Archive for January, 2008

I’ll tell you what I do — I stare out the window and think about what Carlos Ruiz did on the first pitch

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”
-Rogers Hornsby

I’m gonna let the Carlos Ruiz and the first pitch thing go sometime soon. Promise. I mean, not today. But soon.

Here are Ruiz’s numbers overall from last year and in his plate appearances that ended on the first pitch:





Ruiz ’07 374 .259 .340 .396 .735
1st pitch 50 .140 .173 .220 .393

In looking at numbers that compare what a hitter did on the first pitch to what he did overall, it’s important to remember that he can’t walk on the first pitch of his at-bat, which would help his on-base percentage and OPS. With that in mind, in his plate appearances that ended on the first pitch, Ruiz went 7-for-50 with three singles and four doubles. In the 50 at-bats he had seven hits, hit into five double-plays and sacrificed three times. The formula for outs is AB (50)-H (7)+CS (0)+GIDP (5)+SH (3)+SF (0). Thanks to hitting into five double-plays on the first pitch, Ruiz created more outs putting the first pitch into play, 51, than he had at-bats (50).

That’s just fantastic. But not in a good way. Kind of like the Beowulf movie.

And here’s what Ruiz’s numbers from last year look like if you take out all of the plate appearances that ended with one pitch:





w/o 1st pitch 324 .278 .363 .423 .786

That doesn’t mean that Ruiz’s numbers overall would have been that good if he hadn’t ever swung at the first pitch. Among other things, pitchers would have adjusted to him never swinging on the first pitch. Twice in ’07 he was hit on the first pitch. But still. The difference is dramatic. By comparison, Aaron Rowand’s OPS when his plate appearance ended on one pitch (.808) was a little worse than the OPS he posted overall for 2007 (.889). He put up a 309/374/515 line overall — if you take out his first pitch plate appearances and recalculate his line it comes out as 308/377/523 (a .900 OPS). A little better, but nowhere near the dramatic change with Ruiz’s numbers.

The Mets claimed reliever Ruddy Lugo off of waivers.

This suggests that the Phillies should trade for Matt Morris and then trade Adam Eaton to the Twins. I think the Phillies would have a hard time trading Eaton at all given his contract and how badly he struggled last season. Matt Morris at $9.5 million might be a tough sell to some in the Phils’ front office in the light of how the Freddy Garcia and Eaton signings have panned out.

The Phils still think they can play with the Mets in a post-Santana world. As well they should. As a side note, you hear a lot about how the Twins made a terrible deal and didn’t pull the trigger on better offers from Boston and the Yankees. The flip side of that I haven’t heard as much about is that the Mets just made a fantastic deal and somehow managed to get Santana with a weaker hand.

It’s the 21st century, baby, you gotta swing

Whether you like the Feliz addition or not, one thing that’s for sure is it could mean some quick at-bats at the bottom of the order. Feliz and Ruiz both are extremely aggressive early in the count and it looks like we could see a lot of them hitting seventh and eighth for the Phils in ’08. If you want to catch the Phillies at-bats it sure looks like the third inning is going to be no time to go for a falafel.

You may remember from a post last month that I think Ruiz would be a lot better off if he didn’t put the ball in play so much on the first pitch of his at-bats.

The same may not be true for Feliz. I added his numbers for 2007 and his career to the chart below — using OPS as the measure he does far better overall as a hitter when he puts the ball in play on the first pitch.

Partly that’s because he is just about helpless if he gets behind 0-1. Over his career, Feliz has gotten behind 0-1 in 1,397 of his plate appearances. In those 1,397 plate appearances he’s gone on to hit 215/231/364 (a .595 OPS). And when he puts the ball in play on the first pitch, he’s been much better:




1p PA

% 1 p

1p OPS

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
Feliz ’07 590 708 98 16.6 930 222
Feliz Career 3027 721 547 18.1 898 177

Again, 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. For everyone except Feliz that charts shows their numbers from 2007 (for Feliz it shows his ’07 numbers and career numbers).

Feliz puts the ball in play a ton on the first pitch, more than any Phillies’ regular. Unlike Ruiz, though, when he does he has better results.

On the Somebody-Cue-Chicken-Little front, as you may have heard, the Mets are about to get the best pitcher in baseball, 28-year-old lefty Johan Santana. The addition will surely make New York the favorites to win the NL East and, in the eyes of many, the National League. That’s kind of a hard one to put a positive spin on, but the Phils were never really suited for the role of front-runner anyway. Should be fun to watch and if nothing else you’re going to get to see one of the best ever pitching in games that really matter to Phillies fans. No word yet about whether Paul Lo Duca wants us to wait and see if it’s the Nationals dancing around when it’s all over, but check back often.

Rob Neyer mentioned Philliesflow in a post yesterday about the Pedro Feliz addition. You have to be an ESPN Insider to read the whole post, but if you are you can read it here.

Desperate for outs after losing Nunez, Phils vote for Pedro

Without an answer at third base since Scott Rolen departed in 2002, the Phillies appear poised to open yet another chapter in the saga. It’s really kind of a tough book to recommend.

Pending a physical, it seems the Phillies will sign 32-year-old Pedro Feliz to a two-year contract worth $8.5 million with a club option for 2010.

Feliz is a fantastic defensive player and sure to give the Phils a boost with the glove, but the news is disappointing. The fact that Dobbs and Helms are both barely passable defensively at third base was a big problem. But the answer wasn’t a guy with nearly 3,000 career at-bats and a career-high on-base percentage of .305.

Feliz is good for 20 home runs a year, maybe more at Citizens Bank Park. He hasn’t slugged over .430 in the last three seasons, though. In 2007 he slugged .418 — Helms, Nunez and Ruiz were the only three Phils to get 200 at-bats and post a worse slugging percentage.

He’s just a mess as an offensive player. He cut down on his strikeouts last season, posting under 100 whiffs for the first time since 2004. He’s drawn 100 walks in the last three years combined (Burrell and Howard both walked over 100 times in 2007). He hits into a lot of double-plays. Most importantly, though, he just can’t hit left-handed or right-handed hitting. He’s a career 263/305/437 hitter against righties and 248/282/431 against lefties.

His addition would almost surely mean there’s no room on the team for both Dobbs and Helms. The Phils deal Helms for a relief pitcher seems like the best bet, but it’s not exactly going to be an example of selling high. I’d love to see Dobbs continue to get a bunch of starts at third base against righties, bad defense or not. We’ll have to wait and see what the Phillies say and do, but I’d be surprised if they brought in Feliz to do something besides play third base every day.

If Dobbs does go to the bench it does solve the no-lefty on the bench problem. That was a small one, though.

Up till now I thought Eric Bruntlett’s role was going to be primarily as the guy who plays third base in the late innings. Don’t know what he’s going to do now, but he seems sure to hang on to a job as the Phils need someone to back up second and short and their choices are extremely limited.

Using OPS as the measure, the Phils got less offense from their third basemen in 2007 than any other team in the National League. They posted a .688 OPS. Except for five innings played by Russell Branyan, Dobbs, Nunez and Helms got all the time at third base last season. Offensively overall on the year, Nunez was terrible, Helms was terrible and Dobbs was okay. But in the at-bats Dobbs got as a third baseman, he was just wretched. Here’s what Dobbs did in his at-bats last season when he was playing third base and in his at-bats last season when he wasn’t playing third base:





Dobbs as 3B 190 .232 .293 .347 .641
Dobbs not as 3B 134 .328 .380 .597 .977

I think you can make the argument that it was simply a fluke that Dobbs was so much worse offensively when he played third base in 2007 than when he played other positions. In the same way, Helms is virtually guaranteed to produce more offense in 2008 than he did in 2007. The Phillies got some miserable production out of third in ’07, but there was a good chance that Dobbs, Helms and Bruntlett of ’08 were going to outplay Dobbs, Helms and Nunez of ’07 by a lot offensively.

The Phillies gave Abraham Nunez 212 at-bats as a third baseman last season in which he hit a miserable 255/342/311. If you’re going to give that kind of an offensive player that many at-bats you can’t be surprised when you wind up the worst in the league at the position. Your third base situation is just terrible if you have to do that — Nunez at third was a weak solution, but apparently it was the best the Phillies could come up with. Charlie Manuel just wasn’t going to regularly let Dobbs or Helms play third late in a close game. Given those options, my guess is that we would have seen a ton of Bruntlett at third in ’08 as a defensive replacement, burning the bat of Dobbs or Helms early. I’m not saying that would have been a good way to handle the situation, but I think it’s what Manuel would have done. If the plan was to give Bruntlett Nunez-like numbers of at-bats at third in an effort to address the problem that Dobbs and Helms are barely passable defensively there, giving those at-bats to Feliz instead would be an improvement.

The addition of Feliz guarantees that the team will be better defensively at third than they have been for a long time. Since Scott Rolen, in fact. Feliz and Rollins are going to do about as good a job as anyone at keeping ground balls from going through the left side of the infield. And the team can and will score runs, whoever the third baseman is. What they need to figure out is how to prevent them.

Sure wish they would have tried getting a pitcher, though.

This from the Phillies web site also says that Chad Durbin is likely the fifth guy in the bullpen behind Lidge, Romero, Gordon and Madson.

There’s no place like away

The Phils may score a lot of runs, but without Citizens Bank Park they’d be nothing, right? Right? Hello?

All of the teams in the NL East played 81 games on the road in 2007. Here’s how many runs they scored and their OPS in road games:



PHI 442 .793
NYM 437 .785
ATL 433 .792
FLA 381 .761
WAS 349 .720

Not as big a difference as if you look at the numbers overall, but the Phils still come out on top. The other four teams had an advantage that the Phillies didn’t have as well, getting to play about 11% of their road games (9 of 81) at Citizens Bank Park, which was the best park for hitters in the division. In the NL, only the Reds and Marlins saw their pitchers allow more runs at home than the Phillies’ pitchers allowed (421).

The Phils did get to hit a lot against the miserable pitching of the Marlins last season and, while not quite as bad, the Nationals. But so did the Braves and the Mets.

Also, I feel compelled to point out that if you were trying to guess the NL team that scored the fewest runs in their away games you might have to guess for a while. The Diamondbacks scored 326 runs in their away games, 18 fewer than the 15th-place Cubs, on their way to a 90-win season.

This article suggests that if Johan Santana is going to be traded to the Mets, Yankees or Red Sox, it may happen in the next ten days. More here.

Free agent third baseman Corey Koskie may not play this season

Theres nothing on my horizon except everything. Everything is on my horizon (Dwight Schrute)

Mike Lieberthal says he will retire. Lieberthal played with the Phillies for 13 years of his 14-year career. He was the Phils first round pick and third pick overall in the 1990 draft. He was an All-Star with the Phils in 1999 and in 2000 and put back-to-back nice seasons together again in 2002 and 2003.

Through no fault of his own, Lieberthal spent just about his whole career with the Phillies and never got a playoff at-bat. In the first seven seasons he played for the Phils, the team finished at least 20 games out of first place in the NL East in every season. He came real close to sniffing the playoffs in ’05, but the team fell short to the Astros in heartbreaking fashion.

Here’s hoping it at least does something for the value of Dwight Schrute’s bobblehead collection.

This article says that Lidge says he’ll be careful with his right knee in spring training coming of surgery. It also suggests that Chad Durbin is in as the fifth guy in the Phils’ pen, along with Romero, Lidge, Madson and Gordon. Durbin has appeared in 114 career games, 75 of which have been as a starter. Chad Durbin as the fifth guy in the pen makes a lot of sense. I would say that the other four guys, Romero, Lidge, Madson and Gordon, are close to a hundred percent to be on the team and in the pen if they are healthy and haven’t been traded by opening day. I think we’ll still see Durbin on the team, but I’m not quite as confident about him as I am about the other guys in the group.

This article reminds that Ryan Howard’s agent thinks that when Ryan Howard signs a long-term deal it will exceed the deal that Utley got. Here’s an interview with the agent from Baseball America.

The A’s designated right-handed reliever Ruddy Lugo for assignment. Lugo has a 4.39 ERA and a 1.48 ratio in 133 1/3 career innings with the Devil Rays and A’s.

This article says that Ozzie Guillen thinks that Freddy Garcia might not pitch this season.

And if they played in your back yard their offensive numbers would be even better

There’s a lot of gloom and doom about the Phillies outfield out there and how it compares to the other NL outfields after the loss of Rowand. Rowand is going to be hard to replace, but, at least offensively and compared to the other outfields in their division, I think the Phils are fine. Better than fine.

Here’s a look at how Phils’ outfielder produced offensively last year compared to the other teams in their division, using OPS as the measure:

Left Field


PHI .904
FLA .844
NYM .815
ATL .789
WAS .712

The Phillies just got more offense out of left field than the other teams in their division. What’s significant is not just that they got more offense, but how much more they got there. Unless Pat Burrell gets hurt, they’re going to get more offense than the other teams in the NL East this year, too. You can write that one down wherever you write things down.

Center Field


PHI .884
NYM .876
ATL .721
WAS .703
FLA .683

Led by Rowand, the Phils got the most offense from their center fielders in ’07 as well. Led by Beltran, the Mets, playing their home games in a far worse place to hit, weren’t far behind.

No way Victorino outhits Beltran this season. But I like his chances against the other guys in the division.

Right Field


FLA .792
PHI .791
WAS .781
ATL .775
NYM .724

A monster year by Jeremy Hermida, who hit 296/366/501 while playing right field, helped the Marlins nip the Phils, led by Victorino and Werth, in right.

If you add up what all the Phillies’ players did with the while playing left field, right field and center field for the season, they went 551-for-1903 with 76 home runs and 247 walks. If you calculate the average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage they hit 290/379/480, an OPS of .859. Here’s how that compares to other teams in the division:

All OF


PHI .859
NYM .806
FLA .773
ATL .762
WAS .732

Those teams don’t all play their games in the same stadium, but it’s not close. The Phillies were just better.

The Phils go into 2008 without Rowand in the picture. Victorino will slide to center and Werth and Jenkins are expected to hold down right field. The Phillies are going to miss Rowand’s bat — he was outstanding in ’07. But here’s how the numbers look if you adjust Victorino’s at-bats as if he had gotten all 649 at-bats for Phillies’ center fielders and produced his same 281/347/423 line and Rowand hadn’t gotten a single at-bat as a center fielder:



PHI .821
NYM .806
FLA .773
ATL .762
WAS .732

Closer. But the Phils still come out on top. If the Phils’ center fielders had hit to Victorino’s .770 OPS from ’07 they still would have been second in the division behind just the Mets. Victorino’s offense is good for a center fielder — it’s not good for a right fielder. While there’s no chance the Phils are going to produce as much offense in center without Rowand it’s just about a sure thing that they’ll get more offense out of right as Victorino/Werth is replaced by Jenkins and Werth.

Could still use a pitcher or four.

Rod Barajas signed with the Blue Jays.

This article says that if Joe Crede proves he’s healthy in spring training there’s a “good chance” the Giants could acquire him for a pitcher. It also suggests that the Giants are no longer interested in Pedro Feliz after offering him a two-year deal, which he rejected.

This looks to the stars of 2013 and reminds that Chase Utley turns 30 in December.

Article about some of the ’08 Triple-A Iron Pigs here.

Livan Herndandez may be close to signing a deal with the Mets.

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