Monday, June 25, 2007
I expect the Phillies to attempt to swing a trade in the coming days, probably dangling Aaron Rowand as bait to make the deal happen, but the team is likely to replace Lieber with J.A. Happ from Scranton. Happ is talented, but I wonder how the Phillies are going to survive with two rookies (I refer to Kyle Kendrick, who replaced Freddy Garcia) in the lineup. Ryan Madson? After Madson's disasterous turns as a starter in 2006, count that option out.
Alright, so what is today's topic? I thought it might be worthwhile to take a quick look at former Phillies today and compare how they are doing today vis-à-vis what they did when they were Phillies.
Today’s topic: 2004 alumni. Basically, we are talking about two people here: Eric Milton and Kevin Millwood. Back when they were Phillies in 2004, I had praise for Millwood and scorn for Milton. Little has changed since then. First, Millwood.
Millwood joined the Phillies prior to the 2003 campaign after a trade for catcher Johnny Estrada. Millwood was coming off a terrific campaign in 2002, when he had gone 18-8 with a 3.24 ERA. Millwood joined the Phillies and went 14-12 with a 4.01 ERA in his first season with the team, which included a no-hitter against the San Francisco Giants on April 27, 2003. Re-signed. the next season Millwood’s numbers declined to 9-6 with a 4.85 ERA. The Phillies let him walk after the 2004 campaign. He signed a deal with the Cleveland Indians for the 2005 campaign.
First off, let me note that Millwood’s numbers in 2004 were much, much better than they looked like they were. Millwood’s Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) ERA was actually much, much lower than his ‘real’ ERA: 3.59. Millwood was, simply put, the victim of bad defense. The Phillies Defense Efficiency Ratio (DER) behind Millwood was .673, one of the worst on the Phillies roster. Had the Phillies backed Millwood was a normal defense, his FIP would have been 1.26 lower, which is a massive variance.
Impressively, Millwood allowed just 0.86 home runs per nine innings (HR/9), the best amongst the Phillies starters in 2004:
It is somewhat befuddling to me that the Phillies allowed Millwood to walk after the 2004 season – he was pretty much the only Phillies starter to not allow bushels of Home Runs at Citizens Bank Ballpark and he got lots of strikeouts (7.7 K/9). Unfortunately, the Phillies watched Millwood take his skills over to the American League and began to hurl for the Indians.
Predictably, Millwood suddenly became a world-beater. The Indians defense dramatically improved and Millwood saw his ERA drop nearly two runs to 2.86. You wouldn’t have known how good Millwood was if you looked at his won-lost record: 9-11. His FIP was basically unchanged: 3.75. He allowed basically the same number of home runs (0.86 vs. 0.96), the same number of walks (3.1 vs. 2.5), and got the same number of strikeouts (7.7 vs. 7.0). The Indians allowed Millwood to journey to Texas to join the Rangers for the 2006 season.
Once more, Millwood quietly had another terrific season: his record was a so-so 16-12 and he had a rather high 4.52 ERA, but his FIP was under 4.00 once again: 3.93. Yet again, his numbers were basically unchanged. He worked a high number of innings – 215 – and still managed to keep the opposition from hitting home runs (0.98) and from getting walks (2.3). This season Millwood is off to a slow start (3-6, 7.62 ERA), but he’s still pitching alright. His performance in 2005 & 2006 was stunningly good.
Eric Milton, in contrast, pitched nowhere near as good as people thought as a Phillie. Dealt from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Carlos Silva and Nick Punto (yeah, the Phillies got hosed on that deal), Milton arrived on the roster and got off to a seemingly impressive 11-2 start, before settling for a 14-6 record with a 4.75 ERA. Naturally, once you looked inside of the numbers, you can see that Milton was a total disaster: 5.17 FIP … 3.4 BB/9 … 1.93 HR/9 … If not for the terrific defense the Phillies played behind Milton – .737 DER – Milton would have probably been 6-14, instead of 14-6.
Milton surrendered a remarkable 43 home runs in 2004. Angry attempts to blame Milton’s high dinger rate on the cozy confines of Citizens Bank Ballpark largely failed when confronted with the facts: Milton surrendered 20 home runs in 104.3 innings pitched at Citizens (1.73 HR/9), while giving up 23 in 96.6 innings on the road (2.14). Milton even accomplished the remarkable feat of allowing two home runs in a five-inning start against the Padres at Petco Park. Milton’s propensity for allowing fly balls (just 30% of the balls he allowed into play in 2004 were grounders) were the reason why he was lethal to the Phillies chances of winning ball games.
Wisely, the Phillies let Milton walk to the Reds in free agency after the ’04 season. While Eric Milton at Citizens Bank Ballpark was a bad idea, Eric Milton at Great American Ballpark was a worse one. As a Red, Milton has gone 16-27 with a 5.83 ERA. In his first season as a Red, no longer protected by good defense, Milton’s ERA spiked to 6.47 and he went 8-15. Remarkably, he managed to lower his walk rate from 3.4 to 2.3 BB/9, but little else of his campaign was worth writing about. Backed with a less capable defense (.689 DER), Milton killed the Reds time after time.
The Reds defense behind Milton improved dramatically – .730 DER – but Milton went 8-8 with a 5.19 ERA in 2006. He started 0-4 in 2007 with a 5.17 ERA before he went on the D.L. and has apparently been lost for the season.
The interesting thing to me is that Milton’s performance, like Millwood’s, is pretty consistent if you look at his FIP ERA:
In retrospect the Phillies made bad decisions with Milton and Millwood: Millwood was a pitcher they shouldn’t have allowed to walk to Cleveland, and Milton was a pitcher whom they should never have brought to Philly. The wisest decision the Phillies made was letting Milton quietly walk to the Reds. That the Reds would take in a fly-ball oriented pitcher to throw 1/2 of his innings at arguably the most friendly park in the N.L. for offense (after Coors Field), is a testament to how loony the Reds management is.
That was the Phillies 2004 alumni. Tomorrow, we take a look at the ’05 alums.