third base

Oh, for it to be 2008 again

Yesterday’s post suggested that if you look at Young’s overall WAR numbers over the last five seasons, he doesn’t fare that well compared to the rest of the Phillies. That, in large part, is due to the fact that he’s been a pretty miserable defensive player of late, posting a negative dWAR in four of the last five years. Looking at the top five hitters by WAR on the Phillies over the last five seasons means he’s competing with players who accumulate significant value from their defense (Utley, Rollins, Ruiz and Victorino especially), which Young has not been able to do.

If you look just at the offensive numbers, Young’s bids to get into the top five among Phillie hitters in recent years improve quite a bit. Arguably, Young would have been the best hitter on the Phillies in 2011 among the players that got 400 plate appearances — 2011 wasn’t that long ago and it saw Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, Raul Ibanez, Placido Polanco and Shane Victorino all get at least 400 plate appearances with the Phils.

The table below shows where Young’s oWAR for all Phillies hitters and wOBA (for hitters with at least 400 plate appearances) ranks among Phillies for the last five seasons:

Year Rank oWAR wOBA
2008 1 Utley 5.7 Utley .389
2008 2 Rollins 3.5 Burrell .375
2008 3 Victorino 3.3 Werth .374
2008 - Young 3.2 (4) Young .328 (7)
2009 1 Utley 6.0 Utley .394
2009 2 Werth 4.0 Howard .392
2009 3 Howard 3.9 Ibanez .378
2009 - Young 4.0 (T-2) Young .385 (3)
2010 1 Werth 4.9 Werth .396
2010 2 Utley 3.9 Utley .370
2010 3 Ruiz 3.2 Ruiz/Howard .368
2010 - Young 2.7 (T-4) Young .336 (6)
2011 1 Victorino 5.0 Victorino .368
2011 2 Rollins 3.1 Howard .355
2011 3 Utley 2.9 Utley .338
2011 - Young 3.5 (2) Young .369 (1)
2012 1 Ruiz 4.0 Ruiz .398
2012 2 Rollins 3.1 Pence .340
2012 3 Utley 2.0 Rollins .322
2012 - Young -1.0 (26) Young .297 (7)

Young has been really good offensively in two of the last five years, hitting 338/380/474 in 2011 and 322/374/518 with 22 homers in 2009.

By oWAR, he would have been in the top two among Phillie hitters twice in the past five years and in the top four in four of the five.

By wOBA, he would have been the best Phillie hitter with at least 400 plate appearances in 2011 and the third best in 2009.

In 2012 he was unarguably terrible, but his career wOBA of .344, had he produced that and not the actual .297 he did put up, would have been second best on the team behind only Ruiz.

Young has had four really good offensive years, only one of which has come in the last five seasons. 2004, 2006 and 2009 were all really good and 2005, when he put up a 331/385/513 line, was probably the best.


Oh, for him to be Michael Young again

Michael Young’s 2012 season didn’t impress a whole lot of people. Baseball-Reference calculates his WAR at -2.4, the worst mark for any player, hitter or pitcher, in either league. FanGraphs calculates his WAR at -1.4 with only four players across both leagues compiling a worse WAR, all hitters.

Both sites agree he was bad at both offense and defense. Baseball-Reference calculates his oWAR at -1.0 (only ten players across both leagues had a worse mark) and his dWAR at -2.2 (only Rickie Weeks had a worse mark across both leagues). FanGraphs calculates his wOBA at .297, which is 104th best of the 114 players across both leagues with at least 550 plate appearances and gives him an UZR/150 rating of -20 or worse at both second and third base.

So he didn’t have a good year.

He has before, though. And recently.

Year bWAR fWAR
2008 2.8 2.8
2009 2.5 3.1
2010 1.6 2.6
2011 2.1 3.7
2012 -2.4 -1.4

So there was a big drop off in 2012 relative to recent years.

Where would his total WAR have ranked among Phillie batters over the last five years? The table below shows the top three hitters by WAR for each of the last five seasons as well as Young’s bWAR and fWAR and where that would rank among Phillie hitters:

Year bWAR fWAR
2008 1 Utley 8.8 Utley 8.3
2008 2 Rollins 5.3 Rollins 5.6
2008 3 Victorino 4.2 Werth 5.2
2008 - Young 2.8 (5) Young 2.8 (6)
2009 1 Utley 8.0 Utley 8.2
2009 2 Werth 4.2 Werth 5.0
2009 3 Howard/Victorino 3.5 Howard 4.6
2009 - Young 2.5 (T-6) Young 3.1 (6)
2010 1 Utley 5.7 Utley 5.4
2010 2 Werth 4.3 Werth 5.3
2010 3 Ruiz 3.9 Ruiz 4.4
2010 - Young 1.6 (7) Young 2.6 (6)
2011 1 Victorino 5.2 Victorino 5.9
2011 2 Utley 3.7 Utley 4.0
2011 3 Ruiz 2.6 Rollins 3.9
2011 - Young 2.1 (6) Young 3.7 (4)
2012 1 Ruiz 4.4 Ruiz 5.5
2012 2 Utley 2.9 Rollins 4.9
2012 3 Rollins 2.3 Utley 3.2
2012 - Young -2.4 (26) Young -1.4 (26)

By fWAR, his 2011 season would have had him fourth with the Phillies. By bWAR, his 2008 season would have had him fifth. Those are the only two years times in the last five seasons his total WAR would have had him in the top five for the Phillies using the calculation of either site.

In this mailbag from the Phillies web site, Todd Zolecki discusses the possibility that Ruf will start the year at Triple-A.


Power trip up

Back to Utley and Pence soon, but I did just need to take a minute to stop and point out that the Phillies third basemen didn’t hit for much power in 2011. Really they didn’t.

Using slugging percentage minus average as the formula for Isolated Power, the Phils were 16th in the 16-team NL in the category. Phillie third basemen combined to hit .266 for the year and slug .342, which gives them an .076 Isolated Power. Here’s how that stacks up with the rest of the NL for last year:

AVG SLG ISO NL-Rank ISO
Chicago Cubs
San Francisco
Arizona
Atlanta
Cincinnati
NY Mets
Houston
Washington
Colorado
St. Louis
Pittsburgh
Milwaukee
San Diego
LA Dodgers
Florida
Philadelphia
310
294
251
267
243
274
259
267
222
269
224
215
262
228
260
266
498
478
412
422
397
418
388
394
348
393
333
324
368
325
347
342
188
184
161
155
154
144
129
127
126
124
109
109
106
097
087
076
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
11
13
14
15
16

The Phils just barely out-feebled the Fish, who were pretty atrocious at generating power at 3B theirownselves. During the ’11 season, the Phils third baseman hit for a solid enough average, .266 compared to the positional average of .257, but slugged just .342 — .045 lower than the positional average of .387.

So they were bad. But how bad? When was the last time that an NL team saw their 3B combine to put up an Isolated Power mark of .076 or worse? It’s been a while. Here’s what the Phillies, as well as the team in the NL with the worst mark in the category for the year, have done over the last eight seasons:

Worst Team ISO 3B ISO by 3B PHI ISO 3B PHI Rank
2011 PHI 076 076 16
2010 STL 078 094 15
2009 FLA 083 123 13
2008 LAD 131 155 12
2007 PHI 113 113 16
2006 PHI 093 093 16
2005 STL 099 117 13
2004 SD 074 166 10

So, in three of the last eight years, the Phillie third baseman have had the worst isolated power in the NL. The last time an NL team saw their 3B put up a worse Isolated Power number than the Phillies did 2011 was the 2004 San Diego Padres. Sean Burroughs led the charge for the Padres at third that year and hit nearly .300 for the season, but with very little power and just two home runs (one of which came as a pinch-hitter and not a third baseman) over 564 plate appearances, posting a 298/348/365 line (and an isolated power mark of .067). In the defense on Burroughs, some of the damage at third was done by Rich Aurilia, Jeff Cirillo, Ramon Vasquez and Dave Hansen. That group combined to hit for no power as well, but hit just .211 over 166 at-bats while doing so.

The list above is rather ugly for the Phils. In terms of power at the position, the Phils best mark over the past eight seasons came in 2004. David Bell had the best year of his career for the Phils in 2004, hitting 291/363/458 over 603 plate appearances. That was good enough for a career best OPS+ of 107 for Bell.

Back with the 2011 Phillies, the problems with their power aren’t just about hitting home runs. Phillie third basemen hit eight in 2011, which isn’t a lot, but still better than two other NL teams (Florida and San Diego). The problem was doubles — the ’11 Phillies got just 18 doubles from their third basemen combined.

Including the 2011 Phillie team, over the last 15 years there have only been three teams that got less than 20 doubles from their third baseman in a season and only one team saw their third basemen deliver less than 18 doubles. The 3B for the 2002 Padres doubled 18 times, tying the Phillies mark from 2011. The 3B for the 1997 Dodgers hit just 17 doubles, but smoked 31 home runs at the position. Todd Zeile got all but ten of the plate appearances for the team at the position for the year, hitting 17 doubles and 31 bombs. The ’02 Padres were just bad at the position, with Burroughs (again) and Phil Nevin doing most of the damage.


Touching base (third)

Back in November I looked at some of the available players who looked like they might be a good match for the Phils at third base. The Phillies landed on Placido Polanco and most of the rest of that group has found a home by now as well:

Player Age Status
P Feliz 34

After the Phillies declined his $5.5 million option for 2010, Feliz signed a one-year deal with the Astros for $4.5 million.

     
P Polanco 34 Signed a three-year, $18 million deal with the Phillies
     
A Beltre 30 Signed a one-year, $9 million deal with Boston
     
C Figgins 32 Signed a four-year, $36 million deal with Seattle.
     
M DeRosa 34 Signed with San Francisco for two years, $12 million
     
     
G Atkins 30 Signed a one year contract with Baltimore. The contract is for $4 million with incentives that could earn Atkins an additional $1 million. He will likely play first base and not third.
     
T Glaus 33 Signed with the Braves for one-year, $1.75 million.  He is expected to play first base and not third with Atlanta.
     
     
M Tejada 35 Agreed to a one-year, $6 million deal with Baltimore
     
J Crede 31 Unsigned

I don’t think the Polanco contract looks great in relation to the signings for the group given the length of Polanco’s new deal. I would rather have Polanco for three years at his contract than Figgins for four years at his contract. I’m not as sure about the rest of the group.

After the Phillies declined Feliz’s option for 2010 I would guess they couldn’t have signed him as a free agent for one-year, $4.5 million even if they had wanted to. They might have been better off if they did.

Glaus’s signing may be the steal of the group, cause if he’s healthy he’s a lock to be the best offensive player in the group. Even if he’s not a hundred percent, there’s still a good chance he’s the best hitter in the group in 2009. Let’s just hope he really can’t play third base at all.

I think the O’s got a great deal on Atkins, too. I think it’s much more likely that he will see time at third in the future, despite Baltimore’s preference to play him at first. It’s undeniable that he was miserable in 2009, but including that awful year he has hit 292/359/472 over the past four seasons and averaged 21 homers and 94 RBI. Let’s hope he really can’t play third, either.

I’m definitely rooting for Polanco to hit .320 with 15 home runs. And maybe he will. He’s getting old, though, and he’s coming off a bad year. If I were guessing, Feliz and Crede are the only players in the group that I feel confident that Polanco will outperform offensively in 2010. And that’s in year one of a three-year deal. And maybe he can play third, but he’s not a third baseman. So let’s hope for the best. But the time that’s past since the signing hasn’t done a whole lot to make me feel better about the deal for the Phillies.

Joe Blanton and the Phillies agreed to a three-year, $24 million deal.

Victorino and the Phils agreed to a three-year, $22 million deal.

The Phillies and Ruiz agreed to a three-year, $8.85 million deal.

This suggests the Phillies have agreed to a one-year deal with right-handed pitcher Jose Contreras, which is worth about $1 million. Contreras pitched for the White Sox and Rockies last year, posting a 4.92 ERA with a 1.47 ratio over 131 2/3 innings. He spent most of the past three years with the White Sox and has a 5.09 ERA over the past three seasons. He was traded to the Rockies at the end of the 2009 season and he got his first chance to pitch for a NL team — in seven appearances he threw to a 1.59 ERA over 17 innings but with a 1.65 ratio (his ERA+ while throwing to a 1.59 ERA with the Rockies was 288).


The sixth nonsense

Charlie Manuel finished sixth in the voting for NL Manager of the Year. Sixth?

Moving on, here’s the rates some free agents who could fill the Phils need at third base tallied hits, walks, doubles and triples, home runs and extra-base hits per 100 plate appearances for their last season in which they got more than 450 plate appearances (2008 for Glaus and 2009 for everyone else):

  H/100 BB/100 2B+3B/100 HR/100 XBH/100
Feliz 24.6 5.6 5.1 1.9 7.0
Tejada 29.6 2.8 7.0 2.1 9.1
DeRosa 22.4 8.2 4.2 4.0 8.2
Polanco 26.1 5.3 5.2 1.5 6.7
Beltre 24.9 4.0 5.7 1.7 7.3
Glaus 23.1 13.7 5.3 4.2 9.6
Figgins 25.1 13.9 5.1 0.7 5.8
Crede 20.4 7.9 4.6 4.1 8.7

And here are the same numbers over their careers:

  H/100 BB/100 2B+3B/100 HR/100 XBH/100
Feliz 23.7 5.3 5.3 3.3 8.6
Tejada 26.4 6.3 5.5 3.6 9.1
DeRosa 24.4 8.4 5.2 2.6 7.8
Polanco 27.8 5.2 5.1 1.5 6.6
Beltre 24.7 7.0 5.4 3.6 9.1
Glaus 21.7 13.5 4.9 5.2 10.0
Figgins 25.6 10.1 4.9 0.8 5.7
Crede 23.3 5.9 4.9 4.1 9.0

Feliz is a very weak offensive player. He has never on-based over .308 for a season and has a .715 career OPS. Doesn’t walk, doesn’t hit for average and hasn’t hit more than 14 home runs in either of the last two seasons.

Tejada is a career .289 hitter and hit .313 for the Astros last year. He walked just 19 times in 673 plate appearances in ’09. He does deliver a ton of extra-base hits. He’s hit 30 or more homers four times in his career, but just 27 in 1,339 plate appearances over the last two years. He’s not a third baseman, either. He may be in the future, but so far he has appeared at third in zero games over his 13-year career.

DeRosa comes off of a weak season in which he hit 250/319/433 for the Indians and Cards. His walk rate is good, better than everyone on the list except for Figgins and Glaus. Through his age 32 season his career high in home runs was 13. Over the past two years he has hit 21 and 23.

Polanco is the least likely member of this group to walk in a given plate appearance over his career and that’s saying something. Pedro Feliz is in this group. Joe Crede is in this group. Adrian Beltre is in this group. The .303 career average is impressive, though. He’s the worst power option in the group behind Figgins.

Beltre has on-based .330 or better in one of the last nine seasons. He does have some power, but he’s hit under .270 four of the last five years.

The problems with Glaus are that he had terrible injury problems last year and probably can’t play third base anymore. Everything else is just ducky. He’s the least likely of the group to deliver a hit or a double or triple, but he has monster rates for drawing walks and hitting home runs. He’s a career .255 hitter and a big right-handed bat that would look fantastic in the Phillies lineup, but if he really can’t play third base it’s going to make it tough to make him your third baseman.

Figgins walked 101 times last season, leading the American League. Second-best walk rate for his career of the group behind Glaus. Worst power numbers of the group by a lot. He just doesn’t homer. His rate of delivering doubles and triples is actually a little better than the rates for Glaus and Crede. He also has stolen 40 or more bases in four of the last five seasons.

Joe Crede hasn’t gotten 400 plate appearances in any of the past three seasons, so I’d be pretty surprised if the Phillies think he’s the guy to hand the third base job. He doesn’t hit for average or draw walks. He is right-handed and can hit some home runs — his home runs rate is second for the group behind Glaus. Career on-base percentage of .304.

I think the guys on the list that have close to no chance of being the player the Phils go after are Crede and Glaus. They are both the kind of player the Phillies need at third — a righty who can hit for power. I would be tempted to take a chance on Glaus if there’s any way he can play third. I don’t think the Phillies will.

Beltre, Tejada, Figgins and DeRosa all seem like they would be an upgrade over Feliz. I hope the Phillies do not consider Polanco to be a real option. I think it would be a big mistake to give him the third base job this year and it could reasonably be argued that Feliz would have been the better choice.

I still think there’s a good chance the Phils get their third baseman through a trade rather than a free agent signing.

Garrett Atkins has been told by the Rockies that he will not be released, but says he knows he will be with another team in 2010. Atkins comes of a miserable season in which he hit 226/308/342 and lost his job to Ian Stewart, but I would be quite pleased to see him as a Phillie. 289/354/457 career line. Hits lefties hard (301/384/486). And yes, he’s been better at Coors than away from it by a lot, but he still has hit more home runs away than he has at home for his career. Where do I sign?

Atkins is also a close friend and former college roommate of Chase Utley. I’m just saying.


Then again, maybe it is how you start

The Phillies started different players at third base and catcher regularly in 2008. Here is a look at the team’s record in games where they started Feliz or Dobbs at third, remembering that the Phillies went 92-70 overall, which is a .568 winning percentage:

Player GS at 3b W-L PCT
Pedro Feliz 106 63-43 .594
Greg Dobbs 42 21-21 .500

Eric Bruntlett started 13 games at third for the Phils in ’08. The team went 7-6 in those games. Mike Cervenak started the last game of the year at third for the Phils, which the team won.

Except for the last game of the year, which was caught by Lou Marson, Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste split the catching starts in 2008. Ruiz got 92 and Coste 69:

Player GS at C W-L PCT
Carlos Ruiz 92 55-37 .598
Chris Coste 69 36-33 .522

Coste and Ruiz shared the starts with Rod Barajas in 2007 as well, and again the Phillies played to their best winning percentage with Ruiz behind the plate (in ’07 the Phillies went 89-73, which is a .549 winning percentage):

Player GS at C W-L PCT
Carlos Ruiz 100 58-42 .580
Rod Barajas 37 17-20 .459
Chris Coste 25 14-11 .560

Over the last two years, the Phillies are 113-79 (.589 winning percentage) in the games that Ruiz started at catcher and 68-64 (.515) in the games someone else started at catcher.

In all three examples, Feliz in ’08, Ruiz in ’08 and Ruiz in ’07, the team’s winning percentage when starting the better defensive player is better than the team’s winning percentage overall for the season. This could be caused by a whole lot of things other than Pedro Feliz or Carlos Ruiz making the Phillies win when they start. For example, to generalize, I think it’s safe to say that Charlie Manuel starts his better defensive players in games that are started by his better starting pitchers. Ruiz, for example, caught 26 of Hamels’ 33 starts in ’08 and 19 of his 28 starts in 2007. At the same time, the Phillies went 19-14 in the 33 games that Hamels started in 2008. That’s a .576 winning percentage, worse than the .598 winning percentage that the Phillies posted overall in the games started by Ruiz. In ’07, the Phils went 19-9 in the 28 games started by Hamels, a .679 winning percentage that was better than the .580 in the games started by Ruiz.

To speculate further, another factor is surely that Manuel considers Feliz and Ruiz his best players at the position and puts them into games he sees as the ones the Phillies need to win. For that reason, it may be that the presence of Feliz or Ruiz in the lineup reflects that the lineup is stronger overall, because Manuel chose to play what he saw as he best players at all positions and not just third and catcher, rather than cause the lineup to be stronger. Still, that’s a whole lot of wins over the last two years in games that Ruiz started.

Finally, it’s interesting to note that Ruiz’s catching duties actually shrunk slightly last year for the Phils, both in terms of the number of games he started (92 down from 100) and the number of innings he caught (828 down from 912 2/3).

Interview with Charlie Manuel at Beerleaguer.

This article lists Nomar Garciaparra, Ty Wigginton, Moises Alou, Rich Aurilia, Mark Grudzielanek and Kevin Millar as the right-handed hitters the Phillies are interested in. Wigginton would be the prize of that group by a lot and a fantastic fit with the needs of the team. This says that the Orioles are interested in Wigginton, but he wants a two-year deal and Baltimore would prefer to give him one year.


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