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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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Farm Report: Oh, Canada 

Oh, Canada … There is a lot of history with minor league baseball in the Great White North. Jackie Robinson cut his teeth in 1946 with the Dodgers Triple-A affiliate in Montreal. The Toronto Maple Leafs were the Philadelphia Phillies affiliate from 1948 to 1950 and saw many future stars pass through on their way to play with the Wiz Kids in Philadelphia.

Today the Phillies Triple-A team is the Ottawa Lynx, the sole team based in Canada in the International League (IL). The IL will get a lot less international in 2008 when the Lynx move from Ottawa – where the team has difficulty attracting fans – to Allentown (well, technically Lehigh Valley) where the team will be renamed the Iron Pigs. The relocation will mean that many of the Phillies minor league teams are going to geographically close to the Phillies: Reading, Allentown, Williamsport, Lakewood.

Let’s hope the move to Allentown will reinvigorate this team. The Lynx are playing objectively terrible baseball in 2007. Let’s start with the fact that the Lynx have the worst record in the IL at 44-72 and sit dead-last in the IL North Division, a whopping twenty-one games out of first place. First place, incidentally, is occupied by the Scranton Red Barons, the Phillies former Triple-A team (now the Yankees top farm team), who are cruising to the playoffs with a 64-50 record.

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.

What are the Lynx doing wrong? Well, they rank dead-last in the IL in runs scored (of fourteen teams), in slugging percentage, in stolen bases and in home runs. The Lynx rank tenth in On-Base Percentage. So are they any better in terms of pitching? Nope. The Lynx rank dead-last in the IL in strikeouts, ERA and WHIP, and thirteenth in home runs allowed and tenth in walks allowed.

This team is terrible on both sides of the ball. If the Lynx play is any indication of the Phillies future, then the future is bleak.

The sole bright spot here is the Lynx first baseman, Gary Burnham. Burnham, a 22nd round pick in the 1997 draft, has been fighting his way through the Phillies system for years. Burnham turns 33 in October, so his long-term major league prospects are virtually nil. That said, Burnham is hitting well: 9 Home Runs, 28 Doubles, 65 RBI. Impressively, Burnham has the fourth-highest OBP in the IL at .388. For a power-hitting first baseman, Burnham shows nice bat control at the plate, having drawn 54 walks to 57 strikeouts.

So Burnham is doing pretty well. The rest of the Lynx are a mixed bag. The best pro prospect on the Lynx roster in terms of position players are probably Brennan King, the Lynx third baseman, and Jason Jaramillo, the Lynx catcher. King is a 26-year old third baseman with ten home runs and twelve doubles. King has an OBP of .333. Like Burnham, I don’t think King’s pro prospects are bright.

Jaramillo, the Phillies second round pick (62nd overall) in the 2004 Draft, is a decent pro prospect, especially given that I think the Phillies will probably need a backup to Carlos Ruiz in 2008 at catcher. Jaramillo was a mid-season All-Star this year. Jaramillo doesn’t have much power at the plate – just six home runs – but he’s pretty decent at getting on base (.340 OBP) and catchers are always important for the intangible skills they bring to the team, namely their ability to manage their pitchers.

Speaking of which … what meager talent the Lynx have on their roster right now is located on the mound.

We’ll start with Zach Segovia. The injuries to the Phillies starting pitching has decimated the team and forced the promotion of minor leaguers J.D. Durbin and Kyle Kendrick. Segovia, earlier in the season when Freddy Garcia and Jon Lieber were absent, had to start a game for the Phillies against the Florida Marlins and got rocked for five runs in five innings of work. The Phillies moved Segovia back to Reading, where he went 4-2 with a 4.50 ERA before promoting him to Ottawa.

To say that Segovia has struggled a little in Ottawa is an understatement: 1-9, 6.05 ERA. Yikes. The numbers here are simply awful to contemplate:

HR/9: 0.93
BB/9: 3.27
K/9: 2.57

Segovia’s K/BB ratio is 0.78, which is astonishing given that most pitchers manage a 2-to-1 (2.00) ratio or better. IL batters are hitting .315 against Segovia, which is pretty horrifying to think about. Was Segovia’s turn in the rotation a major psychological blow that has screwed him up? Well, consider the differences in Segovia’s numbers in Reading from 2006 to 2007:

2006 / 2007
W-L: 11-5 / 4-2
ERA: 3.11 / 4.50
HR/9: 0.67 / 0.75
BB/9: 2.01 / 3.00
K/9: 6.30 / 4.31

Given Segovia’s struggles, his career seems to have hit a snag. Segovia is still a talented pitcher whom the Phillies will want to give a chance, but Segovia’s struggles have probably precluded him from joining the Phillies pitching staff in 2008. Looks like fans in Allentown will get to see a lot of Zach Segovia in 2008.

Had J.A. Happ not been injured earlier in the season he might have gotten promoted to the Phillies rotation instead of Kyle Kendrick, the Double-A hurler got the call when Segovia, Happ and J.D. Durbin weren’t ready. Happ did get one start – a June 30 hammering at the hands of the New York Mets that saw Happ surrender five runs in four innings of work – before returning to Ottawa.

Happ has enormous talent and will probably figure in the Phillies 2008 plans in terms of pitchers. He jumped quickly from Advanced Single-A Clearwater to Scranton in 2006, an impressive rise. I really like the way that Happ is pitching:

W-L: 4-5
ERA: 4.91
HR/9: 0.81
BB/9: 5.31
K/9: 9.10

Yeah, he needs to work on his control and get those walk totals down, but he’s getting a lot of strikeouts on the mound and seems like he'd be a possible candidate for a spot on the Phillies pitching staff in 2008.

So that's it for the Lynx. Tomorrow, back to the Phillies and their quest for the playoffs.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007


This is a Day of Mourning.


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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Kyle K 

Yesterday I noted that the Phillies could assemble an All-Star roster consisting of the players currently on the Disabled List who wear a Phillies uniform: Chase Utley, Jon Lieber, Freddy Garcia, Shane Victorino, Michael Bourn, etc. Other Phillies hurlers have spent time on the DL too: Brett Myers comes to mind. The injury bug has particularly bit the starting rotation, which started the season with a bit of a surplus. The team’s plans to utilize Jon Lieber as trade bait / long-reliever hit a snag when Myers shifted to the bullpen, then Lieber and Freddy Garcia, the Phillies new and much ballyhooed starter from the White Sox, went down.

Looking for depth, the Phillies sought Garcia’s replacement in Double-A ball, bringing Kyle Kenderick up from Reading. (Later the Phillies went to Ottawa and plucked J.D. Durbin from the Triple-A Lynx.) Kenderick, much to everyone’s surprise, has pitched very well. Sort of. A cursory look at Kendrick’s numbers suggest that he’s doing quite well: 5-2, 3.88 ERA in ten starts.

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
ERA – Earned Run Average: (Earned Runs * 9) / IP = ERA
K/9 – Strikeouts per nine innings: (K * 9) / IP

I was looking at the quality starts turned in by Phillies starters and saw something interesting. Check out the percentage of starts that are quality starts (i.e., starts where the pitcher goes six innings or more and gives up three runs or less):

QS Pct:
Kendrick: 70.0%
Hamels: 60.8%
Moyer: 59.1%
Lieber: 41.6%
Garcia: 36.3%
Eaton: 34.8%

Seven of Kendrick’s ten starts have been quality starts. However, Kendrick hasn’t been pitching as well as advertised. Once you take a deeper look inside of his stats, the truth becomes apparent.

As many of the readers of this blog know, we look for how well pitchers do things like get strikeouts, how many walks they surrender and how many home runs they allow to judge how they are pitching because these are things they can control, as opposed to balls they allow put into play, because good / bad defenses influence those numbers. (Caveat: there is data to indicate that pitchers like the Phillies Jamie Moyer do slightly influence the outcome of balls put into play.)

The all-encompassing number for a pitchers sabremetric number has been DIPS, or Defense Independent Pitching Statistic, which is what a pitcher would do with an average defense behind him. Let’s start by looking at ERA:

Hamels: 3.57
Kendrick: 3.88
Lieber: 4.52
Moyer: 4.82
Eaton: 6.09

Now convert that to DIPS:

Lieber: 3.53
Hamels: 3.86
Moyer: 4.65
Kendrick: 4.76
Eaton: 5.23

Yeah, Jon Lieber’s ERA falls by a run and Kendrick’s jumps. That is because, unlike Lieber, a pitcher who relied on control and his heavy slider to keep the ball in the park and hitters from getting ball four, Kendrick’s pitches are, at this stage of his career, pretty ordinary. He’s not getting many strikeouts, and his home runs and walks allowed are pretty ordinary:

Hamels: 8.67
Lieber: 6.23
Moyer: 5.62
Eaton: 5.61
Kendrick: 3.59

The problem here, with such a low strikeout rate, is that Kendrick relies too much on his fielders to get the job done. Pitchers with high strikeout rates like Hamels tend to have success because they don’t rely on variables like their fielders. Ironically, Kendrick’s home run and walks allowed rates are pretty decent, but this low strikeout rate is going to come back to bite him one day, and it will be sooner than expected.

Tomorrow: I have no idea.

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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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