the foreseeable future. Is the park helping or hindering the Phillies? How substantially pro-offense is the park? How does the park impact individual players?

Let’s start with Park Factors. As most of you reading this blog already know, Park Factors are where you compare what the Phillies and their foes hit at Citizens and then compare that with what they hit elsewhere. Multiply the numbers and you get your answer. Simply put, a 100 is neutral, over 100 favors hitters, under 100 favors pitching. Here are the Phillies 2004 and 2005 Park Factors:

2005:
Batting Average: 109
Home Runs: 119
Runs Scored: 111

2004:
Batting Average: 101
Home Runs: 123
Runs Scored: 109

Initially, I had disputed the idea that Citizen’s was a hitters park by quibbling with the strength of the numbers and noting that it was actually 10% harder to hit a double there. I think the 2005 numbers settled the argument quite nicely and I am willing to come forward and state that Citizens is unquestionably a hitters park. No ifs, ands or buts about it. Batting averages were 9% higher, home runs were 19% easier to hit, runs were 11% easier to score, triples were 37% easier to hit, and even doubles were 8% easier. I don’t see any rational argument to be advanced in support of the proposition that Citizens is anything but a hitters park.

Not surprisingly, the Phillies have hit better at Citizens this season. Check out the numbers:

Home / Away / Home Advantage
OBP: .335 / .328 / +.007
SLG: .442 / .415 / +.027
ISO: .179 / .165 / +.014
GPA: .261 / .251 / +.010

What the stats mean:
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.
On-Base Percentage (OBP): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
Slugging Percentage (SLG): Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage. Power at the plate.

When it comes to the individual players, things become even more interesting. Let’s look at isolated power, the stat that measures the raw power a player brings to the game:

ISO
Home / Away / Home Advantage

Howard: .327 / .278 / +.049
Utley: .198 / .234 / -.036
Abreu: .181 / .167 / +.014
Burrell: .237 / .280 / -.043
Rollins: .170 / .155 / +.015
Bell: .117 / .079 / +.039
Rowand: .188 / .147 / +.041
Lieberthal: .119 / .071 / +.048
Fasano: .182 / .108 / +.072
Victorino: .148 / .161 / -.013
Dellucci: .283 / .273 / +.010

It didn’t surprise me that most of the Phillies played better at home than on the road, but it was a major surprise to me that Chase Utley and Pat Burrell actually hit better on the road than at home. Burrell, in particular struck me as being a player who benefited from the tight confines of Citizens Bank Ballpark. That simply doesn’t seem to be the case. Let’s explore this a little more:

Burrell: GPA

Home: .312
Away: .297

Burrell is hitting with power away from Citizens. His slugging percentage is .524 away and .512 at home, which is a major surprise to me. Burrell’s home OBP is better than his road: .405 to .368 … Compare Burrell’s surprising power on the road this season to season’s past:

2005
Home: .557
Away: .447

2004
Home: .519
Away: .399

While Pat’s newfound ability to hit on the road surprises me, I am in no way surprised to see that Chase Utley is doing so well. Chase might be the Phillies most under-rated and consistent player. In 2005 his away slugging percentage was higher than his home: .544 to .535 … so to this year, where Chase’s slugging percentage is .527 at home and .542 on the road.

The thing about the 2006 team is that the differences between their road and home performances aren’t as dramatic as they have been in the past. Like many teams this one hits better at home than on the road, but thus far this season the team hasn’t hit well at all. I think Pat Burrell is to be commended for his terrific performance at the plate this season. Any doubt that he wasn’t back to his ’02 form or is a creature of Citizens has been put to rest. But the rest of this team needs to step things up. It is a disgrace that Aaron Rowand is hitting just a .306 OBP and .443 slugging percentage at home. This team needs to take advantage of the fact that Citizens is so friendly to hitters and start hitting. Otherwise they are doomed to fizzle out of the pennant race in September.

Speaking of which: last night was a great example of why the Phillies are flailing in their bid for the playoffs. The Phils squandered numerous chances, grounding into three double plays and stranding 13 baserunners. What Charlie Manuel was thinking leaving Myers in to hit in the bottom of the seventh I'll never know. The game is tied, you have a runner on with no outs, why leave in your starter when you have an excellant bullpen than is rested? Have Dellucci pinch-hit. Naturally, Myers tired after that and the game spun out of control for the Phils. I always defended Manuel, but it might be time for him to go.

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