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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.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Roberson: Can He Run? 

With Michael Bourn and Shane Victorino taking brief stints on the D.L., the Phillies have recalled Chris Roberson to Philadelphia to fill in as the Phillies fourth outfielder. Roberson, some of you might recall, played briefly with the Phillies in 2006 and seemed a lock to make the team as their fifth outfielder and primary pinch-runner in 2007. Much to my surprise, the team chose to send Michael Bourn to Philadelphia and relegated Roberson to life as the Ottawa Lynx centerfielder. This had to be an extremely frustrating development to Roberson, who was selected by the Phillies in the ninth round of the 2001 Draft, who had been clawing his way through the minors and was developmentally one step ahead of Bourn:

Chris Roberson / Michael Bourn
2004: Clearwater (A+) / Lakewood (A)
2005: Reading (AA) / Reading (AA)
2006: Scranton (AAA) / Reading (AA)
2007: Ottawa (AAA) / Philadelphia (MLB)

Bourn promptly stunned Phillies fans with his abilities on the base-paths, stealing 18 bases in 19 tries to go along with three triples.

I’m still in awe of his performance against the San Francisco Giants earlier this season, which bears repeating: inserted to run for Pat Burrell after Burrell drew a walk, Bourn promptly stole second base, stole third base, and then scored when Wes Helms grounded weakly into a fielder’s choice. In a more just world Helms wouldn’t be credited with the RBI because it was only thanks to Bourn’s tremendous speed that a run was scored.

With Aaron Rowand likely to depart for free agency in the off-season, Bourn is a near-lock to be the team’s new centerfielder and lead-off hitter in 2008. Bourn’s future looks bright, while Roberson seems to be a career minor-leaguer.

Does Roberson have much of a future with the Phillies? Surprisingly, I think he might. First, let’s talk about Roberson’s talents and why he’s hung around with the Phillies as long as he has:

Roberson has spent pretty much the entire 2007 season as the Ottawa Lynx centerfielder. He hit .266 (.311 OBP), with 21 doubles, 3 triples, and 4 home runs. Roberson attempted 25 steals and was successful 16 times (64%). In 2006, when he was the Scranton Red Barons (the Phillies old Triple-A affiliate) centerfielder, Roberson hit .292 (.349 OBP) with 14 doubles, 2 triples, and 1 home run. Roberson also stole 25 bases in 34 attempts (74%).
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.

I think that Roberson has some speed to give to the team and that he'll fill in rather well for Bourn while he's on the D.L. The key is going to be getting on base and giving the Phillies opportunities to win. Roberson's .311 OBP is too low for a leadoff hitter. He's going to have to do better than that to justify the Phillies keeping him around.
Defensively, they seem like they are both very talented outfielders.

I'm interested to see how Roberson does and see if he can use this opportunity to bring himself to Philadelphia to be the Phillies fifth outfielder in 2008. My money says that Roberson's speed will win him that opportunity next season, particularly with the significant role that Davey Lopes and the Gospel of Speed are likely to have in the team's thinking for 2008.
Have a nice weekend!

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Farm Report: July of 2007 / Summer in Williamsport 

Williamsport, in addition to being the seat of Lycoming County, the home of the Little League World Series and the “Lumber Capital of the World” in the late 1800’s, is the home of the Williamsport Crosscutters, the Philadelphia Phillies Short-Season Single-A affiliate in the New York-Penn League (NYPL). The city’s logging heritage is reflected in the name of the team. The Crosscutters have lived in Williamsport since the team moved from Geneva, New York to Williamsport in 1993. The Williamsport Cubs, a Chicago Cubs affiliate, shifted to the Pittsburgh Pirates and adopted the team name of Crosscutters in 1999, then shifted to the Phillies in 2007. Previously the Phillies Short-Season Single-A team was the Batavia (N.Y.) Muckdogs.

Today the Crosscutters are loaded with future talent bound for Citizens Bank Ballpark. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, for example, were Muckdogs just a few years ago. Who on the Crosscutters roster will make the journey to Philly?

Some people will notice that power-hitting stats in the minors are generally lower than in the big leagues. You’ll see many more stolen bases and the like in the minors – especially the low minors – than in the big leagues. To give you a bit of an idea about the contrast, the slugging percentage in the NYPL last season was just .334, much lower than the NL’s .427 and the AL’s .437. Home Runs come at a premium in the NYPL.
Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
WHIP – Walks plus hits by innings pitched: (BB + H) / IP = WHIP
ERA – Earned Run Average: (Earned Runs * 9) / IP = ERA
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
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.
The Crosscutter boast … well, that isn’t quite the appropriate word … let’s use “feature” … arguably the worst offense in the NYPL. The Crosscutters have scored 134 runs, good enough for twelfth of fourteen teams in the NYPL. They have stolen 26 bases, good again for twelfth of fourteen teams. Their team slugging percentage is .330, thirteenth in the NYPL. Their On-Base Percentage is just .296, dead-last in the NYPL. As I complained last Thursday, the Phillies have a glut of pitching but a dearth of position player prospects currently in the system. The struggles of the Crosscutters shouldn’t fill us with confidence about the future … Still, there are a few people willing to talk about:

Matthew Rizzotti. Keep an eye on Rizzotti, a big – six foot five, 235 lbs – left-handed bat from Manhattan College. Previously Rizzotti was picked by the Twins in the 46th round in the 2004 draft when he was in high school, but passed in favor of college, which was a terrific decision on his part. Rizzotti was picked by the Phillies in the 6th round of this year’s draft, the 203rd player taken.

Rizzotti was a monster in the Mid-Atlantic Conference (MAAC), hitting .416 with nine home runs, twenty-one doubles and fifty-seven RBI in forty-eight games in 2005. Rizzotti’s performance was so good he was both the Rookie of the Year and the MVP of the MAAC in 2005. Coach Kevin Leighton called him the Jaspers “franchise player”. Rizzotti continued to dominate in 2006 and 2007. The Phillies drafted Rizzotti and shipped him off to Williamsport.

At the moment, Rizzotti is one of the few bright spots in the Crosscutters lineup. He’s hitting .296 (.384 OBP), second-best on the team after Tyler Mach (more on him later). Rizzotti has also hit two home runs and thirteen doubles, enough power to run his slugging percentage to a robust .472, twenty-second in the NYPL. Rizzotti is also hitting .324 BA/RISP.

I like the fact that while Rizzotti is a slugger, he’s displayed some good bat control in drawing fifteen walks in twenty-nine games. I give Rizzotti an excellent chance to make the majors, although he seems a natural first baseman and that position is occupied right now by Ryan Howard. Could Rizzotti be Howard’s successor at first if the Phillies can’t re-sign him in 2009? We’ll see.

Tyler Mach. Almost certainly the Phillies best prospect in Williamsport, perhaps even before Joe Savery. The Phillies fourth-round pick – 143rd overall – had previously been drafted in the 2006 draft by the Cardinals, who took him in the 40th round. The extra time at Oklahoma State University enabled Mach to hone his skills and improve. Mach was a Baseball America Third Team All-American in 2007.

So far Mach has single-handedly kept the Crosscutters out of the statistical basement. He’s hit four home runs, a triple and ten doubles on his way to a .583 slugging percentage, the fourth-best in the NYPL. Given how terrible the Crosscutters are, think of where they would be without Mach.

But Mach isn’t just a slugger. He’s hitting .333 (.443 OBP). He has displayed tremendous bat control. Walks: 13. Strikeouts: 13. A power-hitter with a 1:1 K/BB ratio? How often do you see that? Todd Martin of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, who is leading the NYPL in slugging percentage at .621, has struck-out 25 times to 14 walks. Need clutch-hitting? He’s has a .423 BA/RISP. Add in that he’s playing a challenging defensive position – second base – and it is hard not to anoint Mach as the Crosscutters MVP.

After Rizzotti and Mach, the Crosscutters see a massive talent drop-off …

Michael Taylor. Picked between Mach and Rizzotti in the 2007 draft, Taylor has a terrific resume. Like Rizzotti, he’s a big player: six foot six inches tall, 250 lbs. Taylor played with the Mat-Su Miners of the Alaskan Summer League (ASL) in 2005, where he hit .317 with four home runs and twenty-five RBIs in forty-one games. Baseball America named Taylor as the ASL’s top prospect.

Unfortunately, Taylor is off to a grim start: .176 BA (.252 OBP), with just two home runs and seven doubles (.304 SLG) and 17 RBI. Taylor has struck-out thirty times against ten walks. Taylor needs to improve his bat control (3-to-1 K/BB ratio) and needs to increase his power at the plate to justify his position on the team.

D’Arby Myers. The Phillies picked Myers in the 4th round of the 2006 Draft, the 127th player selected. Myers is a well-regarded prospect who has been compared to former Phillies great Garry Maddox. Praised for his strong work ethic, Myers had a 4.0 GPA and a 1300 SAT at Westchester High School in Los Angeles, California.

He played in the Gulf Coast League (GCL) last season and hit .313 (.353 OBP). Myers displayed some speed – eleven of fifteen stolen bases – and played well generally, although he struck-out 32 times and drew just 7 walks. Moved up to the NYPL this season, Myers has struggled a little: .248 BA (.294 OBP), one home run and six doubles in thirty-one games (.316 slugging percentage). Myers has gotten caught four times in the nine steals he attempted and hasn’t hit a triple.

A problem I see with Myers is his bat control:

K/BB ratio
2006 (GCL): 4.57
2007 (NYPL): 2.78

He strikes out far too much for someone who might lead-off. In order for Myers to make it to the majors, he’s going to have to cut-down on the strikeouts, draw more walks, and make contact a little better.

Unfortunately I don’t have any metrics to examine Myers defensive abilities, but I am told that he’s very talented.

In terms of pitching … The Crosscutters are much stronger on the mound. They rank second in the NYPL in strikeouts (293), have allowed the fewest walks (96), and rank second in WHIP. The team’s ERA is sixth – I suspect a product of the team allowing a number of home runs – but this is a major strength of the team and pretty much the only reason why the Crosscutters are near .500 (16-20, .444).

Clarence Chapman. I think Chapman is the best prospect in Williamsport right now in terms of pitching. Drafted in the 8th round out of Oral Roberts University (263rd overall), Chapman wracked up good numbers at ORU:

2007: 8-1 / 1.34 ERA / 12.16 K/9
2006: 5-1 / 1.55 ERA / 6.99 K/9

Chapman showed great promise and was selected by the Phillies. Chapman has a 3-2 record with a 2.43 ERA. Chapman’s ERA and WHIP are both eighth in the NYPL, and he ranks seventh in strikeouts with 36. Chapman has a 4-to-1 K/BB ratio, which is extremely impressive. Chapman doesn’t allow many walks or home runs and gets a lot of strikeouts. Traits you want to see from a pitcher.

Drew Naylor. Not many players of the Phillies minor league rosters hail from the land down under, but Drew Naylor was born in beautiful Brisbane, in the state of Queensland. Naylor was signed by the Phillies in 2004 and has gotten off to a slow start with his major league career, until recently. Naylor pitched relief mostly with the GCL Phillies in 2006, throwing 36 & 2/3 innings, on his way to a 2-3 record with a 4.66 ERA. Naylor started two games and pitched relief in ten others.

Promoted to Williamsport to further develop his skills, Naylor got off to a blisteringly hot start in 2007:

W-L: 4-0
ERA: 0.62
BB/9: 0.93
K/9: 9.93

Naylor’s first start of the year was a dominating seven-inning outing in which he struck-out eight, allowing just four hits, no walks and no runs.

Naylor was so good he was named the NYPL pitcher of the week for July 2nd. Unfortunately, the wheels have fallen off the cart since …

W-L: 0-3
ERA: 9.00
BB/9: 5.00
K/9: 8.50

It is hard to say if Naylor remains a good prospect, but it is worth noting that he was leading the NYPL in strikeouts. And he’s allowed just one home run in 47 innings. We shall see …

Tyson Brummett. Drafted a round before Chapman in the 7th round (233rd), Brummett is a California guy, having been born in LA, been drafted out of high school by the San Francisco Giants, and having attended UCLA. Brummett was taken by the Giants in the 35th round in 2003 and in the 38th round in 2004, but dramatically improved his pro prospects by going to UCLA and turning in some nice performances. After going 6-7 with a 4.52 ERA in 2006 (2.59 K/BB ratio), Brummett improved to 10-6 with a 4.04 ERA (3.36 K/BB ratio) and was named to the 2007 All Pac-10 Team. Brummett was called a “Giant Killer” by his coaches.

Brummett is off to a nice start in the NYPL, going 1-2 with a 2.88 ERA. He’s struck-out fifteen to three walks and hasn’t given up a home run in twenty-five innings. I like what the Crosscutters have seen from Brummett, who shows real possibilities as a pitcher although he seems like he might be a little slight to make it as a major leaguer (six foot, just 150 lbs … Compare that to Chapman, who is six foot four, 200 lbs). Let’s hope he keeps it up …
Tomorrow, I'll talk about Chris Roberson and the role he'll play in the Phillies run to the playoffs...

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The View After the Deadline... 

With the trading deadline past, I have a couple of thoughts …

… Generally speaking the Phillies made some good moves at the deadline. While I hate sending Matt Maloney to the Reds for Kyle Lohse, the team did a nice job acquiring Tadahito Iguchi from the White Sox and Julio Mateo from the Mariners. Iguchi is a good hitter who can play defense and is a nice stopgap for Chase Utley being injured. When Utley returns, Iguchi will make a nice bench replacement.

Mateo has barely pitched in 2007, but he has a good track-record on the field. In 2006 he went 9-4 with a 4.14 ERA as the Mariners set-up man. You can’t argue with those results. The best part about the deals for Mateo and Igushi are that the Phillies really didn’t surrender a darn thing to get either of them. Aside from losing Maloney, the Phillies didn’t surrender a single plum prospect.

… Aaron Rowand is still a Phillie. I honestly thought he’d be traded, but either the injuries to Bourn and Victorino killed a deal or the Phillies felt that keeping him for the season and letting him walk at the end – I believe they get a first-round pick in the 2008 Draft for him – was the better call. Probably the right decision, given the message that trading him would have sent to the team.

… You could make an All-Star team out of the guys who have been on the Phillies DL in 2007: Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Brett Myers, Tom Gordon, Shane Victorino, Michael Bourn, Jon Lieber, Jayson Werth. The injuries to Victorino and Bourn sting. That is a lot of speed gone from the lineup right there: specifically, fifty steals in fifty-four attempts (Victorino: 32 in 35 tries, Bourn: 18 in 19 tries). Will the Phillies lack of speed hurt in the coming days with games against the Cubs and Brewers? Chris Roberson has been recalled: will he get a chance to run?

…Much has been made of the Braves decision to acquire Mark Teixeira from the Rangers along with Octavio Dotel. I’m not sure that the braves did that much to strength themselves. Dotel is a capable closer and Teixeira will supply some pop to their lineup, but the Braves mortgaged a little of their future in the deal and seem a little desperate. I think the Braves real problem is that they aren’t good enough defensively to help their pitching staff and adding Dotel and Teixeira doesn’t help.

… The Red Sox made some nice deals, adding Eric Gagne was huge. What is interesting to me was how quiet the Yankees were at the deadline. Are they conceding defeat to the Red Sox?

…Truly the Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t a clue what they are doing. Why are earth are they trading for an aging pitcher with a massive salary when the team is young and plays in a small market with a tiny payroll? I haven’t a clue. This is incompetence.

Tomorrow, I’ll finally get around to talking about the Williamsport Crosscutters. I promise.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Deadline Approacheth 

Lohse-for-Maloney. I hate this deal. Horrible, horrible, horrible. What was Pat Gillick thinking? This team has a terrible habit of dealing valuable prospects for mid-level pitchers at the trading deadline. It is almost a fetish this team has.

What did the Phillies get? Well, they have a pitcher who is 6-12 with a 4.58 ERA. 1.1 HR/9, 2.3 BB/9, and 5.5 K/9 … Decent stats, but nothing to shake a stick at. His FIP ERA is 4.47 … Who exactly are the Phillies going to demote to make room for Lohse? Eaton? Durbin? Hamels and Moyer are out and Kyle kenderick has been pitching very well, so this is a deal that doesn’t exactly make sense – sure the rotation is a little thin at times, but the team had patched things together.

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

The Phillies have up an absurdly strong prospect. Maloney was the pitcher of the year in the South Atlantic League in 2006 and has been thoroughly dominant at every level of the minors he’s pitched at. He’ll be a front-line starter with the Reds in 2009 for sure, if not sooner. The Phillies mortgaged a little of their future with this deal. It had better pay off.

Simply put: Kyle Lohse is not the impact pitcher who can alter a pennant race. He’s a talented pitcher with some experience, he’s got some decent stats, but the idea that Lohse justifies the Phillies dealing away one of their prime minor league prospects is absurd.

Not too many other deals so far, aside from Mark Teixeira going to the Braves, who coughed up some talent to get him. Teixeira will help the Braves for sure, but I don’t think that the Braves are getting the impact player they are assuming they are.

Prediction for today: Jermaine Dye to the Yankees, and Eric Gagne to the Tigers.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

36 Hours... 

Don’t look now, but the Phillies have won eight of their last nine games since Cole Hamels lost a 1-0 pitchers duel on July 19th in San Diego. The Phillies three-game sweep of the Pirates was huge. Simply put, they crushed the Pirates, outscoring them 23-7. While beating the Pirates isn’t a feat to brag about, it is important because it gives the Phillies momentum heading into some rough water.

-The Chicago Cubs. The Phillies journey to Chicago for a four-game set in the Windy City to take on the surging Cubs. The Cubs are playing good baseball behind their imposing pitching staff, so the question is whether the Phillies offense can score some runs, or will the Cubs shut the Phillies down.

-The Milwaukee Brewers. The Phillies leave Chicago to go up Lake Superior to take on the Brewers on Friday and into the weekend. The Brewers have been holding onto the N.L. Central despite the assault of the Cubbies for a little while. Can they continue?

Meanwhile, the trade deadline approaches. Thus far the Phillies have made one deal, sending Mike Dubee to the Chicago White Sox for Tadahito Iguchi. Simply put, I think Pat Gillick picked Chicago’s pocket (unlike in the Freddy Garcia deal) and stole a terrific player for a pitcher with marginal value. Nothing against Dubee, but he’s not one of the Phillies core minor leaguers (Matt Carpenter, Josh Outman, Matt Maloney, Kyle Drabek, Carlos Carrasco).

Iguchi will replace Utley at second base and add needed depth in the Phillies bench when Utley returns in late August or September. As a member of the White Sox, Iguchi had a .340 OBP to go along with 17 doubles, 6 Home Runs and 4 triples. He had 44 Runs Created, or 4.9 per 27 Outs. Defensively, Iguchi is a solid presence at the pivot. Nice deal.

The next thirty-six hours will see a lot of wheeling and dealing for teams. I’ve read that the Atlanta Braves are a near-lock to acquire Mark Teixeira from the Rangers, which hardly makes the Braves a lock in the N.L. race because I think that position players impact pennant races a lot less than pitchers do. I’m curious to see how active the Phillies will be.

More tomorrow!

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