Archive for February, 2012

Minors problem

Between left field and first base, it’s likely we’re going to see a whole lot of John Mayberry early in 2012. And with good reason. Mayberry has shown enormous power with the Phillies over the past three years. And while most of the projections for 2012 don’t expect Mayberry’s success to continue, many fans would also say he’s earned a chance to prove that what he’s done so far at the major league level is not a fluke.

In 369 plate appearances with the Phillies, Mayberry has put up a surprising 265/328/518 line. In 2011, he got 296 plate appearances and slugged .513. Of the 141 NL players who got at least 275 plate appearances in 2011, Mayberry’s .513 slugging percentage was 15th-best. Of those same 141 players, his isolated power of .240 was tenth and the best on the Phillies. Ryan Howard’s isolated power of .235 was 13th-best among NL players with 275 plate appearances in 2011. Coming into 2011, Mayberry had hit six home runs in 73 plate appearances and had an absurd isolated power mark for his career of .304.

From 2005 to 2011, John Mayberry got 2,975 plate appearances at various levels in the minor leagues and posted a 258/328/457 line overall. About half of those plate appearances came at the Triple-A level for Mayberry — he spent most the 2008 season hitting in the extremely hitter-friendly PCL before seeing time in Lehigh Valley in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Since the start of 2009, Mayberry has gotten 1,027 plate appearances at Lehigh Valley in which he has hit 263/325/431.

Here are Mayberry’s numbers from all levels in the minors, just at Lehigh Valley over the past three years and with the Phillies. Also included are the percentage of plate appearances in which he has walked, struck out, singled, doubled or homered for each:

PA AVG OBP SLG % BB % 1B % 2B % HR % SO
All minors 2975 258 328 457 8.2 13.4 5.3 3.8 21.8
Lehigh Valley ’09-’11 1027 263 325 431 7.6 15.1 5.2 3.1 22.2
Phillies ’09-’11 369 265 328 513 7.9 12.7 5.4 5.7 22.2

Mayberry hasn’t just matched his minor league numbers in the big leagues, he has exceed them. He hit for a better average than he did in the minors with the same on base percentage and a higher slugging mark.

Mayberry’s strikeouts and walks with the Phils are very similar to what they were in the minors. He has struck out at almost the same rate while walking more regularly than he did at Lehigh Valley, but less than his time in the minors overall.

He has been more likely to get a hit with the Phils than he was in the minors. He has gotten a hit of any kind in 24.1% of his plate appearances with the Phils. He got hits in a similar 23.7% of his plate appearances with Lehigh Valley and in 23.0% of his plate appearance in the minors combined.

What he hasn’t done is hit singles. His percentage of plate appearances that ended in a single are a lot lower than they have been at Lehigh Valley and lower than in the minors altogether.

He’s been a little more likely to double with the Phils than he was in the minors.

He’s been a whole lot more likely to hit a home run. 3.8% of his plate appearances in the minors overall, 3.1% in his plate appearances with Lehigh Valley and 5.7% of his plate appearances with the Phillies.

So far for his career, 47.2% of his hits at the major league level have gone for extra-bases. In the minors overall he saw 41.9% of his hits go for extra-bases. At Lehigh Valley is was 36.2%.

Important to remember is that while Mayberry showed monster power in limited chances in 2009, his other numbers were rather awful. Mayberry made his debut with the Phillies that year and on-based .250 in 60 plate appearances, going 12-for-57 with two walks and a hit by pitch. He ended the year at 211/250/474. In 2010 and 2011 combined, he’s posted a far better 276/343/527 line in 309 plate appearances.

Over the last two years with the Phils, he has walked in a higher percentage of his plate appearances (8.7%) than he did in either the minors overall (8.2%) or at Lehigh Valley (7.6%). He’s gotten a hit in 24.9% of his plate appearances with the Phils, also more than he did in the minors (23.0%) or at Lehigh Valley (23.7%). He has struck out less (19.1% with the Phils, 21.8% all minors, 22.2% at Lehigh Valley). The power numbers are where he’s up the most. With the Phillies he has registered an extra-base hit in 11.3% (9.6% all minors and 8.6% Lehigh Valley) of his plate appearances over the last two years and a home run in 5.5% (3.8% all minors and 3.1% Lehigh Valley).

So, will Mayberry’s numbers with the Phils continue to dwarf his minor league output? Let’s hope for the best. Either way, he should be getting a whole lot of chances in the early going in 2012.

This suggests we shouldn’t expect to see too much of Utley early in Spring Training. It also suggests that Contreras could be ready for Opening Day and that Justin De Fratus has some tightness in his right elbow.

The Phillies and Kyle Kendrick agreed to a two-year, $7.5 million contract.

Manuel calls Juan Pierre a top-of-the-order hitter in this article. In 2011, Pierre got 729 plate appearances with the White Sox in which he on-based .329.

The Phils will get a supplemental pick in the 2012 draft now that Ibanez has signed with the Yankees.

Here’s the Spring Training roster for the Phillies.


Look, if I throw the ball to first base, somebody’s gotta get it. Now who has it?

Still all about who should be playing first for the Phillies against right-handed pitching with Howard out and Thome not being a first baseman. Last post we looked at offensive numbers for five players who look like they have a chance to get into the lineup for the Phils against righties early in the year, either in left field or at first base. Based on being worst in both the career and 2011 categories, I’m dropping Pierre from the list. That leaves us with Wigginton, Nix, Mayberry and Brown.

A big issue when looking at those four players is that Mayberry and Brown both have less than 250 career plate appearances against right-handed pitching. Brown has 230 and Mayberry has 205. Nix and Wigginton have both had far more chances against righties, at least 1,500 for each. Nix and Wigginton got a nearly identical number of plate appearances against righties in 2011 with far better results for Nix.

Of the guys with a lot of plate appearances, Wigginton has the slightly better wOBA against righties for his career, but Nix has been better over the last three years. In this post I pointed out that Nix’s career can be looked at in three phases, three years with Texas where he was pretty bad, three years where he didn’t get much time in the majors and the last three years in which he’s been a lot better offensively than he was early in his career.

Here’s the wOBA Nix and Wigginton have posted against righties for the past three seasons:

2011 2010 2009
Nix 341 335 336
Wigginton 310 325 326

In each of the last three seasons, Nix has been better against righties than Wigginton. In 2011 the difference was the most dramatic. Nix got 320 plate appearances against righties for the Nats last year in which he hit 263/306/475 with 16 homers. Wigginton played in Colorado, got 319 plate appearances with the Rockies and hit 235/292/413. Against right-handed pitching, Nix got on base more and hit for more power than Wigginton. While he’s not a lock to get on base against righties more than Wigginton in 2012, he’s a real good bet to hit for a lot more power against them and be the better player offensively overall.

As I pointed out in this post, in each of the last three seasons, Wigginton’s wOBA against right-handed pitching has been worse than it was in the previous season. 2008 was probably Wigginton’s best year against righties — he hit 265/322/488 in 311 plate appearances for the Astros that year.

Looking at 2012, I think it’s reasonable to expect that the lefty Nix, a left-handed hitter who can pretty much only play against righties, will be better offensively against right-handed pitching than the righty Wigginton.

A big part of the question is how those two players stack up against lefty Domonic Brown and righy John Mayberry, two hitters who have not had nearly the same number of plate appearances as Nix and Wigginton have for their careers. Nearly everyone would expect the lefty Brown to be better than the righty Mayberry against right-handed pitching over their careers. And while nobody can know for sure what Mayberry and Brown will do in 2012, people can guess. And they do. And you’re going to struggle to find projections that suggest Mayberry will be better than Brown overall this season, much less against right-handed pitching. Looking at two of the publicly available free projections, here’s Bill James’s predictions for the two players from FanGraphs for 2012 as well as their ZiPs projections:

AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Brown James 275 355 455 361
Brown ZiPS 273 330 465 345
Mayberry James 257 313 439 332
Mayberry ZiPS 246 300 427 317

Those numbers are total projections, not left-right splits. Both of those projections are better for Brown than Mayberry overall and you also need to assume that as a left-handed hitter he’s going to be far better against righties than Mayberry.

Nearly all of the projections you’ll find for Mayberry suggest he’s going to have a hard time getting on base. I haven’t seen one yet that projects his on-base percentage to top .320.

Of course, Mayberry has been a lot better than that in limited playing time with the Phils over the past two years, hitting 276/343/527 over 309 plate appearances, which is remarkable given his 258/328/457 line over 2,975 minor league plate appearances. If Mayberry continues to produce offense at the rates he has with the Phils over the last two years it will be an outstanding development for the team.

Most projections don’t seem to think that will happen.

In the group of Brown, Nix, Mayberry and Wigginton, Brown is the guy I’d pick to put up the best numbers against right-handed pitching in 2012. Wigginton is the member of the group likely to put up the worst.

Bottom line for me is this: Offensively, against right-handed pitching, Brown is the best choice for the Phils in left field.

It seems likely that both Nix and Mayberry will prove unable to provide league average offense as a first baseman against right-handed pitching in 2012. The lefty Nix seems like the conservative choice and the player of the two more likely to produce near league-average production at the position. Mayberry seems to have a higher upside, but against righties it’s likely his numbers in 2012 will drop rather than improve.

The Phillies, of course, have a bigger decision to make than just who is the player who will be the best offensively against righties in left and first. Especially if Brown starts the year in the minors, I think it’s likely we’re going to see all three of Mayberry, Nix and Wigginton at first against righties early in the season.

This suggests that the Phillies and Yankees are the two teams pursuing 19-year-old outfielder Jorge Solar the hardest. The right-handed Cuban defector is likely years away from the majors.

The article reviews pitchers that will be in camp for the Phils.


All I’m trying to find out is the fellow’s name on first base

So, if Ryan Howard is on the DL and Jim Thome can’t play first, who should be playing first base for the Phillies? In a recent post I suggested that Ty Wigginton’s career numbers make him look like a good candidate to fill in against lefties, but not against righties. I also suggested that when the other team starts a righty with Howard and Thome unavailable to play first, it looks like between left field and first base there’s an opportunity for the Phils to start two players from the group of Wigginton, Laynce Nix, John Mayberry, Domonic Brown and maybe Juan Pierre.

So, of those five, who are the best choices offensively to play at first and in left?

Remembering that in 2011, the average NL first baseman hit 270/350/451 with an wOBA of .346, here are the numbers against righties for those five players as well as what each of them did against right-handed pitching in 2011:

PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Wigginton career 3238 261 313 437 329
Wigginton 2011 319 235 292 413 310
Mayberry career 205 236 317 445 325
Mayberry 2011 176 250 330 455 334
Brown career 230 239 322 408 324
Brown 2011 174 237 328 401 326
Nix career 1584 253 296 451 320
Nix 2011 320 263 306 475 341
Pierre career 5549 293 339 369 313
Pierre 2011 536 264 296 325 276

The first thing is that none of those numbers are real good. Remembering that the average NL first baseman put up a wOBA of .346 in 2011, nearly all of the numbers on the table above don’t even come close to that — the lone exception is Laynce Nix’s effort against righties from last year in which he put up a wOBA of .341 despite on-basing .306.

Just for giggles, here’s the numbers for Thome and Howard, lefties that really can hit righties and have played first in their careers (although in the interest of full disclosure, Thome hasn’t seen significant time at first since 2005 and likely won’t in 2012, either):

PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Howard career 2948 298 397 623 416
Howard 2011 459 266 370 550 383
Thome career 7256 293 428 612 432
Thome 2011 233 257 352 470 353

So it’s safe to say that Howard and Thome have been better against righties over their careers than the five guys in the first table.

Back to our five guys. If you put them in order by career wOBA against righties, the list looks like this:

  1. Wigginton, .329
  2. Mayberry, .325
  3. Brown, .324
  4. Nix, .320
  5. Pierre, .313

Again, it’s bad news that Ty Wigginton tops that list cause he’s a career 261/313/437 hitter against righties. You really don’t want a guy who’s a career 261/313/437 hitter against righties playing first base for you against them. If you order them by what they did in 2011, the list looks like this:

  1. Nix, .341
  2. Mayberry, .334
  3. Brown, .326
  4. Wigginton, .310
  5. Pierre, .276

Sure looks like the answer is not Pierre, but beyond that it gets a little confusing. Part of what makes it confusing is that Mayberry and Brown have so few plate appearances — they each have less than 250 plate appearances against righties for their career while Nix and Wigginton both have at least 1,500. Beyond that, Wigginton’s career numbers against righties are a little better than Nix’s, but Nix’s numbers over the last few seasons top Wigginton’s. Tune in next time.

This article about the Phillies rotation and guys to watch reminds that Austin Hyatt, who will be in Spring Training as an NRI, struck out 171 batters in 154 1/3 innings for Reading last season while throwing to a 3.85 ERA over 28 starts.


Who else is on first?

So who is going to play first base for the Phils against right-handed pitching while Howard is out? Jim Thome is the obvious answer if he can get onto the field, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of optimism that is going to happen with much regularity. Let’s hope for the best, but I think we have to assume we won’t be seeing much at all of him at first base this year.

So what’s Plan B? Or C or D, for that matter?

Ty Wigginton is the first guy that leaps to mind. But while his career numbers make him look like a solid fill-in against left-handed pitching, his numbers against righties have to make you wary about penciling him in against right-handed pitching too often. Here are Wigginton’s career numbers against lefties and righties as well as the average for NL first basemen in 2011:

PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Wiggonton career vs L 1288 274 353 461 359
Wigginton career vs R 3238 261 313 437 329
2011 NL average 1B 270 350 451 346

The right-handed hitting Wigginton has been significantly better against left-handed pitching than right over his career. His isolated power against lefties and righties has been similar (.187 against lefties and .176 against righties), but he has a lower average against righties and has drawn walks at a much lower rate. Over his career, Wigginton has walked in about 10.5% of his plate appearances against lefties, but only about 6.0% of his plate appearances against righties. The combination of the slightly lower average against righties and the significantly worse walk rate against them adds up to a .313 career on-base percentage against right-handed pitching. And that makes it tough if you want to play first base against righties.

His numbers against righties over the last three years have actually been a little worse than his career numbers. Here’s what he’s done against righties since 2009:

PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA
2011 vs R 319 235 292 413 310
2010 vs R 476 252 307 436 325
2009 vs R 275 285 313 437 326

Ew.

The .285 he hit against righties with the Orioles in 2009 looks nice, but he also showed the least power of the three seasons that year, posting and isolated power of .154 against righties (.184 in 2010 and .178 in 2011). He hasn’t on-based better than .313 against righties in any of the last three years.

Over the last two seasons, between the Orioles and Rockies, Wigginton has gotten 795 plate appearances in which he has hit 245/301/427 against right-handed pitching. In each of the last three seasons, Wigginton’s wOBA against right-handed pitching has been worse than it was in the previous season. 2008 was probably Wigginton’s best year against righties — he hit 265/322/488 in 311 plate appearances for the Astros that year.

Bottom line for me is that I’m hoping we don’t see a whole lot of Wigginton starting at first against right-handed pitching. If everybody is healthy, the best options against a right-handed starter to me appear to include:

  • The righty Mayberry at first and the lefty Nix in left or vice-versa
  • The lefty Brown in left and Mayberry or Nix, probably the lefty Nix instead of the righty Mayberry, at first

The other bottom line for me is that against a righty you can get two of Nix, Mayberry, Wigginton and Brown (or Pierre) into the lineup between first and left. Of those five players, Nix, Mayberry and Wigginton are the three I would guess are likely to appear at first for the Phils this year. I’d also guess Nix, Mayberry and Brown will appear in left. I’ll look at this more in a future post, but Brown in left and Nix at first against a righty with Howard out seems like the best way to go to me.

This article suggests it was the ’93 Phillies and not Jonah Hill that inspired Moneyball. Or something like that.


Underflyin’ Hawaiian?

The total number of bases stolen by the Phillies was down in 2011 compared to recent years. In my previous post, I suggested that a big part of the dropoff has to do with the number of bases that are being stolen by Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino.

In 2011, Rollins stole 30 bases for the Phils and Victorino stole 19. Based on their career numbers for stolen bases based on plate appearances and the number of times they have been on base, which of those numbers should come as a bigger surprise?

      Before 2011       In 2011    
  SB PA TOB SB per PA SB per TOB PA Expected SB based on PA Expected SB based on TOB Actual SB
Rollins 343 6906 2257 .0497 .152 631 31.34 32.37 30
Victorino 143 3043 1034 .0470 .138 586 27.54 28.49 19

I think the answer is that based on his pre-2011 numbers, Rollins’s stolen base total of 30 given his plate appearances and times on base is a lot closer to expected than Victorino’s 19. The 30 stolen bases isn’t really even a surprise of Rollins, given his past history of stolen base totals relative to the number of plate appearances he gets and the number of times he gets on base. Rollins missed time with injuries in 2011, limiting his plate appearances to 631 for the season. His stolen base rate in 2011 was very similar to what it was in 2006. That year he got 758 plate appearances, was on base 253 times and stole 36 bases. Based on his ’11 rate, he would have stolen 36 bases over 758 plate appearances in 2011 as well.

While his 2006 and 2011 rates of stolen bases are similar, Rollins has slowed a bit in the stolen base department over the past three years. He stole a career high 47 bases in 2008 and in that year his rates for stolen bases per plate appearance and stolen bases per time on base were also the highest for his career. In the three years since, Rollins has gotten 1,750 plate appearances, been on base 553 times and stolen 78 bases. Had he stolen bases at the rate he had through the end of 2008 and gotten the same number of plate appearances and times on base, we would have expected between 85 (if you use times on base) and 89 (if you use plate appearances) stolen bases.

The other thing I think the table above illustrates is that whether you base it on his stolen bases per plate appearance or his stolen bases per times on base, Rollins has been more likely to steal a base over his career than Victorino.

Victorino saw a bigger drop in his stolen bases in 2011, having stolen 132 bags over his last four seasons, an average of 33 per year.

Victorino stole more than 40 bases in the minors in both 2001 and 2002. In 2003 he got just 86 plate appearances with the Padres, but still stole seven bases. He arrived with the Phils in 2006 and didn’t run at all, getting just four stolen bases in 462 plate appearances. He followed that up with four years with the Phils as an everyday player in which he stole an average of 33 bases a year, at least 25 in every season and at least 30 in three of the four, before stealing just 19 in 2011.

Victorino was effective in his stolen base attempts in 2011, he just made fewer of them. He was caught stealing just three times, giving him a safe rate of 86.4%, which was the second-best of his career after 2007 when he stole 37 bags and was caught just four times (90.2% safe). He also saw considerable time in the leadoff spot in the order, getting 237 plate appearances batting first in the order. While hitting first in the order he stole just nine bases — in 2010 he had gotten 386 plate appearances as a leadoff hitter and stole bases at a much higher rate, getting 22 for the season while batting first.

So why did Victorino run less last year? I don’t know. But I think it’s important to remember that even when you include stolen bases, 2011 was the most productive year of his career as an offensive player. He walked at the best rate of his career, hit a career-high 16 triples and, as a percentage of his plate appearances, delivered extra-base hits and home runs at the highest level of his career. Remember, as good as Victorino’s year was, he had even better numbers before slowing at the end of the season. After going 2-for-4 with a walk and a triple against the Fish on September 2, Victorino was hitting a monster 308/384/542 in 471 plate appearances for the season. His numbers tumbled after that as he hit 163/237/288 over his last 115 plate appearances.

Victorino will appear on the February 20 episode of Hawaii Five-O.

This article by Jayson Stark suggests the Phils may be trying to trade Joe Blanton and that doing so might enable them to try to bring back Oswalt.


Never slow down, never grow old and losing Bourn and Werth probably won’t help much either

In yesterday’s post I pointed out that the number of bases the Phillies have been stealing has dropped off in recent years. In 2011, for the fourth straight year, the Phillies stole fewer bases than they had in the previous season. In three of those four years, their safe rate also went down from the previous year.

In 2007, the Phils were second in the NL in stolen bases with 138. In 2008 they were third with 136. Last year they stole 96, which was eleventh in the league.

So where did all the stolen bases go? Here’s who stole the bases for the Phils in 2007, 2008 and 2011:

Year

Player

SB

CS

Safe

2007

Jimmy Rollins
Shane Victorino
Michael Bourn
Chase Utley
Jayson Werth
Carlos Ruiz
Aaron Rowand
Tadahito Iguchi
Greg Dobbs
Abraham Nunez
Chris Roberson
Ryan Howard
Rod Barajas
Total

41
37
18
9
7
6
6
6
3
2
2
1
0
138

6
4
1
1
1
1
3
1
0
0
0
0
1
19

87.2%
90.2%
94.7%
90.0%
87.5%
85.7%
66.7%
85.7%
100.0%
100.0%
100.0%
100.0%
0.0%
87.9%

2008

Jimmy Rollins
Shane Victorino
Jayson Werth
Chase Utley
Eric Bruntlett
Greg Dobbs
So Taguchi
Carlos Ruiz
Ryan Howard
Geoff Jenkins
Greg Golson
Chris Coste
Total

47
36
20
14
9
3
3
1
1
1
1
0
136

3
11
1
2
2
1
0
2
1
1
0
1
25

94.0%
76.6%
95.2%
87.5%
81.8%
75.0%
100.0%
33.3%
50.0%
50.0%
100.0%
0.0%
84.5%

2011

Jimmy Rollins
Shane Victorino
Chase Utley
John Mayberry
Ben Francisco
Placido Polanco
Wilson Valdez
Michael Martinez
Domonic Brown
Pete Orr
Raul Ibanez
Carlos Ruiz
Ryan Howard
Hunter Pence
Cliff Lee
Cole Hamels
Total

30
19
14
8
4
3
3
3
3
3
2
1
1
1
1
0
96

8
3
0
3
4
0
3
0
1
0
0
0
0
1
0
1
24

78.9%
86.4%
100.0%
72.7%
50.0%
100.0%
50.0%
100.0%
75.0%
100.0%
100.0%
100.0%
100.0%
50.0%
100.0%
0.0%
80.0%

It sure seems like getting older should be the answer, and it probably is. Notably, though, Chase Utley’s stolen bases haven’t slowed since ’07 and ’08. Utley got 159 fewer plate appearances in 2011 than he got in either of 2007 or 2008, but still managed to steal 14 bags, as many as he swiped in ’08 and more than ’07.

The guys that are dramatically down are Rollins and Victorino. In 2007, they combined to steal 78 bases and in 2008 they combined to steal 83. In 2011, they combined to steal 49. In 2001, when the Phils led the NL with 153 stolen bases, they combined to steal 46 with Victorino not on the team. He was busy hitting 283/344/400 (and stealing 47 bases) for the Wilmington Waves in the Dodger organization.

Finally, during the 2007 and 2008 seasons, the Phillies also benefited significantly from the stolen base efforts of Michael Bourn and Jayson Werth. Bourn stole 18 bases for the Phils in 2007 and was caught just once. Between 2007 and 2008, Jayson Werth stole 27 bases and was caught twice.


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