Archive for February, 2008

The kids are all over the place

The Phils young guns got hammered by the Pirates yesterday as the team fell to the Pirates, 11-6. With the loss they fall to 1-1 in spring training action. Savery and Outman both got hit hard. Savery started the fourth with a 5-1 lead and allowed five runs in the inning, including a three-run home run to Nate McLouth. Outman, who unlike Savery is thought by many to be a legitimate candidate make an impact with the Phillies on the field this year, was charged with four runs in 1 2/3 innings.

Kendrick allowed a run on a solo homer over three innings. Rosario allowed a run on a hit and two walks over two innings. Early results on Rule 5 pick Lincoln Holdzkom are in and they strongly suggest you seek cover. Holdzkom wasn’t charged with a run in his 1 1/3 innings, but he walked three, hit a batter and uncorked a wild pitch.

Howard put the Phils up 5-1 with a three-run homer in the third. Feliz had two more hits, 2-for-3 with another double. Bruntlett saw some time defensively in center. He was 1-for-2 with a triple and an RBI in the game.

The Phils play the Pirates again this afternoon.

In the unlikely event you were wondering, the lone intentional walk that Chase Utley received in 2007 came against the Braves on September 4. Ruiz led off the second with a home run off of righty Buddy Carlyle to put the Phils up 3-0. Lohse popped out for the first out before J-Roll doubled, bringing up Utley, who was in the two-hole that day in front of Burrell. Carlyle walked him intentionally to set up the double-play, but Burrell popped to short for the second out. Howard drew a walk to load the bases, but Rowand struck out behind him to turn the Phils away.

So it worked.

Hamels and Kendrick are going to have to come up with some kind of agreement around the use of the expression “for myself” in interviews.

This suggests the Mets, Cardinals and Orioles may have interest in Kyle Lohse.


Situational walking

Here is a chart of the 35 intentional walks that were issued to Howard last season, who the Phils were playing, what the situation was and my opinion about whether or not walking Howard in that situation benefited the team that did so for each walk (there’s not enough room for it, so it should pop-up in another window).

Whether or not the walk worked or not is obviously subjective. And it’s important to remember that not walking Howard intentionally clearly would have had poor outcomes in many cases as well. Howard hit 47 home runs in 648 plate appearances last season. Take away the 35 plate appearances in which he was not intentionally walked and he hit 47 bombs in 613 plate appearances or one about every 13 plate appearances. That’s about three home runs he would have hit in the 35 times he was intentionally walked if he continued to hit home runs at that rate.

Still, by my count, 11 of the 35 times Howard was walked intentionally it didn’t have a good outcome for the other team. And that’s with, as I wrote yesterday, miserable results for the hitters that came up behind Howard after he was intentionally walked.

Regardless of what followed after the intentional walk, I think most would agree that Howard was issued some intentional walks in unusual situations.

Six times he was walked intentionally in the first inning. For three of those walks there was no score in the game.

On April 2 against the Braves, with two outs and Victorino on second with the score tied at 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth, righty Bob Wickman walked Howard intentionally to pitch to Utley. Utley popped to third to end the inning, so it worked. But a hit still wins the game and Utley is more likely to bring the runner home from second with two outs than Howard (although that was before Utley had hit .332 in ’07 while Howard hit .268. Worked for the Braves, but I would have pitched to Howard).

On June 4 the Giants had lefty Barry Zito on the mound. With runners on second and third and one out in the first, the lefty Zito walked the lefty Howard with two righties behind him. They didn’t get the double-play but it worked anyway — Werth flew out and Rowand followed with a ground out.

On June 12 the White Sox walked him in the fourth inning when the Phillies were already winning by five runs. It worked, too. It put men on first and second with one out for Rowand and Rowand hit into a double-play.

On July 21 the Padres walked him with two outs in ninth and the Phils up by three runs already. Righty Cla Meredith walked Howard. Rowand followed and reached on an error — the Phils would score five times before the Padres got the third out.

It’s just a ton of intentional walks for Howard. It seems like it should cost the opponent and sometimes it does help to contribute to a big inning. But often it doesn’t, especially given how poorly Phillies’ hitters fared last year.

The other thing that’s interesting to me is the difference between the number of intentional walks Howard got last year and the number that Utley got. Utley and Howard each posted a .976 OPS, but Howard was walked intentionally 35 times and Utley was walked intentionally once. Not all hitters that post a .976 OPS are the same kind of hitter and obviously nobody is going to walk Utley with Howard hitting behind him to pitch to Howard, but that is still a fantastic difference.

One issue that may contribute to all the intentional walks for Howard is all the doubles that Utley hits. Utley had 48 last season, which tied him for third in the NL. Every time he hits a double in front of Howard it means that Howard comes up with first base open. With a righty on the mound and a righty hitting behind Howard there’s always the case to be made for putting Howard on and going after the righty.

By my count, 31 of the 35 intentional walks to Howard in 2007 came with both 1) a right-handed pitcher on the mound and 2) a right-handed hitter due to hit behind Howard. So the righty pitcher puts the lefty Howard on to get to the righty behind him. One way to prevent that is putting a lefty, Utley or Jenkins, behind Howard. I don’t think that’s a bad idea at all. But I also don’t think you can put Utley-Howard-Jenkins all in a row, either, which would let a single lefty come in and deal with all three of them. I don’t think that a lineup that went Rollins-Utley-Burrell-Howard-Jenkins one through five against a righty is a terrible idea — you’d like to see Utley coming up to bat with more runners on base a little more often than he would hitting second, but the Phils don’t really have a two-hitter anyway.

Another way to go would just be to try and hit higher than .156 after he gets walked intentionally.

The Phillies pounded the Reds yesterday, winning their exhibition opener 8-1. Travis Blackley was very good as he makes his bid for the 25-man roster. He allowed one hit in three innings and picked off the only runner he allowed to reach base. Moyer threw three scoreless innings, striking out three while allowing one hit. Carrasco threw a 1-2-3 frame with the help of two nice defensive plays. Madson gave up two singles in his inning but got out of it with a double-play. Clay Condrey is presumably also fighting for a roster spot along with Blackley. He struck out two in his inning, but allowed the Reds’ lone run on a solo homer by Adam Rosales.

Dobbs stroked a three-run homer as part of a seven-run fifth for the Phils. Feliz was 2-for-2 with a double, Bruntlett 2-for-2 with a double. Helms was 0-for-4 with a strikeout.

Phils play the Pirates today.

Article about the Phillies’ payroll here.

Article about Jason Jaramillo here.

Some of the Phillies turn out to have been good at other sports as well.


Maybe it would help if we spent another two months talking about Alfonso Soriano

Remember last off-season when the panic of the moment revolved around who was going to protect Ryan Howard in the lineup? Given the hitters the Phillies have I think that’s pretty much a non-issue. It doesn’t change the fact that the results in 2007 after Howard was walked intentionally weren’t very good for the Phils.

Howard was walked intentionally 35 times in 2007, creating 35 chances to hit immediately following the intentional walk. Here’s what the Phils did with those times at-bats:


Player

Times followed IBB to Howard


Results

Rowand 20
3-for-19 with three singles and a walk
Burrell 11
2-for-9 with a single, a home run and two walks
Utley 1
0-for-1
Helms 1
0-for-1
Werth 1
0-for-1
Bourn 1
0-for-1
Total 35
5-for-32 with four singles, three walks and a home run

That, 5-for-32 (.156), just isn’t good. You have to believe that teams don’t want to issue an intentional walk in front of a pitching matchup that’s bad for them, but the results for the Phils overall last season after Howard was walked intentionally were just bad overall.

The game the Phillies had scheduled with Florida State last night was rained out. The Phils play the Reds this afternoon. Moyer, Blackley, Condrey, Carrasco and Madson are scheduled to pitch.

Brett Myers will get the start in the Phillies regular season opener on March 31 against the Nationals. I think that’s a very good idea.

According to the same article, the Phillies claimed middle infielder Ray Olmedo off of waivers and designated John Ennis for assignment. The switch-hitter Olmedo turns 27 in May and has seen time with the Reds and the Blue Jays. In 403 career at-bats he has a 228/276/293 line and that, well, that’s really just not good. Nunez has outslugged him by 21 points over his career. Ennis threw to an 8.22 ERA in three appearances with the Phillies last year, including one start.

Piece from the Traverse City Beach Bums about lefty Jared Locke here.

Madson still wants to start.


Walk talk

Despite the firepower of the Phillies’ offense, Ryan Howard continues to gather intentional walks at a tremendous pace. Howard received 35 intentional walks in 2007 after being passed intentionally 37 times in 2006. If you look at the single-season leaders in intentional walks, Howard has put his name in the top eleven of the all-time list in each of the last two seasons.

I wrote about Howard’s intentional walk rate last year as well. Howard was walked intentionally 37 times in 2006 and 35 times in 2007. Seems like the decrease should be good news, but you have to remember that Howard got fewer plate appearances in 2007. The rate at which he was passed intentionally went up.

 
PA

IBB

PA/IBB
2007 648 35 18.5
2006 704 37 19.0

One of the differences between 2007 and 2006 was that in ’06 Howard hadn’t settled in the cleanup spot. In 2006 just 351 of his 704 plate appearances, just under half, came as a cleanup hitter. In his time hitting fourth he was walked intentionally 28 times or about once every 12.5 plate appearances. In 2007, 633 of 648 of his plate appearances (almost 98%) came hitting fourth. In those 648 plate appearances he was walked intentionally 34 times or about once every 19 plate appearances.

So while he was walked intentionally more frequently overall in 2007, the rate at which he was walked intentionally as a cleanup hitter was much lower.

And that, no doubt, is because the Phillies’ five hitters were so much better in 2007 than in 2006, right? Here’s the problem with that if you look at what the Phillies’ #5 hitters did in 2006 and 2007:

 
AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS
2007 .273 .365 .466 .830
2006 .266 .356 .544 .900

The Phillies’ five-hitters sure look like they were better in 2006 than they were in 2007. And they were, but they were better because of Howard himself hitting fifth.

Here’s what the numbers for the five-hitters look like if you take out Howard’s plate appearances as a #5 hitter from 2006:

 
AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS
2007 .273 .365 .466 .830
2006 w/o Howard .251 .346 .473 .819

It’s still not as dramatic as I would have guessed, but at least the 2007 numbers for the five-hitters are better than the 2006 now. In ’07 Rowand got the most at-bats as a five-hitter for the Phils, posting an .874 OPS while hitting fifth. Burrell saw a lot of time there, too, but wasn’t as successful. He put up an .806 OPS as a five hitter but crushed the ball while hitting sixth (1.179 OPS in 118 at-bats), bringing the numbers down overall. In 2006 Howard got the most at-bats hitting fifth and Burrell was next, posting a .918 OPS in 148 at-bats in a much better season in the five-hole.

Brad Lidge had surgery on his right knee and it went well. He is expected to miss three to six weeks.

Lidge sounds a little tired of talking about the home run that Pujols hit against him in 2005.

The Phillies play a game tonight against Florida State. Joe Savery will get the start. Happ, Outman, Carrasco and Bisenius are also scheduled to pitch.

The Phillies signed left-handed pitcher Jared Locke and right-handed pitcher Charles Vartanian from a tryout camp.

This interesting article from over the weekend reviews Phillies’ outfield prospects. Everything’s just ducky until it suggests that in 2009 the Phils could put Jenkins/Werth in left, Victorino in right and Golson in center. That would be a really miserable outfield. I’d guess the chances of that happening are just about zero.


Back in a flash

Brad Lidge will have surgery on his right knee and will miss three to six weeks. That’s bad news for a lot of reasons. Among them, it ensures the next round of Myers-to-the-pen talk will happen sooner than expected. Early results have Gillick saying that Myers absolutely will stay in the rotation and that the plan is for Gordon to close if Lidge misses time.

The other thing I think it means it that the chances that the Phils would carry 11 pitchers, allowing them to keep Helms on the roster, have diminished.

Regardless of whether Lidge is ready to go on opening day or not, and consensus seems to be chances are good he won’t be, the injury reinforces how precarious the pitching situation is for the Phillies. The Phils would have been weak in the bullpen if Lidge was healthy — they have a core of four guys out there most people would feel comfortable with and if this isn’t the injury that shelves one of them for a long time that injury is coming. Without a significant addition to the pen from outside the organization during the season or a major contribution from a player not currently considered to be part of the pen, the Phils’ relievers are going to struggle as a group this year. The good news, though, is that over the last couple of years the Phillies have been really good at improving their team after the season starts.

This article seems to suggest that the Phillies’ pitchers, and Myers in particular, were unsure about Ruiz last season.

Geoff Jenkins is apparently a swell fella.

In talking about Eric Bruntlett, Charlie Manuel says that he thinks he has shown that he will get people playing time if they deserve it. Insert your own Abraham Nunez joke here.

This article says that Benson had a good day throwing yesterday and that Benson thinks he’s just a week behind the other pitchers in camp. It sure seems like there’s a potential for problems with Benson if he thinks he’s ready before the Phillies do.

Aaron Rowand says was bothered by Gillick’s comments about his ability to avoid injury in this article.


That’s heartwarming, but what if it was the blueprints for a really good bullpen?

Given the choice of saving Victorino or the blueprints for revolutionary emissions-free technology from certain death, Utley would choose Victorino. I’d say chances are better than 50/50 that the described scenario never even develops. The same article says that the Phillies signed Kendrick, Dobbs, Brad Harman and TJ Bohn to split contracts. This says that the remaining unsigned players on the 40-man roster are Hamels, J.D Durbin, Mathieson, Rosario, Blackley and Victorino.

Charlie Manuel says he thinks Werth has 30-home-run potential in this article. Werth has 33 career home runs in 976 at-bats and was a fantastic hitter for the Phils in ’07 despite hitting just eight home runs. The Phils are going to have to figure out a way to get him at-bats this season — playing right field against lefties isn’t enough. I hope they let him see a lot of time in center as well, but that seems unlikely.

Brad Lidge limped off the mound today after catching a spike while delivering a pitch. Lidge says he’s day-to-day.

Joe Savery will start Tuesday night’s game against Florida State.


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