Archive for February, 2013

Catching down

This post suggested there were four positions last year where the Phillies, who were 15th in the NL in walk rate 2012, had a much worse walk rate than they had had in 2007 (in ’07 they had the best walk rate in the league).

At first base and left field they were a whole lot worse. At third and catcher they were worse.

Two recent posts suggests that the declining walk rate for the team doesn’t have a lot to do with longtime Phillies Jimmy Rollins or Chase Utley. Those guys have actually seen their walk rates increase in recent years.

No so much with Carlos Ruiz.

Ruiz comes off the best year of his career. In 2012, Ruiz hit 325/394/540, posting career highs in batting average, doubles, home runs and RBI. Coming into the season he had slugged .393 for his career with an isolated power of .128. In 2012, his isolated power was .215.

What he didn’t do in 2012 was walk. Coming in 2012, Ruiz had walked in 11.7% of his 1,657 plate appearances since the start of 2008. In 2012, he walked 29 times in 421 plate appearances, which is about 6.9%.

Ruiz got about 62% of the plate appearances at catcher for the Phils in ’12. The guys other than him walked in about 6.4% of their plate appearances for the season and the Phils ended the year having walked in about 6.86% of their chances for the year.

Led by Ruiz’s high walk rate, the Phillies walked a lot at the position from ’09 through ’11. In ’12, Ruiz’s walk rate dropped and so did the advantage the Phillies had a the position.

Here’s the total walks by catcher for the Phillies over the last four years and the NL rank for that mark:

Year BB by C NL Rank
2012 45 13
2011 66 3
2010 76 2
2009 73 3

It’s hard to know what Ruiz might do this year after returning from his suspension. His walk rate was down in 2012, though, against both righties and lefties. Here are his numbers against both kinds of pitching for 2012 and for his career before 2012:

Ruiz 2012 Ruiz before 2012
BB rate vs right 6.0 10.7
BB rate vs left 9.2 12.5

If Ruiz walks in 6.0% of his chances against righties, there aren’t going to be enough lefties out there to save him. The good news is that his walk rate against righties has been a lot better than that in recent years — 9.6% in ’11 and over 12% in both 2010 and 2009 (12.2% in ’10 and 12.9% in ’09).

Let’s hope he bounces back, cause Ruiz looks like he’s just about the only hope for the Phils when it comes to drawing walks from the catcher position. Here’s a look at the other five guys who seem to have the best chance to see time at catcher — my guess is that Kratz and Quintero will see the vast majority of PA at the position that don’t go to Ruiz:

Majors Minors
Player PA BB% PA BB%
Quintero 1281 3.2 2984 4.1
Kratz 199 6.5 2892 8.1
Lerud 10 0.0 2583 9.1
Valle 0 - 2045 5.9
Joseph 0 - 1482 6.0

During 2012, NL catchers walked in about 8.9% of their plate appearances overall.

Michael Bourn looks like he’s headed to Cleveland on a four-year, $48 million deal.

Ryan Howard places third on this list of the 15 worst contracts in baseball with an honorable mention going to Papelbon.


Chase Utley, you are the walking man

In posts from last week I looked at the differences in the number of walks the Phillies drew in 2007, when they were the best team in the NL at drawing walks, and 2012, when their walk rate was 15th in the league.

In those posts I suggested there were four positions where the Phillies walked about the same number of times in 2007 as they had in 2012 — second base, right field, DH/pinch-hitter and pitcher.

At second base, Chase Utley’s walk rate of 11.9% in 2012 was higher than his walk rate of 8.2% in 2007. The problem was that Utley only got about 53.3% of the plate appearances at second in 2012. Galvis, Fontenot, Martinez and Orr combined to get the rest with Galvis getting about three times more than any of the other three. Galvis walked in just 2.8% of his 178 plate appearances as a second baseman for the Phils in 2012.

Like Jimmy Rollins, Utley has increased his walk rate in recent years.

Years PA BB%
2003-2008 3126 8.7
2009-2012 2014 11.6

The best year in recent history for the Phillies in terms of walks from their second basemen was 2009. Utley got about 94.1% of the PA for second basemen that year and walked in a career-high 12.8% of his chances. The team wound up at 12.4% at the position.

I can’t find a whole ton interesting about the walk rate of the pitchers or pinch-hitters/DHs. Phillies third baseman walked in a miserable 4.7% of their plate appearances in 2012, so it did seem worthwhile to check and make sure they walked more often than the pitchers. They did — the pitchers walked in 3.8% of their PA combined. In three of the last eight years, though, the pitchers for the Phils posted a walk rate near or above 4.7% for the season — they walked in 5.9% of their PA in 2006, 4.9% in 2008 and 4.6% in 2009.

That leaves us with the right fielders. In 2007 the right fielders for the Phillies walked in 9.0% of their plate appearances, which is just about the same as the 8.9% they walked in 2012. It’s been kind of a wild ride in between, though. Here are the walk rates for Phillies right fielders as a group over the last six seasons:

Year BB%
2012 8.9
2011 11.3
2010 11.4
2009 13.1
2008 9.4
2007 9.0

So, in 2012, the Phils RF wound up in about the same place they had been in 2007, but they had been up a lot higher than that in the years in-between.

In ’07, the Phillies got 743 PA in right. Of those, 482 (64.9%) went to Victorino and he walked in about 6.6% of them. Werth was the other major contributor — he walked in about 14.8% of his 223 plate appearances as a RF (about 30% of the team’s PA at the position).

Werth got the bulk of the PA from ’08 to ’10 as the walk rate at the position climbed. Werth walked in about 12.7% of his walks in those years combined.

In 2011, Ben Francisco, Domonic Brown and Hunter Pence all got around a third of the team’s PA in right field. All three walked a lot — Pence and Francisco each walked in about 11.1% of their chances and Brown walked in about 12.2% of his while playing right.

In 2012, Pence got about 64% of the Phillie plate appearances in right and walked in about 8.4% of them. Brown brought the number for the team up a little, getting about 22% of the PA in right and walking in about 11.3% of those chances.


Maybe we should try asking him to play both corner outfield positions

The most recent post suggested that there are two positions where the total number of walks the Phillies drew in 2012, when they were terrible at drawing walks overall, was better than it was in 2007, when the Phillies were very good at drawing walks. One was center field and the other was shortstop.

Shortstop for the Phils is all about Jimmy Rollins and has been for years. He got about 95% of the team’s plate appearances as a shortstop in 2012 and just over 99% in 2007. For years we had been pleading with Jimmy Rollins to improve his walk rate. Not sure everybody noticed, but he did.

Through the end of the 2009 season, J-Roll had one year in his career in which he walked in 8% or more of his plate appearances (9.3% in 2008). Over the last three years his lowest walk rate is 8.9%. Here are his career numbers through 2009 and for 2010-2012:

PA BB%
2000-2009 6512 7.2
2010-2012 1724 9.3

From 2003 to 2007, the Phillies were either first or second in the NL in walk rate in every season. Rollins was the everyday guy at shortstop, walking in the same 7.2% of his plate appearances as his career mark for walk rate going into 2010.

So even when the Phillies were an elite walking team, they didn’t draw a ton of walks at the position. They’re no longer an elite group of walkers, but they are getting more walks from short because Rollins has improved his rate.

Center field is the other position where the Phils drew more walks in 2012 than they did in 2007. Again, the issue there is that their walk rate in center was pretty low in 2007. Rowand was miserable at drawing walks in 2006, walking in just about 4.1% of his plate appearances in center. He got better in ’07, getting the vast majority of the PA at the position and walking in about 6.9% of his chances to help get the team’s rate up to 7.0%. Led by Victorino, the team has been in the 8% range over the past four years and were at 8.5% in 2012. Victorino walked in just 8.1% of his PA with the Phils in ’12, his worst mark since 2008, but the Phils got up to 8.5% at the position with some unexpected help from Mayberry. You probably don’t think of Mayberry as a walk machine, but he walked in about 9.7% of his 227 plate appearances as a center fielder in 2012.

Delmon Young is coming off of surgery on his right ankle. Amaro suggests that he might not be able to play in games competitively until the middle of March in this article. The same article suggests that Valdes and Stutes could both be near 100%.


Things just really haven’t been the same since we lost Tad Iguchi

In this post I pointed out that the Phillies were 15th in the NL in walk rate in 2012 and had been first in the league as recently as 2007. In ’07, Phillie hitters drew 641 walks, which is 187 more than the 454 they drew last year.

That’s far from the only reason that they’re no longer an elite offensive team. But it’s also far from being a non-factor.

So where did all those walks go?

Here’s a look at the number of walks by position for 2007 and 2012:

Year C 1B 2B 3B SS LF CF RF DH/PH P Total
2007 65 113 63 59 49 129 51 67 28 17 641
2012 45 57 54 32 64 44 59 61 24 14 454
Dif 20 56 9 27 -15 85 -8 6 4 3 187

There are two positions, shortstop and center field, where the Phillies drew more walks in 2012 than they did in 2007. At each of the other positions, they drew fewer walks in 2012 than they had in 2007.

In looking at those numbers, it’s important to be aware that there were fewer walks in 2012 than in 2007 across the league. In ’07, NL teams combined to walk 8,576 times in 2,594 games or about 3.31 times per game. In 2012, they walked 7,813 times in 2,592 games or 3.01 times per game. So, on average, the difference was about .3 walks per game, which would be about 49 walks over 162 games. That’s still a whole lot less than the difference of 187 between the ’12 and ’07 Phillies.

Here’s how the numbers look by position if you sort them low to high on ’12 walks as a percentage of ’07 walks:

Position ’07 ’12 ’07-’12 ’12 as % of ’07
LF 129 44 85 34.1
1B 113 57 56 50.4
3B 59 32 27 54.2
C 65 45 20 69.2
P 17 14 3 82.4
2B 63 54 9 85.7
DH/PH 28 24 4 85.7
RF 67 61 6 91.0
CF 51 59 -8 115.7
SS 49 64 -15 130.6

Finally, using the table directly above, I think you can divide the ten positions into four categories:

More BB in ’12 than ’07 SS, CF
About the same 2B, RF, DH/PH, P
Worse C, 3B
A lot worse 1B, LF

Remember — 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.


Let’s turn one! Maybe even none!

Brief aside. John Mayberry got 479 plate appearances in 2012 in which he hit into 17 double-plays. Seventeen double-plays was ninth-most among NL hitters in ’12, but virtually all of the eight players who hit into more than 17 double-plays in ’12 had a lot more plate appearances than Mayberry. Houston’s JD Martinez is the only NL player with more than 400 plate appearances to hit into double-plays in a higher percentage of plate appearances than Mayberry.

Here’s how the top of the list of players with the highest percentage of plate appearances in which they hit into double plays (for NL players with at least 400 plate appearances in ’12):

Player PA GDP % PA GDP PA per GDP
JD Martinez 439 18 4.10 24.4
John Mayberry 479 17 3.55 28.2
Chris Johnson 528 18 3.41 29.3
AJ Ellis 505 17 3.37 29.7
David Freese 567 19 3.35 29.8
Chipper Jones 448 15 3.35 29.9
Michael Morse 430 14 3.26 30.7
Ryan Zimmerman 641 20 3.12 32.1
Buster Posey 610 19 3.11 32.1
Ian Desmond 547 17 3.11 32.2

Overall in the NL in 2012, batters grounded into 1,840 double-plays in 98,063 plate appearances. That’s about 1.87% or one GDP per 53.3 PA. The Phillies overall grounded into 114 double-plays in 6,172 plate appearances, which is 1.85% of their PA and one about every 54.14. The Phils other than Mayberry registered GDP in just 1.7% of their PA or one every 58.7.

The good news for Mayberry and the rest of the Phillies is that none of them are likely to eclipse Wilson Valdez’s double-play pace from 2010, hopefully for a long time. In 2010, Valdez got 363 plate appearances and hit into 20 double-plays. That’s about 5.51% of his PA and once every 18.15 times to the plate.

This article looks at position battles for spring training and offers a projected lineup that looks like this:

  1. Rollins, SS
  2. Utley, 2B
  3. M Young, 3B
  4. R Howard, 1B
  5. D Young, RF
  6. TBD, LF
  7. Ruiz, C
  8. Revere, CF

Again, I still think Delmon Young won’t see much time in right and will play mostly in left when he plays. I think Revere will hit higher than eighth, especially against righties. I think Brown will be a regular guy at one of the corner positions — I’m hoping left, but think that right is more likely.

This article reviews the NRIs for the Phils.


Phillie plans to make up for their diminished power by having Mayberry ground into 17 double plays fall surprisingly short

In 2009, the Phillies walk rate of 9.3% was just eighth-best in the NL and the Phils still led the league in runs scored per game. By a lot. They scored 820 runs that year and only one other NL team scored more than 785 — the Rockies scored 804.

So if the Phils can lead the NL in runs scored despite being eighth in the league in walk rate, maybe we should all just calm down about the fact that their walk rate in 2012 was 15th in the league?

I’m thinking no. The ’09 Phillies offset their middle-of-the-pack walk rate by excelling in areas the ’12 Phillies and Phillies over the next couple of years are not likely to.

Also, eighth-best walk rate in the league or not, the ’09 Phillies walked a lot more than the ’12 Phils. The 2009 Phillies walked 589 times while the ’12 Phillies walked 454 times, which is a difference of 135 walks or about .83 per game — the difference in the 7.4% walk rate for 2012 and 9.3% for 2009 adds up to a lot walks.

The biggest difference, though, is that the ’09 Phillies delivered power that last year’s Phils and, almost surely, this year’s Phils, can’t match.

Here are some of the NL ranks for the offenses of the ’09 and ’12 Phils:

Year RS/G BB% 2B HR ISO
2009 1 8 1 1 1
2012 8 15 10 8 8

So the ’09 Phillies weren’t great at drawing walks. What they were great at is hitting doubles and home runs. In ’09, the Phils hit 224 home runs, which not only led the league, but led it by a whole lot. Colorado was second in the NL in home runs with 190. The NL average was 155. So the Phils hit 34 more home runs than the NL team that was second in the category and 69 more than the average for the league. The ’12 Phils were eighth in the NL in home runs with 158, which was six more than the league average of 152.

The ’09 Phillies hit 312 doubles. They led the league in that category as well with 24 more than the league average of 288. The ’12 Phils were tenth in doubles, hitting 271 in a year when the average for the league was 278.

In 2009, the Phillies had four players to hit 31 or more home runs. Howard, Werth, Ibanez and Utley combined to hit 146. In 2012, Rollins led the team with 23 and was the only player on the team to hit more than 17. Rollins and Victorino were both in the top ten in the NL in doubles in 2009. Rollins hit 43, which put him fourth in the league, and Victorino hit 39 (9th). In 2012, Rollins again led the Phillies in doubles, but with 33, which tied him for 23rd in the NL.

If you want to have an exceptional offense and you’re not going to be exceptional at drawing walks, you’re going to have to be exceptional elsewhere. The ’09 Phillies were. They delivered an unusually high number of doubles and homers. The ’12 Phillies did not. It’s also important to remember that they walked a whole lot more than the ’12 Phillies did as well.

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