Archive for February, 2009

Race pace

In 2008, the NL East came down to a battle between the Phils and the Mets. There are a lot of reasons to think it will again in 2009. The chart below tracks the wins for each team as the season progressed:

Wins by Date, 2008

And here’s a review of how things looked on some key dates:

April 30: The Phillies end April at 15-13, tied with the 14-12 Mets for second place in the division. Both teams trail the 15-12 Marlins by half a game.

May 31: The Marlins still lead the NL East with a 31-23 mark. The Phils remain a half game back at 32-25, but the 27-27 Mets trail by four games.

June 17: Willie Randolph is fired by the 34-35 Mets. The Phils lead the division with the Fish in second, three games back. The Mets and the Braves are tied for third place, trailing by 6 1/2 games.

June 30: The Phils lead the NL with a 44-39 record, a half game ahead of the Marlins. After beating the Marlins on June 1 to go a half game up in the division, the Phils stay in first place the whole month. Their lead tops out at four games in the middle of the month. The Fish are back within half a game by the end of the month, but the Mets are under .500 at 40-42 in third place. New York trails the Phils by 3 1/2 games.

July 17: The Mets beat the Reds 10-8 to win their tenth straight game. The Mets and Phils end the day in a tie atop the NL East with identical 52-44 records.

July 31: The 59-49 Phils hold a one-game lead in the division. The Marlins have faded and are now in third place at 58-51, a game and a half back. The Mets, meanwhile, have surged past them and trail the Phils by a single game at 58-50.

The Mets and Phils came into a three-game set in New York July 22-24 tied for the division lead. The Phillies scored six times in the ninth to get a win in the opener, but the Mets won the next two games.

The Mets extended their lead in the division to two games with a win in St Louis, but dropped three of five to end the month while the Phils ran off five straight wins against the Braves and the Nats.

August 31: The back-and-forth month ends with the Mets atop the NL East by a game at 76-61. The Phils are a game off pace at 75-62. The Marlins are seven games out of first place.

The Phils controlled the early part of August, holding the lead in the division till the Mets tied it up on August 13. The Mets led every day but one until the end of the month, maxing out their lead at 2 1/2 games on August 21 and August 22.

September 1-3: The Phillies lost two of three to Washington start September. The Mets, meanwhile, swept a three-game set in Milwaukee and were suddenly three games ahead of the Phils.

September 10: After falling to the Marlins 7-3, the Phils drop to 79-67 on the year. They have 16 games left to play and trail the Mets by 3 1/2 games.

September 18: The Phillies beat the Braves 4-3 to win their seventh straight game. With the win they complete a three-game sweep of Atlanta, coming off the sweep of the Brewers in a four-game set. The Mets, meanwhile, dropped two of three to the Braves in New York on September 13 and 14 before splitting a four-game set with the Nats September 15-18.

The Phillies end the day a half game up in the NL East at 86-67. The have nine games left to play. The 85-67 Mets have ten games left.

September 19: The Phils fall to the Marlins in Florida, losing 14-8 behind a miserable start by Brett Myers. The Mets, meanwhile, take a half game lead in the division when they rally for four runs in the eighth inning to break a 5-5 tie in Atlanta.

It’s the last time that New York will lead the division in 2008, though. The Phils come back and take the next two from the Marlins while the Mets drop a pair of tight games to the Braves. The September 21 game in Atlanta features the Mets taking a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the eighth only to yield four runs. A two-run blast by Delgado in the top of the ninth gets New York to within a run, but they can’t tie the game.

The loss in combination with the Phillies win puts the Phils 1 1/2 games up after the day’s action on September 21 is over. New York has seven games to play and the 88-68 Phillies have six.

September 22: The Phils extend their lead to 2 1/2 games with the help of a 6-2 win over a decimated Braves team. JA Happ gave the Phils his second straight excellent start down the stretch and the Phils broke open a 2-2 tie with a four-run eighth inning that featured a three-run bomb from Burrell. The Mets, meanwhile, fall to the Cubs to drop their third straight.

The Phils had a chance to put it away then. But they didn’t. They dropped the next two with Atlanta.

Santana, Reyes and Wright led New York to a win over the Cubs on September 23 in New York, and the Mets trailed by just a game and a half as play started on the 24th. The Mets couldn’t capitalize on the Phils’ loss, though. They led Chicago 5-1 going into the top of the fifth, but Chicago tied the game with a four-run frame. Chicago took a 6-5 lead in the seventh before a bases loaded walk to Ramon Martinez in the bottom of the eighth forced in a run to tie the game at 6-6. It went to extra innings and a two-run homer by Aramis Ramirez off of Luis Ayala in the top of the tenth helped the Cubs put three on the board. Chicago won the game 9-6 and the Phils held a game and a half lead.

September 25: The Phils were idle while the Mets played the game that was accounting for all the half games in the standings. Trailing 6-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh, the Mets scored four times in their last three times at the plate to earn a 7-6 win.

The 89-70 Phillies led the 88-71 Mets by just a game. Each team had three games left to play. The Phils hosted the Nationals and the Mets hosted the Marlins.

September 26: It was pretty much over after September 26. Utley and Howard combined to drive in seven runs in the first two innings and the Phils rolled to an 8-4 win. The Mets, meanwhile, couldn’t find an answer for Chris Volstad. Volstad held New York to an unearned run over six innings and the Fish took the game 6-1.

The Phillies led by two games with two games left to play.

Brilliant defense by Jimmy Rollins and a solid outing by Moyer led the Phils to a 4-3 on September 27. And then it was completely over. The Mets won on the 27th, but lost on the final day of the season while the Phillies won, capping the season with the Phils three games ahead.

Ryan Howard and the Phillies agreed to a three-year, $54 million contract.

This says the Giants have offered Rich Aurilia a minor league contract.

Tom Gordon signed with Arizona.


Still high on leverage

Last week I looked at how some Phillies hitters performed in situations tagged as high leverage by Baseball-Reference. Today I wanted to look at how the pitchers fared in high leverage situations.

First of all, not all the members of the staff appeared in high leverage situations with the same regularity. Here’s the percentage of batters that each pitcher who threw for the Phils in ’08 faced in high leverage situations:


Player

Batters faced

High leverage

Percent

Gordon

139

83

59.7

Lidge

292

140

47.9

Romero

255

108

42.4

Durbin

365

128

35.1

Madson

340

93

27.4

Blanton

305

67

22.0

Eyre

53

10

18.9

Walrond

49
9
18.4

Moyer

841

139

16.5

Seanez

189

31

16.4

Myers

817

117

14.3

Eaton

478

67

14.0

Hamels

914

123

13.5

Happ

138

18

13.0

Kendrick

722

92

12.7

Swindle

24
2
8.3

Condrey

303

25

8.3

Carpenter
5 0
0.0

So Gordon was the Phillie who had the highest percentage of his batter’s faced come in high leverage situations, while Andrew Carpenter didn’t face anyone in a high leverage situation all year long (he faced just five hitters in ’08). Important to notice is while the bullpen guys at the top face a higher percentage of batters in high leverage situations, the actual number of hitters faced in high leverage situations compared to the starters is not all that different. Moyer, for example, faced 139 hitters in high leverage situations while Lidge faced 140 despite the fact that Lidge was pitching in high leverage (and presumably, higher leverage) situations more regularly.

Of the 18 pitchers above, 13 faced at least 25 batters in high leverage situations in 2008. Of those 13, going by the OPS that opposing hitters put up against them, eight had better results in high leverage situations and five had worse results. Here they are, ordered by the difference in the OPS that hitters put up against them overall and in high leverage situations:


Player

OPS against season

Not High Leverage

High Leverage

Difference

Gordon

.783

.989

.632

.357

Lidge

.565

.679

.437

.242

Seanez

.682

.718

.497

.220

Romero

.647

.729

.538

.190

Madson

.675

.689

.638

.052

Blanton

.747

.754

.715

.038

Myers

.791

.795

.767

.028

Moyer

.731

.733

.719

.014

Hamels

.657

.649

.710

-.061

Kendrick

.855

.840

.951

-.110

Durbin

.675

.631

.761

-.131

Eaton

.868

.838

1.046

-.207

Condrey

.792

.769

1.052

-.283

Those numbers are based on the results against a very small number of batters. Still, the list is divided almost evenly among starters and relievers (six starters and seven relievers) and yet the five guys of the 13 whose OPS against improved the most in high leverage situations were all relievers. That may reflect that since relievers tend to face a higher percentage of batters in high leverage situations, it may be difficult to survive as a reliever without being effective when they occur.

Here are the Phillies 2008 pitching splits in high leverage situations.

This says Kevin Millar is close to signing with Toronto.

This says that Moises Alou is not healthy, doesn’t want to be a backup player, would prefer to be in the AL and hasn’t decided if he will play this year. I don’t want to imply some kind of Jedi Mind trick knowledge of the situation that does not exist, but my guess is his signing with the Phillies isn’t imminent.


Runs down rundown

The massively improved bullpen helped the Phillies win the World Series in 2008, but the team also produced far fewer runs offensively. After scoring 892 runs in 2007, the Phils scored 799 in 2008.

Runs were down across the league last year. In 2007, NL teams combined to score 11,741 runs, about 734 runs per team. In 2008, they combined to score 12,208 runs, about 763 runs per team. The Phillies drop off was larger than the rate overall — across the league about 96.2% of the runs that were scored in 2007 were scored in 2008. The Phillies scored about 89.6% of the runs they had scored in 2007 in 2008.

Things would be easy to explain if the Phils had installed a forty foot wall in left field, but it doesn’t look like the problem was Citizens Bank Park. The difference in the average number of runs the team scored in their home and away games between ’07 and ’08 is actually larger for the team’s games away from home:

 
Home

Away
Year Runs R/G Runs R/G
2007 450 5.55 442 5.46
2008 412 5.09 387 4.78

So where did all those runs go? To try and help understand I took a look at the offensive production by 11 different groups of players: the offense produced by players playing all nine of the positions (P, C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, RF) plus designated hitters and pinch-hitters. Those groups are not all equally important, of course. Pitchers got fewer at-bats than the players manning the other eight positions, pinch-hitters fewer than that and designated hitters fewer still.

For each of those 11 groups, I looked at the OPS they hit to and, using the technical version of the runs created formula, their runs created.

Of the 11 groups, both by OPS and runs created, nine were clearly worse in 2008 than they were in 2007. The only two that weren’t were pinch-hitters and third base.

Led by Dobbs, Phillies pinch-hitters were simply better in 2008 than they were in ’07. In 281 plate appearances, Phils’ pinch-hitters put up a 253/309/415 line a year after hitting 230/307/391 in 2007. The bad news is that of the 11 groups, designated hitter is the only group that got fewer plate appearances than the pinch-hitter group.

The other place where the Phillies were not clearly worse was at third base. This one was a split decision. The 245/295/400 line gave Feliz and cohorts a .695 OPS for 2008, which is better than .688 OPS (255/321/368) Nunez and pals put up in ’07. On-base percentage trumps slugging, though, so runs created thinks the ’07 group was a little bit better than last year’s.

The other nine groups were all worse than what they did in the previous year. But not by the same amount. Here’s the difference in the runs created for all 11 groups between 2007 and 2008:

Group RC
SS 30.0
1B 19.0
2B 17.8
LF 16.3
RF 15.1
CF 13.5
C 7.3
P 4.0
3B 3.6
DH 2.5
PH -3.4

The chart suggests that Phillies shortstops created 30 fewer runs in 2008 than they had in 2007 while, at the bottom of the list, pinch-hitters created about three and a half more.

If you add up the runs created numbers, they don’t equal the difference in runs that the Phillies scored in 2008 and 2007. They equal 125.8. If you adjust the chart so the total difference in runs created is the actual 93 runs (892 runs scored in 2007 minus 799 scored in 2008), the chart looks like this:

Group RC
SS 22.2
1B 14.0
2B 13.2
LF 12.1
RF 11.2
CF 10.0
C 5.4
P 2.9
3B 2.7
DH 1.8
PH -2.5

If you think back to 2008, four of the Phils’ best hitters had a worse year than they had in 2007. Burrell, Utley and Howard all had fantastic years, but all three weren’t as fantastic as they had been the year before. Rollins was much worse with the bat in 2008 than in 2007. At the top of the list you see all four of their positions in a row.

While first, second and left are all down in about the same level, though, shortstop is down a lot more. The position got hit with a double-whammy in ’08. First, Rollins’ production was way down. After hitting 296/344/531 with 30 homers in ’07, he hit 277/349/437 with 11 home runs in 2008. Second, after starting every game for the Phils in 2007, Rollins started just 132 in 2008. Bruntlett started the other 30 games, and although he hit well while playing the position (274/331/393) it still brought the numbers down for the position compared to the previous season.

In right field, the group led Victorino and Werth in ’07 put up more offense than the ’08 group led by Werth and Jenkins. Jenkins struggled badly for most of the year, hitting 252/308/383 in 266 at-bats while playing right.

Surprisingly to me, the Phils did well to keep pace in center field coming off a fantastic year with the bat from Aaron Rowand. By OPS, the Phils’ 292/354/470 line in ’08 was still the best in the National League. It was just a bit off the 311/377/507 mark of ’07, which was the best in the league that year by a wide margin. Coming into 2008, I would have guessed that center field would be the position where the Phils offense would be down the most compared the previous season. Not even close.

Catchers, pitchers and third basemen fared about as well in ’08 as they had in ’07.

Here are the Phillies hitting splits by position for 2008 and for 2007.

Jimmy Rollins is okay with playing behind Derek Jeter in the World Baseball Classic and doesn’t want to talk about the Mets yet.

This from the Phillies web site seems to suggest that Kendrick could pitch out of the pen if he does not win the fifth starter job. I’d be surprised if they keep Kendrick on the team to pitch out of the pen.

Ad: Ticketcity has tickets for the 2009 Phillies season.


Look! Closer!

Still on the theme of differences between the 2007 and 2008 teams. One of the differences is that the combination of scoring many fewer runs while hugely improving the bullpen meant that, based on the average number of runs they scored and allowed in wins and losses, the Phils were playing in closer games in 2008 than they were the year before.

Here’s the number of runs that each of the teams scored in the games that they won and the games that they lost:

Runs scored in wins
Year W R R/G
2007 89 645 7.24
2008 92 587 6.38
       
Runs scored in losses
Year L R R/G
2007 73 247 3.38
2008 70 212 3.03

And here’s the differences in the runs they allowed in games they won and lost:

Runs allowed in wins
Year W RA RA/G
2007 89 304 3.42
2008 92 274 2.98
       
Runs allowed in losses
Year L RA RA/G
2007 73 517 7.08
2008 70 406 5.80

In 2008, the won 92 games and in those games they scored 587 runs and allowed 274 runs. In the 89 games they won in 2007, they scored 58 more runs but allowed 30 more as well.

Not only did the Phillies improvements at preventing runs help them to win more games with fewer runs, it also meant that, going by the average number of runs they scored and allowed, they played in closer games in 2008 than in 2007. Comparing the average number of runs they scored and allowed in wins and losses, when they lost they lost by less by almost a full run:

In losses

Year AVG Runs
scored
AVG Runs
allowed
Difference
2007 3.38 7.08 3.70
2008 3.03 5.80 2.77

And when the won in 2007, going by the average number of runs, they won by more:

In wins

Year AVG Runs
scored
AVG Runs
allowed
Difference
2007 7.24 3.42 3.82
2008 6.38 2.98 3.40

Todd Zolecki, now writing for MLB.com, reviews the Phillies options as they search for a right-handed hitter now that Ty Wigginton has signed with Baltimore. Options two and three are pretty bad — the Phils could really use a right-handed hitter.


’08 Phils make their case for bullpens without eight guys with an ERA over five

The ’07 Phils actually had 13 guys pitch out of the pen who ended their year with the team with an ERA over 5.00: JD Durbin, Antonio Alfonseca, Clay Condrey, Jose Mesa, Francisco Rosario, Mike Zagurski, Yoel Hernandez, Brian Sanches, Fabio Castro, Kane Davis, John Ennis, Matt Smith and Anderson Garcia. They got it down to five in 2008: Eaton, Kendrick, Gordon, Swindle and Walrond — of that group only Gordon threw more than 11 innings in relief.

Here is the Phillies record by number of runs they scored in 2007:

2007

Runs

W-L

Cumulative W-L
0 0-3 0-3
1 0-8 0-11
2 0-14 0-25
3 4-16 4-41
4 11-12 15-53
5 13-9 28-62
6 15-9 43-71
7 6-0 49-71
8 13-2 62-73
9 10-0 72-73
10 4-0 76-73
>10 13-0 89-73

And here’s what they did in 2008:

2008

Runs

W-L

Cumulative W-L
0 0-8 0-8
1 2-6 2-14
2 3-17 5-31
3 7-16 12-47
4 12-10 24-57
5 17-3 41-60
6 14-5 55-65
7 9-2 64-67
8 16-2 80-69
9 2-1 82-70
10 3-0 85-70
>10 7-0 92-70

There were a lot of significant differences between the 2007 Phillies and the 2008 Phillies. Among the most important were that in 2008 the Phillies scored 799 runs, nearly a hundred runs fewer than they had scored in 2007 when the led the NL with 892. A second was that in 2008 the Phillies had, by ERA, the best bullpen in the NL. This was coming off a year when the bullpen was miserable — in 2007, the Phils’ bullpen ERA of 4.50 was 13th best in the league.

As you would guess, the Phils played more games in 2007 where they scored a large number of runs. In 2007, the Phillies played 42 games in which they scored more than seven runs. In 2008, they played just 31.

In 2007, the Phils used their monster offense to pound their way to some wins. Here are the team’s record in games where they scored eight runs or less in the two seasons:


Record in games where they scored eight runs or less
Year W-L PCT
2007 62-73 .459
2008 80-69 .537

In ’07, the Phils were way under .500 in games where they scored eight runs or fewer. They made up for it with 27 games in which they scored nine or more runs, going 27-0 in those games. In 2008, the Phils played just 13 games where they scored more than eight runs and lost one of those (they went 12-1), but were hugely more successful in the games when they scored eight runs or fewer. They also played more of them — 149 games when they scored eight runs or fewer compared to 135 in 2007.

Finally, you can also see the impact of the improved pen when you look at their results in games where they scored either five or six runs in the game:


Record in games where they scored five or six runs
Year W-L PCT
2007 28-18 .609
2008 31-8 .795

Chris Coste knows he’s a far better defensive catcher than people think.

This says the Phillies are looking at lefty Will Ohman. The linked article also suggests that if Nomar Garciaparra decides to play this year he would be interested in playing for the Phils.


38 special?

As ugly as things were for Kyle Kendrick last year, I still think he has a good shot to beat out Chan Ho Park, JA Happ and Carlos Carrasco and win the fifth starter’s job this spring. A big part of the reason I think so is the simple fact that the Phils win games when Kendrick pitches. Over the past two years they’ve won about as often with Kendrick on the mound as they have with Cole Hamels on the mound (Hamels has him nipped, but not by much).

As a group, the seven pitchers below have combined to go 157-120 over the past two years (a .567 winning percentage). The Phils as a team have gone 181-143 (.559). The group of seven has made about 85.5% of the starts.

Here’s the Phillies record in games started by the seven pitchers over the past two seasons:

 
2007

2008

Total
 
Player W L W L W L PCT
Myers 0 3 12 18 12 21 .364
Hamels 19 9 19 14 38 23 .623
Eaton 15 15 8 11 23 26 .469
Moyer 18 15 22 11 40 26 .606
Kendrick 13 7 18 12 31 19 .620
Happ 0 1 4 0 4 1 .800
Blanton - - 9 4 9 4 .692

Outstanding numbers for Hamels, Moyer and Kendrick. Blanton and Happ have also had good results in fewer starts. Eaton and Myers have both had less luck — the team’s winning percentage in the games that Myers started is particularly low.

Even in his largely miserable 2008 campaign, the Phillies continued to win games with Kendrick on the mound. Their 18-12 mark, a .600 winning percentage, was better both than their winning percentage for the year and in the games that were started by Hamels. In Hamels’ starts in ’08, the Phils went 19-14, a .576 winning percentage.

Notable also when you look at the 2008 numbers is that the Phils went a fantastic 22-11 in Moyer’s 33 starts.

The bad new is that Kendrick isn’t magic. The runs the Phillies scored offensively were not distributed evenly across all the starters — some starters have received far more runs from the offense than others. Here’s how many runs the Phillies have scored in games started by each of the seven pitchers (over the last two years the Phils have scored 1,691 runs in 324 games, about 5.22 runs per game):

Player RS GS RS/GS
Myers 144 33 4.36
Hamels 301 61 4.93
Eaton 225 49 4.59
Moyer 346 66 5.24
Kendrick 307 50 6.14
Happ 22 5 4.40
Blanton 73 13 5.62

Monster offensive production behind Kendrick, but Blanton also had some hitters behind him as well. The 5.24 runs the Phillies have scored in Moyer’s 66 starts over the last two years is very similar to the 5.22 runs per game the Phils have scored overall over the past two seasons.

Hamels, Eaton and Myers all have gotten less runs from the offense than the team averaged. For Myers, the average number of runs scored by the team in games that he started was close to a full run lower than the number of runs they scored overall.

Carlos Ruiz will play for Panama in the World Baseball Classic once again, but check back often.


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