defense

What else can Brown do for you?

Field, maybe? Walk every now and again?

First, to be clear: I think the Phillies should start Domonic Brown in left field. This year, next year and the year after that. The reason I think that is I think he’s going to get better than he was in 2013. I also think Darin Ruf doesn’t belong in left field and the Phillies make a mistake when they play him there.

Whether or not we think Brown is going to get better is important, though, because if we don’t, and if you just look at the numbers for Brown and Ruf from 2013, it doesn’t seem clear that Brown is the better choice in left.

In fact, while it’s very close, I think both of these things were true in 2013:

  1. In fewer plate appearances, Ruf was better offensively than Brown, despite the fact that the righty Ruf didn’t hit lefties at all and Brown finished fourth in the NL in home runs.
  2. Ruf was better defensively in left than Brown. They were both terrible, but Ruf was a little less terrible.

So if Ruf was better at offense and defense and they’re about the same age (Ruf is 27 and Brown turned 26 two months ago), it seems odd the whole world, including me, would think it would be ridiculous to start Ruf over Brown in left.

But just about the whole world does.

First the defense. Both were really bad defensive players in left field. Brown was really bad in a lot of innings and Ruf was slightly worse in a lot fewer innings. Here are their 2013 UZR/150 numbers in left from FanGraphs:

Inn UZR/150
Brown 1123 2/3 -13.6
Ruf 144 2/3 -12.6

Ruf also played 44 innings of left for the Phils in 2012, posting an UZR/150 of -13.1, very similar to his -12.6 in more innings last year. Brown played 141 2/3 innings in left in 2012 with an UZR/150 of -5.6. Brown hasn’t been as hide-your-eyes awful in left as he was in right field in 2010 and 2011, but in 2013 he played his first full season in left and the defensive results were really bad. There were 26 players across both leagues who played at least 500 innings in left in 2013 and Brown’s UZR/150 at the position was 23rd-best.

The point here isn’t that Ruf can play left field. It’s that just because Ruf is terrible defensively in left doesn’t mean that Brown isn’t also. Ruf needs to play first base for the Phillies when he plays. Whichever outfield position he plays, Brown needs to get a whole lot better defensively. And if he doesn’t, it’s going to be close to impossible for him to become an elite player.

Here are some of the offensive numbers:

wOBA % 1B % BB/HBP % 2B % 3B % HR % H/BB/HBP
Ruf .354 12.6 13.7 3.8 0.0 4.8 34.8
Brown .351 15.4 7.4 3.9 0.7 5.0 32.4

Ruf has the slightly better wOBA. A lot more singles for Brown and the pair delivered home runs and doubles at about the same rate, but Ruf was way more likely, almost twice as likely, to reach on walk or a hit-by-pitch. Brown winds up with slightly more power, but a worse on-base percentage despite a better hit rate (the percentage of plate appearances that were hits, walks or hit-by-pitches is the same as the player’s on-base percentages with the decimal points moved. Ruf on-based .348 and Brown .324).

Brown and Ruf both reached base via a walk or a hit-by-pitch 40 times in 2013. Ruf got his 40 walks plus hit-by-pitches in 293 plate appearances and Brown got his in 540.

Other thoughts:

  • There were three hitters on the Phillies with a wOBA better than .335 last year: Utley (.356), Ruf (.354) and Brown (.351). The Phillies don’t have a lot of good hitters and should do what they can to get the ones they do have on the field. Marlon Byrd .364, by the way.
  • Ruf was one of the best hitters on the team despite the fact that the righty was terrible against left-handed pitching, posting a 188/309/348 against them. He seems likely to be better against left-handed pitching going forward.
  • On the down side for Ruf, he finished the season in miserable, worrying fashion. After hitting 303/410/551 over his first 105 plate appearances, he hit just 216/314/407 over his last 188 chances. Those last 188 plate appearances are about 57% of his career plate appearances.
  • Ruf’s walk rate in 2013 of 11.3% was very high, 44th of the 316 players across both leagues that had at least 250 plate appearances. Per the bullet point directly above, Ruf was miserable over his last 188 plate appearances, but still walked in about 10.6% of his plate appearances with good power. The bad news is his BABIP in the 105 plate appearances in which he was good before the 188 when he was terrible — it was .400 for the first 105 and .280 for the last 188.
  • Ruf also got hit by a lot of pitches in 2013, which helped his on-base percentage. He was hit seven times in 293 plate appearances, which is about 2.4% or about 2.7 times the league average of 0.9%.

It seems to me the best approach for the Phillies is to play Byrd in right, Brown in left and platoon Ruf and Howard at first base. I don’t know what they’re going to do, but it’s probably not that. Pretty sure they will play Byrd in right and Brown in left, but first base seems like a your-guess-is-as-good-as-mine kinda situation, especially if your guess involves the guy earning $25 million (whether he hits or plays defense or not) or Kevin Frandsen. I’d play Ruf at first a lot, against both righties and lefties, until he stops being one of the best hitters on the team. That might not take that long, but I’d give it a try anyway.


Let the right one in right

If you believe what you read pretty much everywhere, if the Phillies start 2013 without outfield additions, we’re likely to regularly see a Phillie lineup early in the season that features Domonic Brown in right and Mayberry in left.

There’s not a lot of data about those players defensively in right and left. What there is, though, suggests the Phillies might want to do it the other way around, putting Mayberry in right and Brown in left.

This has more to do with Mayberry than Brown. Mayberry has played just 131 defensive innings in right field in his career, but his defensive numbers at the position are exceptional. I don’t think it’s likely that Mayberry proves to be an elite defensive player in right field. But I do think the Phillies should play him there instead of in left when they have the option for as long as it takes for his numbers to indicate otherwise. Right now they say he’s fantastic.

Here is the UZR/150 for Brown, Mayberry and Ruf in left field:

Player Year Innings in LF UZR/150
Brown 2012 141 2/3 -5.8
Mayberry 2012 330 5.4
Mayberry 2011 161 1/3 27.7
Mayberry 2009 96 1/3 -42.2
Mayberry Career 587 2/3 0.1
Ruf 2012 46 -4.9

Again, it’s a tiny amount of data, but the data that exists say that Mayberry was terrible in left in 2009 and has been good since. Brown and Ruf haven’t been very good, but most would guess that Brown’s defensive numbers are likely to improve from his ’12 marks while Ruf’s are likely to get worse.

Here are the numbers for the three in right field:

Player Year Innings in RF UZR/150
Brown 2012 308 -8.9
Brown 2011 451 -26.0
Brown 2010 112 -37.9
Brown Career 871 -21.7
Mayberry 2012 24 63.5
Mayberry 2011 66 1/3 18.6
Mayberry 2010 10 8.7
Mayberry 2009 30 2/3 84.0
Mayberry Career 131 44.6

Brown has been atrocious in right field — so horrid in 2010 and 2011 that it was a relief in 2012 when he was merely bad. Last year was the first in which he saw time in left and his numbers in left, while still not good, were a little better than his 2012 numbers in right.

The main point here, though, is that while Mayberry has played a very small number of innings in right, he has had fantastic defensive numbers in the time he’s been there. Again, there’s close to no chance that they would continue to be that good given significant time in right. Still, I’d put him there long enough for them to go down.

I also think moving Brown from right to left has the potential to take some pressure off of him, allowing him to focus on hitting. I’m guessing it doesn’t happen, though. I think the Phillies think Brown should be a right fielder and are going to play him there. That shift may have already happened — in 2012, the first eight starts that Brown made were in left. After those eight starts, he made 43 starts the rest of the way and 38 of them were in right.

This article suggests that Cole Hamels has had shoulder soreness this offseason and that Amaro does not view it as an issue.

The article linked above also mentions the upcoming World Baseball Classic and discusses players who could be potentially leaving camp because of it. It mentions Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and Jimmy Rollins as possibilities.

This article suggests that Amaro and Manuel are not satisfied with the outfield. It’s a little tough to imagine what your outfield goals would have to be for 2013 to be satisfied with the current outfield.

The article linked directly above also says that Halladay, Howard, Rollins and Kendrick are already working out in Florida and that Howard’s lower left leg is close to 100 percent.

Phillies Nation is sponsoring “Wiffadelphia,” a charity Whiffleball tournament to benefit Philabundance. The tournament will be held on March 9 in Medford, NJ. Event details here.


Bennie and the jets

The table below shows how Revere’s numbers compare to the numbers of fellow left-handed speedsters Juan Pierre and Michael Bourn in their age 23 and 24 seasons. Also included are the numbers for Pierre and Bourn for their next two years as well as what they did in 2011 and 2012 (Revere’s age 23 and 24 seasons).

Player and age Year PA AVG/OBP/SLG wOBA bWAR fWAR UZR/150 in OF
Revere 23 ’11 481 267/310/309 .278 (-.038) 0.7 2.0 14.4
Revere 24 ’12 553 294/333/342 .300 (-.015) 2.4 3.4 18.6
Pierre 23 ’01 683 327/378/415 .350 (+.023) 2.9 2.6 UKN
Pierre 24 ’02 640 287/332/343 .304 (-.022) 0.4 2.3 15.3
Pierre 25 ’03 747 305/361/373 .328 (+-0) 3.4 4.7 9.1
Pierre 26 ’04 748 326/374/407 .345 (+.015) 3.7 4.4 -4.9
Pierre 33 ’11 711 279/329/327 .296 (-.020) -0.8 -0.5 -10.7
Pierre 34 ’12 439 307/351/371 .320 (+.005) 1.9 1.7 -0.4
Bourn 23 ’06 11 - - - - -
Bourn 24 ’07 133 277/348/378 .320 (-.011) 0.9 1.2 22.9
Bourn 25 ’08 514 229/288/300 .267 (-.061) 0.7 0.2 4.0
Bourn 26 ’09 678 285/354/384 .330 (+.001) 4.7 4.9 9.9
Bourn 28 ’11 722 294/349/386 .325 (+.009) 3.0 4.1 -6.2
Bourn 29 ’12 703 274/348/391 .326 (+.011) 6.0 6.4 22.5

For wOBA, it’s important to remember that the average wOBA changes from year to year. So, for example, the 2011 wOBA line for Revere means that his actual wOBA for 2011 was .278 and that .278 was .038 lower than the average wOBA for the year of .316.

You can see the constants that FanGraphs uses for calculating wOBA here.

Bourn barely played at all when he was 23 or 24. Pierre was better offensively than Revere in his 23 and 24-year-old seasons, but not as good defensively, at least by UZR/150 in all outfield positions combined.

If you total up the WAR for Revere and Pierre for their age 23 and 24 seasons, Revere is at 3.1 bWAR and Pierre 3.3. By fWAR, Revere tops Pierre 5.4 to 4.9. Important to remember is that Pierre got a lot more chances to play and accumulate WAR in his age 23 and 24 seasons, getting 289 more plate appearances in the two years combined and playing 468 1/3 more innings in the outfield.

Bourn, notably, got just 144 plate appearances through his age 24 seasons and then was terrible in his age 25 season before putting up a big year with the Astros at age 26 (285/354/384 with 61 stolen bases).

Revere has displayed no power to date, even relative to the light-hitting Pierre and Bourn, and almost surely never will.

His isolated power in 2011 was .042. That was 175 of 175 players across both leagues with 450 or more plate appearances. Pierre was 174th on that list at .049.

In 2012, Revere was at .049. That was 114th of 114 players across both leagues with 550 or more plate appearances. Nobody else with 550 or more PA came close to showing that little power last year. Yunel Escobar was 113th of 114 and his isolated power was .091.

If you remove the 2006 season for Bourn in which he got 11 plate appearances, there are 13 seasons between Pierre, Bourn and Revere on the table above. Revere’s best mark for isolated power over the last two seasons is .049. There’s only one season in which either Pierre or Bourn has an isolated power worse than .049 — Pierre put up an .049 in 2011 on his way to a miserable, negative WAR season.

Bourn’s isolated power in 2012 was .117, which is the highest mark for any of the 13 seasons. Between both leagues, there were 148 players who got at least 500 plate appearances in 2012. Bourn’s isolated power of .117 was 122nd best of the 148.

The Phillies traded relievers Josh Lindblom and Lisalverto Bonilla to Texas for Michael Young. The linked article also suggests that the Rangers will pay about $10 million of Young’s 2012 salary, leaving $6 million for the Phillies to pay. It also suggests the Phillies paid Young $1.2 million to waive his no-trade clause and will give him a new no-trade clause.

Young was terrible in 2012. If he’s that bad again in 2013, that’s not going to work out for the Phillies. I like the deal, though, cause he still has upside and willing be playing for his next contract. Linblom’s numbers out of Dodger Stadium were never real impressive.

This article says that after the trade of Worley, the Phillies are looking for a low-risk, high-reward type guy to help fill out the rotation and mentions John Lannan, Dallas Braden, Carlos Zambrano and Roy Oswalt.


They coulda been a contender . . . oh wait, they were a contender

Not long ago, the Phillies were pretty good defensively in the outfield compared to the rest of baseball. Not so much anymore. Here’s the UZR/150 for all Phillie outfielders combined for the last six seasons as calculated by FanGraphs and how it compares to teams across both leagues:

Year UZR/150 all PHI OF Rank MLB
2007 4.1 8
2008 8.0 7
2009 0.7 13
2010 -5.5 25
2011 -8.4 28
2012 -4.8 25

So, from 2007 through 2009, the Phillies were in the top half of teams defensively in the outfield across both leagues by UZR/150. Over the last three years they have been no better than 25th.

There’s only 30 teams out there, so being 25th or worse for three straight years counts as a problem. It’s arguable that the Phillies have had the worst outfield defense in baseball over the past three seasons. It’s kind of a pick ‘em between the Phils, Orioles and Mets.

Notably, ugly outfield defense or not, the Phillies went 199-125 in 2010 and 2011 combined. I think it’s safe to say they were good at other things.

Using Baseball-Reference’s dWAR, only twice in the past three seasons have the Phillies had a player who both played at least 100 outfield innings for the team in a season and posted a dWAR greater than zero for the year. Victorino did it both times, putting up a 0.5 in 1,150 innings in 2011 after putting up a 0.4 in 1,265 innings in 2010.

In 2007, Victorino (16.6 UZR/150 in the outfield, mostly right), Bourn (22.9 in about 300 innings, about 200 of which were in left) and Werth (30.5 in 446 innings in right, 127 2/3 innings in left and two in center) were all outstanding defensively. Rowand played more than 94% of the defensive innings in center field and posted UZR/150 in the outfield of 4.5. Burrell played just over 70% of the innings in left, dragging down the numbers for the team overall with his UZR/150 in the outfield of -29.6. Despite that they were still eighth-best in the category among all MLB teams.

In 2008, Victorino moved over from right, where he had been very good defensively, to center. He was very good there as well, playing about 82.5% of the innings in center with an UZR/150 in the outfield for the year of 5.8 — a little better than Rowand’s 4.5 from 2007. Werth and Jenkins combined to get about 90% of the innings in right in 2008 and were good defensively. Werth was great with an outfield UZR/150 mark of 28.5. Jenkins was very good, too, playing to an UZR/150 of 15.2 in 642 outfield innings. Burrell continued to be the guy in left, playing about 83% of the innings there. He was still bad defensively, -12.3 in the outfield for the year, but that was still a big improvement over his 2007 mark of -29.6. Overall, by UZR/150, the Phillies popped up to seventh-best across both leagues, their best mark for the six seasons presented in the table above.

In 2009, their UZR/150 dropped from 8.0 in the previous year to 0.7. Jenkins was gone and so was Burrell. The Phillies went Ibanez, Victorino and Werth from left to right on most days. Ibanez was a big improvement over Burrell in left, at least as calculated by UZR/150. He played about 77% of the innings in left and posted an UZR/150 for the year of 4.9 in the outfield, which was a huge improvement over the big negative numbers Burrell had put up in the two previous seasons. Victorino manned center and his numbers were way down as he oddly posted a UZR/150 for the year in the outfield of -5.6, which was, by far, the worst mark of his career. UZR/150 suggests that Werth didn’t have nearly the impact defensively he had in the two previous seasons, but he still put up a solid 4.4 for the year in the outfield. Overall, thanks to the replacement of Burrell with Ibanez, the Phillies had a huge change to improve on their overall numbers from 2008. Didn’t work out that way as both Victorino and Werth played a lot of innings and each found themselves off their pace from the previous year.

Things got worse in 2010 as the Phils dropped from thirteenth all the way to twenty-fifth. They still primarily went Ibanez, Victorino, Werth left to right. Victorino improved on his 2009 number, up to 2.8 for the year in his 1,265 1/3 outfield innings. But Werth and Ibanez were both worse. After five straight years of at least 575 outfield innings with an UZR/150 in the outfield of 4.4 or better, Werth’s UZR/150 in the outfield plunged to -7.8 over 1,342 innings. Ibanez, who had posted a 4.9 in 2009, saw his mark drop to -7.2. For the year, Victorino improved on his ’09 numbers, but Ibanez and Werth both saw theirs take a huge dive. The Phillies wound up near the bottom of the league in UZR/150 for their outfielders as a result.

2011 was a nightmare defensively for the Phillies in the outfield, the worst year of the six as their UZR/150 for all outfielders dropped to 28th in the league. Only the Mets and Orioles were worse — notably, the Mets were worse in large part because Angel Pagan was their center fielder and he was awful, posting a UZR/150 for the year in the outfield of -16.1. Ibanez was still the primary guy for the Phils in left and Victorino in center. Victorino was still good, putting up a 5.7 UZR/150 for the season. Ibanez went from real bad, -7.2, to terrible, posting a Burrell-like -21.8. Right field was shared by three guys in Pence, Brown and Francisco, all of who ended the year having played about 30% of the innings for the Phillies defensively in right. Pence played about 32.7%, Brown 30.5% and Francisco 30.1%. Pence was very good defensively for the Phils when he played, putting up an 8.6 for the year with the team. Brown and Francisco were both terrible — Brown’s mark for the year was -26.0 and Francisco’s was -16.1. For the season, Ibanez was terrible in left, Victorino solid in center and Pence, Brown and Francisco split right almost equally, with Brown and Francisco being atrocious while Pence was very good. Put it all together and the Phils were the 28th-best team in the league for UZR/150 in the outfield.

Things were still atrocious in 2012, if slightly improved from the two previous seasons. Pierre was the primary guy in left, getting about 55% of the innings. He was backed up by Mayberry, who got about 23% of the innings at the position. Pierre put up a better-than-expected mark of -0.4 and Mayberry was solid when playing left with a 5.4. Victorino was the primary guy in center until he was traded. He wound up playing about 60% of the team’s innings in center field for the season and posting an UZR/150 of 0.9. Mayberry took over the gig after Victorino was traded and was terrible, posting a -20.7 UZR/150 in center in 474 1/3 innings. Pence played most of the innings in right field for the Phils in 2012, about 62%, and was awful in right when he did play, posting an UZR/150 with the Phils of -13.5, well off his 2011 mark. Domonic Brown was the other guy to see a lot of time in right, playing about 21% of the defensive innings at the position. He was significantly better than he was in 2012, but still not good, putting up a UZR/150 of -7.9 for the year.

Looking to 2013, there are still big questions to be answered about the makeup of the Phillie outfield. The Phils appear to have five guys in-house in the mix in Brown, Mayberry, Schierholtz, Nix and Ruf. If you had to pick one of them, most fans would guess that Brown is the player of that group who is likely to play the most defensive outfield innings for the Phils in 2013. And we know he’s been a really bad defensive player so far in his career. I think we also know that Mayberry can put up some ugly defensive numbers in center field — he seems sure to do so if the Phillies give him that opportunity. Schierholtz and Nix have both been pretty good defensively over their careers in the outfield, although neither of them seem likely to see much time in center and it’s a little hard to believe the Phillies think they need to carry both left-handed backup outfielders going in 2013. Ruf is the other guy in that group — if he proves to be a good defensive outfielder in the majors it’s going to surprise a lot of people.

The Phillies finalized a one-year, $850,000 deal with Kevin Frandsen.

Many Marlins appear to be on the move to Toronto, including Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle.

This suggests that Amaro kind of wishes that Ruf would have had more of an opportunity to play at the end of the year, but that Amaro understands Manuel playing Juan Pierre instead. Not sure I completely believe all of that.

At least now the Phillies have a good idea what Juan Pierre brings to the table.

It will be pretty interesting to see if Ruf can play left field — I think he’s going to get some chances to do so with the Phillies in 2013. I’m guessing he can’t in a think Pat Burrell kind of way. So let’s hope for 51 more home runs.


And not just that, some of those guys haven’t even ever been on Hawaii Five-0

More today on eight of the potential center fielders whose names will be thrown about this off-season as the Phillies try to finalize their outfield. The table below shows their Baseball-Reference calculated oWAR per 600 plate appearances over the past three years and over their career as well as their FanGraphs calculated UZR/150 at center for their career and for any of the last three seasons in which they played at least 500 innings in center:

2010-2012 Career Career 2012 2011 2010
oWAR per 600 PA oWAR per 600 PA UZR/150 CF UZR/150 CF UZR/150 CF UZR/150 CF
Hamilton 5.19 4.51 -9.6 -26.3 <500 <500
Hunter 3.70 2.84 -0.5 <500 <500 -6.4
Upton 3.09 2.81 3.9 -3.2 1.6 1.9
Pagan 2.99 2.65 -0.8 -0.1 -16.1 13.3
Victorino 2.15 2.57 3.1 -2.4 5.7 2.8
Bourn 2.51 2.01 10.7 22.5 -6.2 20.6
Cabrera 3.22 1.97 -7.3 <500 -9.7 -25.2
Mayberry 1.75 1.56 -15.9 <500 <500 <500

Hamilton, Hunter, Cabrera and Mayberry really shouldn’t be getting too many defensive innings in center field.

Hunter has only played 8 2/3 innings in center field since the end of 2010. From 2006 to 2010, he played at least 800 innings in center field for five straight seasons, posting a negative UZR/150 at the position in each of the five seasons.

Hamilton sure can hit, but he’s posted a negative dWAR in four of the last five seasons. His career UZR/150 in left of 8.5 is a whole lot better than his career UZR/150 of -9.6 in center. Last year he put up a -26.3 in 687 innings in center for the Rangers.

Mayberry’s UZR/150 in center last year was -20.7.

Cabrera didn’t play an inning in center field in 2012, making 106 appearances in left for the Giants and 11 in right. He was bad defensively for the Royals in 1,265 2/3 innings in center in 2011 and terrible for the Braves in 385 innings in 2010.

Cabrera’s offensive production over the last three years is a lot better than it has been for his career. 3.22 oWAR per 600 plate appearances for the last three years, 1.97 for his career and 0.98 for his career before the start of the 2010 season. For 2005 to 2009, Cabrera got 2,148 plate appearances in which he combined for a total oWAR of 3.5 ((3.5/2148)*600=0.98).

Hamilton and Hunter could obviously help the Phillies at a corner outfield position, which is a place where the Phillies could use some help. I think that’s really, really unlikely given the combination of how much they are going to cost and the presence of Brown, Ruf, Schierholtz, Mayberry and Nix.

Bourn is the best defensive center fielder of this group by a wide margin. Upton and Victorino are way behind him. Pagan may have the strangest UZR/150 numbers of the group — he was great for the Mets in center in 2010, terrible for the Mets in center in 2011 and then put up a -0.1 for the Giants in 2012.

Compared to the previous post, Upton looks like a much better offensive player than Michael Bourn. The previous post looked at the numbers for four years, 2009 through 2012, while the first oWAR column in the table above reports on three years, 2010 through 2012. In 2009, Bourn hit 285/354/384 in his best offensive season in the last four years while Upton had his worst offensive season of the last four years, posting a 241/313/373 line.

Bourn’s career .201 oWAR per 600 plate appearances is a little frightening. He was just miserable offensively from 2006 to 2008, hitting 237/299/313 over 658 plate appearances for the Phils and Astros. Since the end of 2008, his oWAR per 600 plate appearances has been 2.66 over 2,708 plate appearances.

Here are the Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs calculations of total WAR for the last three years for each of the eight players:

bWAR ’12 bWAR ’11 bWAR ’10 bWAR ’10-’12 fWAR ’12 fWAR ’11 fWAR ’10 fWAR ’10-12
Hamilton 3.4 3.5 8.4 15.3 4.4 4.1 8.4 16.9
Hunter 5.5 3.4 2.7 11.6 5.3 2.6 3.7 11.6
Upton 2.6 2.8 1.0 6.4 3.3 4.1 4.1 11.5
Pagan 4.0 1.0 5.1 10.1 4.8 0.9 5.4 11.1
Victorino 2.4 5.2 2.8 10.4 3.3 5.9 3.8 13.0
Bourn 6.0 3.0 5.3 14.3 6.4 4.1 4.7 15.2
Cabrera 4.7 4.1 -0.5 8.3 4.6 4.2 -1.1 7.7
Mayberry 0.5 1.6 0.2 2.3 0.4 2.5 0.2 3.1

So here’s how the list of cumulative WAR over the past three seasons for those eight players goes using Baseball-Reference’s calculation:

  1. Hamilton, 15.3
  2. Bourn, 14.3
  3. Hunter, 11.6
  4. Victorino, 10.4
  5. Pagan, 10.1
  6. Cabrera, 8.3
  7. Upton, 6.4
  8. Mayberry, 2.3

And here’s the list using the FanGraphs calculation of WAR:

  1. Hamilton, 16.9
  2. Bourn, 15.2
  3. Victorino, 13.2
  4. Hunter, 11.6
  5. Upton, 11.5
  6. Pagan, 11.1
  7. Cabrera, 7.7
  8. Mayberry, 3.1

Those lists have some things in common:

  • Using both the Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs calculation, Hamilton is first, Bourn is second and Mayberry is eighth of the eight players in combined WAR for 2010-2012. Mayberry obviously played a lot less than the other seven guys, giving him less chances to accumulate WAR, but I think it’s also relevant that top table shows him at the bottom on oWAR per 600 plate appearances for the last three years and for his career and with the worst UZR/150 at center for the group
  • Both have Hunter and Victorino third and fourth, with Baseball-Reference showing Hunter ahead of Victorino and vice-versa for FanGraphs
  • Both lists think Victorino had a monster 2011 — his ’11 season is third-best on the FanGraphs list and fourth-best on the Baseball-Reference list
  • Both have Pagan, Cabrera and Upton in slots 5-7 with the players ordered differently. Pagan, Cabrera, Upton for Baseball-Reference and Upton, Pagan, Cabrera for FanGraphs
  • Both agree that the best of the seasons in the last three years was Hamilton’s 2010 and both agree the worst was Cabrera’s 2010

The bottom line for me is that four of those eight guys, Hamilton, Hunter, Cabrera and Mayberry, need to be disqualified from any search for a center field because they aren’t or shouldn’t be center fielders. That leaves four — Bourn, Upton, Pagan and Victorino. Of those four, WAR calculated by Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs suggests that, over the last three years, Bourn has been the best overall player and Victorino has been second-best. The sites disagree about Upton and Pagan — FanGraphs has Upton slightly ahead of Pagan in WAR for the three-year period while Baseball-Reference has Pagan with a big advantage over Upton over the last three seasons.

Biggest thing that came out of the post for me is that Shane Victorino might have been a little better than we thought. Sure, it was a little tough to appreciate his greatness while he was hitting 229/296/333 against righties last year, but maybe it was there.


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There are several different ways to calculate WAR, but no matter which language you choose, the non-pitchers for the Phillies were cause for concern in 2012.

The table below shows the WAR by position for the Phillies over the past five seasons as calculated by FanGraphs. Next to each WAR is the NL Rank for the team that year at the position.

Please note: WAR as calculated by FanGraphs differs, often dramatically, from WAR as calculated by Baseball-Reference. The WAR values in the table below are from FanGraphs, but the WAR values discussed below the table come primarily from Baseball-Reference. Links to recent interesting articles on the differences between WAR as calculated by the two sites are at the bottom of the post.

Position ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
C 7.1 (2) 2.6 (9) 5.3 (3) 3.3 (3) 2.2 (10)
SS 4.9 (2) 3.9 (4) 2.3 (10) 3.2 (6) 5.7 (4)
2B 3.7 (4) 3.4 (3) 6.7 (2) 7.5 (1) 8.2 (1)
CF 2.7 (10) 8.4 (2) 3.9 (12) 4.3 (8) 4.4 (7)
LF 2.8 (11) 1.2 (15) 2.4 (10) 4.6 (5) 2.8 (10)
3B 2.4 (11) 2.5 (10) 3.3 (7) 1.5 (11) 2.6 (11)
RF 1.2 (15) 2.2 (14) 6.2 (3) 5.9 (1) 5.7 (4)
1B -0.8 (16) 1.1 (13) 2.0 (10) 4.7 (5) 3.0 (7)

So there were three of the eight positions at which the Phillies were better than tenth in the 16-team National League.

Four seasons ago, in 2009, the Phillies were in the top half of the league at every position other than third base.

First the good:

At catcher, the Buster Posey-led Giants are the only team to put up a better overall WAR than the Phillies in 2012. The Phillies have been in the top three at the position in three of the last four years. In 2011, Ruiz recorded his worst dWAR of the five seasons (as calculated by Baseball-Reference) at 0.8. It was also his worst offensive season of the past three as he slugged just .383. In 2008, Ruiz was terrible offensively, hitting .219 in his 373 plate appearances as the Phils were tenth in the league at WAR at the position.

The Phils were also second in the league at FanGraphs-calculated WAR at short in 2012, topped only by the Nationals. There’s really only been one bad year for the team at the position over the last five seasons. In 2010, Rollins got less than 400 plate appearances for the only time in the last 12 seasons. Wilson Valdez fared okay trying to pick up the slack, but Juan Castro was a lot less impressive as he on-based .250 in his 101 plate appearances as a shortstop for the year. FanGraphs calculated WAR for Rollins for 2012 is much higher than Baseball-Reference’s. FanGraphs has him at 4.9, which ties him for 27th among non-pitchers across both leagues. Baseball-Reference calculates his WAR at 2.3, which ties him for 106th. The chart above reflects the FanGraph numbers, which suggest he was an elite player in 2012. Again, this is one of the three positions at which the Phillies were non-terrible in 2012 and there is disagreement about how good their primary player at the position actually was.

At second base, the Phillies have been in the top four for each of the past five years. Utley’s WAR as calculated by Baseball-Reference topped out at 8.8 in 2008. He’s likely never going back up there again, but his work at the position has been enough to keep the Phils in the top quarter of the NL over the last several years. Also, as a side note — in 2008, Utley and his 8.8 WAR (second-best in baseball) finished 14th in NL MVP voting. Howard’s WAR that year was 1.5 and he finished second. Pujols won it, and should have, but Utley should have been a lot higher than 14th.

After catcher, second and short, things get real ugly, real fast.

Center field was the next best position for the Phils in 2012 and they were tenth in the league there. Victorino was a monster in 2011, putting up a (Baseball-Reference) overall WAR of 5.2 in the best year of his career. He was way off that pace in 2012, though, and Mayberry was pretty bad after he left. The Phillies seem to have no in-house solution to what is now a big problem in center field.

Eleventh in left. Tenth or worse for the third straight year. 2009 is the only year of the last five that the Phillies have been non-terrible overall at the position. In ’09, Ibanez put up the best WAR (Baseball-Reference) of his last six seasons at 2.7. It was the only year of the last six where his dWAR has been better than -1 (it was -0.8). In 2010 he was bad for the Phillies and in 2011 he was terrible — a dWAR of -3.1 and an oWAR of just 0.1. Juan Pierre was the guy who got most of the time in left in 2012, the first year after Ibanez left. His overall WAR for the year was 1.9, good enough for fourth-best on the team among the non-pitchers, but not enough to lead the Phils anywhere better than eleventh.

They were also eleventh at third base, the fourth year of the last five in which they have been tenth or worse. Polanco was very solid in 2010, putting up a (Baseball-Reference) WAR of 3.1. In 2011, his dWAR stayed about the same as 2010 (1.2 in ’11, 1.4 in ’10), but his oWAR dropped from 1.9 to 0.7 as he hit 277/335/339 with just 19 extra-base hits in 523 plate appearances. Polanco got significant time at third in ’12, putting up an oWAR of 0, a dWAR of 0.4 and losing significant time to Kevin Frandsen. Frandsen’s WAR of 1.5 (in just 210 plate appearances) was good enough for fifth-best among the team’s non-pitchers, but not good enough to get the Phillies any higher than eleventh relative to the rest of the NL for the season at the position. Feliz got most of the time at third in ’08 and ’09, with some help from Greg Dobbs. Neither did a whole lot and the Phillies were eleventh at the position both years, although Feliz had a good year defensively in ’09, putting up a dWAR of 1.2. Feliz on-based .306 over 1,088 plate appearances for the Phils between 2008 and ’09.

You don’t have to study the right field numbers too carefully to see that the Phillies have struggled to replace Jayson Werth. Led by Werth, the Phils topped the NL in WAR at the position in 2009 and were third in 2010. He signed with the Nationals for the 2011 season and the numbers took a dive. Francisco got the gig to start ’11 and bombed in spectacular fashion, putting up an oWAR of 0.0 and a dWAR of -1.3 and losing the job. Hunter Pence played part of ’11 with the Phils and part of ’12. He posted negative dWARs in both years with better luck offensively. 2.2 (oWAR)/-0.3 (dWAR) in 2011 and 1.2/-1.1 in 2012. Domonic Brown hasn’t inspired a lot of confidence yet he can get the job done in right, either. So far for his career he has an UZR/150 of -21.7 in 871 innings in right to go with his overall batting line of 236/315/388.

First base may be the single biggest problem for the Phillies, where they have committed an enormous amount of money to Ryan Howard. They were 16th of 16 in the NL in 2012 and FanGraphs has them no better than tenth over the last three seasons. Howard was hurt in 2012, but he got 644 plate appearances in 2011 and 620 in 2010 and the Phils didn’t do better than tenth in either year. He has always been terrible at defense, over the last seven seasons his dWARs have ranged from -1 to -2.8, and thanks largely to that he has put an overall WAR better than three just twice in his career. In 2006 he hit 58 home runs with a WAR of 5.0. In 2009 he hit 45 with a WAR of 3.5. In 2012, his oWAR joined his dWAR in negative territory at -0.6. Wigginton was also miserable trying to pick up the slack at the position with Howard missing much of the season, hitting just 235/314/375 for the year with a UZR/150 at first of -8.5 (which is 30th among the 36 players across both leagues who played at least 450 innings at first in 2012).

This article talks about differences in the calculation of WAR by Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs. More on that subject here, as Jimmy Rollins appears on a list of the players whose WAR as calculated by FanGraphs differs dramatically from their WAR as calculated by Baseball-Reference.


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