Saturday, December 16, 2006
Pat Gillick will make this deal work.
Friday, December 15, 2006
The original Opening Day rotation was largely washed away during the regular season as Ryan Madson was sent to the bullpen, Gavin Floyd was demoted to the minors and Cory Lidle was dealt to the Yankees. Brett Myers missed some time thanks to his criminal case in Boston and Jon Lieber missed some time for injuries, so nobody on the Phillies Opening Day roster threw 200+ innings. (Myers threw 198.)
During the season the Phillies tried Scott Mathieson out as a starter, and he lasted eight games; they returned Ryan Madson to the rotation, and he lasted eleven starts before being banished back to the bullpen; they promoted highly touted rookie Cole Hamels from the minors, and he threw 132 & 2/3 innings after his May 12 debut; they also welcomed Randy Wolf back from Tommy John surgery, and he threw twelve starts after July 30; and they traded for Jamie Moyer, who threw 51 & 1/3 innings after August 22. Along the way the Phillies gave starts to Aaron Fultz, Eude Brito and Adam Bernero.
Lots of instability there. Here’s both the rotation started and ended:
Old Rotation: Start / Finish
Jon Lieber / Jon Lieber
Brett Myers / Brett Myers
Cory Lidle / Randy Wolf
Ryan Madson / Cole Hamels
Gavin Floyd / Jamie Moyer
With Randy Wolf an L.A. Dodger and Jon Lieber suddenly expendable, the Phillies rotation will look radically different on Opening Day 2007 than what it looked like 365 days ago. Here is what it will look like:
So is the Phillies rotation stronger? I think the answer clearly must be yes. Eaton and Garcia are going to be good for the Phillies (more on them Monday & Tuesday) and Cole Hamels is going to be a monster next season. Let’s take a look at Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer today, and then we’ll discuss Adam Eaton Monday and Freddy Garcia on Tuesday.
Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
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.
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
If Cole Hamels lives up to his potential he could rank right up there with Steve Carlton and Robin Roberts amongst the Phillies greatest pitchers. He’s that good. Initially I doubted all of the hype that surrounded him and predicted that he’d struggle in his first season, but he proved me wrong. Cole Hamels is the real deal. Oft-injured, Cole was finally healthy enough to emerge from the minors in 2006. Coming into the 2006 season he had pitched a combined 51 innings in 2004 and 2005. Cole threw just 49 innings for the Phillies minor league teams , facing just 184 batters, before joining the Phillies in May.
Cole Hamels finished the year with some nice stats:
Once you dive into the numbers though, you really get impressed. As I predicted, Cole struggled somewhat at the outset of his campaign with control, walking a fair number of batters (e.g., in his first start, against the powerful Cincinnati Reds lineup, Cole went five innings and surrendered just one hit while striking out seven Reds. The only blemish of the night was that Cole walked five of the 21 batters he faced). Over the course of the season Cole got his control and became a much deadlier pitcher. Scope out the differences between his May, June and July and his August and September:
May-June / August-Sept.
HR/9: 1.57 / 1.04
BB/9: 4.14 / 2.47
K/9: 9.86 / 9.86
The stat there that astonishes me are his strikeouts. From the get-go, Cole had unhittable stuff. Teams could only milk counts and try to draw walks. Cole got better than a strikeout an inning. But Cole became much stingier, much more difficult to get walks and much more difficult to hit home runs off of. As a consequence Cole’s ERA fell from 5.71 from May-June to 2.60 in August and September.
I don’t think, looking at Cole’s nearly identical strikeout rate, that he was lucky or that his performance was a fluke. He was exceedingly consistent and discovered a way to make himself more difficult to get a home run or walk off of without surrendering any of that blisteringly fast heat that he was throwing.
Cole is the team’s ace and almost certainly their Opening Day starter (and if he isn’t that is a disgrace). Cole is so good he will be a 20+ win, 3.00 ERA, 200+ innings, 200+ strikeout pitcher next season. I don’t think the Phillies have had such a dominant pitcher since Curt Schilling packed his bags for the Arizona desert. I think, if he stays healthy, Cole could be the best the Phillies have had since Steve Carlton.
Jamie Moyer is a little different. I really don’t think you even could have two pitchers any more dissimilar in terms of style than Moyer and Hamels. Acquired in August, Moyer has an impressive pedigree. The 2007 campaign will be his 22nd season in the major leagues. As Cole Hamels reminds me of Steve Carlton, the hard-throwing lefty who baffled hitters with his pitches, Moyer reminds me a little of Robin Roberts, the Phillies great whom I profiled in my Wiz Kids series. Roberts had a great fastball but was never a strikeout artist, instead controlling the game by inducing weak pop flys and refusing to surrender walks. Roberts always controlled the game without appearing to dominate it. Moyer seems to do the same thing, throwing lots of off-speed stuff, keeping the runners off the base-paths. Moyer’s career walks allowed is an impressive 2.54 BB/9, or 946 in 3,351 innings of work. His career home runs allowed are just 1.11 HR/9.
It is hard not to be impressed by his stuff. Teams that play behind Jamie Moyer tend to have good DERs, a fact that is probably a product of Moyer’s pitching style. Last year was a bad season for the Phillies defensively and yet the Phillies posted a .753 DER behind Jamie Moyer. The Mariners, a slightly better than average defensive team at .692 DER, posted a .710 behind Moyer. Whereas pitchers like Lieber and Lidle, the guys Hamels and Moyer are replacing in the rotation, threw lots of off-speed pitches and never had as much success controlling the game by inducing pop flies and groundballs, Jamie Moyer seems to have an exceptional ability to do that and succeeds. His stats aren’t great, but Jamie Moyer is that rare pitcher whom things like FIP or DIPS don’t accurately convey how good he is.
Monday and Tuesday I’ll talk a little about Eaton and Garcia, the Phillies newest pitchers.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Thank you Jim and Rich, I really appreciated the opportunity to be a part of your show!
I am going to stop right there. Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
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. 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. Divide Runs Created into Outs, multiply by 27.
I have a few thoughts on Pat ….
First off, I am biased: I have long been a champion of Pat Burrell. I like him, I have his jersey, I’d hate to see him go. That said, there is a major reason why I like to see Pat Burrell in a Phillies uniform. The Post-2003 Pat Burrell has been an important cog in the Phillies offense and the team would really struggle on offense, especially with Burrell backup David Dellucci wearing a Cleveland Indians uniform and with Carlos Lee and Alfonso Soriano, the Phillies two major free agent targets, wearing the Astros and Cubs unis. If the Phillies deal Burrell, they are left with an outfield consisting of Aaron Rowand, Shane Victorino, Michael Bourn and Jeff Conine. The four combined for 19 home runs in 1,025 plate appearances in 2006. Pat had 29 homers in 567 plate appearances in 2006.
Simply put, unless the Phillies bring aboard another power-hitting threat, the Phillies will leave Ryan Howard exposed in the Phillies lineup. Get past Rollins and Utley, and the Phillies have no real power threat after Ryan Howard. Ryan Howard’s 37 intentional walks in 2006 will be more like 60 or 70 in 2007.
As I mentioned above, Pat Burrell has really changed as a player since the 2003 campaign. For those who don’t recall, the Phillies final season at the Vet was a nightmare Pat Burrell would like to forget. After hitting 37 home runs with 116 RBIs in 2002, Pat was expected to team with Jim Thome and possibly hit 100 home runs together in ’03. Instead Pat hit just 21, struggled for most of the year to get his batting average above .200, and saw his Runs Created drop from 120 in '03 to 64 in '04.
Pat came back in 2004 and made adjustments to his game, struggling at some points in the season before finishing strong. His last two campaigns have been rather good:
Home Runs / RBIs / OBP
2005: 32 / 117 / .389
2006: 29 / 95 / .388
Here is how Runs Created per 27 outs, my preferred all-around stat, sees things:
Burrell’s ’02 campaign was extraordinary and not to be repeated. What impresses me was that he was able to bounce back from his struggles in '03 and regained his form. How did he do it? Already a fairly choosy player at the plate, Burrell worked hard on milking counts for all they are worth. Check out pitches per plate appearance:
Burrell actually ranked first in pitches per plate appearance in the N.L. last season and second in 2005 to teammate Bobby Abreu, who also had more in ’06 but narrowly failed to qualify thanks to his trade to the Yankees. Burrell ranked sixth in the N.L. in 2004 as well.
That ability to work counts led to more walks, which lead to more opportunities for the Phillies to score. From 2000-2003, Burrell’s walks per plate appearance (BB/PA) were an outstanding .124. From 2004-2006, they rose to an astronomical .155. His strikeout-to-walk ratio fell as well from 2.02 – 1.00 to 1.53 – 1.00.
Impressively, Burrell didn’t sacrifice power that much, rounding out his game to make himself a more complete player. His raw power at the plate, which took a hit in ’03 and ’04 (Pat rehabbed his batting eye and took an extra year to get the power back in his swing), came back in ’05 and ’06. Again, Pat probably won’t equal that career year he had in 2002, but he’s a major threat to go yard:
Pat’s .245 was second on the team to Ryan Howard’s .346. Pat was better than David Dellucci (.239), Chase Utley (.212), and Jimmy Rollins (.200), all fearsome hitters who pack a big punch in their swing.
So why do the Phillies seem intent on dealing Pat to the Orioles? For one, Pat makes a lot of money (eight figures in 2007), and has a no-trade clause that seems to be driving Pat Gillick wild. Pat also has long-term issues with his heel that might become bigger issues in the future. We have no idea what his defensive scores really were in 2006 on things like Plus / Minus or on keeping runners on base, but I will note that Pat did score near the bottom in most defensive categories in 2006, so he’s becoming a defensive liability.
But can the Phillies afford to deal him? I say no: he’s probably the only threat the Phillies have now to prevent teams from intentionally walking Ryan Howard. With Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley hitting ahead of Ryan Howard, there would be nobody to protect Ryan without Pat. Who could the Phillies bat fifth? Aaron Rowand? He had just 12 home runs and 47 RBIs in 2006 (4.22 RC/27). Rowand struck out 76 times and walked just 18 with just a .163 ISO. Shane Victorino has no power in his swing: he hit just six home runs in 2006 and had a .127 ISO. Batting Jeff Conine behind Ryan Howard was a total fiasco: he had just one home run and hit a .110 ISO.
Unless any deal with Pat involves the Phillies getting a power hitter in return (and the whole reason why the Orioles want Pat is that they need a powerful bat), the Phils would make a major, major mistake by shipping Burrell off to the Orioles or some other team. Teams would be foolish to actually throw Ryan Howard strikes when the Phillies would have no ability to make those teams pay.
Hey Pat Gillick: quit hating on Pat Burrell. The Phillies need him for 2007.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
-Thoughts on Pat Burrell and his status with the Phillies.
-A profile of Adam Eaton.
-A profile of Freddy Garcia.
I promise to greet one and all with a brand-new post tomorrow morning, but for now I am exhausted and too busy to think straight. I leave you today with a link to an interesting piece at The Hardball Times talking about Petco Park.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
-Toronto Blue Jays. Upgraded their offense with signing Frank Thomas. Best of all for the perennial third place finishers, the Red Sox and Yankees made no major moves, aside from the Yankees going back to the future by bringing Andy Petitte aboard. I think maybe the Blue Jays closed some of the talent gap.
-Detroit Tigers: No real defections and they brought aboard Gary Sheffield. Nice work.
-Los Angeles Dodgers: signed Randy Wolf, who could really do well in the spacious confines of Dodgers Stadium, got a good veteran catcher with Mike Lieberthal, re-signed Nomar, got Luis Gonzalez to a one-year deal and signed Jason Schmidt. Sure they lost J.D. Drew but the benefit was that Drew opted out of a deal that the Dodgers probably would have ultimately regretted in the long-run. Gonzalez is a low-risk, high-reward signing: if he plays well then it is money well-spent, if not then the Dodgers have committed to one season. Schmidt is the prize of the pack however, a terrific front-line starter to compliment Wolf, Brad Penny and Derek Lowe. If the Dodgers don’t have the best rotation in the N.L., I don’t know who does.
-The Phillies. Sure they lost out on Alfonso Soriano, but the Phillies did get a very, very inexpensive replacement for Abraham Nunez at third, plugging a big hole, and they upgraded the rotation by bringing two very tough, durable starters aboard. No major free agent defections. The team is definitely better off now.
-Oakland A’s: sure they’ve lost Barry Zito, but the team wasn’t even going to consider trying to resign him. Frank Thomas rehabbed his career and turned that into a big deal, so now the A’s will do the same with Mike Piazza. Low-risk, high-upside to bringing Piazza aboard.
-Houston Astros: They lost Andy Pettite. They likely lost Roger Clemens. And their big deal was signing Carlos Lee to a monster 6-year, $100 mil deal? That is insanity. When Astros fans watch Lee wheeze while striking out in 2010 and 2011 and 2012, they’ll remember this contract and rue the day.
-Boston Red Sox: fixated on the whole Matsuzaka thing, the Red Sox at the moment have spent $51 million bucks to talk with someone. That’s it. Sure, they brought aboard J.D. Drew, who is a decent player if a rotten personality, but they wildly overpaid to do it and now they need to figure out what in the heck to do with Manny Ramirez. For a team that made no major moves to stay in the ’06 pennant race, the Red Sox haven’t given their fans much to be enthusiastic about.
-Kansas City Royals: Gil Meche for five years and $55 mil? As Billy Beane noted in Moneyball, small market teams can’t be careless with their money the way big market teams can. This was pure carelessness. $11 mil a year for Meche? This is a deal that is going to badly hamper the Royals for years and years to come.
-San Francisco Giants: I wonder if the brass at Pac Bell Park will ever wake up and come to the realization that Barry Bonds is killing this team. The whole circus regarding Bonds assault on Hank Aaron and the steroids, his cancerous personality, his lousy play (he doesn’t bother with defense anymore and doesn’t really bother to do anything but hit home runs) is a major anchor on these guys. And they brought him back? Instead of taking the opportunity to move on and develop a new direction, they brought back the nightmare? This is subtraction by addition. When you add a negative number to zero, you get a negative integer.
Jury is still out …
-Chicago Cubs: They re-signed Kerry Wood to a fairly cheap one-year deal, they re-signed Ramirez to deal that was probably a little below market price, and they sign Alfonso Soriano and Mark DeRosa. If I am the Cubs I would have preferred to spend more on pitching, but c’est la vie. The Cubs have locked about $32 mil a season into the Ramirez / Soriano duo, so they had better produce, or the Cubs are going to be hurting for a long, long time to come.
Of course there are a lot of variables out there … Where will Barry Zito end up? The Mets? If so, then I’d categorize the Mets as a winner in this off-season. Are there any more trades? The Phillies seem poised to send Jon Lieber to the Pirates for relief pitching, so we’ll see who they get. Will Aaron Rowand be dealt? A major variable.
Tomorrow I have some thoughts on Pat Burrell.