Tag: Ben Francisco

They coulda been a contender . . . oh wait, they were a contender

Not long ago, the Phillies were pretty good defensively in the outfield compared to the rest of baseball. Not so much anymore. Here’s the UZR/150 for all Phillie outfielders combined for the last six seasons as calculated by FanGraphs and how it compares to teams across both leagues:

Year UZR/150 all PHI OF Rank MLB
2007 4.1 8
2008 8.0 7
2009 0.7 13
2010 -5.5 25
2011 -8.4 28
2012 -4.8 25

So, from 2007 through 2009, the Phillies were in the top half of teams defensively in the outfield across both leagues by UZR/150. Over the last three years they have been no better than 25th.

There’s only 30 teams out there, so being 25th or worse for three straight years counts as a problem. It’s arguable that the Phillies have had the worst outfield defense in baseball over the past three seasons. It’s kind of a pick ‘em between the Phils, Orioles and Mets.

Notably, ugly outfield defense or not, the Phillies went 199-125 in 2010 and 2011 combined. I think it’s safe to say they were good at other things.

Using Baseball-Reference’s dWAR, only twice in the past three seasons have the Phillies had a player who both played at least 100 outfield innings for the team in a season and posted a dWAR greater than zero for the year. Victorino did it both times, putting up a 0.5 in 1,150 innings in 2011 after putting up a 0.4 in 1,265 innings in 2010.

In 2007, Victorino (16.6 UZR/150 in the outfield, mostly right), Bourn (22.9 in about 300 innings, about 200 of which were in left) and Werth (30.5 in 446 innings in right, 127 2/3 innings in left and two in center) were all outstanding defensively. Rowand played more than 94% of the defensive innings in center field and posted UZR/150 in the outfield of 4.5. Burrell played just over 70% of the innings in left, dragging down the numbers for the team overall with his UZR/150 in the outfield of -29.6. Despite that they were still eighth-best in the category among all MLB teams.

In 2008, Victorino moved over from right, where he had been very good defensively, to center. He was very good there as well, playing about 82.5% of the innings in center with an UZR/150 in the outfield for the year of 5.8 — a little better than Rowand’s 4.5 from 2007. Werth and Jenkins combined to get about 90% of the innings in right in 2008 and were good defensively. Werth was great with an outfield UZR/150 mark of 28.5. Jenkins was very good, too, playing to an UZR/150 of 15.2 in 642 outfield innings. Burrell continued to be the guy in left, playing about 83% of the innings there. He was still bad defensively, -12.3 in the outfield for the year, but that was still a big improvement over his 2007 mark of -29.6. Overall, by UZR/150, the Phillies popped up to seventh-best across both leagues, their best mark for the six seasons presented in the table above.

In 2009, their UZR/150 dropped from 8.0 in the previous year to 0.7. Jenkins was gone and so was Burrell. The Phillies went Ibanez, Victorino and Werth from left to right on most days. Ibanez was a big improvement over Burrell in left, at least as calculated by UZR/150. He played about 77% of the innings in left and posted an UZR/150 for the year of 4.9 in the outfield, which was a huge improvement over the big negative numbers Burrell had put up in the two previous seasons. Victorino manned center and his numbers were way down as he oddly posted a UZR/150 for the year in the outfield of -5.6, which was, by far, the worst mark of his career. UZR/150 suggests that Werth didn’t have nearly the impact defensively he had in the two previous seasons, but he still put up a solid 4.4 for the year in the outfield. Overall, thanks to the replacement of Burrell with Ibanez, the Phillies had a huge change to improve on their overall numbers from 2008. Didn’t work out that way as both Victorino and Werth played a lot of innings and each found themselves off their pace from the previous year.

Things got worse in 2010 as the Phils dropped from thirteenth all the way to twenty-fifth. They still primarily went Ibanez, Victorino, Werth left to right. Victorino improved on his 2009 number, up to 2.8 for the year in his 1,265 1/3 outfield innings. But Werth and Ibanez were both worse. After five straight years of at least 575 outfield innings with an UZR/150 in the outfield of 4.4 or better, Werth’s UZR/150 in the outfield plunged to -7.8 over 1,342 innings. Ibanez, who had posted a 4.9 in 2009, saw his mark drop to -7.2. For the year, Victorino improved on his ’09 numbers, but Ibanez and Werth both saw theirs take a huge dive. The Phillies wound up near the bottom of the league in UZR/150 for their outfielders as a result.

2011 was a nightmare defensively for the Phillies in the outfield, the worst year of the six as their UZR/150 for all outfielders dropped to 28th in the league. Only the Mets and Orioles were worse — notably, the Mets were worse in large part because Angel Pagan was their center fielder and he was awful, posting a UZR/150 for the year in the outfield of -16.1. Ibanez was still the primary guy for the Phils in left and Victorino in center. Victorino was still good, putting up a 5.7 UZR/150 for the season. Ibanez went from real bad, -7.2, to terrible, posting a Burrell-like -21.8. Right field was shared by three guys in Pence, Brown and Francisco, all of who ended the year having played about 30% of the innings for the Phillies defensively in right. Pence played about 32.7%, Brown 30.5% and Francisco 30.1%. Pence was very good defensively for the Phils when he played, putting up an 8.6 for the year with the team. Brown and Francisco were both terrible — Brown’s mark for the year was -26.0 and Francisco’s was -16.1. For the season, Ibanez was terrible in left, Victorino solid in center and Pence, Brown and Francisco split right almost equally, with Brown and Francisco being atrocious while Pence was very good. Put it all together and the Phils were the 28th-best team in the league for UZR/150 in the outfield.

Things were still atrocious in 2012, if slightly improved from the two previous seasons. Pierre was the primary guy in left, getting about 55% of the innings. He was backed up by Mayberry, who got about 23% of the innings at the position. Pierre put up a better-than-expected mark of -0.4 and Mayberry was solid when playing left with a 5.4. Victorino was the primary guy in center until he was traded. He wound up playing about 60% of the team’s innings in center field for the season and posting an UZR/150 of 0.9. Mayberry took over the gig after Victorino was traded and was terrible, posting a -20.7 UZR/150 in center in 474 1/3 innings. Pence played most of the innings in right field for the Phils in 2012, about 62%, and was awful in right when he did play, posting an UZR/150 with the Phils of -13.5, well off his 2011 mark. Domonic Brown was the other guy to see a lot of time in right, playing about 21% of the defensive innings at the position. He was significantly better than he was in 2012, but still not good, putting up a UZR/150 of -7.9 for the year.

Looking to 2013, there are still big questions to be answered about the makeup of the Phillie outfield. The Phils appear to have five guys in-house in the mix in Brown, Mayberry, Schierholtz, Nix and Ruf. If you had to pick one of them, most fans would guess that Brown is the player of that group who is likely to play the most defensive outfield innings for the Phils in 2013. And we know he’s been a really bad defensive player so far in his career. I think we also know that Mayberry can put up some ugly defensive numbers in center field — he seems sure to do so if the Phillies give him that opportunity. Schierholtz and Nix have both been pretty good defensively over their careers in the outfield, although neither of them seem likely to see much time in center and it’s a little hard to believe the Phillies think they need to carry both left-handed backup outfielders going in 2013. Ruf is the other guy in that group — if he proves to be a good defensive outfielder in the majors it’s going to surprise a lot of people.

The Phillies finalized a one-year, $850,000 deal with Kevin Frandsen.

Many Marlins appear to be on the move to Toronto, including Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle.

This suggests that Amaro kind of wishes that Ruf would have had more of an opportunity to play at the end of the year, but that Amaro understands Manuel playing Juan Pierre instead. Not sure I completely believe all of that.

At least now the Phillies have a good idea what Juan Pierre brings to the table.

It will be pretty interesting to see if Ruf can play left field — I think he’s going to get some chances to do so with the Phillies in 2013. I’m guessing he can’t in a think Pat Burrell kind of way. So let’s hope for 51 more home runs.


No, you don’t understand: we really, really want a pitcher and not a belly-itcher

Here are the combined WAR, oWAR and dWAR for the non-pitchers for the Phillies over the past ten years as calculated by Baseball-Reference:

Year WAR oWAR dWAR
2012 15.0 14.0 1.0
2011 14.2 19.9 -5.4
2010 21.3 21.8 -0.6
2009 26.3 24.6 2.0
2008 27.3 20.3 7.0
2007 31.1 27.3 3.7
2006 20.0 21.6 -2.1
2005 27.7 18.8 8.9
2004 22.1 20.8 1.4
2003 25.8 24.0 2.1

So that’s bad, generally, although overall WAR for the non-pitchers actually improved from 2011 to 2012. Coming into the season, it had been down from the previous year for four straight seasons.

It was up in 2012 despite the fact that the oWAR for the team was worse than 2011 (14.0 in ’12 compared to 19.9 in ’11). It was the dWAR that improved dramatically, going from -5.4 in 2011 to 1.0 in 2012.

That’s where the good news ends, though. In both 2011 and 2012, the combined WAR for the non-pitchers was less than half of what it was in 2007. In 2007, the Phils were first in the NL in oWAR and second in dWAR.

In 2008, the team’s dWAR was 7.0, which was best in the NL. By 2010, the defense had slipped a lot and was down to -0.6. Howard put up a -2.3 dWAR that year and ugliness from Ibanez (-2.0) and Werth (-1.2) contributed as well. By 2011 the problem was even more dramatic as the team’s dWAR of -5.4 was third worst among the 16 NL teams. Again, Ibanez (-3.1) and Howard (-2.4) led the anti-charge, joined by Francisco (-1.3) and Brown (-1.2).

This Phils bounced back some in 2012. Ibanez and Francisco left. Brown got a little better. Howard played less and posted a dWAR of just -1, which was his best mark since 2005 (although Wigginton and Nix didn’t help much filling in for him at first). Freddy Galvis was solid defensively when he played.

The oWAR for the last ten seasons peaked in 2007 at 27.3. The Phillies led the NL in runs scored that year with 892. Their oWAR of 27.3 led the league and it wasn’t real close. The Mets were second at 22.7. Utley (5.9), Rollins (5.5), Rowand (4.5), Howard (3.2) and Burrell (3.0) all put up an oWAR of three or better that season.

The oWAR of 14.0 for the Phillies in 2012 was the lowest it has been since 2000, when the team’s oWAR for the year was an NL-worst 6.7. That was remarkable in that the Phillies had two players with an oWAR of 3.6 or better for the season — Abreu at 4.6 and Rolen at 3.6. The Phillies had ten players that year who got at least 100 plate appearances and put up a negative oWAR.


Who’s right and who’s left

In early December, the Phillies signed lefty slugger Laynce Nix to a two-year, $2.5 million deal. Less than two weeks later, they traded right-handed corner outfielder Ben Francisco to the Blue Jays for a left-handed reliever that’s unlikely to have a significant impact with the team at the major league level. Francisco then avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal with Toronto worth about $1.5 million.

Nix’s role with the Phillies looks likely to be as the left-handed part of a platoon in left with John Mayberry — especially early in the season when Howard’s absence at first should open up some opportunities for Mayberry to play there.

Nix offers power against right-handed pitching, he’s pounded out 48 doubles and 35 home runs against righties in 817 plate appearances over the last three season, but it will come with a low average and not enough walks. And he can’t play at all against lefties. He comes into 2012 with just 216 plate appearances against lefties for his career and a 181/235/271 line against them. The bigger concern about Nix, though, is not what he does against his bad side (lefites), but that he has a career .296 on-base percentage on his good side (against righties).

Question for today is whether Ben Francisco or Laynce Nix is a better choice offensively against right-handed pitchers, given that there’s no question that the righty Francisco is better than the lefty Nix against lefties.

I think the answer for today is no. Nix is probably better against right-handed pitching offensively than Francisco. But it’s close and I think it’s close enough to make you wonder if Francisco’s huge advantages against left-handed pitching make him the more valuable offensive player overall.

Nix was clearly better than Francisco against righties in 2012. Here’s what each of them did for the year:

PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Nix 320 263 306 475 341
Francisco 167 243 345 393 322

Both Nix and Francisco walked 19 times against right-handed pitching in 2011. Francisco got his walks in 167 plate appearances while Nix got his in 320. Francisco walked nearly twice as often, drawing walks in about 11.4% of his plate appearances against righties while Nix walked in about 5.9% of his.

Nix was more likely to get a hit (24.4% of his PA vs righties compared to 20.4% for Francisco).

They hit doubles at almost the same rate. 4.2% of PA for Francisco and 4.1% for Nix. Nix was more than twice as likely to hit a home run, knocking out 16 in his 320 plate appearances (5.0%) while Francisco hit four in 167 (2.4%).

Almost inarguably, Nix was better against right-handed pitching in 2011.

2011 was the worst year of Francisco’s career, though. It’s a different story if you look at their career numbers against righties.

PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Nix 1584 253 296 451 320
Francisco 1034 259 326 433 333

Francisco still walks more if you look at their career numbers (7.4% to 5.6%) and is still more likely to double in a given plate appearance (6.4% to 5.6%).

The gap in how likely they each are to get a hit narrows, but Nix still comes out ahead. 23.5% for Nix and 23.1% for Francisco. Nix is still way more likely to hit the ball out of the yard, homering in about 3.9% of his plate appearances against righties compared to about 2.9% for Francisco.

Over their careers, Francisco has been at least as good against righties. But not over the last three seasons.

Nix’s career to this point can be looked at in three three-year blocks — three years with Texas where he was pretty bad, three years where he didn’t play much and the last three years, when he’s been a lot better offensively than he was early in his career.

From 2002-2005 he was pretty awful, hitting 247/285/426 over 835 plate appearances in those three years combined. He played his last game of the ’05 with the Rangers in July of that year and had shoulder surgery. From 2006 to 2008 he hardly played at all in the majors, getting just 95 plate appearances between the Brewers and Rangers combined. He spent 2009 and 2010 with the Reds, hitting 257/311/468 over 519 plate appearances in those two years combined, before hitting 250/299/451 over 351 plate appearances for the Nats last year.

Here’s the wOBA each of them has posted against righties for the past three seasons:

2011 2010 2009
Nix 341 335* 336
Francisco 322* 287* 349

Nix tops Francisco in two of the three years, but with Francisco posting the best mark against righties in 2009 at .349. I put asterisks next to the three seasons where the player got less than 170 plate appearances against righties for the season. In the non-asterisk seasons, Nix or Francisco got between 300 and 350 plate appearances against righties that year.

This article says that Amaro doesn’t expect Howard back for Opening Day and would be happy if he’s back in May, that Polanco should be close to 100% for Spring Training, that the Phils will be cautious with how they handle Utley and his knees during Spring Training and that Contreras should be ready near Opening Day.

The Phillies signed Juan Pierre to a minor league deal. The linked article suggests Pierre is an option for the Phils in left. That would be an exceptionally poor idea. Happily, in the same article, Amaro suggests the bulk of the time in left will go to Mayberry and Nix and mentions Brown as being in the mix as well.

The Phils have avoided arbitration with Hunter Pence as Pence has agreed to a one-year, $10.4 million deal.

Pat Burrell is retiring.

The list of guys who might hit fourth for the Phils while Howard is sidelined is apparently long.


Chase scene

One more time: From the start of the season through the end of June, the Phillies were eighth in the NL in runs scored. From the start of July to end the of the year the Phils led the league in runs scored. They also led the NL in runs scored from May 23 (the day that Utley returned) to the end of the year, despite a weak month with the bats in June.

The fact that the Phils had the highest-scoring offense in the league from May 23 to the end of the year sure makes it look like Utley turned things around single-handedly. And while he may have been the single biggest factor, he wasn’t the only one. As I mentioned in a recent post, Utley hammered the ball in June, hitting 297/387/470, but the Phils were still just eleventh in the league in runs scored for that month. Other factors in the resurgence included the addition of Pence to the lineup, a monster end of the season for Mayberry and improved offensive performances from Rollins and Ruiz during the second half of the year.

I think most would agree that either Pence or Utley was the key player in the offensive rebirth for the Phils. But which helped the Phillies more in 2011 — the return of Utley or the addition on Pence?

Overall for the year, Pence was way better with the bat, hitting an eye-popping 324/394/560 for the season with the Phils while Utley hit a much less impressive 259/344/425. But Utley’s return, despite an un-Utleylike performance with the bat, still helped the Phils more for several reasons, including:

  • The guys Utley replaced at second were a lot worse offensively than the guys Pence replaced in right
  • Utley came back much sooner. He was back on May 23 while Pence didn’t get his first plate appearance with the Phillies until July 30.

First point is that the Phillie 2B other than Utley were a lot worse than the right fielders other than Pence offensively compared to the average production for their positions in the NL. Here’s what the right fielders other than Pence did with the bat in ’11 and the second basemen other than Utley did, as well as the NL-averages for each of those positions:

AVG OBP SLG
PHI RF other than Pence 240 335 393
NL Average RF 271 345 449
PHI 2B other than Utley 234 283 294
NL Average 2B 257 319 380

The guys who played right for the Phils other than Pence, Brown and Francisco got about the same amount of plate appearances and combined for about about 91% of the non-Pence plate appearances at the position, hit just .240 for the season while the NL-average for right fielders was .271. What they did do, though, is walk a lot, drawing walks in about 11.5% of their plate appearances (NL players walked in about 8.1% of their plate appearances overall). All those walks helped the non-Pence right fielders for the Phillies up their on-base percentage almost to the level of the NL-average right fielder despite hitting for an average that was 31 points lower.

The non-Pence right fielders for the Phils didn’t hit for NL-average power at the position, but they weren’t off the mark by too much. The isolated power for the average NL right fielder was .178. For the Phillies other than Pence it was .153.

At second base, the Phillies other than Utley on-based just .283, which was bad even compared to the NL-average of .319 for the position. NL second basemen walked in just 7.2% of their plate appearances, but the non-Utley second basemen for the Phillies walked just 5.4% of the time.

The non-Utleys at second base also hit for very little power, combining not to hit a home run on the year. They flashed an isolated power of .060 for the season. The NL average for the position was .123. How bad is an isolated power of .060? Well, it’s not good. There were 188 NL players who got at least 200 plate appearances in 2011. Of those, seven put up isolated power numbers that were worse than .060. Among the 248 NL players who got at least 100 plate appearances, Pete Orr, who started 22 games at second for the Phils in 2011, posted an isolated power of .031 for the year, which was 247th among those 248 players.

When Utley did play for the Phils, he showed above-average power for an NL second baseman, delivering 38 extra-base hits in just 454 plate appearances with an isolated power mark of .166. That’s the worst mark of his career in any season where he got at least 200 plate appearances — but that’s less the point than that it was way, way better than the guys he replaced.

Overall, the Phillies other than Pence who played right field for the team came a lot closer to matching league average for the position than the second basemen other than Utley did. Compared to league averages for the position, they were closer to getting on-base at a league average clip and hit for almost as much power, while their second base counterparts got on base at a worse clip and hit for a lot less power.

There’s no question that Pence was a far more effective offensive player than Utley in 2011, but the combination of the fact that Utley simply got many more chances to hit and was replacing a group of players much worse offensively than Pence was means that the Phils benefited more from the addition of Utley.

And Utley got a lot more chances because he was back so much sooner. Here’s the percentage of the plate appearances at second that went to Utley and anyone other than Utley in 2011 and the same numbers for Pence and right field:

Plate Appearances % of plate appearances
Pence as RF 235 34.2
Others as RF 453 65.8
Total 688 100
Utley as 2B 451 65.4
Others as 2B 239 34.6
Total 690 100

As a percentage, Utley got nearly twice as many of the plate appearances at second base than Pence got at right field. So Pence would have to be enormously better than Utley to have the same impact. He was enormously better in Utley in the chances he got — he just didn’t have nearly enough plate appearances to catch him.

The table below looks at each of the position and what they actually did in terms of the three slash categories plus wOBA and wRAA. It also looks at what the Phillies would have done at those positions without Pence or Utley — if they had simply continued to give the non-Utley and Pence players plate appearances distributed the way they were actually distributed and got the same number of plate appearances at the position.

PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRAA
Actual RF 688 269 356 452 .354 20.0
No Pence 688 240 335 393 .324 3.0
Actual 2B 690 249 321 377 .305 -8.1
No Utley 690 234 283 294 .251 -38.5

As you can see, it’s not very close. The difference in the actual wRAA the Phillies RF put up compared to what they would have without Pence is 17.0 (20.0-3.0), which is just more than half of the difference for Utley (30.4).

Again, the issue is that the non-Pence right fielders for the Phils weren’t nearly as terrible as the non-Utley second basemen. The actual right fielders, including Pence, put up 29 doubles, four triples and 24 home runs over 688 plate appearances. Without Pence, had everyone continued to produce at their same levels, they would have hit 26 doubles, three triples and 20 home runs over the same number of plate appearances. They would have walked more (79 times to 78) over the 688 plate appearances, cause the walk rate for the non-Pences was better than it was for Pence. Pence did give the position a huge boost by adding a lot of power and a huge number of hits overall (again, Pence hit .325 while playing right while the non-Pence options combined to hit .240).

The non-Utley second basemen were atrocious. At their ’11 rates, they would have gotten 690 plate appearances without a home run. Utley hit 11 while playing second base last year. In addition to the power, despite hitting just .257, Utley also offered more hits than they had gotten without him and walked at a better rate. But mostly, compared to Pence, he just played a whole lot more and displaced offensive players who were a lot worse.

If you’re interested in calculating wOBA, wRAA, wRC or wRC+ for yourself, you may find this page at The Hardball Times and the link to the spreadsheet provided by the author very helpful.

This article says that Ryan Howard should be able to start baseball activities around mid-February. If you were expecting to see him in the lineup on Opening Day, I’d consider resetting your expectations.

In this article, Amaro says he hopes that Conteras will be ready close to Opening Day.

Non-roster invitees to Spring Training for the Phils this year look like they will include pitchers Austin Hyatt, B.J. Rosenberg, Dave Bush, Scott Elarton, Brian Sanches, David Purcey, Pat Misch and Raul Valdes, catchers Steven Lerud and Tuffy Gosewisch, infielders Pete Orr, Kevin Frandsen and Hector Luna and outfielders Scott Podsednik and Luis Montanez. Bush was a pretty solid starter for the Brewers in 2006 and 2008. Former Phil Brian Sanches was great for the Fish in 2009 and 2010, throwing to a 2.40 ERA with a 1.22 ratio and 105 strikeouts in 120 innings, before falling off last year. Raul Valdes is left-handed and pitched well in very limited action (12 innings) last year. Dave Purcey is left-handed and was pretty good in 2010. Pat Misch is left-handed.

This suggests the Phils are interested in reliever Kerry Wood.

This article on relievers in the system that could help the Phils in 2012 includes commentary on Phillippe Aumont, Justin De Fratus, Jake Diekman, Austin Hyatt and Tyler Cloyd.


Half and better half

The Phillies played 82 games from the start of the season to the end of June, going 51-31. In those 82 games, they were eighth in the NL in runs scored. After June, the Phils played 80 games, going 51-29. They led the league in runs scored in those 80 games.

Here’s a look back at what the offense did by position, breaking the season down into two halves — the 82 games through the end of June and the 80 games after the start of July.

Catcher:

Ruiz served as the primary catcher for the Phils in both the first and second half of the season. He was simply much better during the second half (after the end of June) than he was in the first.

PA HR RBI AVG OBP SLG
April-June 221 3 16 243 348 333
July to End 251 3 24 317 391 425

Ruiz played a little more in the second half and showed more power, but mostly just got a lot more hits, hitting .317 in the second half after hitting .243 in the first. He actually walked a little less regularly in the second half, about 9.2% of his plate appearances compared to about 11.3% in the first half, but his on-base percentage was a whole lot better thanks to the much better batting average.

First base:

At first, Howard fared about as well after the end of June as he had in the first 82 games of the year:

PA HR RBI AVG OBP SLG
April-June 353 17 64 254 354 488
July to End 291 16 52 252 337 488

Very similar numbers for Howard in both halves. He walked more regularly in the first half, but hit for nearly the same average with about the same power.

The Phils did see a benefit at the position in the second half of the year thanks to John Mayberry. Mayberry started just ten games at first the whole year, but nine of those starts came after the end of June. Mayberry crushed the ball in 2011 while playing first for the Phillies — in his 45 plate appearances while playing first he put up a monster 409/422/682 line.

Second:

Second base was an offensive disaster for the Phils in the early part of the season. Chase Utley returned at the end of May and hit .222 in 27 May at-bats, but followed that up with a fantastic June in which he hit 297/387/470. He was even better in July as he hit 293/369/550. From August 1 to the end of the regular season he hit a meager 227/305/343. Here’s what his numbers first and second half look like:

PA HR RBI AVG OBP SLG
April-June 140 3 16 280 381 449
July to End 314 8 28 250 328 414

Utley was simply not good after the end of June, hitting just .250 and on-basing .328. As uninspired as those numbers are, they still were a significant improvement for a team that struggled to find offense from the position while Utley was out.

Here’s the numbers of games started at second base for the Phils in the first and second halves of the year:

1st Half (April-June) 2nd half (July-end)
Utley 31 (37.8%) 69 (86.3%)
Valdez 31 (37.8%) 2 (2.5%)
Orr 16 (19.5%) 4 (7.5%)
Martinez 4 (4.9%) 3 (3.7%)

So Utley started about 38% of the games at second through the end of June and about 86% of the games after June. And even though he wasn’t hitting particularly Utley-like, that’s still important. Cause even a sluggish Utley is a whole lot better offensively than those other guys. Here’s what the four guys who started games for the Phillies at second did offensively while playing that position in 2011:

PA AVG OBP SLG
Utley 451 257 340 423
Valdez 126 246 289 307
Orr 82 213 280 240
Martinez 30 241 267 379

Even an Utley way off his game was way better than the rest of those guys, most notably out on-basing the second-best on-base percentage in the group (Valdez) by more than fifty points.

After Utley returned to the Phillies on May 23, the Phils led the NL in runs scored the rest of the way. That was despite the fact that the offense wasn’t good at all in June, though, as the Phils finished eleventh in the NL that month. Because the offense was so terrible in June (despite a monster 297/387/470 line for Utley for the month) it’s hard for me to see his return as the turnaround point for the offense. The offense was best in the NL after that date because 1) they were fantastic in July, better than any other NL team, and very strong in August and September and 2) in the nine games from May 23 to the end of May, the Phils played nine games and scored 51 runs or 5.67 runs per game.

Third base:

Polanco, you may have noticed, was atrocious in 2011. He didn’t start out that way, though. He hit nearly .400 in April, putting up a 398/447/524 line over 114 plate appearances. After that he hit 243/304/287 the rest of the way.

He played a lot less in the second half of the season, and without the huge April his numbers were a lot worse:

PA HR RBI AVG OBP SLG
April-June 340 4 39 288 339 363
July to End 183 1 11 258 328 294

When he did play in the second half, Polanco’s walk rate rose a little (8.7% of plate appearances compared to 7.6% in the first half), but his average was way off and his power nearly gone altogether. He had four extra-base hits from July 1 to the end of the year.

Here’s who started at third for the Phils through the end of June and after the start of July:

1st Half (April-June) 2nd half (July-end)
Polanco 76 (92.7%) 39 (48.8%)
Valdez 6 (7.3%) 15 (18.7%)
Martinez 0 (0%) 24 (30.0%)
Orr 0 (0%) 2 (2.5%)

Polanco got more than 90% of the starts in the first 82 games of the year for the Phils. After the start of July, Valdez, Martinez and Orr combined to start more often at third than he did.

Here’s what the guys did offensively while playing third for the Phils this year:

PA AVG OBP SLG
Polanco 513 280 337 343
Martinez 104 231 304 352
Valdez 84 253 286 354
Orr 7 000 000 000

Unlike second base, there was not a huge improvement at the position when the Phils got their starter on the field. For the year, Valdez and Martinez both offered significantly more power from the position while getting on base a little less. Not to be forgotten is that Polanco hit 243/304/287 for the year after the end of April — both Martinez and Valdez gave the Phils more offense at third when they played than Polanco did after his strong April.

Short:

At shortstop, Jimmy Rollins was a much better offensive player in the second half of the year than he was in the first.

PA HR RBI AVG OBP SLG
April-June 352 7 31 254 327 368
July to End 279 9 32 286 351 437

More hits and more power for Rollins in the second half of the season than the first. His walk rate was down, but just a tiny bit, and thanks to all the hits his on-base percentage was up to .351. From June 26 through August 20, Rollins hit 298/372/461 over 215 plate appearances.

He didn’t play nearly as much in the second half as he did the first. Valdez made 20 starts at short on the season and 15 of them came after the start of July. Valdez had solid numbers while playing short for the Phils in 2011, though, posting a 278/338/414 line over 81 plate appearances. That’s very similar to the 272/340/417 line that Rollins put up while playing short in 2011.

While playing short for the Phils in 2011, Valdez posted a 278/338/414 line over 81 plate appearances. He got 219 plate appearances as something other than a shortstop. In those plate appearances he hit 239/277/313.

Left field:

Ibanez didn’t play as much in left field in the second half of the season, but when he did he was a little better:

PA HR RBI AVG OBP SLG
April-June 309 9 34 235 285 393
July to End 266 11 50 256 293 448

He was still terrible at getting on base, but Ibanez did show a bit more power in the second half of the year.

Ibanez started in left in 72 of the first 82 (87.8%) games of the season for the Phils. After the start of July the Phils played 80 games and he started just 59 (73.7%). The other 21 second-half starts were made by Mayberry (12) and Francisco (nine).

Both of those guys were fantastic in the second half. Here’s what the two did after the start of July (at all positions, not just left field):

PA AVG OBP SLG
Mayberry 179 301 358 607
Francisco 65 322 354 407

Mayberry was absolutely fantastic in the second half, hitting 12 home runs in 179 plate appearances while on-basing .358. That’s a lot of home runs — at that pace he would hit about 37 over a season of 550 plate appearances. For the season, he actually hit 15 over 296 plate appearances, which would have him at about 25 over 550 plate appearances.

Francisco hardly played at all after the start of July, but when he did he hit .322. That’s more than a hundred points higher than the .220 he hit in 228 plate appearances in the first 82 games of the season when he had a chance to cement his status as an everyday player. Just a tiny number of chances for Francisco in the second half, but I do think it’s curious that he seemingly forgot all about try to walk and hit .322. In the first 82 games of the season he walked in 12.7% of his plate appearances and in the last 80 he got just 65 plate appearances but walked in only 6.2% of them.

As bad as Francisco was with the Phils in 2011, he on-based .340 for the season, which was a career high. I think there’s a good chance that the Phils are going to regret having given him away.

Center Field:

Victorino played about as much in center the first and second halves of the season with about the same results.

PA HR RBI AVG OBP SLG
April-June 288 9 31 289 359 504
July to End 298 8 30 270 351 479

More hits in the first half, more walks in the second with about the same power all season long. Victorino started 63 of the 82 first half games (76.8%) and 63 of the 80 second-half games (78.5%). He really only had one month of the season where he wasn’t an outstanding offensive player in 2011 and that was September. After going 2-for-4 with a walk against the Fish on September 2, Victorino was hitting a silly 308/384/542 for the season. He would hit 163/237/288 in 115 plate appearances the rest of the way. Curiously the Phils kept playing him and playing him down the stretch, even after they clinched and he continued to slump. Victorino got 125 plate appearances in September, which led the team and was also the most he had in any month in 2011.

There were 34 games for the Phils in 2011 when Victorino didn’t start at center. Mayberry started 26 of them and Martinez eight. Martinez was predictably terrible, going 5-for-39 with five singles and no walks (128/128/128).

Overall for the year, Mayberry didn’t get on base a whole lot in his 115 plate appearances as a center fielder, but he did show a ton of power. He posted a 236/296/472 line in center for the season.

In his 13 starts in center field in the first half of the year, Mayberry was wretched. In those 13 games he hit 191/255/277. In the second half he started 13 games as well, but with much different results, posting a 291/328/673. In 13 second-half starts in center, Mayberry went 16-for-55 with 12 of the 16 hits going for extra-bases — seven doubles, a triple and four home runs. Four home over 13 starts is impressive, but so is seven doubles. At that pace, over 162 starts you would tally about 50 home runs and 87 doubles.

Right field:

Hunter Pence was traded from the Astros in late July and played his first game with the Phils on July 30. He was great in August (340/413/600) and almost as great in September (317/385/550).

For the 2011 season, Pence hit 325/396/563 in 235 plate appearances as the right field fielder for the Phillies.

This is what the guys for the Phils other than Pence who played right field for the Phils did in 2011 while playing right field:

PA AVG OBP SLG
Francisco 208 232 335 367
Brown 205 240 332 391
Mayberry 26 318 423 727
Gload 10 300 300 300
Bowker 2 000 000 000
Moss 2 000 000 000

Mayberry had some nifty numbers in 26 plate appearances and Gload went 3-for-10, but those guys were bad overall. Most notably, Brown and Francisco combined to get 413 plate appearances in which they hit a meager 236/333/379 combined.

To summarize:

  • In right, Pence arrived at the end of July and was not just good but great, hitting 324/394/560 over 236 plate appearances with the Phils.
  • At second, the first half production was miserable. Utley returned on May 23 and gave the Phils an enormous boost, replacing at-bats by Valdez, Orr and Martinez with Utley at-bats. He didn’t have a Chase Utley-like performance after the start of July, hitting just 250/328/414 from the start July to the end of the season, but it was still enough to give the Phils a huge boost at the position.
  • At catcher, Ruiz was a better hitter after the start of July. Getting about the same playing time in both halves, Ruiz hit 243/348/333 before the start of July and 317/391/425 from the start of July to the end of the regular season.
  • At short, Rollins, like Ruiz, was just better at offensively during the second half, hitting 286/351/437 after the start of July having ended June with a 254/327/368 line.
  • In left, Ibanez was bad both halves, but did get better in the second half and showed more power. He also played less in the second half as Francisco and Mayberry combined to make 21 starts in left. Francisco was good in limited time in the second half and Mayberry was great, hitting 301/358/607.
  • In center, Victorino had similar numbers both halves with a little drop off after July. Mayberry started the same number of games in center in the first and second halves (13), but had much better numbers in his 13 starts in center after July than before it. In 13 starts in center before the end of June he hit 191/255/277. In his 13 starts in center after the start of July he hit 291/328/673.
  • At first base, Ryan Howard had similar numbers in both halves. The Phils got a small bump at the position from Mayberry at the second half when Mayberry started nine of the ten games he started at first for the season. For the year, Mayberry hit a silly 409/422/682 as a 1B.
  • At third, Polanco, awful with the bat in 2011, did see less time at third during the second half of the year, but his fantastic April plus the fact that the guys who replaced him at third when he didn’t play in the second half didn’t do much of anything to help the Phillies.

Again, the Phils got a huge boost from Mayberry in the last 80 games, helping out in left, center and at first base.

A big question about the second-half surge seems to be whether Utley’s return or Pence’s arrival was a bigger factor. My thinking is that Pence was a bigger factor from July to the end of the year, but Utley’s return was likely a bigger factor for the year. More on that soon.

The comments close two weeks after a post is published, which is why we could not continue the discussion from the previous about whether or not David Wright is coming to the Phils. He’s not. Or at least a lot of people are going to be real surprised if he is.


May and June bug

Overall in 2011, the Phillies finished a disappointing seventh in the NL in runs scored. Things picked up a lot towards the end of the year, though — from the start of July to the end of the regular season, the Phils led the NL in runs score.

When you think about how things went month-to-month for the Phils in 2011, it’s important to remember that the offense had two terrible months early in the year that dragged the numbers down for the season. After a solid start to the year in April, the offense dropped like a stone for the Phils in May as the team finished twelfth in the NL in runs scored for the month. They followed that up with a June in which they were eleventh in the NL in runs scored. After the first three full months of the season, the Phils were eighth in the league in runs scored. But things got better in a hurry.

The table below shows, for each month of the 2011 season, the Phillies rank in run scored for the league for that month, their rank in runs scored from the beginning of the season through the end of that month and their rank in runs scored in the league from the end of that month to the end of the regular season.

Month NL Rank RS for Month Rank RS start of season thru month Rank RS after month to end of season
April 4 4 6
May 12 8 4
June 11 8 1
July 1 6 4
August 3 6 6
Sept 6 7 -

So, for example, in May of 2011, the Phils were twelfth in the NL in runs scored. From the start of the season through the end of May, they were eighth in the NL in runs scored and from the end of May to the end of the regular season they were fourth.

Through end of June July to end of season May and June April, July, August and September
PHI NL Rank Runs Scored 8 1 12 2

Again, two bad months. Start of the season through June they were eighth in the NL in runs scored. Start of July to the end of the season they were first. In May and June combined they were twelfth. In all of the months except May and June combined they were second.

Here’s a look back at some of the monthly performances that helped contribute to the numbers above:

The offense was solid in April, fourth in the NL in runs scored.

Howard led the team in home runs (six) and RBI (27), hitting 291/351/560. Polanco was a monster, too, hitting 398/447/524 in the only month of the season in which he would put up an OPS of .700 or better. After going 2-for-3 with a double against the Mets on April 30, Polanco would hit 243/304/287 in 409 plate appearances for the rest of the season.

Ibanez was atrocious for the Phils in April, posting a 161/247/218 line over 97 plate appearances. Valdez started 19 games and hit 239/282/284.

It wouldn’t last, but Francisco put up solid numbers for April, hitting 266/347/447 for the month and starting 24 games. Things were already looking a little less than fabulous for Francisco, though. After hitting 308/386/513 over 44 plate appearances to start the season, Francisco hit 236/317/400 over the last 16 games of the month.

In May the offense tanked. Eleven NL teams scored more runs than the Phillies in May.

The good news for May was that Ibanez bounced back dramatically, hitting a team-high seven homers and also leading the team in RBI with 19 as he posted a 315/339/602 line.

The bad news was pretty much everything else. Howard hit .208. Rollins on-based .306. Polanco on-based .289 with three extra-base hits in 27 starts. Utley was back at the end of the month, but not helping much. He hit 222/364/370 in 33 May plate appearances.

Francisco couldn’t hit enough to keep the right field job and was out of the lineup regularly during the second half of the month after hitting .103 (really! .103) in his first 50 plate appearances in May (4-for-39 with four singles). It created some openings in the outfield. Mayberry couldn’t capitalize, hitting 194/275/319 in his 80 May plate appearances, but Brown looked a little better. Brown appeared in just ten games in May (seven starts), but hit 333/378/545 in limited action (37 PA).

June was almost as bad as May. The Phils were eleventh in runs scored in the league in June. The team hit .229 for the month and slugged .317 — both would be lows for the season.

Howard was solid enough, leading the team with five homers and 22 RBI. He walked 18 times, putting up a .397 on-base percentage despite hitting just .269. Victorino pounded the ball to the tune of 297/383/505. So did Utley, who would hit 295/378/511 from the start of June to the end of July over 218 plate appearances. In June he posted a 297/387/473 line.

There was more than enough bad news to make up for it, though. Brown became nearly an everyday player in June, starting 22 games and hitting a meager 165/258/354 for the month. Mayberry went 0-for-3 in his four plate appearances for the month. Rollins on-based .314. Ruiz hit .221 and Polanco .213 — that duo combined for five extra-base hits in 194 June plate appearances. Ibanez’s May magic was gone as he hit a paltry 211/258/311 in his second atrocious month with the bat on the year.

The Phillies had their best offense month of the year in July, plating an NL-best 138 runs.

Ibanez was back, hitting seven home runs and driving in 25 with a 284/320/558 line. The 25 RBI he would post in July was the most of any Phillie for any month in 2011 other than Howard’s 27 in April.

Rollins found his power stroke as well, socking six home runs of his own with a 312/375/523 line. Utley had his best month of the year: 293/369/545 with five bombs. Victorino missed a lot of the month with a thumb injury, but was awesome when he played to the tune of 364/462/600 in 66 plate appearances for the month.

Victorino’s injury opened up a lot of time for Mayberry in center and Mayberry delivered with the bat. He came into July having hit 231/316/365 in 117 plate appearances for the year, but blasted a pair of home runs against the Fish on July 6 and hit 300/327/640 for the month in 52 plate appearances. Brown, meanwhile, continued to get chances, starting 20 games. He bounced back from a miserable June in which he hit .165, hitting 296/398/366, but without a home run in 83 plate appearances. Pence would arrive at the end of the month, securing right field for the rest of the season as he hit and hit and hit.

Ruiz, who would hit 317/391/425 in 251 plate appearances from the start of July to the end of the year, started his tear with what would be his best month of the season, hitting 324/432/485 in July.

Howard didn’t join the July party for the Phils, hitting .250 with a .306 on-base percentage, walking just eight times, which was his lowest mark for any month of the season. Martinez started 17 games for the Phils in July, primarily at third, and put up what were by far his best numbers for any month with a 247/300/384 line in 81 plate appearances. Those numbers for Martinez don’t sound great, but it’s important to remember that the Phils primary third baseman, Polanco, on-based .335 and slugged just .339 for the season.

In August the Phils were still hitting, if off the July pace a little. They were third in the NL in runs scored in August.

It was Pence’s first full month with the Phils and he was hitting everything. He hit seven home runs in August, posting a 340/413/596 line over 109 plate appearances.

Victorino was back, playing regularly and still hitting. 316/393/600 in August. Between June 17 and September 2, Victorino got 233 plate appearances in which he posted a stupid 325/409/611 line.

Ruiz continued to hit, too, 329/365/429 in August.

Valdez started 15 games, filling in primarily for Rollins and Polanco, and put up an unexpected 278/322/481 line over 59 plate appearances.

Off were Utley, 245/315/347, and Ibanez, 225/254/323. Mayberry started to see some more time in left — he got just 59 plate appearances in August, but made them memorable by homering six times as he put up a 296/356/685 line. Howard blasted eight homers and drove in 22 runs, but hit just .225 while doing so.

The Phillies were sixth in the NL in runs scored in September.

Pence continued to pound the ball, hitting 317/385/548 and leading the team with 18 RBI for the month. Howard hit 290/417/522. Mayberry got 13 more starts and hit 305/382/508 for the month. In his last 177 plate appearances on the year, Mayberry had hit 302/356/611. Polanco was back and at least got on base, hitting 280/349/344 in September. He ended the season having slugged .287 over his last 477 plate appearances.

Victorino and Utley both ended the year on a downswing. Victorino hit 186/258/319 in 125 plate appearances in September. Utley hit just 205/295/337. Martinez started 13 games and hit .136. After on-basing .368 in July and August combined, Rollins on-based just .308 in September.

The Phillies signed righty Dave Bush and lefty David Purcey to minor league deals and invited them to spring training. Bush is still just 32 and had pretty good years with the Brewers as a starter in 2006 and again in 2008. The lefty Purcey was good for the Blue Jays in a relief role in 2010, throwing to a 3.71 ERA with a 1.21 ratio, before getting hit hard with three teams in 2011.

Rafael Furcal agreed to a deal with the Cardinals, meaning Jimmy Rollins is running out of teams other than the Phils to play for.

Update: The Phillies have traded Ben Francisco to the Blue Jays for left-handed pitcher Frank Gailey. Gailey turned 26 last month and has never appeared in the majors. In 304 1/3 innings in the minors he has thrown to a 2.45 ERA with a 1.03 ratio. He has never pitched above Double-A.


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