Archive for January, 2013

Phils finally land their DH, which should allow them to focus full-time on bringing in a quality goalkeeper before the season starts

It will be here before you know it. You just don’t want to go into the season without someone you can trust in the net. I don’t mean to quibble, but they’re never going to get the Golden Snitch without a decent Seeker, either.

The Phillies have signed the right-handed, oufielder-like Delmon Young to a one-year deal worth $750,000. The first pick of the 2003 draft, Young has struggled over the past two years, hitting 267/299/403 while playing miserable defense in left field when he got the chance.

He didn’t get the chance a whole lot. In 2012, Young started 145 games — 116 at DH and 29 in the outfield.

All that said, I think this is a good move for the Phillies. As bad as he’s been over the past two seasons, the Phillies are super-thin in the outfield and Young comes off an impressive post-season in which he hit 313/365/542 over 52 plate appearances. He was named MVP of the ALCS, hitting 353/421/765 with a pair of home runs as the Tigers swept the Yankees. At the what-would-be-the-peak of a career that’s been plagued by poor performance and despicable mistakes that raise serious questions about his character, you have to believe he is desperate to get himself on track.

Word is that the Phillies want Young to start in right field, a suggestion that seems so bizarre it’s a little hard to believe. While it’s true the evidence Young can’t play right field isn’t as massive as the evidence he can’t play left, a lot of that has to do with the fact that he hasn’t gotten a chance in right in a long time. Young hasn’t played a single inning in right in the last five seasons. It’s a little tough to think the Phillies are going to slot him in there given how bad he’s looked in left in recent history.

The part I do like about that idea is that I do believe Brown would be better off in left than right. Still, I don’t think letting Young be the everyday guy in right is the way to do it and I will be surprised if that happens.

The possibility is real that the Phillies could have a defensive alignment on Opening Day that includes Brown and Young at the corner outfield positions, Michael Young at third and Howard at first. That would be four positions where you have to hope the other team never, ever hits the ball. Four is too many.

Let’s forget the defense for a second. Is Young a better hitter than his fellow right-handed outfielder John Mayberry? Mayberry turned 29 in December. Young turned 27 in September. For me, the answer is that I’d much rather give a ton of at-bats to Young than Mayberry, but I think the case can be made that Mayberry has been better overall over the last two seasons.

Here are some of their numbers against lefties over the last two years:

vs left

Young ’12 189 308/333/500 .357 .192
Young ’11 133 301/338/421 .331 .120
Young career 1,046 307/341/483 .352 .176
Mayberry ’12 180 271/317/494 .345 .223
Mayberry ’11 120 306/358/595 .405 .288
Mayberry career 344 284/328/547 .371 .263

First of all, Young has more than three times as many plate appearances against lefties as Mayberry does for his career. Mayberry was a lot better in 2011 and Young a little better in 2012. Mayberry has better career numbers against left-handed pitching, delivering much better power and walking at a slightly higher rate. Mayberry has walked in about 5.5% of his career plate appearances against lefties while Young has walked in about 4.7% of his.

Here are the numbers against righties:

vs right

Young ’12 419 247/279/370 .282 .123
Young ’11 340 256.288.382 .293 .126
Young career 2,378 275/307/401 .309 .126
Mayberry ’12 299 229/291/335 .278 .105
Mayberry ’11 176 250/330/455 .343 .205
Mayberry career 504 232/302/379 .301 .147

Again, Young has had way more chances against righties. Almost five times as many as Mayberry, who is, again, about two years older.

For the career numbers, it’s advantage Young. Mayberry still has more career power, but has hit just .232 against righties while Young has hit .275.

Looking at the last two years, Mayberry was a lot better against righties in 2011 and the two were about the same by wOBA in 2012 with a slight advantage to Young. Young’s best year against righties doesn’t make the table. In 2010, he hit 292/317/463 against righties with a wOBA of .339. Notably, Mayberry’s .343 in 2011 topped Young’s .339 mark for 2010.

Again, over the last two years, you can make the argument that Mayberry has been just as good or better offensively. There’s no question he’s a better corner outfielder, mostly because Young is hugely terrible.

Again again, I’d still rather give Young the at-bats.

Young is working to change his image.

His image is bad.

The Phillies now have nine outfielders on their roster. Lefty Jermaine Mitchell is expected to be in camp as an NRI. Revere, Young, Brown, Nix and Mayberry seem like good bets to start the year with the Phils, which makes it a little tough to see how they would carry Darrin Ruf unless he takes Mayberry or Brown’s spot or someone is traded.

The best of the rest

Game Score is an enormously flawed stat, but looking at the Start Log data for 2012 does help demonstrate part of what was wrong for the Phillies last year.

The average Game Score for a start by a Phillies pitcher in ’12 was 54.2, which is the lowest it has been since 2009. There were only two starters for the Phils in 2012 who posted an average Game Score for the year better than the team’s average of 54.2 — Hamels averaged 59.74 in his 31 starts and Lee averaged 58.93 in his 30. Halladay, notably, joined Worley, Blanton, Kendrick, Valdes, Cloyd and Rosenberg in the group of starters under the team’s 54.2 average.

In 2011, Halladay, Hamels and Lee all averaged Game Scores above 60.

The Phils had six games in 2012 in which their starter threw to a Game Score better than 80. Here are the teams six best starts for 2012 by Game Score:

April 5, Halladay 83. Phillies beat the Pirates 1-0 on Opening Day as Halladay allows two hits and no walks over eight shutout innings.

April 18, Lee 85. By Game Score, this is the second-best start of the year for the Phillies in 2012. Lee strikes out seven in ten shutout innings. Bastardo started the bottom of the eleventh in a scoreless tie and the Giants got an unearned run on two singles and a Wigginton error.

May 3, Blanton 87. Best start of the year for the Phillies by Game Score. Blanton throws a complete-game, three hit shutout and the Phils top the Braves 4-0. He threw just 88 pitches in the game.

August 7, Hamels 83. Best start of the year for Hamels as he throws a complete game, allowing five hits and no walks while striking out six. Howard hits a two-run homer in the top of the first as the Phils score three runs on their way to a 3-0 win over Atlanta.

August 10, Halladay 82. The only pitcher to make two starts with Game Scores over 80, Halladay allowed a run on two hits and no walks while striking out eight as the Phils topped the Cardinals 3-1, breaking a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the eighth on a two-run shot by Utley.

August 19, Kendrick 82. The third Game Score of 80 plus in a 12-day period for the Phils. Kendrick makes his best start of the year, allowing three hits and a walk over eight shutout innings while striking out seven. The Phillies score five runs charged to Randy Wolf in the first three innings and roll to an 8-0 win.

For the Phillies it was their first season since 2008 in which they didn’t get a start with a Game Score better than 90.

In 2011, Lee threw a complete-game shutout of the Nats on April 14, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out 12 and posting a Game Score of 92.

Halladay threw a perfect game on May 29, 2010 with a Game Score of 98.

There were two starts with a Game Score above 90 in 2009. On August 19, Lee struck out 11, walked none and allowed two singles in a complete game against the Snakes. The Phils won 8-1 and Lee’s Game Score was 92. On September 1, Hamels allowed two hits and a walk while striking out nine in a complete game shutout as the Phils topped the Giants 1-0. 91 Game Score in that start for Hamels.

This Q&A from the Phillies web site speculates that Michael Young could play some first base against lefties this year if Howard continues to struggle against them. Mayberry and Ruf seem like good candidates as well. Mayberry seems like the one of that trio who would not be terrible defensively at the position he was playing (left field, presumably) if he was in the lineup and not at first, which presumably makes it less likely he would be there than Ruf or Young if Howard was on the bench against a lefty.

This suggests that the Phillies and Bastardo have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $1.4 million deal.

Article on 22-year-old lefty Adam Morgan here. Morgan threw to a 3.35 ERA in 158 2/3 innings over 27 appearances, 26 of which were starts, between Clearwater and Reading in 2012.

This article discusses the possibility that Michael Young will hit between Utley and Howard in 2013.

This article suggests the Phillies are seriously considering signing Delmon Young.

Update: The Phillies signed Delmon Young to a one-year, $750,000 deal. I would have guessed he would get more money than that. At least on paper, that’s a really good deal for the Phils to land the MVP of last year’s ALCS. No word yet they plan to play on paper next year, though. So brace yourself for the possibility there might be a bump or two ahead.

This says Young could earn as much as $3.5 million if all incentives are reached.

Young earned $6.75 million in 2012.

Quality is a start

Continuing down the Start Log is more information on quality starts. Here’s some info on quality starts by Phillies pitchers over the past three seasons:

2012 2011 2010
% of starts QS 61.1 66.7 58.0
% of starts not QS 38.9 33.3 42.0
Record in QS 62-37 (.626) 83-25 (.769) 69-25 (.734)
Record in not QS 19-44 (.302) 19-35 (.352) 28-40 (.412)
ERA in QS 2.02 1.65 1.66
Ratio in QS 0.97 0.94 0.94
ERA in not QS 7.61 6.25 7.21
Ratio in not QS 1.74 1.59 1.67

So the percentage of starts the Phillies made that were quality starts in 2012 is down from 2011, but higher than it was in 2010. The quality starts they did get were worse than in either of the two previous years and the non-quality starts they got were also worse than they have been in either of the two previous years.

Most importantly, though, the team’s results in 2012 were a whole lot worse in games when they either got or didn’t get a quality start. Their winning percentage in quality starts in 2012 was .626. Their winning percentage in all games in 2011, whether they got a quality start or not, was .630. The .626 winning percentage in quality starts in 2012 was .143 lower than their winning percentage in quality starts in 2011 and .108 lower than their winning percentage in quality starts in 2010.

For non-quality starts, the winning percentage is down .050 from 2011 and .110 from 2010.

The drop in all of those winning percentages obviously has more than a little to do with the offense. The Phillies were eighth in the NL in runs scored in 2012, seventh in 2011 and second in 2010.

Jimmy Rollins appears to be the shortstop for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. Gillies, Aumont and Orr will play for Team Canada. The WBC starts on March 2. It has been held twice before, in 2006 and 2009, with Japan winning both times. USA’s best finish has been fourth (in 2009).

This article suggests that Cody Asche could be the team’s third baseman in 2014. It’s going to surprise me if the Phillies give him the everyday job in 2014. It’s going to surprise me a little if he gets more than a handful of at-bats for the Phillies in 2014, actually. Asche has two years in the minors so far. In one of them he hit .192 in 268 plate appearances in the New York-Penn League.

Article on 22-year-old right-handed pitcher Kyle Simon here. Simon joined the Phillies last year in the Thome deal. He had struggled in Baltimore’s minors in 2012, but threw to a 1.36 ERA with an 0.71 ratio in 39 2/3 innings between Clearwater and Reading after joining the Phils.

Fans hold out hope that 2012 Halladay and maybe all of 2012 turn out not to have been real, either

And our outfield, too. Don’t forget that.

Moving down the blue band in the middle of the Start Log for 2012, you’ll find the section on quality starts. The biggest surprise from 2012 in that area is that Halladay made 25 starts for the Phillies in 2012 and only 15, 60%, were quality starts.

Here’s the percentage of starts that Halladay, Hamels, Lee and everybody else have made over the past three

2012 2011 2010
Halladay 25 60.0 32 78.1 25 75.8
Hamels 31 74.2 31 77.4 21 63.6
Lee 30 70.0 32 78.1 - -
Everyone else 76 52.6 67 50.7 96 50.1

So all three of Halladay, Hamels and Lee delivered quality starts in a lower percentage of outings in 2012 than they did in 2011. But Hamels and Lee were down a little and Halladay was down a lot. Over the last three seasons, the trio of Halladay, Hamels and Lee have combined to make a quality start in 72.5% of their outings. From 2012 to 2011, the percentage for that group dropped from 77.9% to 68.6%, thanks mostly to Halladay’s drop.

Notably, over the past three years, the percentage of quality starts delivered by pitchers other than Halladay, Hamels and Lee has had a very slender range, between 50.0% and 52.6%. Since 2010, the only pitcher to make quality starts in 60% or more of his starts in any year is Oswalt. Oswalt made quality starts in 60.9% of his 23 starts in 2011 and 75% (9 of 12) in 2010.

One final thought on quality starts and Vance Worley. Whether it was due to his enormously high BABIP or not, Worley was worse in 2012 than he was in 2011. His walk and home run rates stayed about the same while his hit rate skyrocketed and his ERA went from 3.01 in 2011 to 4.20 in 2012. In 2012, the Phillies went 9-14 in the games that Worley started. In 2011, they were 16-5. But for the two years, the percentage of Worley’s starts that were quality starts stayed the about the same — 56.5% in 2012 and 57.1% in 2011.

The Phillies and 33-year-old righty Aaron Cook apparently have a deal and Cook will try to make the team as a NRI. Cook has been awful over the last three years, throwing to a 5.54 ERA in 318 2/3 innings with the Rockies and Red Sox. Prior to 2010, Cook had had four straight years in which he threw at least 150 innings with an ERA+ better than 110.

This article reminds that Ryan Vogelsong was with the Phillies in spring training in 2010. He made two official spring training appearances, allowing six runs in three innings. Didn’t make the team. Went to Triple-A and threw to a 4.91 ERA in 25 appearances and was released in July. Was picked up by the Giants in time to make 61 appearances between 2011 and 2012, 59 starts, in which he threw to a 3.05 ERA with a 1.24 ratio. In 2011 he was an All-Star and finished eleventh in NL Cy Young voting.

AbsoluteLee unexpected

The Phillies went 12-18 in Cliff Lee’s starts last year, which was odd given that Lee was in the top ten in the NL in ERA, ratio, strikeouts and WAR for pitchers. While Lee was off his outstanding 2011 pace, he was still very good and a lot had to go wrong for the Phillies in his starts for them to go 12-18. A lot did.

Here are some of the lowlights:

  • The Phillies scored 3.60 runs per game in the games started by Lee and 4.36 in the games he did not start. They scored a total of three runs in the first three games he started in 2012 and a total of three runs in the last three games he started in 2012 and the Phils went 0-6 in those games. 3.60 runs per game of offense in their starts is the worst mark for any starting pitcher who started more than one game for the team in ’12 (although Worley was close behind at 3.61 runs of offense per game he started).
  • The Phillies went 10-11 in the 21 games in which Lee delivered a quality start. In those 21 games he threw to a 1.86 ERA with an 0.97 ratio. The Phillies went 52-26 in quality starts that were made by any pitcher other than Lee.
  • The bullpen pitched to a 4.82 ERA with a 1.43 ratio in the 30 games that Lee started. In the 132 games that he didn’t start, the bullpen pitched to a 3.79 ERA with a 1.27 ratio.

So Lee was good, the offense was bad, the bullpen was bad and even when Lee pitched well the Phillies didn’t win. There’s got to be more than a little plain old bad luck in there as well. You wouldn’t expect your team to go 10-11 in the games where their starting pitcher throws to a 1.86 ERA and a ratio under one.

Seven of the 18 games the Phillies lost that Lee started were one-run games.

The Phillies were 4-12 in the first 16 games that Lee started. Over those 16 starts, the Phils managed to lose a game in which Lee threw 10 shutout innings, another in which he struck out 12 while allowing two runs over 7 2/3 innings and a third in which he allowed a run on two hits and a walk over eight frames.

That’s not to say Lee excelled at all times during those first 16 starts. That simply wasn’t the case. Most notably, from June 10 to June 29 (outings 10 to 13 on the year), Lee made four starts bad starts in a row, throwing to a 7.30 ERA in those outings and puffing his ERA on the year from 2.92 to 4.13. After June 29, Lee pitched to a 2.44 ERA over his last 17 starts and the Phils went 9-8 in those games.

Bastardo filed for arbitration yesterday.

The Nats appear to have agreed to a deal with right-handed reliever Rafael Soriano that will pay Soriano $28 million over the next two years. Soriano has been very good in two of the last three years.

This suggests that the Phillies may have interest in right-handed pitcher Brandon Webb. It doesn’t suggests that Webb has become an outfielder. Now 33, Webb had six good years with the Diamondbacks from 2003 to 2008, throwing to a 3.24 ERA over 198 appearances, 197 of which were starts. He has been slowed by shoulder problems since, throwing just 16 innings between the majors and minors since the start of 2009.

The Phillies signed Juan Cruz to a minor league deal. Love this move. I’ve always been a huge fan of Cruz. I forget why, cause his results haven’t been especially good and he walks too many hitters to be consistently successful. Cruz is a 34-year-old right-handed pitcher with a 4.05 ERA and a 1.41 career ratio in 655 innings over 13 years. He’s had several miserable years, including 2003, 2005 and 2009. Over the last three years, he’s made 104 appearances, all in relief, and thrown to a 3.41 ERA with a 1.51 ratio. In 89 2/3 innings, he’s walked 51. His walk rate for his career is 4.8 batters per nine innings. The years when he’s been good he still walked a ton of people, just didn’t allow many hits.

Log jog

I finalized the Start Log for 2012.

I think there’s some interesting stuff there that reminds a lot about what went wrong for the Phillies in 2012.

Looking at the blue band in the middle and starting at the top, we see the team’s record by starting pitcher. Some highlights:

  • The Phillies went 14-11 in Halladay’s starts in 2012. Coming into the season, in Halladay’s two years with the Phils the team was 46-19 in the games he started.
  • 21-10 in games started by Hamels, by far the best mark of any pitcher on the team. The Phils finished the year 81-81, so that means they were 60-71 when someone other than Hamels started. That’s a little remarkable given that two of the team’s other starters were Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay.
  • In 2011, the Phillies won 15 or more games in the starts made by four different pitchers (24-8 under Halladay, 18-13 Hamels, 22-10 Lee and 16-5 Worley). In 2012, the team only won 15 or more games in the starts made by Hamels.
  • The Phillies went 23-32 when Lee or Worley started. They were 38-15 in starts by that duo in 2011 (22-10 when Lee started and 16-5 when Worley started). In 2011, the Phillies had a better record in Worley’s 21 starts (16-5 for a .762 winning percentage) than they did in Halladay’s starts (24-8, .750).
  • Despite a nice year from Kendrick, the team was still just 11-14 in the games he started. The Phillies went 1-9 in the first ten games in which Kendrick appeared in 2012 — he started five of those games and appeared in relief in the other five. Over the last two season the Phils are 30-41 in games in which Kendrick appeared and 18-22 in the 40 games that he started.
  • 11-9 in the Blanton starts. The Blanton era ends in Philly with good results for the team. He made exactly 100 starts for the Phils between 2008 and 2012 with the Phillies going 58-42 in the games that he started. Since 2008, the Phillies have won about as many games that were started by Blanton (58) as they have games started by Halladay (60). Blanton has made 100 starts for the Phils over the last five seasons while Halladay has made 90. Hamels is the only pitcher who has started more games that the Phillies won over the past five season — they are 92-68 in games started by Hamels since the beginning of ’08.

The Phillies have signed 37-year-old right-handed pitcher Rodrigo Lopez to a minor league deal. Lopez made seven appearances with the Phillies in 2009, ending the year with a 5.70 ERA. He had a 3.09 ERA with a 1.37 ratio through his first four starts and took a 3.99 ERA into his final appearance of the season on August 9. Lopez allowed six runs in two-thirds of an inning in that game, which was also memorable because Shane Victorino was ejected for arguing balls and strikes while he was in center field with the other team batting. Lopez will try to make the team in spring training as an NRI.

This mailbag from the Phillies web site mentions Humberto Quintero and Zach Miner as top candidates to make the team to start the year among the non-roster invitees. I will be surprised if Miner makes the team to start the year and surprised if Qunitero does not. The same article suggests the possibility of bringing Delmon Young to the Phillies and mentions his “baggage” as one of the reasons that might be difficult. Another is he is a bad defensive outfielder and has had two bad years offensively in a row. The mailbag also guesses that Cloyd will start the year in Triple-A.

This article suggests that the Phillies could easily be in rebuilding mode by July. The Phils would have a real tough time rebuilding if they weren’t able to trade Howard, Utley and Halladay. I would guess they would have some difficulty trading Howard at this point unless they were willing to pay a whole lot of his salary.

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