pitching

Starters for five

A recent post looked at the combined WAR for Phillie starting pitchers over the past five years. This post will look how the core of the Phillie rotation, Halladay, Lee and Hamels, compare to other elite pitchers across both leagues in terms of cumulative WAR for pitchers over the past five seasons.

Spoiler alert — they compare really well.

The table below shows pitchers who have 1) made more than 100 starts over the past five seasons and 2) have a Baseball-Reference calculated WAR per game started better than .125:

Pitcher GS # Relief appearances WAR WAR/GS
Roy Halladay 155 1 30.0 .194
Cliff Lee 155 0 28.9 .186
Josh Johnson 115 0 21.0 .183
CC Sabathia 164 0 27.0 .164
Clayton Kershaw 149 2 23.7 .159
Justin Verlander 168 0 26.7 .159
Felix Hernandez 165 0 24.1 .146
Zack Greinke 160 0 23.0 .144
Cole Hamels 160 1 21.4 .134
Jon Lester 161 0 21.1 .131
John Danks 133 0 17.2 .129
Jared Weaver 160 0 20.7 .129
Adam Wainwright 119 0 15.2 .128
Chris Carpenter 103 1 13.0 .126
Matt Cain 165 0 20.8 .126

Again, the table above displays the total WAR accumulated from 2008 through 2012, then divides that total by the number of games that the pitcher started. So pitchers who accumulated WAR in relief appearances get a tiny advantage over pitchers who did not, although the entire group of 15 pitchers in the table above has combined to make just five relief appearances since the start of 2008.

Halladay is the key thing to focus on here and just how good he was from 2008 through 2011. He stays atop the chart despite his miserable 2012.

Here’s what Halladay’s numbers look like if you break them down from 2008-2011 and 2012 separately.

GS # Relief appearances WAR WAR/GS
Halladay 2008-2011 130 1 29.3 .225
Halladay 2012 25 0 0.7 .028
Total 155 1 30.0 .194

So, again, even with the ugly 2012 performance from Halladay, he still finds himself above the chart of elite pitchers at the top of the post.

By WAR, 2010 and 2011 were the best years of Halladay’s career. He spent both of them with the Phillies. In those two seasons, he had a combined Baseball-Reference calculated WAR of 16.8 over 65 starts, which is about .258 per start.

Lee also fares very well on the top table, second only to Halladay. Like Halladay, his 2012 wasn’t as good as his previous four years, although it was a lot better than Halladay’s. Here’s the same chart for Lee, broken up into 2008 through 2011 with an individual entry for 2012:

GS # Relief appearances WAR WAR/GS
Lee 2008-2011 125 0 24.7 .198
Lee 2012 30 0 4.2 .140
Total 155 0 28.9 .186

Like Halladay, Lee’s mark for 2012 was worse than 2008 through 2011, although not nearly as dramatically.

Hamels’s two best years for WAR were 2010 and 2011. His numbers for the last five years combined are dragged down by his ugly 2009 season in which he threw to a 4.32 ERA over 32 starts with an ERA+ of 97, posting a WAR for the year of 1.7.

Here’s how his numbers look if you break them down by ’08 and ’09, ’10 and ’11 and 2012:

GS # Relief appearances WAR WAR/GS
Hamels 2008-2009 65 0 5.7 .088
Hamels 2010-2011 64 1 11.5 .180
Hamels 2012 31 0 4.2 .135
Total 160 1 21.4 .134

So Lee and Hamels were about the same in 2012 in terms of WAR per game started, with Lee having been a lot better over the past four years.

Even if you take out Hamels’s ’09 season, that leaves him at 19.7 WAR over 128 starts in ’08 and ’10 through ’12. That’s about .154 WAR per game started, which is very good, but still not as good as Lee’s 2008 through 2011.

The Reading Phillies (Double-A) are getting a new name, which will be revealed on November 17.


The votes aren’t all counted yet, but I think we can agree that Adam Eaton was not the answer

Here’s the Baseball-Reference calculated combined WAR for pitchers who have made at least ten starts for the team over the past five seasons:

Pitcher GS # Relief appearances WAR WAR/GS
Halladay 90 0 17.6 .196
Lee 74 0 13.5 .182
Happ 30 16 5.0 .167
Oswalt 35 1 5.2 .149
Hamels 160 1 21.4 .134
Worley 46 7 4.4 .096
Moyer 77 5 2.7 .035
Blanton 100 5 2.5 .025
Myers 40 8 0.8 .020
Kendrick 103 41 1.7 .017
Eaton 19 2 -1.2 -.063

Important to remember is that the WAR calculation includes games pitched in relief. So, for example, the WAR for Kendrick over the last five seasons includes his 41 appearances out of the bullpen. His .017 for WAR/GS is his total WAR in all appearances divided by the number of games he started (not the total number of games in which he pitched).

The 11 pitchers above combined to make 774 of the 810 starts for the Phillies over the last five seasons. Not appearing on the list are guys who made fewer than ten starts, including Pedro Martinez (9), Chan Ho Park (7), Tyler Cloyd (6), Rodrigo Lopez (5), Antonio Bastardo (5), Raul Valdes (1), Andrew Carpenter (1), Nelson Figueroa (1) and BJ Rosenberg (1). Those 36 total starts plus the 774 for the 11 guys above gets you to 810.

Hamels is the guy who has made the most starts for the Phillies over the past five years with 160. And he’s been very good. After that, though, there are two guys in Blanton and Kendrick who have gotten a ton of starts over the past five seasons without being very good.

Kendrick is second in starts over the last five seasons with 103. His best year for WAR was 2007 (which doesn’t count for the table above as it was more than five years ago). In 2007, Kendrick made 20 appearances for the Phillies, all starts, going 10-4 with a 3.87 and putting up a WAR of 2.1. Kendrick was terrible in 2008 and finished the year with a -1.7 WAR. In the four years since his combined WAR has been just 3.4 — 3.4 + (-1.7) = 1.7, his mark for the past five years combined.

Blanton has made 105 appearances over the last five years for the Phillies, including 100 starts (more than anyone but Kendrick or Hamels). In the five seasons that Blanton pitched all or part of the year with the Phillies, he had a Baseball-Reference calculated WAR better than 0.1 only once. His best year with the Phillies was 2009 — he made 31 starts that year with a 4.05 ERA and a 1.32 ratio, posting a 2.4 WAR for the season. He had a -0.2 WAR in 29 appearances with the Phillies in 2010 and a -0.1 WAR in 21 appearances with them in 2012. He threw just 41 1/3 innings in 2011, all with the Phils, and put up a 0.0 WAR for that season.

The point here is that Blanton and Kendrick have pitched a lot for the Phillies over the past five years, making about as many starts (203) as Halladay, Lee and Worley (210). Overall, they’ve made about 25.1% of the starts for the Phillies over the past five seasons. And they haven’t been very good.

And while Blanton doesn’t have much of a chance to be not very good for the Phillies again in 2013, Kendrick does.

Gone also from the mix of the last five years are Happ and Oswalt. Both of those pitchers didn’t pitch a ton for the Phillies over the past five years, but put up good numbers overall in their time with the team.

Happ’s 4.83 ERA since he left the Phillies makes it easy to forget that he was great for the Phillies in 2009, going 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA and a 1.23 ratio in his 35 appearances (23 starts). He led the team in WAR for pitchers that year at 4.0. Hamels made 32 starts for the Phillies in ’09, finishing the year with a WAR of 1.7.

Oswalt threw to a 2.96 ERA in 36 appearances (35 starts) with the Phils between 2010 and 2011. He appeared in just 13 games for the Phillies in 2010 (12 starts), but managed to post a WAR of 3.2, third best on the staff behind Halladay and Hamels.

This suggests Josh Hamilton wants seven years, $175 million.

Amaro mentions Adam Morgan favorably in this article. Morgan is a 22-year-old lefty the Phillies took in the third round of the 2011 draft. He made 27 appearances between Clearwater and Reading in 2012, 26 of which were starts, throwing to a 3.35 ERA with a 1.11 ratio and striking out 169 in 158 2/3 innings.


Sandy, the pitching angels have lost their desire for us

Bruce Springsteen. Sort of.

The table below shows, for each of the past five years, the four pitchers who have gotten the most starts for the Phillies that season and their WAR for the year as calculated by Baseball-Reference:

Year Pitcher Starts WAR
2012 Hamels 31 4.2
2012 Lee 30 4.2
2012 Kendrick 25 1.3
2012 Halladay 25 0.7
2012 Total for group 101 10.4
2011 Halladay 32 8.5
2011 Lee 32 8.3
2011 Hamels 31 6.2
2011 Oswalt 23 2.0
2011 Total for group 118 25.0
2010 Halladay 33 8.3
2010 Hamels 33 5.3
2010 Kendrick 31 0.2
2010 Blanton 28 -0.2
2010 Total for group 125 13.6
2009 Hamels 32 1.7
2009 Blanton 31 2.4
2009 Moyer 25 0.1
2009 Happ 23 4.0
2009 Total for group 111 8.2
2008 Hamels 33 4.0
2008 Moyer 33 2.5
2008 Myers 30 0.4
2008 Kendrick 30 -1.7
2008 Total for group 126 5.2

Important to note is that the WAR for the pitcher includes all of his appearances for the season, not just his starts. So, for example, Kendrick made 37 appearances in 2012 and only 25 of them were starts. His WAR for the year was 1.3 and that includes all 37 appearances, not just the 25 starts.

Again, the Phillies went to the World Series in 2008 and again in 2009 and they did it without outstanding starting pitching. This message will repeat. Happ (in 2009) and Hamels (in 2008) were the only two pitchers, starter or relievers, to post a WAR for the season better than 2.5 in either year.

Led by Hamels and Halladay, the top four was a lot better in 2010. Halladay, Hamels and Lee all had superb years in 2011.

Halladay was, as you may have noticed, way off in 2012. Hamels wasn’t as good as he had been in 2011 or 2010. Lee wasn’t as good as he had been in 2011, but the top for of the rotation were still better than they been in 2009 and a lot better than they had been in 2008.

It’s easy for some of us (by which I mean me) to forget that Lee didn’t throw a pitch for the Phillies in 2010. They Phillies have only had two years where Halladay, Hamels and Lee comprised the core of the rotation. One of those years was great for the Phillies until they were bounced out of the playoffs in the first round. The other was 2012, which is best forgotten if at all possible.

Halladay came into 2012 having not put up a WAR worse than 5.9 since 2008 — in ’08 he was an All-Star, finished second in Cy Young voting in the AL (losing to Indian and 22-game winner Cliff Lee) and seventh in WAR for pitchers across both leagues. Last year his WAR was 0.7, which is the worst mark of his career since he threw to a 10.64 ERA as a 23-year-old with the Blue Jays in 2000.

Rollins won his fourth Gold Glove.

The Phillies picked up the $5 million option on Ruiz and declined the $5.5 million option on Polanco. They will pay Polanco a $1 million buyout. The same article suggests that free agent Juan Pierre is not likely to be back with the Phillies.

This article suggests that Worley will stay in Philadelphia to rehab his elbow coming off of surgery.

This article suggests the Phillies have $135.35 million committed to ten players for next season, including Lee ($25 million), Halladay ($20 million), Howard ($20 million), Hamels ($19.5 million), Utley ($15 million), Papelbon ($13 million), Rollins ($11 million), Ruiz ($5 million), Kyle Kendrick ($4.5 million) and Laynce Nix ($1.35 million).

That’s $40 million committed to Halladay and Howard. In 2012, Howard’s Baseball-Reference calculated WAR was -1.2 and Halladay’s was 0.7.

This article quotes Amaro suggesting that that center field will have to be addressed externally. The writer goes on to list possible candidates, including Bourn, Pagan, Upton, Victorino, Hamilton, Cabrera, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dexter Fowler.

This article looks at potential corner outfielders, including free agent Juan Pierre, Nick Swisher, Cody Ross, Torii Hunter, Ryan Ludwick, Jonny Gomes, Rual Ibanez, Ichiro Suzuki, Delmon Young, Josh Willingham and Alfonso Soriano.


It’s almost enough to make you feel nostalgic for Mike Zagurski

Almost.

The combined WAR for Phillie pitchers as calculated by Baseball-Reference was 10.8 in 2012, way down from the NL-leading WARs the team posted in 2011 and 2010.

The Phillies had a long, long way to fall, though. In 2011, Baseball-Reference calculated the combined WAR for all Phillie pitchers at 35.2. That is enormously high. How high? Well, here is the list of all teams whose pitchers have posted a combined Baseball-Reference WAR of 30 or better since 1900:

Team Year WAR for Pitchers
PHI 2012 35.2
NYY 1997 31.0
CIN 1967 30.8

Not a long list and the ’11 Phillies are at the top.

Looking back to the previous post, the Phillies led the NL in combined WAR for pitchers in 2010 (21.2) and again in 2011 (35.2). 2010 and 2011 are the only two years of the last ten in which the Phillie pitchers have been over 14.8.

The average for the team for the eight of the last ten years that were not 2010 or 2011 is about 8.8. The average for 2010 and 2011 was 28.2.

The point here is that the pitchers for the Phillies aren’t going to post a WAR of 35.2 again any time soon. Or ever. So the Phils are going to need to figure out another way to win (and hopefully one that involves Freddy Galvis never, ever being allowed near third base).

In 2011, Halladay posted a WAR of 8.5 and Cliff Lee put up an 8.3. By comparison, in 2012, there were four pitchers across both leagues with a WAR better than 5.8 — Verlander (7.6), Price (6.4), Harrison (6.2) and Kershaw (6.2).

So having two guys in your rotation at 8.3 or better is a big deal.

Here is the list of pitchers across both leagues who have posted a Baseball-Reference WAR of 8.3 or higher over the last ten years:

Pitcher Year WAR
Zack Greinke 2009 10.1
Roy Halladay 2011 8.5
Johan Santana 2004 8.4
Roy Halladay 2010 8.3
Cliff Lee 2011 8.3
Justin Verlander 2011 8.3

So that’s six seasons for pitchers with a WAR of 8.3 or better over the last ten years, three of which are Halladay or Lee (Halladay did it in 2010 and again in 2011). To compare, Cole Hamels is a great pitcher and has posted a WAR for a season once that was over 5.3 (6.2 in 2011). Roy Oswalt has finished in the top six in Cy Young voting six times, but has had a WAR for the season above 5.6 just twice (6.7 in 2002 and 6.4 in 2007).

So, again, the model for success going forward might have to a lot to do with good pitching, but it can’t rely on the pitching being as good as it was in 2011, because that is never going to happen again.

Looking for potential good news, there’s always the possibility that WAR, or at least WAR as calculated by Baseball-Reference, doesn’t matter at all. Sadly, I’m afraid it does, although it does seem worthwhile to point out enormous differences between the combined WAR for pitchers in 2011 as calculated by Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs. While Baseball-Reference’s calculation of WAR suggests the 2011 Phillies had one of the most dominant pitching staffs in the history of baseball, FanGraph’s calculation of WAR suggests they weren’t even the best pitching staff in 2011. FanGraphs has them second across both leagues at 27.1 and the White Sox first at 27.3.

David Herndon is now a Blue Jay after being claimed by Toronto.

Tyson Brummett was also claimed off of waivers by the Blue Jays last week, then designated for assignment so Toronto could make room for Herndon on their 40-man roster.

Michael Martinez has been removed from the 40-man roster and sent to Triple-A.

The 40-man roster is at 36 with three players (Stutes, Contreras and Schneider) on the 60-day DL.


As you were

Phillie pitching has had two spectacular years in the past ten seasons, but 2012 was not one of them.

The table below shows the total WAR for Phillie pitchers over the last ten years, as well as the team’s rank relative to the rest of the NL, as calculated by Baseball-Reference:

Year WAR NL Rank
2012 10.8 9
2011 35.2 1
2010 21.2 1
2009 10.2 8
2008 11.1 9
2007 3.3 14
2006 14.8 4
2005 4.1 13
2004 8.5 12
2003 7.3 11

So things got worse in 2012. After two years of topping the NL in WAR for pitchers, the Phils dropped to ninth in 2012. After finishing ninth in the NL in combined WAR for pitchers, the Phillies have now been in the bottom half of the league in six of the last ten seasons. In one of the other four, 2009, they finished eighth, which just barely put them in the top half.

They had a long way to fall after being first in the category in 2011. Nobody else was close. Atlanta finished second at 16.4, less than half of the 35.2 posted by the Phils. The Phillie pitchers aren’t putting up a Baseball-Reference calculated WAR of 35.2 again in your lifetime, maybe not in anybody’s lifetime. More on that later.

The Phillies went to the World Series in 2008 and again in 2009 and they did it despite middle-of-the pack WARs from their pitchers. They had dominant pitching in 2010 and again in 2011, but wound up disappointing in the post-season.

The low point of the ten-year stretch was 2007, when the Phillie pitchers combined for a WAR of 3.3. The Phillies had 16 pitchers that season who posted a negative WAR. Adam Eaton was the lowlight, making 30 starts in which he threw to a 6.29 ERA and put up a career-worst WAR of -1.8.

Hamels (3.8) and Kendrick (2.1) were the only pitchers for the team to post a WAR of two or better in 2007. Hamels (4.0), Moyer (2.5) and Lidge (2.3) had good years in 2008 and things got better. Happ (4.0) and Blanton (2.4) were good in 2009. Halladay’s 8.3 WAR led the Phils to the top spot in the NL in ’10 — he was backed by Hamels (5.3) and Oswalt (3.2 in just 12 starts).

In 2011, the combined WAR for Phillie pitchers topped out at 35.2. It’s not going back there, not next year, and, again, probably not ever. Fantastic seasons for Halladay (8.5), Lee (8.3) and Hamels (6.2) topped the group, but the Phillies also got contributions from Worley (3.2), Madson (2.0) and Oswalt (2.0).

It fell off a cliff in 2012 as the Phils dropped back to ninth in the league. Halladay, Lee and Hamels, whose combined 2011 WAR was 23, combined for a WAR of 9.1 (Lee 4.2, Hamels 4.2 and Halladay 0.7). After having just three negative WAR pitchers in 2011, the Phils had 11 in 2012.

Finally, the rank of the combined WAR (9) for all their pitchers was about the same in 2012 for the Phillies as it was in 2008 (9) and 2009 (8). The Phils went to the World Series in each of those seasons. Big difference between those teams and the 2012 Phils is that the offense was not great in 2012 and much better in ’08 and ’09. The Phils were eighth in the NL in runs scored in 2012. They tied for second in ’08 and led the league in runs scored in 2009.


What’s whatever the opposite of the matter is here?

The Phillies went 45-57 in their first 102 games this year before trading two of their better hitters and replacing them with lesser offensive players. After they did, the team took off, going 21-14 in their 35 games since the deals sent Victorino and Pence packing.

So what’s going on?

What’s going on is that since the Phillies traded Victorino and Pence, the offense has gotten worse. Just like you would expect. But. The pitching has gotten enormously better. Enough better to offset the offensive dropoff and carry the team.

Here’s a look at some of the numbers since the Phillies traded Victorino and Pence:

W-L RS/Gm RA/Gm SP ERA SP Ratio RP ERA RP Ratio
Thru 7/29 45-57 4.20 4.56 4.07 1.24 4.53 1.38
After 7/29 21-14 4.09 3.51 3.02 1.15 4.08 1.14
Total 66-71 4.17 4.29 3.80 1.22 4.42 1.32

The Phillies scored 4.20 runs per game before they traded Victorino and Pence. In the games they’ve played since they traded them, they’ve scored 4.09 runs per game.

The Phillies were 12th in the NL in runs scored in August and went 17-12. They went 17-12 not because they were a good offensive team, but because they were fourth in the league in runs allowed.

In the games that the Phillies played before trading Victorino and Pence, they allowed an average of 4.56 runs per game. Since they traded that duo, they’ve cut more than a run off of that. They’ve allowed 3.51 runs per game in the 35 games they’ve played since Victorino and Pence left. Going into today’s games, the Nationals were the NL team that had allowed the fewest runs per game in 2012 with 3.56 per game.

So 3.51 per game is impressive.

The bullpen has been better over the past 35 games than they were over the first 102, dropping more than half a run off of their ERA while their ratio has plummeted. Remember that they were terrible for a long time there, though, and the 4.08 ERA they’ve thrown to in the last 35 games isn’t exactly fantastic. If the Phillie bullpen had thrown to a 4.08 ERA for the entire year, that would be eleventh-best in the NL. As it is, their 4.42 bullpen ERA overall is twelfth-best.

The improvement in preventing runs has a lot more to do with the starting pitching than it does the relievers. Two points on what the relievers have done over the past 35 games, though, as they have thrown to a very impressive 1.14 ratio:

  • Over the last 35 games, the relievers have allowed just 59 hits in 86 innings. That’s an amazingly low hit rate of 6.17 hits per nine innings. Going into today’s games, Cincinnati’s bullpen had the lowest rate of hits allowed per nine innings for the season in the league at 7.27.
  • They have walked a ton of hitters in the same 35 games — 39 in 86 innings. That’s a walk rate of 4.08 per nine innings. Going into today’s games, only three NL teams had seen their relievers walk more than four batters per nine. The Dodgers had walked 4.07 per nine, the Brewers 4.18 and the Cubs 4.56 (Chicago relievers had walked 201 hitters in 396 2/3 innings). Here’s the list of Phillie relievers with a walk rate of 4.19 per nine or worse for the season: Schwimer, Sanches, Horst, Aumont, Bastardo, Stutes, Diekman, Rosenberg, Lindblom, De Fratus. Those ten pitchers have combined to throw 165 1/3 innings for the Phillies this year in which they have allowed 96 walks. That’s a walk rate of 5.23 per nine.

Again, the improvement overall in preventing runs has a lot more to do with what the starters have done than what the relievers have. The starters throw more than 70% of the innings for one thing, so even if the improvement of each of the groups had been about the same, the impact of the improvement by the starters would be much greater.

But the starters have improved more in the past 35 games than the relievers.

Here’s a look at what the guys in the rotation did before and after the trades of Victorino and Pence:

GS

IP

H

R

ER

BB

K

ERA

Ratio

Hamels

20

138.67

121

56

51

39

138

3.31

1.15

Blanton

20

132.67

139

73

67

18

115

4.55

1.18

Lee

17

118.33

119

53

52

23

112

3.95

1.20

thru 7/29

Worley

17

102.00

109

49

44

36

91

3.88

1.42

Halladay

14

89.33

88

43

43

16

72

4.33

1.16

Kendrick

13

75.33

82

42

38

25

55

4.54

1.42

Valdes

1

2.00

2

3

3

2

2

13.50

2.00

Total

102

658.33

660

319

298

159

585

4.07

1.24

GS

IP

H

R

ER

BB

K

ERA

Ratio

Halladay

7

48.00

43

16

16

9

37

3.00

1.08

Lee

7

50.33

49

16

14

3

49

2.50

1.03

Kendrick

7

42.67

37

15

14

7

28

2.95

1.03

after 7/29

Hamels

6

44.67

39

12

11

8

40

2.22

1.05

Worley

6

31.00

45

20

18

11

16

5.23

1.81

Cloyd

2

13.00

11

4

4

2

14

2.77

1.00

Total

35

229.67

224

83

77

40

184

3.02

1.15

Over the first 102 games of the season, Hamels was the only pitcher on the team who started at least one game for the Phillies and threw to an ERA under 3.88. Over the last 35 games, the rotation as a group has thrown to a 3.02 ERA.

Worley hasn’t been good in his six starts since the Phillies traded away Victorino and Pence. In the 29 starts not made by Worley since the trades, though, the rotation has a 2.67 ERA with a 1.05 ratio — every one of the five guys who has started at least one of those games has been very good. That group includes Halladay, Hamels, Lee and, more surprisingly, Kendrick and Cloyd.

The Phillies are going to win a huge percentage of their games in which their starters throw to the 3.02 ERA and a 1.15 ratio like they have since the trade. The Nationals have the best rotation in the NL in 2012 — they’ve thrown to 3.25 ERA for the year with a 1.17 ratio. In 2011, you may remember, the Phillies won 102 games behind a fantastic starting rotation. That group led the league with a 2.86 ERA and a 1.11 ratio. Nobody else was close — the Giant rotation had the second-best starter ERA for the year at 3.28.


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