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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Friday, August 11, 2006

More on Base Runs 

It has been a while since I’ve discussed the Phillies 2006 campaign and noted how they’ve been performing. My new, current favorite stat-of-the-moment is Base Runs, a formula developed by Dave Smyth a few years ago to calculate a player’s total contribution to a team’s offense that rivals Bill James classic Runs Created.

(For the uninitiated, the idea behind Runs Created and Base Runs is to accurately sum up a player’s contribution to his team’s offense by looking at things that he does, like hitting and drawing walks, as opposed to things he must rely on his teammates for, like runs scored and RBIs.)

I’ve adopted Base Runs as one of my favorite stats because of two reasons:

1. It is relatively uncomplicated to calculate.
2. It is fairly accurate.

I’ve found the most recent version of Runs Created to be more accurate and reliable than Base Runs, but the formulas are a world apart:

Base Runs
A: H + BB + HBP – HR
B: (.8 * 1B) + (2.1 * 2B) + (3.4 * 3B) + (1.8 * HR) + (.1*(BB + HBP))
C: AB – H

Then simply divide B into B + C, then multiply A to the result and add D.

Runs Created
A: H + BB + HBP – CS – GIDP
B: (1.125 * 1B) + (1.69 * 2B) + (3.02 * 3B) + (3.73 * HR) + (.29 * (BB + HBP – IBB)) + (.492 * (SB + SF + SH)) – (.04 * K)
C: AB + BB + HBP + SF + SH

Then multiple A times B, then divide by C.

Bottom-line, I simply don’t have the time to sit down and write all of that out. Base Runs are simpler. ESPN.com keeps track of Runs Created, but they are apparently still tracking the version Bill James ditched in 2004, so their Runs Created stats are pretty inaccurate, something that reflects badly on ESPN’s desire to be a fan’s “one-stop shop” for stats. That, and their decision to publish all of their articles in the Insider section, leave me feeling pretty cold to ESPN.com these days.

So how are the Phillies doing, Base Runs-wise? As a team they are actually doing well:

Runs Scored / Base Runs Scored: 555 / 536
Runs Allowed / Base Runs Allowed: 562 / 571

They are out-scoring their numbers and are allowing fewer runs than their Base Runs allowed would suggest. Here are the Phillies top performers:

Chase Utley: 84
Ryan Howard: 81
Bobby Abreu: 69
Pat Burrell: 61
Jimmy Rollins: 61
David Bell: 43
Aaron Rowand: 42
David Dellucci: 32
Shane Victorino: 21
Chris Coste: 12
Abraham Nunez: 7
Carlos Ruiz: 3

Let’s look at how they do by how many they create per 27 outs:

David Dellucci: 8.08
Ryan Howard: 7.59
Chase Utley: 7.32
Bobby Abreu: 7.12
Pat Burrell: 6.71
Chris Coste: 6.06
Jimmy Rollins: 4.82
David Bell: 4.60
Aaron Rowand: 4.18
Shane Victorino: 4.08
Carlos Ruiz: 1.94
Abraham Nunez: 1.45

A couple of points are in order:

-Get David Dellucci off the bench and onto the field. The man is one heck of a ballplayer and he’s doing much, much better than Shane Victorino.

-Abraham Nunez is just embarrassing himself at the plate. 1.45 Base Runs per 27 outs? That is a travesty. If the Phillies want to make him their every day third baseman in 2007, they are nuts.

-It didn’t entirely surprise me that Bobby Abreu wasn’t the Phillies leading Base Runs hitter, because I suspect Base Runs probably slants more towards power hitters than Runs Created, which takes stats like base-stealing and sacrifice hits into effect, and values walks a bit more. Still, if that is an accurate depiction of the Phillies offense, then all of the hand-holding over Bobby’s departure might indeed be much ado about nothing. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard long-ago passed him to become the Phillies top offensive forces.

-So surprise Aaron Rowand is doing so badly. He really is a major headache for this team. They need to do something about him this off-season.

Today's post was late and yesterday's was missing because I am currently experiencing problems with my home computer. Stay with me, I should be back on-line for Monday.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Gavin Floyd Reclamation Project 

Even with the Phillies recommitment to the wildcard race with their remarkable resurrection following the Abreu trade, many people in the Phillies high command are thinking about the 2007 campaign, planning things out. A central issue to the Phillies 2007 season is going to be Gavin Floyd. What in the heck does the team do with Gavin? Do they give up on him? Or do they give him another chance?

Gavin Floyd entered the majors with an impressive resume, consistently impressing people with his MLB-quality stuff. After pitching briefly in 2004, he stunned Phillies fans by hurling seven innings, scattering three hits and one earned run, while K’ing two, in an impressive victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. After that, Gavin had the season from hell, getting shelled for twenty-eight earned runs over the next nineteen innings he pitched. Gavin ended the 2005 campaign with a prompt return to Scranton. Here are Gavin’s 2005 stats:

HR/9: 1.73
BB/9: 5.54
K/9: 5.88
ERA: 10.04
FIP: 6.14
WHIP: 1.77

And after he went back to Scranton:

HR/9: 0.72
BB/9: 4.32
K/9: 6.36
ERA: 6.16
WHIP: 1.61

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
WHIP – Walks plus hits by innings pitched: (BB + H) / IP = WHIP
ERA – Earned Run Average: (Earned Runs * 9) / IP = ERA
FIP – Fielding Independent Pitching: (13*HR+3*BB-2*K / IP) + League Factor Evaluates a pitching by how he would have done with an average defense behind him by keeping track of things that a pitcher can control (walks, strikeouts, home runs allowed) as opposed to things he cannot (hits allowed, runs allowed).
DER – Defense Efficiency Ratio: (Batters Faced – (Hits + Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) / (Batters Faced – (Home Runs, Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) How often fielders convert balls put into play into outs.
G/F – Groundball-to-Flyball ratio.
Hr/9 – Home Runs allowed per nine innings: (HR * 9) / IP
K/9 – Strikeouts per nine innings: (K * 9) / IP
BB/9 – Walks per nine innings: (BB * 9) / IP

Let’s be blunt. Gavin pitched very, very poorly. I cannot imagine a pitcher unraveling as badly as Gavin did: he went from throttling the most potent offensive team in the NL to being a sieve on the mound. His 2005 minor league stats are mostly respectable, aside from the high walk ratio, so I wasn’t entirely surprised to see him back in the Phillies rotation for 2006. Here is how Gavin did at the start of the season:

HR/9: 2.32
BB/9: 5.30
K/9: 5.63
ERA: 7.29
FIP: 7.01
WHIP: 1.88

Since then he has returned to the safety of Triple-A Scraton to regain his form. Here is how Gavin has done with the Red Barons:

HR/9: 0.76
BB/9: 2.49
K/9: 7.34
ERA: 4.35
WHIP: 1.31

I actually think that Gavin’s ERA is much too high and doesn’t adequately show how well he is pitching in Scranton. I suspect his FIP ERA is much lower (I can’t calculate it, however, because I just don’t have the time), probably in the 3.00 or lower range. I really think Gavin is pitching well and that this bodes well for his future with the Phillies. To be sure, when Gavin returns there are a few issues to work out, namely, his slide towards being a fly-ball pitcher:

2004: 1.52
2005: 1.12
2006: 0.97

As I mentioned in my post on Ryan Madson yesterday, being a fly-ball pitcher at Citizens Bank Ballpark is a risky proposition. However, the worst part about this is that Gavin can’t blame Citizens for his woes this season:

Home / Away:
HR/9: 1.98 / 2.67
BB/9: 5.27 / 5.33
K/9: 5.93 / 5.33
ERA: 7.57 / 7.00

Ignore the ERA, clearly Gavin pitched much, much worse on the road than at Citizens. Which brings up another issue: was Gavin just snake-bit in 2006?

Yesterday I noted that Ryan was on the receiving end of some pretty lousy defensive play. Is Gavin’s performance simply unlucky? Was he cursed by bad luck / bad defense? Answer: Yes and No.

Yes, Gavin looks a little unlucky. I was surprised to see that the percentage of fly-balls he allowed to become home runs was so high in 2006: 20.9%, compared with 13.9% in 2005. So a few of those home runs are flukes.

However, Gavin has been the recipient of good defense this season. Ryan was unlucky because, despite reducing the number of line-drives he allowed by one-fifth, which ought to make things easier on the defense since three-quarters of lien drives fall for hits, the Phillies defense still declined about forty points. In contrast, Gavin has allowed many more line-drives in 2006: from 19.1% to 23.8%, and he seen his DER drop from .709 to .691. That drop is largely due to Gavin allowing so many line-drives off the bats of opposing hitters. That .691 DER is much better than the team average of .678, and Gavin’s nearly 24% is much higher than the team’s 20% line-drive rate.

So do I think Gavin Floyd is a lost cause? No. I think he’ll contribute to the team in 2007, but I wonder if he’ll crack into the rotation, which will likely be made up of Brett Myers, Jon Lieber, Cole Hamels, possibly Randy Wolf and probably Ryan Madson. Is there any room for Gavin? We’ll have to see.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Ryan Madson Reclamation Project 

I feel a great deal of pity for Ryan Madson. Once beloved by bloggers for his skill as a middle reliever, Madson had wanted to break into the rotation and become a starting pitcher. After all, that is where the glory really lies, not in middle relief. Unfortunately, Madson’s move into the bullpen was a total fiasco. So much so that he was moved back to the bullpen before returning to the rotation due to injuries and Gavin Floyd’s demotion. Like Icarus, who tried to fly too high and burned his wings, falling to earth, Madson has fallen to earth. No longer the beloved darling of the blogging community, now you have to ask if Madson will live up to his promise and be a pitcher for the Phillies in 2007 and beyond.

First a few stats to gaze over:

Madson: 2006
HR/9: 1.68
BB/9: 3.72
K/9: 6.11
FIP: 5.60
ERA: 6.02
WHIP: 1.73

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
WHIP – Walks plus hits by innings pitched: (BB + H) / IP = WHIP
ERA – Earned Run Average: (Earned Runs * 9) / IP = ERA
FIP – Fielding Independent Pitching: (13*HR+3*BB-2*K / IP) + League Factor Evaluates a pitching by how he would have done with an average defense behind him by keeping track of things that a pitcher can control (walks, strikeouts, home runs allowed) as opposed to things he cannot (hits allowed, runs allowed).
DER – Defense Efficiency Ratio: (Batters Faced – (Hits + Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) / (Batters Faced – (Home Runs, Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) How often fielders convert balls put into play into outs.
G/F – Groundball-to-Flyball ratio.
Hr/9 – Home Runs allowed per nine innings: (HR * 9) / IP
K/9 – Strikeouts per nine innings: (K * 9) / IP
BB/9 – Walks per nine innings: (BB * 9) / IP

Now compare that with 2005:

HR/9: 1.14
BB/9: 2.59
K/9: 8.17
FIP: 3.67
ERA: 4.14
WHIP: 1.25

And compare that with 2004, the first time bloggers took notice of Ryan:

HR/9: 0.70
BB/9: 2.22
K/9: 6.43
FIP: 3.31
ERA: 2.34
WHIP: 1.14

It has all been pretty bad. I think I have one simple stat that describes the problem:

Games Started / Relief Appearances:

2004: 1 / 51
2005: 0 / 78
2006: 17 / 6

Kind of get a feel for where I am going with this? And remember that Ryan’s sole start prior to 2006 was his disastrous start in 2004 against the White Sox, where he lasted two-thirds of an inning, surrendering three home runs and six runs on six hits and a walk. Simply put, the Phillies decision to move Ryan to the rotation seemed to make sense – why keep a strong pitcher like Ryan off the mound until the seventh or eighth inning, when you can bring him aboard in the first and benefit from his skills.

And prior to the 2006 campaign, Ryan was one of the Phillies best pitchers. His FIP ERA, the stat you measure how a player does with a neutral defense, identified him as a strong pitcher. He did things well, amassing a three-to-one strikeout to walk ratio, and he was pretty tight with the home runs. His 2004-2005 HR/9 is 0.93, which is pretty good for playing at Citizens Bank Ballpark. Matched along with Jon Lieber and Cory Lidle, two other ground-ball tossing pitchers, I had high hopes for Ryan when he beat out Ryan Franklin for the last spot in the Phillies rotation.

But things haven’t worked out that way. He’s surrendering home runs and extra-base hits at a proidigious pace. Check out the opposition’s slugging percentage against:

2004: .336
2005: .426
2006: .536

A one hundred point increase each season, roughly. What makes Ryan’s ’06 slide so miserable is that he isn’t controlling his own destiny. Ryan’s K/BB ratio has slipped to 1.64-to-1. Once a pitcher who got a lot of outs by throwing groundball outs, Ryan has slipped:

2004: 1.94
2005: 1.57
2006: 1.19

Being an increasingly flyball-oriented pitcher at Citizens Bank Ballpark is a dangerous occupation. Just ask Gavin Floyd (see tomorrow’s post). That vulnerability is showing in his home / road stats:

Home / Away
HR/9: 1.79 / 1.58
BB/9: 4.11 / 3.33
K/9: 6.26 / 5.96

So can Ryan’s career be rescued? Brought back from the near-dead? I say yes. As long as Ryan is moved back to the ‘pen for 2007, I think he’ll regain his 2004-2005 form and be a terrific pitcher once more. For whatever reason the long haul of a start doesn’t agree with Ryan. Getting him back to the bullpen where he’d pitch one or two innings a game will suit him better. And I think that he’ll benefit from improved defense. Consider, the Phillies aren’t playing good defense behind Ryan:

2004: .727
2005: .701
2006: .659

Initially, remembering my good friend Tom’s arguments about line-drives and their effect on DER, I had wondered if Ryan was to blame for his demise on defense. Then I discovered that Ryan’s line-drives allowed had actually decreased in 2006, from 25.3% to 20.3%. Given the three-quarters of line drives fall for hits, this means that a pitcher surrendering line drives shoots himself in the foot by handicapping his defense. Not the case here: Ryan is giving the defense more to work with and yet he’s still being served with shoddy glove work. Improved defense, especially in the outfield (I am talking about you, Aaron Rowand), will help that in 2007.

Good luck, Ryan. I am rooting for you.

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Monday, August 07, 2006

New Faces: Ruiz, Roberson & Coste 

The Phillies roster was pretty static and unchanging from 2003 to 2006, consisting of pretty much the same core of players (Abreu, Burrell, Thome, Polanco, Bell, etc). With the Phillies Bell/Abreu/Lidle/Cormier/Fasano fire sale, times are a-changing. Pat Gillick made significant changes to the Phillies bench prior to the beginning of 2006, and I suspect there are going to be many, many changes to the Phillies roster in the not-so-distant future. We’ll see new starters at third and in right in 2007, and probably at catcher as well. In addition we’ll probably see a little more of minor league call-ups like Carlos Ruiz, Chris Roberson and Chris Coste. Because we’ll be seeing a lot of these three players on the Phillies playoff run, I thought it might be worth profiling them each.

Carlos Ruiz. Catcher.

I’d expect to see Carlos Ruiz up with the Phillies in 2007, either backing up Mike Lieberthal or backing up whomever replaces him as the Phillies prime catcher. I really like what I’ve seen from Ruiz. Let’s look at his stats from the Red Barons:

OBP: .397
GPA: .307
ISO: .193
Base Runs: 49.36
BsR/27 Outs: 7.05

Here are Carlos’ 2005 stats as well:

OBP: .354
GPA: .274
ISO: .158
BsR: 52.81
BsR/27: 5.75

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)
Base Runs: BsR are a stat developed by Dave Smyth that estimate how many runs a player contributes to a team’s offense. The formula is simple:

A: H + BB + HBP – HR
B: (.8 * 1B) + (2.1 * 2B) + (3.4 * 3B) + (1.8 * HR) + (.1 * (BB + HBP))
C: (AB – H)

Then: (B / (B+C)), then * A, then + D

(I’m using Base Runs instead of my usual Runs Created b/c I don’t have access to the usual stats to tabulate RC. I prefer RC b/c it is a little more accurate than BsRs, in my opinion.)

Anyway, what has impressed me about Carlos’ minor league stats have been his bat control. His OBP is running about ninety points ahead of his batting average. He got 34 walks in just 74 games, and his walk-to-strikeout ratio is pretty good: 0.83 (34 walks vs. 41 strikeouts). Ruiz has displayed good bat control and looks like he’ll be a solid hitter in the majors. These are things that you like to see from a player trying to make his way into the majors.

His power numbers are so-so: I suspect that his +.500 slugging percentage will be trimmed about eighty or so points when he gets into the majors. In short, I don’t think Ruiz is going to be batting cleanup for the Phillies, but I do think that he’s got good minor league numbers. Here is how he’s done thus far in the majors:

OBP: .234
GPA: .174
ISO: .068
BsR: 2.94
BsR/27: 2.26

I list all of that with the caveat that poor Carlos has only had 44 MLB at-bats. I think he’ll improve next season as Lieberthal’s backup.

Chris Roberson. Outfielder.

I’ve seen a little of Roberson this season, but mostly I’ve seen him as a pinch runner. Here is what Chris did with the Red Barons in 2006:

OBP: .350
GPA: .249
ISO: .074
BsR: 34.35
BsR/27: 4.43

Compared to Ruiz I am less impressed by Roberson. Roberson’s problem is going to be getting on base. Simply put, he’s not very good at drawing walks: 23 walks in 73 games. His OBP is just 57 points higher than his batting average, which isn’t such good news. His walk-to-strikeout ratio isn’t so hot either: 0.40 …

Roberson’s asset is speed. In 73 games he hit 66 singles and drew 23 walks, so 89 times he was in optimum position to go from first to second on a steal, the classic base-stealing scenario. He also hit 14 doubles. In those roughly 103 base-stealing opportunities (counting the 14 doubles), Roberson took off 34 times and was successful 25 times. That isn’t bad at all. In fact, Roberson led the Red Barons in steals over second baseman Joe Thurston (17), despite being on base 34 fewer times.

Thus far Chris hasn’t had much of an opportunity to show off his skills: he’s had just 21 plate appearances, gotten three hits and struck out three times. In none of his appearances on base has he attempted to steal a base. (Chris has appeared as a pinch runner, but I don’t know how many times, so I suspect he has many more than three times on base.) Can Roberson make it in the majors? I am skeptical. That inability to draw walks he showed in the minors suggests to me that he’ll have a tough time getting on base in the first place. I’m surprised that he’s in the majors at all: he only played AAA ball this season. We’ll see if he develops and becomes an all-around player, but I look at him and I think: reserve outfielder who will play a season or two and then vanish.

Chris Coste. Catcher / Infielder.

Geez, Chris Coste has a great story, doesn’t he? 33, finally made a big league team’s roster after hanging out in Scranton in 2005 and playing well in spring training. To my surprise, he’s playing very well:

AB: 80
Hits: 30
2B: 5
HR: 4
OBP: .419
GPA: .336
ISO: .231
BsR: 11.90
BsR/27: 6.42

He’s only drawn three walks, which I see as a problem, but I’d say that he’s played pretty darn well. I am surprised because I didn’t expect him to have the sort of success he’s been experiencing.

Here is how Coste did the the Red Barons in 2005 & 2006:

2005 / 2006
OBP: .351 / .236
GPA: .274 / .174
ISO: .174 / .095
BsR: 75.95 / 9.25
BsR/27: 5.67 / 2.05

He was actually having a very poor 2006 campaign when he was called up to the Phillies, so his success thus far this season is a major surprise to me. Coste doesn’t display the same bat control that Ruiz does, so again I am skeptical about his long-term viability as a major-leaguer, but he’s certainly making it a difficult argument to keep him in Scranton. Despite his age, I think he’s made a case for becoming the Phillies backup infielder / pinch hitter / emergency catcher in 2007. He’s delivered some clutch hits and appears to be playing with more confidence that you’d expect. I’m very curious to see if he can keep going.

Conclusions: Ruiz, Roberson and Coste are going to play an important role in this march towards the post-season. If the three of them can keep contributing in their assigned roles – Roberson as a pinch runner, Ruiz and Coste as pinch hitters – I think the three of them can contribute to the team and make an argument that they ought to be included in the Phillies 2007 plans. Keep up the good work, fellas. I’m rooting for you.

Thoughts on the Mets series ... well, at least the Phillies won a game. They would have won two had Jon Lieber not botched that throw to first in the Phils 4-3 loss saturday. (Oh, and Tim McCarver, when Mets fans booed Chase Utley what were you smoking when you said they were boos "of respect"? Maybe Mets fans are just being jerks?)

Anyway, now the Phils are 3.5 out of the wildcard. Tonight, the Braves. It has been a long road trip for the Phillies, but they need to buckle down and bury these guys. Atlanta is just two games back of the Phillies. They need to put some space between them and start concentrating on the Reds & D-backs.

More tomorrow.

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