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

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

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

So where did all those walks go?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s turn one! Maybe even none!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article reviews the NRIs for the Phils.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2009 1 8 1 1 1
2012 8 15 10 8 8

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

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

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

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

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The rather ancient company you keep

The last post suggested that the Phillies walked in about 7.4% of their 2012 plate appearances, a rate that was 15th-best in the National League. It also showed walk rate data for the last ten years, which indicated that the Phillies had not been in the bottom half of the NL in walk rate in the last ten seasons.

So when was the last time that the Phillies were in the bottom half of the NL in walk rate for their hitters? And when was the last time that their walk rate was as low as 7.4%?

It’s been a while since the Phls were in the bottom half of the NL in walk rate. In 1998, Desi Relaford, Doug Glanville and Gregg Jeffries all got at least 500 plate appearances for the Phils and walked in 6.0% or fewer, leading the Phils to an 8.1% walk rate overall, which was 11th-best in the NL.

That’s the most recent time prior to 2012 that the Phillies had been in the bottom of the NL in walk rate for their hitters as a percentage of plate appearances.

The walk rate overall for the team hasn’t been at 7.4% for a long time. Here are the numbers for the last 49 (!) years:

Year BB% NL Rank
2012 7.4 15
2011 8.6 6
2010 8.9 4
2009 9.3 8
2008 9.3 5
2007 9.8 1
2006 9.6 2
2005 10.1 1
2004 10.0 2
2003 10.3 1
2002 10.1 2
2001 8.9 7
2000 9.7 8
1999 9.9 6
1998 8.1 11
1997 8.5 9
1996 8.7 6
1995 8.9 5
1994 8.9 2
1993 10.2 1
1992 8.3 5
1991 8.0 10
1990 9.3 3
1989 9.1 2
1988 8.1 5
1987 9.5 3
1986 9.5 2
1985 8.6 7
1984 8.8 4
1983 10.3 1
1982 8.3 5
1981 9.0 4
1980 7.5 9
1979 9.7 2
1978 9.0 7
1977 9.1 4
1976 8.7 5
1975 9.6 5
1974 7.7 12
1973 7.7 9
1972 8.3 6
1971 8.1 6
1970 8.5 10
1969 9.0 4
1968 7.7 3
1967 8.9 1
1966 8.2 2
1965 8.0 5
1964 7.2 6

The table above includes data for the last 49 seasons because you have to go back to 1964 to find a season in which Phillie batters walked in 7.4% or less of their plate appearances.

Also, there’s this: In 1964, the last time the Phillies had a walk rate as bad or worse as they did in 2012, Ruben Amaro, Sr, was a contributing factor.

Phillie hitters walked in about 7.2% of their chances that season. Among the players with at least 200 plate appearances for the ’64 Phils, the worst walk rate belonged to Ruben Amaro, Sr. He walked in about 5.0% of his 323 plate appearances that season.

Here are the walk rates for hitters on the 1964 Phillies among players with at least 200 plate appearances:

Player PA BB%
Gus Triandos 220 11.8
Wes Covington 383 9.9
Dick Allen 709 9.5
Tony Gonzalez 476 9.2
Clay Dalrymple 439 8.9
Bobby Wine 319 7.8
Tony Taylor 636 7.2
League Average - 7.1
John Herrnstein 338 6.5
Cookie Rojas 377 5.8
Johnny Callison 705 5.1
Ruben Amaro 323 5.0
Team Total 6117 7.2

Notably, the 7.2% walk rate for the Phillies was better than the league average of 7.1% for the year. It was also up from 1963, when the Phillies walked in just 6.6% of their plate appearances, well below the NL average of 7.6%.

As you surely know, Phils were very good in 1964, going 92-70 and tying with the Reds for the second-best record in the NL, a game behind the Cardinals. The Phillies led the NL by 6 1/2 games with 12 games to play before losing ten in a row, which included a sweep by the Cards in a three-game set. The Phils won their last two games of the season, but still finished a game behind St Louis and the Cardinals went on to beat the Yankees in the World Series.

By runs scored per game, the Phillies had the third-best offense in the ten-team NL that season.

The other thing that’s weird about this is that Ruben Amaro Sr’s walk rate in 1964 was way worse than it was over his career. Amaro Sr walked in 9.3% of his plate appearances over his career. Other than 1964, there was no season in his career in which he got more than 200 plate appearances with a walk rate under 7.2%. He came into the ’64 season having walked in 10.7% of his 957 plate appearances in the previous three seasons.

The Inquirer ranks to the top 25 prospects for the Phillies in this article.

You guys will fit right in

The Phillies have added three key offensive players this off-season. Two of them are bad defensive players who don’t walk and the other is a good defensive player who doesn’t walk.

All three of them join a team that doesn’t walk anymore.

Here’s the walk rate for Phillie batters over the last ten years and the rank of that walk rate in the NL for that season:

Year BB% NL Rank
2012 7.4 15
2011 8.6 6
2010 8.9 4
2009 9.3 8
2008 9.3 5
2007 9.8 1
2006 9.6 2
2005 10.1 1
2004 10.0 2
2003 10.3 1

That’s obviously not going in the direction one would hope. In five of the last ten years, and every year from 2003 to 2007, the Phillies were first or second in the NL in walk percentage. In 2012, they were 15th in the league. The Rockies were the only team to walk in a lower percentage of their plate appearances than the Phillies.

In 2012, the team’s walk rate was down for the fifth year in a row (it’s actually 9.34% in ’08 and 9.29% in ’09).

And then the Phils added three guys that look likely to 1) play just about every day and 2) walk even less than the 7.4% of plate appearances that Phillie batters walked in 2012.

Even with the disappointment of 2012 and the playoff loses in ’10 and ’11, Amaro’s time as the GM of the Phils has been a success. The Phillies had the best record in baseball in 2011 and the best record in baseball in 2010. In 2009, they went to the World Series and lost to a better team.

So it’s been a good run.

What is true, though, is that the Phillies hitters have walked a whole lot less in the four years since Amaro has arrived than they did in the four seasons before his arrival.

Amaro became the team’s GM in November of 2008. Here’s the team’s walk rate over the four years he’s been at the helm (2009-2012) compared to the teams’ walk rate in the previous four seasons (2005-2008):

Amaro years
Year PA BB BB%
2012 6172 454 7.4
2011 6279 539 8.6
2010 6291 560 8.9
2009 6338 589 9.3
Total 25080 2142 8.5
Four previous years
2008 6273 586 9.3
2007 6537 641 9.8
2006 6509 626 9.6
2005 6345 639 10.1
Total 25664 2492 9.7

In the four years since Amaro joined the team, the Phillies have averaged 535.5 walks per season. In the four years previous to 2009, they walked an average of 623 times a year. So they’re down about 87.5 walks a season on average since Amaro took over compared to ’05 to ’08.

Not to be forgotten in all of this is that, declining walk rate or not, the Phils led the NL in runs scored per game in 2009 and were second in 2010. In ’09, they led the league in runs scored per game despite having the eighth-best walk rate in the NL.

There’s a lot of differences between the ’09 and ’10 teams than the 2012 team, though. The biggest one is that the ’09 and ’10 teams won a whole lot of games and the 2012 team did not.

The walk rate of 7.4% for the Phillies in 2012 is really low. How low? If you run out of stuff to do this weekend, look up how long it has been since Phillie batters walked in 7.4% of their plate appearances or less. It might take you longer than you would have guessed.

From worse to bad

Michael Young’s walk rate is bad. Unlike Delmon Young’s, though, it’s not atrocious. And I think it’s more reasonable to expect Michael Young’s walk rate to significantly improve in 2013 than it is to expect Delmon’s to improve. And it’s definitely more likely we’ll see Michael Young’s walk rate approach league average than it is to see Delmon’s.

In 2000, Young got two plate appearances and didn’t walk in either of them. He made his debut pinch-running for Pedro Valdes with two outs in the top of the ninth and his Rangers down 7-5 on September 29, 2000. The next day he entered in the sixth inning and went 0-for-2 in the game. Scott Service struck him out swinging in his first career at-bat and lefty Todd Belitz got him on a fly ball to deep left to end the game. The A’s beat Young’s Rangers 23-2 that day.

The table below shows Michael Young’s walk rates overall and against lefties and righties in every year since 2000. It also shows the average MLB walk rate for that season:

Year MLB AVG BB% BB% vs L vs R
2001 8.5 6.1 7.4 5.6
2002 8.7 6.5 5.5 6.8
2003 8.5 5.0 3.8 5.6
2004 8.6 6.0 8.3 5.1
2005 8.2 7.9 8.9 7.6
2006 8.4 6.4 8.2 5.8
2007 8.5 6.8 7.7 6.5
2008 8.7 7.8 8.9 7.4
2009 8.9 7.9 11.8 6.4
2010 8.5 7.0 8.4 6.4
2011 8.1 6.8 6.5 6.9
2012 8.0 5.1 6.0 4.8
Career - 6.6 7.6 6.3

So Young has failed to match the NL walk rate for any year of his career. That’s less than ideal. The best offensive year of his career is 2005 and it’s also the year he came the closest. He hit .331 for the Rangers that season with 24 home runs, but walked in just 58 of his 732 plate appearances. There were 150 players across both leagues in 2005 with at last 500 plate appearances and Young’s walk rate among those was in the middle of the pack. 7.9% put him at 84th among the 150.

In 2012, Young’s walk rate was 5.1%, which is the worst mark of his career other than 2003. His walk rate against righties of 4.8% was the worst for his career and his 6.0% walk rate against lefties was the worst it had been since 2003.

His walk rate against lefties was down, but it’s the walk rate against righties that really hammered him in 2012.

From 2003 to 2010, Young’s walk rate against lefties ranged from 7.7% to 11.8% and averaged 8.9%. That dropped way off in 2011, down to 6.5%, and dropped again down to 6.0% in 2012.

The bigger drop, though, was against right-handed pitching. Coming into 2012, Young’s walk percentage against rigties over the last five seasons had ranged from 6.4% to 7.4% with an average of 6.7%. In ’12, that plummeted all the way to 4.8%.

As I pointed out in this post, the right-handed Michael Young was simply atrocious against righties in 2012, hitting 277/312/370 with a wOBA of .280. That’s coming off of a 2011 in which he hit 330/373/465 against righties with a wOBA of .363.

Bottom line is that Michael Young has been way better at hitting righties (and walking against them) over his career than he was in 2012, as evidenced by his career 297/341/435 line and .340 wOBA against righties. And it’s not like he’s been undergoing a consistent and gradual decline against right-handed pitching. His drop from 2011 to 2012 against righties was dramatic. If he doesn’t improve against righties relative to his 2012 numbers, his career, at least as an everyday player, is just about over. But there’s also reason to believe that his chances of bouncing back against righties in 2013 are good.

Todd Zolecki takes a guess at the batting order for the Phillies here. It goes:

  1. Rollins (SS)
  2. M Young (3B)
  3. Utley (2B)
  4. Howard (1B)
  5. D Young (RF)
  6. Brown/Ruf/Mayberry (LF)
  7. Kratz (C)
  8. Revere (CF)

The Phillies are really going to have to start Delmon Young in right field before I’m willing to believe they think he should be playng there. I think Michael Young will hit lower than that and the left-handed Revere will hit higher, at least against right-handed pitching — he stole 40 bases last year and I don’t think the Phillies want him doing that in front of the pitcher in 2013.

If Domonic Brown is healthy on Opening Day and not in the starting lineup against a righty, I will be very surprised.

Here’s my guess for Opening Day, in which the Phils seem likely to face righty Tim Hudson:

  1. Rollins (SS)
  2. Revere (CF)
  3. Utley (2B)
  4. M Young (3B)
  5. Howard (1B)
  6. D Young (LF)
  7. Brown (RF)
  8. Kratz (C)

Biggest thing there is that Utley and Howard and not hitting 3/4 in the order. Howard is fifth with the righty Michael Young splitting the lefties Utley and Howard. Would the Phillies really hit Ryan Howard fifth? Against a righty? On Opening Day? I think they should. If they don’t on Opening Day, I think they will before long. When’s the last time Howard started a game hitting anywhere but cleanup in the order? June 29, 2008 against the Rangers in a DH game. Utley third, Burrell fourth, Howard fifth and Dobbs the DH sixth. Burrell breaking up the lefties Utley and Howard. Howard hit fifth in four games in ’08, all DH games — 6/25, 6/27, 6/28 and 6/29.

They’re all DH games for the Phillies in 2013 given they’re an NL team with three of them. Howard is just about a lock to be awful defensively. Both of the Youngs started more games at DH in 2012 than any other position.

Michael Young hitting cleanup against a righty to break up Utley and Howard isn’t exactly ideal, given that he’s right-handed and hit 257/291/352 against right-handed pitching in 2012.

I could easily see another catcher, like Quintero, starting instead of Kratz. I think it makes sense to hit Brown ahead of Young against a righty, but would guess that the Phillies do it the other way around. It seems to me like Revere will likely hit at the bottom of the lineup against left-handed pitching. I’d guess he hits higher against righties.

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