Archive for December, 2008

Important first step is to make sure he knows that if you catch the ball in the air it doesn’t mean the pitcher is out

That’s dodgeball. Sometimes making sure of the little things can make all the difference.

Chase Utley is the undisputed king of getting hit by pitch in MLB over the past two years. In 2007 and 2008 the rate at which he was hit by pitch increased dramatically compared to the first four years of his career:

Years HBP PA % of PA
HBP
2007-2008 52 1,320 3.94
2003-2006 31 1,806 1.72

The lefty Utley has been hit at a higher rate by lefties than righties over his career, but the rate at which he has been hit by both right and left-handed pitchers has gone up in 2007 and 2008 compared to the first four years of his career:

 
vs LHP

vs RHP
Years HBP PA % PA HBP PA % HBP
2007-2008 30 503 5.96 22 817 2.69
2003-2006 12 467 2.57 19 1,339 1.42

Over the last two seasons, the rate at which he is being hit by lefties has more than doubled. The rate at which he is hit by righties has nearly doubled.

The number of times Utley is hit by pitch is especially alarming for a left-handed hitter. In the history of baseball there have been two left-handed hitters that have been as many or more times in a season as the 27 times Utley was plunked in ’08. Fernando Vina was hit 28 times in 2000 and Steve Evans was hit 31 times in 1910.

This could be part of Utley’s plan, the way he creates offense. If it is, though, it’s a bad plan and something he has come up with recently. During his minor league career, Utley was hit 45 times in 1,809 plate appearances. That’s about 2.5 percent of the time. The rate when down when he came to the Phillies in 2003, then skyrocketed when he was hit 25 times in 2007. Utley has just about the same number of minor league plate appearances as he had with the Phillies from ’03 to ’06 and was hit more often in the minors.

So maybe pitchers are hitting Utley because he’s killing them to the opposite field? Not in 2008 he wasn’t. Take a look at how often Utley went to the opposite field and the results (using the hit location data from Baseball Reference) when he went to the opposite field in 2008 compared to those of fellow lefty Ryan Howard, remembering that Utley was hit 27 times in ’08 and Howard three.

Player PA PA hit opp
field
% PA AVG SLG
Utley 707 54 7.6 .222 .296
Howard 700 66 9.4 .452 1.274

Howard went to left field a higher percentage of the time and with far better results. And he isn’t going to be scarred for life wondering why everybody hates him and keeps throwing things at him.

So why do pitchers do it? Could it be that Utley was less effective going to left in 2008 because throwing at him (or pitching him inside) is working? Here are Utley’s numbers going to the opposite field for 2006 and 2007:

Player PA PA hit opp
field
% PA AVG SLG
Utley 2007 613 79 12.9 .329 .592
Utley 2006 739 81 11.0 .333 .519

Tiny numbers, but Utley both went to the opposite field more regularly in ’06 and ’07 than he did in ’08 and had better results when he did.

The other thing I have to wonder is how much of a factor hitting in front of Ryan Howard is in terms of how often Utley gets hit. I’m just guessing now, but I would guess all three of these things are true: 1) for a left-handed hitter, hitting in front of another left-handed hitter means you face left-handed pitching more often than if you were hitting in front of a right-handed hitter 2) left-handed hitters are hit by left-handed pitchers at a higher rate than they are hit by right-handed pitchers and 3) a left-handed hitter is more likely to be hit by a left-handed pitcher if he is hitting in front of a left-handed hitter than if he is hitting in front of a right-handed hitter. Of that three item set, numbers one and two are almost surely true. Not as sure about number three.

This suggests that the Phillies are willing to pay $8 million of the $9 million that they owe Eaton for this season.

USS Mariner does not think the Ibanez signing was a stroke of genius for the Phils.

ESPN’s Keith Law is down on it, too. Law calls the signing absurd and says that Ibanez is a far worse defensive player than Burrell.

Three years, $31.5 million is the details of the deal for Ibanez. $11.5 million in 2010 and 2011 and $6.5 million in 2009 with a $2 million signing bonus. Linked article also reports the Phillies signed one-year deals with Bruntlett and Condrey. Rehabbing Scott Mathieson was signed to a minor league contract.

Update, 12/15: The Phillies signed Jamie Moyer to a two-year contract.


Good Burrells go to heaven, but the bad Burrells go everywhere

Disappointing news this morning as Jayson Stark reports the Phillies have agreed to a three year, $30 million deal with 36-year-old left-handed outfielder Raul Ibanez. Ibanez is a very good hitter, but so was longtime Phillie Pat Burrell. It’s hard to imagine the financial commitment the Phils appear to be willing to make to Ibanez is much less than it would have taken to bring back Burrell. The Phils will apparently be paying Ibanez about $10 million a year when he’s 39 years old and will give up a draft pick to bring him in.

The addition leaves the Phils just about naked from the right side of the plate. Jayson Werth was fantastic in 2008. The second-best right-handed hitter on the team is Pedro Feliz, Chris Coste or Ronny Paulino. Take your pick. Switch-hitter Shane Victorino hit lefties well last season, 282/345/537. Fellow switchy Jimmy Rollins was a little better against righties than lefties. He hit 288/341/436 against left-handed pitching. The Phillies needed two right-handed bats without the addition of Ibanez. Still do, and if Ibanez joins the team there’s less places for them to play.

None of this is Raul Ibanez’s fault. Ibanez has pumped out at least 20 home runs four years in a row and put up 338 RBI in the last three years. He strikes out far less often than Burrell — over his career, Ibanez has struck out in 787 of his 5,301 plate appearances, which is about 14.8 percent of the time. Burrell has struck out 1,273 times in 5,388 plate appearances, about 23.6 percent of the time. It should also be pointed out that Ibanez has put up his recent numbers at Safeco Field, which is not a particularly good place to hit. Curiously, however, in three of the last four years his numbers have been better at Safeco than away.

Other than his age, the downside with Ibanez as an offensive player as I see it is his 268/322/411 career line against left-handed pitching. That .733 OPS is worse than Burrell’s 251/352/467 (.819 OPS) against his same side. Burrell’s .950 career OPS against his opposite side (left) of .950 is also better than the .849 OPS Ibanez has put up against righties. There are more right-handed pitchers than left, though, and Ibanez pounded lefties in 2008. In 2008 he hit 305/368/497 against left-handed pitching, after hitting a miserable 256/294/356 against them in 2007 and a miserabler 243/301/362 against them in 2006.

Interesting question about who will hit behind Howard in 2009 for the Phils. The answer is almost surely Jayson Werth at this point, assuming Utley and Howard continue to hit three-four.

It’s a little tough to separate how this will affect the Phillies on the field and the disappointment with the realization that it means Burrell won’t be back. I do think Burrell is the better hitter and will be this year as well, but not by a huge amount. All the left-handed hitters is a problem for the Phils that needs a solution. Overall, though, I would have to disagree with Amaro who suggested previously in relation to Burrell that it was not the time to be sentimental. I think it was a perfect time to be sentimental.

Cole Hamels has some stuff to say about the Mets and their ability to finish. Interesting question for me has been how Hamels is going to motivate himself after winning the World Series and being named the MVP of the NLCS and World Series all before he turned 25. That may be the answer.

If you’re every wondering if the article about Brad Harman you’re reading is from an Australian news source, learning that he was “overawed” by facing Randy Johnson and that Tim Lincecum throws 150km/h (that’s 90 miles an hour) should clue you in. No word on how things came out between Victoria and Queensland, though.

This suggests that Derek Lowe will get about four years, $65 million.

This says the Brewers are interested in Jamie Moyer.


And you can have his on-base percentage when you pry it from his cold, barely functioning and kinda crunchy hands

Chase Utley has led all of baseball in getting hit by pitches in each of the last two seasons. By a lot. All of the Minnesota Twins, for example, combined to be hit 36 times in 2008, which is nine more than the 27 times Utley was hit. He was hit 12 more times than any other player in the National League. In 2007 he also led both leagues, hit 25 times.

All that isn’t good for a lot of reasons. It is good for your on-base percentage, though. Here’s what Utley’s actual numbers for 2008, what they would have been if the 27 plate appearances in which he was hit by a pitch never happened and what they would have been if in the 27 plate appearances in which he was hit he wasn’t hit but instead continued to have offensive results at the same rate that he had for the rest of the season:

  PA AB H 2B 3B HR BB HBP AVG OBP SLG
Actual 707 607 177 41 4 33 64 27 .292 .380 .535
HBP never happened 680 607 177 41 4 33 64 0 .292 .355 .535
Other result instead of HBP 707 631 184 43 4 34 67 0 .292 .355 .535

All those HBP were good for 25 points of on-base percentage. They were in 2007, too:

  PA AB H 2B 3B HR BB HBP AVG OBP SLG
Actual 613 530 176 48 5 22 50 25 .332 .410 .566
HBP never happened 588 530 176 48 5 22 50 0 .332 .385 .566
Other result instead of HBP 613 553 183 50 5 23 52 0 .332 .385 .566

I’m pretty sure you don’t want Utley getting hit by pitches at the rate he is, even for 25 points of on-base percentage. The other thing that surprising is the .355 on-base percentage for 2008 in the plate appearances where he was not hit by a pitch. Ryan Howard, for example, had a .336 on-base percentage in 2008 in his plate appearances where he was not hit by a pitch — the difference between their actual on-base percentages, .385 to .339, was much larger.

Utley has been hit by a pitch at a higher rate than notable hit-by-pitchee Craig Biggio (who is second on the career leaders in hit by pitch) over his career:

Player Career PA Career HBP % of PA
HBP
Utley 3,126 83 2.66
Craig Biggio 12,504 285 2.28

The most alarming part of the problem for Utley, which I’ll discuss more in another post, is that the rate at which he has been hit by pitches has risen dramatically over the past two seasons.

Phillies fans will get a chance to pose with the World Series trophy this weekend.

Kevin Towers says we should know if there’s a Peavy deal today. This suggests that Scott Hairston may be a player targeted by the Phillies.

The Phillies extended Charlie Manuel’s contract through 2011. That’s good news for Phillies fans cause I don’t think there’s anyone who could have gotten more out of the recent Phillies teams than Manuel did.

This says the Phillies are close to signing Chan Ho Park.

The Phillies traded Jason Jaramillo for 27-year-old right-handed hitting catcher Ronny Paulino. Paulino has a 278/331/382 line in 1,021 career at-bats, all of which came with the Pirates. He’s a good bet to take Chris Coste’s roster spot. He pounds lefties, 355/417/498 against them for his career. In 2008 he hit just 212/277/305 in 118 at-bats for the Pirates. He was sent down to the minors in early June and hit 302/365/525 in 139 at-bats in the Gulf Coast League and International League combined, missing about a month and a half with an injury to his right ankle. He was back with the Pirates in September. After the season he went to the Dominican Winter League and hit very well, 310/468/707 with six home runs in 58 at-bats. Some have questioned his work ethic or suggested that Paulino’s attitude and level of effort contributed to his demotion to the minors in ’08.

The Phillies seem to have very few problems with getting an effort out of their players. I’d be surprised if Paulino’s effort proves to be an issue. Nifty deal for the Phils. Not much to complain about in the Amaro era yet. We’ll keep looking, though, so check back often.


A fella and Ruiz

With the exception of the final game of the season, when Lou Marson caught Kyle Kendrick, Chris Coste and Carlos Ruiz handled all of the duties behind the plate for the Phillies in 2008. For the five Phillies pitchers that made the most starts in ’08, here’s the percentage of their batters caught by each of the catchers and the numbers opposing hitters put up with each of them behind the plate:

 
RUIZ
  % of
batters caught
AVG/OBP/SLG OPS
Hamels 79.0 219/265/381 .646
Moyer 59.9 240/317/371 .688
Kendrick 63.2 316/385/484 .869
Myers 23.1 291/360/539 .900
Eaton 46.9 267/332/411 .743
       
Total 55.1 256/320/417 .737

And here are the numbers for Coste:

 
COSTE
  % of
batters caught
AVG/OBP/SLG OPS
Hamels 21.0 257/298/397 .695
Moyer 40.1 294/339/453 .792
Kendrick 34.6 286/353/478 .831
Myers 76.9 260/321/439 .760
Eaton 53.1 348/425/557 .981
       
Total 44.0 283/343/460 .802

You don’t want to compare the total lines — the .737 OPS with Ruiz behind the plate to the .802 OPS with Coste behind the plate. Each of the catchers did not catch the starters the same amount of the time. It is, for example, a big advantage to get to catch 79% of the batters Hamels faced.

Hamels, Moyer and Eaton all fared better pitching to Ruiz than they did to Coste. Kendrick had better luck pitching to Coste and Myers was much better pitching to Coste. Ruiz was behind the plate for Hamels nearly all of the time and Myers threw almost exclusively to Coste, but for the other three starters the catching was divided up more evenly.

A word about Adam Eaton. I think there’s not much chance you’re going to see Eaton pitch for the Phillies again. If he does, though, let’s hope it’s to Ruiz and not to Coste. If there’s a glimmer of hope for Eaton it’s got to be that his problem is not that he can’t pitch, it’s that he can’t pitch to Chris Coste. Eaton’s numbers for the season in 2008 were terrible (again), but the (267/332/411 (.743 OPS)) line that opponents posted against him when he wasn’t pitching to Chris Coste was far more encouraging. That line, for example, is very similar to the 263/337/409 (.746 OPS) that opponents hit against Randy Wolf and slightly less similar to the 287/328/410 (.739 OPS) put up against Aaron Cook.

The rumor of the day from the winter meetings has the Phils in a multi-team deal that winds up with them giving up JA Happ and Chris Coste and getting Mark DeRosa. I’m not going to be surprised if the Phillies trade Coste, but I will be a bit more surprised if they trade Happ. What to do with DeRosa after Utley returns is the big question in the deal for me. He’s had two nice seasons with the bat in a row, but I wouldn’t feel good about counting on him to see a lot of time in left field. The Phillies do need to add two right-handed bats — I would be thrilled if DeRosa was the second-best right-handed bat they add. Not so much if he was the best.

This suggests that Jamie Moyer wants two years, $18 million and that the Phillies have offered two years, $14 million.

This suggests the Phils are unlikely to bring back Tad Iguchi.

This suggests Mark Teixeira may sign with Boston. It has been suggested that the Angels may be interested in Burrell to play first base if they lose Teixeira.


Lowe price tag may be a little highe for Phils

Having trouble getting too excited about Derek Lowe, just cause I think the chances the Phillies will bring him in are pretty slim. I think Moyer’s not going to have a whole lot of bargaining power unless he does a better job of demonstrating 1) he’s interested in playing for a team other than the Phillies and 2) there is interest from other teams in him. Whether the discussions of other starting pitchers are an effort to put pressure on Moyer or not, Lowe did have a better 2008 than Moyer:

  IP ERA Ratio ERA+
Moyer 196.1 3.71 1.33 118
Lowe 211.0 3.24 1.13 131

There’s not much of a case to be made for Moyer being better than Lowe. He was, however, way better away from home than Lowe was in ’08. Moyer went 10-3 with a 2.92 ERA and a 1.20 ratio away from Citizens Bank Park. Lowe threw to a 2.30 ERA at Dodger Stadium, but was less impressive away from it, going 5-6 with a 4.42 ERA and a 1.39 ERA away. Opponents hit just 206/242/300 against Lowe in LA, but 292/334/413 against him outside of LA.

Here’s what Lowe has done away from Dodger Stadium over the past three seasons:

 
IP

ER

ERA

H

BB

Ratio
2008 93.2 46 4.42 106 24 1.39
2007 109.2 51 4.19 105 39 1.31
2006 104.2 48 4.13 115 26 1.35
Total 308 145 4.24 326 89 1.35

Lowe has made three starts at Citizens Bank Park and they’ve been good. He’s 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA and an 0.95 ratio.

This article from November suggested that Lowe was looking for $16 million a season. I would be surprised if the Phillies were interested in paying Lowe anything near that.

Question of the day: In each of the past four seasons, Pedro Feliz has 1) gotten at least 450 plate appearances and 2) posted an OPS of .717 or lower. How many other major league players are both those things true of?


If you want to see what God thinks of money, just look at all the people He gave it to (Dorothy Parker)

Pat Burrell had a big contract in 2008 and he’s going to have a big contract in 2009. He’s not much of a defensive player, but does he produce offense at levels similar to other highly paid hitters? In 2008, Burrell made $14.25 million and posted an OPS+ of 125. Using the salary data that you can access here, I compared his OPS+ to 40 non-pitchers who made $12 million or more in ’08.

Some problems with this, including: 1) it ignores defense 2) even if Burrell is as good an offensive player as the other guys making a lot of money they could all be overpaid. Nate McLouth, for example, made $425,000 in 2008 and was arguably a more productive offensive player than at least 30 of the 41 players on the lists below and 3) I’m comparing the OPS+ of National League players to the OPS+ of American League players. That’s a problem as the formula for OPS+ compares a player’s on-base percentage and slugging to the on-base and slugging percentages for their league rather than for both leagues combined. I have put the OPS+ for AL players in red.

All that said, here it is:

  Made at least $12M in ’08 but
OPS+ lower than Burrell

Player

Salary

AB

OPS+
Carlos Guillen 12.0 420 114
Jose Guillen 12.0 598 96
Paul Konerko 12.0 438 102
Ivan Rodriguez 12.379 398 87
Mike Lowell 12.5 419 103
Troy Glaus 12.5 544 124
Garrett Anderson 12.6 557 97
David Ortiz 13.0 416 123
Hideki Matsui 13.0 337 108
Johnny Damon 13.0 555 118
Jorge Posada 13.1 168 103
Derrek Lee 13.25 623 110
Gary Sheffield 13.326 418 90
Adrian Beltre 13.4 556 109
Alfonso Soriano 14.0 453 121

Unlike OPS+, sOPS+ allows us to compare a hitter’s right/left splits to all hitters in the major leagues rather than just other hitters in his league. Burrell’s sOPS+ against righties in ’08 was 132, against lefties it was 144.

Looking at some of the players who were close to Burrell, Carlos Guillen’s sOPS+ right/left splits were 110/111.

David Ortiz’s were 136/110, suggesting that Ortiz was slightly better against righties and worse against lefties. Baseball Reference calculates Ortiz’s runs created at 79 for 2008 compared to 106 for Burrell.

Mike Lowell’s sOPS+ for ’08 were 108/146. A little better than Burrell against lefties. More than a hundred fewer at-bats and fewer runs created.

Damon 128/104. Runs created of 104.

Glaus killed righties but not lefties, 147/97. Soriano was the opposite, 114/182. Both had lower runs created than Burrell.

  Made at least $12M in ’08 and had an
OPS+ better than Burrell
Player Salary AB OPS+
Chipper Jones 12.33 439 174
Mark
Teixeira
12.5 574 151
Carlos Lee 12.5 436 144
Adam Dunn 13.0 517 129
Albert Pujols 13.87 524 190
JD Drew 14.0 368 137

Burrell did have a better runs created than either JD Drew or Carlos Lee, though, because those players had significantly fewer at-bats in ’08 than Burrell. Chipper also had many fewer at-bats but created more runs.

Dunn’s sOPS+ right/left were 143/121.

Here’s the players that made as much or more than the $14.25 million Burrell made in ’08:

  Made as much or more  in ’08 but
OPS+ lower than or equal to Burrell

Player

Salary

AB

OPS+

Pat Burrell

14.25

536
125

Andruw Jones

14.726

209
34

Miguel Tejada

14.811

362
92

Richie Sexson

15.5

280
89

Jim Thome

15.66

503
123

Bobby Abreu

16.0

609
120

Torii Hunter

16.5

551
110

Todd Helton

16.6

299
100

Ichiro Suzuki

17.102

686
102

Derek Jeter

21.6

596
102

Thome’s sOPS+ was 123/142, again worse than Burrell’s 132/144. Created fewer runs than Burrell.

Torii Hunter 118/122.

The lefty Abreu was better against lefties than righties in ’08, 114/146. His runs created were very similar to Burrell’s — the same using the formula that Baseball-Reference is using and better using the formula used by ESPN‘s baseball stats.

These guys made more money than Burrell and put up a better OPS+:

  Made more money than Burrell and had a
better OPS+

Player

Salary

AB

OPS+

Lance Berkman

14.5

554
159

Aramis Ramirez

15.0

554
128

Vlad Guerrero

15.5

541
130

Rafael Furcal

15.73

143
164

Magglio Ordonez

15.768

561
127

Carlos Delgado

16.0

598

127

Carlos Beltran

16.0

598
127

Manny Ramirez

18.929

552
164

Jason Giambi

23.428

458
128

Alex Rodriguez

28.0

510
150

Aramis Ramirez comes out on top of Burrell because he pounded right-handed pitching. 163/87. Like Ramirez, Carlos Delgado was better than Burrell, but it was close. Delgado did have a better runs created, but Burrell’s sOPS+ right/left splits are a little better than Delgado’s 133/122. Delgado hit for a higher average, .271 to .250, and outslugged Burrell .518 to .507. He also hit five more home runs (38 for Delgado and 33 for Burrell) and drove in 115 runs to Burrell’s 86.

Burrell created more runs than Furcal, who had just 143 at-bats on the season. He also, however, had a better runs created than Vlad Guerrero (whose sOPS+ right/left were 150/112), Jason Giambi (127/140) or Magglio Ordonez (140/125).

This article points out that Jermaine Dye has a no-trade clause and that the Phillies are one of the teams on his no-trade list.

The Braves are expected to finalize their trade for Javier Vazquez today. This article suggests that the Braves may also offer AJ Burntett a five-year deal and that the Phillies have made an offer to Derek Lowe.


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