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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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Farm Report, Part VI: Scranton Red Barons 

We come to the end … As I noted in Part I last Monday, the Phillies broke their affiliation with the Scranton Red Barons and moved their Triple-A team to beautiful Ottawa, where they will be called the Lynx for 2007 before moving to the Lehigh Valley to become the Iron Pigs in 2008. I can’t say I am much for the name, but I do see the benefit of having the Phillies most important affiliate close to the big team.

It was a good season for the Scranton Red Barons: they went 84-58 in the International League (IL), but were defeated in the playoffs. Like the Muckdogs and Blue Claws, the Red Barons led their league in ERA, an impressive feat for teams in the Phillies system: three of their six teams led their league in ERA. Oh, and the Phillies minor league teams ranked eighth in baseball in winning percentage.

The Red Barons team ERA was 3.28, much better than the 3.80 league ERA. The quality of the fielding behind the Red Barons hurlers is a factor here: the Red Barons were second in the IL in fielding percentage and when you convert the Red Barons home runs, walks and strikeouts into a Fielding Independent Pitching ERA (FIP), the Red Barons ERA rises to 3.69.

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).
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
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.

However the Red Barons pitchers did pitch extremely well:

IL / Red Barons
HR/9: 0.76 / 0.68
BB/9: 3.17 / 2.83
K/9: 6.94 / 6.46

They were much, much better than the league average in allowing home runs and in preventing walks, though a little behind the curve in getting strikeouts. What is interesting to me is that so few of the Phillies top prospects even threw innings with the Red Barons in 2006: Scott Mathieson threw 34, Cole Hamels threw 23, and J.A. Happ threw six.

The Red Barons leading pitcher by innings was Eude Brito, who went 1-2 with a 7.36 ERA with the Phillies in 2006, but who went a respectable 10-8 with a 3.17 ERA with the Red Barons. The Red Barons best pitcher, however, was Brian Mazone, who went 13-3 with a 2.03 ERA. Mazone’s strikeout numbers weren’t great (5.96 K/9), but he was tough with the walks (2.52 BB/9), and he was extraordinarily difficult to get a home run off of: 0.42 HR/9.

Meanwhile, the Red Barons position players didn’t fare so well. Despite having players like Carlos Ruiz, Chris Coste, Michael Bourn, Chris Roberson and Danny Sandoval, all players who got time with the Phillies, and in the cases of Ruiz and Coste, played big parts in the Phillies run to the playoffs, the Red Barons ranked twelfth in the IL in runs scored out of fourteen teams. They didn’t steal many bases (a surprise given that Roberson and Bourn have speed to burn), they didn’t get on base particularly well (twelfth in OBP) and they didn’t have much power (ninth in slugging percentage). Ruiz was the Phillies power hitter, clubbing sixteen home runs and twenty-five doubles.

Interestingly, Coste actually played very badly in his 39 games with the Red Barons, hitting a .174 GPA with a .095 ISO.

It will be interesting to see what Michael Bourn will do in 2006, if he should remain in Triple-A for 2007. The speedster stole fifteen of the sixteen bases he attempted in 2006, impressive given that he only had thirty-five singles or doubles and twenty walks. Bourn could rack up 100+ steals in 2007 if he plays anything like a full season with the Lynx, but my gut tells me that Chris Roberson will be playing outfield for the Lynx while Bourn will be the Phillies fifth outfielder this summer.

In the final analysis, my view is that the Phillies have a very strong minor league system that is, especially when looking at the pitching end of things, developing a lot of prospect that will one day wear the red pinstripes. The development of the Phillies minor league system is a great, under-appreciated story: so many of the Phillies top draft picks are important members of the team today, like Chase Utley and Pat Burrell, and so many players are on their way to give the Phillies an opportunity to compete now and into the future. I'll keep tabs on the Minors as the season progresses and let everyone know how the players we've discussed are doing.

Tomorrow, Rod Barajas: Better or Worse than Sal Fasano?

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