Archive for December, 2007

And if he could pitch he’d look like an even better offensive player

Two big concerns about the departure of Rowand and the appointment of Shane Victorino to the role of every day center fielder. The first is what happens when Victorino gets hurt and the other is what happens if he doesn’t.

Victorino seems likely to be able to handle the position defensively. But offensively he’s a 272/331/384 career hitter against righties (.715 OPS). He was a little better than that against righties in ’07, hitting 276/339/394 (.733 OPS) with a .770 OPS overall. So is there a chance that Victorino could be a good defensive center fielder and still not hit enough to play every day? I don’t think so. If you look at his .770 OPS from 2007, among the 17 NL players that got at least 300 plate appearances as a right fielder Victorino’s OPS was a miserable 15th. There were 20 NL players that got 300 plate appearances as a center fielder — a .770 OPS as a center fielder would have been seventh among that group.

One thing I do think you have to worry about is him breaking down over the course of the season. Last year he went into the All-Star break with 11 home runs and 27 stolen bases. Over the second half of the season he lost a lot of time to injuries and just being outhit by Werth and wound up with about a third as many at-bats as he got in the first half. After the break he hit just one home run (and stole just ten more bases).

The Phillies current depth at center field is just miserable. Bruntlett, Roberson and Brandon Watson are almost guaranteed to be worse offensive players at the position than Victorino would be. The best choice to back up Victorino in center looks to me like it would be Werth if he could handle the role defensively.

Here’s a look at Werth’s career numbers as a center fielder compared to Victorino and Rowand’s.


Player

G

GS

Inn

FPCT

RF

ZR
Werth 40 29 259.2 .967 3.10 .907
Victorino 92 72 691.2 1.000 2.51 .850
Rowand 724 657 5878.1 .989 2.67 .913

It’s just a few innings for Werth and his numbers would be sure to deteriorate if he got more time at the position, but I’d put him second on the depth chart behind Victorino. The biggest problems with that are first that Werth can’t play both right and center at the same time and second that Werth isn’t a whole lot better against righties than Victorino. Werth hit 257/371/389 against righties in ’07 and has a career .750 OPS against them.

The Phillies have four outfielders at this point in Burrell, Werth, Victorino and Snelling. There’s no question that that isn’t going to be enough — the question is who’s going to be the fifth guy. And I’m hoping the answer to that proves to be a left-handed corner outfielder who can hit righties and that the Phils are willing to assume Werth can backup center with Snelling and Bruntlett as the emergency guys. A disaster scenario for the Phillies would be if they keep those four guys and think that they need someone who can play center for the fifth outfielder. That would help, but not nearly as much as adding someone who can hit righties and taking your chances when Victorino goes down.

The Phils agreed to a one-year contract with Chris Snelling for $450,000.

This article says the Phillies are interested in right-handed reliever Akinori Otsuka and not interested in Morgan Ensberg.

This article says the Phillies have talked with Geoff Jenkins’ agent and he may be too expensive. The Padres may have interest in Jenkins as well, now that Kosuke Fukudome has agreed to a contract with the Cubs.


Rowand’s departure takes some of the Aaron out of the Phillies’ sails

Aaron Rowand has agreed to a five-year, $60 million contract with the San Francisco Giants.

In two years with the Phillies, Rowand posted a 290/353/479 line with 39 home runs and 136 RBI in 1,017 at-bats. He was an All-Star and won a Gold Glove, both in 2007. His contributions on the field have been significant, but there’s no question that the Phils are also going to miss him off the field as well. Rowand was one of the driving forces that helped forge the Phils into a team that was fun to watch in part simply because they played hard day after day, even seven games behind with 17 left to play. Whatever it is that’s in Aaron Rowand that makes him lead with his face when he meets the wall in the pursuit of the ball, some of it got on the Phillies. And it’s not just that he went after the ball like he did, either, it’s that he caught it.

Rowand has played for two teams in his career and played a significant role in getting each of them to the next level — that isn’t a coincidence.

With all that said, however, the news of the day from yesterday that would have been worse for the Phillies is that they had signed him to a five-year, $61 million contract. With or without Rowand on the team, the Phils seem committed to playing Shane Victorino regularly — if he’s going to play regularly it needs to be in center field.

Rowand’s absence brings new challenges to an organization that has had a weak off-season. Victorino should be able to handle center defensively without much of a dropoff, but he’s not going to hit 27 home runs or slug .515. An injury to Victorino would be catastrophic for the Phillies if it forced Roberson, Bruntlett or Brandon Watson into regular playing time in center. The Phils are going to need to make up for some of the offense they’ve lost, and it appears the places they could do that are in right field and at third or catcher.

For the players on the field the challenge is going to be to continue to play like Rowand does now that he plays for another team.

Mike Costanzo and Luke Scott were two of the five players that the Astros sent to Baltimore for Miguel Tejada.

This article says that the Phillies offered contracts to all their arbitration-eligible players: Ryan Howard, Brad Lidge, Jayson Werth, Ryan Madson, Eric Bruntlett and Chris Snelling. Among players not offered contracts by other teams it suggests the Phils may be interested in Josh Towers, Mark Prior, Dallas McPhearson, Morgan Ensberg and Willie Harris.


Take inaction!

I thought it might be nice to take a break from hoping for the Phils to get new players to hope briefly that some of the players they do have put up better numbers next year. In that spirit I would like to offer a personal plea to Carlos Ruiz: For the love of all things sacred, please, please, please stop swinging at the first pitch.

Ruiz often swings at the first pitch and, at least this season, his results when he does are just miserable. Ruiz was 7-for-50 (.140) with a .220 slugging percentage when his plate appearance ended on the first pitch. He posted a .393 OPS in those 55 plate appearances. In his 191 plate appearances when he got behind in the count 0-1 he hit 267/300/400 (a .700 OPS). In the 183 plate appearances he took ball one and got ahead 1-0 he posted an .880 OPS.

If you’re going to compare the OPS on the first pitch to the plate appearance to the OPS overall, it’s critical to remember that you can’t walk on the first pitch of the plate appearance (thus improving your on-base percentage and OPS). That said, Ruiz’s numbers were still miserable. He walked 42 times this season and posted a 259/340/396 line overall — if he hadn’t walked once all year his line would have been 259/267/396. That’s still a .663 OPS, significantly better than the .393 in his plate appearances that ended after one pitch.

For the 11 Phillies that got at least 200 plate appearances this season, here’s a look at their overall OPS, the number of plate appearances they had that ended in one pitch, the percentage of plate appearances that represented, their OPS in one-pitch plate appearances and the difference between that and their OPS overall.


Player

PA

OPS

1p PA

% 1 p

1p OPS

OPS DIF
Rollins 778 875 65 8.4 815 -60
Rowand 684 889 83 12.1 808 -81
Utley 613 976 45 7.3 990 14
Howard 648 976 57 8.8 1364 388
Burrell 598 902 65 10.9 1114 212
Victorino 510 770 51 10.0 1043 273
Ruiz 429 735 55 12.8 393 -342
Dobbs 358 780 44 12.3 682 -98
Helms 308 665 36 11.7 593 -72
Werth 304 863 11 3.6 819 -44
Nunez 287 600 51 17.8 680 80

In the chart above, 1p PA is the number of plate appearances that ended on the first pitch, % 1 p is the percent of the player’s plate appearances that ended in one pitch, 1p OPS is the player’s OPS in his plate appearances that ended in one pitch and OPS DIF is the difference between his OPS on plate appearances that ended on the first pitch and his overall OPS. For example, the chart suggests that J-Roll got 778 plate appearances last year overall in which he posted an .875 OPS. Of those plate appearances, 65, or 8.4%, ended after one pitch and in those 65 plate appearances he posted an .815 OPS, which is .060 lower than his overall OPS for the season.

(continue reading…)


Now that you Menchion it

The Brewers designated outfielder Kevin Mench for assignment. Mench is a right-handed corner outfielder who can hit lefties. Despite his connections to the area and his time at the University of Delaware, it’s hard to see the Phillies having a place for him with Werth and Burrell on the team.

Aaron Rowand’s house is for sale.

This mailbag from the White Sox web site says Chicago is still interested in Rowand and estimates his chances of returning to the team at 50 percent.

This mailbag from the Phillies web site says they won’t trade Helms unless they first upgrade their third base situation.

The Nats have agreed to a one-year contract with Paul Lo Duca. The key for Manny Acta this season may be less keeping the players who hate him away from the ones who are undecided and more making sure everyone has access to comprehensive medical care.

This suggests that reliever Matt Wise may become available by Wednesday. The 32-year-old righty didn’t have a great 2007, throwing to a 4.19 ERA with a 1.45 ratio, but could help the Phillies’ pen.


Desperate times call for desperate measures of production

Wes Helms was undeniably awful last season, but the Phils still shouldn’t be dealing him away for a minor leaguer regardless of whether they pay half his salary or not. Even given his miserable ’07, his combined numbers over the last two years are still pretty solid.

 
AB

2B

3B

HR

AVG

OBP

SLG
2006 240 19 5 10 .329 .390 .575
2007 280 19 0 5 .246 .297 .368
               
Total 520 38 5 15 .285 .341 .463

Over the two years combined, Helms has posted an .804 OPS. The Phillies were 15th in OPS in ’07 from their third baseman. They posted a .688. An .804 OPS would have been good enough for seventh-best in the NL.

There’s certainly no guarantee that Helms will bounce back in ’08, but hoping for him to do seems to make more sense than investing in acquiring someone from what looks to be a mostly weak group of available third baseman (by which I mean more Mora, Inge, Feliz and the like and less Hank Blalock).

Trading Helms without adding third base help would be a disaster. Dobbs clearly can’t play third every day, he hit 214/267/214 against lefties last year for one thing, and the only other choice at this point seems to be Bruntlett. Bruntlett is a better offensive player than Nunez, but he turns 30 in three months, hasn’t hit a home run since 2005 and has a career high in RBI of 14.

Helms’ numbers over the last two seasons look adequate only because his ’06 was so fantastic. After being a miserable hitter against righties all his career, Helms hit 323/368/632 against them with the Fish in ’06. His line against righties was the worst of his career this season as he hit 221/261/313 against them. He also didn’t benefit from Citizens Bank Park in ’07, hitting just 197/225/295 there while hitting a far more reasonable 291/357/432 in the Phils’ away games.

In 139 plate appearances at Citizens Bank Park in ’07, Helms had seven extra-base hits. While with the Marlins in ’06 he had 19 Citizens Bank Park plate appearances and had four.

Overall, Helms was as bad as he’s ever been last season. It doesn’t mean that he couldn’t get worse, but it does mean that he there’s reason to believe he can get a lot better. And as bad as the Phillies are in the minors, this isn’t the time to be trading the guys who might help you now for the ones that might help you later.

In this article, Ken Griffey Jr suggests that Ryan Howard is the best player in baseball in the “young generation.”

This article says the Phillies are interested in Nate McLouth.

Jeff Fasero wants to make a comeback. 45.

This article suggests that Iguchi’s agent will talk to him this week about whether he wants to play in Colorado.

This article recalls the 1974 Winter Meetings during which the Phils may or may not have backed out of a deal they had agreed on to send Bob Boone to the Tigers.


Wes not goin’ fishing yet

It’s been suggested in many places, including this one, that the Marlins offered relief pitcher Scott Nestor for Wes Helms. Nestor is a 23-year-old righty who struck out 86 in 75 innings at Double-A last season while throwing to a 4.44 ERA. Opponents hit just .233 against him but he walked 41, which is way too many. If that was the whole deal it’s a bad one for the Phils and I’d be surprised if they did it — Helms has a chance to bounce back this year and without other options at third they need him a lot more than Nestor.

The article linked above also says the Marlins may be interested in 25-year-old infielder Jorge Cantu, who was released by the Reds this week. Cantu doesn’t get on base but hit 28 home runs in 2005 as a 23-year-old and would seem like someone that would be on the Phillies’ radar as well.

This article says that the Phillies turned down an offer from the Marlins for Helms in which Florida asked the Phils to cover more than half of Helms’ salary for the upcoming season. It also suggests that Pedro Feliz may be the answer to the Phillies’ problem at third. Feliz has never on-based more than .305 in a season and hasn’t slugged more than .430 in any of the last three years.

Aaron Rowand declined arbitration.

This article says that Baltimore is interested in Joe Crede but needs to figure out what to do with Melvin Mora.

Just acquired Michael Restovich is gone. He has signed a contract with the Softbank Hawks to play in Japan.

The Phillies announced the signings of 13 minor leaguer free agents, including Jake Blalock. Blalock is back after being traded to the Rangers along with Robinson Tejeda for David Dellucci just before the start of the 2006 season. He’s still just 24 but was miserable last season, hitting 219/292/353 between four Single-A and Double-A teams combined. The Rangers traded him to the Royals and Kansas City released in July, which is when the Phils picked him up again.


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