Tag: first pitch

Phils counting on Philadelphia World Series crowd to perform coming off 5,483 days of rest

Although rain could give the crowd that much-needed 5,484th day, allowing them to go on their regular schedule. Could be critical.

Jamie Moyer (16-7, 3.71) faces righty Matt Garza (11-9, 3.70) in game three.

The 24-year-old Garza came to the Rays in a trade from the Twins in November of last year and has pitched very well for Tampa Bay this post-season, going 2-1 with a 3.32 ERA and a 1.32 ratio. He was the MVP of the ALCS, holding the Red Sox to a run on two hits and three walks over seven innings while striking out nine in game seven.

Opponents hit .245 against Garza this season, and he fared well against both righties (.245) and lefties (.244). Lefties walked at a slightly higher rate and slugged .410 against him compared to just .347 for righties. He didn’t strike out a huge number of hitters, just 128 in 184 2/3 innings, but yielded just 19 home runs on the season. He struck lefties out at a higher rate than righties, striking out about 15% of the righties he faced and about 19% of the lefties.

He was much better at home this season than away from it. In 15 starts at home he went 7-3 with a 2.89 ERA and a 1.18 ratio. In 15 starts away from home he was 4-6 with a 4.53 ERA and a 1.30 ratio.

Matt Stairs is the only Phillie to have faced Garza. He’s 1-for-10 with two walks against him.

Moyer comes off of miserable starts back-to-back in the post-season. After going just four innings and allowing a pair of runs against Milwaukee in the NLDS, Moyer got bombed by the Dodgers in game three of the NLCS. He was charged with six runs in 1 2/3 innings to puff his post-season ERA for the year to 13.50. The Phillies have lost three games in the post-season and Moyer has started two of them.

Moyer was far better away from Citizens Bank Park this year than he was at it. 4.61 ERA with a 1.47 ratio at home and 2.92 ERA and a 1.20 ratio away.

Some of the Rays have seen him a lot with good results. Pena 10-for-20 (500/545/950) with three doubles and two home runs. Crawford 9-for-19 (474/474/632) with a double and a triple. Upton 3-for-5 with three singles. Baldelli 1-for-10. In case you forget that Moyer’s old, Wade Boggs was 21-for-55 (382/414/527) with two doubles and two home runs against him. There’s a chance that Boggs won’t even be a factor in game three.

It’s not really what you’d call a dream matchup on paper for the Phils. Moyer had a fantastic year in 2008, though, and despite the miserable results in the post-season has come up huge for the Phillies in several big games over the last two years. In game three of the playoffs last year he was fantastic, holding the red-hot Rockies to a run on five hits over six innings. Twice in the last two seasons he’s come up with a huge start against the Nationals at the end of the regular season to pitch the Phillies into the playoffs — in those two starts he allowed one earned run in 11 1/3 innings.

Citizens Bank Park is going to be a tough place for the young Rays to hit (or pitch, think, throw or hear) in game three. You hear people say over and over that the key to hitting against Moyer is to be patient. For better or worse, the Rays have more than their share of hitters who love to be aggressive early in the count. Here’s a look at some of the key Tampa Bay hitters, how many plate appearances they’ve had this season that ended in one pitch, how many total plate appearances they had and the percentage of those plate appearances that ended in one pitch (some key Phillies are included below the Rays):

Player 1-pitch PA Total PA % 1-pitch
Iwamura 66 707 9.3
Upton 77 639 12.0
Pena 84 607 13.8
Longoria 44 508 8.7
Crawford 88 482 18.3
Navarro 43 470 9.1
Bartlett 74 494 15.0
       
       
Rollins 51 625 8.2
Werth 17 482 3.5
Utley 51 707 7.2
Howard 81 700 11.6
Burrell 70 645 10.9
Victorino 73 627 11.6
Feliz 88 463 19.0
Ruiz 33 373 8.8

Feliz is the king of the group at putting the ball into play on the first pitch, but Bartlett, Crawford, Pena and Upton all went after the first pitch aggressively this season.

And if it’s true that you have to be patient to get to Moyer, that’s a problem for Tampa Bay.

Sadly, though, there’s this: When opponents’ hitters had their plate appearance end on one pitch this year, they hit .293 and slugged .480 against Moyer. When they didn’t, they hit .257 and slugged .393. That trend has been even more dramatic if you look at his numbers over his entire career (or at least the part of his career for which Baseball Reference has splits on first pitch plate appearances) — on plate appearances that ended after one pitch, opponents have hit .331 and slugged .523 against Moyer.

In 2008, after Moyer got ahead 0-1 opposing hitters hit .214 with a .321 slugging percentage.

What I think Moyer’s career numbers suggest is that what you can’t do against the wily veteran is not swing at the first pitch but take strike one. So hopefully nobody tells the Rays hitters that what they need to do is go up there and be impatient.

No matter what they do, though, Jamie Moyer didn’t win 246 games because he doesn’t know how to pitch. Whether the Rays go after him early in the count or not, there’s a Moyer that carves up hitters regardless of their approach. Despite his recent absence, Phillies fans have seen a lot of him in big situations over the past two seasons. Just because he’s shown up more often than not when the Phillies have needed him so far, I think there’s a good chance he’s in the building whenever game three gets played.

Matt Garza ended the 2008 regular season with 19 career wins. If he wins 15 games a season forevermore, he would pass Jamie Moyer in career wins in 2024 (assuming Moyer does not get any more wins).

Ad: TicketCity has Phillies World Series tickets.


Early warning

Ryan Howard is 7-for-his-last-23 and has his batting average up to .214 for the season. A whole lot of things have gone wrong for Howard this season, but on Sunday he drove in three runs with a pair of doubles that he hit on the first pitch of his at-bat. Coming into Sunday’s game, Howard was hitting 214/214/357 for the season in his plate appearances that ended after one pitch.

When you compare his numbers to what he has done over the last two seasons, I think you can make the case that the poor results Howard has had when he puts the ball in play on the first pitch of his at-bat have been among the most significant differences between what he’s done so far in 2008 and what he did in 2007 and 2006.

For the last three years, here’s how many plate appearances he’s had, how many of those plate appearances ended after just one pitch, the percentage of his plate appearances that ended after one pitch, his OPS when he puts the ball in play after one pitch and his OPS overall for the season:


Year

TPA

End 1P

% 1P

OPS 1P PA

Total OPS
2006 704 83 11.8 1.273 1.084
2007 648 57 8.8 1.364 .976
2008 278 30 10.8 .733 .775

First of all, Howard is putting the ball in play on the first pitch of his at-bat in 2008 at about the same rate as he did over the last two years. If you combine 2006 and 2007, he had 140 one pitch plate appearances in 1,352 total plate appearances. That’s about 10.4 percent of the time his plate appearance ended after one pitch compared to 10.8 this season.

In 2006, though, he hit .375 when he put the ball in play on the first pitch of his plate appearance. In 2007, .463. After Sunday’s big day he’s hitting .267 in 2008 when he puts the ball in play on the first pitch of his plate appearance.

Obviously by total OPS he’s down across the board in 2008. But in both 2006 and 2007 his OPS when he put the ball in play on the first pitch of his plate appearance was significantly better than his overall OPS for the season. In 2008, it’s about the same.

And he’s also hitting fewer home runs on the first pitch of his plate appearance. Of course, so far he’s hitting fewer home runs overall, but even as a percentage of the total home runs he’s hit for the season the number he’s hitting on the first pitch of his plate appearance is down in ’08:


Year

1st pitch HR

Total HR

% of HR on 1st pitch
2006 12 58 20.7
2007 6 47 12.8
2008 1 15 6.7

Those numbers are obviously very fragile. For example, if Howard had hit two of his 15 home runs on the season on his first pitch instead of one, that would be 13.3 percent. Still, even if it’s a coincidence that the percentage of his home runs he’s hit on the first pitch has gone down since 2006, it’s an interesting one.

If your plate appearance doesn’t end on the first pitch there’s pretty much only two things that can happen. You can be down 0-1 or up 1-0 in the count. When you compare his OPS in those situations to his total OPS for the year the numbers for 2008 are much more similar to his ’07 and ’06 numbers than what he’s doing on plate appearances that end in one pitch:

After 0-1

Year

TPA

0-1

% 1P

OPS 1P PA

Total OPS
2006 704 308 43.8 .956 1.084
2007 648 284 43.8 .720 .976
2008 278 124 44.6 .653 .775

After 1-0

Year

TPA

0-1

% 1P

OPS 1P PA

Total OPS
2006 704 313 44.5 1.153 1.084
2007 648 307 47.4 1.152 .976
2008 278 124 44.6 .917 .775

By a very small margin, Howard is getting behind 0-1 this season more than he did in the previous two seasons. Overall, however, the numbers when he gets behind 0-1 or ahead 1-0 compared to his OPS for the season are a lot more similar than what’s happening when he puts the ball in play on the first pitch.

Brett Myers (3-7, 5.13) faces righty Ricky Nolasco (5-4, 5.05) tonight in Florida. Nolasco faced the Phillies in Philadelphia on May 31 and held them to two runs on four hits over 6 2/3 innings. He’s made one start since and was blasted by the Braves on Thursday, allowing seven runs in 5 2/3 innings. He’s been very strong against righties this season — they are hitting just .224 against him and have hit just one home run. Lefties are another story. They’re hitting .324 against him and have hit 11 of the 12 bombs he has allowed. The Phillies have lost seven of the last eight games that Myers has started despite the fact that Myers has been very solid in his last four starts. Over his last four outings Myers has allowed 11 earned runs in 27 1/3 innings (3.62 ERA). The Phillies have gone 1-3. Over those 27 1/3 innings Myers hasn’t allowed a home run. Excluding those innings he’s allowed 15 in 53 1/3 innings on the season. Righties are hitting .305 against him for the season. He has made one start against Florida this season and was good, holding the Fish to three runs on six hits over eight innings on May 30 (the Phils won the game 12-3, their only win in his last eight starts).


I’ll tell you what I do — I stare out the window and think about what Carlos Ruiz did on the first pitch

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”
-Rogers Hornsby

I’m gonna let the Carlos Ruiz and the first pitch thing go sometime soon. Promise. I mean, not today. But soon.

Here are Ruiz’s numbers overall from last year and in his plate appearances that ended on the first pitch:

 
AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS
Ruiz ’07 374 .259 .340 .396 .735
1st pitch 50 .140 .173 .220 .393

In looking at numbers that compare what a hitter did on the first pitch to what he did overall, it’s important to remember that he can’t walk on the first pitch of his at-bat, which would help his on-base percentage and OPS. With that in mind, in his plate appearances that ended on the first pitch, Ruiz went 7-for-50 with three singles and four doubles. In the 50 at-bats he had seven hits, hit into five double-plays and sacrificed three times. The formula for outs is AB (50)-H (7)+CS (0)+GIDP (5)+SH (3)+SF (0). Thanks to hitting into five double-plays on the first pitch, Ruiz created more outs putting the first pitch into play, 51, than he had at-bats (50).

That’s just fantastic. But not in a good way. Kind of like the Beowulf movie.

And here’s what Ruiz’s numbers from last year look like if you take out all of the plate appearances that ended with one pitch:

 
AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS
w/o 1st pitch 324 .278 .363 .423 .786

That doesn’t mean that Ruiz’s numbers overall would have been that good if he hadn’t ever swung at the first pitch. Among other things, pitchers would have adjusted to him never swinging on the first pitch. Twice in ’07 he was hit on the first pitch. But still. The difference is dramatic. By comparison, Aaron Rowand’s OPS when his plate appearance ended on one pitch (.808) was a little worse than the OPS he posted overall for 2007 (.889). He put up a 309/374/515 line overall — if you take out his first pitch plate appearances and recalculate his line it comes out as 308/377/523 (a .900 OPS). A little better, but nowhere near the dramatic change with Ruiz’s numbers.

The Mets claimed reliever Ruddy Lugo off of waivers.

This suggests that the Phillies should trade for Matt Morris and then trade Adam Eaton to the Twins. I think the Phillies would have a hard time trading Eaton at all given his contract and how badly he struggled last season. Matt Morris at $9.5 million might be a tough sell to some in the Phils’ front office in the light of how the Freddy Garcia and Eaton signings have panned out.

The Phils still think they can play with the Mets in a post-Santana world. As well they should. As a side note, you hear a lot about how the Twins made a terrible deal and didn’t pull the trigger on better offers from Boston and the Yankees. The flip side of that I haven’t heard as much about is that the Mets just made a fantastic deal and somehow managed to get Santana with a weaker hand.


It’s the 21st century, baby, you gotta swing

Whether you like the Feliz addition or not, one thing that’s for sure is it could mean some quick at-bats at the bottom of the order. Feliz and Ruiz both are extremely aggressive early in the count and it looks like we could see a lot of them hitting seventh and eighth for the Phils in ’08. If you want to catch the Phillies at-bats it sure looks like the third inning is going to be no time to go for a falafel.

You may remember from a post last month that I think Ruiz would be a lot better off if he didn’t put the ball in play so much on the first pitch of his at-bats.

The same may not be true for Feliz. I added his numbers for 2007 and his career to the chart below — using OPS as the measure he does far better overall as a hitter when he puts the ball in play on the first pitch.

Partly that’s because he is just about helpless if he gets behind 0-1. Over his career, Feliz has gotten behind 0-1 in 1,397 of his plate appearances. In those 1,397 plate appearances he’s gone on to hit 215/231/364 (a .595 OPS). And when he puts the ball in play on the first pitch, he’s been much better:


Player

PA

OPS

1p PA

% 1 p

1p OPS

OPS DIF
Rollins 778 875 65 8.4 815 -60
Rowand 684 889 83 12.1 808 -81
Utley 613 976 45 7.3 990 14
Howard 648 976 57 8.8 1364 388
Burrell 598 902 65 10.9 1114 212
Victorino 510 770 51 10.0 1043 273
Ruiz 429 735 55 12.8 393 -342
Dobbs 358 780 44 12.3 682 -98
Helms 308 665 36 11.7 593 -72
Werth 304 863 11 3.6 819 -44
Nunez 287 600 51 17.8 680 80
Feliz ’07 590 708 98 16.6 930 222
Feliz Career 3027 721 547 18.1 898 177

Again, in the chart above, 1p PA is the number of plate appearances that ended on the first pitch, % 1 p is the percent of the player’s plate appearances that ended in one pitch, 1p OPS is the player’s OPS in his plate appearances that ended in one pitch and OPS DIF is the difference between his OPS on plate appearances that ended on the first pitch and his overall OPS. For example, the chart suggests that J-Roll got 778 plate appearances last year overall in which he posted an .875 OPS. Of those plate appearances, 65, or 8.4%, ended after one pitch and in those 65 plate appearances he posted an .815 OPS, which is .060 lower than his overall OPS for the season. For everyone except Feliz that charts shows their numbers from 2007 (for Feliz it shows his ’07 numbers and career numbers).

Feliz puts the ball in play a ton on the first pitch, more than any Phillies’ regular. Unlike Ruiz, though, when he does he has better results.

On the Somebody-Cue-Chicken-Little front, as you may have heard, the Mets are about to get the best pitcher in baseball, 28-year-old lefty Johan Santana. The addition will surely make New York the favorites to win the NL East and, in the eyes of many, the National League. That’s kind of a hard one to put a positive spin on, but the Phils were never really suited for the role of front-runner anyway. Should be fun to watch and if nothing else you’re going to get to see one of the best ever pitching in games that really matter to Phillies fans. No word yet about whether Paul Lo Duca wants us to wait and see if it’s the Nationals dancing around when it’s all over, but check back often.

Rob Neyer mentioned Philliesflow in a post yesterday about the Pedro Feliz addition. You have to be an ESPN Insider to read the whole post, but if you are you can read it here.


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