Archive for February, 2013

Left way behind

Back to walks. To recap — the Phillies were great at walking as a team as recently as 2007, when they led the league in walk rate. In 2012 their walk rate was down to 15th in the league. If you look at the hitters position by position, the two biggest drops have been at first base and left field.

In 2012, Phillie hitters walked 187 times less than they had in 2007. Two positions, left field and first base, combined to walk 141 fewer times in 2012 than they had in 2007.

I posted about Ryan Howard and first base last week. Left field is the big one, though. In 2012, the Phillies walked 85 fewer times in 2012 than they had in 2007.

Here’s the walk rate for Phillies left fielders over the past eight years and the rank for that walk rate among NL teams:

Year BB% for LF NL Rank
2012 6.3 15
2011 6.8 13
2010 9.8 6
2009 8.6 9
2008 15.4 1
2007 17.4 2
2006 14.8 3
2005 13.9 2

So, again, Phillie left fielders used to be great at walking, in the top three in the league at drawing walks in the position from ’05 to ’08. They’re awful now, 15th in the league in walk rate for left fielders in 2012. In 2007, their left fielders were nearly three times as likely to draw a walk in a given plate appearance than they were in 2012 (okay, about 2.76 times as likely).

The answer to the question why Phillie left fielders walked 85 less times in 2012 than they had in 2007 has two parts. The first is that their left fielders used to be really great at drawing walks and the second is that their left fielders from ’12 were unusually bad at drawing walks.

They used to be great in this area because of Pat Burrell. Burrell left after 2008 and the walk rate for the team’s left fielders has gone pretty hard in the wrong direction since.

From 2000 to 2008, Pat Burrell got 5,388 plate appearances for the Phillies and walked in 14.6% of them. That seems important, so here it goes again — from 2000 to 2008, Pat Burrell got 5,388 plate appearances for the Phillies and walked in 14.6% of them. 5,388 plate appearances over nine years is an average of about 599 a season.

I’d show you the list of Phillies since the end of the 2008 who have gotten at least 150 plate appearances in a season and walked in at least 14.6% of them if I could. There is none. Nobody has done it. Ryan Howard seems like the primary candidate — he was over 14.6% in both ’06 and ’07, but his best mark since the end of 2008 is 11.7% in 2011. A 14.6% walk rate isn’t close to the best of Burrell’s career — he topped a 14.6% walk rate in five different years, ’05-’08 with the Phillies and 2011 when he was with the Giants. In 2007, Burrell walked in 114 of his 598 plate appearances for the year, which was a career high 19.1%.

For the record, here’s who has led the Phillies in walk rate in the years since Burrell left among players that got at least 150 plate appearances:

Year Player PA BB%
2012 Utley 362 11.9
2011 Brown 210 11.9
2010 Ruiz 433 12.7
2009 Werth 676 13.5

Matt Stairs got pretty close to topping 14.6% in 150 plate appearances, but didn’t quite get the PA. In 2009, Stairs walked in 23 of his 129 plate appearances, which is 17.9%.

This article from the Phillies web site suggests that Hamels could start on opening day with Halladay pitching game two of the season. Manuel seems to reinforce the notion that Rollins will hit leadoff in the same article.

More on that here. I’m going to be real surprised if Rollins isn’t hitting leadoff. I think the bigger question is where Ben Revere is going to hit. My guess is that the left-handed hitting Revere hits second against righties early in the season. Less sure where he’ll hit against lefties. Lower seems like a good guess.


The murky dozen

Here was the most recent guess about the pitchers who start the year with the team, which came in this post at the end of January:

Other candidates
1 Halladay (R) P Aumont (R)
2 Lee (L) T Cloyd (R)
3 Hamels (L) J De Fratus (R)
4 Kendrick (R) M Schwimer (R)
5 Lannan (L) M Stutes (R)
6 Papelbon (R) BJ Rosenberg (R)
7 Adams (R) E Martin (R)
8 Bastardo (L) J Pettibone (R)
9 JC Ramirez (R)
10 Z Miner (R)
11 J Cruz (R)
12 A Cook (R)
R Lopez (R)
J Friend (R)
K Simon (R)
J Horst (L)
R Valdes (L)
J Diekman (L)
J Savery (L)
M Robles (L)
C Jimenez (L)
A Morgan (L)

There have been some developments since then. The biggest is that Chad Durbin was signed and appears to be a lock to be a righty out of the pen. Juan Cruz and the Phillies have parted ways, presumably because Durbin appears to be a lock to be a righty out of the pen. JC Ramirez was DFA’ed and then sent to Triple-A. And the Phillies signed two lefties who are unlikely to see time with the big league club soon, David Newmann and Corey Young.

So I add Durbin to the list and removed Cruz. Ramirez will still be in camp as an NRI, although he seems like a long shot to start the year with the team, he’s still in the right-hand column of other candidates.

Other candidates
1 Halladay (R) P Aumont (R)
2 Lee (L) T Cloyd (R)
3 Hamels (L) J De Fratus (R)
4 Kendrick (R) M Schwimer (R)
5 Lannan (L) M Stutes (R)
6 Papelbon (R) BJ Rosenberg (R)
7 Adams (R) E Martin (R)
8 Bastardo (L) J Pettibone (R)
9 Durbin (R) JC Ramirez (R)
10 Z Miner (R)
11 A Cook (R)
12 R Lopez (R)
J Friend (R)
K Simon (R)
J Horst (L)
R Valdes (L)
J Diekman (L)
J Savery (L)
M Robles (L)
C Jimenez (L)
A Morgan (L)

So nine slots now filled. Five starters and four relievers. Of the relievers, they have a closer, a setup guy and one lefty.

Assuming 12 pitchers to start the year, they have three open spots.

Last time I guessed I had them with eight filled slots and gave the last four to Horst, Aumont, Valdes and De Fratus, which left the Phils with three lefties in the pen and no true long man.

One big question with the current staff is whether Chad Durbin can pitch more than one inning or if the Phillies will use him to do so. Durbin was very good in 2012, arguably the best he had been since ’08 with the Phils, but didn’t go more than an inning a whole lot of times. Durbin got more than three outs in three of his 76 appearances for Atlanta in ’12. He threw more than 25 pitches in a game in four of 76. In 2008, the Phillies had Durbin throw more than 25 pitches in 18 of 71 appearances. On May 18, 2008, Durbin threw 66 pitches in relief of Kendrick after Kendrick exited after just one inning.

But it’s not 2008 anymore. And I would guess we aren’t going to see Durbin go more than an inning very often. So I’d say they still don’t have a long guy out of the pen.

I really have trouble seeing the Phillies not carry Horst to start the year given his performance in 2012 (he threw to a 1.15 ERA with a 1.12 ratio and 40 strikeouts over 31 1/3 innings).

I think that gets them to ten and leaves them with two slots open. I see Aumont, De Fratus, Stutes and Valdes as the guys with the best chances to fill the remaining slots. Aumont seems to have the biggest upside of the group. De Fratus has been fantastic in the minors in recent years. Stutes will need to prove he’s healthy, but was a big contributor for the 2011 Phils. Valdes threw to a 2.90 ERA with an 0.74 ratio for the Phils in 2012.

Aumont’s upside potential makes me feel like there’s some separation between him and the rest of the candidates. So I’ll put him in the eleventh spot. I think the last spot is a total tossup. Valdes would give the Phillies three lefties, so I’ll go with De Fratus once again.

That gives us 12 pitchers: Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Lannan, Kendrick, Papelbon, Adams, Durbin, Bastardo, Horst, Aumont and De Fratus.

Ben Revere wants to get on base more.

This article talks about depth in the starting rotation beyond the top five starters. It’s not real good.

Former Phillie hitting coach Greg Gross comments on some past and current Phillie hitters in this article.


Young at hurt

Multiple articles at the end of last week raised doubts that Delmon Young would be able to start the year on the active roster for the Phillies.

This suggests he could miss much or all of April.

That puts a dent in my efforts to guess who the hitters are who will start the year with the Phillies. You can see the post about my most recent guess, from the end of January, here.

Here’s how I thought the guys on the team and other candidates looked at that point:

Other candidates
1 Kratz D Ruf
2 Howard H Quintero
3 Utley S Lerud
4 Rollins K Frandsen
5 M Young E Inciarte
6 Nix T Gillies
7 Revere L Collier
8 Brown J Mitchell
9 Mayberry C Hernandez
10 Galvis M Martinez
11 D Young P Orr
12 A Blanco
13 J Fields
J Mather
T Joseph
C Asche

I had guessed that Quintero and Frandsen would fill out the two remaining spots, assuming the Phils go into the year with 13 hitters.

Since then, in addition to the news that there’s a good chance Delmon Young will start the season on the DL, the Phillies have added Yuniesky Betancourt, who will be in camp as a non-roster invitee, and signed second baseman Matt Tolbert to a minor league deal.

Here’s how I think the locked up slots look now on the hitter side:

Other candidates
1 Kratz D Ruf
2 Howard F Galvis
3 Utley D Young
4 Rollins Y Betancourt
5 M Young H Quintero
6 Nix S Lerud
7 Revere K Frandsen
8 Brown E Inciarte
9 Mayberry T Gillies
10 L Collier
11 J Mitchell
12 C Hernandez
13 M Martinez
P Orr
A Blanco
J Fields
J Mather
T Joseph
C Asche

I moved Galvis and Delmon Young from the column on the left to the column on the right and added Betancourt to the list of candidates.

If those nine players are truly on the team and the Phils start the year with 13 hitters, that leaves them four open spots.

Of those four, one would have to be filled by a backup catcher and the other by someone who can backup short.

I still think Quintero beats out Lerud to be the backup catcher.

I’d also guess Galvis gets a roster spot to backup short, beating out competition for the job that would presumably include Betancourt, Blanco and Martinez.

I would still guess that one slot goes to Frandsen. Not sure the Phillies need him, but I’m guessing they were impressed with his .338 batting average from last year.

That leaves one slot. Of the 12 slots I’ve filled, four are filled with outfielders — Revere, Brown, Nix and Mayberry. If Delmon Young is healthy it seems clear to me that he’s the final guy. Based on what we read at the end of last week, it sounds like that’s not going to happen. I think that means that Ruf gets the final spot and starts the year with the team.

It seems like the key issue there is whether or not the Phillies truly believe that Mayberry can backup center field. As a Phillie fan, I don’t think you want to see Mayberry spend much more time playing center. I’d guess they will feel okay with that, though, and give the final spot to Ruf. If Revere gets hurt it’s going to be a big problem, but the Phils are, hopefully, going to need to solve it by acquiring or calling up another center fielder, not by giving Mayberry defensive innings there.

Anyway — four slots left based on my table above. My guesses are Galvis, Quintero, Frandsen and Ruf. That would give the Phillies 13 hitters — Kratz, Quintero, Howard, Utley, Rollins, Michael Young, Brown, Mayberry, Revere, Nix, Galvis, Frandsen and Ruf.

Michael Schwimer is still in the mix for the Phils, but I’m going be pretty surprised if we see him pitch a whole lot for the team in 2013.

This article reviews the backup catching options. Humberto Quintero is an elite defensive player — I think that’s why the Phillies acquired him and that’s why I think he’ll win the job. He’s a really bad hitter.

Freddy Galvis doesn’t care what people think of him.


The big please

Still on Ryan Howard and especially Ryan Howard against lefties. While we’re asking for stuff, I guess it would be nice if he could run the bases and was better defensively. But let’s stick with hitting lefties for now.

Howard has been so bad against lefties over the last five years that many have given up hope he’ll ever hit them again. It’s not the case, though, that Howard was never good against lefties. In four of the last five years he’s been terrible, but he had solid results against them in 2010 and was also good against lefties in 2006 and 2007.

So what would he need to do against left-handed pitching to get back on track in 2013?

Here are some of his marks against left-handed pitching for his career in all of the years in which he got at least 100 plate appearances against lefties, including his wOBA and percent of plate appearances in which he delivered singles, walks, doubles or triples and home runs:

Year wOBA vs L 1B% BB% 2B or 3B% HR%
2012 .261 8.5 4.7 1.9 5.7
2011 .283 13.0 6.5 5.9 1.6
2010 .359 14.4 7.9 3.7 5.6
2009 .290 10.9 9.9 5.6 2.4
2008 .319 11.3 8.7 3.4 5.3
2007 .352 9.3 13.0 3.3 6.5
2006 .386 14.7 9.8 2.7 7.1
Career .320 11.7 8.8 3.8 4.7

First the hits. Ryan Howard is a .227 career hitter against left-handed pitching. He’s had three years where he’s been good against lefties — ’06, ’07 and ’10. In 2010, he hit .264 against lefties with a BABIP of .320. 2006 was even more dramatic — he hit .279 against left-handed pitching with the help of a BABIP of .368.

2007 was the year in which he was good against lefties without the help of a monster BABIP. He hit just .225 against southpaws that year with a BABIP of .282. A quick look at the table above, though, will show that one of the things he did in 2007 against lefties that was unusual was draw walks at a very high rate. Howard walked in about 13% of his plate appearances against lefties in ’07, well above his 8.8% career average and almost three times his walk rate against lefties in 2012.

In 2006 and 2007 he was very solid against lefties, but he also hit 32 home runs against them in 471 plate appearances. That’s about 6.8% for those years combined, which is well above his career mark and seems highly unlikely to repeat given that he’s homered in about 3.6% of his plate appearances against lefties over the past four years.

Howard’s home run rate against lefties likely isn’t going back up there, but I don’t think that’s his biggest problem. His rate of doubles and triples was way down in 2012 as well, but I would not be at all surprised to see him return to his career rates of doubles and triples in 2013.

I think what we should be worried about is the singles and the walks. Howard got 106 plate appearances against lefties in 2012 and singled nine times, which is about 8.5% of his plate appearances. Coming into 2012, he had singled in about 13.7% of his chances against lefties over the past two seasons. He hit a rather pitiful .173 against lefties in 2012 — there’s close to no way he can draw enough walks or hit for enough power to be an effective hitter against lefties if he’s going to hit .173 against them.

There’s also the walks. Five walks in 106 plate appearances against lefties gives him a 4.7% walk rate against left-handed pitching. That’s a little better than half of his career walk rate of 8.8% against left-handed pitching. Like with the singles, he’s going to have an extraordinarily difficult time having success against left-handed pitching with a walk rate that low. Again, in 2012, his walk rate against lefties dropped for the third straight year.

Rich Dubee suggests that Mike Adams might not pitch as much in spring training games as other players on the team in this article.

Manuel hopes Utley and Howard will both play 140 games or more this season and Domonic Brown points out his still has an option remaining here.


Who’s not on first very often?

In this post I pointed out there was a difference of 187 total walks between 2007, when the Phillies had the best walk rate in the NL, and 2012, when they had the 15th-best walk rate. The first base and left field positions combined walked 141 fewer times in 2012 than they had in 2007.

At first base, the Phillies drew 56 fewer walks in 2012 than they had in 2007. In 2007, the 113 walks they drew at the position was second in the league. In 2012, the 57 walks they drew at the position was tenth.

Here’s how the plate appearances at first base broke down for the Phillies in 2012 and the walk rates of the players who got chances at the position:

Player % of PA BB%
Howard 42.5 8.7
Wigginton 30.8 9.6
Mayberry 11.7 5.1
Others (4) 15.0 7.9
Total PHI 100 8.4
NL AVG 1B - 9.3

Of the four groups, only one, Wigginton, posted a walk rate about the league average of 9.3% while playing first base for the Phillies last year. He had some other issues, though, like being not real good offensively or defensively. And high walk rate or not, he ended the year having hit .235 and on-based .314.

All of the four players in the “Other” category were under the league average of 9.3% with the exception of Thome. He walked in 3 of his 13 plate appearances while playing first base for the Phillies in 2013, which is about 23.1%.

The walk rates for Thome and Wigginton aren’t likely to help the 2013 Phillies much. As much as we might want to see Mayberry or Ruf get some chances at first against lefties, Ryan Howard is likely to be the guy there just about every day he’s able to play. And his walk rate is never going back to where it was in 2006 and 2007.

Howard finished fourth in the NL in walks in both 2006 and 2007. In those two years combined, he got 1,352 plate appearances and walked in 215 (about 15.9%) of them.

Howard’s walk rate in those years benefited from an enormous rate of intentional walks. In 2012, he had 25 total walks in 292 plate appearances. In 2006 he was intentionally walked 37 times and in 2007 he was intentionally walked 35 times.

His 8.6% walk rate in 2012 was the worst it has been for any year in his career in which he got at least 50 plate appearances.

In this post from January I pointed out that Howard has been pretty miserable against left-handed pitching in four of the last five years. His walk rate against lefties has also taken a plunge.

Over the last seven years, his walk rate against right-handed pitching has stayed high. Not so against lefties, where his walk rate has dropped three straight years and wound up at a miserable 4.7% in 2012:

Year BB% vs L BB% vs R
2012 4.7 10.8
2011 6.5 13.7
2010 7.9 10.4
2009 9.9 11.1
2008 8.7 13.3
2007 13.0 18.7
2006 9.8 18.0

2010 is the year of the last five in which Howard has been non-awful against left-handed pitching. His success that year had a lot more to do with the combination of good power and an average in the .260s against lefties than the walks he drew. In 2010, Howard hit 264/333/492 against lefties with 12 homers in 216 plate appearances. 2008 was probably second best — that year he delivered similar power against lefties and walked at a slightly lower rate, but hit just .224 again left-handed pitching. In five of the last six seasons, Howard has hit .225 or worse against lefties.

In 2010, his BABIP against left-handed pitching was .320. In 2011, Howard hit .224 against lefties despite a BABIP of .313 against them. In 2012 he was down to .173 against southpaws with a BABIP of .229. Granted, not being able to run at all probably hurt him some in 2012, but it’s tough to feel like things are going in the right direction for Howard, especially against lefties.

Ruiz feels bad about his suspension and wants to bring a championship back to Philadelphia.

Halladay suggests he doesn’t see himself pitching anywhere other than Philadelphia in the coming years in this article.


The third men

The walk rate for Phillie third baseman in 2012, when the Phils were 15th in the league in walk rate, was worse than it was in 2007, when Phillie hitters overall drew more walks than any other team in the league. The bigger problem, though, is that the team’s walk rate at the position is just terrible and has been for years.

For the last six seasons, here’s the percentage of plate appearances in which the Phillies third basemen have drawn walks, the average for the league at the position and the team’s rank in the NL for walks drawn by third basemen:

Year PHI 3B BB% NL AVG 3B BB% NL Rank BB @ 3B
2012 4.7 8.1 16
2011 7.8 7.5 7
2010 5.6 8.5 15
2009 5.6 9.1 16
2008 6.7 8.9 14
2007 8.7 9.0 10

So that’s bad. Four of the last five years the Phillies have been 14th or worse in 16-team NL in walk rate at third base. 2011 was the only year in the last six they’ve been non-terrible. Polanco led the way that season, walking in 8.0% of his plate appearances as a third baseman. That was the best walk rate of his career and well above his career-average of 5.5%.

In 2012, the Phillies walked in just 4.7% of their plate appearances at third, their worst mark of any of the last six miserable years (at least for walking at the position). They drew just 32 walks for the season, which was less than any other NL team.

Polanco got about 47% of the plate appearances at third for the Phillies in 2012 and walked in about 5.1% of them. Frandsen got about 30% of the chances and walked in about 3.9% of those. Wigginton, Fontenot, Martinez, Orr and Luna combined for the other plate appearances at the position and walked in about 5.2% of them.

Michael Young looks to be the guy for the Phils at third in 2013. In 2012, he walked in about 5.1% of his plate appearances, not much better than the 4.7% of PA the Phils walked in during 2012. There’s a good chance a 5.1% walk rate for the Phillies at the position would likely still have them 16th in the NL in total walks at third in 2013. The two teams that were within striking distance for the Phils in 2012 were the Rockies and Astros — both of those team saw their third basemen walk in about 5.3% of their plate appearances.

Finally, Michael Young’s career walk rate is about 6.6%. If he managed to walk in about 6.6% of his plate appearances during 2013 and got all of the Phillie chances at third, the team would likely be around 13th at the end of the year (at least based on 2012 results).

Juan Cruz is not yet in camp due to what Amaro suggests is a communication issue.

This suggests that Michael Stutes is feeling well.

Update: Juan Cruz and the Phillies have apparently decided to “part ways.”


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