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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Friday, November 02, 2007

Free Agents 

Today’s a Friday and I haven’t gotten a chance to put together a discussion of the Phillies other three minor league teams yet. I’m also working on my Season in Review series right now, so there are a lot of logs in the fire.

So far the following Phillies have declared Free Agency:

Kyle Lohse
Freddy Garcia
Rod Barajas
J.C. Romero
Antonio Alfonseca
Jose Mesa
Abraham Nunez
Aaron Rowand
Jon Lieber

Obviously the Phillies have no interest in re-signing Nunez and Barajas since they declined their options in both players. Garcia is out of the Phillies price range, so he’s a goner, and Mesa, Alfonseca and Lieber are players whom the Phillies likely regard as too old and possessing declining skills. There are only three players who the Phillies would be interested in re-signing. Lohse, Romero and Rowand.

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

Kyle Lohse – I believe Scott Boras is Lohse’s agent, so the chances of the Phillies re-signing Lohse is slim-to-none. A talented pitcher on a market which is nearly devoid of quality pitching, Boras knows he’ll be able to command a king’s ransom for Lohse’s services. Expect Boras to leverage Lohse solid 2007 campaign (9-12, 4.62 ERA as a Red and Phillie) into big bucks. $10 million plus is not outside the realm of possibility here.

Chances of re-signing with the Phillies: 5%.

J.C. Romero – Here is a player the Phillies would dearly love to keep. I’m actually not that impressed by Romero’s stats, however. As a Phillie he gave up 25 walks in 36 innings of work, which means he’d give up 6.25 walks per nine innings pitched. Romero pitched waaaay worse than his 1.24 ERA as a Phillie suggests. His Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) ERA is 3.98, over three times higher than his official ERA. Romero has consistently allowed a lot of walks throughout his career in the major leagues. As a Minnesota Twin in 2004 and 2005 he gave up 4.6 BB/9 and 5.7 BB/9 respectively, and as an Anaheim Angel in 2006 he gave up 4.8 BB/9. I know that the Phillies want to bring him back, but I am unimpressed.

Romero made 1.6 million in 2007 and while I think that the chances of bringing him back are good, the scarcity of quality pitching might drive Romero’s asking price too high for the Phillies blood.

Chances of re-signing with the Phillies: 20%.

Aaron Rowand – the Phillies want to bring Rowand back, but it isn’t going to happen. The Phillies won’t, after the Pat Burrell experience, ink a deal longer than three or four years, while Rowand appears fixed on five or six, and they won’t go higher than $10 million a year, while Rowand looks like he wants to go into the $12-14 million dollar range. Expect the Phillies to go through the motions of re-signing Rowand, but they have cheaper options on their roster who would do the job well and they want to commit some of that money to a long-term deal for Ryan Howard and securing more pitching this off-season. Don’t be surprised to see Shane Victorino or Michael Bourn manning centerfield in 2008.

Chances of re-signing with the Phillies: 1%.

Have a nice weekend!

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The 2007 Farm Report: Part I (GCL, Williamsport & Lakewood) 

I devoted a little time this season to discussing the progress of minor leaguers in the Phillies system because I hadn’t previously done so and thus the meteoric rise of players like Michael Bourn, Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard caught me by surprise. Had I scoped out their minor league stats and paid attention to them there, I would have had more to say when they made their debuts with the Phillies.

This season has to be rated as something of a disappointment for the Phillies, when looking at their minor league teams. In 2006 there was a lot of reason to be cheery about the Phillies minor league prospects. The 2006 Lakewood Blue Claws, the Phillies Class-A affiliate in the South Atlantic League (SAL), won the 2006 SAL title. Three of the Phillies six minor league teams led their league in ERA in 2006: Lakewood, the Short-Season Single-A Batavia Muckdogs, and the Triple-A Scranton Red Barons. The 2007 Phillies farm teams weren’t so good. The Advanced Single-A Clearwater Threshers and Blue Claws posted winning records, but the other four teams did not. Ominously, the Phillies new Triple-A team, the Ottawa Lynx, in particular looked awful, going 55-88 and falling 29 games behind the Red Barons, now the Yankees Triple-A affiliate.

Here are the high-lights, but mostly low-lights, from the Phillies three low minor league teams:

Gulf Coast League Phillies – The GCL Phillies season kicked off right after the 2007 MLB Draft when the Phillies assigned their draft picks to either Rookie League or Short-Season Class-A ball. Primarily high schoolers were assigned to the GCL Phillies squad, who proceeded to post a 28-32 record in the GCL North, finishing fourteen and a half games behind the GCL Yankees, who at 42-17 had the best record in the GCL.

The 2007 GCL Phillies were nothing spectacular, finishing thirteenth of sixteen teams in terms of runs scored per game (4.15 R/G vs. the GCL average of 4.62), and a respectable eighth in terms of runs allowed per game (4.47 R/G). Looking over the numbers, it appears that the GCL Phillies pitching was pretty lousy, but they were saved by decent fielding. The GCL Phillies were slightly better than the league average in Defense Efficiency Ratio (DER), .643 vs. .639, and they committed 92 errors. (The GCL Reds led the GCL with 127.)

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
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
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).
DER – Defense Efficiency Ratio: (Batters Faced – (Hits + Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) / (Batters Faced – (Home Runs, Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) How often fielders convert balls put into play into outs.
Fielding Percentage: (Putouts + Assists) / (Putouts + Assists + Errors). How often the player successfully handled the ball.
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. 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.
Isolated Power (ISO): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.

Travis Mattair and Travis D’Arnaud, the Phillies supplemental first-round and second-round picks respectively, didn’t play particularly well …

Mattair, a graduate of Southridge High School in Kennwick, Washington, and the Phillies third pick and 83rd overall, hit .235 / .297 / .340 with a .637 OPS and 3.29 RC/G. Mattair, a third baseman who also DH’d for the GCL Phillies, posted disappointing numbers. His OPS was under the league average (.691) and the team average (.678). Mattair struck out five times as often as he walked: 58 to 12, or 4.83 K/BB ratio.

D’Arnaud, the Phillies second pick and the 37th overall, hit even worse: .241 / .278 / .348, with a 2.69 RC/G and .626 OPS. Like Mattair, D’Arnaud was pretty shaky making contact on the field of play: 23 K’s vs. 4 BB’s, or 5.75 K/BB ratio. Both of these guys will have to step things up if they want to make the majors.

The GCL Phillies best players were Arlon Quioz, the GCL Phillies centerfielder who hit .272 / .378 / .364 and stole 20 of 25 bases with the GCL Phillies, and Karl Bolt, an Air Force Academy graduate who hit .256 / .336 / .459, with an impressive .795 OPS and 5.30 RC/G. Quiroz led the GCL Phillies with a 5.62 RC/G, by the way. I am very impressed by Bolt, who struck out just 34 times in 233 plate appearances. Bolt displayed real power at the plate, hitting eight home runs. Playing in large stadiums in the damp summer Florida air, GCL players don’t typically hit for power, but Bolt did:

Karl Bolt: .203
GCL Phillies: .117
GCL Avg.: .107

Of the GCL Phillies pitching, the less said the better. Miguel Matos was the best of a bad bunch, going 6-3 with a 3.36 ERA. Nobody stands out from the Phillies as being particularly talented here. It is worth noting that it appears that the Phillies invested heavily in position players and college pitchers, so the poor quality of the Phillies GCL pitching isn’t really a cause for worry. The Phillies aren’t counting on these guys to fill out the rotation in 2012.

Moving along to beautiful Williamsport … the 2007 Williamsport Crosscutters, the Phillies new Short-Season Single-A affiliate (replacing the Batavia Muckdogs), finished the season at 34-42, finishing thirteen games behind the Auburn Doubledays, the Toronto Blue Jays team. Despite the disappointing finish, the Crosscutters actually have quite a bit of talent on their roster. Of the Phillies first eleven picks in the 2007 Draft that signed with the team, nine were college players. Mattair and D’Arnaud were the sole high schoolers the Phillies picked before round eleven. This is where the bulk of the Phillies 2007 Draft cut their teeth.

Offensively, the Crosscutters were a disappointment, scoring just 4.07 R/G, twelfth of fourteen teams and well off the league average of 4.52. Defensively, they were much better, allowing just 4.28 R/G, fifth-best in the New York – Penn League (NYPL). The Crosscutters team ERA was a very good 3.57 ERA, fifth in the NYPL and better than the league average of 3.89, and they did better than the league averages in home runs allowed, walks allowed and strikeouts:

NYPL / Williamsport
HR/9: 0.52 / 0.41
BB/9: 3.52 / 3.04
K/9: 7.86 / 7.94

I ran the numbers on Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) and determined that the Crosscutters FIP was 3.55 in 2007, 0.02 better than their ERA. This was a team with a lot of pitching talent. We begin with Joe Savery, the Phillies first-round pick … nineteenth overall … out of Rice University, pitched well enough, going 2-3 with a 2.77 ERA in just seven starts. Savery will obviously be in the uniform of the Lakewood Blue Claws in 2008 and has a very bright future ahead of him, although it is difficult to evaluate him on just twenty-six innings of work in the NYPL.

Clearly, the Phillies best pitcher was Drew Naylor, the twenty-one year-old right-hander who led the NYPL in strikeouts with 97 on his way to an 8-6 record with a 3.29 ERA. In 93 innings of work Naylor allowed just three home runs, or 0.29 HR/9 and had a 3.46 K/BB ratio. His FIP reveals just how well he pitched: he out-pitched his “real” ERA by nearly a third of a run, 2.94 FIP.

Close behind Naylor were the Crosscutters other main starters, Tyson Brummett and Chance Chapman. Brummett, the Phillies seventh round pick out of UCLA (233rd overall), and Chapman, the Phillies eighth round pick (263rd overall), were talented pitchers taken out of UCLA and Oral Roberts respectively. Brummett went 5-5 with a 3.39 ERA while Chapman went 5-3 with a 2.08 ERA. Their FIP ERAs are much closer. Here are the Crosscutters four main starters FIP ERAs:

Starters FIP:
Chapman: 2.92
Naylor: 2.94
Brummett: 3.16
Savery: 3.51

Moving on to the Phillies position players … Check out the Phillies top performers in terms of Runs Created per 27 Outs:

Mach: 5.73
Spencer: 5.38
Brown: 5.37
Rizzotti: 5.11
Mitchell: 4.00
Durant: 3.79
Taylor: 3.40
Myers: 2.70

We’ll start with Mach. Tyler Mach was the Crosscutters best position player in a lot of respects. Taken in the fourth round, 143rd overall, out of Oklahoma State, Mach is going to be an extremely talented member of the Phillies one day. Mach hit five home runs and had 38 RBIs. He displayed impressive bat control, notching just 33 strikeouts against 21 walks.

After Mach the Phillies had a number of other impressive performers:

Tyler Mach: .803
Matthew Spencer: .789
Dominic Brown: .756
Matthew Rizzotti: .741
Derek Mitchell: .701
Mike Durant: .666
Michael Taylor: .665
D’Arby Myers: .582
Team: .662
NYPL: .697

Spencer, Mach, Taylor and Rizzotti were taken in sequence in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth rounds. Aside from Taylor, who struggled a little, each one played quite well and made a compelling case to advance on to play with the Lakewood Blue Claws in 2008.

Rizzotti, in particular, is an intriguing player, standing at six-foot-five inches, weighing in at 235 pounds, and having graduated from that baseball hotbed, Manhattan College, a three-time Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) First-Team selection and the 2005 MAAC Rookie and Player of the Year. Though he hit just two home runs and had 27 RBIs, he seems to be extremely talented and could turn into a tremendous player. Though he struck out 63 times with the Crosscutters, he did manage to draw thirty walks. He seems like the prototypical slugger-with-a-good-eye. How did Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s not snatch him up?

Despite their sub-.500 record, the 2007 Crosscutters were loaded with talent and played quite well.

Moving along, we journey from north-central Pennsylvania to the Jersey Shore, where the 2007 Lakewood Blue Claws play. After the 2006 season, where the Blue Claws went 84-55 (.604) and won the SAL title 3-1 over the Augusta Green Jackets, there was bound to be a let-down. With last year’s trio of Matthew Maloney, Josh Outman and Carlos Carrasco having moved on to Clearwater and Reading, the Blue Claws pitching staff was all-new in 2007.

Still, the 2007 Blue Claws were an extremely talented team on the mound, finishing fourth of sixteen teams in team ERA at 3.75. By far the Phillies best pitcher was the unfortunately named Antonio Bastardo, who was a blistering 9-0 with a 1.87 ERA in just fifteen starts as a Blue Claw. Kyle Drabek, the Phillies first selection in the 2006 Draft, pitched alright as a Blue Claw, going 5-1 with a 4.33 ERA. Drabek got a decent number of strikeouts (7.66 K/9), but allowed a lot of walks (3.83 BB/9) and a large number of home runs (1.50 HR/9) before injuring his arm. Drabek might still develop into a stellar pitcher, but these are issues he needs to sort out.

The rest of the Blue Claws rotation is a far cry from the glory days of 2006. Carlos Monasteros (11-11, 4.62 ERA), Darren Byrd (9-11, 4.04 ERA) and Edgar Garcia (4-9, 4.12 ERA) are a far-cry from the stellar performance Matt Maloney, Josh Outman and Carlos Carrasco turned in last season.

In terms of position players, the Blue Claws have a number of talents on the roster. Foremost amongst them is Adrian Cardenas, the Phillies supplemental first-round pick in the 2007 Draft, who has excelled and might be the best position-player prospect in the Phillies system right now. Cardenas had a .384 OBP with thirteen steals in sixteen attempts in Rookie League ball in 2006 and built on that with a .354 OBP and nineteen steals in twenty-six tries in 2007 with the Blue Claws. There are a lot of things to like about Cardenas: he’s got speed (thirty doubles, nineteen steals) and power (1.048 OPS+) and he reminds me a lot of Chase Utley. He even plays the same position as Utley: second base. Cardenas switched after playing shortstop, his high school position, in the Gulf Coast League. Cardenas is so athletic he could play any position aside from pitcher or catcher. I see him manning left field for the Phillies in 2009 or 2010.

Quintin Berry also turned in an impressive performance in 2007: .395 OBP, 55 steals in 73 tries. Berry has a lot of speed and has really shown a lot of control with his bat at the plate. His nearly .400 OBP is a product of a good eye at the plate: 61 walks to 85 strikeouts. Berry’s walks per plate appearance (BB/PA) is .104, an impressive total (i.e., he drew a walk every tenth time he got to the plate). Berry’s Runs Created per 27 Outs (5.93) is better than Cardenas’ (4.96). Berry and Cardenas are rays of hope for the future in the Phillies system.
All in all, the low minor league teams had so-so seasons. Their high minor league counterparts weren't as good. We'll talk a little about that on Friday.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Chris Coste: A Phuture in Philly? 

I thought I might turn my attention to Chris Coste this morning. Coste has a terrific story that the media adored retelling during the 2006 season: career minor-leaguer from a small town in the Upper Midwest, he clung to his dream of becoming a major league ball player through years in the minor leagues. After years of toiling in the minors, he finally gets a chance to play in the big leagues and makes major contributions to the Phillies run to the playoffs. A real life Crash Davis who made the majors.

In his career, Coste played a lot of minor-league ball. He was in Triple-A Buffalo in 2000-2002 before going to Pawtucket in 2003, Indianapolis in 2004, and Scranton in 2005. Between 2000 and 2006, Coste played in 510 Triple-A games! All without achieving his dream of being a major leaguer. He played in several teams minor league systems before finding his way to the Phillies. It really looked like his career was over in 2006 before he made it to the majors. He had started the 2006 season as a minor leaguer once again in Scranton. After hitting well in Scranton in 2005 – 20 Home Runs, 89 RBI, .292 Batting Average – Coste was struggling in 2006, having hit just 2 home runs, 18 RBI and batting .177, but the Phillies called him up due to injuries and incompetent play amongst the Phillies regular catchers, Mike Lieberthal (injuries) and Sal Fasano (incompetence) along with Carlos Ruiz.

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
Isolated Power (ISO): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.
On-Base Percentage (OBP): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
Walks per plate appearance (BB/PA): BB / PA = .BB/PA Avg
Slugging Percentage (SLG): Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage. Power at the plate.

As a Phillie in 2006, Coste hit a robust .328 (.376 OBP) along with 7 Home Runs, 14 Doubles and 32 RBI in 213 At-Bats. He hit .356 with runners in scoring position (BA/RISP). Coste also logged 434 innings behind the plate as the Phillies catcher. According to Win Shares, Coste had eight in his rookie season, four better than a bench player. He clearly made important contributions to the Phillies playoff march.

In 2007 the Phillies once more stuck him in their Triple-A affiliate, which now became Ottawa. Coste split time between Ottawa and Double-A Reading. Here is now his stats shaped up:

Ottawa: 0 Home Runs, 10 RBI, .233 BA (.317 OBP), .056 ISO in 90 At-Bats
Reading: 5 Home Runs, 31 RBI, .287 BA (.319 OBP), .185 ISO in 108 At-Bats

Simply put, they weren’t good, especially his performance in Ottawa. Interestingly, his struggles in Ottawa didn’t carry over into play with the Phillies. Called up once more due to terrible play from the Phillies replacement for Fasano and Lieberthal, Rod Barajas, Coste once more stepped into the breach.

Coste didn’t play as well in 2007, but that ought to have been expected: in 2006 .363 of the balls he put into play became hits (BA/BIP), a very high percentage. That regressed to .298 BABIP, a pretty average percentage, in 2007. Consequently, Coste’s batting average declined to a still-respectable .279 in 2007. He hit 5 Home Runs, 3 Doubles, and 22 RBI. His on-base percentage also declined to .311.

Coste’s problem as a player is that his is a far too aggressive hitter at the plate. He doesn’t work enough counts and draw enough walks. In 2006 he drew just ten walks in 213 plate appearances: .047 BB/PA. In 2007 he drew just four walks, a .029 BB/PA, one of the worst percentages I’ve ever seen.

In certain respects he played better in 2007 than the year before. In 2006, Coste logged 434 innings at catcher and committed four errors. In 2007, he logged 242 innings, but committed no errors. He also caught 29% of the base-stealers against him, against 19% in 2006, and he cut down on the wild pitches and passed balls he allowed per game from .270 to .190 in 2007. So there was improvement, but only defensively. His Fielding Win Shares per 1,000 innings went from 3.456 to 6.611.

In terms of overall Win Shares, Coste got four in 2007, just one better than a bench player. His Win Share Percentage dropped from .720 to .548.

So what does the future hold for Chris Coste? He is a good backup catcher, so if the Phillies don’t re-sign another catcher in the off-season, he’s the logical choice to back up Carlos Ruiz, who looks ready to assume the full-time mantle of the Phillies backstop. Somehow, I am skeptical of the Phillies plans for Coste. They don’t seem like they fully trust or believe in him, as evidenced by the fact that they went out and got Barajas, a mediocre player at best. If Chris Coste is playing behind the plate for the Phillies in 2008, it will be because the team could not find an adequate replacement for him and Chris Coste became an option of necessity.

It is a shame, because although Coste’s numbers in 2007 at the plate weren’t what they had been, he’s still a good bat and his defensive skills are steadily improving. I hope that the Phillies give him a chance to backup Ruiz in 2008. But I doubt it.


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Monday, October 29, 2007

Red Sox Sweep & Other Bits... 

The Red Sox won their second World Series in the last four seasons and their second since 1918 with a stunning four-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies. I really felt that the Rockies would have the edge in the series, based on the fact that they had been playing so well and had so thoroughly dominated the Red Sox in their series in Fenway earlier in the season. Aside from Game One, the games in this series were generally close, but to the victors go the spoils and the bragging rights. I stand corrected.

So now the Red Sox will build on their triumph and attempt to construct a dynasty in Beantown. They’ll try to re-sign Mike Lowell and Curt Schilling, but expect the demand for their services to be high. Still, the Red Sox have a load of talent that will be returning in 2008 and John Henry & Co. have shown a willingness to spend money, attract talent and be competitive. The Red Sox could easily win some more titles in 2008, 2009 and beyond. This is a new golden age, Sox fans.

Meanwhile, over at the Evil Empire, A-Rod has apparently told the Yankees that he intends on opting out of his deal and pursuing free agency. With Lowell likely to leave, this opens up third base in Fenway to A-Rod. I can’t see A-Rod in a Red Sox uniform, but wouldn’t that be a shocker?

No, I think A-Rod is likely headed out to the West Coast to join the Anaheim Angels. It strikes me as a good fit: the Angels will spend the cash to make it happen and A-Rod strikes me as a SoCal kinda guy (i.e., a metrosexual) anyway, instead of Boston.

What a calamity the Yankees off-season is shaping up to be! The bad press over their "firing" of Joe Torre, the decision of A-Rod to leave, the likely departure of Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and others ... They are making a nice move in bringing Joe Girardi aboard, but the bad news heavily outweighs the good. Plus, it seems like Steinbrenner's sons are angrily wielding power let petty tyrants. Hank Steinbrenner's angry tirade ("I don't want anybody on my team that doesn't want to be a Yankee") looks like sour grapes and underscores a petulant approach to negotiating and managing a team. With the Red Sox on the rise, these could be the new Dark Ages (remember 1965 - 1973?) for the Yankees.

More tomorrow. I have a few more posts for the week. Sorry I didn't post more last week, but I've been beat.

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