The Phillies and Kris Benson agreed to a minor league deal. This article suggests that Benson could make over $5 million this season.

Benson was taken by Pittsburgh with the first pick of the 1996 draft and has started 195 games with the Pirates, Mets and Orioles, throwing to a career 4.34 ERA with a 1.38 ratio.

A healthy Benson would be a huge boost to the Phillies. Here, for example, is how his career numbers compare to Brett Myers’:


G

GS

IP

ERA

Ratio
Myers 192 143 923 4.34 1.35
Benson 195 195 1207.1 4.34 1.38

The difference, of course, is that Benson is almost six years older than Myers. The best year of his career will likely prove to be 2000 while the best year of Myers’ career is likely yet to come. Still, on a team with pitching woes as deep as the Phillies I have a hard time seeing the addition of Benson as anything but a gamble worth taking.

The article linked above suggests that he was recently throwing at about 60 to 70 percent, which means that his chances to win a job out of spring training are just about zero. You have to believe you’re going to see him before long for the Phils, though, given all the issues the team has after Myers and Hamels in the starting rotation.

Benson missed the 2001 season coming off of Tommy John surgery and all of 2007 with a torn rotator cuff. He last pitched on September 27, 2006 against the Yankees and had a miserable outing. He went just 2 2/3 innings and allowed eight earned runs, puffing his ERA from 4.49 to 4.82.

Benson made his debut with the Pirates in 1999 and for the first two years of his career was an extreme ground ball pitcher. When he returned from injury in 2002 he still got more of his outs on the ground than in the air, but the numbers weren’t nearly as dramatic as they had been in ’99 and ’00. Over the last three seasons he pitched he got about the same number of outs in the air as on the ground.

His strikeouts have generally trended downward over his career as well. In 2000 he struck out 184 batters in 217 2/3 innings, 7.61 per nine innings. The last year he pitched was 2006 — in that season he struck out 88 in 183 innings or 4.33 per nine innings, the lowest strikeout rate of his career.

In 2006 he also had a big problem with the long ball as his home run rate shot to the highest level of his career. In 183 innings with the Orioles in ’06 he allowed 33 home runs, which was the fourth most in the American League (it was also the only year of his career in the AL, which may help explain the increased home run rate).

And then there’s the lefties. Here’s what Benson has done in his career and 2006, the last year he pitched, against righties and against lefties:


PA

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS
Career v R 2703 .248 .300 .379 .679
Career v L 2496 .288 .364 .469 .833
’06 v R 382 .270 .313 .430 .743
’06 v L 399 .303 .370 .540 .910

Those numbers against lefties are a little scary. But it shouldn’t be lost on anyone either that the numbers against righties, particularly the career numbers, are tremendous.

This is almost inarguably a good move for the Phils. We’re not going to know for a long time how healthy Benson is. But whenever we do, if the answer is that he can get back to close to where he was before his injury there’s no question he can help the team. From Benson’s perspective, he gets a team with a chance to go far this season as well as a team that’s going to have a ton of opportunity for anyone who can pitch.

The Phillies are looking into their options around a team chiropractor, something that Cole Hamels has been suggesting for a while. No word about adding some sort of fashion consultant to prevent the kind of wardrobe malfunction like the one that led to Hamels starting a playoff game on a hot day in long sleeves, but check back often. It may just be that everyone is going to have to dress themselves. Adding a chiropractor, or at least making sure that the players have easy access to one, seems like a no-brainer to me given the amount invested in player salaries and the consequences of injuries.

Marcus Hayes calls Eaton a head case in this chat. If Eaton’s problems were primarily caused by mental and not physical problems, that would be good news. In the same chat he calls the Helms acquisition a joke and says he thinks that Travis Blackley will make the team.

Scott Mathieson says that the discomfort in his pitching elbow is not a big deal. Same article says that Zagurski thinks he’s a long shot to make the team and won’t start doing mound work till March 1. More on Zagurski here.

This says that Gordon and Lidge both looked good throwing yesterday.