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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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Friday, December 08, 2006

Goodbye Gavin.... 

The big news at the moment (and I am about a day later on reporting on it) is the Phillies decision to deal Gavin Floyd and a player to be named later (a.k.a. Gio Gonzalez) in exchange for the White Sox Freddy Garcia. I generally like the deal for a couple of reasons:

-Gavin Floyd’s career as a Phillies was basically done. No amount of minor league reclamation was going to erase the stain of Gavin’s 2005 and 2006 campaigns. He really struggled in the minors in 2005, posting a 6.16 ERA with the Red Barons, numbers that ought to have been a sign to the Phillies that their prized prospect needed more time to regain his touch rather than being tossed back into the rotation as he was in '06. Gavin did better with the Red Barons in 2006, lowering his ERA to 4.23 and posting respectable stats (0.70 HR/9; 2.97 BB/9; 6.65 K/9), but I suspect there was just too much bad karma there. Time for Gavin to go.

-Unfortunately the Phillies also had to part with Gio Gonzalez, a talented lefty who played with the Reading Phillies in 2006. Gonzalez struggled a little (7-12, 4.66 ERA), but has some good stuff. His loss is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the Phillies have a stable of young arms who pitched at Single-A Lakewood in 2006 and are poised to advance to Clearwater and Reading next season. With Floyd unlikely to return to his old form and the good talent coming up through the system (and no gaurantee Gonzalez would make it to the majors anyway), both decisions make sense. So all the Phillies did was surrender a prospect and a reclamation project. What did they get?

-I think Freddy Garcia has some talents that will come in useful with the Phillies in 2007: for one, he doesn’t issue many walks (2.00 BB/9). Not a big strikeout artist (5.61 K/9), but he does have a very healthy 2.81 K/BB ratio. Meanwhile, he does allow a decent number of home runs (1.33 HR/9), which is troubling for a pitcher about to work Citizens Bank Ballpark. As Garcia's ERA spiked to 4.65, you’d be hard-pressed to say that 2006 was a good campaign for him, but he can do better and has. I think that Garcia will fit in well in the Phillies rotation and strengthen the unit.

-Apparently the White Sox talked to the Phillies about dealing Aaron Rowand as part of the Garcia deal. I wonder what the stumbling block was to the deal: were the Phillies utterly opposed to such a move? Is Aaron Rowand still on the block?

-Bringing in Garcia makes one pitcher in the Phillies rotation expendable, and it isn't Brett Myers, Cole Hamels or Jamie Moyer. Jon Lieber is now on the block, which makes a lot of sense: he's struggled as a Phillie and this is his walk year. Better to deal him now. I suspect that he'll be bound for either New York to play for the Yankees or possibly to the Brewers as part of a multi-player deal. I guess we'll see.

-Look for the Phillies to sign pitcher Octavio Dotel soon to round out their bullpen.

-Apparently the Dodgers signed Jason Schmidt and Luis Gonzalez to the team, completing a rotation that includes Brad Penny, Randy Wolf and Derek Lowe. They also added a veteran with a big upside. I’d have to say that the Dodgers are a better bet to dominate the N.L. next season than the Mets.

-Barry Zito will be a Met. He’s a flyball pitcher, so Ryan Howard ought to be very happy.

More on Monday.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Focus on Shane Victorino 

With the free agency period winding down and the Phillies impact in the market basically over – the Phillies aren’t in the mix for Barry Bonds or Barry Zito – the Phillies are basically set for their position players in 2007. In failing to sign Alfonso Soriano or Carlos Lee, and in failing to move Pat Burrell, the Phillies are left with a fairly static outfield situation. They will basically go into the 2007 season with an outfield rotation of Pat Burrell in left, Aaron Rowand in center, Shane Victorino in right, and with Jeff Conine and Chris Roberson on the bench and occasionally filling in.

Last season Shane Victorino got to play a lot. Coming into the ’06 campaign with just seventy At-Bats under his belt (17 with the Phillies in ’05, and 73 with the Padres in ’03), Victorino had 415 in 2006 and appeared as a pinch-hitter or outfielder in 153 games. To give you an idea about his versatility:

Games …
Right Fielder: 21
Left Fielder: 44
Center Fielder: 67
Pinch Hitter: 41
Pinch Runner: 8

With Bobby Abreu gone, with no major free agent having been signed, with Pat Burrell likely to miss stretches of the ’07 season, it seems that the Phillies will rely very, very, very heavily on Shane Victorino. He’ll play a full 162 games in ’07, and if he’s injured, the Phillies are in trouble.

Let’s take a quick look back at Victorino’s 2006 campaign …

… but first a quick detour into Shane’s minor league stats. I am looking at them because there is precious little data to examine with respect to Shane’s MLB career prior to last season. Shane played with the Scranton Wilkes Barre Red Barons in 2005, playing along side such players as Ryan Howard, Chris Coste, and Carlos Ruiz. Shane played well with the Red Barons, hitting .303 GPA with a .224 ISO. Shane legged out an impressive sixteen triples with the Red Barons, and stole 17 bases in 26 tries (65%), showing some speed and a little power with eighteen home runs.

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.
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, however. 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.
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.
Fielding Percentage: (Putouts + Assists) / (Putouts + Assists + Errors). How often the player successfully handled the ball.
Range Factor: (Putouts + Assists) * 9 / IP. Essentially measures how much a player is involved in defensive plays.

Elevated to the Phillies to be the fourth outfielder with the departure of Jason Michaels, Victorino stepped into the starting role of center field with the injury to Aaron Rowand, filled in whenever Pat Burrell was injured, and played right field after Bobby Abreu departed. A jack of all trades in the outfield, he was a strong defensive performer. Let’s start by showing you where he played and what percentage of innings he played:

Innings / % of Team Innings
Center Field: 557 / 38%
Right Field: 156 / 11%
Center Field: 101 / 7%
Total: 814 / 56%

How strong a defensive player was Shane? Let’s start by comparing him to Aaron Rowand:

Innings / Putouts / Assists
Rowand: 901 / 251 / 6
Victorino: 557 / 161 / 6

Victorino made more putouts per inning played and remarkably had the same number of assists despite playing 344 fewer innings.

Range Factor / Fielding Percentage
Rowand:
2.57 / .981
Victorino: 2.69 / 1.000

Shane made no errors to Rowand’s five. Shane bettered the league averages in those stats as well (2.58 and .998).

Shane played fewer innings in right and left, but at both he bested the team and league averages for Fielding Percentage and Range Factor:

Range Factor:
Right Field / Left Field

Victorino: 2.37 / 2.14
Phillies: 1.95 / 1.92
N.L.: 2.11 / 1.97

Interestingly, in 814 innings of work Shane Victorino made not a single error. His fielding percentage stats are pristine: 1.000%

Shane has an impressive arm as well: in 846 innings in right field, Bobby Abreu had five assists. In 690 fewer innings, Shane had three. Right field is where teams test a player’s arm, so for Shane to log so many assists it must mean that teams tested his arm and lost several times. I’d be curious to see if The Fielding Bible 2007 stats indicate that Shane had success in holding runners on base.

Offensively, Victorino was less strong. As a Phillie he hit just six home runs, a major power drain for an offense largely predicated by the long-ball. He showed some speed on the base-paths, with eight triples. His base-stealing wasn’t as productive as hoped: four steals in seven tries (57%). He’s got good speed, but not great speed. I don’t see the Phillies expanding their running game in 2007 to incorporate Shane.

At the plate, Victorino had a .259 GPA and .127 ISO, far off the Phillies team averages of .268 and .180. Victorino was only slightly better than the league average for GPA (.257) and still significantly worse than the league ISO (.163). As with Aaron Rowand, the problem with Shane Victorino isn’t that difficult to figure out: he doesn’t work counts, and thus he doesn’t draw walks, and thus he isn’t a consistent threat to get on base for the Phillies. Again, scope out pitches per plate appearance:

Bobby Abreu: 4.5
Pat Burrell: 4.3
Ryan Howard: 4.1
Chase Utley: 4.0
David Dellucci: 4.0
Chris Coste: 3.8
Abraham Nunez: 3.8
David Bell: 3.7
Jimmy Rollins: 3.7
Sal Fasano: 3.6
Carlos Ruiz: 3.5
Jeff Conine: 3.4
Shane Victorino: 3.4
Aaron Rowand: 3.4
Mike Lieberthal: 3.2

No surprise that the Phillies most productive players are at the top of the list, and that the Phillies problems are at the bottom. Certainly, when you compare negatively to Sal Fasano, you are doing something wrong.

The problem (and I know people reading this who read my comments about Aaron Rowand on Monday are probably thinking “change the record!”) is that when a player doesn’t work counts they become an inconsistent threat to get on base because they can go on a cold streak hitting-wise as easily as they can go on a hot streak. Interestingly, Shane probably had a little more success in 2006 then he ought to count on for the future:

Shane’s batting average with balls put into play BA/BIP was .318, better than the league average (.301) and better than the Phillies team average (.305). So was Shane lucky? I suspect that he was slightly, so his ’06 performance might, if not be a career best, it might be better than we ought to expect from Shane, unless he manages to learn to work counts and draw walks.

I like Victorino a lot: his defensive skills are considerable and he's got the tools to be a good offensive player if he just learned to draw more walks. I am happy he's poised to be a big part of the Phillies plans in 2007, because I think he's a real asset to the team. Tomorrow I'll wrap up a quick summary on recent events such as the Phillies decision to deal Gavin Floyd and the recent signings in the free agency market.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Garry Maddox' Glove 

Seventy percent of the Earth is covered by water. The other thirty percent is covered by Garry Maddox. (The Bill James Historical Abstract at 760.)

The above is generally a statement attributed to Ralph Kiner, the great major leaguer who played for the Pirates in his announcing days.

The other day I mentioned wanting to delve a little more into the past history of the Phillies and I talked recently about Johnny Callison’s arm and how dangerous an outfielder he was defensively for the Phillies. Today I want to talk about Garry Maddox and what his exceptional fielding skills meant for the 1970’s and 1980’s Phillies.

As I did my series on the Wiz Kids it occurred to me that most people who root for the Phillies never got to see Richie Ashburn in the outfield or to see Robin Roberts pitch, but many saw Johnny Callison play. I’d say that a fair number – if not a majority – of my readers saw Garry Maddox play and remember what a big and important part of those Phillies teams in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s Garry was. Garry Maddox was a standout fielder, in addition to being a good hitter, and helped the championship Phillies achieve their promise and fulfill their destiny to win the World Series. Maddox actually ranks at #56 in Bill James Historical Abstract for center fielders, so he has gotten his due.

At the age of 22 he broke in with the San Francisco Giants in 1972, logging 96 of his 121 games played as the Giants center fielder on a team that boasted a declining Willie Mays, Bobby Bonds and Willie McCovey. Future teammate Garry Matthews, the 1973 Rookie of the Year, played with Maddox.

Maddox played the next two seasons with the Giants, moving full-time into center field and posting very good numbers for them. In 1973 Maddox finished second in the National League in putouts to the Braves Dusty Baker, recording just twenty fewer put outs because he played sixteen fewer games. Maddox also played well in 1974 but struggled at the start of the 1975 campaign with the Giants. The Giants shipped him to the Phillies and Maddox immediately responded with a solid season, winning the Gold Glove in center field, the first of eight he would win.

From 1975 to 1982 Garry Maddox would win the Gold Glove each and every season. He was generally acknowledged to be fast with a terrific arm. Teams did not want to challenge him. In 1975 and 1976 he led the National League in Assists with thirteen and ten respectively. Maddox also led the N.L. in putouts in ’76 and ’78.

We’ll look at Range Factor first to give you a general overview of what Maddox was doing during those eight seasons:

Maddox / League Average
1975: 3.07 / 2.01
1976: 3.13 / 2.03
1977: 2.83 / 1.93
1978: 2.93 / 1.94
1979: 3.19 / 2.00
1980: 2.88 / 1.98
1981: 2.76 / 2.02
1982: 2.35 / 1.91

Range Factor: (Putouts + Assists) * 9 / IP. Essentially measures how much a player is involved in defensive plays.

It is a remarkable run of defensive dominance on Maddox part: consistently he was a play better than the rest of the league in Range Factor.

Let’s take a closer look at his season in 1976, which I believe was his best:
Putouts: 441
Assists: 10
Errors: 5
Fielding Percentage: .989
Range Factor: 3.13

Maddox led the N.L. in putouts by a margin of 55, despite playing just 144 games that season. Maddox also led the N.L. in Range Factor, posting a 3.13. Aside from future teammate Bake McBride, who posted a 3.12 playing just 66 games for the St. Louis Cardinals, nobody exceeded a 3.00. Maddox was a player whose range was tremendous: in a 2-1 victory over the Mets in Shea Stadium on July 31, 1976, Maddox recorded nine putouts in a nine inning game, an exceptional feat. Of the twenty-eight balls the Mets put into play that day against Jim Kaat, twenty-three were outs and Maddox got to nine.

Here is how many putouts Maddox recorded in those Gold Glove seasons:
Putouts:
1975:
325
1976: 441 (led N.L.)
1977: 383 (fourth in N.L)
1978: 444 (led N.L.)
1979: 433 (second in N.L.)
1980: 405 (third in N.L.)
1981: 251 (fifth in N.L.)
1982: 253

Maddox missed a lot of playing time and never played a full 162 games with the Phillies. In 1978 he played 154 games, a career-high, but never approached 162, usually playing about 140 games or so. Undoubtedly the lack of playing time prevented him from recording more put outs. In 1977 Dave Parker recorded 389 putouts, five more than Maddox in twenty more games. In 1979 Maddox played twenty-two fewer games than the Pirates Omar Moreno, who recorded 490 put outs. Could Maddox closed the gap of 57 putouts that separated him from Moreno in ’79 if he played 162 games? Maybe. It is worth noting that Maddox’s Range Factor of 3.19 was better than Moreno’s 3.09.

Maddox, had he played a full 162 games (or even just playing closer to 155 or so) would have almost certainly led the N.L. in put outs in 1977 and probably 1979 as well. It would have been a remarkable achievement, worthy of comparison to Richie Ashburn leading the N.L. in put outs from 1949-1954 & 1956-1958.

Maddox’s effect on the team’s defense in the ‘70s was probably considerable, though the ‘70s Phillies never ranked at the top of the league in DER, the stat I usually consider. My take on it is that the 1970s Phillies were a good but not great defensive team that heavily relied on the skills of players like Maddox and Mike Schmidt to obscure the fact that the Phillies probably didn’t back their formidable pitching staff with much of a defense. Without Maddox, the Phillies .500 record in one-run games during this time period would have been much worse and they probably would have lost the N.L. East to the powerful Pittsburgh Pirates during this time period. The Inquirer's Bill Conlon gave Maddox his nick-name: the Secretary of Defense. Without Maddox, the Phillies pitchers would have been defense-less.

Unfortunately Maddox’s biggest gaffe was a defensive one: Game Four of the 1978 NLCS against the L.A. Dodgers. After dropping the first two games to the Dodgers at the Vet, a place they had gone 54-28 at in ’78, the Phillies battled back to win game three and force another game in the best-of-five series. Trailing 3-2, the Phillies tied the game in the seventh with a Bake McBride home run and went into extra-innings. With two outs in the tenth inning, Ron Cey drew a walk. Dusty Baker, now a Dodger, lofted a fly ball to Maddox for what should have been the third out of the inning. Maddox muffed it, allowing Cey to advance to second base. Bill Russell singled up the middle to score Cey from second and the Dodgers advanced to the World Series against the Yankees. The Phillies would have to wait two years to win the World Series.

It is a shame though that Maddox is remembered by some fans for that play: he was consistently the best center fielder in baseball during the late 1970s. He also drove in the winning run and made the final putout of the 1980 NLCS. Without Garry Maddox, the Phillies wouldn’t have been in the 1978 NLCS. Also, to Maddox’s credit he accepted full responsibility for the foible, something a player like T.O. might want to take notes on.

I’ll let Maddox’s teammate and friend Mike Schmidt sum up Maddox defensive career: “I’ve seen Garry Maddox do it all. In my estimation, he’s the best defensive center fielder ever to play the game. This may sound like a bold statement, but as his teammate for all of these years I’ll stick by it.” (The Bill James Historical Abstract at 760-761, quoting Mike Schmidt’s Always on the Offense.)

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Go East, Pat Gillick 

I was reflecting on the Boston Red Sox decision to spend $51 million dollars to gain the rights to negotiate with Japan’s Daisuke Matsuzaka recently. This whole off-season has had me shaking my head in disbelief at the money being thrown around. ($100 million for Carlos Lee?) The Red Sox decision to pony up $51 million just to get the right to speak with Matsuzaka nearly caused my head to explode. It was an insane decision, I felt, until you considered that the Red Sox had a unique opportunity to tap into the Japanese market and introduce Japanese kids to the Red Sox. Getting Matsuzaka isn’t just about getting a pitcher with tremendous potential. Signing Matsuzaka is about expanding the Red Sox beyond their regional and national following to give them an international presence in Japan and the Far East. Doing so would reap tremendous dividends in terms of money from merchandizing, to fans making the pilgrimage to Boston to watch their hero play, to giving the Red Sox a valuable pipeline into Japanese and other Far Eastern talent. The effect of signing Matsuzaka and having him pitch for the Red Sox could, if the Seattle Mariners decision to bring Ichiro Suzuki aboard in 2001 can be recalled, electric.

It occurred to me, as I pondered all of the fuss being made about the Red Sox and Matsuzaka, that the Phillies ought to steal a page from the Mariners and Red Sox and go East for talent.

Sadly, the Phillies history when it comes to racial issues is less than exemplary. Manager Ben Chapman was vigorous in assailing Jackie Robinson during his historic season in 1947. General Manager Herb Pennock and President Robert Carpenter built a young juggernaut out of the Wiz Kids in 1950,and then watched it collapse as racially integrated teams like the Dodgers and Giants raided the Negro Leagues, and the Phillies remained still. The lily-white Phillies collapsed and never competed again. In 1969 Curt Flood refused to be dealt to the Phillies rather than play for a team he saw as racist. The perception that the club’s management, an insular bunch, preferred white players to black ones because the core of the Phillies fan base consists of blue-collar white guys has dauntingly followed the club for years.

Pat Gillick, an outsider who spent the bulk of his career overseeing baseball teams in Toronto and Seattle, has helped me change my pessimism about the Phillies close-mindedness. I think the team’s decision to move white, blue-collar Jim Thome in favor of Ryan Howard was a testament to how far the team has come of late. Which is why I hope Gillick, who brought Ichiro Suzuki to the Mariners in 2001, will remember what a bring, shining success Ichiro was for Seattle and thinks about replicating that success.

The effect Ichiro had on the Mariners, a mildly successful franchise that had never really known success until the last decade or so, was electric. One observer to Ichiro’s first season said: “Japan had gone from a country that sporadically watched American baseball to one that watched the Seattle Mariners games with something approaching religious fervor …” (Meaning of Ichiro at 30.) The city of Seattle saw a 20% spike in hotel and airline reservations due almost exclusively to Ichiro from Japanese tourists coming to Seattle to watch their hero play. The Mariners made a killing off of TV and radio and merchandise. Spurred by Ichiro’s stunning play in ’01 – he won both the Rookie of the Year award and the MVP – the Mariners tied the all-time MLB record for wins in a season with 116. The financial windfall that the Mariners and Seattle realized in the early part of the decade is still having an effect on the team today.

Incidentially, for more on Ichiro and the effect of Japanese players in the MLB check out the excellant The Meaning of Ichiro by Robert Whitting.

I think the Philadelphia area would be fertile ground for Japanese / Far Eastern enthusiasm for Phillies baseball. Asian / Pacific Islanders account for roughly 4.2% of the Philadelphia Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) in the last census, not far off the national number of 4.3%. True, places like Seattle and San Francisco have much larger percentages of people of Asian descent (11% and 22% respectively), but for a city on the Eastern seaboard, Philadelphia has a fairly large number of people of Asian descent. Asian / Pacific Islanders are more likely to live in the Philly region than, say, Pittsburgh (1.3%). I also submit that the percentage of people immigrating to the Philadelphia region from the Far East is only growing. E.g., amongst those citizens born in another country, 38% of foreign-born Philadelphians are from the Pacific Rim, a much larger percentage than the national total of 27%, and a percentage much more comparable to Seattle (49%) or San Francisco (52%) than I expected. The opportunity to bring in tourists and have consumers buy Phillies products is certainly there. Japan is the world’s third-largest economy after the U.S. and China. Money can be made.

In addition to being active in attempting to raid Japanese baseball teams for talent, the Phillies ought to be far-sighted: Japan is not the only Pacific Rim nation that plays baseball. Taiwan and Korea have talented players, and – if the Phillies really want to be ahead of the curve – China has begun to develop baseball talent. Banned by the Cultural Revolution in 1969, Baseball has made a comeback in the last decade as China tries to build a baseball team capable of competing in the 2008 Olympics. The Chinese started a pro league in 2002, and have really begun to nurture talent. Although the Chinese fared badly in the World Baseball Classic (0-3, .185 Batting Average, 9.72 ERA), there is talent and determination there. A friend of mine went to China in the summer of 2005 and saw a Chinese baseball game and noted the extreme level of interest and the desire of the Chinese to bring players to the major leagues.

Imagine the impact if the Phillies sign the first Chinese baseball player. (Well, second, I think the Mariners signed a player or two in ’03 or ’04.)

What I am arguing for is a little imagination on the part of the Phillies brass with a potential payoff that could be tremendous.

Think of the opportunity to wash away the sad memories of racism that have plagued the team throughout history.

Think of the opportunity to close the talent gap with the Mets, our archrivals to the north, and to compete in inter-league play with the Yankees and Red Sox.

Think of the potential financial windfall.

Think of the potential to chart a bold new course in the history of the game by culling a place like China for talent.

Go East, Pat Gillick. Go East.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Why the Fate of the 2007 Season Rests in the Hands of This Man 

MEMO
TO: Aaron Rowand
FROM: A Phlogger
RE: 2007

The purpose of the this memorandum is to advise you of how important your play shall be for the Phillies 2007 season. Simply put – and not to put too big a burden on your shoulders – the Phillies will play as well as you play, so there are dificiences in your game that we believe you ought to remedy for the ’07 campaign.

Let me first start off by noting that you are a fan favorite. Philadelphia is increasingly a multiethnic, multicultural, cosmopolitan city, but the heart of its sports culture is the blue-collar everyman. Phillies fans thrive on the symbol of the tough guy driving for the ball as it falls in the gap, sliding hard into second base to break up the double play, etc. Why was Lenny Dykstra so loved? Why did Larry Bowa, for all of his detractors, have so many fans despite his lack of success as a manager? They were guys who stuck their necks out and fought hard.

Your toughness is without question. People love your gritty, blue-collar image and that made you an instant fan favorite. If you have a big season in ’07, you could really start to set yourself as an icon in this town, an heir to the great tradition of Phillies center fielders: Richie Ashburn, Garry Maddox, Lenny Dykstra … and now Aaron Rowand.

First off, you have to play better defense. The Fielding Bible, a document and methodology many in the sabremetrics community find persuasive and put a lot of stock in, rated your 2005 campaign very high, stated that you were the best defensive outfielder in ’05. Said The Fielding Bible: “[Rowand] shows excellent play in center utilizing great reads and good jumps. Rowand plays with reckless abandon … [Rowand] would run through a wall to make a play.” (Page 186) In addition to leading the MLB in plays with +30, The Fielding Bible also ranked you as one of the toughest outfielders to run on in ’05, allowing just .496 runners to advance, a little worse than Jim Edmonds (.410).

The hype from The Fielding Bible led many of us to assume that you’d be a Dyson vacuum cleaner in center for the Phils, hoovering in every ball that was hit into your area. Unfortunately we don’t have your plus / minus data for ’06, but we do know that you played much worse in ’06 than any other year. Consider your Zone Rating for center field for the last few seasons:

Zone Rating:
2003: .960*
2004: .921
2005: .939
2006: .857

* This was done in just 379 innings, your innings worked for the last three seasons have all been pretty similar: 1,019 in ’04, 1,368 in ’05, and 901 in ’06 …

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
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: (Putouts + Assists) * 9 / IP. Essentially measures how much a player is involved in defensive plays.
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)
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, however. 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.

It doesn’t feel, looking at the stats, that you played as well as you did in 2005. Sure, your Range Factor was roughly the same … okay, it was actually exactly 2.57 in 2005 and 2006, but you ran behind your career averages for Zone Rating in center (.922) and Range Factor in center (2.68). Perhaps a lingering injury limited your range?

The Phillies felt the effect of your struggles on the team defensive alignment: once one of the best defensive teams in the game, the Phillies were one of the worst in 2006. They utilized nearly the same personnel this season as in last, so I tend to think that the decline in team defense is, at least partially, attributable to your struggles. Regaining your ’05 form might jolt the Phillies defense and give the pitching staff a much-needed boost.

Offense is really something that we want to discuss here, however. You had a dream of a season in 2004, hitting 24 home runs and 38 doubles with 69 RBIs and 94 runs scored. Oh, and you stole seventeen bases in twenty-two tries. We sabremetrics guys were deeply impressed that you hit a .298 GPA, with a .234 ISO. There was real power to your swing and you were a big part of the White Sox offense that season. You also only grounded into five double plays that season.

In 2005 you fell back to earth offensively, with just 13 homers, and 17 fewer runs scored. (Same number of RBIs.) The sabremetrics community noticed some problems: a .250 GPA and a .137 ISO. Your power number declined ninety-seven points. Disturbingly, you grounded into seventeen double plays in 2005, twelve more than in ‘04. When you joined the Phillies we all assumed you’d return to your 2004 form.

You didn’t.

You hit 12 homers with 47 RBIs and 59 runs scored. True, you played fewer games and had fewer At-Bats than in ’05, but your overall pattern suggested that you were going to replicate your ’05 campaign: you hit a .251 GPA, with a .163 ISO. You also grounded into another thirteen double plays. The overall effect of your offensive decline is best demonstrated with your Runs Created per 27 Outs:

RC/27
2004: 6.88
2005: 4.53
2006: 3.97

2006 was not productive for you. Why?

First off, you were probably very lucky in 2004. Your batting average with balls put into play (BA/BIP) was .341, which was the eleventh-best in the league. The next season you declined to .319 and then to .297 in ’06. Maybe you were a little unlucky the last two seasons, or maybe you were just extraordinarily lucky in 2004. Maybe a little of both. Your .297 BA/BIP is roughly in line with the NL average of .301 in 2006, so I think you might want to shade towards “lucky in ’04” as the reason.

I think we might have detected a flaw in your game: you don’t take a lot of pitches. In 2006 you saw 3.4 pitches per plate appearance. The average NL player saw 3.76 in 2006, and the average Phillie saw 3.82. Working the count has a lot of advantages: drawing walks, fatiguing an opposing pitcher, forcing a better pitch. Of the 445 plate appearances you made in 2006, just 23 were with the count at 3-0 or 3-1, and you got on base 16 times in those instances. Working the count might help you draw more walks, which will make you a more consistent threat to get on base.

You are one of the worst Phillies at working counts and, not coincidentally, you are one of the worst at drawing walks.

Just look at the transition Pat Burrell made to his game: going from 4.03 and 4.09 pitches per plate appearance in 2001 and 2002, to 4.14 in 2003, the year he struggled; to 4.21, 4.27 and 4.32 the last three seasons. Each year Pat works the count a little more and becomes a better threat to draw a walk. Last season Pat was over four times as likely to draw a walk as you are: .173 BB/PA to your .041 BB/PA. That ability to draw walks allowed Pat to post a .388 OBP despite a shoddy .258 batting average.

The Phillies had the most potent offense in the N.L. in 2006, and we need to approach that level of production again in order to make a run on the N.L. East title once more. Simply put, we need you to improve. Aside from Wes Helms replacing Abraham Nunez at third, the Phillies are going to play ’07 with basically the same batting order that they played with in ’06. You will probably bat sixth or seventh, ahead of the Phillies catching duo of Chris Coste and Carlos Ruiz, and just behind the meat of the Phillies order, as well as Shane Victorino and Helms. The Phillies need you to help bridge the gap between the top of the order and the bottom, to make the Phillies a consistent threat to score, rather than leaving the team with a massive hole in the 7,8,9 slots where the Phillies have basically a zero percent chance of doing anything. Our advice: draw more walks, work the count and watch as good things happen. Regain your old form in center field. If you made yourself into a tougher out, and became that center field vacuum cleaner we all hoped you’d be, we’d all be happy. Meanwhile, keep up living up to that tough-guy personae we all love so much, and we will start mentioning you in the same breath as Maddox, as Ashburn, and as Dykstra.

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