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, January 18, 2008

New Faces, Part III: Geoff Jenkins 

Sorry for the late post, but my computer hiccuped this morning. It's doing alright now. Let’s take a quick look at the Phillies newest rightfielder, the long-time Milwaukee Brewer Geoff Jenkins.

The 33-year old Jenkins will be entering his eleventh MLB season and the first one not in a Brewers uniform in 2008. Last season Jenkins had 21 home runs, 64 RBI and struck out 116 times in 420 At-bats. Is that a lot of strikeouts? Yeah. Jenkins struck out about 25% of the time in terms of plate appearances. The MLB average is 17%.

As I looked over his numbers I thought to myself that Jenkins is not the sort of player to please Billy Beane or Davy Lopes. Why would Billy Beane pass on him? Well, Jenkins saw his On-Base Percentage (OBP) drop from .357 to a dreadful .319 in 2007. Part of it is batting average (he saw his BA drop from .292 in 2005 to .271 in ‘06 and .255 last season), but a good deal is his inability to draw walks. Just 32 in 2007. Jenkins struggles to draw walks resulted in his Runs Created to drop from 87 to 76 to just 60 from ’05 to ’07.

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)
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: (RC/Outs) * 27

Why wouldn’t Davy Lopes want Jenkins on his team? Well, he is the classic American League DH-type player that Lopes complained was draining the life from baseball. In 1,234 career games Jenkins has stolen 31 bases. (Incidentially, 11 of Jenkins 31 career steals were in 2000. In the last seven years he’s stolen 14 bases, or an average of 2 per season. Ouch. Jenkins has also hit just 22 triples. Climbing deeper in the numbers, according to Bill James Baserunning stats (see, 2008 Bill James Handbook), Jenkins was a disaster for the Brewers in 2007, posting a -10 bases. In 17 opportunities to move from first base to third, Jenkins succeeded just once. He failed all five opportunities he had to move from second to home and both chances to go from first to home.

Yes, Jenkins appears to have a slow-footed slugger who might start having extreme difficulties getting on base if his decline in OBP portends a trend instead of an anomaly.

According to the Bill James Handbook, Jenkins will have a .341 OBP and a robust .200 Isolated Power at the plate. In 120 games Jenkins will hit 18 home runs with 62 RBI, and he’ll have a 5.23 Runs Created per 27 Outs. Compares alright with the rest of the Phillies lineup’s projections for 2008:

Howard: 10.04
Utley: 7.23
Burrell: 6.40
Werth: 6.12
Ruiz: 5.66
J.Roll: 5.62
Jenkins: 5.23
Victorino: 5.03
Helms: 5.02
Dobbs: 4.92

The Phillies will platoon Jenkins, a left-handed hitter, with Jayson Werth, a righty, in 2008. Certainly compared with Werth, who just re-upped with the Phillies for $1.7 million in 2008, Jenkins doesn’t compare. Werth had an OBP of .404 in 2007 and had nearly as many Runs Created (57) as Jenkins in half the plate appearances. Check out the differences in their Runs Created per 27 Outs:

Werth: 8.55
Jenkins: 5.00

So let's hope that Werth plays more than Jenkins in 2008.

Alright, this week was a sparse week for A Citizens Blog but we are going to start upping the posts and the quality of content. Next week I plan to talk a little about Brad Lidge and Chad Durbin, two of the Phillies newest pitchers.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

New Faces, Part II: Chris Snelling 

With Geoff Jenkins and Jayson Werth destined to split time along with Shane Victorino and Pat Burrell in the outfield, the competition for the coveted fifth outfielder slot is between Taguchi and Chris Snelling, the former Tampa Bay Davil Ray. Let’s talk a little about Snelling today since we talked about Taguchi the other day.

It is frustrating evaluating Snelling because we have precious little to go on. Thus far in his MLB career, Snelling has just 221 major league At-Bats. He’s hit just six home runs and nine doubles, so he’s no power hitter. He does seem to have a good eye, however: his 34 walks are pretty good, and his career OBP of .357 is a good 117 points higher than his batting average. According to the 2008 Bill James Handbook, Snelling will hit .253 (.350 OBP), with 7 home runs and 43 RBI. He’ll also have a 4.53 Runs Created per 27 Outs. That’s all pretty respectable.

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)
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.
Fielding Percentage: (Putouts + Assists) / (Putouts + Assists + Errors). How often the player successfully handled the ball.
Range Factor: (Putouts + Assists) * 9 / IP. Essentially measures how much a player is involved in defensive plays.

Defensively we know, again, pretty little about Snelling’s skills. He played 129 innings of left field with the Washington Nationals and seemed to do well: his fielding percentage was 1.000, and his range factor was 2.02, which would have ranked him in the middle of the pack amongst left fielders in the MLB. Snelling also played 38 & 2/3 innings of centerfield for the Oakland A’s and likewise had a 1.000 fielding percentage and 2.09 range factor, which wasn’t so good (although the sample size is much too small).

So what are Snelling’s chances of making the Phillies roster? Not good. He’s basically competing for one slot only, that fifth outfielder slot where the Phillies are looking for someone with defensive skills and with speed. On both counts, I think So Taguchi has the edge over Snelling. He played more innings in the field and has pretty good stats (2.82 range factor in centerfield for the Cardinals in 2007), and he’s demonstrated speed on the base-paths. Taguchi has 36 steals in 48 attempts in his career, against Snelling’s two in six attempts.

In the final analysis, I think that Chris Snelling will play MLB baseball in 2008, but it won’t be in a Philadelphia Phillies uniform.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

The Phillies 2007 Small Ball Index 

When Bill Clinton declared that the era of big government was over in his 1996 State of the Union, he was wrong. When Bill Clinton left office five years later in 2001, he was replaced by a President who created the biggest government that America has seen since Lyndon Johnson embarked on his Great Society in 1964. From Medicare Part D to hiking tariffs on steel to invading Iraq to listening into domestic conversations without a warrant to Federalism (i.e., Terri Schiavo), George Bush’s government has been the biggest Big Government in four decades. Arguably Bush’s decisions have been good for America. Arguably they haven’t. The point I am making is that nobody can predict the future with any reliability and we haven’t a clue how events now will shape the world to come. People who have looked at macrotrends and have been wildly off in their predictions.

In 1996, Bill Clinton wanted to make a clean break with the Democratic Party’s tax-and-spend past and he was largely successful: his second term saw record fiscal surpluses and a dearth of federal spending. Bill Clinton became the most conservative Democratic President since Grover Cleveland held office in 1893 – 1897. But events like 9/11 and the primacy of conservative, evangelical voters in the political calculations brought about big changes in the governmental landscape. You could see emerging trends in 1996 that never achieved fruition in 2006.

So too I see emerging trends in the game of baseball and in the Phillies approach to it, but I am loathe to go out on a limb and make a definitive declaration about what baseball and the Philadelphia Phillies will look like in 2017. I think the trends I see are significant, but we shall see.

Specifically, I see a definite trend towards small ball in 2008, based on what I saw in 2007, and I think you’ll definitely see teams change their strategies in the coming years.

What is small ball? Well, basically small ball is the strategy teams employ to score runs by means like bunting, base-stealing, sacrifice flies, aggressive base-running, etc. I’ll be referring to Bill James section on Manufactured Runs contained in the 2008 Handbook. James divides Manufactured Runs into two categories: the bunting / base-stealing kind (Type-1) and the sac fly / base-running kind (Type-2). Managers and old school-types love the idea of the manufactured run – the grit, the toughness shown. Clay Davenport has a nice bit entitled “Durocher’s Obsession: Static Versus Dynamic Offenses” in the new book from the writers of Baseball Prospectus called It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over. Davenport sums up the appeal of the dynamic, small ball offense thusly: “Managers have often preferred the active teams, the dynamic ones, partly because these teams let the manager do something.” Managers like Leo Durocher, the skipper of the 1951 New York Giants, and modern managers like the Angels Mike Scioscia like to utilize these tactics. Scoiosca, for example, has seen his Angels lead the American League in stolen bases attempted the last five seasons and lead the A.L. in runners moving at the pitch the last four.

The reason why sabremetricians, and the rare manager like the Baltimore Orioles Earl Weaver, dislike small ball is that teams need home runs to generate offense. Davenport (page 267):

The trouble is that you can’t get a really good offense without home runs. It’s like trying to lose weight without exercising, or running for office without raising money. The gain from home runs is so enormous that any other way requires exceptional – and unsustainable – performances.
I see the trend towards small ball in part because of the focus on steroids in the game of baseball has tainted the home runs records of Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and countless other players. The era of the home run was done in by Barry Bonds chemically enhanced body. The sight of Bonds jacking a 455-foot home run has left teams with a bitter taste in their mouths. Steroids don’t make you a better base-stealer, so teams are moving in that direction, I believe.

What’s my proof? Well, I’ll cite to three pieces of evidence:

#1 – Manufactured Runs are up. According to Bill James (see, 2008 Handbook), Manufactured Runs were up 2% over 2006. It’s not a smoking gun – and hey, it might be statistically insignificant – but it is there and it is worth considering;

#2 – The total number of home runs were down in 2007. MLB hitters bopped 4,957 home runs in 2007, the first time since 1997 that the total number of home runs did not exceed 5,000.

#3 – The Phillies ran a lot in 2007 and seemed to embrace a hybrid fusion of small ball with big ball. Maybe the Phillies are unique, but they might be a barometer for the rest of baseball. If the team with Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell (two classic big ball slugger types) moved towards small ball in 2007, can the rest of the major leagues be far behind?

Let’s start with Manufactured Runs: the Phillies ranked twelvth in 2006 in MR, with 148. The break-down was rather interesting. The Phillies were dead-last in all of baseball – not just in the N.L., but in all of baseball – in Type-1 MR with 33. Even American League Small-Ball allergic teams like the Toronto Blue Jays (42), the Boston Red Sox (39) and the Oakland A’s (37) had more. Given that the Phillies boasted one of the finest base-stealers in baseball in Jimmy Rollins on the roster, this was a mild surprise. Simply put, the 2006 Phillies tried to bash their way to the pennant and came close when teams actually pitched to Ryan Howard. The Phillies were actually third in the N.L. with 115 Type-2 MR, which suggests that the team was aggressive in many respects.

The 2007 Phillies were quite the change from the previous season. The ’07 Phillies were fourth overall in Manufactured Runs with 169. They were fourth in Type-2 MRs with 106 in 2007, but they doubled their output of Type-1 MRs with 63, ranking them sixth in the N.L. James includes individual data on MRs in 2007, so we can see that two Phillies ranked in the top ten of Manufactured Runs. Jimmy Rollins, the 2007 N.L. MVP ranked fifth in MRs with 32 (15 are Type-1, 17 are Type-2), while Shane Victorino tied for ninth with the Rockies Troy Tulowitzki with 26 MR’s (13 each). The MLB and N.L. leader in Manufactured Runs, by the way, was the Mets Jose Reyes with a whopping 52. Reyes had 35 Type-1 MRs alone.

… As an aside, Pat Burrell and Aaron Rowand, surprisingly, ranked third on the Phillies roster in MRs with 14 each. Interesting, Rowand had all 14 of his MRs as the Type-2 “hustle” variety. Burrell split his 7 each for Type-1 and Type-2. I thought this was a misprint, and I might be right: Pat Burrell had zero sac bunts in 2007 and zero stolen bases attempted. That has to be wrong.

Let’s look at the Phillies numbers next. On stolen bases, the Phillies ranked second is successful steals and third in attempts in 2007 with 157, a change over 2006, when they ranked eighth in successful steals and ninth in attempts with 117. With Shane Victorino and Michael Bourn helping J.Roll, the Phillies took 138 bases and were caught just 19 times, the fewest in the N.L. and possessed the best success rate of any MLB team: 88%. The average N.L. team was successful 76% of the time.

What about bunting? Well, the Phillies attempted 84 sacrifice bunts in 2007, a slight increase over 79 in 2006. Clearly the sacrifice is not a major weapon in the Phillies game-plan. The Phillies also had the runners moving 90 times, 3 under the N.L. average, but significantly more than the 69 they tried in 2007. My conclusion is that the Phillies incorporated some more small ball into their plans in 2007, but they chose to emphasize speed. Here I credit former Milwaukee Brewers manager and current Phillies first base coach Davey Lopes, who worked with J.Roll, Bourn, Victorino and other Phillies to improve the team’s speed. Certainly the uptick clearly shows that the Phillies are running more, but aren’t bunting runners over.

Incidentially, for the second year in a row the Rockies led the N.L. in sacrifice bunts. I’m continually surprised that the Rockies are such aggressive practitioners of small ball.

That’s the Phillies small-ball index. As I said earlier, I see emerging trends in the game towards speed and small ball tactics, but I could be very wrong. Time shall tell.

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