### Tuesday, January 09, 2007

## New Defensive Metrics, Part II...

As I noted yesterday, a lot of the new data we have regarding 2006 fielding stats is shedding a lot of light on how the Phillies struggled defensively in 2006, just a year removed from a season where they were the strongest defensive team in baseball. The Phillies -33 Plus / Minus came a year after the team posted an astonishing +108, a swing of 141 plays against the ’06 squad.

I argued that the big blow to the quality of the Phillies defense seemed to be the decline in play for David Bell, Abraham Nunez and Ryan Howard, the Phillies corner infielders, whose play swung from +57 in 2005 to -17 in 2006, a swing of 74 plays alone. The Phillies middle infield was excellent again, posting a +32 a season after they posted a +50, a decline of just 18 plays.

So the decline in the Phillies infield play accounts for 92 of the 141 plays, so where do the last 49 come from? The Phillies outfield.

Over the last several years, while the Phillies have had sterling play from their infield defensively, the Phillies haven’t exactly been blessed with sparkling outfield play. For the last several years the Phillies outfield has consisted of Pat Burrell, a solid fielder with a good arm but bad range, and Bobby Abreu, a player who looked more like he was concentrating on what he planned to do when he came to bat in the next inning then someone who bothered to play attention to his fielding skills. Abreu and Burrell have been supplemented with a rotating crop of center fielders.

Even in a season (2005) where they lead the majors in plus / minus by a hefty margin, the Phillies had average outfield play. The Phillies 2005 outfield posted a +1, which ranked them seventh in the National League. Looking to bolster the weakest part of what had been a major strength for the team, the Phillies traded for Aaron Rowand, the center fielder who led all CFs in 2005 with a stunning +30 Plus / Minus. So with Rowand playing and with Abreu dealt, the Phillies improved on their ’05 +1, right?

Wrong, the Phillies fell to -48, a 49 play swing which placed them dead-last in the National League. (The only team worse than the Phillies in the majors in outfield plus / minus were the Boston Red Sox and their Manny Ramirez-induced -69.) Not that the Phillies had a great history to begin with, but the -48 was much worse than their recent past:

(N.L. Rank, of 16 teams)

Do we know how the individual players did? In yesterday’s post I was able to extrapolate what Ryan Howard did, but players like Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and David Bell all placed in the top ten for their positions, so we know, generally, how they did. We’ll have to wait until John Dewan published the Plus / Minus data in a revised Fielding Bible to know if I am correct in assuming that Abraham Nunez was a major drag on the Phillies defense in 2006.

Things are a little more complicated for the ’06 outfield because none of them did well. Nobody posted in the top ten of their position, and none of the Phillies posted in the top ten for the last three years, so we cannot extrapolate … save one player, Aaron Rowand.

As I noted, the Phillies traded from Rowand thinking that Rowand was going to be the missing piece of the puzzle. Rowand was nothing short of spectacular in 2005, earning the praise of

Was Rowand hampered by some sort of long-term, lingering injury that impacted his 2006 play? I hope so, because the Phillies did not get Aaron Rowand for his bat. They got him for his glove, and -4 isn’t going to cut it. Here are Rowand’s ’03 – ’06 stats:

But what about the rest of the team? Rowand was just -4. There is still another -44 out there. We can safely say that Burrell and Abreu were each probably in the negative range, perhaps even -15 or worse, but they couldn’t have been alone. Bobby Abreu only played 58% of the Phillies defensive innings. Burrell played 68% and was frequently removed for defensive purposes in favor of David Dellucci and Shane Victorino. Neither Burrell nor Abreu played well in 2006, though Burrell has profiled well in the past.

(The Gold Glove given to Abreu in 2005 is still the source of a lot of embarrassment for baseball, much the say way the Academy Awards still get flack for giving Marissa Tomei the Oscar for “My Cousin Vinny”.)

I am curious about Dellucci, a player who earned praise from John Dewan in

The Phillies did a so-so job holding base-runners in 2006, allowing .524 to advance, seventh in the N.L. This was a significant decline from the Phillies N.L.-leading .435 in 2005. That season Jason Michaels, who now plays for the Indians and posted a sterling +12 this season by the way, was baseball’s second-best center fielder in holding runners (.442), while Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell placed outside of the top ten. This is an area where I wonder what sort of an impact Shane Victorino and Rowand had in 2006.

The bottom-line is that the data clearly shows that the Phillies outfield played some lousy, atrocious baseball in 2006. This unit will have to improve and improve greatly in 2007 for the Phillies to make it into the playoffs. The picture that I painted in my Season in Review in November and the picture I saw emerge from the pages of

Tomorrow I’ll move a little away from the books and discuss what other systems like Dave Pinto’s Probablistic Model of Range (PMR) have to say about the Phillies defense in relation to Plus / Minus and the rest of it.

I argued that the big blow to the quality of the Phillies defense seemed to be the decline in play for David Bell, Abraham Nunez and Ryan Howard, the Phillies corner infielders, whose play swung from +57 in 2005 to -17 in 2006, a swing of 74 plays alone. The Phillies middle infield was excellent again, posting a +32 a season after they posted a +50, a decline of just 18 plays.

So the decline in the Phillies infield play accounts for 92 of the 141 plays, so where do the last 49 come from? The Phillies outfield.

Over the last several years, while the Phillies have had sterling play from their infield defensively, the Phillies haven’t exactly been blessed with sparkling outfield play. For the last several years the Phillies outfield has consisted of Pat Burrell, a solid fielder with a good arm but bad range, and Bobby Abreu, a player who looked more like he was concentrating on what he planned to do when he came to bat in the next inning then someone who bothered to play attention to his fielding skills. Abreu and Burrell have been supplemented with a rotating crop of center fielders.

Even in a season (2005) where they lead the majors in plus / minus by a hefty margin, the Phillies had average outfield play. The Phillies 2005 outfield posted a +1, which ranked them seventh in the National League. Looking to bolster the weakest part of what had been a major strength for the team, the Phillies traded for Aaron Rowand, the center fielder who led all CFs in 2005 with a stunning +30 Plus / Minus. So with Rowand playing and with Abreu dealt, the Phillies improved on their ’05 +1, right?

Wrong, the Phillies fell to -48, a 49 play swing which placed them dead-last in the National League. (The only team worse than the Phillies in the majors in outfield plus / minus were the Boston Red Sox and their Manny Ramirez-induced -69.) Not that the Phillies had a great history to begin with, but the -48 was much worse than their recent past:

(N.L. Rank, of 16 teams)

**2006:**-48 (16th)**2005:**+1 (7th)**2004:**-22 (11th)**2003:**+9 (4th)Do we know how the individual players did? In yesterday’s post I was able to extrapolate what Ryan Howard did, but players like Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and David Bell all placed in the top ten for their positions, so we know, generally, how they did. We’ll have to wait until John Dewan published the Plus / Minus data in a revised Fielding Bible to know if I am correct in assuming that Abraham Nunez was a major drag on the Phillies defense in 2006.

Things are a little more complicated for the ’06 outfield because none of them did well. Nobody posted in the top ten of their position, and none of the Phillies posted in the top ten for the last three years, so we cannot extrapolate … save one player, Aaron Rowand.

As I noted, the Phillies traded from Rowand thinking that Rowand was going to be the missing piece of the puzzle. Rowand was nothing short of spectacular in 2005, earning the praise of

*The Fielding Bible*, which said of him: “[Rowand] shows excellent play in center utilizing great reads and good jumps. Rowand plays with reckless abandon.” Rowand also ranked fourth in throwing, allowing just .496 runners to advance, a good percentage behind MLB leader Jim Edmonds at .410. Since Rowand appears in the ’04 – ’06 top ten at +31, we can extrapolate his plus / minus for ’06 by subtracting the +5 he had in ’04 and the +30 in ’05, which leaves us at -4.Was Rowand hampered by some sort of long-term, lingering injury that impacted his 2006 play? I hope so, because the Phillies did not get Aaron Rowand for his bat. They got him for his glove, and -4 isn’t going to cut it. Here are Rowand’s ’03 – ’06 stats:

*Aaron Rowand:***2003:**-1**2004:**+5**2005:**+30**2006:**-4**’03 – ’06:**+30But what about the rest of the team? Rowand was just -4. There is still another -44 out there. We can safely say that Burrell and Abreu were each probably in the negative range, perhaps even -15 or worse, but they couldn’t have been alone. Bobby Abreu only played 58% of the Phillies defensive innings. Burrell played 68% and was frequently removed for defensive purposes in favor of David Dellucci and Shane Victorino. Neither Burrell nor Abreu played well in 2006, though Burrell has profiled well in the past.

(The Gold Glove given to Abreu in 2005 is still the source of a lot of embarrassment for baseball, much the say way the Academy Awards still get flack for giving Marissa Tomei the Oscar for “My Cousin Vinny”.)

I am curious about Dellucci, a player who earned praise from John Dewan in

*The Fielding Bible*for his enthusiasm and hustle, but Victorino is the interesting case and I am very eager to see how Dewan’s Plus / Minus rated him. He played 101 innings in left field, 558 in center field, and another 156 in right field in 2006, meaning he played 56% of the Phillies defensive innings. I suspect that Victorino will profile well with Plus / Minus – he has good speed and seems to have good instincts – and that his throwing skills will be second-to-nine (he logged eleven assists in 2006. In one-sixth the time it took Bobby Abreu to log four assists in right, Victorino had three), but the tremendously bad Plus / Minus the Phillies outfield had in 2006 makes me believe that Victorino will surprise me and come back with a negative rating.The Phillies did a so-so job holding base-runners in 2006, allowing .524 to advance, seventh in the N.L. This was a significant decline from the Phillies N.L.-leading .435 in 2005. That season Jason Michaels, who now plays for the Indians and posted a sterling +12 this season by the way, was baseball’s second-best center fielder in holding runners (.442), while Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell placed outside of the top ten. This is an area where I wonder what sort of an impact Shane Victorino and Rowand had in 2006.

The bottom-line is that the data clearly shows that the Phillies outfield played some lousy, atrocious baseball in 2006. This unit will have to improve and improve greatly in 2007 for the Phillies to make it into the playoffs. The picture that I painted in my Season in Review in November and the picture I saw emerge from the pages of

*The Bill James Handbook*and*The Hardball Times Annual*are nearly the same, but the data I have seen paints a starker picture: the 2006 Phillies went from a terrific defensive team to a lousy one. The drop in defense probably cost the Phillies 40-50 runs this season and likely cost them a few baseball games. Want to know why the Phillies failed to make the playoffs? That’s it. This team needs to play better D or it will watch the Mets celebrate once more.Tomorrow I’ll move a little away from the books and discuss what other systems like Dave Pinto’s Probablistic Model of Range (PMR) have to say about the Phillies defense in relation to Plus / Minus and the rest of it.

Comments:

"The bottom-line is that the data clearly shows that the Phillies outfield played some lousy, atrocious baseball in 2006. This unit will have to improve and improve greatly in 2007 for the Phillies to make it into the playoffs."

This plus/minus system that you have opened our eyes to is just one piece of statistical information. I don't see the Phillies defensive effort in the outfield as one of the main reasons for the Phillies not making the playoffs in 06. Why try to dig deep into mathematical science to explain the Phillies shortcomings? One can simply look at Avg. with RISP to explain last season, or the collapse of the bullpen.

I know it is sometimes fun to look into stats as a concrete reason for an unsuccessful season, but let's just stick to the basics.

This plus/minus system that you have opened our eyes to is just one piece of statistical information. I don't see the Phillies defensive effort in the outfield as one of the main reasons for the Phillies not making the playoffs in 06. Why try to dig deep into mathematical science to explain the Phillies shortcomings? One can simply look at Avg. with RISP to explain last season, or the collapse of the bullpen.

I know it is sometimes fun to look into stats as a concrete reason for an unsuccessful season, but let's just stick to the basics.

"The bottom-line is that the data clearly shows that the Phillies outfield played some lousy, atrocious baseball in 2006. This unit will have to improve and improve greatly in 2007 for the Phillies to make it into the playoffs."

This plus/minus system that you have opened our eyes to is just one piece of statistical information. I don't see the Phillies defensive effort in the outfield as one of the main reasons for the Phillies not making the playoffs in 06. Why try to dig deep into mathematical science to explain the Phillies shortcomings? One can simply look at Avg. with RISP to explain last season, or the collapse of the bullpen.

I know it is sometimes fun to look into stats as a concrete reason for an unsuccessful season, but let's just stick to the basics.

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This plus/minus system that you have opened our eyes to is just one piece of statistical information. I don't see the Phillies defensive effort in the outfield as one of the main reasons for the Phillies not making the playoffs in 06. Why try to dig deep into mathematical science to explain the Phillies shortcomings? One can simply look at Avg. with RISP to explain last season, or the collapse of the bullpen.

I know it is sometimes fun to look into stats as a concrete reason for an unsuccessful season, but let's just stick to the basics.