Archive for November, 2012

The men at the top

A post earlier this week looked at the total bWAR of hitters and pitchers for the top teams in the NL over the last five years. In 2012, it appears the Phillies will have four elite pitchers on their pitching staff. What should we expect the Phillies to get from the group of Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Papelbon in 2013?

Here’s a look at the Baseball-Reference calculated WAR for each of the four over the past five seasons:

’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 Avg High Low
Halladay 0.7 8.5 8.3 6.6 5.9 6.0 8.5 0.7
Lee 4.2 8.3 4.8 5.1 6.5 5.8 8.3 4.2
Hamels 4.2 6.2 5.3 1.7 4.0 4.3 6.2 1.7
Papelbon 1.6 1.5 0.0 3.4 1.8 1.7 3.4 0.0
Totals 10.7 24.5 18.4 16.8 18.2 17.7 24.5 10.7

So, looking at those four players, over the last five seasons the combined bWAR they have contributed has ranged from 10.7 to 24.5 with an average of 17.7.

Sadly, by a wide margin, the worst year of any of the five is the most recent.

Also sadly, that group has been outrageously healthy over the last five seasons. Halladay’s 2012 season is one exception, but he still made 25 starts and threw 156 1/3 innings. Lee has thrown more than 200 innings in each of the last five years. Hamels has made at least 31 starts every year of the last five. Papelbon has thrown at least 60 innings in relief in each year.

So it’s likely they are going to spend less time on the field in the future than they have over the last five years, giving them less opportunities to accumulate bWAR.

The good news is that the average mark for the last five years, 17.7, would be a huge improvement over what they did in 2012.

The previous post suggested that the total combined bWAR for the team’s pitchers and hitters should be around 36 to give the team a solid shot to be among the four best by bWAR in the NL. If you assume a return to the five-year average for the group of Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Papelbon, that gives the Phils 17.7. Over the last two seasons, the best combined bWAR for all of the Phillie position players is 15.0. That’s 32.7. That sounds like it should be good news — it means that all pitchers on the team other than Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Papelbon, including the missing 40% of the rotation, would only need to post a cumulative bWAR of 3.3 to get the Phils to 36.

But.

In 2012, the Phillie pitchers other than that quartet combined to throw to a bWAR of 0.1. Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Papelbon were at 10.7. The other 20 pitchers who appeared for the Phillies combined for a 0.1 — that includes negative bWAR performances from 11 guys (Blanton, Schwimer, Bastardo, Contreras, Qualls, Sanches, Stutes, Diekman, Savery, Lindblom and Rosenberg).

The obvious other big issue here is Halladay, whose 2012 bWAR dropped to 0.7 coming off of back-to-back seasons in which he was amazing, posting a bWAR better than eight in both years. If you saw any sign in 2012 that Halladay was about to return to 2010-2011 form, I sure missed it. And for now, at least, the Phillies are built around the rather reasonable notion that Roy Halladay is going to be the elite pitcher he has been in recent years.

So let’s hope for the best. But if you suggest that Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Papelbon are going to combine to post a bWAR of 17.7 or better in 2013, I’m taking the under. They all have to stay healthy for one thing. And even if they do, they have close to no chance unless Halladay is way, way better than he was in 2012. Also, the entire pitching staff for the Phillies has thrown to a combined bWAR of 17.7 or better twice in the last 29 years — in each of the seasons in which they did, Hallday posted a bWAR better than eight. In one of them, 2011, Lee also posted a bWAR better than eight.

Bottom line is that the group of four has set the bar almost impossibly high for themselves in terms of whether or not they can ever return to previous, especially 2011, form. In 2011, those four pitchers combined to produce a bWAR of 24.5. Over the past ten seasons, only four NL teams other than the ’11 Phils have put up a combined bWAR for their pitchers of 24.5 or better for their entire staff (the ’12 Reds (26.4), ’09 Giants (24.6), ’08 Cubs (26.9) and ’03 Snakes (27.6)).

In this article from last night, Jim Salisbury suggests the deal for Wilton Lopez is not a sure thing.

This says that BJ Upton and the Braves have agreed to a five-year, $75 million deal. I truly do not know what Upton is going to do over the next five years. But if it’s similar to what he’s done over the last four years, I think it will be good news for the Phils that it’s the Braves and not them paying him $15 millionish a year. He does have huge upside, though. So we’ll see.

Update1: This says the Wilton Lopez deal fell apart.

Update2: This says Denard Span has been traded to the Nats for pitcher Alex Meyer.

Updates one and two are both bad news for the Phillies. Span would have filled the center field hole very nicely.


Nobody fired a shot in anger, nobody had to die in vain

I’ll really do my best to limit your exposure to lyrics from Anne Murray songs on the blog. Promise.

The Phillies sure could use a little good news and here it is: Jon Heyman says they are finalizing a deal to acquire Wilton Lopez.

The 29-year-old righty has been fantastic for the last three years with the Astros, throwing to a 2.64 ERA with a 1.13 ratio over 204 1/3 innings in 205 relief appearances. In two of those years, 2010 and 2012, he threw to a ratio of 1.06 or better (1.27 in 2011). In 2010 and 2012 combined, he walked 13 hitters in 133 1/3 innings while striking out 104.

Lopez would be an ideal fit to bring much needed stability to the eighth inning for the Phils.

No word at this point what the Phils would give up to get Lopez. This article suggests it may be a minor league prospect. This blog post speculates that “a Sebastian Valle for Lopez deal would make sense for both sides.”

This article says: “The Astors will receive minor league players in the deal. The prospects involved are said to be close to major league ready.”

Make your own joke day at Philliesflow as we give you the chance to insert your own joke here about the Phillies and how many prospects they have that are close to major league ready.

Yesterday the Phillies signed 33-year-old catcher Humberto Quintero to a minor league deal. Quintero seems likely to get a chance with the Phillies early in the season in the wake of the Ruiz suspension.

Quintero really, really can’t hit. 234/267/323 in 1,281 plate appearances in the majors over his ten year career. The righty has a career 233/268/319 line against righties and a not much better 238/262/336 line against lefties. He has a career .319 on-base percentage in his 2,984 plate appearances in the minors.

What he can do is play defense. In 2010, he played just 653 2/3 innings for the Astros, but managed to post a Baseball-Reference calculated dWAR of 1.2, which was tied for 21st-best in the NL.

In 2011 he played just 642 innings defensively and again posted a dWAR of 1.2, which was 13th-best in the league.

Update: This suggests that the Braves have reached an agreement with BJ Upton, which would make it less likely that Upton would be playing for the Phillies in 2013.

Update 2: This says five years, $75 million for Upton to the Braves.


You’ve come a long way in the wrong direction, baby

Phillies fans spend much of their time these days thinking about how to improve the offense. That’s always a good idea. But if you compare what the Phillies did in 2011 to what they did in 2012, it seems clear that pitching accounts for the massive drop.

So shouldn’t the Phillies be focusing on their pitching?

It seems like the answer is almost surely no. If the value of the position players stays about the same, the pitching is going to have to be extraordinary for the Phillies to return to their recent levels of regular season success. And the pitching is never, ever going to be as good as it was in 2011. In both 2011 and 2012, the team’s hitters were far from exceptional — by combined bWAR for all hitters, the Phils were ninth in the NL in 2012 and eighth in 2011. In 2011, the pitching was so enormously fantastic the Phils were able to dominate the regular season anyway. In 2012, the overall contribution of the position players was about the same as it was in 2011 — the pitching just wasn’t elite in a way that allowed the Phillies to overcome it.

Not only is the pitching not going to be as fantastic as it was in 2011, it probably isn’t going to be as fantastic as it was in 2010. The combined WAR for Phillie pitchers in 2010 was 21.2. Over the past 20 years, other than 2011, the closest the Phillies have gotten to the 21.2 mark was 2006 when their pitchers combined to post a bWAR of 14.8.

Of course, for a lot (18) of the past 20 years, the Phillies didn’t have Halladay, Lee and Hamels atop their rotation. In 1997, for example, Mark Leiter, Matt Beach, Tyler Green and Calvin Maduro combined to make 82 starts for the Phillies, throwing to a 5.61 ERA combined as the Phillies put up a combined WAR for their pitchers of 1.6. Those days are mercifully gone, but in 2012 the Phils gave 86 starts to Halladay, Lee and Hamels and that didn’t turn out real well either.

Given that the pitching is never going back to where it was in 2011, the Phillies are going to need to have both their position players and pitchers improve if they want to retake their position among the elite teams in the NL.

Just how far do they have to go? Really, really far. At least if you look at WAR as calculated by Baseball-Reference.

The table below shows the WAR for hitters and pitchers for the NL teams that won the most games in each of the last five years (the 2012 Phillies are also included, despite not being close to one of the four best teams in the NL last year):

W bWAR H bWAR P H+P
2012 WAS 98 20.6 20.2 40.8
CIN 97 14.3 26.4 40.7
SF 94 28.9 5.5 34.4
ATL 94 23.2 11.7 34.9
(PHI) 81 15 10.8 25.8
2011 PHI 102 14.2 35.2 49.4
MIL 96 23.7 14.6 38.3
ARI 94 23.6 7.3 30.9
STL 90 24.4 9.4 33.8
2010 PHI 97 21.3 21.2 42.5
SF 92 20.8 19.5 40.3
CIN 91 29.5 8.1 37.6
ATL 91 22.8 15.4 38.2
2009 LAD 95 27.1 17.6 44.7
PHI 93 26.3 10.2 36.5
COL 92 17.8 17.9 35.7
STL 91 22.4 14.9 37.3
2008 CHC 97 18.9 26.9 45.8
PHI 92 27.3 11.1 38.4
MIL 90 24.3 13.6 37.9
NYM 89 23.1 12.6 35.7

So, for example, in 2012, the hitters for the Phillies accumulated a total bWAR of 15.0 and the pitchers accumulated a total bWAR of 10.8. If you add them together they total 25.8 — significantly worse than the total for the NL’s fourth-best team by wins, Atlanta (34.9), the third-best team the Giants (34.4), the second-best team the Reds (40.7) or 98-win Nats (40.8).

The 25.8 mark was also hugely worse than the 2011 Phils (49.4).

Again, if you look at the bWAR H column, Baseball-Reference’s calculation suggests that the total WAR for the Phillie position players in 2012 was better than the total WAR for the Phillie position players in 2011.

Over the last five years, here are the average bWAR for hitters and for pitchers for the teams who have won the most, second-most, third-most and fourth-most games in the NL:

Avg bWAR H Avg bWAR P H+P
#1 20.42 24.22 44.64
#2 22.48 16.36 38.84
#3 24.82 10.48 35.3
#4 23.18 12.8 35.98
Actual bWAR H Actual bWAR P H+P
PHI 2012 15 10.8 25.8
PHI 2011 14.2 35.2 49.4
PHI 2010 21.3 21.2 42.5
PHI 2009 26.3 10.2 36.5
PHI 2008 27.3 11.1 38.4

So that suggests to get to the level of the fourth-best team in the NL over the past five seasons, the Phillies would need to add a little more than ten WAR between their hitters and pitchers to their 2012 marks.

That’s a lot.

Important to note is that in 2010, when the Phillies were great, the total WAR for their pitchers was 21.2, which is the second-highest mark for the team in the past 20 years behind only the 35.2 from 2011. I believe you have to go back to 1983 to find a year (other than 2011) in which the combined bWAR for Phillie pitchers was better than 21.2. In 1983, John Denny won the Cy Young for the Phils, Steve Carlton was very good in 37 starts and Kevin Gross and Charles Hudson were both pretty good. Al Holland finished sixth in Cy Young voting pitching out of the pen.

None of that is the real point, though. The real point is that even in 2010, when the pitching was fantastic, the best it had been since 1983, the Phillies still got 21.3 combined WAR from their position players, which is a whole lot more than they got in either of the last two seasons. It’s also a whole lot more than they’re going to get in 2013 without significant additions among the position players.

This suggests that the Angels are close to signing Ryan Madson and that Madson will close for the Angels.

This suggests there are seven teams interested in Shane Victorino. The Phillies are not on the list. It is surprising to me if the Phillies are not interested in bringing Victorino back.

The Phillies signed right-handed pitcher Brian Erbe to a minor league deal. Erbe made Baseball America’s list of top 100 prospects before the 2007 (#76), but has been awful in the minors over the last three years, throwing to a 6.13 ERA over 108 2/3 innings. He missed much of the 2011 season after surgery for a torn labrum and turns 25 next month.

Update: This says Carlos Ruiz has been suspended for 25 games after testing positive for an Amphetamine.


It’s not the only reason the Phillies have been getting worse on the bases, but it’s a big piece

Quick — across both leagues, who’s the player who has hurt his team the most on the bases over the past three seasons? Hint: if you’re a Phillies fan, you probably saw him hobbling around the bases quite a bit in 2012.

The bad news is he wasn’t coming off of a major achilles injury in 2010 or 2011.

Here are Ryan Howard’s base running runs above average as calculated by FanGraphs over the past three seasons:

Year Base Running Rank MLB players
2010 -7.1 946 of 948
2011 -9.3 935 of 936
2012 -5.6 952 of 962
’10 to ’12 -22.0 1399 of 1399

Howard’s -5.6 in 2012 was his best mark of the three years, but it’s hard to see that as a mark of much hope. Howard got just 292 plate appearances in ’12 — less than half of what he got in ’10 or ’11. If he accumulated base running runs above (below) average at his 2012 rate over 600 plate appearances, he would have been at about -11.5 for the year.

No doubt about it that Howard was coming off of a major injury in 2012. Less sure about how much that injury could have been impacting him in 2010 and 2011.

Over the last three years, there have only been five players whose total base running runs below average has been worse than -15.8 overall — David Ortiz (-19.7), Billy Butler (-19.7), Prince Fielder (-19.8), Paul Konerko (-21.5) and Howard (-22.0).

Even with only about half a season of plate appearances in 2012, Howard’s base running from 2010 to 2012 is still worse than Phillie-poster-boy-for-bad-on-the-bases Pat Burrell’s horrendous base running during Burrell’s worst years.

Year Base Running Year Base running
Hoawrd 2010 -7.1 Burrell 2005 -8.8
Howard 2011 -9.3 Burrell 2006 -5.3
Howard 2012 -5.6 Burrell 2007 -4.2
Howard ’10 to ’12 -22.0 Burrell ’05 to ’07 -18.3

At the height of his base running suck, 2005 to 2007, Burrell got 1,834 plate appearances with a total base running runs below average of -18.3. Over the last three years, Howard has 1,556 plate appearances and a base running runs below average of -22.0.

There’s not a whole ton of silver lining on the Ryan Howard base running front, but there are guys who have been worse on the bases than he has in recent history. Looking at three-year periods going back to 2000, here’s the player who had the best and worst base running runs above average as calculated by FanGraphs:

Years Worst Best
2010-2012 Howard -22.0 Michael Bourn 28.6
2009-2011 Konerko (tie) -20.7 Bourn 33.9
Carlos Lee (tie) -20.7
2008-2010 Fielder -23.4 Bourn 25.0
2007-2009 Kendry Morales -20.1 Rollins 26.6
2006-2008 Bengie Molina -18.9 Ichiro 28.5
2005-2007 Bengie Molina -19.7 Figgins 29.1
2004-2006 Luis Gonzalez -20.5 Crawford 25.7
2003-2005 Alex Gonzalez -22.5 Beltran 29.5
2002-2004 Alex Gonzalez -22.3 Beltran 30.6
2001-2003 Alex Gonzalez -17.8 Beltran 24.1
2000-2002 Alex Gonzalez -10.0 Jeter 15.4

So from 2008 to 2010, Prince Fielder (-23.4) was worse than Howard (-22.0) ’10 to ’12. Prior to that, you’ve got to go back to Alex Gonzalez (the other one) from ’03 to ’05 to find a three-year period where someone out-worsened Howard’s ’10 to ’12 over a three-year period. Gonzalez also did it ’02 to ’04. Alex Gonzalez had a whole bunch of problems trying to steal bases from 2000 to 2005, playing for five different teams and getting caught 24 times, picked off nine and stealing just 34 bases.

At least Howard doesn’t get caught stealing. He’s got 12 stolen bases for his career and has been caught just four times (picked off three).

On the other side of the table, Jimmy Rollins was the best running in baseball by base running runs above average from 2007 to 2009 with 26.6. And again, Michael Bourn demonstrates that he brings a lot of value with what he does with his defense and on the bases as he appears atop the list for 2008 to 2010, 2009 to 2011 and 2010 to 2012.

From 2008 to 2012, Bourn’s base running runs above average is 44.7. That leads all players across both leagues and nobody else is close. Ian Kinsler is second at 32.5 and Victorino third at 31.0.

Todd Zolecki suggests the chances the Phillies will land Josh Hamilton are pretty slim.

In the same piece, he also suggests the Rangers would have traded young third baseman Mike Olt for Hamels last year, but that he’s not sure they would trade him for Cliff Lee at this point.

The deadline for setting the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule V draft was last night. Matt Gelb speculated on who the Phillies might protect in this article.

The Phillies added four players to their 40-man roster in advance of the December 6 Rule V draft, including outfielder Zach Collier and pitchers Trevor May, Ethan Martin and Jonathan Pettibone. They now have 38 players on their 40-man roster, including six outfielders, five of which are left-handed.

This suggests the Phillies may have interest in free agent Koji Uehara. The 37-year-old right-handed reliever threw to a 1.75 ERA with an 0.64 ratio for Texas in 2012, striking out 43 in 36 innings. He missed about two months last year with a problem with his right lat. He returned at the end of August and made 17 appearances between that time and the end of the season, throwing to a 1.23 ERA over 14 2/3 innings while striking out 21 and holding opponents to a .160 on-base percentage.


So at least somebody in town has a running game

Last week’s posts were about things the Phillies used to be great at, outfield defense and outfield offense, and suddenly aren’t. Today’s is about base running — something the Phillies have been great at in recent history, but were just pretty good at in 2012.

Here’s the base running total (runs above average) for the Phillies over the past six years as calculated by FanGraphs and how it compares to the other MLB teams (base running includes stolen bases and caught stealing, while UBR does not):

Year Base running MLB Rank
2007 16.0 1
2008 17.8 1
2009 11.6 5
2010 4.4 10
2011 -1.4 15
2012 4.5 11

So the Phils were best in baseball at the statistic in 2007 and 2008. They had dropped to the middle of the pack in 2011, but came back a little to eleventh across both leagues in 2012.

In 2007, across all players in both leagues, the Phillies had two players in the top 20 in base running. Rollins was second at 11.2 and Victorino was 18th at 6.9.

In 2008, they led the league again in the category with two guys in the top ten. Rollins was third at 10.5 and Victorino ninth at 8.4.

Victorino isn’t on the team anymore, but Jimmy Rollins can’t shoulder much of the blame for the Phillies’s drop from their spot as the best team in baseball in the category. In 2012, Rollins’s 8.3 base running runs above average was second best among all players in baseball, behind only Mike Trout of the Angels.

Juan Pierre appears to be headed to the Marlins on a one-year, $1.6 million deal.

Darin Ruf homered yesterday, giving him ten home runs in 120 at-bats in Venezuela. This article suggests he probably won’t hit ten more to tie the league record, cause he’s headed back to the US later this week and probably won’t return to the league for the second half.

This suggests that BJ Upton, who has already visited the Phillies and Braves, will also visit at least three other teams, which may include the Nationals and Giants. Rotoworld suggests Upton is likely to get about five years and $75 million. If he gets it from the Phillies, let’s hope he proves to be a whole lot better than Shane Victorino, who seems likely to get a lot less than five years, $75 million.


Whoa boy

The last post suggested that the outfield defense for the Phillies has gotten really bad over the last three years, at least as measured by FanGraph’s UZR/150. Offensively, the Phillies have been really good in the outfield compared to the rest of baseball in recent years, at least until 2012, when things took a hard turn in the wrong direction. Here’s the wOBA for Phillie outfielders over the last eight years as calculated by FanGraphs as well as the rank of that mark among teams across both leagues:

Year wOBA MLB Rank
2005 .366 1
2006 .353 T-4
2007 .371 1
2008 .343 12
2009 .359 3
2010 .352 5
2011 .342 5
2012 .320 T-18

So, coming into 2012, in six of the last seven seasons, Phillie outfielders had combined to be in the top five among all MLB teams in wOBA. This year they finished in a three-way tie for 18th with the Cubs and Padres.

The Phillies led the league in wOBA for outfielders in 2005 and again in 2007. Abreu led the way in ’05, posting a wOBA of .379 over 719 plate appearances. Burrell was also very good offensively at .384 over his 669 plate appearances. Jason Michaels (.362 over 343) and Kenny Lofton (.359 over 406) were each surpisingly effective offensively that year. Burrell led the way in ’07, putting up a FanGraphs calculated wOBA of .392 in 684 plate appearances. Rowand was fantastic that year as well — .384 over 598 plate appearances. Werth got just 302 plate appearances with the Phillies, but put up an impressive .382 wOBA mark with the team.

Since 2007, the Phillies haven’t led all of baseball in the category. They had been in the top five of MLB teams in three of the past four years coming in to 2012.

In 2012, Hunter Pence was the only outfielder for the Phillies to get at least 50 plate appearances and put up a wOBA better than .320. Here’s how the outfielders looked from top to bottom for 2012 wOBA:

Player PA wOBA
Pence 440 .340
Pierre 439 .320
Nix 127 .317
Victorino 431 .317
Brown 212 .309
Schierholtz 73 .306
Mayberry 479 .303

Mayberry has to take a lot of the blame for dragging down the wOBA for the group in 2012. His wOBA of .303 was 137th of 171 players across both leagues with at least 450 plate appearances and way off of his 2011 pace of .368. In 183 more plate appearances than he had in ’11, Mayberry homered one less time.

Domonic Brown didn’t fare much better at .309. He did get a lot less chances to do much damage, though, with just 212 plate appearances. He wound up with numbers a little bit worse than his 2011 stats, in just about the same number of at-bats (210 plate appearances in 2011 and 212 in 2012). He’s hitting .196 against lefties for his career, which is going to be a problem if the Phillies want to play him every day.

Like Mayberry, Victorino got a ton of plate appearances for the Phillies and was pretty bad with the bat, putting up a wOBA of .317, which was a huge drop from his .368 mark in 2011 and well below career mark of .338. Between 2008 and 2011, Vicotorino was above .350 in three different seasons. Mayberry and Victorino posted the same .368 wOBA in 2011 and both were awful offensively for the Phillies in 2012.

Pierre’s .320 was his second-best mark since the end of his 2004 season with the Marlins. He ended the year just above his career mark of .317. In his 13-year career, he’s posted an OPS+ better than 100 just twice. 2012 with the Phillies wasn’t one of those times as he finished at 95. He didn’t get a lot of chances against lefties, just 69 plate appearances for the year, but the ones he got didn’t go very well as he went 12-for-63 (.190) with 12 singles and one walk.

Pence’s .340 was off his career mark of .352 and he ended the year overall at .323 after hitting .219 for the Giants in 248 plate appearances. .323 was the worst wOBA of his career.

So. The Phillies were bad. They had five outfielders get at least 200 plate appearances in 2012 and three of them (Victorino, Pence, Pierre) are gone. Of the other two, one, Mayberry, was terrible last year offensively and the other, Brown, has been bad offensively for two years straight. Ruf is certainly a big unknown with upside in terms of what he can do offensively, but the other two guys, lefties Nix and Schierholtz, aren’t. Schierholtz’s career wOBA of .315 isn’t likely to lead the Phillies much of anywhere and I’m not sure you want to put that many eggs in Nix’s career .307 basket either.

This suggests Torii Hunter has reached a two-year, $26 million agreement with the Tigers.

Ken Rosenthal tweets the Phillies met with BJ Upton earlier this week. Upton visited Atlanta yesterday and can’t wait to see how this all pans out.


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