Tag: Scott Mathieson

First and second impressions

Here’s what the players that saw the most time at first base and second base for each of the teams in the NL East did last season with the bat:







PHI Utley 530 .332 .410 .566 .976
PHI Howard 529 .268 .392 .584 .976
PHI Total 1059 .300 .401 .575 .976
WAS Belliard 511 .290 .332 .427 .759
WAS Young 460 .320 .378 .491 .869
WAS Total 971 .304 .354 .457 .811
FLA Uggla 632 .245 .326 .479 .805
FLA Jacobs 426 .265 .317 .458 .775
FLA Total 1058 .253 .323 .471 .793
NYM Castillo 199 .296 .371 .372 .742
NYM Delgado 538 .258 .333 .448 .781
NYM Total 737 .269 .343 .427 .770
ATL Johnson 521 .276 .375 .457 .831
ATL Thorman 287 .216 .258 .394 .652
ATL Total 808 .255 .336 .434 .770

The Phils’ dynamic duo of Utley and Howard were the class of the group. Nobody else was real close. When looking at the overall numbers for the pairs you should remember that the numbers for the Mets are skewed towards Delgado because he got so many more at-bats than Castillo. Ditto for Kelly Johnson with the Braves given the number of at-bats for Scott Thorman.

Notably absent is Mark Teixeira, of course, who got less time at first for Atlanta than Thorman in ’07. Here’s what the numbers for Johnson and Teixeira look like (includes Teixeira’s numbers with both teams, not just the Braves):







ATL Johnson 521 .276 .375 .457 .831
ATL Teixeira 494 .306 .400 .563 .963
ATL Total 1015 .291 .387 .508 .895

And here is what the numbers look like if you use all of the players that got at-bats as first baseman and second baseman rather than just the players that saw the most time at the position:







PHI 2B 662 .325 .400 .535 .935
PHI 1B 616 .268 .383 .547 .930
PHI Total 1278 .297 .391 .541 .932
WAS 2B 663 .267 .316 .404 .720
WAS 1B 627 .297 .359 .437 .796
WAS Total 1290 .281 .337 .420 .758
FLA 2B 655 .246 .327 .475 .802
FLA 1B 619 .265 .337 .430 .766
FLA Total 1274 .255 .332 .453 .785
NYM 2B 618 .278 .348 .405 .752
NYM 1B 622 .260 .344 .453 .797
NYM Total 1240 .269 .346 .429 .775
ATL 2B 653 .289 .373 .455 .828
ATL 1B 601 .248 .318 .449 .767
ATL Total 1254 .270 .347 .452 .799

Thanks to Teixeira, Atlanta’s numbers surge up to second best in the division.

For the Phillies it’s interesting to note that the non-Utley guys who played second, led by Iguchi, outpaced the non-Howard guys who played first (hence the second basemen were better offensively overall using OPS as the measure despite the fact that Utley and Howard hit to the same .976).

For the Nationals, the guys other than Young and Belliard who manned first and second, Robert Fick and Felipe Lopez especially, were much worse and brought the numbers for the team down overall.

The Marlins numbers overall were pretty close to what their primary guys did. Ditto for the Mets, who saw Valentin, Easley and Gotay all get a lot of time at second base.

As you look to 2008, Utley and Howard seemingly guarantee the Phils will lead the pack. I’d guess Teixeira and Johnson will have Atlanta second. The other three teams were closely packed last season and it looks like there’s a good chance they will be again this season. The Nationals add Nick Johnson to the mix at first, which could be a significant boost, but the group went Flordia-New York-Washington last year and I think there’s a good chance they go that way again.

The Phils did not play yesterday. Chad Durbin pitched in a minor league game and allowed two runs on six hits and a walk over three innings.

Scott Mathieson was not actually demoted to the Phils minor league camp in the first big wave of moves. The Phils tried to demote him but were prevented from doing so because of his injury status during the 2007 season.

Braves retool, hoping to rule the NL East once again

Colin from Braves Blast took the time to answer some questions about the upcoming season.

Is Kelly Johnson’s defense at second base good enough to keep him at the position?
Kelly had a solid debut season at second. He transferred in from the outfield because he had to play there when we had Chipper, Giles, and Furcal up the middle. However, realize that we originally drafted him as a shortstop, not as a platoon outfielder. He had some missed plays here and there at the end of the season last year simply because of fatigue, but I think he’ll be a good solution at second for us this year. His defense is likely to improve as he gets more comfortable there, and word has it he’s been working to get better.

Will Mike Hampton really be the Braves’ fifth starter? How do you see Atlanta working in Jair Jurrjens? Is there anyone else in the mix at the back of the rotation?

I think Mike Hampton will be the fourth starter for the Braves. He’s healthy, he’s pitching well – and there’s no reason to not pencil him in there for now. I don’t think he’s going to pitch 200+ innings and have stuff worthy of being a #1 starter, but when his sinker is working he’s a very difficult pitcher to hit against. And early reports are that his pitches are still there.

Jurrjens is a very talented youngster (we got him as part of the package in exchange for Edgar Renteria, for those of you who don’t know) – he’ll be #2 starter material in a few years. He keeps his pitches low and despite some ugly stats at Detroit last year, he should be able to compete with Chuck James and the others for that fifth spot. If he doesn’t start the season up in the majors, I think we’ll see him before the end of the year filling in here and there as Hampton will need some rests here and there. The other pitchers in the mix include Chuck James, the young Jeff Bennett (I like him – he’s got good stuff), and Buddy Carlyle. I think James or Jurrjens are most likely to get spots in the rotation, but Bennett or Carlyle may find a spot in the crowded bullpen as a spot starter / long reliever.

What are we to make of Yunel Escobar, who hit 264/361/346 in Double-A in 2006 before tearing up Triple-A in ’07 and then posting a 326/385/451 line in over 300 at-bats with the Braves?

This is a very good question – I’m going to move away from the stats for a minute and focus on talent. The Braves have always been very good about recruiting and developing young talent within the organization. Some of the same questions came up in regards to Furcal and Giles previously, as well as Francoeur more recently. Yunel has “the stuff” to make it at the big league level, according to Frank Wren, our GM, Bobby Cox, and batting coach Terry Pendleton. Now, in my opinion, if you get the rubber stamp from those three guys, you’ll be fine at the big league level. I can’t even begin to predict stats – we all know that it’s easy to hit well when you first come up – but I think Escobar will fare just fine at shortstop this year.

Keeping with the are-they-the-real-deal theme, can Peter Moylan keep up with standard he set for himself with his 2007 season? The Braves pen was fantastic in ’07 and looks like it may be one area where Atlanta has gotten worse heading into ’08. Even if Moylan is solid again, do the Braves have enough arms out there behind Rafael Soriano?

I think the Braves have plenty of arms in the ‘pen. Moylan certainly set a high bar in 07 and it’ll be hard for him to follow up, but that said, I think he’ll be able to have a decent followup – even if he doesn’t match 80 appearances and 90 innings pitched. As for the ’07 bullpen, I have to respectfully disagree. We had instances of brilliance but it wasn’t a solid bullpen outside of Moylan. Had the bullpen been better, I think Hudson (with more run support) could have cracked 20 wins. I think that we’ve gotten better heading into ’08, despite the loss of Ron Mahay. Mike Gonzalez comes back mid-season and assuming Will Ohman can hold down the left-handed setup role until his return, I think we’ll be solid. I also think that Soriano will also be a solid closer once he gets into the role.

What do you see as the biggest decisions the Braves will make between now and the start of the season?

The fourth and fifth rotation spots are crucial. Having a solid back end of the rotation to compliment the Smoltz/Hudson/Glavine trio is something we need to know can hold their own. Be honest, a Smoltz/Hudson/Glavine/Heatlhy Hampton/Jurrjens or James rotation is about as mean as any out there. If everyone is healthy, it’s not a one-two punch. It’s a one-two-three-four punch. Now, it’ll only work for a year or so, but it could be nasty.

I think the other crucial decision is who will fill out the bullpen. We have more pitchers overall than we did last year and I think the bullpen will be stronger than it was, but we need to get our guys picked out and they need to embrace the roles they’re given. The only other key question to be answered is who will fill out the left field platoon with Matt Diaz. I think we’ll likely see Brandon Jones out there, but Josh Anderson also wants a piece of the platoon. That’ll be interesting to watch.

How do you see the NL East shaping up in 2008?

I honestly think this is a three team race. You can make the argument that the Mets are the team to beat (Santana, Santana, blah blah blah). The Phillies are the incumbent from the point of view that they won last year, and have an excellent chance to pull it off again. I think that anyone who counts the Braves out is foolish. If our rotation is healthy, we have four very good starting pitchers and we’ve never had a shabby offense. I think it’ll be interesting to see it play out, but I like the Braves being the underdog for a change. The Nationals and the Marlins are not going to even factor in, we all know that. I don’t know how it’ll shake out, you’ll laugh but in my minds eye I see the Braves coming to the top. That said, the Mets and Phillies are not going to make it easy. I think going into the last month of the season we’ll see a three-team race. Wild card comes from the East this year, too. Just don’t count the Braves out.

Thanks again to Colin and remember to check out Braves Blast. I also answered some of his questions about the Phillies, which you can read here.

I thought the answer he gave to the question about the Braves’ bullpen from last year was very interesting. Atlanta relievers posted a 3.54 ERA last season, which was the second-base mark in the NL behind the Padres. They did, however, allow 38 unearned runs. Only the Brewers allowed more unearned runs in relief among NL teams, they surrendered 40. I see the bullpen as a weakness for the Braves for a team that has largely gotten better this season — if it proves to be true that the bullpen has actually improved that would be bad news for everyone else in the NL East.

Pat Gillick likes wine.

This says that Ryan Howard won his arbitration hearing and will make $10 million this season. More on the hearing here.

Scott Mathieson does not need more surgery and may be pitching to hitters again by mid-March.

All due respect to Jet, but apparently you do need money when you look like that, honey

The Phillies and Kris Benson agreed to a minor league deal. This article suggests that Benson could make over $5 million this season.

Benson was taken by Pittsburgh with the first pick of the 1996 draft and has started 195 games with the Pirates, Mets and Orioles, throwing to a career 4.34 ERA with a 1.38 ratio.

A healthy Benson would be a huge boost to the Phillies. Here, for example, is how his career numbers compare to Brett Myers’:





Myers 192 143 923 4.34 1.35
Benson 195 195 1207.1 4.34 1.38

The difference, of course, is that Benson is almost six years older than Myers. The best year of his career will likely prove to be 2000 while the best year of Myers’ career is likely yet to come. Still, on a team with pitching woes as deep as the Phillies I have a hard time seeing the addition of Benson as anything but a gamble worth taking.

The article linked above suggests that he was recently throwing at about 60 to 70 percent, which means that his chances to win a job out of spring training are just about zero. You have to believe you’re going to see him before long for the Phils, though, given all the issues the team has after Myers and Hamels in the starting rotation.

Benson missed the 2001 season coming off of Tommy John surgery and all of 2007 with a torn rotator cuff. He last pitched on September 27, 2006 against the Yankees and had a miserable outing. He went just 2 2/3 innings and allowed eight earned runs, puffing his ERA from 4.49 to 4.82.

Benson made his debut with the Pirates in 1999 and for the first two years of his career was an extreme ground ball pitcher. When he returned from injury in 2002 he still got more of his outs on the ground than in the air, but the numbers weren’t nearly as dramatic as they had been in ’99 and ’00. Over the last three seasons he pitched he got about the same number of outs in the air as on the ground.

His strikeouts have generally trended downward over his career as well. In 2000 he struck out 184 batters in 217 2/3 innings, 7.61 per nine innings. The last year he pitched was 2006 — in that season he struck out 88 in 183 innings or 4.33 per nine innings, the lowest strikeout rate of his career.

In 2006 he also had a big problem with the long ball as his home run rate shot to the highest level of his career. In 183 innings with the Orioles in ’06 he allowed 33 home runs, which was the fourth most in the American League (it was also the only year of his career in the AL, which may help explain the increased home run rate).

And then there’s the lefties. Here’s what Benson has done in his career and 2006, the last year he pitched, against righties and against lefties:





Career v R 2703 .248 .300 .379 .679
Career v L 2496 .288 .364 .469 .833
’06 v R 382 .270 .313 .430 .743
’06 v L 399 .303 .370 .540 .910

Those numbers against lefties are a little scary. But it shouldn’t be lost on anyone either that the numbers against righties, particularly the career numbers, are tremendous.

This is almost inarguably a good move for the Phils. We’re not going to know for a long time how healthy Benson is. But whenever we do, if the answer is that he can get back to close to where he was before his injury there’s no question he can help the team. From Benson’s perspective, he gets a team with a chance to go far this season as well as a team that’s going to have a ton of opportunity for anyone who can pitch.

The Phillies are looking into their options around a team chiropractor, something that Cole Hamels has been suggesting for a while. No word about adding some sort of fashion consultant to prevent the kind of wardrobe malfunction like the one that led to Hamels starting a playoff game on a hot day in long sleeves, but check back often. It may just be that everyone is going to have to dress themselves. Adding a chiropractor, or at least making sure that the players have easy access to one, seems like a no-brainer to me given the amount invested in player salaries and the consequences of injuries.

Marcus Hayes calls Eaton a head case in this chat. If Eaton’s problems were primarily caused by mental and not physical problems, that would be good news. In the same chat he calls the Helms acquisition a joke and says he thinks that Travis Blackley will make the team.

Scott Mathieson says that the discomfort in his pitching elbow is not a big deal. Same article says that Zagurski thinks he’s a long shot to make the team and won’t start doing mound work till March 1. More on Zagurski here.

This says that Gordon and Lidge both looked good throwing yesterday.

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