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-The Eastern League in Baseball: A Statistical History, 1923-2005

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November 3 2006

If you write a blog, and I know most of you do, here's a little something you might want to try.  If you ever wonder if Tom from Swing and a Miss is reading, try writing in a post sometime that Ryan Howard is anything less than a sure-handed and nimble fielder with a powerful and accurate throwing arm.  If you don't hear from Tom that Howard is under-appreciated defensively, well, there's a good chance he's just not out there. 

I'm not even writing about defense today, though.  I'm all about ground balls and fly balls.

Let's just pretend that the Phillies play in a cozy little hitter's yard and that they are good defensively at shortstop and center field.  The right side of their infield is just bad defensively (again, we're just pretending!) and their corner outfielders, excepting the times when Victorino is playing a corner or they have a late-inning replacement like Bourn or Roberson in, are also bad.  At third base they are better than they are on the right side of the infield, but they're certainly nothing special.

If all those things were true it would pose something of a quandary.  Clearly you wouldn't want pitchers who threw fly balls cause of their penchant to leave the yard, but you don't really want to see a lot of ground balls either cause some of your guys can't really pick it.  Or if they do they might throw it into the dugout or someplace else unfortunate.  What you really want are guys who either strike everyone out or throw ground balls to short, but everybody wants that guy and the Diamondbacks aren't giving up Brandon Webb.  It's a problem.  At the beginning of last season the Phillies apparently decided against going with either ground ball pitchers or fly ball pitchers and went instead with let-them-crush-it-off-the-wall-and-hope-we-can-throw-them-out-trying-to-stretch-it-into-a-triple pitchers.

It brings to mind the famous story of the fielding-challenged infielders for the Dodgers, Pedro Guerrero and Steve Sax, which is recounted here among other places.  Asked what he's thinking out there will the game on the line, third baseman Guerrero confesses that he's thinking two things.  The first:  God, don't let them hit it to me.  And the second?  God, don't let them hit it to Sax.

Here's a look at how some key Phillies' pitchers got their outs last year:

 

Player IP SO GO AO Total %SO %GO %AO
Myers 198.0 189 215 183 587 32 37 31
Lieber 168.0 100 199 193 492 20 40 39
Hamels 132.1 145 120 127 392 37 31 32
Madson 134.1 99 146 148 393 25 37 38
Wolf 56.2 44 53 69 166 26 32 42
Floyd 54.1 34 59 69 162 21 36 43
Moyer w/PHI 51.1 26 74 53 153 17 48 35
Gordon 59.1 68 61 49 178 38 34 28
Geary 91.1 60 127 86 273 22 47 31
White 64.2 40 110 39 189 21 58 21

Rick White is the most extreme ground ball pitcher of the group.  Joining him as the other ground-ballers are Myers, Moyer, Geary and Gordon, although Gordon got more outs by strikeout than by groundout.  Wolf and Floyd got more outs in the air and Lieber, Madson and Hamels got about the same number of outs on fly balls and ground balls.  Hamels, like Gordon, got more outs on strikeouts than by ground outs or fly outs. 

Myers has gotten more outs on the ground than in the air every year of his career. 

Lieber consistently gets more outs on the ground than in the air, although he's fluctuated more from year to year.  In several recent years has gotten about the same number of outs in the air as on the ground.  Other years, like 2000 and 2004, he was a more extreme ground ball pitcher.

Moyer is a strange one.  Excluding his time with the Phillies this year, in each of the last six years with the Mariners he's gotten far more outs in the air than on the ground.  With the Phillies this season he got more outs on the ground.  One of the big questions about Moyer beyond his age is if he's going to be able to keep the ball in the yard in Philly.  Despite the big difference in how he got his outs with Seattle and Philadelphia last season, Moyer allowed home runs at about the same rate.  With the Phils he gave up eight in 51 1/3 innings, or about one every 6.42 innings.  With the Mariners he gave up 25 in 160 innings, about one every 6.40 innings.  The issue there may not be how the pitcher gets his outs, but what the result is on balls where he doesn't get an out.

Wolf has gotten more outs in the air than on the ground in every year of his eight-year career.  Hamels made his debut this season.

In Japan, the team of MLB players beat the team of Japanese players 3-2 in the first game of the five-game set.  Jermaine Dye had the big hit of the game, a two-run home run in the third that put the MLB players up 3-0.  Chase Utley drove in the other run on a second-inning ground out that scored Ryan Howard.  Utley hit eighth (really he did) and went 1-for-3 with an RBI with a throwing error.  Howard was 2-for-3 with a double and a walk.  John Lackey pitched five innings, allowing just a run on two hits. 

In the Arizona Fall League, Gio Gonzalez tossed three scoreless innings as the Saguaros beat the Phoenix Desert Dogs 3-1.  The Big Cacti improve to 9-11.  Gonzalez allowed three hits and a walk and lowered his ERA to 3.24.  Over his four appearances he's struck out ten in 8 1/3 innings but has allowed eight hits and four walks (1.44 ratio).

David Dellucci has filed to become a free agent.  I still am not ready to give up hope.

Moises Alou wants to play somewhere next year, but probably not with the Giants.  He'll turn 41 next year, and we know Gillick likes that kind of thing, and will probably get a short contract.  Alou hit 301/352/571 in 345 at-bats with the Giants, but may make too much money for the Phils ($6 million in '06).

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