Archive for January, 2009

Not only that, but Larry Fitzgerald didn’t do a thing against them all season long

The Phillies both hit and pitched very well last season, but if you compare the number of runs they scored and allowed on the way to winning the World Series to what they’ve done in recent seasons, the difference in the number of runs they allowed in 2008 is much more dramatic than the difference in the number of runs they scored.

In 2008, the Phillies scored the fewest runs they have scored in five seasons:

Year Runs AVG OBP SLG OPS
2004 840 267 345 443 788
2005 807 270 348 423 772
2006 865 267 347 447 794
2007 892 274 354 458 812
2008 799 255 332 438 770

Last season the Phillies hit to their worst average over the past five years, posted their lowest on-base percentage and their second-worst slugging percentage. They scored the fewest runs they had scored since 2003 when they scored 791. After finishing third in the NL in runs scored in 2004 and second in 2005, the Phils led the NL in runs scored in 2007 and 2006 before tying for second with the Mets in ’08.

The pitching, however, is another story. In 2008 the Phillies allowed the fewest runs in the past five seasons by a wide margin.

Year Runs
allowed
NL Rank
2004 781 13
2005 726 T-8
2006 812 T-12
2007 821 12
2008 680 3

After struggling badly in 2006 and 2007, the Phillies allowed about 130 fewer runs in 2008 than they had in each of the past two seasons. The Phillies haven’t allowed 680 or fewer runs in a 162-game season since 1991 (when they also allowed 680). In 1995 they allowed 658 runs over 144 games — allowing runs at that rate would have put them at about 740 over 162 games. They allowed 497 runs in 115 games in 1994, about 4.32 runs per game, which would have had them at about 700 over 162 games.

The Phillies haven’t allowed fewer than 680 runs in a season since 1985, when they allowed just 673.

Cole Hamels signed a three-year, $20.5 million deal with the Phillies, which is great for Phillies fans for a bunch of reasons, including that it will limit the amount of time we will have to spend reading about Cole Hamels’ contract negotiations over the next few years.

Greg Dobbs signed a two-year deal worth $2.5 million.

Ryan Madson turned down a three-year, $12 million offer from the Phillies.

Nomar still undecided about whether he will play baseball this year. Scored in overtime to lead his team to a win over wife Mia Hamm’s team in the Celebrity Soccer Challenge over the weekend.

Update: The Phillies have now signed Madson to a three-year deal, believed to be worth $12 million.


It takes two to make a thing go right-left

Here’s what Phillies hitters did with the bat while playing third base in 2008:

  PA AB H 2B 3B HR BB AVG OBP SLG OPS RC
All 3B ’08 653 603 148 29 2 20 44 .245 .295 .400 .695 71.52

The runs created at the end uses the most basic formula for runs created. If you use the technical version, the result is 65.32.

The left-handed Greg Dobbs and right-handed Pedro Feliz were both fantastic against their opposite side in 2008. Here’s what they did:

  PA AB H 2B 3B HR BB AVG OBP SLG OPS RC
Dobbs v R 230 217 67 14 1 9 10 .309 .339 .507 .846 -
Feliz v L 152 139 40 7 2 6 13 .288 .349 .496 .845 -

They were both really good, posting almost the same OPS.

Phillies third basemen in 2008 combined to get 653 plate appearances. Since about 30.3% of the Phillies plate appearances overall came against lefties and 69.7% of their plate appearances overall came against righties, I’m going to estimate that of the 653 plate appearances in ’08 for Phillies third basemen, 455 of them came against righties and 198 came against lefties.

Now I’m going to adjust what Dobbs and Feliz did to give Dobbs 455 plate appearances against righties and Feliz 198 plate appearances against lefties. Here goes:

  PA AB H 2B 3B HR BB AVG OBP SLG OPS RC
Dobbs v R 455 429 133 28 2 18 20 .309 .339 .507 .846 -
Feliz v L 198 181 52 9 3 8 17 .288 .349 .496 .845 -

And if you add the Dobbs numbers and Feliz numbers together, it looks like this:

  PA AB H 2B 3B HR BB AVG OBP SLG OPS RC
Total 653 610 185 37 5 26 37 .303 .342 .504 .846 105.19

The fictional DobbsFeliz beast can hit. It can’t draw a walk, but you can’t have everything. The actual .695 OPS that the Phillies third basemen put up in 2008 was 27th best among NL teams in terms of production at third base. An .846 would have been sixth best. Using the most basic form of runs created to do the estimate, the Phillies created 33.67 (105.19 minus 71.52) more runs with their mythological creation. If you use the technical formula for runs created, the number is 36.21 (101.53 created by the Dobbs/Feliz thing, minus 65.32 actually created).

The difference in offense almost surely offsets Dobbs’ defensive problems. Ultimate Zone Rating, for example, has Dobbs’ UZR/150 at -9.6 as a 3B and 9.4 for Feliz. You also have to remember that the better defensive player, Feliz, would still be playing significant defensive innings, presumably around 30.3% of them.

There are some problems, though.

First, even if the Phillies wanted to give every at-bat against righties to Dobbs and every at-bat against lefties to Feliz, that’s a lot simpler said than done. Actually, it’s really simple to say (give it a try!), but impossible to do — the flow of the game simply prohibits it. Feliz also missed about a month of the season with an injury in 2008.

Still, letting Dobbs hit against righties and Feliz hit against lefties leaves a lot of room for slop. Here, for example, is what it looks like in a ’08 world where Dobbs and Feliz combined to get 553 of the plate appearances for Phillies third basemen, with Dobbs only hitting against righties and Feliz only hitting against lefties, and the other 100 plate appearances were given to some combination of players that went 0-for-100.

  PA AB H 2B 3B HR BB AVG OBP SLG OPS RC
Dobbs 385 363 112 23 2 15 17 .309 .339 .507 .846 -
Feliz 168 154 44 8 2 7 14 .288 .349 .496 .845 -
Others 100 100 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 -
Total 653 617 156 31 4 22 31 .253 .290 .422 .712 75.34

Even with the 0-for-100 in the last 100 plate appearances, the Phillies still create about four more runs using the basic formula. Using the technical formula for runs created they create 72.81, which is 7.49 above the actual 65.32 mark for the third basemen in ’08.

While it does seem pretty clear the Phillies would score more runs if they went with a strict Dobbs/Feliz platoon at third, you have to also be aware that both Feliz and Dobbs out-performed their career numbers hitting against their opposite side in 2008:


Dobbs vs RHP
  AVG OBP SLG OPS
2008 309 339 507 846
Career 278 322 444 766
         

Feliz vs LHP
2008 288 349 496 845
Career 267 312 446 758

Both players were much better in ’08 against their opposite side than they’ve been over their careers. Feliz notably put up a .667 OPS against lefties in ’07 and a .633 OPS against them in ’06. Dobbs has been a little more stable against righties, but still doesn’t have a huge number of opportunities over his career. Still, for last year at least, I don’t think there’s much of a question that a straight left-right platoon would have produced significantly more offense out of the position than the Phillies got.

The Phillies signed infielders Anthony Hewitt, Pablo Ozuna and Jorge Velandia and left-handed pitcher Jacob Woods to minor league contracts and invited them to spring training.

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Phils may be hoping for a little less consistency from Feliz in ’09

There was some hope coming into to 2008 that the combination of hitting in Citizens Bank Park and joining a high-powered Phillies lineup would help Pedro Feliz’s offensive production. Here’s what he did at home last year compared to his career numbers excluding what he did at home last year:

  PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
2008 @ home 233 260 304 409 714
Rest of
career
3257 251 289 430 719

He was a little worse than his career numbers overall, hitting for a slightly higher average and getting on base a little more, but with a lower slugging percentage.

Here’s another way to look at it, taking the percentages of his plate appearances that resulted in hits, walks, extra-base hits or strikeouts:

  H BB XHB K
2008 @ home 24.0 6.0 6.9 10.3
Rest of
career
23.5 5.2 9.0 16.3

Again, this suggests that he got hits and drew walks at a slightly higher rate than he has over his career and also delivered fewer extra-base hits. It also suggests that he struck out at a lower rate at home in 2008 than he has over his career.

Feliz was a little better overall at home than on the road in 2008, hitting 260/304/409 at home and 238/300/395 on the road.

Finally, we know Feliz has had serious back problems that kept him off the field for about a month between the end of July and mid-August last season. It’s difficult to know how much they were a factor for him last year. His numbers at the end of the season over the last four years have been remarkably consistent, however. He played the 2005, 2006 and 2007 seasons with the Giants and ended those years with an OPS of .717 in 2005, .709 in 2006 and .708 in 2007. In 2008 with the Phillies his OPS for the year was .705. Over the last four seasons the range on his batting average at the end of the year has been .244-.253, on-base percentage .281-.302 and slugging .402-.428. So he has been very consistent. It could, of course, be that he got a huge boost from playing at Citizens Bank Park that was offset by the back injury, but either way his numbers at the end of the year wound up almost exactly where they have been.

Four years, $60 million was apparently enough for the Braves to get Derek Lowe.

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Third things first

The Phillies’ effort to try to find offensive production at third base through the process of elimination continues. So do the lackluster results. Here’s what Phillies hitters playing third base have done over the past four years compared to the rest of the NL and the rest of MLB, using OPS as the measure:


Year

OPS

OPS Rank NL

OPS Rank MLB

2008

.695

15

27

2007

.688

16

27

2006

.684

15

29

2005

.695

13

25

If you’re looking for a bright side, at least things aren’t getting worse.

In 2008, Phillies third basemen hit 245/295/400. The .295 on-base percentage that they posted was the worst in all of baseball.

A .695 OPS for the Phillies third basemen seems like it should be impossible. Feliz and Dobbs got most of the time there and Feliz put up a .705 OPS for the year and Dobbs an .824 OPS for the year. Part of the answer to that one is that they got to .705 and .824 by having fantastic years as pinch-hitters (although Dobbs, as you’ll see below, actually posted a better OPS while playing third than he did overall). Most fans know that Dobbs was great as a pinch-hitter in ’08, he went 22-for-62 (355/388/532). In many fewer chances, though, so was Feliz. Feliz went 7-for-16 as a pinch-hitter, putting up a 438/471/688 line.

Dobbs’ numbers dropped overall because he went 4-for-22 with three singles and a double when he wasn’t at third or pinch-hitting.

Anyhow, despite the great numbers as pinch-hitters, it seems like Feliz must be mostly to blame for the .695 OPS for the group. And he is, with an assist to Bruntlett, who was terrible with the bat while playing third in 2008. Here’s the guys that got the at-bats for the Phils while playing third in ’08 and what they did:


Player

AB

AVG/OBP/SLG

OPS

Pedro Feliz

408

243/296/392

.689

Greg Dobbs

142

296/322/514

.836

Eric Bruntlett

48

146/241/167

.407

Mike Cervenak
4
000/000/000

.000

Carlos Ruiz also went 0-for-1 as a 3B for the Phils in ’08, but it’s clear that Feliz and his .296 on-base percentage did much of the damage.

Feliz did out-OPS Abraham Nunez as a third baseman in 2008 compared to what Nunez did for the Phils in ’07. But not by a whole lot. In 2007, Nunez got 212 at-bats for the Phils at 3B and hit 255/342/311 (.653 OPS). Notably, however, Nunez did hit for a higher batting average and got on base more. Nunez didn’t exactly set the bar at unreachable levels in terms of getting extra-base hits. In 2007, he had 11, ten doubles and a triple, in 243 plate appearances as a third baseman for the Phils (he got an extra-base hit in about 4.5% of his plate appearances). Feliz had 33 extra-base hits, 18 doubles, two triples and 11 home runs, in 445 plate appearances as a 3B for the Phils in ’08. That’s an extra-base hit in about 7.4% of his plate appearances.

This suggests the Braves have offered Derek Lowe four years, $60 million. If the Mets and Braves are going to be in a bidding war it might as well be over who gets to sign Derek Lowe to a long contract.

Gabe Kapler agreed to a one-year deal with the Rays. Nomar is apparently busy playing soccer. This says that Gariciaparra has “compartment syndrome” in his calf and suggests it would require him to undergo painful therapy to break up scar tissue if he continues to play.

Chan Ho Park will not pitch for South Korea in the World Baseball Classic.

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What a difference a duck makes

More on walks, this time using career numbers to look at the difference between the rate 13 potentially key Phillies for ’09 walk with the bases empty and with the bases not empty. For each of the hitters, here’s the percentage of their plate appearances where they’ve walked when they came to the plate with men on base, the percentage of their plate appearances where they’ve walked when they came up with the bases empty and the difference between the two:

 
Men on

Bases Empty
 

Player

% BB

% BB

Difference

Ryan Howard

17.1

9.7

7.4

Ronny Paulino

9.3

5.2

4.1

Jimmy Rollins

9.2

6.3

2.9

Geoff Jenkins

9.5

6.6

2.9

Raul Ibanez

9.5

7.4

2.1

Carlos Ruiz

11.2

9.6

1.6

Greg Dobbs

6.6

5.3

1.3

Eric Bruntlett

9.6

8.8

0.9

Shane Victorino

7.1

6.3

0.8

Chase Utley

9.1

8.3

0.8

Jayson Werth

12.0

11.4

0.6

Pedro Feliz

5.4

5.1

0.4

Chris Coste

4.4

4.8

-0.4

Enormous difference for Ryan Howard, who was walked about 1.76 times as often with men aboard than he has with the bases empty. On the other end of the scale, Chris Coste is the only player in the group who has walked less often with men on base than with the bases empty.

Who is hitting behind you no doubt has an impact on how often you walk with men on base. Chase Utley, for example, has a walk rate over his career with men on base that’s very similar to his walk rate with the bases empty, which may have a lot to do with all the time he’s spent hitting ahead of Ryan Howard.

Others are a little harder to explain. Pedro Feliz and Ronny Paulino have walked at about the same rate with the bases empty, but Paulino has walked at a much higher rate with men on base.

One thing I do wonder about sometimes is whether the Phillies would be better off hitting Victorino first and Rollins second, assuming that those two guys are going to hit one and two in the order anyway. I think I would still go with Rollins hitting leadoff, but over their careers they have walked at a very similar rate with the bases empty while Rollins has drawn walks more of the time when he came to the plate with men aboard. In 2008, both Rollins and Victorino continued to walk at about the same rate with the bases empty. Victorino walked 22 times in 345 plate appearances (6.38% of the time) while Rollins walked 26 times in 406 plate appearances (6.40% of the time). Rollins’ walk numbers with men on base, however, shot way up compared to what he has done for his career. In 2008 he got 219 plate appearances with men aboard and drew 32 walks. That’s about 14.6% of his plate appearances.

Also of note on Rollins is that despite the fact that his offensive numbers overall for 2008 were down compared to ’06 and ’07, he was a monster with the bat with men on base and not just by drawing walks. Rollins got 219 plate appearances with men on base in ’08 and hit .324 and slugged .559. Both of those numbers are near career highs for him with men on base. In 2006 he slugged .560 with men on base and in 2000, in 18 plate appearances, he hit .353 with men on base.

Finally, Bruntlett has walked more often over his career than I would have guessed. Howard, Ruiz and Werth are the only three players of the group of 13 who have walked more than him in their plate appearances with the bases empty. There’s really very little reason for a right-handed pitcher to walk Bruntlett unless he’s hitting in front of the pitcher.

This suggests the Phillies may be interested in Gabe Kapler and Normar Garciaparra as right-handed bats off the bench. Sounds good to me, Phils are going to need more right-handed hitting. Kapler may be easier to use in the field, but either of those guys would help.

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Ruiz more than pleased to take a walk

Looking at walk rate today (based on the percentage of their plate appearances in which a player drew a walk) for the 13 Phillies batters that got at least 100 plate appearances with the team in 2008.

There were some surprises there for me. The biggest was that Ruiz drew walks at a rate slightly higher than Ryan Howard in 2008. If you’re gonna hit .219 and slug .300, you need to find your ray of light somewhere. Here it is:

Player PA BB % of PA
Pat Burrell 645 102 15.81
Jayson Werth 482 57 11.83
Carlos Ruiz 373 44 11.80
Ryan Howard 700 81 11.57
Jimmy Rollins 625 58 9.28
Chase Utley 707 64 9.05
Eric Bruntlett 238 21 8.82
So Taguchi 103 8 7.77
Geoff Jenkins 322 24 7.45
Shane Victorino 627 45 7.18
Pedro Feliz 463 33 7.13
Chris Coste 305 16 5.25
Greg Dobbs 240 11 4.58

The walk rate for Ruiz was the biggest surprise to me. He does have the advantage of hitting eighth in front of the pitcher, but his walk rate still is better than average eight hitters in the NL. In 2008, the average NL team’s eight hitters got 643 plate appearances and drew 58 walks, about 9% of their plate appearances.

Ruiz also walked more regularly than all Phillies eight hitters (including himself) combined — in 2008, Phillies eight hitters walked 60 times in 649 plate appearances, about 9.2% of the time. Ruiz got 316 plate appearances as a number eight hitter in ’08 and drew 40 walks, which is about 12.7% of his plate appearances. All other Phillies hitters batting in the eight-hole combined to walk 20 times in 333 plate appearances. That’s about 6.0% of the time.

Besides Ruiz, Coste was the guy who saw the most time hitting eighth for the Phils, and he hardly walked at all in front of the pitcher. Coste drew just six walks in 192 plate appearances as an eight-hitter last year. That’s about 3.1% of the time, which is really low.

I also would have guessed that Utley would have been ahead of Rollins. Not so much. Utley out on-based Rollins .380 to .349, but not because he walked more regularly. He hit his way on base more, hitting .292 to .277 for Rollins, and also added about 25 points to his on-base percentage by getting hit by pitch an amazing 27 times.

Dobbs actually walked at a rate lower than all of the Phillies pitchers combined. Phillies pitchers combined to draw 18 walks in 365 plate appearances for the year, which is about 4.93% of their plate appearances.

The Phillies invited nine more players to spring training, including Marcus Giles, Jason Donald and Gary Majewski. Also invited was 26-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder Jeremy Slayden, who hit 298/377/480 at Double-A Reading for the Phils in 2008.

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