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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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Is Werth Right? 

With Aaron Rowand now a member of the San Francisco Giants the Phillies are going to shift their outfielders for 2008, moving former rightfielder Shane Victorino to centerfield and moving Jayson Werth up from the bench to start in rightfield. While Phillies fans are no doubt wailing over Rowand’s loss, they should take heart: the addition of Werth will likely make the Phillies outfield better, all while being cheaper.

Werth, the Baltimore Orioles first-round pick in the 1997 Draft, had a long history in the minors before eventually making his MLB debut. After being picked by the Orioles, Werth was eventually dealt north of the border to the Toronto Blue Jays, where he made his MLB debut in 2002. After injuries limited his playing time, Werth found his way to Los Angeles where he played for the Dodgers in 2004 and 2005. Werth hit 16 home runs and 47 RBIs in limited action with the Dodgers in 2004.

Werth found his way to the Phillies as a free agent during the 2006-2007 off-season. In 2007 Werth initially played as a pinch-hitter but soon found himself mixed into the Phillies lineup as a defensive replacement, replacing Pat Burrell in leftfield several times, and finally getting some time in rightfield with the injuries to Michael Bourn and Shane Victorino later in the year.

The performance that Werth turned in was impressive. In just 255 At-Bats, Werth managed to hit eight home runs and 49 RBI. His On-Base Percentage* was a robust .404. Werth is a terrific hitter with terrific plate discipline. In 2007, he was 4.6 pitches per plate appearance. This was easily the best on the Phillies roster, even better than Pat Burrell and Ryan Howard (4.2 each). This is the kind of hitter you want in your lineup - always working the count, getting on base, wearing the pitcher down.

* On-Base Percentage (OBP): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)

Werth also batted .379 with runners in scoring position, again the best on the Phillies. In many respects, Werth was the Phillies most productive hitter. Check out runs created per 27 Outs:

Werth: 8.11
Utley: 7.88
Howard: 7.76
Burrell: 6.54
Rollings: 6.25
Rowand: 5.88
Victorino: 4.87

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.

Interestingly, despite having 304 plate appearances in 2007, Werth never once grounded into a double play. Rowand grounded into 18.

Seen this way, the Phillies offense would function better with Werth than with Rowand, but let's look at fielding, where Rowand is supposed to be a Gold Glover. Who was the better fielder? This is a little tough, because Werth is taking over right and Rowand played center, but I think a case can be made that the Phillies new alignment will be stronger. Victorino is a talented outfielder with a terrific arm. When he played centerfield in 2006, after Rowand got hurt, he actually played better, with a perfect fielding percentage and greater range.

Victorino played well in rightfield in 2007, but Werth was pretty good. In terms of arms, Werth notched 7 assists in 2007 in rightfield in just 446 innings of work. Victorino, who finished second in the N.L. in assists amongst RF's, had 10 in double the innings.

Dave Pinto's Probabilistic Model of Range (PMR) also rates Werth the best RF in all of baseball in 2007, with a 114.32 ratio ... What is PMR, you might ask? I was afraid you would. Basically it takes a model of outs a player should have made, vs. what they really did. The difference between them is divided so that a score above 100 means they did better than expected, while a score below 100 means they did worse. Werth's 114.32 was by far the best in the major leagues. Victorino's 108.72 was second. Rowand had a 99.27.

In the final analysis, the Phillies might be better off with Rowand gone and his $12 million dollar committed toward bolstering the Phillies rotation and bullpen. Werth, if he plays close to his 2007 level, will wow Phillies fans in 2008 with terrific hitting and great fielding. Watch, he'll be great.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

The Bourn Successor 

This Phillies have had a lot of luck over the last few seasons finding rookies to step up and make contributions to the team in unexpected ways. Ryan Howard stepped into the breach and became the 2005 Rookie of the Year. Chris Coste came out of nowhere – actually North Dakota – to make the majors after a decade in the minor leagues and gave the Phillies some timely hitting down the stretch. Michael Bourn? His performance last season is legendary around A Citizens Blog: 18 of 19 stolen bases.

So who is the next Michael Bourn? Two candidates emerge:

Chris Roberson. I already talked about Roberson replacing Bourn a few weeks ago. Roberson and Bourn are very similar players in many respects. Roberson, the Phillies first-round pick in the 2001 Draft, was likely to make the Phillies roster as the Phils fifth outfielder until Bourn impressed the Phillies brass enough they decided to take a chance on him. Now with Bourn gone, Roberson has his chance back.

Roberson, currently playing with the Naranjeros de Hermosillo (the Hermosillo Oranges? – my Spanish is a little rusty) in the Winter Liga Mexicana del Pacifico (Mexican Winter League) has a chance of approaching Bourn’s output. He’s fast – 19 steals in 28 tries with Triple-A Ottawa in 2007, and 25 steals in 34 tries with Triple-A Scranton in 2006 – and swings a pretty good bat: .349 OBP in ’06, .313 OBP in ’07.

Bonus points for Roberson: he’s a native of Oakland, California, just like Jimmy Rollins.

The other candidate for Bourn-status is Greg Golson, the Phillies first-round pick in the 2004 Draft. Golson is an interesting case if he actually manages to make it to Philadelphia. Basically, he has no concept about working counts and drawing walks, and would therefore have to be utilized exclusively as a defensive replacement / pinch-runner. While Golson hit .285 with the Clearwater Threshers in 2007, his OBP was just .322. He managed to draw just 21 walks and struck-out 124 times.

Promoted to Double-A Reading, Golson struck-out 49 times in 153 At-Bats. Okay, that’s bad. Even worse – he managed to draw just two walks. Yes, he drew two walks in 37 games and struck-out 49 times. That’s atrocious and a virtual guarantee that Golson won’t make it in the majors. His track-record is that he’s a free-swinger. Golson struck-out 107 times with Single-A Lakewood in 2006, walking just 19 times. Golson also struck-out 53 times with Clearwater and walked 11 times in 2006.

The pity is that Golson’s got tools. In 2006 he stole thirty bases in forty tries, hit six triples and thirteen home runs. In 2007 he took thirty of thirty-eight bases, hit 15 home runs and five triples. Were it not for his chronic inability to get on base consistently, Golson would be a good bet to make the Phillies roster later in the season. Is there hope for Golson? Sure, he’s stolen all eight of the bases he’s tried for and he’s hit three triples thus far in the Arizona Winter League. Good. He’s also drawn eight walks in 27 games! Cutting that K/BB ratio down from 5-to-1 to 3-to-1 isn’t great news, but it is improvement.

If I had to place money on Roberson or Golson, I'd put it on Roberson, who might benefit more from the advice and counsel of First Base coach Davey Lopes and becomes an impressive base-stealing threat himself. I'm sure Roberson won't go 18 for 19 in steals next season, but he'll do well and might be a big help for the Phillies in 2008.

Season in Review is tentatively scheduled for publishing on Thursday or Friday. Stay Tuned.

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