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, August 06, 2007

Cold Play @ the Hot Corner 

Grit. What a gritty performance from the Phillies in overcoming a 6-0 deficit to win over the Brewers 8-6 in Milwaukee and to cheat the Brewers from getting a series sweep. The Phillies were down 4-0 in the first inning, then 6-0 in the fifth, before entering the top of the ninth inning behind 6-1. The victory was keyed by a surprising player: Wes Helms, one of the Phillies much-maligned third baseman, who doubled home the winning runs in the top of the eleventh inning.

The victory does a lot for the Phillies, keeping them in the N.L. East hunt, just five games out of first place, and two and a half games out of the wildcard. For those interested in their recent history, at this point in 2006 the Phillies were 54-57 (today: 58-53, an improvement of four games), and the ’06 Phillies were twelve and a half games out of first place, although interestingly, the Phillies were just two and a half games out of the wildcard, which is exactly where they are right now!

Up next for the Phillies: an off-day. Tuesday starts a brand-new series for the Phillies, as they host the Florida Marlins and the new-look Atlanta Braves, then travel to Washington D.C. and Pittsburgh. I’ll actually be at the August 19th game in Pittsburgh against the Pirates at PNC Park. The Braves series is extremely important for the Phillies. They need to leap-frog the Braves to get into second and lock aim on the Mets. Psychologically, they cannot afford to be swept.

Rod Barajas is on the DL now too. Current tally of Phillies on the DL: nine, including, Freddy Garcia, Jon Lieber, Shane Victorino, Michael Bourn, Ryan Madson, Chase Utley, etc. That the Phillies would be in the N.L. East race with all of these guys out is a shocker.

Well, speaking of our friend, Mr. Helms, I thought that I might look at the play the Phillies are getting from their third basemen this season. Because the Phillies had the greatest third baseman of all-time, Mike Schmidt, on the team in the 1970’s & 1980’s, this is a position that gets a little scrutiny from time-to-time. Living in Schmidt’s shadow was problematic for Scot Rolen, for example, who was supposed to be the next Schmidt, but that never happened. The Phillies are not getting good play from their third basemen these days:

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
On-Base Percentage (OBP): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
Slugging Percentage (SLG): Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage. Power at the plate.
On-Base Percentage plus Slugging (OPS): OBP + SLG.
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).
RC/27: Runs Created per 27 outs, essentially what a team of 9 of this player would score in a hypothetical game.

The Phillies rank fifteenth in the N.L. in OPS from third basemen at .700, just .002 better than the Padres. That is well-below the N.L. average of .788 (interestingly enough, A.L. 3B’s are much worse at .758 OPS). The Phillies 3B’s have the second-lowest slugging percentage at .375 (worst Cincinnati: .365), and they have the fourth-lowest On-Base Percentage at .325 (worse: San Francisco: .292; San Diego: .293, and the Nats at .321). Not surprisingly, the Marlins and Braves have two of the best 3B’s in the N.L., Miguel Cabrera (9.8 Runs Created / 27 Outs) and Chipper Jones (8.6 RC/27), followed by the Mets David Wright (7.9 RC/27).

So far the Phillies have used three players to play the hot corner:

Runs Created / 27 Outs:
Greg Dobbs: 4.7
Abraham Nunez: 3.2
Wes Helms: 3.0

To say the least, none of the three have covered themselves in glory. Dobbs is the strongest of the three, but I use that word loosely. Helms and Nunez are the primary targets of ire here. Helms was acquired from the Marlins to compete for the job of every day third baseman, and right now Helms isn’t making much or an argument for him to be considered a bench player. Helms is hitting just .192 with runners in scoring position and has just four home runs. Ouch.

But Helms is a super-star compared to Nunez, a player that I cannot fathom is still on the Phillies roster. Nunez is hitting .236 BA/RISP. What I hate about seeing Nunez’s bat in the Phillies lineup is how utterly devoid of power Nunez is at the plate. He hasn’t hit a home run in 208 plate appearances in 2007 … just two in 581 plate appearances as the Phillie total … and 63.6% of the balls he puts into play are gounrd-balls. Double play alert! Nunez has grounded into seven double plays in 2007, which is astonishing in that he doesn’t get to hit that often. Aaron Rowand has hit into fourteen, but he has more than double the plate appearances (463).

Defensively Nunez is pretty good … gotta give credit where credit is due … if he played enough innings his Relative Zone Rating (RZR) would be third in the N.L. (.754), just after Rolen (.757) and the San Francisco Giants Pedro Feliz (.766). Nunez is better, defensively speaking, then hitters like Wright (.727), Jones (.628), and Cabrera (.640). Helms is surprisingly ok with the glove too: .698.

So this is a position that the Phillies need to take a long, hard look at in 2008. Are Abraham Nunez, Wes Helms and Greg Dobbs the answer? I think not. I’m not sure that the Phillies want to give rookie Mike Costanzo, currently the starting third baseman of the Double-A Reading Phillies, the job either. Costanzo has done well in Reading (22 home runs, 66 RBI, .358 OBP), but this is a job for a veteran presence in the Phillies lineup.

Alright, tomorrow, a review of the month of July.

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