Tuesday, June 26, 2007
The Phillies as it turns out, let a lot of key (or formerly key) players walk during (Polanco) the 2005 campaign, but especially after. The interesting thing about the shifts in personnel is that, unlike the departures of Kevin Millwood and Eric Milton via free agency in 2004, the Phillies engineered their moves in 2005. They traded every player on the list above aside from Wagner. Let’s start with Jim Thome:
Dealt to the White Sox in exchange for Aaron Rowand, Thome was suddenly made expendable by Ryan Howard’s formidable 2005 campaign. About nine years younger and significantly cheaper, Ryan Howard became an attractive option for the Phillies at first base and gave the team the opportunity to shop Thome for help in center field. The team eagerly pulled the trigger on the deal, especially in light of Thome’s injury-plagued ’05 season (7 Home Runs, 30 RBI, .207 batting average in 59 games), to grab Aaron Rowand, the White Sox terrific center fielder.
Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
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 If you use ESPN’s version be advised that it is pitifully is out-of-date, however. 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.
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
BB/9 – Walks per nine innings: (BB * 9) / IP
K/9 – Strikeouts per nine innings: (K * 9) / IP
Since joining the White Sox, Thome has largely regained his pre-’05 form. In 2006 he bombed 42 home runs and had 109 RBIs, which is basically what he had in 2004: 42 Home Runs, 105 RBIs. In many respects Thome’s ’06 campaign was much better than ’04: he hit better in the clutch (.203 BA/RISP in 2004 to .336 in 2006) and produced runs at a greater clip (7.0 Runs Created per 27 Outs in 2004 vs. 9.6 in 2006). No doubt being freed from having to play first base helped as Thome.
Remarkably, Thome might be doing a better job this season: his OBP is an ungodly .470. His RC/27 is a robust 10.7 … meaning a hypothetical team of nine Jim Thome’s would ring up 10.7 runs a game. Yikes.
In the long run, the Thome-Rowand deal probably helped the Phillies. As good as Jim Thome was with the White Sox, Ryan Howard was just as good. In the long run, Howard is going to give the Phillies six, seven, eight years (provided they can keep him) of service. And Rowand is having a terrific year at the plate as well this season, after a generally disappointing 2006. Rowand is either going to give the Phillies a terrific center fielder for a few more years to come or he’ll give the team valuable trade bait. As painful as it is to watch Jim Thome ring up the runs in Chicago, I doubt he’d be as productive with the Phillies (moving to the DH has been big for him…) and the team would have lost Ryan Howard.
The move that cost the Phillies in 2005 was Jason Michaels. Michaels was a terrific #4 outfielder for the team for years, consistently able to provide the Phillies with a nice bat off the bench and a strong defensive presence in the outfield. He played all three outfield slots well. He was the ideal guy.
Unfortunately the Phillies dealt him to the Cleveland Indians for Arthur Rhodes, a player who will almost certainly never play for the Phillies again and who, when he did, barely benefited the team: 0-5, 5.32 ERA in 2006. In exchange the Phillies gave up a talented player:
Michaels struggled in 2006: .326 OBP, down from .399 in 2005 and .364 in 2004 with the Phillies … .246 BA/RISP, down from .284 and .295 in ’04 and ’05 … 4.7 RC/27 in 2006, down from 5.8 and 6.4 … He’s rebounded significantly in 2007, raising his OBP to .341 and has hit five home runs. His BA/RISP is .379 this season and he’s creating runs at a 6.6 clip. Defensively, Michaels is doing well: his Zone Rating would rank third amongst left fielders if he qualified. He’s a solid fielder and hitter. The Phillies made a serious mistake letting him go.
Placido Polanco, whom the Phillies dealt to the Tigers in exchange for Robinson Tejada, is an interesting case. On one hand Polanco’s departure opened things up for Chase Utley to seize the starting job and become the best second baseman in baseball, however, Polanco would be welcome on the Phillies roster now at third base, where the team has a crying need for help. The versatile Polanco played third when he joined the Phillies after the Scott Rolen deal in 2003.
Polanco has been a consistently good performer in Detroit:
What impresses me, and what the Phillies could use on their roster right now, is Polanco’s skill with runners on:
Polanco’s also a pretty good fielder too: in 540 innings he’s committed zero errors at second base. His fielding percentages in 2005 and 2006 were .993 and .989 with the Tigers. The solid hitting, the clutch bat, the strong fielding … Polanco would be a major upgrade over the Wes Helms / Abraham Nunez mess the Phillies have.
On the other hand, you have to say that this deal was a success for the Phillies. Sure, they didn’t get anything for Polanco in the long run (Tejada has … how should I say this politely? … Legal problems) but in allowing Polanco to leave they allowed Chase Utley to become the best second baseman in the game. Can’t argue with that …
Briefly, I’ll discuss Padilla and Wagner … The Phillies had little choice but to allow Billy Wagner to go. Wagner was clearly unimpressed with the direction the Phillies were on and the lure of playing in New York for the Mets was too much for him to ignore. As a Phillie Wagner was what the team needed after the Jose Mesa era: a lights-out closer who’d get a 1, 2, 3 ninth-inning night after night. As a Phillie Wagner saved 59 of 66 opportunities. As a Met, he’s converted on 55 of 61. Pretty similar. I haven’t noticed any decline in his skills:
2004: 12.5 / 1.3 (as Phillie)
2005: 11.2 / 2.6 (ditto)
2006: 12.3 / 2.7 (as Met)
2007: 12.6 / 2.6 (ditto)
His Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), on the other hand, is rising:
The Phillies clearly miss Wagner now, with their merry-go-round of Tom Gordon, Brett Myers and Antonio Alfonseca. This defection has hurt the Phillies, but it was a decision that was purely out of their control.
The decision to deal Vicente Padilla is simply indefensible. Dealt to the Texas Rangers for Ricardo Rodriguez prior to the 2006 season, the Phillies promptly cut Rodriguez in Spring Training while Padilla went 15-10 with a 4.50 ERA. While Padilla is struggling this season (3-8, 6.57 ERA), this trade was still a blunder. The Phillies dealt away a player they had invested significant time and money developing for … nothing. Ouch.
Tomorrow, the 2006 X-Files.
An off-day for the Phillies today before they square up for a three-game series with the Cincinnati Reds, arguably the worst team in the majors right now. Sadly, the Phillies won't get to pick on Eric Milton, but they ought to cleanup on the Reds pitching otherwise. Kyle Kenderick makes the start for the Phillies tonight, his third career big league start.
Speaking of starting pitching, J.D.Durbin will make his MLB debut against the Mets this weekend during the double-header. Durbin is 2-4 with a 4.55 ERA this season. He's been almost entirely off my radar screen as a player, never really getting a mention as a top Phillies prospect, so I wonder how he'll do. In the long run, I suspect that the Phillies will move Brett Myers back into the rotation when he returns soon, as the Phillies don't want two rookies who started the season in the minors filling their rotation. It is just as well: Antonia Alfonseca is doing quite well as the team's closer these days.