Archive for February, 2010

And just think what would have happened if they tried bringing in Lidge to close out the second

The Phillies got a little worse at preventing runs last year compared to their 2008 campaign. In 2008, only two teams in the NL allowed fewer runs than the Phils. In 2009 the Phils dropped to sixth in the league.

If you had asked me the inning in which the Phillies saw the most drop off, I would have quickly guessed the ninth. That would have been wrong, though, and for me at least it was a good reminder that the struggles for the Phillies pitching staff last year extended beyond the back of the bullpen.

Here’s how the runs allowed broke down by inning for the Phillies in 2009:

  G Runs/game % of all
runs allowed
Runs per
batter faced
1st inning 162 0.55 12.6 0.129
2nd inning 162 0.45 10.3 0.103
3rd inning 162 0.41 9.3 0.098
4th inning 162 0.50 11.4 0.115
5th inning 162 0.58 13.3 0.134
6th inning 161 0.49 11.1 0.115
7th inning 161 0.40 9.0 0.092
8th inning 161 0.45 10.3 0.105
9th inning 136 0.57 10.9 0.133
Extra innings 16 0.81 1.8 0.098
         
Total 162 4.38 100 0.113

By the percentage of runs allowed and by the runs allowed per batter faced, the fifth inning was the worst for the Phils. The ninth was right behind the fifth in terms of runs allowed per plate appearance and the first right behind the fifth in terms of the percentage of the total runs that the team allowed.

Here’s what it looked like for 2008:

  G Runs/game % of all
runs allowed
Runs per
batter faced
1st inning 162 0.70 16.6 0.154
2nd inning 162 0.30 7.1 0.071
3rd inning 162 0.56 13.2 0.129
4th inning 162 0.57 13.7 0.133
5th inning 162 0.41 9.8 0.099
6th inning 162 0.47 11.2 0.111
7th inning 162 0.31 7.5 0.077
8th inning 162 0.48 11.5 0.109
9th inning 132 0.40 7.8 0.094
Extra innings 13 0.85 1.6 0.098
         
Total 162 4.20 100 0.109

Much more normal-looking here, with the first inning the leader by a lot in both the percentage of the runs allowed and the runs allowed per batter faced. The first is, after all, the inning in which the opposition can best control who will come to the plate. Pretty much they try to send someone good, with possible exception of the teams that don’t like clogging up the bases with a bunch of runners.

Here’s how it looks if you compare the ’09 results to the ’08 results:

  Runs/game % of all
runs allowed
Runs per
batter faced
1st inning 78.8% -4.1% 84.1%
2nd inning 152.1% +3.2% 145.2%
3rd inning 73.3% -3.9% 75.7%
4th inning 87.1% -2.3% 86.6%
5th inning 140.3% +3.4% 134.9%
6th inning 104.6% very small change 103.8%
7th inning 126.3% +1.5% 120.8%
8th inning 94.2% -1.2% 96.6%
9th inning 141.0% +3.1% 141.5%
Extra innings 96.0% 0.2% 100.3%
       
Total 104.3%   103.7%

So, for example, the Phillies allowed 89 runs in 162 games in the first inning in 2009, which is .55 runs per game. In 2008 they allowed 113 runs in 162 games or .70 runs per game. .55 is about 78.8% of .70 (actually .5494 is about 78.8% of .6975).

In 2008, about 16.6% of the runs the Phillies allowed were scored in the first inning. In 2009 it was about 12.6%, which is 4.1% lower than the 16.6% in 2009 (again, rounding issues make the numbers on the tables not match up exactly).

In 2009 they faced 688 batters in the first inning — 89 runs means they allowed about 0.129 runs per batter. In ’08 it was 113 runs allowed to 735 batters or .154 per batter. .129 over .154 is about 84.1%, meaning that the Phils allowed about 84.1% of the runs per plate appearance in the first inning in 2009 that they did in 2008.

Anyhow, pretty much any way you look at the numbers, the biggest decline wasn’t in the ninth inning. By percentage change in runs allowed per game and runs allowed per batter face, the second was the inning where the team declined the most. By the difference in percentage of the team’s runs allowed it was the fifth.

Carlos Ruiz and Domonic Brown are among those impressed with Roy Halladay.

Manuel says Victorino will hit sixth and seventh and that Mike Zagurski is still a little rough here.


No way Jose

Ruben Amaro suggested last week that Phillies fans might want to relax about the lack of lefties in the pen and further suggested that righty Jose Contreras and his splitter might be a big weapon against lefties this season. I actually feel pretty relaxed about the pen, but more because I feel confident that Amaro and the team can address the issues and less because I think that Contreras and his splitter are the answer to what ills the Phils.

Last week I mentioned that the Phillies have been improving steadily against left-handed batters over the past couple of years. In 2007, by OPS against for lefties, the Phillies were the worst pitching team in the NL. In 2008 they made it to the middle of the pack and last season only three teams in the league held lefties to a lower OPS. The table below compares how the OPS against for left-handed batters against Contreras and his new fellow righty Danys Baez stacks up against what the Phillies overall did against left-handed pitching over the past three seasons.


OPS by left-handed hitters
Year vs PHI vs
Contreras
vs Baez
2009 .735 .713 .707
2008 .772 .826 Did not play
2007 .825 .887 1.004
       
Total ’07-’09 .778 .821 .823
       
Career - .757 .766

Good news, bad news there, but I think there’s a little more bad news. The worst news is that in 2007, when the Phillies allowed the worst OPS to left-handed batters in the NL, Baez and Contreras were both getting hit even harder than the Phils. The other bad news is that overall for the three year period, both pitchers have allowed a higher OPS overall that the Phils have.

The good news is that both pitchers had very good results against lefties in 2009. Lefties have a career line of 272/352/413 against Baez, but hit just 248/312/395 against him in ’09. A tiny .232 BAbip for Baez last year adds a lot of question makes to his nifty 1.13 ratio for the season, but while his BAbip for righties was a paltry .198, lefties managed a more reasonable .269. Even if you’re a total non-believer in batting average for balls in play, Baez still lowered his walk rate against lefties in ’09 compared to his career levels. In 2009 he walked 7.8% of the 141 lefties he faced. Coming into the season he had walked about 10.8% of the lefties he faced.

I’m a little more wary of the success that Contreras had against lefties last year. First of all, it came off of the ’07 and ’08 seasons in which lefties combined to hit an ugly 316/376/488 against him. Second, despite the success against lefties, Contreras just didn’t pitch very well last year. Between Chicago and the Rockies his ERA was up near five with a 1.47 ratio. While he did hold lefties to a snazzy .713 OPS against him, righties pounded away to a 292/350/450 tune. It’s going to be a whole lot more important for him to be able to get out righties in 2010. So even if you could take his ’09 success against lefties, if it comes with that kind of line from right-handed batters he’s going to have some trouble being successful in 2010.

This says that JC Romero will throw off a mound on Saturday and that Bastardo is the front-runner for the job of lefty out of the pen. It also suggests that Rich Dubee thinks that Bastardo’s future may be at the back of the bullpen.

The Phillies signed 32-year-old lefty Brad Wilkerson to a minor league contract. Wilkerson was an everyday player for the Expos/Nationals from 2002 through 2005 and hit 32 home runs for Montreal in 2004. He has a career 247/350/440 line over about 3,700 at-bats but has hit 226/311/411 in 1,063 plate appearances since the end of the 2005 season.

Lidge’s prospects for being ready by opening day don’t seem particularly bright.


Phils going to need to find some new friends to get by with a little help from

Last week I mentioned that while the Phillies got worse at preventing runs overall last year, using opponent batting statistics they still got better against left-handed batters.

A couple more things about that.

First, a big part of their success against left-handed hitting had to do with some right-handed pitchers that 1) were great against lefties in 2009 and 2) aren’t going to be on the team in 2010. Lefties hit .172 and on-based .262 against Condrey, who faced about as many left-handed batters in ’09 as Scott Eyre (65 for Condrey and 67 for Eyre). Lefties hit 229/283/313 against Tyler Walker. Brett Myers saw most of his action as a starter but also made eight appearances in relief — overall for the year, lefties hit 233/314/360 against him.

Here’s what that trio did combined against left-handed batting in 2009:

Condrey, Walker and Myers combined vs
lefties in 2009
PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
289 .219 .296 .332 .628

They were really good against lefties. Of those 289 batters faced, about 59% were faced by Myers and he saw about 90% of his action as a starter. So we don’t want to overstate the impact on the bullpen. Still, it’s true that the Phillies had good numbers overall against lefties last year and a big part of that was because of the work of some now departed right-handed pitchers.

The second thing about lefties in the pen comes with a small sample size warning, but in his limited action against lefties in 2009, Romero was just terrible. The 32 left-handed batters that he faced hit 308/438/538 against him. He came into the season having allowed about one home run to every 93 left-handed hitters he faced and allowed two to the 32 lefties he faced in ’09. Scott Eyre was the king of getting lefties out in relief for the Phils in ’09 — they hit a paltry 210/269/355 against him. The tiny number of lefties that Romero faced in 2009 makes it hard to worry too much about what they did against him. He’s been fantastic against left-handed hitters over his career, holding them to a fantastic 215/310/293 line. Let’s hope that proves to be the much better measuring stick than what he did in limited action last season.

Chan Ho Park has agreed to a one-year deal with the Yankees worth $1.2 million. Contreras will get $1.5 million from the Phillies this year and Baez $5.25 million over the next two years.

This says the Phillies have maintained contact with Pedro Martinez and considers the possibility that the Phils will add a back of the rotation starter. Moyer looks like a sure thing to me to join Halladay, Hamels, Blanton and Happ in the rotation if he’s healthy.


Doing the right thing harder than expected for Phillies pitchers last season

In 2008, when they won the World Series, the Phillies were the third-best NL team at preventing runs. Only the Cubs and the Dodgers allowed fewer. In 2009, the Phillies were pretty good at preventing runs compared to the rest of the NL again, but dropped to sixth-best in the league.

Returning to the issue of left-handed pitchers, the drop off from the 2008 season to the 2009 season had a lot more to do with what Phillies did against right-handed batters than what they did against left-handed batters. Despite the fact that they got worse overall compared to the rest of the league in 2008, Phillies actually got better against left-handed hitting in 2009. They got a lot worse against right-handed hitting.

For each of the past four seasons, here’s what left and right-handed batters have done against Phillies pitching as well as the OPS rank for each (for the rankings, a ’1′ means the best pitching team in the league against that side batting by OPS and a ’16′ means the worst pitching team in the league against that side batting by OPS).


Vs left-handed batters

Vs right-handed batters
Year OPS
allowed
Rank Year OPS
allowed
Rank
2009 .735 4 2009 .769 12
2008 .772 9 2008 .717 5
2007 .825 16 2007 .780 12
2006 .814 11 2006 .788 14

With the exception of the drop against lefties from 2006 to 2007, everything had been trending very nicely for the Phillies pitching against batters from both sides until righties started to hammer the Phils in 2009.

With the question of who the lefties are going to be out of the bullpen, I think you have to wonder if the Phils are going to give some of that progress back in 2010. The bigger issue, though, seems to be if they’re going to be able to get righties out this year. Cause there are a lot of ‘em.

This suggests Romero may be ready to pitch in spring training games by the second week of March.

Pitchers and catchers reported yesterday. Today is the official beginning of spring training workouts.


Who’s left?

Details about when JC Romero will be able to contribute to the Phillies pen remain uncertain, so it seems likely that the Phillies opening day roster will include lefty Antonio Bastardo or his fellow lefty Sergio Escalona. Or both.

So it seems important to be able to tell them apart.

Neither of the two is especially young. Escalona will turn 26 in August and Bastardo will turn 25 in September.

Both made their major league debuts with the Phillies in 2009. Bastardo had some ugly numbers. He appeared in six games for the Phils, five of which were starts, and threw to a 6.46 ERA with a 1.48 ratio. He allowed four home runs in 23 2/3 innings. Bastardo also found himself onto the post-season roster for the Phillies and saw action in the both the NLDS and the NLCS. He faced two batters in the post-season. He struck out Jason Giambi to end the eighth inning of game two of the NLDS. In game one of the NLCS he pitched to Andre Ethier in a key spot. He started the seventh with the Phils up 5-4 to pitch to Andre Ethier. Ethier doubled and Bastardo was pulled. It took some nifty pitching from Chan Ho Park to get the Phillies out of the inning still on top. Bastardo didn’t get the ball again.

Escalona didn’t make any starts for the Phillies in 2009, but did pitch 14 times in relief. Over 13 2/3 innings he threw to a 4.61 ERA and a 1.24 ratio. He didn’t allow a home run and struck out 10.

Here’s what the two have done in the high minors:

  G GS IP ERA Ratio
Bastardo          
AA 25 19 103 3.05 1.18
AAA 2 2 13 2.08 1.08
Combined 27 21 116 2.95 1.17
           
  G GS IP ERA Ratio
Escalona          
AA 47 0 65 1.94 1.32
AAA 15 1 19 2/3 5.95 1.48
Combined 62 1 84 2/3 2.87 1.36

First things first — the biggest difference between the two is that Bastardo spent most of his time in the high minors preparing to be a starter while Escalona pitched almost exclusively in relief. That was the way the Phillies used them initially in 2009 as well, but to start 2009 it looks like if either of them were on the roster they would be pitching out of the pen.

The second big thing you notice when looking at the numbers in the high minors is how much higher Escalona’s ratio has been than Bastardo.

Escalona has spent a lot more time in the low minor leagues. Here’s the percentage of minor league innings each has thrown at various levels:


Antonio Bastardo
Level % of minor
league IP
Rookie 10.1
A 33.7
A+ 13.5
AA 37.9
AAA 4.8
   
Above A 56.2
   
Total IP
above A
152 2/3
   

Sergio Escalona
Level % of minor
league IP
Venezuelan
Summer League
34.9
A- 8.9
A 27.3
A+ 1.3
AA 21.2
AAA 6.4
   
Above A 28.9
   
Total IP
above A
88 2/3

Despite being a year older, Escalona has thrown a little more than half the innings that Bastardo has thrown above A-ball. Bastardo is a starter, of course, but even as a percentage of their minor league innings he’s still way above Escalona.

Across all levels, neither of them has allowed a lot of home runs. At all minor league levels combined, not just Double-A and Triple-A, Bastardo has allowed 21 home runs in 271 2/3 innings. That’s about 0.69 per nine innings. Escalona has been even better at keeping the ball in the park. He’s allowed just 16 home runs in 308 2/3 innings at all minor league levels combined, which is about 0.47 per nine innings.

Both have struck out more than a batter per inning in the minors. Bastardo has been a little more prolific with the strikeouts — he’s struck out 10.0 per nine innings in the minors compared to about 9.07 per nine for Escalona.

Both have been good at preventing hits. But while Escalona has been good, Bastardo has been outstanding in the minors. 8.6 hits per nine innings for Escalona and a meager 6.7 per nine for Bastardo.

They both have walked too many people in the minor leagues. Despite allowing less than a hit per inning, Escalona has a career ratio of 1.42 in the minors and that’s cause he walks too many batters. 4.1 batters per nine for his minor league career. He’s never had a single year at any level in which he has pitched to a combined ratio for the season of 1.20 or better. Bastardo’s walk rate in the minors has been high, too. He’s walked 3.9 batters per nine in the minors overall. That’s too many, but he really had his walks under control in 2009. Between the four minor league teams he pitched for in ’09, Bastardo walked just 12 hitters in 54 1/3 innings or about 2.0 per nine innings. That’s a big change from his minor league rate of 4.4 walks per nine innings in the minors going into the ’09 season.

For both players it looks like keeping their walks down is going to be a key to future success — despite the fact that Escalona had better results in limited action with the Phils in 2009, Bastardo is the only one of the pair that has shown he may be able to do that.

This says that Cole Hamels will try to add a slider or cut fastball to his pitches this spring training.


And coming soon, runs allowed per batter faced based on who is watching

After looking at how the runs allowed per plate appearance changed by catcher for 2009, I thought it might be interesting to look at how they changed depending on who was pitching.

The table below shows, for each player who pitched for the Phillies in 2009, the rate at which the pitcher allowed runs per batter faced and the rate at which all Phillies pitchers other than that pitchers allowed runs per batter faced. The rightmost column shows the second column over the third.

Player RA per Batter Rest of Team
Scott Eyre 0.047 0.115 0.409
JA Happ 0.080 0.117 0.686
Tyler Walker 0.080 0.114 0.701
J.C. Romero 0.082 0.114 0.723
Ryan Madson 0.091 0.114 0.792
Steven Register 0.091 0.113 0.803
Pedro Martinez 0.094 0.114 0.828
Clay Condrey 0.098 0.114 0.859
Kyle Kendrick 0.098 0.114 0.865
Joe Blanton 0.106 0.114 0.930
Cliff Lee 0.107 0.114 0.942
Sergio Escalona 0.117 0.113 1.031
Cole Hamels 0.117 0.113 1.035
Chan Ho Park 0.119 0.113 1.052
Chad Durbin 0.121 0.113 1.073
Brett Myers 0.125 0.113 1.110
Jack Taschner 0.126 0.113 1.114
Jamie Moyer 0.130 0.111 1.172
Antonio Bastardo 0.170 0.112 1.513
Rodrigo Lopez 0.175 0.112 1.566
Brad Lidge 0.180 0.110 1.637
Andrew Carpenter 0.219 0.113 1.941

For example, Scott Eyre faced 128 batters in 2009 and was charged with six runs, or .047 runs per batter. The entire Phillies team faced 6,261 batters and allowed 709 runs. If you subtract Eyre’s work from that, all Phillies pitchers besides Eyre faced 6,133 batters and allowed 703 runs. That’s about .115 runs per batter faced. If you put .047 (Eyre’s runs allowed per batter) over .115 (the rest of the team’s runs allowed per batter) you get .409, which also means that Eyre allowed about 40.9% of the runs per plate appearance that the rest of the pitchers on the team allowed.

One thing that was surprising to me about the list was how close to the middle Cliff Lee wound up. One thing to remember is that, given how much he pitched, Lee allowed a bunch of unearned runs. Five of the 35 runs he allowed were unearned, which is 14.3%. Overall for the team, 5.1% of the runs allowed by Phillies pitching was unearned. Condrey, Eyre, Lopez and Romero also all had more than 10% of the runs they allowed in ’09 go as unearned.

Curious also to me is that Blanton’s runs allowed per batter was a tiny bit better than Lee’s. Forgetting ERA, Lee still had a better runs allowed per nine innings than Blanton did — 3.95 for Lee and 4.10 for Blanton. That means Blanton must have faced more batters per inning. And he did. Blanton faced about 4.28 batters per inning in ’09 while Lee faced about 4.10 batters per inning while with the Phils.

Finally, I’ve said this before but I am worried about the Phillies bullpen. They didn’t come in especially important situations, but the Phils got good relief work from Eyre, Condrey, Walker, Park and Moyer last year. It’s not clear to me how they plan to make up for those guys with the players that currently seem to be set up to pitch out of the bullpen. A better year from Lidge should help, but I think they’re going to need more than that.

This article looks at the players the Phillies will have at spring training.

It seems to me there’s little to find out about the offense in spring training. It looks pretty set with 13 hitters: Ruiz, Howard, Utley, Rollins, Polanco, Ibanez, Victorino, Werth, Schneider, Castro, Gload, Dobbs and Francisco.

The pitching seems like a whole different story. It looks like Moyer is the fifth starter if he’s healthy and I’d guess it’s Kendrick if he’s not, but the bullpen is a mess. Madson, Durbin, Baez and Contreras are the only guys I think we should be counting to be on the team on opening day. Lidge and Romero are in if they’re healthy, but I’m guessing we go 0-for-2 on that front. Bastardo and Escalona look like they will battle for a job as a lefty out of the pen, but it seems like two slots to start the year are pretty wide open when things get going (assuming Lidge and Romero start the year on the DL). I keep waiting for the Phillies to sign a reliever and it keeps not happening. Assuming Romero isn’t able to start the year it seems like Escalona and Bastardo could both be pitching out of the pen to start the year. My guess at this point is that the 12 pitchers on the opening day roster for the Phils are: Halladay, Hamels, Blanton, Happ, Moyer, Madson, Durbin, Baez, Contreras, Escalona, Bastardo and Kendrick.


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