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November 21 2006

Things have been mostly miserable at third base for the Phillies since Scott Rolen was traded in 2002.  How bad?  Using OPS as the measure, in 2006 every NL team got more offense from their second basemen than the Phillies did from their third baseman.  Only three NL teams got a lower OPS output from their shortstops than the Phillies did at third.

Yes, the Phillies get more offense at second base than most other teams do.  And at first as well.  But in three out of the last four years they've been among the NL's worst at third base.  Here's a look at how the Phillies have produced offensively at third base over the past five seasons:

 

Phillies third basemen, 2002-06
Year HR RBI AVG OBP SLG OPS OPS in NL at 3B
               
2006 7 65 254 337 347 684 T-14
2005 12 70 257 318 374 692 13
2004 21 89 297 365 463 828 6
2003 12 76 223 299 333 632 15
2002 21 91 273 354 449 802 3

In 2001 Scott Rolen hit 289/378/498 with 25 home runs and 107 RBI in 554 at-bats as the Phillies third baseman.  He won his third Gold Glove in three years.  He followed it up with another nice start with the Phillies in 2002, hitting 259/358/472 with 17 home runs through 375 at-bats before being traded in July of that year in a deal that sent Rolen and Doug Nickle to the Cardinals for Placido Polanco, Bud Smith and Mike Timlin.

Polanco got much of the time at third in '02 after the deal, hitting 296/353/427 in 53 games. 

The Phillies signed free agent David Bell after the '02 season.  Bell was coming off a season with the Giants where he had hit 261/333/429 with 20 home runs for the Giants.  He was absolutely horrid for the Phillies in 2003.  In each of March, April, May and June he failed to hit over .225 or slug over .315.  Tomas Perez wound up playing 58 games at third for the Phils -- for the year he hit just 265/316/383, which, miserable as it was, dwarfed Bell's 195/296/283 (!) line for the season. 

Bell crushed the ball in 2004, hitting 291/363/458 with 18 home runs and 77 RBI.

In 2005 he hit 248/310/361 in 557 at-bats.

He played in 92 games for the Phillies in 2006, hitting 278/345/398 in 324 at-bats before the Phils traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers for Wilfrido Laureano on July 28, 2006.  For the Phillies, who dropped to 46-54 with a 4-1 loss to the Marlins on July 28, it didn't look like it was going to matter much who manned the hot corner for the rest of the season.  On came Abraham Nunez, who played virtually every day and wound up at 211/303/273 for the year.  Despite the awful output from Nunez, the Phils went 39-23 the rest of the year and fell just short of the playoffs.

There were literally thousands of decisions that led to the final outcome for the Phillies last season.  A lot of them were made when it looked like the Phillies had no chance to make the playoffs.  At the end of the season, however, the organization was clearly making a push to end the long drought and get the Phils into the playoffs as the Wild Card winners.  You could argue that of all the decisions made down the stretch none were as significant as the one to allow Nunez to continue to play at third when he was among the worst offensive players in all of baseball.

Earlier this month the Phillies signed Wes Helms, who is expected to get much of the time at third for the Phillies in 2007.

Ryan Howard has been named the Most Valuable Player in the National League.  Howard becomes the second player in MLB history to win Rookie of the Year and league MVP in consecutive years.  Cal Ripken did it in 1982 and '83.  It has to make you wonder what Ryan will do next season.  Albert Pujols was second and Chase Utley tied for seventh.  Jimmy Rollins was named on one ballot.  Howard got 20 first place votes to Pujol's 12 and was either first or second on each of the ballots.  Pujols will just have to be content with his World Series ring.

Jokes about Pat Burrell's strikeouts are sweeping the nation as this writer compares a Burrell strikeout to a missed tackle by a Seahawks linebacker.  The Phillies sure seem to have done an effective job of trashing their own player.  If only they were as effective at getting into the playoffs every 13 years or so.

This article suggests the Phillies may have interest in Carlos Lee or Manny Ramirez and that Gillick has spoken with Lee's agent.  I'm guessing the interest is really, really limited.  The Phillies adding either player seems exceptionally unlikely.  More surprising to me is that in the article above Gillick is presented as having little interest in Mike Piazza.  He would seem to make more sense to me.  The article further suggests the Phils are more likely to acquire catching help by means of a trade rather than free agency.

The Orioles have made an offer to Danys Baez.

The Cubs are in talks with Cliff Floyd.  That article also says Soriano may play right field rather than center.  A fine idea.

Nomar Garciaparra looks like he has a deal with the Dodgers and will get $18.5 million over two years. 

The Royals got former Reds catcher Jason LaRue for a player to be named later.  Good chance it won't be a player you've heard of.  LaRue hit .194 last season but socked eight home runs in 191 at-bats.

Juan Pierre looks headed to the Dodgers for five years and $45 million.  Pierre led all of MLB in at-bats last season with 699.  He was tied with six other players for 204th in walks with 32.  He also was the only NL player to get more hits than Chase Utley, he led the league with 204 (Utley 203).

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