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November 9 2006

First hit by pitch and now intentional walks.  We're a full service operation here at Philliesflow.  Stop back tomorrow and maybe we'll fire up a breakdown of how the Phillies fare on days when the bullpen catcher is struggling with post-nasal drip.  No promises.

Quick: who was second on the Phillies this season in intentional walks?  Abraham Nunez.  Eight.  Yes, I understand he hit eighth and that Phillies pitchers are hitting-averse, but people who want to walk Abraham Nunez intentionally shouldn't be permitted to manage until the crack wears off.  211/303/273.  Were it me I would have just taken the chance this wasn't going to be one of the 14 times in the season that Nunez bangs out an extra-base hit and tried to get an out.        

Ryan Howard drew 37 intentional walks this season, which was second most in all of baseball.  Barry Bonds drew 38 and nobody else in either league drew 30.  Oddly for the Phillies, however, as a team they drew fewer intentional walks in 2006 than they had in 2005.  In 2006 Phillies batters were intentionally walked 67 times, the third-most in MLB.  In 2005 they drew 76 intentional walks, which was the highest number in baseball.

Here's a look at the Phillies in 2005 and 2006 that were walked intentionally five or more times:

 

2005 2006
Player IBB Player IBB
Abreu 15 Howard 37
Lieberthal 14 Nunez 8
Howard 8 Abreu 5
Rollins 8 Burrell 5
Burrell 6    
Bell 6    
Pratt 5    
Utley 5    

In 2005 the Phillies led MLB in intentional walks because they got a significant number from so many different players.  Lieberthal, Abreu and Rollins combined to be intentionally walked 37 times in '05, but just seven in '06.  Abreu drew five intentional walks, Rollins two and Lieberthal none.  The players on the Phillies who weren't Ryan Howard were walked intentionally significantly less in 2006, just 30 times.  In 2005 the Phillies who weren't Ryan Howard were intentionally walked 68 times.

Howard certainly brings a new dimension to the Phillies IBB game.  Here's how the list of players that have been walked intentionally more than 37 times in a season goes:  1) Barry Bonds 2) Willie McCovey.  Full stop.  Sammy Sosa was also walked intentionally 37 times in 2001.  Baseball did not begin to keep statistics about walks and intentional walks separately until 1955.  Babe Ruth, for example, has zero.  But still.

And here's some fodder for those among you who believe the future of life on earth as we know it hangs in the balance of who hits behind Ryan Howard next season.  Here's how his intentional walks break down by where in the order he was hitting:

 

  G AB HR OPS IBB
#4 76 273 27 1.144 28
#5 62 234 25 1.034 7
#6 17 63 4 .918 1
#7 2 7 0 .804 0
#9 2 4 2 2.600 1

During his 273 at-bats in the cleanup spot, Howard was intentionally walked an amazing 28 times.  Except for Bonds, no other player in either league was walked intentionally more than 28 times in the entire season.  Pujols got 28 intentional walks over the season, but in 535 at-bats.  Looking at all the IBB out of the cleanup spot makes a compelling case that the sky is falling with nobody to protect Howard, but I think there's more to it.  The Phillies had three really good hitters last season other than Howard.  Jeff Conine wasn't one of them.  To hit Conine behind Howard down the stretch was just a terrible idea. 

The other thing is that Howard was just a devastating hitter out of the cleanup spot, even more effective than he was out of the five-hole.  As a cleanup hitter he posted a 326/470/674 line and drove in 76 runs.  With just 39 fewer at-bats as a five-hitter he hit 291/372/662 and drove in 62 runs.  Howard was killing people as a cleanup hitter -- other teams didn't take him out of the game by pitching around him.

While we're on the subject, Howard has taken away some more awards.  In the Players Choice Awards he has been named Player of the Year as well as the National League Outstanding Player.  The Players Choice awards are voted on by all Major League players via secret ballot.

In the Arizona Fall League, the Saguaros fell to the Javelinas 10-6.  The Saguaros drop to 12-13 on the season.   

Mike Piazza's agent says there are three NL teams interested in him.  Piazza just turned 38 and hit 283/342/501 with 22 home runs for the Padres last year.  The Norristown, PA native is really awful defensively but my guess is that the Phillies will be looking to bring in some kind of veteran backstop to backup Ruiz and Coste.  If they brought in somebody like Piazza we should all be crossing our fingers that Ruiz can a) really-d-it-up and b) avoid injury like Chris Coste was the second-best defensive option behind the plate.

Free agent Richard Hidalgo could play right for someone and is hitting 292/356/615 with six home runs in 65 at-bats in the Venezuelan Winter League.  Hidalgo turned 31 in June and posted a 314/391/636 line with 44 home runs for the Astros in 2000 at age 25.  He's had his shared of wretchedness since then, however.  His last gig came with the Rangers in 2005 and he hit just 221/289/416 in 308 at-bats.  In 2004 he split time with the Mets and hit 239/301/444 in 523 at-bats.  For his career he's still a 269/345/490 hitter and twice has been in the top 20 in his league in voting for Most Valuable Player.  I would guess the chances of the Phillies signing Richard Hidalgo are close to zero.

The San Diego Padres traded 23-year-old second baseman Josh Barfield to the Cleveland Indians for third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff and RHP Andrew Brown.  Barfield was the full-time second baseman for the Padres this season, hitting 280/318/423 with 13 home runs and 21 stolen bases in 539 at-bats.  Kouzmanoff turned 25 in July and hit 389/449/660 in 244 at-bats for Akron in the Eastern League this season, but was just 12-for-56 with the Indians (.214).  Much speculation abounds.  Speculation one is that the move could help open second base for the Padres to acquire Atlanta's Marcus Giles to join his brother Brian in San Diego.  Speculation two is that the Padres were quick to pull the trigger on the deal to prevent another trade that would have sent Kouzmanoff to the Yankees in a Gary Sheffield deal.

An article here says that free agent Carlos Lee may prefer to end up with the Cubs rather than the Astros.  The same article suggests Miguel Batista may be a fit with the Cubs as well.

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