Archive for February, 2008

Ready or not, here they Holdzkom

Pitchers and catchers report tomorrow. Here’s how I see the Phils’ roster shaping up as we head into spring training.

Among the hitters, these are the guys I see as 100% to make the team:

1. Howard
2. Utley
3. Rollins
4. Feliz
5. Burrell
6. Victorino
7. Jenkins
8. Werth
9. Ruiz

And just behind them, almost sure things to make the team, I’d have

10. Bruntlett
11. Dobbs

Bruntlett is just about the only option to backup short and second. Dobbs has big appeal as a left-handed bat.

I think Chris Coste almost assuredly makes the team.

12. Coste

The only other choice for the second catcher looks like it’s Jaramillo. I think the Phils are wary of Coste behind the plate, but I think he still gets the nod over the 25-year-old Jaramillo.

Assuming the Phils carry 12 pitchers, that leaves one spot for these three guys and I think you have to assume they go with Taguchi because of his defense.

13. Taguchi
Helms
Snelling

I’m assuming that Helms gets traded. If he doesn’t I think he’s on the team, even if it means the Phils have to carry 14 hitters. If the Phils pick their final hitter from those three players I’m hoping for Helms or Snelling, but I think if the Phils go with 13 hitters the last would be Taguchi as the fifth outfielder.

I would be surprised if any other hitter wound up on the roster to start the season.

The pitching side is far more wide open. I see eight guys as hundred percenters for 12 pitching spots:

1. Hamels
2. Myers
3. Kendrick
4. Moyer
5. Gordon
6. Lidge
7. Madson
8. Romero

Four starters and four relievers.

Unless the Phillies add Kyle Lohse my guess is that Eaton is the fifth starter. It sounds as if the chances are good that the Phils are about to add Kris Benson, so his competition for the role may include Benson, Chad Durbin, Blackley, JD Durbin and Outman. I don’t think there’s much of a chance Eaton starts the season in the pen, so it’s either the rotation or the DL. I think it’s the rotation.

9. Eaton

I also think the Chad Durbin will make the team, pitching out of the pen to start the year.

10. Chad Durbin

After that things get pretty fuzzy.

The Phils have one lefty in the pen in Romero. I think they need another from the group of Happ, Blackley, Smith, Zagurski, Youman, Outman, Darensbourg, Mazone, Savery and Castro. An article linked below says that Smith won’t compete for a job this spring and Zagurski isn’t a hundred percent. I see Castro and Youman as the primary candidates with Blackley, Outman, Darensbourg and Happ behind them — don’t have a strong feeling but I’ll take Castro.

11. Castro
Youman
Blackley
Outman
Darensbourg
Happ
Zagurski
Mazone
Savery
Smith

If the Phils go with 14 hitters, that’s a full roster. If the go with 13 hitters and another pitcher, barring an addition the pitcher seems sure to come from this list:

JD Durbin
Youman
Rosario
Condrey
Outman
Bisenius
Mathieson
Blackley
Happ
Ennis
Holdzkom
Darensbourg
Segovia
Mazone
Knotts
Chiavacci

I see everyone on that list below Mathieson as a real long shot. Honestly it’s not a real exciting list. I would love to see Outman win a spot but I think there’s some guys who go in with at least a slightly better chance. The Phils gave JD Durbin, Rosario and Condrey innings last season so I think you have to look at them as having a leg up on the other guys as camp opens.

The last spot or spots in the pen is wide open. If I had to guess now I’d go with JD Durbin.

That makes my final guess the day before pitchers and catchers are due to report this:

Hitters (13): Howard, Utley, Rollins, Feliz, Burrell, Victorino, Jenkins, Werth, Ruiz, Bruntlett, Dobbs, Coste, Taguchi

Pitchers (12): Hamels, Myers, Kendrick, Moyer, Gordon, Lidge, Madson, Romero, Eaton, Chad Durbin, Castro, JD Durbin

This article says that Scott Mathieson has had discomfort in his pitching elbow. That is not good news.

The article linked above also says that there will be a resolution regarding Benson soon, within 24 to 48 hours.

In this article Gillick talks about the possibility of carrying 14 hitters, the 14th of which would presumably be Helms or Snelling. He also says that if the Phils did go with 11 pitchers they would need to make sure that the last guys they add in the pen are capable of pitching more than one inning. I’d really like the Phils to carry Snelling, but if they do I hope it’s in place of Taguchi and not as a sixth outfielder.

This article suggests that Eaton’s problems last season may have been compounded by personal issues as well as physical ones. No doubt there’s nothing wrong with him that can’t be helped by Manuel saying stuff like he has to “show the reason why we got him.”


Phils pen apparently looking to make up what it lacks in quality in bigness

Here’s the Phillies’ spring training roster.

This article says the Phillies’ are no closer to signing Kris Benson, but that adding Benson is far more likely than adding Lohse.

This reminds that Ruiz hit 17 home runs at Double-A in 2004 and 16 at Triple-A in 2005 and could see a boost in his power numbers this season. He also slugged .505 at Triple-A in 2006.

Charlie Manuel is losing weight and thinks the Phils could have a “big bullpen.” Assuming big is of the good family in this context, I’m not really seeing that one. But I hope he’s right. I do agree that the “freakin’ Mets” got better.

This article lists Mathieson, Castro, Blackley, Snelling and Rosario as five guys battling for a job this spring. My guess would be that Castro has the best shot of the guys in that group.

The Mets signed Tony Armas, Jr to a minor league contract.


Last man arbitrating

The Phillies and Eric Bruntlett avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $600,000 deal. Ryan Howard is the only remaining arbitration-eligible Phil.

The article linked above also says that the Phillies designated Anderson Garcia for assignment to make room for Feliz on the 40-man roster. Garcia made one appearance with the Phillies, which came in 2007. On July 7 in Colorado he started the seventh with the Phils down 5-3 and gave up two hits in 2/3 of an inning.

This article suggests that the Phils are “trying to get to the finish line” with Kris Benson and that today is an important day in the negotiations with Benson scheduled to pitch for other teams tomorrow.

Anibal Sanchez says he may be healthy enough to join the Marlins rotation around the All-Star break.

A reader sent an email suggesting more attention should be being given to all the home runs that Johan Santana gave up last year. I’m here to help. Last year Johan Santana led the AL in home runs allowed, surrendering 33. Not only that, if you look at his hits, walks and home runs allowed per nine innings over the past three years, things have been deteriorating:


H/9

BB/9

HR/9
2005 6.99 1.75 0.85
2006 7.16 1.81 0.92
2007 7.52 2.14 1.36

And if that’s not enough, last year he only finished fifth in Cy Young voting, which was his worst showing since 2003.

The next update to Philliesflow will be on Tuesday.


Not only that, it also keeps the bases from being clogged up with too many runners

If you look at the numbers Jimmy Rollins has put up over his career it’s hard not to wonder how well-suited he is to be a leadoff man. He’s pounded 55 home runs over the past two seasons and he’s never posted an on-base percentage of .350 or better in his career. He managed to drive in 94 runs for the Phils in 2007, 81 of which came while he was hitting first in the lineup. That was by far the most of any NL hitter in the leadoff slot — Alfonso Soriano was second and he drove in 69 runs as a leadoff hitter.

The 81 RBI as a leadoff is a ton. But he got a lot of help from a productive lineup that produces base-runners for everyone in the lineup, regardless of where they hit. As I pointed out earlier this week, going by percentage of plate appearances with runners aboard Rollins hits with the bases empty far fewer than anyone else on the team. In 2007 he hit 20 solo home runs. The question has been around just about as long as J-Roll has been in the league — should he be hitting leadoff?

And if you think the answer is yes a big part of your argument can be this: Rollins is simply a better hitter when he’s hitting leadoff. And over his career, outside of the leadoff spot he’s been barely passable as an offensive player.

Here are his career numbers and what he’s done while hitting first in the order and what he’s done when hitting anywhere besides first:


AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS
Career 4713 .277 .331 .441 .772
#1 3441 .284 .338 .465 .803
Not #1 1272 .260 .312 .377 .688

Undeniably, Rollins has better results when hitting first in the lineup. When he doesn’t hit first in the lineup he has been a very poor hitter over a large number of at-bats. The ‘why’ of all this is pretty interesting, but I have no idea. The one thing I’m sure of is that the answer isn’t that he tries harder when he hits first in the order. If I were the Phillies I think I’d try to figure it out, though, because given the power numbers he has put up over the past two years he has the potential to drive in a lot more runs if he were getting his at-bats with more men on base. But until I did figure it out I think I’d let him keep leading off.

This article from MLB.com about the contenders that may miss the playoffs is kind of rough on the Phils.

Update 2/8/08: A comment was made wondering how many of Rollins’ at-bats outside of the #1 spot in the order came early in his career, before he put up his best offensive numbers. This is a really good point I should have addressed in the original post.

It is true that the vast majority of the at-bats that Rollins has had outside of the top spot in the batting order, about 80 percent, came before 2004. Since he has been more productive as a hitter overall of late, you would think the numbers outside the leadoff spot would look worse because he was just a worse hitter overall while he getting most of his time there. And they do. However, if you also look at each of his seasons independently without putting them in the context of his overall career numbers, in just about every year he’s also had more success hitting first than hitting in other spots in the order.

Rollins made his league debut in 2000 and has played at least part of eight seasons.

In three of them, 2000, ’05 and ’06, Rollins got less than 20 plate appearances anywhere other than the leadoff spots.

In ’03, using OPS as the measure, he was worse overall in his plate appearances in the leadoff spot. That season he posted a .693 OPS in 280 at-bats as a leadoff hitter, which was lower than his .707 OPS on the season. The .693 was better than his .688 as a #2 hitter, but he hit 360/385/493 in 75 at-bats hitting sixth and 278/381/407 in 54 at-bats hitting seventh.

In 2001, ’02, ’04 and ’07 he got at least 100 plate appearances at positions in the batting order other than #1. In each of those seasons, using OPS as the measure he was a better hitter hitting first in the lineup than hitting in all of the other spots.

In 2001, 261 of his 656 at-bats came as the top hitter in the lineup. He posted a .794 OPS as the # hitter in the lineup — his OPS overall on the year was .742.

In ’02, 395 of his 637 at-bats came as a one-hitter. .727 OPS as a leadoff hitter and .686 overall.

In 2004, 498 of his 657 at-bats were a leadoff hitter. .852 leadoff and .803 overall. With the big home run numbers, most people see 2006 and 2007 as Rollins’ best seasons with the bat. 2004 was arguably as good or better than ’06 despite the fact that he hit just 14 home runs in ’04 compared to 25 in ’06. His numbers in ’04 would have been even better if it hadn’t been for the 208/255/271 he hit in 48 at-bats as an eight hitter and his .777 OPS in 83 at-bats as a #2 hitter.

And in 2007 he hit first and third, posting a .903 OPS in 622 at-bats as a #1 hitter and a .694 OPS in 94 at-bats as a #3 hitter.

Finally, I think you can could also make a case that getting all that time in the leadoff spot recently in his career is part of what has contributed to his offensive success over the last couple of seasons.


No duck left behind

For the Phillies’ hitters that got at least 200 plate appearances in 2007, here’s a look at how many of their plate appearances came with at least one runner on base, their OPS in plate appearances with at least one runner on base, their total plate appearances and OPS for the season, and the percentage of their plate appearances that came with at least one runner on base:

Runners on  Total

PA

OPS

PA

OPS
 %
PA
Howard 367 1.123 648 .976 57
Rowand 326 .821 684 .889 48
Rollins 292 .914 778 .875 38
Utley 290 .945 613 .976 47
Burrell 287 .947 598 .902 48
Ruiz 212 .810 429 .736 49
Victorino 209 .775 510 .770 41
Dobbs 185 .707 358 .781 52
Helms 167 .725 308 .665 54
Nunez 148 .559 287 .600 52
Werth 136 1.027 304 .863 45

Four of the 11, Dobbs, Utley, Nunez and Rowand, posted a lower OPS with runners on than with the bases empty. Of the group, Werth was the hitter whose OPS improved the most with men aboard with Howard not far behind.

It’s great to see Howard as the guy getting the highest percentage of his plate appearances with men on base. All those base runners for Nunez is not.

One of the things that was striking about the numbers to me was how often the guys at the bottom of the order, specifically Dobbs, Helms and Nunez, came up with men aboard. This makes sense when you think about Utley, Howard and Burrell hitting 3-4-5 for the Phils. All three have a reasonable chance to on-base .400 in ’08 and that means a lot of ducks for the guys that follow and especially the six-hitter, who looks like it should be Jenkins or Werth much of the time in ’08.

The other thing that sticks out is the lack of a real two-hitter in the Phils lineup, meaning that when Utley hits third he does so with nobody aboard more than you would like him to.

Leadoff hitter Rollins, who was one of the five best hitters on the team, hit with nobody on base significantly more than even the worst hitters on the team. I think you can make a good case that Rollins should be hitting leadoff, but not using the numbers presented here. They seems to suggest just the opposite.

Finally, I always find it interesting that Howard and Utley posted the same .976 OPS in 2007.

David Wright says the Phils are the team to beat in the NL East this season.

The Phillies continue to monitor Kris Benson and this article says they are a lot more serious about him than they’ve led on. A healthy Benson would help the Phils a lot.


On the other hand, presumably he can walk the line, the world or the dog

What he can’t do is take a walk, and I’m not sure where he hits or who he hits in-between is real likely to change that.

Pedro Feliz only has 53 career at-bats at Citizens Bank Park, but there’s no sign in them that the smaller confines are going to transform him into a good hitter. Using OPS as the measure, Feliz has actually been a worse hitter at Citizens Bank Park than he has overall.

Here’s what he’s done with the bat in the 13 games he’s played a Citizens Bank Park:


AB

H

2B

3B

HR

AVG

OBP

SLG
53 15 5 0 1 .283 .283 .434

Pedro Feliz’s .434 slugging percentage at Citizens Bank Park is just one point above his career .433 mark. If he draws a walk there in ’08 it will be the first of his career. His .283 batting average is above his .252 career mark, but because he hasn’t walked his Citizens Bank Park on-base percentage of .283 is lower than his career mark of .288 and his .717 OPS at Citizens Bank Park is lower than his .721 career OPS overall.

This article suggests that the Phillies interest in Odalis Perez is only “lukewarm” and that if the Phils signed either Perez or Kris Benson it would most likely be to a minor league contract.

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