The big please

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who’s not on first very often?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The third men

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This suggests that Michael Stutes is feeling well.

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

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:

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%.

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