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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United States, Pennsylvania, Wexford, Christopher Wren, English, Michael, Male, 26-30, baseball , politics.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Defensively Speaking... 

What a strange series this was with the Royals this weekend. After sweeping the Mets, the Phillies naturally struggled to a 1-2 split with arguably the worst team in baseball. The irony is that this weekend's injury to starter Freddy Garcia gives the Phillies, who had a surplus of starting pitching on Opening Day with six starters for five slots, a dearth of pitching. Brett Myers is now firmly installed in the bullpen and the team won't move him or Ryan Madson to the rotation. That means the Phillies need to scramble to find a fifth starter to replace Garcia, who is almost certainly lost for the season, from either the minors or from another team.

The minors aren't really an option because many of the Phillies Triple-A pitchers aren't ready to come down to Philadelphia. Zach Segovia has been screwed up since he filled in for Garcia back in April against the Marlins. J.A. Happ, the Phillies most talented pitcher in Triple-A right now, is coming off an injury. The Phillies choices lay with either J.D. Durbin or Kyle Kendrick, both of whom have issues. Durbin has been inconsistent with the Ottawa Lynx this season. Kendrick is a Double-A pitcher who has never pitched in Triple-A and might get hammered.

Either way, it seems likely that the Phillies will try and use Aaron Rowand to swing a deal to land another starter, which is a shame. After struggling last season, particularly at the plate, Rowand is having a terrific season in 2007. Thus far he's dramatically raised his On-Base Percentage and his Slugging Percentage. His reluctance to draw walks, long a flaw to his game, is apparently gone. He's drawn 21 walks in 229 plate appearances against 18 in 405 in 2006. The good news about Rowand's performance is that his trade stock has probably never been higher than it is right now.

Given that Garcia's spot in the rotation is set for Wednesday night against the White Sox, expect the Phillies to try and swing a deal for Rowand either today or tomorrow. Is Carlos Zambrano a possibility here?

Alright, I try and make my little niche in the blogging world my focus on the Phillies defense, of which I figured that I’d give some thoughts on today … Seems to be a good topic, given that Aaron Rowand's days as a Phillie are numbered. As I have noted in the past (some would say, ad naseum), the Phillies had one of the best defenses in baseball from 2002 to 2005, ranking in the top four of the N.L. in terms of Defense Efficiency Ratio (DER), the big stat I look at in this field. In 2005, the Phillies led all MLB teams in Plus / Minus, John Dewan’s stat that measures team and individual performance in terms of fielding. They were a great team in the field.

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.

That all changed in 2006, when the team promptly became one of the worst teams in the NL in DER and one of the worst in Plus / Minus. Here is how the Phillies did in terms of Plus / Minus from 2003-2006:

Plus / Minus (MLB rank)
2006: -33 (22nd)
2005: +108 (1st)
2004: +18 (8th)
2003: +31 (10th)

After averaging a +52.3 from 2003-2005 (they were a combined +157), they fell off dramatically, a puzzling development given that the Phillies had – on paper – improved their defensive alignment by adding Aaron Rowand to the lineup in center field, replacing the Phillies old Kenny Lofton / Jason Michaels platoon. The Phillies – again, on paper – improved their alignment again in 2007 by adding Shane Victorino to the Phillies right field full-time, replacing Bobby Abreu, a player who was born to play the DH. (Yes, that was a shot at Abreu’s fielding abilities …) Victorino has a cannon for an arm and terrific range. Even with the declining Pat Burrell in right field, the Phillies figured to be a stronger team in the field.

Keep figuring. The team’s .684 DER is lower than the N.L. average of .698, and the Phillies rank thirteenth, just ahead of some truly awful fielding teams like the Reds (.676), the Marlins (.679), and the Dodgers (.683). Even the slow-footed Pirates are better defensively (.689). The Plus / Minus data on The Hardball Times website is a little better, but not much. According to THT, the Phillies are -3, which ranks them eleventh in the N.L. And improvement over 2006, but a far cry from their historic performance in 2005.

I’ll turn my focus to the Phillies outfield at the moment. Shane Victorino is making a powerful statement he deserves the Gold Glove for right field in the N.L. with his terrific performance out there. Thanks to Victorino, the Phillies led the N.L. in outfield assists:

Assists (Outfield)
1. Philadelphia: 24
2. Milwaukee: 17
3. Houston: 13
4. Arizona: 13
5. Colorado: 12
6. Florida: 12
7. Pittsburgh: 12
8. San Diego: 11
9. Cincinnati: 10
10. Chicago: 10
11. Atlanta: 9
12. San Francisco: 8
13. Washington: 8
14. Los Angeles: 6
15. St. Louis: 6
16. New York: 5

Credit here goes to Aaron Rowand as well. The Phillies are leading the N.L. in assists coming from centerfielders with 6, one better than the Cincinnati Reds, Florida Marlins and San Francisco Giants. We don’t know how well Rowand is doing in terms of range … although Phillies centerfielders have made 153 put-outs and the N.L. average is 162, so the preliminary answer is that I suspect not particularly well … but his arm is fine. Run on Aaron Rowand at your own risk …

As for Pat Burrell … it appears his arm is o.k.: six assists from Phillies LF’s, one fewer than the league-leading Arizona Diamondbacks. Alas, I shudder to think of his range numbers. Phillies left fielders have logged 102 put-outs, the fourth-fewest in the N.L. and well off the N.L. average of 113. The Phillies also lead the N.L. in errors by left fielders.

By almost any standard, Victorino shines. First off, Phillies rightfielders have committed just two errors. The twelve assists Phillies rightfielders have logged is four better than the Brewers at eight and that is three better than the log-jam amongst teams for third-place. And unlike Rowand and Burrell, Victorino is running ahead of the pace with 127 put-outs, two better than the N.L. average. Not too shabby.

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Justin Germano would be nice about now. His '07 line with the Padres: 36 IP, 2.75 ERA, 14 Ks, 3 BBs, 3 HR. Pretty good even after you account for Petco. They should've stuck him in the 'pen this year rather than losing him bc he was out of options. I'm a Reds fan in Philly, btw, so imagine how I feel: not only did we lose a potentially productive starter, but we had to take Cormier in the process.
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