third base

It takes two to make a thing go right-left

Here’s what Phillies hitters did with the bat while playing third base in 2008:

  PA AB H 2B 3B HR BB AVG OBP SLG OPS RC
All 3B ’08 653 603 148 29 2 20 44 .245 .295 .400 .695 71.52

The runs created at the end uses the most basic formula for runs created. If you use the technical version, the result is 65.32.

The left-handed Greg Dobbs and right-handed Pedro Feliz were both fantastic against their opposite side in 2008. Here’s what they did:

  PA AB H 2B 3B HR BB AVG OBP SLG OPS RC
Dobbs v R 230 217 67 14 1 9 10 .309 .339 .507 .846 -
Feliz v L 152 139 40 7 2 6 13 .288 .349 .496 .845 -

They were both really good, posting almost the same OPS.

Phillies third basemen in 2008 combined to get 653 plate appearances. Since about 30.3% of the Phillies plate appearances overall came against lefties and 69.7% of their plate appearances overall came against righties, I’m going to estimate that of the 653 plate appearances in ’08 for Phillies third basemen, 455 of them came against righties and 198 came against lefties.

Now I’m going to adjust what Dobbs and Feliz did to give Dobbs 455 plate appearances against righties and Feliz 198 plate appearances against lefties. Here goes:

  PA AB H 2B 3B HR BB AVG OBP SLG OPS RC
Dobbs v R 455 429 133 28 2 18 20 .309 .339 .507 .846 -
Feliz v L 198 181 52 9 3 8 17 .288 .349 .496 .845 -

And if you add the Dobbs numbers and Feliz numbers together, it looks like this:

  PA AB H 2B 3B HR BB AVG OBP SLG OPS RC
Total 653 610 185 37 5 26 37 .303 .342 .504 .846 105.19

The fictional DobbsFeliz beast can hit. It can’t draw a walk, but you can’t have everything. The actual .695 OPS that the Phillies third basemen put up in 2008 was 27th best among NL teams in terms of production at third base. An .846 would have been sixth best. Using the most basic form of runs created to do the estimate, the Phillies created 33.67 (105.19 minus 71.52) more runs with their mythological creation. If you use the technical formula for runs created, the number is 36.21 (101.53 created by the Dobbs/Feliz thing, minus 65.32 actually created).

The difference in offense almost surely offsets Dobbs’ defensive problems. Ultimate Zone Rating, for example, has Dobbs’ UZR/150 at -9.6 as a 3B and 9.4 for Feliz. You also have to remember that the better defensive player, Feliz, would still be playing significant defensive innings, presumably around 30.3% of them.

There are some problems, though.

First, even if the Phillies wanted to give every at-bat against righties to Dobbs and every at-bat against lefties to Feliz, that’s a lot simpler said than done. Actually, it’s really simple to say (give it a try!), but impossible to do — the flow of the game simply prohibits it. Feliz also missed about a month of the season with an injury in 2008.

Still, letting Dobbs hit against righties and Feliz hit against lefties leaves a lot of room for slop. Here, for example, is what it looks like in a ’08 world where Dobbs and Feliz combined to get 553 of the plate appearances for Phillies third basemen, with Dobbs only hitting against righties and Feliz only hitting against lefties, and the other 100 plate appearances were given to some combination of players that went 0-for-100.

  PA AB H 2B 3B HR BB AVG OBP SLG OPS RC
Dobbs 385 363 112 23 2 15 17 .309 .339 .507 .846 -
Feliz 168 154 44 8 2 7 14 .288 .349 .496 .845 -
Others 100 100 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 -
Total 653 617 156 31 4 22 31 .253 .290 .422 .712 75.34

Even with the 0-for-100 in the last 100 plate appearances, the Phillies still create about four more runs using the basic formula. Using the technical formula for runs created they create 72.81, which is 7.49 above the actual 65.32 mark for the third basemen in ’08.

While it does seem pretty clear the Phillies would score more runs if they went with a strict Dobbs/Feliz platoon at third, you have to also be aware that both Feliz and Dobbs out-performed their career numbers hitting against their opposite side in 2008:


Dobbs vs RHP
  AVG OBP SLG OPS
2008 309 339 507 846
Career 278 322 444 766
         

Feliz vs LHP
2008 288 349 496 845
Career 267 312 446 758

Both players were much better in ’08 against their opposite side than they’ve been over their careers. Feliz notably put up a .667 OPS against lefties in ’07 and a .633 OPS against them in ’06. Dobbs has been a little more stable against righties, but still doesn’t have a huge number of opportunities over his career. Still, for last year at least, I don’t think there’s much of a question that a straight left-right platoon would have produced significantly more offense out of the position than the Phillies got.

The Phillies signed infielders Anthony Hewitt, Pablo Ozuna and Jorge Velandia and left-handed pitcher Jacob Woods to minor league contracts and invited them to spring training.

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Phils may be hoping for a little less consistency from Feliz in ’09

There was some hope coming into to 2008 that the combination of hitting in Citizens Bank Park and joining a high-powered Phillies lineup would help Pedro Feliz’s offensive production. Here’s what he did at home last year compared to his career numbers excluding what he did at home last year:

  PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
2008 @ home 233 260 304 409 714
Rest of
career
3257 251 289 430 719

He was a little worse than his career numbers overall, hitting for a slightly higher average and getting on base a little more, but with a lower slugging percentage.

Here’s another way to look at it, taking the percentages of his plate appearances that resulted in hits, walks, extra-base hits or strikeouts:

  H BB XHB K
2008 @ home 24.0 6.0 6.9 10.3
Rest of
career
23.5 5.2 9.0 16.3

Again, this suggests that he got hits and drew walks at a slightly higher rate than he has over his career and also delivered fewer extra-base hits. It also suggests that he struck out at a lower rate at home in 2008 than he has over his career.

Feliz was a little better overall at home than on the road in 2008, hitting 260/304/409 at home and 238/300/395 on the road.

Finally, we know Feliz has had serious back problems that kept him off the field for about a month between the end of July and mid-August last season. It’s difficult to know how much they were a factor for him last year. His numbers at the end of the season over the last four years have been remarkably consistent, however. He played the 2005, 2006 and 2007 seasons with the Giants and ended those years with an OPS of .717 in 2005, .709 in 2006 and .708 in 2007. In 2008 with the Phillies his OPS for the year was .705. Over the last four seasons the range on his batting average at the end of the year has been .244-.253, on-base percentage .281-.302 and slugging .402-.428. So he has been very consistent. It could, of course, be that he got a huge boost from playing at Citizens Bank Park that was offset by the back injury, but either way his numbers at the end of the year wound up almost exactly where they have been.

Four years, $60 million was apparently enough for the Braves to get Derek Lowe.

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Third things first

The Phillies’ effort to try to find offensive production at third base through the process of elimination continues. So do the lackluster results. Here’s what Phillies hitters playing third base have done over the past four years compared to the rest of the NL and the rest of MLB, using OPS as the measure:


Year

OPS

OPS Rank NL

OPS Rank MLB

2008

.695

15

27

2007

.688

16

27

2006

.684

15

29

2005

.695

13

25

If you’re looking for a bright side, at least things aren’t getting worse.

In 2008, Phillies third basemen hit 245/295/400. The .295 on-base percentage that they posted was the worst in all of baseball.

A .695 OPS for the Phillies third basemen seems like it should be impossible. Feliz and Dobbs got most of the time there and Feliz put up a .705 OPS for the year and Dobbs an .824 OPS for the year. Part of the answer to that one is that they got to .705 and .824 by having fantastic years as pinch-hitters (although Dobbs, as you’ll see below, actually posted a better OPS while playing third than he did overall). Most fans know that Dobbs was great as a pinch-hitter in ’08, he went 22-for-62 (355/388/532). In many fewer chances, though, so was Feliz. Feliz went 7-for-16 as a pinch-hitter, putting up a 438/471/688 line.

Dobbs’ numbers dropped overall because he went 4-for-22 with three singles and a double when he wasn’t at third or pinch-hitting.

Anyhow, despite the great numbers as pinch-hitters, it seems like Feliz must be mostly to blame for the .695 OPS for the group. And he is, with an assist to Bruntlett, who was terrible with the bat while playing third in 2008. Here’s the guys that got the at-bats for the Phils while playing third in ’08 and what they did:


Player

AB

AVG/OBP/SLG

OPS

Pedro Feliz

408

243/296/392

.689

Greg Dobbs

142

296/322/514

.836

Eric Bruntlett

48

146/241/167

.407

Mike Cervenak
4
000/000/000

.000

Carlos Ruiz also went 0-for-1 as a 3B for the Phils in ’08, but it’s clear that Feliz and his .296 on-base percentage did much of the damage.

Feliz did out-OPS Abraham Nunez as a third baseman in 2008 compared to what Nunez did for the Phils in ’07. But not by a whole lot. In 2007, Nunez got 212 at-bats for the Phils at 3B and hit 255/342/311 (.653 OPS). Notably, however, Nunez did hit for a higher batting average and got on base more. Nunez didn’t exactly set the bar at unreachable levels in terms of getting extra-base hits. In 2007, he had 11, ten doubles and a triple, in 243 plate appearances as a third baseman for the Phils (he got an extra-base hit in about 4.5% of his plate appearances). Feliz had 33 extra-base hits, 18 doubles, two triples and 11 home runs, in 445 plate appearances as a 3B for the Phils in ’08. That’s an extra-base hit in about 7.4% of his plate appearances.

This suggests the Braves have offered Derek Lowe four years, $60 million. If the Mets and Braves are going to be in a bidding war it might as well be over who gets to sign Derek Lowe to a long contract.

Gabe Kapler agreed to a one-year deal with the Rays. Nomar is apparently busy playing soccer. This says that Gariciaparra has “compartment syndrome” in his calf and suggests it would require him to undergo painful therapy to break up scar tissue if he continues to play.

Chan Ho Park will not pitch for South Korea in the World Baseball Classic.

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I am not saying they are overrated; I am just saying that if Hanley Ramirez played in New York they would have to implement some sort of tithing system

I’m generally against anything that makes the Mets better offensively, but it might be worth it if it meant we got to see Mets’ fans have to bring a tenth of their goats, cows and comeliest women and leave them at the door of Hanley’s apartment.

Five teams in the NL East. This is what the player that played the most innings defensively at shortstop and the player that played the most innings defensively at third base did with the bat last year:


Team

Player

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS
FLA Ramirez 639 .332 .386 .562 .948
FLA Cabrera 588 .320 .401 .565 .965
FLA Total 1227 .326 .393 .563 .956
ATL Renteria 494 .332 .390 .470 .860
ATL Chipper 513 .337 .425 .604 1.029
ATL Total 1007 .335 .408 .538 .947
NYM Reyes 681 .280 .354 .421 .775
NYM Wright 604 .325 .416 .546 .963
NYM Total 1285 .301 .384 .480 .864
PHI J-Roll 716 .296 .344 .531 .875
PHI Nunez 252 .234 .318 .282 .600
PHI Total 968 .280 .337 .466 .803
WAS Lopez 603 .245 .308 .352 .659
WAS Zimmerman 653 .266 .330 .458 .788
WAS Total 1256 .256 .319 .407 .726

Reyes and Wright are fantastic. Last year they were just less fantastic than the duo of Chipper and Renteria, though, and less fantastic than Miguel Cabrera and Hanley Ramirez. More fantastic than the offerings of the Phillies and the Nats. Reyes was almost inarguably the fourth-best hitting shortstop in the division and, well, there are only five teams in the division.

Hitting isn’t everything, of course. The chart above doesn’t account for the contribution through the stolen base. Or defense. Ramirez and Cabrera in particular pale in comparison defensively to Wright and Reyes.

The Phillies, meanwhile, were not fantastic. Their numbers look bad as they are and they are actually skewed positively for the Phils in the chart above. Because Rollins got so many more at-bats than Nunez his numbers are more heavily weighted, resulting in a higher OPS. At the same time, Lopez was miserable for the Nats at short last year while Guzman hit the ball well. So the Nats numbers are a bit lower than if they were actually reflecting the offense they got from the position rather than just from Lopez. If you use the numbers of all Phils’ third baseman and recalculate, and all the Nats’ shortstops, the Phils still post a .789 OPS, higher than the .769 for the Nats. But closer. And closer still when you consider that the Nationals play in a much worse place to hit.

So it’s nice to see that Reyes and Wright haven’t been dominating the division. Couple of problems, though, and they’re are spearheaded by these: Reyes and Wright are going to get better and the rest of the division is going to get worse. Of the guys who outpaced them in ’07, two of them, Cabrera and Renteria, now play in Detroit where their impact on the NL East is likely to be minimal.

In 2008, Yunel Escobar will replace Renteria at short for the Braves. He has just about zero chance at producing the offense that Renteria did last year (I would also guess he doesn’t have much chance to produce the offense that he produced last year, either). Chipper also arguably comes off his best season in the last eight, so the chances are good his numbers will be down. I think Reyes/Wright hit better than the Braves’ second and third combo in ’08.

The Fish, meanwhile, will replace Miguel Cabrera with a motley cast of characters. It’s kinda ugly but at the moment it looks like a combination of Dallas McPherson, Jose Castillo and Jorge Cantu. Ramirez’s numbers last year were other worldly — chances are good they’ll be down in ’08 as well.

Going into the season you’d have to pick Wright/Reyes to be the best duo of hitters. I’d go Chipper/Escobar behind them, but it’s close with the Marlins. Feliz and Rollins for the Phils and Zimmerman and Guzman for the Nats seems destined to drag up the rear in ’08 as well.

The Phillies played two games yesterday and are 4-4 in spring training after splitting the pair.

In one of the games they beat the Blue Jays 6-1.

Myers got the start for the Phils and pitched very well, allowing three hits over four shutout innings. He didn’t walk a hitter. Shane Youman followed Myers and tossed three scoreless frames, holding Detroit to two singles. Madson pitched the eighth and the ninth and allowed a run on two hits.

Utley was 1-for-3 with a double and drove in two runs. Ruiz was also 1-for-3 with a double and two RBI, he’s hitting .455 (5-for-11). Helms had two hits, going 2-for-3 with a double. Val Pascucci hit a solo home run in his only at-bat. Rollins was 1-for-2 to raise his average to .133.

In the other game the Phils lost to the Tigers 6-2.

JD Durbin got the start for the Phils and allowed three runs over four innings, all on solo home runs. Carlos Guillen got him twice and Magglio Ordonez hit the other one. Happ followed Durbin and allowed a run on two innings on two singles and a double. Condrey pitched the seventh and allowed another run on two singles and a double. Holdzkom pitched the eighth and allowed a run when walked the leadoff man, balked him to second and he came around to score on two sac flies.

Brandon Watson had two hits, including a double, for the Phils. Burrell went 0-for-3 to drop his average to .154. Snelling was 0-for-2 with a pair of walks, he’s hitting .167.

Phils play the Devil Rays today.

Kris Benson will pitch in a minor league game on Saturday.

Rowand doesn’t give an expletive where the Giants hit him.

This says that Lidge is still hopeful he can return by opening day. It also says that Rollins is not worried by his early slump.

The Mets’ Moises Alou will have hernia surgery today and will miss four to six weeks.


Desperate for outs after losing Nunez, Phils vote for Pedro

Without an answer at third base since Scott Rolen departed in 2002, the Phillies appear poised to open yet another chapter in the saga. It’s really kind of a tough book to recommend.

Pending a physical, it seems the Phillies will sign 32-year-old Pedro Feliz to a two-year contract worth $8.5 million with a club option for 2010.

Feliz is a fantastic defensive player and sure to give the Phils a boost with the glove, but the news is disappointing. The fact that Dobbs and Helms are both barely passable defensively at third base was a big problem. But the answer wasn’t a guy with nearly 3,000 career at-bats and a career-high on-base percentage of .305.

Feliz is good for 20 home runs a year, maybe more at Citizens Bank Park. He hasn’t slugged over .430 in the last three seasons, though. In 2007 he slugged .418 — Helms, Nunez and Ruiz were the only three Phils to get 200 at-bats and post a worse slugging percentage.

He’s just a mess as an offensive player. He cut down on his strikeouts last season, posting under 100 whiffs for the first time since 2004. He’s drawn 100 walks in the last three years combined (Burrell and Howard both walked over 100 times in 2007). He hits into a lot of double-plays. Most importantly, though, he just can’t hit left-handed or right-handed hitting. He’s a career 263/305/437 hitter against righties and 248/282/431 against lefties.

His addition would almost surely mean there’s no room on the team for both Dobbs and Helms. The Phils deal Helms for a relief pitcher seems like the best bet, but it’s not exactly going to be an example of selling high. I’d love to see Dobbs continue to get a bunch of starts at third base against righties, bad defense or not. We’ll have to wait and see what the Phillies say and do, but I’d be surprised if they brought in Feliz to do something besides play third base every day.

If Dobbs does go to the bench it does solve the no-lefty on the bench problem. That was a small one, though.

Up till now I thought Eric Bruntlett’s role was going to be primarily as the guy who plays third base in the late innings. Don’t know what he’s going to do now, but he seems sure to hang on to a job as the Phils need someone to back up second and short and their choices are extremely limited.

Using OPS as the measure, the Phils got less offense from their third basemen in 2007 than any other team in the National League. They posted a .688 OPS. Except for five innings played by Russell Branyan, Dobbs, Nunez and Helms got all the time at third base last season. Offensively overall on the year, Nunez was terrible, Helms was terrible and Dobbs was okay. But in the at-bats Dobbs got as a third baseman, he was just wretched. Here’s what Dobbs did in his at-bats last season when he was playing third base and in his at-bats last season when he wasn’t playing third base:

 
AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS
Dobbs as 3B 190 .232 .293 .347 .641
Dobbs not as 3B 134 .328 .380 .597 .977

I think you can make the argument that it was simply a fluke that Dobbs was so much worse offensively when he played third base in 2007 than when he played other positions. In the same way, Helms is virtually guaranteed to produce more offense in 2008 than he did in 2007. The Phillies got some miserable production out of third in ’07, but there was a good chance that Dobbs, Helms and Bruntlett of ’08 were going to outplay Dobbs, Helms and Nunez of ’07 by a lot offensively.

The Phillies gave Abraham Nunez 212 at-bats as a third baseman last season in which he hit a miserable 255/342/311. If you’re going to give that kind of an offensive player that many at-bats you can’t be surprised when you wind up the worst in the league at the position. Your third base situation is just terrible if you have to do that — Nunez at third was a weak solution, but apparently it was the best the Phillies could come up with. Charlie Manuel just wasn’t going to regularly let Dobbs or Helms play third late in a close game. Given those options, my guess is that we would have seen a ton of Bruntlett at third in ’08 as a defensive replacement, burning the bat of Dobbs or Helms early. I’m not saying that would have been a good way to handle the situation, but I think it’s what Manuel would have done. If the plan was to give Bruntlett Nunez-like numbers of at-bats at third in an effort to address the problem that Dobbs and Helms are barely passable defensively there, giving those at-bats to Feliz instead would be an improvement.

The addition of Feliz guarantees that the team will be better defensively at third than they have been for a long time. Since Scott Rolen, in fact. Feliz and Rollins are going to do about as good a job as anyone at keeping ground balls from going through the left side of the infield. And the team can and will score runs, whoever the third baseman is. What they need to figure out is how to prevent them.

Sure wish they would have tried getting a pitcher, though.

This from the Phillies web site also says that Chad Durbin is likely the fifth guy in the bullpen behind Lidge, Romero, Gordon and Madson.


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