Archive for January, 2012

Chase scene

One more time: From the start of the season through the end of June, the Phillies were eighth in the NL in runs scored. From the start of July to end the of the year the Phils led the league in runs scored. They also led the NL in runs scored from May 23 (the day that Utley returned) to the end of the year, despite a weak month with the bats in June.

The fact that the Phils had the highest-scoring offense in the league from May 23 to the end of the year sure makes it look like Utley turned things around single-handedly. And while he may have been the single biggest factor, he wasn’t the only one. As I mentioned in a recent post, Utley hammered the ball in June, hitting 297/387/470, but the Phils were still just eleventh in the league in runs scored for that month. Other factors in the resurgence included the addition of Pence to the lineup, a monster end of the season for Mayberry and improved offensive performances from Rollins and Ruiz during the second half of the year.

I think most would agree that either Pence or Utley was the key player in the offensive rebirth for the Phils. But which helped the Phillies more in 2011 — the return of Utley or the addition on Pence?

Overall for the year, Pence was way better with the bat, hitting an eye-popping 324/394/560 for the season with the Phils while Utley hit a much less impressive 259/344/425. But Utley’s return, despite an un-Utleylike performance with the bat, still helped the Phils more for several reasons, including:

  • The guys Utley replaced at second were a lot worse offensively than the guys Pence replaced in right
  • Utley came back much sooner. He was back on May 23 while Pence didn’t get his first plate appearance with the Phillies until July 30.

First point is that the Phillie 2B other than Utley were a lot worse than the right fielders other than Pence offensively compared to the average production for their positions in the NL. Here’s what the right fielders other than Pence did with the bat in ’11 and the second basemen other than Utley did, as well as the NL-averages for each of those positions:

PHI RF other than Pence 240 335 393
NL Average RF 271 345 449
PHI 2B other than Utley 234 283 294
NL Average 2B 257 319 380

The guys who played right for the Phils other than Pence, Brown and Francisco got about the same amount of plate appearances and combined for about about 91% of the non-Pence plate appearances at the position, hit just .240 for the season while the NL-average for right fielders was .271. What they did do, though, is walk a lot, drawing walks in about 11.5% of their plate appearances (NL players walked in about 8.1% of their plate appearances overall). All those walks helped the non-Pence right fielders for the Phillies up their on-base percentage almost to the level of the NL-average right fielder despite hitting for an average that was 31 points lower.

The non-Pence right fielders for the Phils didn’t hit for NL-average power at the position, but they weren’t off the mark by too much. The isolated power for the average NL right fielder was .178. For the Phillies other than Pence it was .153.

At second base, the Phillies other than Utley on-based just .283, which was bad even compared to the NL-average of .319 for the position. NL second basemen walked in just 7.2% of their plate appearances, but the non-Utley second basemen for the Phillies walked just 5.4% of the time.

The non-Utleys at second base also hit for very little power, combining not to hit a home run on the year. They flashed an isolated power of .060 for the season. The NL average for the position was .123. How bad is an isolated power of .060? Well, it’s not good. There were 188 NL players who got at least 200 plate appearances in 2011. Of those, seven put up isolated power numbers that were worse than .060. Among the 248 NL players who got at least 100 plate appearances, Pete Orr, who started 22 games at second for the Phils in 2011, posted an isolated power of .031 for the year, which was 247th among those 248 players.

When Utley did play for the Phils, he showed above-average power for an NL second baseman, delivering 38 extra-base hits in just 454 plate appearances with an isolated power mark of .166. That’s the worst mark of his career in any season where he got at least 200 plate appearances — but that’s less the point than that it was way, way better than the guys he replaced.

Overall, the Phillies other than Pence who played right field for the team came a lot closer to matching league average for the position than the second basemen other than Utley did. Compared to league averages for the position, they were closer to getting on-base at a league average clip and hit for almost as much power, while their second base counterparts got on base at a worse clip and hit for a lot less power.

There’s no question that Pence was a far more effective offensive player than Utley in 2011, but the combination of the fact that Utley simply got many more chances to hit and was replacing a group of players much worse offensively than Pence was means that the Phils benefited more from the addition of Utley.

And Utley got a lot more chances because he was back so much sooner. Here’s the percentage of the plate appearances at second that went to Utley and anyone other than Utley in 2011 and the same numbers for Pence and right field:

Plate Appearances % of plate appearances
Pence as RF 235 34.2
Others as RF 453 65.8
Total 688 100
Utley as 2B 451 65.4
Others as 2B 239 34.6
Total 690 100

As a percentage, Utley got nearly twice as many of the plate appearances at second base than Pence got at right field. So Pence would have to be enormously better than Utley to have the same impact. He was enormously better in Utley in the chances he got — he just didn’t have nearly enough plate appearances to catch him.

The table below looks at each of the position and what they actually did in terms of the three slash categories plus wOBA and wRAA. It also looks at what the Phillies would have done at those positions without Pence or Utley — if they had simply continued to give the non-Utley and Pence players plate appearances distributed the way they were actually distributed and got the same number of plate appearances at the position.

Actual RF 688 269 356 452 .354 20.0
No Pence 688 240 335 393 .324 3.0
Actual 2B 690 249 321 377 .305 -8.1
No Utley 690 234 283 294 .251 -38.5

As you can see, it’s not very close. The difference in the actual wRAA the Phillies RF put up compared to what they would have without Pence is 17.0 (20.0-3.0), which is just more than half of the difference for Utley (30.4).

Again, the issue is that the non-Pence right fielders for the Phils weren’t nearly as terrible as the non-Utley second basemen. The actual right fielders, including Pence, put up 29 doubles, four triples and 24 home runs over 688 plate appearances. Without Pence, had everyone continued to produce at their same levels, they would have hit 26 doubles, three triples and 20 home runs over the same number of plate appearances. They would have walked more (79 times to 78) over the 688 plate appearances, cause the walk rate for the non-Pences was better than it was for Pence. Pence did give the position a huge boost by adding a lot of power and a huge number of hits overall (again, Pence hit .325 while playing right while the non-Pence options combined to hit .240).

The non-Utley second basemen were atrocious. At their ’11 rates, they would have gotten 690 plate appearances without a home run. Utley hit 11 while playing second base last year. In addition to the power, despite hitting just .257, Utley also offered more hits than they had gotten without him and walked at a better rate. But mostly, compared to Pence, he just played a whole lot more and displaced offensive players who were a lot worse.

If you’re interested in calculating wOBA, wRAA, wRC or wRC+ for yourself, you may find this page at The Hardball Times and the link to the spreadsheet provided by the author very helpful.

This article says that Ryan Howard should be able to start baseball activities around mid-February. If you were expecting to see him in the lineup on Opening Day, I’d consider resetting your expectations.

In this article, Amaro says he hopes that Conteras will be ready close to Opening Day.

Non-roster invitees to Spring Training for the Phils this year look like they will include pitchers Austin Hyatt, B.J. Rosenberg, Dave Bush, Scott Elarton, Brian Sanches, David Purcey, Pat Misch and Raul Valdes, catchers Steven Lerud and Tuffy Gosewisch, infielders Pete Orr, Kevin Frandsen and Hector Luna and outfielders Scott Podsednik and Luis Montanez. Bush was a pretty solid starter for the Brewers in 2006 and 2008. Former Phil Brian Sanches was great for the Fish in 2009 and 2010, throwing to a 2.40 ERA with a 1.22 ratio and 105 strikeouts in 120 innings, before falling off last year. Raul Valdes is left-handed and pitched well in very limited action (12 innings) last year. Dave Purcey is left-handed and was pretty good in 2010. Pat Misch is left-handed.

This suggests the Phils are interested in reliever Kerry Wood.

This article on relievers in the system that could help the Phils in 2012 includes commentary on Phillippe Aumont, Justin De Fratus, Jake Diekman, Austin Hyatt and Tyler Cloyd.

Power trip up

Back to Utley and Pence soon, but I did just need to take a minute to stop and point out that the Phillies third basemen didn’t hit for much power in 2011. Really they didn’t.

Using slugging percentage minus average as the formula for Isolated Power, the Phils were 16th in the 16-team NL in the category. Phillie third basemen combined to hit .266 for the year and slug .342, which gives them an .076 Isolated Power. Here’s how that stacks up with the rest of the NL for last year:

Chicago Cubs
San Francisco
NY Mets
St. Louis
San Diego
LA Dodgers

The Phils just barely out-feebled the Fish, who were pretty atrocious at generating power at 3B theirownselves. During the ’11 season, the Phils third baseman hit for a solid enough average, .266 compared to the positional average of .257, but slugged just .342 — .045 lower than the positional average of .387.

So they were bad. But how bad? When was the last time that an NL team saw their 3B combine to put up an Isolated Power mark of .076 or worse? It’s been a while. Here’s what the Phillies, as well as the team in the NL with the worst mark in the category for the year, have done over the last eight seasons:

Worst Team ISO 3B ISO by 3B PHI ISO 3B PHI Rank
2011 PHI 076 076 16
2010 STL 078 094 15
2009 FLA 083 123 13
2008 LAD 131 155 12
2007 PHI 113 113 16
2006 PHI 093 093 16
2005 STL 099 117 13
2004 SD 074 166 10

So, in three of the last eight years, the Phillie third baseman have had the worst isolated power in the NL. The last time an NL team saw their 3B put up a worse Isolated Power number than the Phillies did 2011 was the 2004 San Diego Padres. Sean Burroughs led the charge for the Padres at third that year and hit nearly .300 for the season, but with very little power and just two home runs (one of which came as a pinch-hitter and not a third baseman) over 564 plate appearances, posting a 298/348/365 line (and an isolated power mark of .067). In the defense on Burroughs, some of the damage at third was done by Rich Aurilia, Jeff Cirillo, Ramon Vasquez and Dave Hansen. That group combined to hit for no power as well, but hit just .211 over 166 at-bats while doing so.

The list above is rather ugly for the Phils. In terms of power at the position, the Phils best mark over the past eight seasons came in 2004. David Bell had the best year of his career for the Phils in 2004, hitting 291/363/458 over 603 plate appearances. That was good enough for a career best OPS+ of 107 for Bell.

Back with the 2011 Phillies, the problems with their power aren’t just about hitting home runs. Phillie third basemen hit eight in 2011, which isn’t a lot, but still better than two other NL teams (Florida and San Diego). The problem was doubles — the ’11 Phillies got just 18 doubles from their third basemen combined.

Including the 2011 Phillie team, over the last 15 years there have only been three teams that got less than 20 doubles from their third baseman in a season and only one team saw their third basemen deliver less than 18 doubles. The 3B for the 2002 Padres doubled 18 times, tying the Phillies mark from 2011. The 3B for the 1997 Dodgers hit just 17 doubles, but smoked 31 home runs at the position. Todd Zeile got all but ten of the plate appearances for the team at the position for the year, hitting 17 doubles and 31 bombs. The ’02 Padres were just bad at the position, with Burroughs (again) and Phil Nevin doing most of the damage.

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