Archive for February, 2011

Strikeout outage

More on strikeouts. Today’s point is that Victorino and Utley didn’t strike out much compared to other NL players who hit as many home runs or more home runs than they did in 2010.

Utley hit 16 home runs in 2010 and struck out in about 12.3% of his plate appearances. Victorino hit 18 and struck out in about 12.2% of his plate appearances. There were 61 NL players who hit 16 or more home runs last season. Of those 61, only three struck out in a lower percentage of their plate appearances than Victorino did and only four (those three plus Victorino) struck out in a lower percentage of their plate appearances than Utley did.

The table below shows some of the 61 NL players who hit at least 16 home runs in 2010, including Mark Reynolds, who had the highest strikeout rate among those players, Phils Howard, Werth and Ibanez as well as Victorino, Utley and the three NL players with 16 home runs that struck out less than Victorino and Utley. The “Rank” columns indicates each player’s rank among the 61 in terms of the percentage of plate appearances in which he struck out.

Player HR SO % SO % Rank
Mark Reynolds 32 35.4 1
Ryan Howard 31 25.3 11
Jayson Werth 27 22.5 20
Raul Ibanez 16 17.0 40
Chase Utley 16 12.3 57
Shane Victorino 18 12.2 58
Brandon Phillips 18 12.1 59
Albert Pujols 42 10.9 60
Carlos Lee 24 9.1 61

Overall, Utley, Victorino and Carlos Lee (the NL player on the list with the best strikeout rate) combined to strike out 201 times in 1,808 plate appearances. That’s less than Reynolds (the guy on the list with the worst strikeout rate) struck out in his 596 plate appearances. Reynolds struck out 211 times for the Snakes in 2010.

The Phillies beat Florida State 8-0 yesterday. Brown went 1-for-3 with a single and misplayed a fly ball in right. Seven Phillies pitchers, including Drew Naylor, Michael Stutes, Michael Schwimer and Justin De Fratus, combined to hold Florida State to four hits.

Chase Utley did not play in the game due to soreness. Manuel says Utley is not injured and will play next week if he doesn’t play Saturday.

Chad Durbin may be near a deal with the Indians.


K replay

Over the last three seasons, the Phillies have dramatically lowered the rate at which they strike out. Here’s the team’s rank in the National League for total strikeouts by their hitters over the past four seasons (where “16″ means the team whose batters struck out the most times that year and “1″ means the team whose batters struck out the least):

Year NL Rank Strikeouts
2007 14
2008 9
2009 8
2010 3

In 2007, only two teams, the Marlins and the Padres, struck out more than the Phillies. By 2010, only two teams struck out less (St Louis and Houston).

In 2007, NL hitters struck out in about 17.31% of their plate appearances. In 2010, it was about 19.31%. Here’s the list of Phillies in 2007 and 2010 that got at least 150 plate appearances and the percentage of the plate appearances in which they struck out.

’10 Player PA % SO % SO/%SO for league ’07 Player PA % SO % SO/%SO for league
Ryan Howard 620 25.3 1.31 Ryan Howard 648 30.7 1.77
Jayson Werth 652 22.5 1.17 Jayson Werth 304 24.0 1.39
Greg Dobbs 176 22.2 1.15 Wes Helms 308 20.1 1.16
Pat Burrell 598 20.1 1.16
Ben Francisco 197 17.8 0.92 Greg Dobbs 358 18.7 1.08
Raul Ibanez 636 17.0 0.88 Aaron Rowand 684 17.4 1.01
Carlos Ruiz 433 12.5 0.65
Chase Utley 511 12.3 0.64 Abraham Nunez 287 16.7 0.97
Shane Victorino 648 12.2 0.63 Tad Iguchi 156 14.7 0.85
Wilson Valdez 363 11.8 0.61 Chase Utley 613 14.5 0.84
Jimmy Rollins 394 8.1 0.42 Shane Victorino 510 12.2 0.70
Placido Polanco 602 7.8 0.40 Carlos Ruiz 429 11.4 0.66
Jimmy Rollins 778 10.9 0.63

So, in 2010, NL players overall struck out in a higher percentage of their plate appearances (19.31% to 17.31%). The overall strikeout rates for ’07 and ’10 regulars Howard, Werth, Utley and Rollins were all down in 2010 compared to 2007. The rate for Ruiz was up, but in both years he struck out less than an average NL hitter. For Victorino it was about the same and stayed low.

For Howard, especially, it’s important to note that while the strikeout rate for the league was going up, his was going down. So in 2007, when he struck out in about 30.7% of his plate appearances, that was almost 1.8 times as often as the league average. His rate was down to 25.3% in 2010, which was only about 1.3 times as often as the league average of 19.31%.

That leaves left field and third base.

In left field, the Phillies replaced Burrell, whose ’07 strikeout rate was above league average, with Ibanez. In 2010, Ibanez’s strikeout rate was below league average.

In 2007, Wes Helms, Greg Dobbs and Abraham Nunez all played at least 400 innings at third base for the Phillies. Dobbs and Helms both struck out more than the average for the league while Nunez was just below league average. In 2010, Polanco played about 75% of the innings at third for the Phils. There were two NL players who got 150 plate appearances in 2010 and struck out in a lower percentage of them than Polanco. Jeff Keppinger struck out in 6.3% of his 575 plate appearances and David Eckstein struck out in 7.1% of his 492.

Finally, Rollins struck out in about 8.1% of his plate appearances last year. There were only three NL players in 2010 that got 150 plate appearances and struck out less often than he did — Polanco, Eckstein and Keppinger.

This article suggests that Durbin could return to the Phils on a minor league contract. That would be great for the Phillies if it happened, but I sure would be surprised.

The article linked above also mentions that Bastardo continues to have problems with his arm and a stomach illness and will not throw in any of the first five Grapefruit League games.


Positive rethinking

Whether you think the sky is falling for the Phillies offense or not, there were areas in which the hitters were better in 2010 than they were in 2009 relative to the rest of the league. Among them are the rates at which they got hits, walks and struck out.

Here are the number of plate appearances for the team in each of the last two years, plus how many times in each year the team got hits, walks and struck out along with the percentage of plate appearances for each:

2010 % of PA 2009 % of PA
PA 6,291 6,338
H 1,451 23.1 1,439 22.7
BB 560 8.9 589 9.3
SO 1,064 16.9 1,155 18.2

In 2010, the Phillies had fewer plate appearances than they did in 2009 and got more hits. They got 47 more plate appearances in 2009, but struck out 91 more times. As a percentage of plate appearances, they struck out less in 2010.

The table above makes it look like they walked less. They did. But not as much less as the rest of the league.

In 2009, the average NL team walked in about 8.97% of their plate appearances. The Phillies walked in 9.29% of their plate appearances. In 2010, the average for NL teams was down to 8.52%, but the Phillies didn’t drop as much. They walked in 8.90% of their PA and their difference relative to the league average was slightly better in 2010 than it was in 2009.

So, in 2010, the league overall walked less than they did in 2009. The Phillies walked less, too, but not as much less as the average team.

Here’s how the rate at which the offense recorded hits, walks and strikeouts per game in 2009 and 2010 compared to the rest of the league:

’10 PHI NL AVG ’10 ’10 PHI/AVG ’09 PHI NL AVG ’09 ’09 PHI/AVG
Hits per Game 8.96 8.65 1.036 8.88 8.77 1.013
BB per Game 3.46 3.25 1.065 3.64 3.44 1.056
SO per Game 6.57 7.36 0.892 7.13 7.06 1.010

So, after getting 1.013 times as many hits per game as the average NL team in 2009, the Phils got 1.036 times as many hits per game as the average NL team in 2010.

In 2009, the Phillies walked 1.056 times as often as the average NL team per game. In 2010, they walked 1.065 times as often as the average NL team per game.

And, finally, in 2009, the Phils struck out more times per game than the average NL team. In 2010, they struck out a lot less than the average NL team.

Pat Gillick says this Phillies team is better than the 2001 Mariners on paper. That team won 116 games, but lost to the Yankees in the ALCS.

Here’s a list of Phillies scheduled to pitch in upcoming games.

This suggests that Cliff Lee suffered a mild strain on his left side earlier this month. In the article, Lee says it’s a non-issue and that he expects to start the season on time.

Andrew Carpenter cleared waivers and will be turned into a reliever.


Sliding scale

Is there any argument to be made that Francisco actually has more power than Ibanez or Utley? Or Werth?

Well, not if you look at their career numbers. The table below shows, for each of the four, their isolated power calculated in two different ways, the percentage of their hits that have gone for extra-bases and the percentage of their plate appearances in which they have delivered an extra-base hit. The first isolated power column is just career slugging minus career batting average. The second isolated power column uses the formula (2B + 3B + (HR*3))/AB (which treats doubles and triples the same).

ISO (SLG-BA) ISO (formula) % of H XBH % of PA XBH
Ibanez .192 .185 37.3 9.5
Utley .221 .213 40.4 10.2
Francisco .183 .181 41.7 9.8
Werth .209 .204 39.9 9.3

So no, there’s not much of a case for Francisco as a hitter with more power than any of those guys over their careers. He has seen a higher percentage of his hits go for extra-bases than the others in the group, but lags behind everyone pretty much everywhere else except that the percentage of his plate appearances in which he delivered an extra-base hit is higher than Werth or Ibanez.

In trying to make sense of the numbers above, it’s important to understand that the extra-base hits delivered by Francisco aren’t as good as the extra-base hits delivered by the other three players. The extra-base hits by the other three guys, on average, went for more bases. Here’s the career rates of total bases for extra-base hits for the four:

TB per XBH
Werth 2.93
Utley 2.86
Ibanez 2.82
Francisco 2.66

There’s a different story, though, if you look at the numbers from last year. Unfortunately, that might say more about what was wrong with Ibanez and Utley in 2010 than what it does about what was right with Francisco. There’s no case to be made that Francisco has more power than Werth, so he’s dropped from the table below, which now includes the numbers for Ibanez, Utley and Francisco from 2010 and Francisco for his career.

ISO (SLG-BA) ISO (formula) % of H XBH % of PA XBH
Ibanez ’10 .160 .169 37.7 9.1
Utley ’10 .165 .170 32.5 7.4
Francisco ’10 .173 .173 39.6 9.6
Francisco Career .183 .181 41.7 9.8

So that might be good for Francisco, if his goal is to have about the same power as Ibanez or Utley, but it’s real bad news for the Phils given how far off the power numbers were for Ibanez and Utley in 2010 compared to the rest of their careers. Francisco’s numbers were off his career levels, but still good enough to top both Ibanez and Utley.

The Phillies claimed right-handed pitcher Brian Schlitter and designated Andrew Carpenter for assignment. Schlitter turns 26 in December and threw eight innings for the Cubs in 2010 in his first major league action. In 190 innings in the minor leagues, Schlitter has walked 75. It’s a devastating blow to the theory that Amaro’s plan for world domination is all about preventing walks. Carpenter made five appearances with the Phillies over the past three seasons and was hit hard in 9 2/3 innings. He threw to a 4.05 ERA with a 1.36 ratio in 27 starts at Triple-A in 2010.

This says that John Mayberry will spend some time at first base this spring and Wilson Valdez some time in the outfield.

This says that the Phillies are willing to offer pitcher John Maine a minor league deal and suggests that Maine will decide what he wants to do in the next couple of days.

This says that Bastardo has still not thrown off a mound yet and now has been dealing with an illness as well as elbow issues from this winter.


Double? No trouble

Point of the day is that Ben Francisco has some power. For the Phillies that had 150 plate appearances with the team in 2010, here’s the percentage of hits that each of them had that went for extra-bases and the percentage that were singles:

% of H XBH % of H 1B
Jayson Werth
Ben Francisco
Ryan Howard
Raul Ibanez
Greg Dobbs
Shane Victorino
Carlos Ruiz
Chase Utley
Jimmy Rollins
Wilson Valdez
Placido Polanco
45.7%
39.6%
38.8%
37.7%
37.5%
35.5%
33.0%
32.5%
31.8%
26.7%
21.2%
54.3%
60.4%
61.2%
62.3%
62.5%
64.5%
67.0%
67.5%
68.2%
73.3%
78.8%

So Werth was the only guy on the Phils who saw more of his hits go for extra-bases in 2010 and fewer of them go for singles. That’s a small number of plate appearances for Francisco, of course, but he was actually down from his career numbers in 2010. Coming into 2010, Francisco had 1,024 plate appearances and 240 hits. Of those hits, 101 (42.1%) had gone for extra-bases and 139 (57.9%) were singles. So even with those numbers down a little, he still saw more of his hits go for extra bases than anyone on the team except for Werth and Werth led the NL in doubles.

Here are the career rates at which Howard, Werth, Ibanez, Utley and Francisco have had their hits go for extra-bases or singles:

% of H XBH % of H 1B
Howard 47.5 52.5
Francisco 41.7 58.3
Utley 40.4 59.6
Werth 39.9 60.1
Ibanez 37.3 62.7

Francisco has a career slugging percentage that’s the worst of the group (.446). Ibanez is second-lowest, and he’s at .476. That has a lot to do with batting average, though, and the frequency of hits rather than how many bases they go for when they occur. Francisco’s career batting average is just .263, which is the worst of the group (Werth is second at .272).


Ben there

Last year, righty Jayson Werth was the full-time right fielder for the Phils. He got 652 plate appearances. Of those, 453 (69.5%) came against right-handed pitching and 199 (30.5%) came against left-handed pitching.

The question for the day is, if Ben Francisco got 453 plate appearances against righties and 199 against lefties in 2011 and produced at his career levels, what would his numbers look like for the season? And how would that compare to an average National League right fielder from last season?

The righty Francisco has 1,221 career plate appearances. 71% of them have come against righties and 29% of them have come against lefties. He has a 262/323/440 line against righties and a 267/347/460 line against lefties.

Here’s the percentage of plate appearances in which Francisco has gotten a hit, a double, triple, home run, walked or struck out over his career while hitting right and left-handed:

PA %H %2B %3B %HR %BB %SO
Vs Right 867 23.6 6.8 0.1 3.0 6.7 19.0
Vs Left 354 23.4 5.9 0.0 3.7 10.5 16.4

The numbers above suggest that over his career, Francisco has been slightly more likely to get a hit against a righty than a lefty and more likely to double, but more likely to strike out and a lot less likely to walk. To double in 6.8% of your plate appearances against righties is a big deal. It adds up to a lot of doubles pretty quick. You may remember Werth doubling a whole lot last season. He doubled in about 7.1% of his plate appearances against them on his way to 32 doubles against righties for the year.

And here’s how his percentages look combined vs the NL average for right fielders from 2010:

PA %H %2B %3B %HR %BB %SO
Francisco career 1221 23.6 6.6 0.1 3.2 7.8 18.3
Average NL RF ’10 23.5 4.9 0.6 3.3 9.0 21.1

In 2010, the average NL team saw their right fielders hit 264/335/443. Over his career, Francisco has been a tiny bit more likely to get a hit, a lot more likely to double and less likely to strike out, but a little less likely to homer and a lot less likely to walk.

Back to Werth and his plate appearances. Over 453 plate appearances versus right-handed pitchers, here’s what we would expect Francisco to do if he produced at his career levels:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG
453 409 107 31 1 14 50 30 86 262 323 445

And against lefties over 199 plate appearances:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG
199 175 47 12 0 7 25 21 33 267 347 458

And if you combine them, you get this:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS
652 583 154 43 1 21 75 51 119 264 330 449 779

And that’s pretty all right — especially if you consider Ben Francisco as the everyday right fielder as the worst possible scenario for the Phillies. The .330 on-base percentage probably won’t make you feel all a-flutter, but it does suggest that there’s a good chance the Phils could be league average at the position. Here’s how those numbers compare to the numbers for the league average NL right fielder from 2010 over the same 652 plate appearances:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS
Ben Francisco 652 583 154 43 1 21 75 51 119 264 330 449 779
AVG ’10 RF 652 580 153 32 4 21 81 58 137 264 335 441 776

That’s pretty similar. Francisco walks a little less, but strikes out less too, and delivers ten more doubles. Forty-three doubles is a ton. Werth led the NL last year and he hit 46. Only 12 players in either league hit 43 or more doubles in 2010. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, the three slash categories above are calculated based on rounded numbers for hits, doubles triples, etc. The actual estimates are 42.6 doubles, 0.5 triples and 20.9 homers.

The biggest issue, though, isn’t whether Francisco is good enough offensively to be an average right fielder. He is. The issue is that the goal isn’t to have an average right fielder, and it’s especially not the goal for the Phillies in 2011. And if you’re regularly putting a guy in right field that’s going to on-base .323 against righties, that’s a place where you can and should improve your team if you’re looking to win it all. And the Phillies will — even if Domonic Brown flounders in 2011, I’m going to be real surprised if the Phils let Francisco play every day in right.

This post from Todd Zolecki says the Phils have 33 pitchers and catchers in camp and that, according to Amaro, Antonio Bastardo is a little behind schedule after having some discomfort in his left elbow while pitching this winter.

The Phillies signed left-handed outfielder Cory Sullivan to a minor league deal. The left-handed outfielder part is good, but Sullivan turns 32 in August and has a career 271/327/381 line in 1,272 plate appearances. He played regularly for the Rockies in center in 2005 and 2006, but has gotten just 405 plate appearances since the end of the 2006 season, posting a 251/318/353 line.


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