Archive for February, 2009

Two bad apples can especially ruin the barrel when lefties hit like .320 against them

As we look ahead to starting 2009 without JC Romero, it’s important to remember that even with Romero dominating left-handed batters in 2008 the Phillies still weren’t especially good against them.

Left-handed hitters hit 270/346/425 against the Phils last year. Eight NL teams pitched to a better OPS against them than the Phillies did. The Phils were better against right-handed batters, who put up a .716 OPS against the Phils. Only four NL teams were better.

As you would expect, the bullpen was much more effective against lefties than the guys who pitched in the rotation (for these purposes I’ve counted Happ as a reliever):


PHI pitchers vs left-handed batters, 2008
  PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
Starters 1599 .280 .353 .469 .822
Relievers 974 .255 .335 .353 .688
Total 2573 .270 .346 .425 .772

About 62% of the lefties that the Phillies pitched against were faced by Hamels, Moyer, Eaton, Kendrick, Blanton or Myers. Presumably because lefties exit the lineup with Moyer or Hamels on the mound, Myers, Kendrick and even Eaton all faced more left-handed hitters than Hamels or Moyer. For Myers and Kendrick, the number of lefties they faced over the season was significantly higher (again, the chart below does not include the lefties faced by Happ in his four starts):

spvleft425.jpg

That’s a lot of lefties faced by Myers, Kendrick and Eaton. Myers, for example, faced about 150 more lefties in his 30 starts than Hamels or Moyer did in the 33 starts each of them made. Obviously, the more lefties you face the more damage you can do to the team’s overall numbers against left-handed hitters. Myers, who faced more left-handed hitters than anyone on the team, was fantastic against lefties as he has been over his career. Kendrick was not — lefties feasted on him, hitting 334/404/541. Eaton was almost as bad as lefties posted a 318/402/484 line against him for the season.

Among the relief pitchers, Brad Lidge faced the most lefties. He faced 159 left-handed hitters, less than half of what Myers or Kendrick faced.

For the Phillies relievers that faced at least 90 left-handed hitters in ’08, Durbin and Condrey had the most trouble. Lefties hit 311/401/394 against Durbin and 320/370/448 against Condrey. Fellow righties Madson and Lidge were better — 273/354/345 for Lidge and 268/344/384 for Madson. But Romero was the undisputed king against lefties for the Phils last year. Lefties went 10-for-98 against him, putting up a 102/193/153 line for the season.

If you take the 111 plate appearances against Romero out of the numbers for the relief pitchers, opponents hit 274/354/379 against Philadelphia relievers. That .733 OPS is pretty close to Scott Eyre’s career .723 mark against left-handed hitters.

I think there’s a good chance that Happ can be a part of the solution against lefties out of the pen this season. And he was very good against them in 2008 in limited action. Left-handed hitters got 46 plate appearances against him and hit 209/261/395.

If you look back at 2008, a big reason the Phillies had problems with lefties was that Kendrick and Eaton faced them a lot and got blasted by them. That doesn’t mean the loss of Romero isn’t an issue, though, because his effectiveness out of the pen against left-handed hitters is going to be almost impossible for anyone on the ’09 Phils to replicate.

Jayson Werth has not played in the first two spring training games and will not play again today. If you’re wondering why, this may shed some light on the issue. Or maybe not. Apparently there is zero wrong with Werth and “he’s not a whole lot out of shape.” Take what you will from that, but I think what some people might take is he’s a whole lot out of shaper than a bunch of other guys on the team.

Werth staying off the field for the first couple of games has allowed the Phils to get guys like Slayden, Mayberry and Ellison at-bats, which may have been part of the plan anyway.

The article linked above also says that Pedro Feliz hit off the tee yesterday for the first time since his back surgery.

This suggests that Nomar Garciaparra is deciding between playing for Oakland or retiring. Neither of those options would have him making much of a contribution to the Phillies this season.

The Phillies released Adam Eaton.

Yesterday the Phils dropped to 0-2 in spring training with a 6-2 loss to the Blue Jays.

The best news of the day is that Carlos Carrasco and JA Happ both pitched great. Carrasco struck out three in two perfect innings while Happ gave up just one single and also kept the Jays off the board for two frames. Justin Lehr gave up back-to-back homers in the fifth and Toronto scored four runs in the eighth inning, all of which were charged to Blaine Neal. Gary Majewski struck out two in two perfect innings in his first action with the Phils.

Offensively, the Phils scored two runs for the second straight day. Again they had just one extra-base and again it was a double, this time off the bat of John Mayberry against former Phil Fabio Castro (who I continue to be certain is about to break out any day now). Dobbs and Rollins were both 1-for-3 with an RBI. Donald 0-for-3. Giles 0-for-2 with a walk. Paulino 0-for-1 with a strikeout and was hit by a pitch. Coste did not play.

The Phils play the Reds today.

Jamie and Karen Moyer will be hosting a fundraiser on March 17 in Clearwater to benefit Camp Erin. Details available here.


Not just that, but I don’t much care for the look in Anderson Hernandez’s eyes either

Earlier this week I mentioned the Marlins infield and the astonishing 29 home runs they got from four different infielders. Between all the hype given to Utley and Howard and Reyes and Wright, you might think the Mets or the Phillies have the best infield in the division. But, in 2008 at least, they didn’t. Arguably, the Marlins didn’t either.

If you look at the players from each team who got the most at-bats at each of the four infield positions in 2008, add up what they did and compare the total OPS for the five NL East teams, here’s how things look:

The Braves:


Player

AB

HR

BB

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS
M
Teixerira

381

20

65

.283

.390

.512

.902
K
Johnson

547

12

52

.287

.349

.446

.795
C
Jones

439

22

90

.364

.470

.574

1.044
Y
Escobar

514

10

59

.288

.366

.401

.766

Total

1881
64
266

.305

.392

.477

.869

The Marlins:


Player

AB

HR

BB

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS
M
Jacobs

477

32

36

.247

.299

.514

.812
D
Uggla

531

32

77

.260

.360

.514

.874
J
Cantu

628

29

40

.277

.327

.481

.808
H
Ramirez

589

33

92

.301

.400

.540

.940

Total

2225

126

245

.273

.349

.511

.861

The Mets:


Player

AB

HR

BB

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS
C
Delgado

598

38

72

.271

.353

.518

.871
L
Castillo

298
3
50

.245

.355

.305

.660
D
Wright

626

33

94

.302

.390

.534

.924
J
Reyes

668

16

66

.297

.358

.475

.833

Total

2210
90
282

.284

.365

.481

.846

The Phillies:


Player

AB

HR

BB

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS
R
Howard

610

48

81

.251

.339

.543

.881
C
Utley

607

33

64

.292

.380

.535

.915
P
Feliz

425

14

33

.249

.302

.402

.705
J
Rollins

556

11

58

.277

.349

.437

.786

Total

2198

106

236

.268

.346

.487

.833

And the Nats:


Player

AB

HR

BB

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS
A
Boone

232
6
18

.241

.299

.384

.683
F
Lopez

325
2
32

.234

.305

.314

.619
R
Zimmerman

428

14

31

.283

.333

.442

.774
C
Guzman

579
9
23

.316

.345

.440

.786

Total

1564
31
104

.279

.326

.406

.732

The Marlins gave a higher percentage of their defensive innings at the four infield positions to the players listed above than the Braves did. So if you compare what all players did while playing defensively at each of the infield positions (and not just the player who appeared their the most often), the Marlins wound up with a better OPS for the season:

Florida

Player

AB

HR

BB

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

All 1B

640

40

44

.253

.304

.506

.811

All 2B

602

33

78

.259

.351

.497

.848

All 3B

651

23

46

.270

.324

.438

.761

All SS

643

34

93

.303

.396

.530

.926

Total

2536

130

261

.272

.344

.493

.837

Atlanta

Player

AB

HR

BB

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

All 1B

616

24

93

.279

.378

.458

.836

All 2B

643

11

61

.288

.350

.440

.790

All 3B

623

24

96

.345

.431

.530

.961

All SS

656

11

65

.273

.343

.387

.730

Total

2538
70
315

.296

.376

.453

.828

If you’re wondering how Kelly Johnson can hit 12 home runs and the Braves’ second basemen combine to hit 11, it’s because Johnson hit one as a pinch-hitter and all other players who played second base for Atlanta in ’08 combined to hit zero.

Eric Hinske recalls facing Brad Lidge with the World Series on the line in this article. The same article also suggests that Mike Zagurski could be ready to join a minor league team in mid-April and Scott Mathieson around mid-August.

Pat the Bat will take the bus to face the Phils on Saturday.

The Phils played their first spring training game yesterday and got bombed by the Pirates, 8-2. Joe Bisenius and Scott Nestor combined to pitch two innings and allow seven runs, three of which came on a three-run homer by Shelby Ford off of Bisenius with two outs in the fourth. Mike Koplove is a guy fans should be watching — he struck out two in a perfect eighth. I think Koplove is a long shot to make the team out of spring training, but one scenario where it would be possible is if Park won the fifth starter job and Koplove took Park’s spot in the pen.

Offensively, Jeremy Slayden went 2-for-2 with a double, which was the only extra-base hit of the game for the Phils. If he was right-handed people would be getting rightfully geeked up. He’s not. Ibanez 1-for-2 with an RBI. Marcus Giles 0-for-2 and struck out twice. Jenkins was 1-for-1 with a walk — if you’re looking for places the Phillies can get better in 2009, one is by getting more offense out of Jenkins.

The Phils play Toronto today. JA Happ and Carlos Carrasco are among the Phillies scheduled to pitch.

Jason Donald will play third in today’s game, according to Todd Zolecki’s blog. If Utley is healthy, I think the Phillies would have to believe Donald can play third base for him to have much of a chance to make the opening day roster.

Ad: TicketCity has Phillies tickets for spring training and regular season games.


2009 a fourth time

The Phillies actually play a game today, so I thought it would be a good time to update my guess at who makes the opening day roster.

Not a whole lot has happened since my most recent guess, which came in mid-January:

  • The news about Utley’s health has largely been good. Multiple reports have suggested that he may be ready for the start of the regular season.
  • News about Pedro Feliz’s recovery from back injury has been less encouraging and his readiness for opening day is looking possible but not as sure as some had previously thought.
  • The Phillies signed utility man Miguel Cairo.

It’s very hard to know whether Utley or Feliz are going to be ready to go when the season starts. I’m going to guess they both will at this point. That would give the Phillies ten hitters on the team:


Player

Position
1
Ryan Howard

1B
2 Chase Utley
2B
3
Jimmy Rollins

SS
4
Pedro Feliz

3B
5
Shane Victorino

OF
6
Jayson Werth

OF
7
Raul Ibanez

OF
8
OF
9
Carlos Ruiz
C
10 C
11
Eric Bruntlett

UT
12
Greg Dobbs

3B/OF
13
UT
14

Three spots left. One has to go to a catcher and another to a fourth outfielder.

The top candidates for the three spots look to be Jason Donald, John Mayberry, Marcus Giles, Miguel Cairo, Ronny Paulino, Chris Coste, Matt Stairs and Geoff Jenkins.

Of the three spots one has to go to either Paulino or Coste. Jenkins is a strong front-runner for the second. I think Jenkins is on the team as the fourth outfielder, partly because he’s harder to trade than Stairs because of his contract. He is also far better defensively.

I’ve been saying I think Paulino is the second catcher all along, but my confidence is wavering. I will stick with Paulino, but I do think the chances that Coste makes the team improve as camp progresses without the Phillies adding a right-handed hitter. This article suggests that Coste is the front-runner over Paulino coming into camp.

If Coste were to be the second catcher behind Ruiz, it would solve one of the Phillies other problems in what to do with Coste. They could send him (or Paulino) to the minors, but I would guess they don’t want to. Coste as the backup catcher would presumably kill Paulino’s chances to make the team, but I’m less sure Paulino as the backup catcher would kill Coste’s chances. I think if Coste won the backup catcher spot it would open up the final spot for Giles, Donald or Cairo.

If the final hitter comes from the group above, my guess it would be Coste or Stairs. I don’t think it will, though. I will still guess the Phils make a trade, sending Stairs, or Stairs and Coste, to someone to bring back a right-handed hitter who will take the final hitting spot on the roster.

There are only so many things the Phils can do with Stairs, including putting him on the team, trading him or releasing him. Putting him on the team makes him a sluggish corner outfielder who is the sixth left-handed bat along with Utley, Howard, Ibanez, Jenkins, and Dobbs. Assuming they also will continue to play Bruntlett in the outfield, it would also make him their sixth outfielder. Releasing him, especially since one would think his $1 million contract would make him desirable to other teams, doesn’t seem that likely either. That seems to leave trading him.

If Feliz isn’t ready to go to start the year, my guess is the Phils would go with a Bruntlett/Dobbs platoon at third. It would open another spot on the roster, at least temporarily. I would guess Miguel Cairo, given his experience playing third as well as his ability to play multiple positions, might become a more attractive option for the Phils if that were the case.

Ten of the Phillies pitching spots are likely to be filled by these guys:


Player

Position
1
Cole Hamels (left)

SP
2
Brett Myers (right)

SP
3
Joe Blanton (right)

SP
4
Jamie Moyer (left)

SP
5
SP
6
Ryan Madson (right)
 RP
7
Chan Ho Park (right)

SP/RP
8
Clay Condrey (right)

RP
9
Scott Eyre (left)

RP
10
Chad Durbin (right)

RP
11  
RP
12
Brad Lidge (right)

CLOSER

Two spots left and my guess for each stays the same.

I like Kendrick to win the fifth starter job over Chan Ho Park, JA Happ and Carlos Carrasco. I think Park goes to the pen and Happ joins him as the second lefty along with Eyre.

I will be interested to see if the fifth starter job actually goes to the player of those four who pitches the best in spring training. I think the answer may be no. I don’t think that’s going to be a problem if it’s Happ or Carrasco who pitches the best. Carrasco can’t be too surprised if he starts the year in the minors at age 21 coming off a year when he threw to a 4.32 ERA at Double-A. I think Happ has a good chance to make the team anyway and should have known better than to be left-handed. But if Park, who clearly wants to start, out pitches Kendrick and doesn’t win the spot things could get interesting quickly.

Another possibility is that the Phils could trade Stairs (or, less likely, Jenkins or Coste) to bring in a second lefty. Or they could sign a left-handed reliever. In either of those cases, I think it would really make it a three-way duel for the fifth starter job between Happ, Kendrick and Park rather than Park and Kendrick battling it out.

So here’s my overall guess at this point:

Hitters (13): Howard, Utley, Rollins, Feliz, Ibanez, Victorino, Werth, Ruiz, Bruntlett, Dobbs, Paulino, Jenkins and a right-handed hitter not currently with the team.

Pitchers (12): Hamels, Myers, Blanton, Moyer, Kendrick, Madson, Happ, Condrey, Eyre, Durbin, Park, Lidge.

Dobbs would like the chance to hit against lefties. He has 55 plate appearances against lefties and 781 against righties for his career.

Victorino will not be playing in the World Baseball Classic.

Jason Donald will start at second base in today’s game against Pittsburgh. Moyer, Blanton, Scott Nestor, Joe Bisenius, Dave Borkowski, Mike Koplove and Jake Woods are expected to pitch for the Phils.


Flying Fish

Most people who felt the NL East was anything but a two-team race as the 2008 season began thought it was the Braves that had a chance to keep pace with the Phillies and Mets. That didn’t prove to be the case. The Braves had a miserable season, finishing in fourth place and 20 games out of first.

It was the Florida Marlins that were in the thick of the race early in the season and they did more than keep pace. The Marlins led the East or had a piece of first place for 42 days in ’08 and led the division by a full three games after a win on May 11. Their record peaked at ten games above .500 — they were 30-20 on May 26. The Phils and Mets controlled the division from June on and the Fish went 54-57 after May 26 to finish the year at 84-77, which put them in third place and 7 1/2 games out.

The improvement for Florida was remarkable, however. Coming off of 71 wins in 2007, they improved their run differential by more than 100 runs. Here’s a look at the run differentials for the teams in the NL East for the past five seasons:

rundiff.jpg

In 2007, the Marlins allowed 891 runs and scored 790. They allowed 101 runs more than they scored. In 2008, they allowed 767 and scored 770, so they scored three more than they allowed. That’s a difference of 104 runs, which is the second-biggest improvement from the previous year for a team in the NL East in the past five years behind what the Mets did in 2006. In 2006, the huge improvement by New York shot them past the Phils and the Braves. In 2008, the huge improvement by the Marlins shot them past the Braves but still left them short of the Phils and Mets.

With offense down across the league, the Marlins scored 20 fewer runs in 2008 than they had in 2007. The difference in their pitching was huge — Marlins hurlers were charged with just 767 runs after allowing 891 runs the year before.

In 2007, Marlins’ relievers threw to a 4.05 ERA. In 2008 they threw to a 4.06 ERA. So the massive improvement was in large part due to what the starting pitching did. And the starting pitching for the Marlins is very young. The rotation for this year is penciled in as Ricky Nolasco, Josh Johnson, Chris Volstad, Anibal Sanchez and Andrew Miller — Nolasco is the oldest of the group and he turned 26 in December. Nolasco, Johnson and Volstad were all good last year, with Nolasco making the biggest contribution as he threw 212 1/3 innings with a 3.52 ERA and a 1.10 ratio. Anibal Sanchez and Andrew Miller both have a good chance to be fantastic — the Fish showed dramatic improvement last year with that duo combining to throw to a 5.77 ERA and a 1.62 ratio over 159 innings. If there’s good news for the rest of the division in the Marlins rotation, it’s that Scott Olsen, who was solid for the Marlins in 33 starts last year, was dealt to the Nationals over the winter in a deal that looks like a steal for Washington. The Marlins, however, look like they have more than enough arms to make up for the loss.

While the Marlin’s green line is creeping up closer to where the Mets and Phillies are (and where the Braves had been till last season), the question has to be whether the Marlins are ready to challenge the other teams in the NL East atop the division. I think the answer is no, not yet, for two reasons.

The first is that as much as the pitching is improving, it still has a long way to go. In 2008, only five NL teams, the Braves, Reds, Rockies, Nats and Pirates, allowed more runs than Florida.

The second is that they benefited from an electric offense in 2008 and chances are good that even if the rotation continues to improve the Marlins won’t be fifth in the NL in runs scored in 2009 like they were in 2008. Mike Jacobs and Josh Willingham are gone and although neither were outstanding I would guess the Marlins will struggle to replace their production. I’d bet a lot against them having four infielders who hit at least 29 home runs again as well.

I think the thing to worry about is that there is a huge amount of young talent in Florida between all that starting pitching as well as offensive firepower that includes Hanley Ramirez, Cameron Maybin and Jeremy Hermida. That’s a whole lot of moving parts, but if they all got popping at the same time it would be a big problem for the Mets and the Phillies. I think it’s a little tough to predict that’s going to happen in 2009, though.

Finally, on what’s only a slightly related note, I feel I should remind all that the Fish are just a strange and surprising organization. In their 16 year history they have twice won the World Series, but never been closer to winning the NL East than they were in 2005 when they finished in third place, seven games behind the Braves (in 2003 and 1997, they finished second and went to the playoffs and won the World Series, but in each year they finished more than seven games out of first place). So you never know.

The Braves agreed to a one-year deal with Garret Anderson.

Charlie Manuel says something about the chances of Jason Donald and John Mayberry to make the team in this article, but I’m not quite sure I understand what it is.

The Phillies play the Pirates tomorrow. They have announced who will pitch in upcoming games.

MLB Network will be making a reality show about the Phillies bullpen which will debut in June.

Scott Eyre has had assets frozen as part of a federal investigation, which has caused financial problems for him.

Ad: TicketCity has Phillies tickets for spring training and regular season games.


The 40/.340 club

Two points today about Ryan Howard.

The first one is actually more a point about batting average. In 2008, Ryan Howard hit .251. A year earlier he had hit .268. In the two years, though, he got a hit when he came to the plate at almost exactly the same rate:

Year PA H % of PA
with hits
2007 648 142 21.91
2008 700 153 21.86

The issue, of course, is walks and that batting average doesn’t care about how many plate appearances you have. So even though Howard accumulated hits at a virtually identically rate in 2008 as he had in 2007, he changed plate appearances that were walks in 2007 to outs in 2008. That gave him more at-bats while he continued to get hits at a very similar rate.

Howard’s walk rate was down in 2008 compared to recent seasons. Here’s the percentage of plate appearances he drew walks, intentional walks and unintentional walks over the past three seasons:

Year PA BB % BB IBB % IBB UBB % UBB
2006 704 108 15.3 37 5.3 71 10.1
2007 648 107 16.5 35 5.4 72 11.1
2008 700 81 11.6 17 2.4 64 9.1

The decline in the walk rate had Howard’s on-base percentage low for a player who hits so many home runs. In 2008, Howard hit 48 home runs with an on-base percentage of .339. How many times would you guess a player has hit at least 40 home runs with an on-base percentage under .340 in the last ten seasons? I believe the answer is that across both leagues there have been 107 other instances of 40 or more home runs and only twice, Tony Batista in 2000 and Jose Canseco in 1998, has the guy who hit them on-based less than .340:

Year Player Team HR OBP
2008 Ryan Howard PHI 48 0.339
2008 Adam Dunn CIN/ARI 40 0.386
2007 Alex Rodriguez NYY 54 0.422
2007 Prince Fielder MIL 50 0.395
2007 Ryan Howard PHI 47 0.392
2007 Carlos Pena TAM 46 0.411
2007 Adam Dunn CIN 40 0.386
2006 Ryan Howard PHI 58 0.425
2006 David Ortiz BOS 54 0.413
2006 Albert Pujols STL 49 0.431
2006 Alfonso Soriano WAS 46 0.351
2006 Lance Berkman HOU 45 0.42
2006 Jermaine Dye CHW 44 0.385
2006 Jim Thome CHW 42 0.416
2006 Travis Hafner CLE 42 0.439
2006 Andruw Jones ATL 41 0.363
2006 Carlos Beltran NYM 41 0.388
2006 Adam Dunn CIN 40 0.365
2005 Andruw Jones ATL 51 0.347
2005 Alex Rodriguez NYY 48 0.421
2005 David Ortiz BOS 47 0.397
2005 Derrek Lee CHC 46 0.418
2005 Manny Ramirez BOS 45 0.388
2005 Mark Teixeira TEX 43 0.379
2005 Albert Pujols STL 41 0.43
2005 Paul Konerko CHW 40 0.375
2005 Adam Dunn CIN 40 0.387
2004 Adrian Beltre LOS 48 0.388
2004 Albert Pujols STL 46 0.415
2004 Adam Dunn CIN 46 0.388
2004 Barry Bonds SFG 45 0.609
2004 Manny Ramirez BOS 43 0.397
2004 Jim Thome PHI 42 0.396
2004 Jim Edmonds STL 42 0.418
2004 Paul Konerko CHW 41 0.359
2004 David Ortiz BOS 41 0.38
2003 Jim Thome PHI 47 0.385
2003 Alex Rodriguez TEX 47 0.396
2003 Barry Bonds SFG 45 0.529
2003 Richie Sexson MIL 45 0.379
2003 Javy Lopez ATL 43 0.378
2003 Albert Pujols STL 43 0.439
2003 Frank Thomas CHW 42 0.39
2003 Carlos Delgado TOR 42 0.426
2003 Jason Giambi NYY 41 0.412
2003 Sammy Sosa CHC 40 0.358
2002 Alex Rodriguez TEX 57 0.392
2002 Jim Thome CLE 52 0.445
2002 Sammy Sosa CHC 49 0.399
2002 Barry Bonds SFG 46 0.582
2002 Rafael Palmeiro TEX 43 0.391
2002 Lance Berkman HOU 42 0.405
2002 Shawn Green LAD 42 0.385
2002 Jason Giambi NYY 41 0.435
2001 Barry Bonds SFG 73 0.515
2001 Sammy Sosa CHC 64 0.437
2001 Luis Gonzalez ARI 57 0.429
2001 Alex Rodriguez TEX 52 0.399
2001 Shawn Green LAD 49 0.372
2001 Jim Thome CLE 49 0.416
2001 Todd Helton COL 49 0.432
2001 Rafael Palmeiro TEX 47 0.381
2001 Richie Sexon MIL 45 0.342
2001 Phil Nevin SDP 41 0.388
2001 Manny Ramirez BOS 41 0.405
2001 Troy Glaus ANA 41 0.367
2000 Sammy Sosa CHC 50 0.406
2000 Barry Bonds SFG 49 0.44
2000 Jeff Bagwell HOU 47 0.424
2000 Troy Glaus ANA 47 0.404
2000 Vladimir Guerrero MON 44 0.41
2000 Richard Hidalgo HOU 44 0.391
2000 Gary Sheffield LOS 43 0.438
2000 Frank Thomas CHW 43 0.436
2000 Jason Giambi OAK 43 0.476
2000 Jim Edmonds STL 42 0.411
2000 Todd Helton COL 42 0.463
2000 Carlos Delgado TOR 41 0.47
2000 Alex Rodriguez SEA 41 0.42
2000 Tony Batista TOR 41 0.307
2000 Dave Justice CLE/NYY 41 0.377
2000 Ken Griffey Jr. CIN 40 0.387
1999 Mark McGwire STL 65 0.424
1999 Sammy Sosa CHC 63 0.367
1999 Ken Griffey Jr SEA 48 0.384
1999 Rafael Palmeiro TEX 47 0.42
1999 Chipper Jones ATL 45 0.441
1999 Greg Vaughn CIN 45 0.347
1999 Carlos Delgado TOR 44 0.377
1999 Manny Ramirez CLE 44 0.442
1999 Jeff Bagwell HOU 42 0.454
1999 Shawn Green TOR 42 0.384
1999 Vladimir Guerrero MON 42 0.378
1999 Alex Rodriguez SEA 42 0.357
1999 Mike Piazza NYM 40 0.361
1998 Mark McGwire STL 70 0.47
1998 Sammy Sosa CHC 66 0.377
1998 Ken Griffey Jr SEA 56 0.365
1998 Greg Vaugn SDP 50 0.363
1998 Albert Belle CWS 49 0.399
1998 Vinny Castilla COL 46 0.362
1998 Jose Canseco TOR 46 0.318
1998 Juan Gonzalez TEX 45 0.366
1998 Manny Ramirez CLE 45 0.377
1998 Andres Galarraga ATL 44 0.397
1998 Rafael Palmeiro BAL 43 0.379
1998 Alex Rodriguez SEA 42 0.36
1998 Mo Vaughn BOS 40 0.402

Batista and Canseco both did it in the AL. Sammy Sosa hit 40 home runs for the Cubs in 1996 with an on-base percentage of .323.

Howard does have company on the all-time list of the seasons where a player has hit at least 48 home runs with an on-base percentage under .340. But not a lot — Andre Dawson hit 49 home runs for the Cubs with an on-base percentage of .328 in 1987. A player has hit 48 or more in a season 71 times.

This suggests it’s unlikely the Phillies will add Nomar Garciaparra or pitchers Will Ohman or Joe Beimel.

This says the A’s are also interested in Nomar.

Carlos Carrasco thinks he has a good shot to be the Phillies’ fifth starter.

Todd Zolecki, who is now writing for MLB.com and previous scribed the Zo Zone and Phillies Zone, is now back at it with The Zo Zone, but at a new location. It’s all a little complicated, but his blog is now here.


Relief grief

The final point I’d like to make on Utley and Howard related to having them hitting back-to-back is that in 2008, both Utley and Howard didn’t fare well against relief pitching. This is a change from recent years when, by OPS, they had both put up very good numbers against relievers and numbers that were much closer to their overall OPS for the season.

There were 12 hitters that got at least 200 plate appearances for the Phillies in 2008. Of those, four put up a higher OPS in their plate appearances against relief pitchers than they did in their plate appearances against starting pitchers. Here they are, ordered by the difference between the OPS they put up against starters and relievers:

  Total vs Starter vs Reliever  
 
PA

OPS

PA

OPS

PA

OPS

Diff

Victorino
627
.799
409
.749
218
.892

.143

Rollins
625
.786
412
.744
213
.872

.128

Burrell
645
.875
424
.835
221
.955

.120

Ruiz
373
.620
221
.614
152
.628

.014

So by OPS, Ruiz was better against relief pitchers than he was against starting pitchers, but just by a tiny bit. Victorino at the top of the list was better against them also, but by a wider margin.

And then there’s a longer list of players who were better against starters. Here they are, again with the players with the largest difference between what they did against relievers and starters at the top:

  Total vs Starter vs Reliever  
 
PA

OPS

PA

OPS

PA

OPS

Diff

Utley

707

.915

470

.990

237

.763

.227

Howard

700

.881

445

.962

255

.737

.225

Bruntlett

238

.594

129

.684

109

.484

.200

Dobbs

240

.824

131

.904

109

.727

.177

Werth

482

.861

295

.927

187

.753

.174

Jenkins

322

.694

200

.745

122

.608

.137

Feliz

463

.705

266

.729

197

.672

.057

Coste

305

.748

171

.768

134

.722

.044

Utley and Howard are at the top of that list, and the difference in what they did against relievers and starters is larger than the difference for any of the players in either group.

Even while the difference between their total OPS and OPS against relievers is very large, it’s important to realize that Utley and Howard still hit relief pitching well compared to the other guys on the team. For example, they both have a bigger difference between their total OPS and OPS against relievers than Bruntlett, who hit a miserable 158/252/232 against relief pitching in ’08, but that’s because they had a lot further to drop. Utley’s .763 OPS against relievers is still better than anybody on the team except for three guys on the top list who hit relievers better than starters, Burrell, Rollins and Victorino.

The huge drop off in numbers against relievers in 2008 is something new for Utley and Howard.

Looking back at 2006 and 2007, in 2006 Utley was about as good against relievers as he was overall. In 2007 he put up an OPS against relief pitchers that was better than his OPS overall. But 2008 was a different story:

utleyvsrel.jpg

For Howard, his OPS against relievers wasn’t quite as good as his overall OPS in ’06 and ’07. But he was still hitting them hard, putting up an OPS of over .900 against relief pitching in both years. And then it dropped way down in 2008:

howardvsrel.jpg

All of Howard’s OPS-related numbers were down in 2008, but his numbers against relievers were down by even more.

The why of all this is the hard part. I don’t know. It’s tempting to suggest that the two lefties hitting back-to-back is the problem in that it allows a team to bring in its best left-handed reliever to deal with both of them. The problem with that is that the Phils hit Utley and Howard back-to-back in the three and four holes regularly in 2007 and both players pounded relief pitching.

I still think I’d be looking to put a right-handed hitter in-between Utley and Howard. I don’t think the Phillies will, though, based on what they’ve done in the past and the issues they have with the right-handed hitters in the lineup for 2009.

Utley says he likes the balance of the offense in terms of lefties, righties and switch-hitters. I agree that the three righties, three lefties and two switch-hitters is nice — I think the issue is that of the three righties, two of them (Feliz and Ruiz) are players whose value comes a lot from their defense rather than what they do with the bat.

This suggests that Utley could return to game action before the end of March.

Article about Mike Koplove’s ties to Philadelphia here.


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