offense

Wait, what was it again that was just another word for nothing left to lose?

Phillie fans didn’t care much for Bobby Abreu when he was great, so it’s a little tough to see them getting too excited about the news the 39-year-old Abreu is coming to Spring Training to try to win a job with the team.

Does he have a chance? I think he does. Mostly because 1) the Phillies are terrible 2) Abreu still has a chance to hit right-handed pitching and 3) a lot of guys the Phillies have been giving chances lately really don’t.

The Phillies would love Abreu to do three things — play defense, hit left-handed pitching and hit right-handed pitching.

He’s a lock not to do two of those things.

He’s an atrocious defensive player and has been for a long time. Negative dWAR as calculated by Baseball-Reference in each of the last 14 years he’s played. dWAR of -1.5 or worse in five of those years. By comparison, Baseball-Reference had 18 players who appeared in the NL last year with a dWAR of -1.5 or worse (four of them, Delmon Young, Michael Young, Darin Ruf and John Mayberry, played for the Phils). FanGraphs gives him a negative UZR/150 in right for nine straight years and negative in left for three straight years.

He’s also not going to hit left-handed pitching. Here’s what he’s done over the last four years in which he appeared in MLB (he didn’t play in MLB 2013):

Year PA v L AVG OBP SLG ISO
2009 201 267 348 386 119
2010 206 228 296 342 114
2011 167 238 319 279 041
2012 50 267 340 378 111
Total 624 246 323 342 096

246/323/342 over his last 624 plate appearances against left-handed pitching. That’s not enough for a corner outfielder who can’t play defense.

The numbers against righties are a lot better, though:

Year PA v R AVG OBP SLG ISO
2009 466 305 408 457 152
2010 461 267 377 478 211
2011 418 259 366 400 141
2012 207 236 353 333 098
Total 1552 272 380 431 159

Abreu was great against righties in 2009 and 2010, hitting 286/393/468 against them over 927 plate appearances. Those numbers carry him to a 272/380/431 line for the four-year span.

In 2011 and 2012 combined he hit 251/362/378 against them. That’s a .362 on-base percentage with an isolated power of .127.

Here’s the complete list of 2013 Phillies who had both an on-base percentage of .362 or better against righties and an isolated power of .127 or better against righties:

Player

PA

OBP vs Right

ISO vs Right

D Ruf

212

363

261

That’s it.

Here’s the guys who made it for one of the two, but not the other (among the players with 50 PA vs righties for the Phils last year):

Player

PA

OBP vs Right

ISO vs Right

D Brown

381

336

235

C Utley

361

360

193

J Mayberry

276

283

143

R Howard

230

357

220

D Young

219

283

143

E Kratz

173

295

189

F Galvis

167

287

145

C Asche

145

310

162

C Hernandez

87

368

050

R Bernadina

67

242

161

Utley comes the closest to hitting the .362/.127 marks, falling short by just a couple of points of on-base percentage. Howard almost did it as well. Nobody else came real close. The Phillies only had two players on the team on-base better than .360 against righties — Ruf and Cesar Hernandez.

Important to remember is that not reaching those marks doesn’t mean those who didn’t were lesser offensive players. Utley, for example, was a way better hitter against righties than a player who on-based .362 with an isolated power of .127 despite not matching both categories. Ditto Howard. Brown’s on-base percentage was way below .362, but his isolated power against righties was a whole lot better than .127.

As a group, though, there’s some room for improvement. Of course, miserable offensive production by the 2013 Phillies doesn’t make Abreu good. It might, though, make him more likely to make the team.

Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.


With a little luck, though, the special teams could be something special

Fingers crossed. I’m especially excited about what they might do with the punting game.

The last couple of posts have been about declining WAR amongst the Phillie pitchers, but things aren’t going particularly swimmingly on the hitting side, either. Looking at the non-pitchers, Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins have been the core of the hitters over the past seven years and all four are likely to impact the 2014 Phillies as well.

The news when it comes to the hitting core of the Phils isn’t good for two big reasons. The first is that the combined WAR produced by that core group of players is a) bad and b) getting worse. The second is that the total WAR accumulated by Phillie hitters other than that group of four is also a) bad (really atrocious in 2013) and b) getting worse.

Here are the WAR numbers for each of those four players, the four as a group and for the rest of Phillie hitters over the last seven seasons as calculated by Baseball-Reference:

’07 ’08 ’09 ’10 ’11 ’12 ’13
Total for 4 18.8 16.2 16.4 13.3 10.1 8.8 6.0
Ruiz 2.0 0.1 2.7 4.1 2.8 4.5 1.7
Howard 2.9 1.7 3.8 1.3 1.1 -1.1 0.6
Utley 7.8 9.0 8.2 5.8 3.7 3.0 3.5
Rollins 6.1 5.4 1.7 2.1 2.5 2.4 0.2
Rest of PHI hitters 14.4 12.6 12.6 10.2 5.9 8.1 -2.4
Top 3 other hitters Rowand 5.1 Victorino 4.3 Werth 4.5 Werth 5.8 Victorino 5.4 Pierre 2.0 Brown 2.5
Victorino 3.3 Werth 3.7 Victorino 3.7 Polanco 3.2 Pence 2.2 Victorino 1.5 Revere 0.8
Werth 3.0  Burrell 2.3 Ibanez 2.9 Victorino 3.1 Polanco 1.9 Kratz 1.4 Frandsen 0.5

The total bWAR for the group of Ruiz, Howard, Utley and Rollins topped out at 18.8 in 2007. In 2013 it was down for the fourth year in a row and was at 6.0.

Ruiz has had two years in which he posted a bWAR better than 2.8 — 2010 and 2012. In 2013 he was at 1.7 after averaging about 3.3 over the past three seasons.

Howard has had a bWAR of three of better once in the last seven seasons. Less than two in five of the last six years.

Utley has been in the threes in bWAR for three straight years, which is nice, but a drop from ’07 to ’09 when his bWAR range was 7.8 to 9.0 over a three-year span. From 2005 through 2009 he was over seven for five straight seasons.

Rollins hasn’t topped 2.5 in any of the last five years. From 2004 to 2008 he was in the range of 4.6 to 6.1 for five seasons in a row.

The other big problem for the Phils is that the guys other than the core four have been getting worse. A lot worse. Gone are Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino. Placido Polanco was one of the team’s top position players in 2010 and again in 2011. Domonic Brown had a nice year for the Phils in 2013, but the second best hitter outside of the big four for the Phils was Ben Revere. Revere’s bWAR of 0.8 was worse than the bWAR of the third-best non-Ruiz/Howard/Utley/Rollins hitter on the team in the past six years.


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.


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.


Less than zero

There were several players from the 2013 Phils that didn’t make the cut in the most recent post of non-pitchers with a WAR greater than zero as calculated by both Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs. A bunch of them seem to have a good chance to play on the 2014 Phils. Here are some of them:

bWAR fWAR
Frandsen 0.5 0.0
Kratz -0.3 0.7
Galvis -0.0 0.1
Ruf -0.1 0.1
Asche -0.2 0.0
Hernandez -0.4 -0.4
Mayberry -1.1 -0.4

Kevin Frandsen comes the closest to having a positive WAR as calculated by both sites. He only played 33 innings of defense at third base in 2013 and appeared at first in 40 games for the Phils. Frandsen at first in 40 games isn’t a good sign things are running smoothly for your squad, even if you don’t have a $20 million first baseman. 2012 was the best year of his career and his on-base percentage last year dropped from .383 to .296 as he posted a 202/243/292 line against righties. He’s hammered left-handed pitching in each of the last two years, but he’s really not the answer at first and if he’s not going to play third it’s hard to see what there is for him to do other than pinch hit against lefties. Regardless of what they should do, I think it’s likely we see some of Frandsen at first early in the year if Howard isn’t ready to start the season. It seems like Ruf would be better off getting those at-bats. Presumably the addition of Byrd makes it less likely Ruf will be spending time in the outfield. Of the 26 non-pitchers on the ’13 Phils, only two had a Baseball-Reference calculated dWAR greater than 0.1. Ruiz was 0.9 and Frandsen was 0.3.

Erik Kratz hit .213 and on-based .280, but with nice power. Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs seem to disagree about how much that was worth, but he seems like a lock to deliver low average and good power again in 2014. Baseball-Reference had him as a good defensive player in 2012 with a dWAR of 0.9, but that dropped to -0.1 in 2013.

Freddy Galvis is still just 24-years-old, but he has a career .269 on-base percentage in the majors to go with his .296 career on-base percentage in the minors. He excelled defensively in 2012, getting 45 starts at second base and tying with Utley for the team lead in Baseball-Reference calculated dWAR at 1.1. That dropped to -0.6 in 2013. He got about the same number of plate appearances in 2012 and 2013 and played about the same number of defensive innings. However, in 2012, he played about 92% of his defensive innings at second, where he was fantastic, posting a FanGraphs calculated UZR/150 at second of 16.3, which was fifth among the 42 players across both leagues that played at least 300 innings at second. In 2013, he played about 37% of his defensive innings at second, 30% at third, 17% in the outfield and 15% at short and his dWAR took a tumble. UZR/150 suggests he was good everywhere defensively in 2013 other than at second base. At second base his mark for UZR/150 in 2013 plunged to -20.2 in his 167 1/3 innings there. It’s a real bad sign for the Phillies when you see him at third or in the outfield as anything other than a defensive replacement.

Darin Ruf had the best isolated power on ’13 Phils for anyone other than Domonic Brown, hitting 14 home runs in 293 plate appearances. He also had the second-best wOBA on the team at .354, second only to Utley’s .356. Thanks to a much better walk rate, Ruf out on-based Brown by .024 despite an average twenty-five points lower. Ruf walked in 11.3% of his plate appearances in 2013, by far the best rate of any Phillie. It wasn’t close. Jimmy Rollins was the unlikely second-place finisher among those with 50 or more plate appearances. Rollins walked in just 8.9% of his chances. The slugging righty Ruf oddly didn’t hit lefties, though, posting a 188/309/348 line against left-handed pitching while pounding away at righties to the tune of 269/363/500. Not hitting lefties is a problem, but not as big a problem as being unusable defensively. Ruf put up a Baseball-Reference calculated dWAR of -1.8, which is remarkable for a lot of reasons, one of which is that he played far from a full season of defense. There were only seven NL players to tally a worse dWAR in 2013 (two of them, John Mayberry and Michael Young, played for the Phillies). Ruf appeared in just 47 games in the outfield and 37 at first base, but it’s pretty much unanimous he wasn’t good anywhere. FanGraphs has him bad at first (UZR/150 of -6.3), worse in left (-12.6) and terrible in right (-34.9). There were 59 players across both leagues who played at least 200 innings in right field in 2013 — Ruf’s -34.9 was 58th, better only than Scott Hairston. It seems likely that Ruf will hit lefties going forward. If he does and continues to hit righties like he has and draw walks like he has, he could be a very good offensive player. Just how bad he’s going to be defensively is the big question, though, and last year’s results weren’t good. The question may still be open, but part of the answer is that he doesn’t have much of a chance if he’s going to be both a butcher defensively and not hit lefties. If Howard is out to start the year and the choices at first for the Phillies are Frandsen, Mayberry and Ruf, I think the best choice for the Phils is to play Ruf everyday. When Howard is available, it may be the case that it’s in the best interests of the Phillies to platoon Ruf and Howard at first base. If you were to look solely at the numbers from the last two seasons, you might conclude that Frandsen is a better platoon partner for Howard. Frandsen is the better defensively of the two and has been way better against left-handed pitching, but I think that would be a mistake.

Not hitting lefties was a fluke, being terrible defensively wasn’t, but it’s too early to give up on Ruf. Second-best isolated power on the team, best walk rate on the team by a wide margin. Hit righties well enough and wound up with solid numbers overall despite not hitting lefties and hitting 216/314/407 over his last 188 plate appearances. He either needs to improve enormously defensively or the Phillies need to find a way to prevent him from hurting them with his glove. I think there are only two ways for the Phillies to prevent him from hurting them enormously with his glove — one is not playing him at all defensively and the other is playing him at first base.

Cody Asche arrived on the Phillie scene in 2013, hitting 235/302/389 in 179 plate appearances and 255/328/428 in his last 161 after going 1-for-17 to start his career. The Phillies seem likely to rely on him heavily at third this year — the other choices at this point look like Galvis, Cesar Hernandez or Frandsen. Frandsen can’t be both at third and at first against a lefty and the Phils sure seemed unwilling to use him defensively at third in 2013. Galvis isn’t a third baseman, although his offensive numbers have been a little better against lefties than righties early in his career. Hernandez on-based .292 against lefties in 2013 with one extra-base hit, a double, in 44 plate appearances. I think the Phils are better off giving Asche a chance if those are the choices. He didn’t overwhelm with the bat during 2013, but a lot of his negative bWAR and 0.0 fWAR can be chalked up to less than stellar defense at third. Baseball-Reference calculated his dWAR at -0.7 while FanGraphs had his UZR/150 at third at -10.6.

23-year-old Cesar Hernandez was used in an unexpected way in 2013, thrust into role of starting center fielder for 22 games, an odd choice for someone you’d think was trying to carve out a role as a backup infielder. Offensively it’s a little tough to feel like the switch-hitter Hernandez has a chance to be more of a high average guy who draws an average amount of walks given his 11 home runs in 2,385 career minor league plate appearances. He did fare well against righties in limited time, putting up a 308/372/372 line with the expected lack of power. dWAR killed his overall bWAR, though. -0.4 dWAR by Baseball-Reference despite just 257 1/3 innings for the year, about 74% of which were in center. FanGraphs has him miserable at both positions as well, although it was in limited time. -19.2 UZR/150 at second and -25.8 in center. Hernandez, Roger Bernadina, Michael Martinez and Mayberry all put up a UZR/150 worse than -25 in center for the Phils in 2013. That should be on the to-do list somewhere, even if all the list says is not to use Hernandez, Mayberry or Martinez in center.

Mayberry is the final name on the list, coming off of a year in which he was bad offensively and terrible defensively. He posted a 227/286/391 line overall and didn’t even hit lefties. He showed solid power against left-handed pitching, but without hits or walks and a 240/296/460 line. The Phillies continue to use him in center, he started 41 games there in 2013, despite the fact that he’s miserable there. Only four NL players had a dWAR worse than his -2.1 in 2013. FanGraphs gives him a negative UZR/150 in center for the fourth consecutive year. In 2013, he was at -28.8 in his 344 innings in center field, which is 42nd of the 43 NL players to play at least 300 innings at the position this season. He was good defensively in right and in left in 2013 and his best chance to be a positive contributor seems to be as a corner outfielder who hits primarily against left-handed pitching.

The Phillies signed 37-year-old right-handed reliever Shawn Camp to a minor league deal. It seems like he should have a chance to make the team out of spring training and pitch in middle relief. He was terrible for the Cubs in 26 appearances in 2013, throwing to a 7.04 ERA, but had been pretty solid in each of the five previous seasons. From 2008 to 2012, Camp threw to a 3.62 ERA and a 1.32 ratio over 335 1/3 innings in 316 appearances with the Cubs and Blue Jays.


You wanna build a what?

For 2013, Baseball-Reference calculates the combined WAR for Phillie hitters at 3.7.

I’ll be here all week. Don’t forget to tip your waitress.

What? We have to do more?

There were 32 individual NL hitters last year with a bWAR better than 3.7. As you probably guessed, things aren’t exactly headed in the right direction for the Phils in this area — the team was first in bWAR for batters in 2009 after being second in ’08. They slipped to fifth in 2010 and have been in the bottom half of the league ever since. They were 14th in 2013, ahead of only the Marlins.

Here are the eight non-pitchers on the ’13 Phillies who have both a WAR calculated by Baseball-Reference that’s greater than zero and a WAR calculated by FanGraphs that’s greater than zero:

Player bWAR (NL Rank) fWAR (NL Rank)
Utley 3.5 (36) 3.9 (28)
Brown 2.5 (52) 1.6 (83)
Ruiz 1.7 (78) 1.4 (91)
Revere 0.8 (114) 0.9 (108)
Howard 0.6 (127) 0.4 (143)
Rollins 0.2 (170) 1.6 (85)
Quintero 0.2 (180) 0.4 (151)
Rupp 0.2 (181) 0.1 (199)

That’s not good. Using the FanGraphs data, for example, Domonic Brown has the second-best fWAR on the team at 1.6, which was 83rd best in the league.

Baseball-Reference’s guide on interpreting WAR suggests 5+ for an All-Star, 2+ for a starter, 0-2 for a reserve and less than zero replacement level. The Phillies had two hitters with a bWAR higher than two in 2013 and five of the eight players listed above have a bWAR less than one.

Humberto Quintero is a good bet not to be on the Phillies in 2014. Carlos Ruiz is a free agent that could be back, but I wouldn’t count on it. Ruiz not being back is a blow to the Phils — less because he was good last year and more because, by WAR calculated by Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs, he was the third or fourth-best non-pitcher on the Phillies last season despite on-basing .320 with five home runs

That leaves the Phils with six players on the ’14 team that had a positive WAR at both sites in ’13: Chase Utley, Domonic Brown, Jimmy Rollins, Ben Revere, Ryan Howard and Cameron Rupp.

Utley was clearly the best non-pitcher on the Phillies in 2013. He’s had a bWAR that’s ranged from 3.0 to 3.7 over the last three years and seems like a good bet to be in that range again in 2014. The problem is that he was the best non-pitcher on the Phils in 2013 and was about the 28th or 36th best non-pitcher in the 15-team league. That and there’s a pretty monster drop off behind him.

Again, Utley’s bWAR was 3.5. The total bWAR for all the hitters on the team was 3.7. Milwaukee was seventh in the NL in bWAR for hitters at 20.6 last year and the Padres were eighth at 20.3. So to get to about middle of the pack in the NL last year, the Phllies would have needed to add about 16.7 or so bWAR from their hitters, which is about 4.8 players with the 3.5 bWAR of their best hitter. Obviously it’s more complicated than that, because they couldn’t just add players without taking away some that contributed to their 3.7 bWAR in the first place, but the point is they’re a long way away from being in the middle of the pack in the NL.

Brown impressed with the bat in 2013, but he sure can’t play defense. Posted a positive bWAR for the first time in his career, but fWAR was a lot less impressed. Still, he seems like a good bet to get better and is one of a very few blocks the Phillies have to build on.

Rollins put up a bWAR of 0.2, the worst mark for any year in his career in which he’s gotten at least 100 plate appearances. Coming into the season, his bWAR range for the four previous seasons had been 1.7 to 2.5. If he bounces back, it might not be that high. His -1.0 dWAR was the worst mark for his career. FanGraphs had his UZR/150 at short at -2.7 coming off of positive marks for ten years in a row.

Revere is still young, still never going to walk and never hit for power. The Phillies will need him to be an elite defensive player if he’s going to be good and I’m not sure why you’d think that would happen. He wasn’t in 2013, posting the worst dWAR of his career at -0.4 despite less playing time than he had in the last two years. His UZR/150 in center as calculated by FanGraphs was negative for the second straight year as well. He did hit a monster 407/426/482 in his last 123 plate appearances before injury ended his season. I think he’ll probably be okay on the WAR fronts if he can keep that up. Even assuming he doesn’t, I don’t see center field as one of the biggest areas of concern for the Phillies, where they have a good chance to have a very cheap player who will make a positive contribution. If you want to worry, I’d go with right field, first base and catcher in that order. And cross your fingers about Cody Asche at third base.

Howard on-based .319 in 2013 and his isolated power (.199) dropped under .200 for the first time in his career. Over the last two years his average bWAR is -0.25 and his average fWAR is -0.35. Over his last four years his average bWAR is 0.48 and his average fWAR is 0.45.

The Phillies are due to pay Utley, Rollins and Howard a combined $51 million in 2014 and there’s a real chance only one of the three will put up a bWAR better than one. The trio made $46 million in 2013 with Utley the only player of the group with a bWAR better than 0.6. Per the table above, FanGraphs thought Rollins was a lot better than Baseball-Reference.

Cameron Rupp makes a surprise appearance on the list. Let’s hope for the best, but there are going to be some surprised folks out there if he proves to be more than a backup catcher. He also has 14 career plate appearances. Presumably the Phillies will add a catcher before the season starts, which will prevent them from going into the season with Kratz and Rupp handling the catching duties and, presumably, will mean Rupp starts the year somewhere other than on the active roster.


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