Archive for December, 2013

Hopefully there’s a third site out there somewhere that thinks they won it all last year

I’ll keep looking.

The last post looked at the Baseball-Reference calculated WAR for the top two Phillie pitchers in recent years relative to the accumulated WAR for all pitchers on the team. In this post I’ve done the same using WAR data calculated by FanGraphs and the results are even less impressive. Using the FanGraphs data, you have to go back more than twenty years to find a year in which 1) the percentage of the WAR generated by the top two Phillie pitchers relative to the total WAR generated by all the team’s pitchers was as high as it was in 2013 or 2) the combined WAR for all Phillie pitchers other than the top two was as low as it was in 2013. Both of those things last happened in 1992.

The data on the top two pitchers by WAR and the combined WAR for the others on that year’s staff are below. There’s a good chance it includes names you haven’t thought about in the context of leading the Phillie pitching staff in WAR for a long time, probably ever, including Cory Lidle, Kevin Millwood, Randy Wolf, Vicente Padilla, Robert Person, Curt Schilling, Carlton Loewer, Mark Portugal, Mark Leiter, Sid Fernandez, Danny Jackson, Heathcliff Slocumb, Tommy Greene and Terry Mulholland.

Year Top 2 fWAR P Total P fWAR fWAR top 2 Top 2 % other P
’13 Lee (5.1), Hamels (4.2) 10.5 9.3 89 1.2
’12 Lee (4.9), Hamels (4.5) 19.0 9.4 49 9.6
’11 Halladay (8.1), Lee (6.5) 26.2 14.6 56 11.6
’10 Halladay (6.1), Hamels (3.5) 16.2 9.6 59 6.6
’09 Hamels (3.6), Lee (2.3) 11.5 5.9 51 5.6
’08 Hamels (4.3), Moyer (2.5) 14.1 6.8 48 7.3
’07 Hamels (3.7), Moyer (1.8) 8.2 5.5 67 2.7
’06 Myers (3.3), Hamels (2.4) 12.1 5.7 47 6.4
’05 Lidle (3.3), Myers (3.1) 13.9 6.4 46 7.5
’04 Millwood (2.6), Wolf (1.5) 11.0 4.1 37 6.9
’03 Millwood (4.5), Padilla (2.5) 15.5 7.0 45 8.5
’02 Wolf (3.7), Padilla (3.3) 11.3 7.0 62 4.3
’01 Wolf (3.3), Person (1.6) 12.6 4.9 39 7.7
’00 Person (3.4), Wolf (2.9) 10.6 6.3 59 4.3
’99 Schilling (3.4), Loewer (1.6) 8.5 5.0 59 3.5
’98 Schilling (8.3), Portugal (1.5) 12.2 9.8 80 2.4
’97 Schilling (8.4), M Leiter (2.0) 13.3 10.4 78 2.9
’96 Schilling (4.7), S Fernandez (1.7) 14.3 6.4 45 7.9
’95 Schilling (2.8), Quantrill (2.2) 11.4 5.0 44 6.4
’94 D Jackson (3.9), Slocumb (1.6) 10.6 5.5 52 5.1
’93 Greene (5.0), Schilling (4.9) 20.4 9.9 49 10.5
’92 Schilling (4.3), Mulholland (4.0) 8.4 8.3 99 0.1

From 1993 to 2012, the pitchers on the Phillies other than the two pitchers with the best fWAR for the team that season averaged about 6.4 fWAR. The combined fWAR of the top two pitchers on the team average about 7.3, which was an average of about 54% of the total fWAR for pitchers on the team.

Just about the only good news on the table above for the ’13 Phillies is that, relative to their own results over the last 22 years, the production of their two best pitchers is still very good. The 9.3 mark for Lee and Hamels combined in 2013 is topped in just six of the 21 years previous to ’13 — each of the last three years, two years in the late 90′s when Schilling was fantastic and 1993 when Schilling and Tommy Greene were both good.

The Schilling-led staffs of ’97 and ’98 came close, both in terms of percentage of total WAR by the top two and combined WAR for everyone other than the top two, but they didn’t get to 2013 levels in either category. That last happened in 1992.

The ’92 Phillies were miserable, going 70-92 to finish sixth in the six-team NL East. They had a fantastic offense that scored 686 runs, which was second-best in the NL that year. The pitching was terrible, allowing 717 runs in a season in which the second-worst team at preventing runs in the league, the Astros, allowed 668. Schilling, Mulholland and Ben Rivera were just about the only positives on the staff for the Phils that season.

If it makes you feel any better, you may remember that the 1993 Phils turned things around. Led by Lenny Dykstra, Darren Daulton, John Kruk and Dave Hollins, they continued to pound the ball offensively, leading the NL with 5.41 runs scored per game in a year in which teams averaged 4.49. On the pitching side, Schilling and Mulholland again pitched well and got a lot of help from Danny Jackson, Larry Anderson and Tommy Greene. They were far from great at preventing runs, but did improve to eighth-best in the 14-team NL in ’93. The combination of great hitting and middle of the pack pitching proved to be enough to top the Braves in a six-game NLCS before dropping the World Series against the Blue Jays in six. The pitching didn’t exactly excel in the World Series that year as the Phils failed to hold a 14-9 lead going into the eighth inning in game four and a 6-5 lead going into the ninth inning of game six.

The Phillies signed outfielders Tony Gwynn Jr and Dave Sappelt to minor league contracts with invites to spring training. The 31-year-old Gwynn struggles with the bat and spent 2013 in the minors, but put up bWARs in the 2.2 to 2.9 range from 2009 to 2011 thanks in large part to solid defense in center field. In 2011, Gwynn played a lot more left than center for the Dodgers, but was very good defensively in left as well. Ben Revere‘s bWAR in 2013 was 0.8. Sappelt’s offensive numbers are also offensive, but again with good defensive numbers, primarily at the corner positions in limited time. Playing Tony Gwynn Jr in center is a much, much better idea than playing John Mayberry or Cesar Hernandez in center, especially if Gwynn can still produce defensively at the position. The problem with that is that the last time anyone gave him significant innings in center was 2012 and, at least according to UZR/150 as calculated by FanGraphs, his defense was way down. Whether Gwynn is part of the answer or not, Hernandez and Mayberry combined to start 68 games in center field for the Phillies in 2013, which is something the team might want to try not doing again for the rest of recorded time. Forty appearances for Frandsen at first should probably go on that list as well.

The Phils also signed catcher Lou Marson to a minor league deal and invited him to spring training. He’s 27 now and has hit .219 in 882 major league plate appearances. He hit 314/433/416 in 395 plate appearances for Double-A Reading in 2008 before being traded to Cleveland in the deal that brought Cliff Lee to Philadelphia for the first time.

They also designated Sebastian Valle for assignment in order to make room for Roberto Hernandez on the 40-man roster. Wasn’t expecting that one. Valle hit 203/245/359 in 379 plate appearances at Reading in 2013.


Deep impact

In 2013, the total WAR for Phillie pitchers as calculated by Baseball-Reference was 14.2. As I’ve pointed out before, the Phils had two elite pitchers in ’13 in Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee and that duo was backed by a slew of non-eliters. Hamels and Lee combined for 11.9 WAR, which is about 84% of the total WAR generated by Phillie pitchers. The 25 Phillie pitchers other than Hamels and Lee combined to generate 2.3 bWAR.

If you look back at recent years using the Baseball-Reference WAR data, these two things are true: 1) In 2013, the total WAR as that was generated by pitchers other than the top two was the worst it’s been since 2007 and 2) the percentage of the team’s total WAR for pitchers that was generated by the top two pitchers was the highest it has been since 2007.

Both of those things are bad. It’s nifty that Hamels and Lee are very good. They’re likely to continue being very good. But the Phillies are going to need a lot more from the other 25 guys pitching for the team before they’re going to be good again. Either that or improve their position players by a whole lot, but they’re more than a tweak away on that front as well.

Here’s a look at the two top pitchers for the Phillies by bWAR over the past seven years, the total WAR for the team’s pitchers that year, the combined WAR for the top two pitchers, the percentage of the team’s total WAR for pitchers the top two accounted for and the total WAR generated by all pitchers other than the top two.

Year Top 2 bWAR P Total P bWAR bWAR top 2 Top 2 % other P
’13 Lee (7.3), Hamels (4.6) 14.2 11.9 84 2.3
’12 Hamels (4.6), Lee (4.5) 13.0 9.1 70 3.9
’11 Halladay (8.9), Lee (8.6) 37.2 17.5 47 19.7
’10 Halladay (8.3), Hamels (5.4) 21.8 13.7 63 8.1
’09 Happ (4.2), Blanton (2.6) 11.8 8.8 75 3.0
’08 Hamels (4.3), Moyer (2.8) 13.2 7.1 54 6.1
’07 Hamels (4.1), Kendrick (2.2) 4.8 6.3 131 -1.5

In 2013, the WAR accumulated by the two best pitchers on the team was good relative to other recent years. It wasn’t 2011, but 2011 is never going to happen again. The Phillies aren’t likely to see their pitchers combine to throw to a WAR of 30 or better in any season in the next fifty years, much less 37.2.

It was everyone else who was terrible — as bad as the non-top two had been since 2007. In 2007, the Phils were the best hitting team in the NL by a wide margin, but everyone on the team other than Hamels and Kyle Kendrick combined to pitch to a WAR of -1.5. Adam Eaton made 30 starts with a 6.51 ERA and a 1.63 ratio. Antonio Alfonseca, Geoff Geary and Jose Mesa combined to make 158 appearances in relief in which they threw to a 5.02 ERA in 156 innings. The Phillies used 18 different pitchers who ended the season with an ERA over 5.00.

So it wasn’t good. 2013 wasn’t as bad as that for the Phils, but it wasn’t good and it wasn’t a move in the right direction. The Phillies are counting on Lee and Hamels to be good. The good news is that it’s going to happen. The bad news is it isn’t enough.

Finally, looking at 2008 numbers, I feel compelled to point out yet again that years from now there are going to be people who fondly remember the 2008 season and how Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay led a dominant Phillie pitching staff to World Series glory. That didn’t happen. Halladay and Lee weren’t on the team. Les Walrond was on the team. RJ Swindle was on the team. Halladay and Lee were not. The pitching wasn’t dominant. Hamels was very good, Moyer was good and the Brad Lidge-led bullpen was very good. Chase Utley was great. Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, Pat Burrell and Ryan Howard were all good. Howard hit 48 home runs and nearly won the MVP, finishing second behind Albert Pujols, despite having the sixth-best WAR for non-pitchers on his team. Utley had a bWAR of 9.0 and finished tied for 14th in the NL MVP voting. You can look it up.


And it’s all your fault. Yes, you. Next you’ll probably ask Howard to hit lefties, and who knows what might happen then.

In a recent post I pointed out that Darin Ruf walked in 11.3% of his plate appearances in 2013, which was the best rate of any Phillie by a lot. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about the guy who finished second in that category. Among the Phillies with at least 35 plate appearances in ’13, the second-best walk rate on the team belonged to Jimmy Rollins.

Remember this? Earlier this year, before the start of the 2013 season, I pointed out that after years of fans pleading with him to improve his walk rate, Jimmy Rollins had done exactly that. He walked in about 7.2% of his 6,512 plate appearances from 2000 to 2009 and in about 9.3% of his 1,724 plate appearances from 2010 to 2012. That trend continued in 2013 — here’s what the numbers look like now:

PA BB%
2000-2009 6512 7.2
2010-2013 2390 9.2

In each of the past four seasons, Rollins has walked at a rate that’s better than league average:

NL AVG BB%
2010 8.5 10.2
2011 8.1 9.2
2012 7.9 8.9
2013 7.7 8.9

The problem is he walked more from 2010 to 2013 and became a worse hitter. From ’00 to ’09 he hit 274/329/439 and from 2010 to 2013 he hit 254/323/389. More walks, but a lot less hits over the last four seasons and with less power. His isolated power from 2000 to 2009 was .165 and over the last four years it’s been .135. In 2013, it dropped to .097, which is the first time he’s had an isolated power under .100 in any season in which he got 100 plate appearances.

Rollins was best offensively from 2004 to 2008. Here’s some of what he did offensively in those years, from 2000 to 2009 and from 2010 to 2013:

Years PA Line H% 1B% 2B% 3B% HR% BB or HBP%
00 to 09 6512 274/329/439 25.0 15.9 5.4 1.5 2.2 7.7
04 to 08 3618 286/342/468 26.1 16.3 5.6 1.7 2.5 8.1
10 to 13 2390 254/323/389 22.8 15.6 4.5 0.5 2.2 9.4

His walks are up over the past four years, but his hits are way down. He hit .274 through the end of 2009 and has hit .254 since the start of 2010. His rate of hitting singles isn’t off that terribly, 15.9% of plate appearances from ’00 to ’09 and 15.6% over the last four years, but his extra-base hits have dropped dramatically. He delivered extra-base hits in about 9.1% of his plate appearances through 2009 and about 7.2% since. His home run rate has stayed about the same, but with a third of his ’00 to ’09 rate for triples over the past four seasons while his double rate has dropped from about 5.4% to 4.5%.

The Phillies traded Erik Kratz and left-handed pitcher Rob Rasmussen to the Blue Jays for 28-year-old right-handed pitcher Brad Lincoln. Lincoln was the fourth pick of the 2006 draft and has a 4.66 ERA and a 1.39 ratio over 97 major league appearances, 22 of which have been starts. The Phils acquired the 24-year-old Rasmussen from the Dodgers in the Michael Young deal in early September. I think it’s a good deal for the Phils. Lincoln has upside and has been better over the last two years, throwing to a 3.76 ERA with a 1.29 ratio while striking out 113 in 119 2/3 innings. He walked way too many hitters last year, holding opponents to a .233 average, but with a .366 on-base percentage as he walked 22 in 31 2/3 innings.

The Phils also signed 36-year-old right-handed catcher Wil Nieves and Nieves will presumably backup Ruiz. Nieves had the best offensive year of his career last season, hitting 297/320/369 with one home run in 206 plate appearances with the Padres. He’s had a negative bWAR for six straight seasons and it’s a little tough to get excited about the move. I think Kratz is better than Nieves even if Rasmussen turns out not to be a contributor for anyone. So let’s hope things work out with Lincoln.


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