Tag: Ty Wigginton

Nervousness grows as some fans wonder if the Phils can find a way to bunt themselves to a better bullpen

The Phils lost the last two games of the three-game set with Pittsbugh on a pair of walkoffs, losing game two 2-1 when their offense came up small. Yesterday the offense put up four runs, but the bullpen couldn’t hold a 4-1 lead, allowing four runs over 2 2/3 innings as the Phils fell 5-4.

The starting pitching has been fantastic for the Phils over the first three games. Vance Worley allowed a run over six innings in yesterday’s game. Over three starts, Halladay, Lee and Worley have combined to allow two runs in 20 innings.

With the exception of Hunter Pence, just about everything else has been pretty miserable. The Phils scored one run in the first game and one in the second, before getting four in an odd third game made memorable when righty James McDonald walked Pence intentionally to get to the lefty Jim Thome and struck Thome out to end the top of the sixth.

Most fans expected the offense to struggle in the early going. Fewer thought we were going to see them bunt and bunt and bunt the way they have in the early going.

Yesterday’s late game breakdown had a lot to do with the bullpen, but also a big defensive misplay when an error by Wigginton on a would-be strikeout led to a pair of unearned runs. It’s the kind of thing you want to avoid if you have an offense built around bunting with your three-hitter.

The Phillies are 1-2 on the year after losing 5-4 to the Pittsburgh Pirates yesterday afternoon. The Pirates take the series two games to one.

Worley started the game for the Phillies and went six innings, allowing a run on five hits and a walk. Two of the hits went for extra-base hits, a double and a home run. He struck out five.

He started the bottom of the first up 1-0. Jose Tabata singled to right with one out and stole second. Worley walked Andrew McCutchen, putting men on first and second for switch-hitter Neil Walker. Walker hit the ball hard to third, but Wigginton took it for the second out. Garrett Jones grounded to Galvis to leave the runners stranded.

Michael McKendry singled with two outs in the second, but Worley struck the pitcher James McDonald out looking behind him for the third out.

Worley set the Pirates down in order in the third.

Walker led off the fourth and lined a single into center, but Jones was next and hit a ball to first. Thome fielded, threw nicely to second and took the relay from Rollins to complete the double-play and clear the bases. Clint Barmes grounded to third for the third out.

If Thome really wants us to forget Howard at first, he needs to figure out a way to throw that ball into left field.

The Phils were up 2-0 when Worley started the fifth. Lefty Pedro Alvarez led off Pittsburgh and hit a 2-1 pitch out to left, cutting the lead to 2-1. Worley retired the next three Pirates behind Alvarez.

McCutchen doubled to center with one out in the sixth. Walker was next and this time he lined to Rollins for the second out. Worley got ahead of Jones 0-2 and struck him out swinging 1-2 to leave McCutchen at second.

The Phillies hit for Worley in the top of the seventh and Stutes, pitching for the second straight day, started the bottom of the inning. Things started well enough. Stutes struck Barmes out for the first out. Alvarez was next and Stutes struck him out too, swinging at a 1-2 pitch that Schneider didn’t handle. Wigginton had taken over at first for Thome and couldn’t handle the throw from Schneider. Alvarez wound up on second with one out and Wigginton charged with an error. Stutes got McKendry to fly to right for the second out, but righty Casey McGehee was next and he doubled to center, scoring Alvarez to cut the lead to 4-2. Lefty Alex Presley was next and he lined a single to right. McGehee scored from second. 4-3. Presley stole second before Tabata flew to center to leave him there.

Would have been a great time to get an out on the Alvarez strikeout. Wigginton just didn’t catch the ball and it went off his glove. The righty Stutes stays in to pitch to the lefty Presley with two lefties available in the pen for the Phils and Presley drives in a run. Not saying a have a whole lot of confidence in Savery, either, but I’m just saying.

Stutes threw 27 pitches in the game.

Kendrick started the eighth, also pitching for the second straight day. McCutchen led off and singled to left. The switch-hitter Walker was next and he flew to left for the first out. Lefty Nate McLouth hit for the pitcher Evan Meek and Bastardo, also pitching for the second straight day, came in to pitch to him. Righty Yamaico Navarro hit for McLouth and McCutchen stole second before Bastardo walked Navarro on a 3-2 pitch. It put men on first and second for Barmes and Bastardo struck him out swinging 0-2 for the second out. Righty Matt Hague hit for the lefty Alvarez and singled into left, scoring McCutchen to tie the game at 4-4 and moving Navarro up to second. Bastardo struck McKendry out swinging 2-2 to leave the runners at first and second.

Both Kendrick and Bastardo had thrown a small number of pitches in game two of the series, 13 for Kendrick and six for Bastardo, but still Manuel lets Kendrick start the eighth inning against a righty when many assumed the eighth would belong to Bastardo. Kendrick also stays in to face the switchy Walker after McCutchen singled, despite the fact that Walker has been better against righties for his career (282/342/437 vs right and 274/327/388 against lefties).

Herndon started the ninth, making his first appearance of the year. McGehee led off with a double to left and Josh Harrison ran for him at second. Presley bunted Harrison to third with the first out. Herndon struck Tabata out swinging 3-2, which looked huge at the time, but McCutchen followed Tabata and hit a ball over Victorino’s head in center, bringing home Harrison and ending the game.

Herndon got ahead of McCutchen 0-2, but couldn’t put him away. With a runner on third and two down, Herndon had a base open and space to pitch around McCutchen and allow the Phils to try and get Walker. Didn’t happen.

Not a great start to the year for Herndon, who faced four men and allowed two hits, both which would have been for extra-bases if the second hadn’t ended the game. The strikeout of Tabata was big, but the other out he got was given to the Phils by Pittsburgh.

Bastardo, Stutes and Kendrick have all pitched two days in a row. Bastardo threw 20 pitches in the game and Stutes 27. Kendrick eight and Herndon 20.

Overall the pen went 2 2/3 innings in the game, allowing four runs on six hits and a walk. Only two of the runs were earned.

Qualls was not available to pitch in the game because of a problem with his right heel.

The Phillies lineup against righty James McDonald went (1) Pierre (2) Victorino (3) Rollins (4) Pence (5) Thome (6) Wigginton (7) Galvis (8) Schneider. Pierre in left, Thome at first and Schneider catching, all making their first starts of the season. Wigginton starts at third, although he’s not a great hitter against righties and can’t offer the defense that Polanco does. Victorino drops to second in the order with Pierre leading off. Galvis hits ahead of Schneider, which seems odd to me given that Galvis doesn’t seem to have much chance to get on base.

Victorino singled with one out in the top of the first and moved to second on a ground out by Rollins. Pence was next and he doubled into the left field corner, scoring Victorino easily to put the Phils up 1-0. Thome flew to left to leave Pence at second.

Just the second extra-base hit of the year for the Phils.

Galvis walked with one out in the second, but Schneider hit into a double-play behind him.

The Phils went in order in the third.

With one out in the fourth, Pence hit a 2-1 pitch out to left-center, putting the Phillies on top 2-0. Thome and Wigginton both grounded out behind him.

Third extra-base hit of the year for the Phils and the first home run.

The Phils went in order in the fifth.

The lead had been cut to 2-1 when they hit in the sixth. Pierre led off with a bunt single and took second on a throwing error by Alvarez. Victorino bunted him to third with the first out. Rollins struck out swinging for the second out. The righty McDonald walked the righty Pence intentionally, putting men on first and third with two down. McDonald then struck Thome out looking 2-2 to leave both runners stranded.

Wow. Pence was 2-for-2 in the game with a double, a home run and seemingly the only hitter in the game with a pulse for the Phils, but still that was rather gutsy. It worked out pretty well for the Pirates, though.

Please, please, please it’s enough with bunting with the good hitters. The number of hitters in the lineup who can hit a double, much less a home run, is pretty limited. If you want to bunt all the time, what say you do it with Galvis, Polanco and Pierre and not Rollins, Victorino and Nix.

With a runner in scoring position and nobody out, Victorino bunts the runner to third. Then the Phillies fail to score with one out and a man on third. Rollins strikes out and Thome strikes out with a nutty IBB in-between.

Righty Jared Hughes started the seventh for Pittsburgh and walked Wigginton to start the inning. Galvis bunted. Hughes fielded and threw to first, where Walker, covering first, didn’t come up with the ball for an error. Wigginton wound up at third and Galvis at second with nobody out. Schneider lined hard to first for the first out. Nix hit for Worley and grounded to second for the second out with the runners holding. Pierre was next, though, and he lined a two-run single to right, putting the Phils on top 4-1. Victorino walked and the Phils pulled off a double-steal before Rollins struck out to leave the runners stranded at second and third.

That’s a bunt I can get behind — not because it worked out so great, but because Galvis isn’t Shane Victorino. Or Jimmy Rollins or Laynce Nix.

Speaking of Nix, that’s the second time in two games Nix came up empty in a big situation with a runner on third and less than two outs. In the top of the first in Saturday’s game, the Phils put men on first and third with one out for Nix and Nix struck out swinging for the second out before Mayberry flew to center to set the Phillies down.

Huge hit for Pierre, who had a fantastic game in his first start of the year.

Righty Evan Meek set Pence, Polanco and Wigginton down in order in the eighth with the lead cut to 4-3.

Righty Joel Hanrahan struck out Mayberry and Schneider in a 1-2-3 ninth.

Pierre was great in his first start of the year. 2-for-4 with a stolen base and two RBI. 2-for-5 in the three-game set. Mayberry was 0-for-1 with a strikeout in the game. 2-for-8 with a double and three strikeouts in the set.

Victorino was 1-for-2 with a walk and a stolen base in the game. 3-for-10 with two walks and two stolen bases in the series.

Rollins was miserable. 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and four men left on base. Huge strikeout in the sixth with one out and Pierre on third. 2-for-12 with two strikeouts in the set. Needs to stop bunting out of the three-hole really, really soon.

Pence 2-for-3 with a walk, a double and a home run. 3-for-11 with two walks in the series.

Thome 0-for-3 with a strikeout and three men left on base. Pence was memorably walked intentionally in front of him in the game. 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in the series. Started a nice double-play defensively in the fourth. Nix was 0-for-2 with a strikeout in the game and 0-for-4 with a walk in the set.

Wigginton 0-for-3 with a walk. Playing him at third against a lefty makes a lot more sense to me than playing him at third against a righty, just cause he’s gotta have a big offensive advantage over Polanco to make up for Polanco’s defense. He made a big error in the seventh on Alvarez’s strikeout that led to two unearned runs the Phillies couldn’t afford to allow. 1-for-8 with a walk in the series. Polanco 0-for-1 in the game and 2-for-9 in the series.

Galvis 0-for-2 with a walk in the game. 0-for-10 with a walk in the series.

Schneider was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and left three men on base. He also hit into a double-play in the second. Big at-bat in the seventh with nobody out and men on second and third, but Schneider lined to first. Ruiz was 4-for-6 with a walk in the series.

Cole Hamels faces righty Anibal Sanchez today in the home opener.

Phils undefeated and hopeful they did not use up all their Halladay and offense for the next four days or so in the same game

The best news of all from the Opening Day win for the Phillies is that changing the calender from 2011 to 2012 apparently hasn’t made Roy Halladay any less fantastic. Halladay looked exactly like the best pitcher in baseball yesterday. He needed just 92 pitches to throw eight shutout innings, leading the Phils to a 1-0 win over the Pirates.

Going back to his last start of 2011, game five against the Cards, Halladay has thrown 16 innings in his last two starts and allowed one run. The Phillies have scored one run in those games.

In yesterday’s game, he allowed singles to the first two batters he faced in the bottom of the first inning. After that, Halladay threw eight shutout innings in which he didn’t allow a hit or a walk, but hit two batters.

Jonathan Papelbon looked rather impressive himself in his Phillies debut. Pitching the ninth with a one-run lead, Papelbon faced three hitters and set them all down on a strikeout and a pair of ground outs.

The defense was good. The Phils turned a big double-play behind Halladay in the bottom of the first after a couple of hits. Wigginton made a pair of nice plays at first. So what could possibly be wrong?

Well, after a Spring Training dominated by worries about how the Phillies will score runs, they came out on Opening Day and managed just one. The bigger problem for the team is not what they did yesterday, but what they look likely to do tomorrow. And the day after that and the day after that. And how they’re going to win when they don’t get eight shutout innings from their starter.

Still waiting on that one.

The Phillies are 1-0 on the year after beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 1-0 yesterday afternoon.

Halladay got the start for the Phillies and went eight shutout innings, allowing two singles. He didn’t walk a batter. He hit two and struck out five.

Lefty Alex Presley led off the bottom of the first for Pittsburgh and singled into center. Righty Jose Tabata was next and singled as well, on a swinging bunt down the third base line that put men on first and second for righty Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen grounded to short with Rollins going to Galvis and Galvis relaying to first to complete the double-play. Two down and a man on third for switch-hitter Neil Walker. Walker flew to left to leave Presley at third.

Nice first touch of his career for Galvis as the Phils turn a big double-play on McCutchen.

Lefty Garrett Jones grounded to second for the first out of the second. Righty Rod Barajas was next and dribbled to Halladay for the second out. Lefty Pedro Alvarez flew to center on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning.

Halladay threw a 1-2-3 third, getting righty Clint Barmes to pop to third, the pitcher Erik Bedard swinging and Presley on a ground ball to second.

Tabata led off the fourth with a ball hit to Rollins. Rollins fielded and threw to first, where Wigginton came off the bag nicely to tag and get Tabata for the first out. McCutchen was next and Halladay drilled him with a 1-2 pitch. Walker followed and hit a ball well to left that Mayberry took at the warning track. McCutchen was way off of first and had to go back, putting a man on first for Jones with two down. Jones grounded to first, leaving McCutchen stranded.

Nice play by Wigginton starts the frame with an out. The McCutchen hit-by-pitch breaks up nine down in a row for Halladay.

Halladay struck out Barajas and Alvarez both swinging to start the fifth. Barmes was next and he hit the ball well to left, but Mayberry took it going into the wall to end the inning.

Second time in two innings the Pirates hit the ball well to left, but Walker and Barmes both go down with no damage done.

Halladay had thrown 62 pitches through five innings.

He threw a 1-2-3 sixth, getting Bedard on a soft fly ball to center and Presley and Tabata on a pair of ground outs.

The Phillies led 1-0 when Halladay started the seventh. He struck McCutchen out swinging 2-2 for the first out and got Walker and Jones on ground outs.

Halladay started the eighth after running the bases in the top of the inning, which he had started with a leadoff single. He got Barajas on a popup to second for the first and Alvarez on a fly ball to center for the second. Barmes was next and Halladay hit him 1-2, breaking Halladay’s sting of 13 in a row. Lefty Nate McLouth hit for the pitcher Chris Resop with two outs and a man on first. Halladay struck McLouth out swinging 1-2 to end the inning with Barmes at first.

Papelbon started the ninth with the Phils still up a run. He threw ball one to Presley, but came back with three straight strikes, getting him swinging 1-2 for the first out. Tabata grounded softly to third for the second out. Papelbon got ahead of McCutchen 0-2 and McCutchen hit a ball to third. Polanco fielded and threw to first, where Wigginton again made a nice play, holding the bag to get the out and end the game.

Ten pitches in the game for Papelbon.

The Phillies lineup against lefty Erik Bedard went (1) Victorino (2) Polanco (3) Rollins (4) Pence (5) Wigginton (6) Mayberry (7) Ruiz (8) Galvis. Victorino leads off against the lefty with Pierre on the bench. Mayberry starts in left and Wigginton at first, which is what you would expect, despite ugly Spring Trainings for both players. Galvis makes his debut, starting at second base for the sidelined Utley. Polanco hits second in the order, which is too high. In his final 406 plate appearances of 2011, Polanco posted a 243/304/287 line. Four places where the Phils have big offensive holes in the lineup — second, third, left and first. Against a lefty, they at least have a shot at approaching league average production in left and at first. Less so at second and third. Should be at least a little better against lefties for the righty Polanco. We’ll see how the splits for the switch-hitter Galvis look.

The Phillies start the game with a bench of five left-handed hitters — Nix, Pierre, Thome, Orr and Schneider.

Victorino was the first hitter of the year and he popped to shallow left for the first out. Polanco flew to center for the second before Rollins bunted for a single. Pence lined to center to leave Rollins at first.

Rollins bunts for a hit out of the three-hole and it works beautifully.

Wigginton led off the second and hit a ball up the middle that the second baseman Walker handled behind the shortstop side of second. Walker threw to first and Wigginton was called out on a very close play at first, which Manuel argued without success. Mayberry was next and he singled into right. Ruiz followed, coming off of a monster Spring Training in which he hit 479/500/771. He blooped a single into right, putting men on first and second for Galvis’s first career at-bat. Galvis grounded into a 6-4-3 double-play on an 0-1 pitch to end the frame.

Wigginton looked safe to me. Would have changed the inning significantly, given the two hits behind him. Also, he’s really, really slow to make it as close as it was. That took a long, long time to develop.

Halladay led off the top of the third and struck out swinging. Victorino struck out looking at a 1-2 pitch for the second out. Polanco grounded to first to set the Phillies down.

The Phils went in order in the fourth. Rollins popped to second, Pence grounded to third and Wigginton flew to left.

Mayberry struck out swinging 0-2 to start the fifth. Ruiz was next and singled on a ball deflected by Barmes at short. Galvis was next and grounded into a double-play again, this time to third, to set the Phillies down.

Ruiz 2-for-2 in the early going. Galvis 0-for-2 and twice grounded into a double-play.

Halladay struck out to start the sixth, but Victorino followed and walked on five pitches. Polanco flew to center for the second out. Victorino stole second as Rollins took strike one, but Rollins popped to short to leave him there.

Pence flew to center to start the seventh. Wigginton was next and hit a ball hard into center for a single. Mayberry followed and hit a ball into right that rolled into the corner for a double. Wigginton, who’s really slow, moved up to third. Ruiz was next and flew to right, not too deep, and Tabata took it coming in for the second out. Wigginton tagged from third and slid in just ahead of the tag from Barajas, putting the Phils up 1-0 with two down and a man on second for Galvis. Galvis grounded to short to end the frame with Mayberry at second.

Golly on Wigginton not scoring from first on Mayberry’s double that rolled into the corner. Nice job to score on Ruiz’s ball to right. Galvis did his best to hit into another double-play, but it’s not his fault if the Phillies don’t have a runner on first.

Halladay hit for himself to start the eighth and singled to right off of righty Chris Resop. Victorino showed bunt early in the count before striking out for the first out. Polanco walked on four pitches, putting men on first and second for Rollins. Rollins hit an 0-1 pitch hard, but it was snared by a leaping Walker at second for the second out. Resop struck Pence out swinging 1-2 to leave both runners stranded.

Halladay hits for himself up 1-0 in the eighth to lead off the inning having thrown 79 pitches in the game. Really not a fan of the idea that Victorino would try to bunt Halladay to second with the first out.

Righty Juan Cruz started the ninth for Pittsburgh. He got Wigginton on a ground ball back to the mound for the first out and struck Mayberry out for the second. Ruiz was next and he singled into right for his third hit of the day. Galvis nearly bunted for a hit with a pretty ball down the right field line, but it finally rolled foul. Cruz struck Galvis out swinging 2-2 to leave Ruiz at first.

Victorino was 0-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base.

Polanco 0-for-3 with a walk.

Rollins 1-for-4 with a bunt single and three men left on base. He lined hard to Walker in the eighth.

Pence 0-for-4 with a strikeout and three men left on base.

Wigginton was 1-for-4 with a single and scored the only run of the game. Didn’t score from first on the double from Mayberry, but did tag and score on the ball hit by Ruiz. He also made a couple of nice plays at first, one to handle a throw by Rollins and another on the throw by Polanco to end the game. Should have had another hit in the second on the ball he hit up the middle (and yes, he’s really slow, but, in his defense, he was also really safe at first).

Mayberry was 2-for-4 with a double and struck out twice.

Ruiz 3-for-3 with a sac fly that brought in the only run of the game.

Galvis was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and five men left on base. He hit into two double-plays. Defensively was part of the big double-play in the first inning that helped keep Pittsburgh off the board.

Cliff Lee faces righty Jeff Karstens on Saturday night.

For lovers of #DIV/0!, the Start Log for 2012 is up. Third straight Opening Day start for Halladay with the Phillies — in those starts he has combined to throw 21 innings and allow two runs.

This suggests that Scott Podsednik is likely to report to Triple-A rather than retire.

Pen happy to offer a little relief for anyone looking to walk

The starters may have been fantastic at preventing walks for the Phils in 2011, but the relievers were a different story. The bullpen walked a whole lot of folks last year.

For each of the NL teams, here’s the percentage of batters faced by relievers that walked in 2011:

Team Batters Faced Walks % BB

By percentage of batters faced that were walked, the Phillies relievers were 14th in the NL in 2011.

Phillie starters faced the most batters in the NL by a wide margin in 2011, so it makes sense that the relievers faced the fewest. The Dodgers were the team that faced the second-fewest and they faced 127 more. Despite facing the fewest number of hitters, by a lot, there were four NL teams that walked fewer batters overall than the Phillie relievers did.

Here are the numbers by innings pitched rather than batters faced:

Team IP Walks BB/9
508 2/3
449 2/3
439 1/3
522 1/3
520 2/3
470 1/3
483 2/3
412 1/3
502 2/3

The Phils were 14th in the NL in walks per nine innings pitched per relievers. Again, this underscores the amazing job the starters did at preventing walks given that overall the team walked fewer total batters than any NL team had since 1995.

The Phils played the Pirates yesterday, winning 5-4 when Lou Montanez hit a walkoff homer off of Michael Dubee in the bottom of the tenth to improve to 3-3.

Cole Hamels got the start for the Phils and was fantastic. He went 3 2/3 scoreless innings before allowing back-to-back singles. He should have been out of the inning, but the next batter, Nate McLouth, reached on an error by Wiggington at second to keep the inning alive. Bush followed Hamels and went 1 1/3 scoreless innings before running into trouble in the sixth. In the sixth, the Pirates scored three runs charged to Bush on three singles and a double, puffing Bush’s Spring Training ERA to 8.31. Bastardo, Aumont and Schwimer all threw scoreless frames for the Phils. Lefty David Purcey went in an inning as well and allowed a run on a solo homer by Starling Marte.

Wigginton started at second and made an error, but went 1-for-1 with an RBI-double and two walks. Pence was 2-for-3. Victorino went 1-for-3 with a two-run homer. Still no hits for Nix, who’s now 0-for-11 after an 0-for-2 with two walks. Montanez won it in the tenth — he’s 3-for-6 so far with two doubles and a home run. He has four RBI — Hector Luna still leads the team with five.

Wigginton has seen a lot of time at second over his career. He didn’t play there in 2011, but he started 35 games at second for the Orioles in 2010 with an UZR/150 of -14.3.

The Phillies play Detroit this afternoon.

Domonic Brown has a sprained right thumb. The linked article suggests he will sit for at least a few more days.

This says that Contreras will throw batting practice today, but is not scheduled for any game action in the next week. It also says that Dontrelle Willis has a sore left forearm and will rest a couple of days.

And if Mayberry can just keep pace wtih Matt Downs, the Phils might be in business

In a previous post I pointed out that there are not many players over the last two seasons who have walked, gotten hits and especially hit home runs at the rate that John Mayberry has with the Phillies over the past two seasons. Another thing that Mayberry has done with the Phillies over the past two seasons is have a large percentage of his hits go for extra-bases while hitting for a relatively high average.

In 2010 and 2011 combined, Mayberry has gotten 309 plate appearances with the Phillies in which he has hit .276 (77-for-279). Of his 77 hits, 17 are doubles, one is a triple and he has hit 17 home runs. About 45.45% of his hits over the past two years have gone for extra-bases.

How many players in either league in 2011 meet all three of these criteria: Got 200 plate appearances, hit at least .276 and had 45.45% or more of the hits they did get go for extra-bases? Two.

PA AVG % of hits XBH
Mike Napoli 432 .320 46.6
Matt Downs 222 .276 50.9

And in 2010? Four.

PA AVG % of hits XBH
Jayson Werth 652 .296 45.7
Miguel Cabrera 648 .322 46.7
Jim Thome 340 .283 55.1
Jim Edmonds 272 .276 50.0

Again, like in the previous post, it’s the high percentage of extra-base hits that make this group so tough to get into.

2011 2010
% of players with 200 plate appearances who hit .276 or better 29.6 32.4
 . . . who had at least 45.45% of their hits go for extra-bases 6.8 8.4

In each of the last two years, more than a hundred players have hit better than .276 across both leagues. In both season less than 30 saw 45.45% or more of their hits go for extra-bases.

This article suggests that Mayberry will spend more time in left than at first base early in the year. Again, the critical question to me seems to be who the Phillies are going to play at first against right-handed pitching if Howard is out and Thome can’t play first. Again again, it seems to me the best choice offensively is to play Brown in left and Nix or Mayberry at first, assuming that the lefty Nix is probably the more conservative choice but that Mayberry might have higher upside. That seems unlikely to me to happen, so I think we should brace ourselves for a significant amount of Wigginton at first against righties early in the year.

Ryan Howard took batting practice and has no time table for his return. He also suggests he might not get to full-strength until around the All-Star break.

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Look, if I throw the ball to first base, somebody’s gotta get it. Now who has it?

Still all about who should be playing first for the Phillies against right-handed pitching with Howard out and Thome not being a first baseman. Last post we looked at offensive numbers for five players who look like they have a chance to get into the lineup for the Phils against righties early in the year, either in left field or at first base. Based on being worst in both the career and 2011 categories, I’m dropping Pierre from the list. That leaves us with Wigginton, Nix, Mayberry and Brown.

A big issue when looking at those four players is that Mayberry and Brown both have less than 250 career plate appearances against right-handed pitching. Brown has 230 and Mayberry has 205. Nix and Wigginton have both had far more chances against righties, at least 1,500 for each. Nix and Wigginton got a nearly identical number of plate appearances against righties in 2011 with far better results for Nix.

Of the guys with a lot of plate appearances, Wigginton has the slightly better wOBA against righties for his career, but Nix has been better over the last three years. In this post I pointed out that Nix’s career can be looked at in three phases, three years with Texas where he was pretty bad, three years where he didn’t get much time in the majors and the last three years in which he’s been a lot better offensively than he was early in his career.

Here’s the wOBA Nix and Wigginton have posted against righties for the past three seasons:

2011 2010 2009
Nix 341 335 336
Wigginton 310 325 326

In each of the last three seasons, Nix has been better against righties than Wigginton. In 2011 the difference was the most dramatic. Nix got 320 plate appearances against righties for the Nats last year in which he hit 263/306/475 with 16 homers. Wigginton played in Colorado, got 319 plate appearances with the Rockies and hit 235/292/413. Against right-handed pitching, Nix got on base more and hit for more power than Wigginton. While he’s not a lock to get on base against righties more than Wigginton in 2012, he’s a real good bet to hit for a lot more power against them and be the better player offensively overall.

As I pointed out in this post, in each of the last three seasons, Wigginton’s wOBA against right-handed pitching has been worse than it was in the previous season. 2008 was probably Wigginton’s best year against righties — he hit 265/322/488 in 311 plate appearances for the Astros that year.

Looking at 2012, I think it’s reasonable to expect that the lefty Nix, a left-handed hitter who can pretty much only play against righties, will be better offensively against right-handed pitching than the righty Wigginton.

A big part of the question is how those two players stack up against lefty Domonic Brown and righy John Mayberry, two hitters who have not had nearly the same number of plate appearances as Nix and Wigginton have for their careers. Nearly everyone would expect the lefty Brown to be better than the righty Mayberry against right-handed pitching over their careers. And while nobody can know for sure what Mayberry and Brown will do in 2012, people can guess. And they do. And you’re going to struggle to find projections that suggest Mayberry will be better than Brown overall this season, much less against right-handed pitching. Looking at two of the publicly available free projections, here’s Bill James’s predictions for the two players from FanGraphs for 2012 as well as their ZiPs projections:

Brown James 275 355 455 361
Brown ZiPS 273 330 465 345
Mayberry James 257 313 439 332
Mayberry ZiPS 246 300 427 317

Those numbers are total projections, not left-right splits. Both of those projections are better for Brown than Mayberry overall and you also need to assume that as a left-handed hitter he’s going to be far better against righties than Mayberry.

Nearly all of the projections you’ll find for Mayberry suggest he’s going to have a hard time getting on base. I haven’t seen one yet that projects his on-base percentage to top .320.

Of course, Mayberry has been a lot better than that in limited playing time with the Phils over the past two years, hitting 276/343/527 over 309 plate appearances, which is remarkable given his 258/328/457 line over 2,975 minor league plate appearances. If Mayberry continues to produce offense at the rates he has with the Phils over the last two years it will be an outstanding development for the team.

Most projections don’t seem to think that will happen.

In the group of Brown, Nix, Mayberry and Wigginton, Brown is the guy I’d pick to put up the best numbers against right-handed pitching in 2012. Wigginton is the member of the group likely to put up the worst.

Bottom line for me is this: Offensively, against right-handed pitching, Brown is the best choice for the Phils in left field.

It seems likely that both Nix and Mayberry will prove unable to provide league average offense as a first baseman against right-handed pitching in 2012. The lefty Nix seems like the conservative choice and the player of the two more likely to produce near league-average production at the position. Mayberry seems to have a higher upside, but against righties it’s likely his numbers in 2012 will drop rather than improve.

The Phillies, of course, have a bigger decision to make than just who is the player who will be the best offensively against righties in left and first. Especially if Brown starts the year in the minors, I think it’s likely we’re going to see all three of Mayberry, Nix and Wigginton at first against righties early in the season.

This suggests that the Phillies and Yankees are the two teams pursuing 19-year-old outfielder Jorge Solar the hardest. The right-handed Cuban defector is likely years away from the majors.

The article reviews pitchers that will be in camp for the Phils.

All I’m trying to find out is the fellow’s name on first base

So, if Ryan Howard is on the DL and Jim Thome can’t play first, who should be playing first base for the Phillies? In a recent post I suggested that Ty Wigginton’s career numbers make him look like a good candidate to fill in against lefties, but not against righties. I also suggested that when the other team starts a righty with Howard and Thome unavailable to play first, it looks like between left field and first base there’s an opportunity for the Phils to start two players from the group of Wigginton, Laynce Nix, John Mayberry, Domonic Brown and maybe Juan Pierre.

So, of those five, who are the best choices offensively to play at first and in left?

Remembering that in 2011, the average NL first baseman hit 270/350/451 with an wOBA of .346, here are the numbers against righties for those five players as well as what each of them did against right-handed pitching in 2011:

Wigginton career 3238 261 313 437 329
Wigginton 2011 319 235 292 413 310
Mayberry career 205 236 317 445 325
Mayberry 2011 176 250 330 455 334
Brown career 230 239 322 408 324
Brown 2011 174 237 328 401 326
Nix career 1584 253 296 451 320
Nix 2011 320 263 306 475 341
Pierre career 5549 293 339 369 313
Pierre 2011 536 264 296 325 276

The first thing is that none of those numbers are real good. Remembering that the average NL first baseman put up a wOBA of .346 in 2011, nearly all of the numbers on the table above don’t even come close to that — the lone exception is Laynce Nix’s effort against righties from last year in which he put up a wOBA of .341 despite on-basing .306.

Just for giggles, here’s the numbers for Thome and Howard, lefties that really can hit righties and have played first in their careers (although in the interest of full disclosure, Thome hasn’t seen significant time at first since 2005 and likely won’t in 2012, either):

Howard career 2948 298 397 623 416
Howard 2011 459 266 370 550 383
Thome career 7256 293 428 612 432
Thome 2011 233 257 352 470 353

So it’s safe to say that Howard and Thome have been better against righties over their careers than the five guys in the first table.

Back to our five guys. If you put them in order by career wOBA against righties, the list looks like this:

  1. Wigginton, .329
  2. Mayberry, .325
  3. Brown, .324
  4. Nix, .320
  5. Pierre, .313

Again, it’s bad news that Ty Wigginton tops that list cause he’s a career 261/313/437 hitter against righties. You really don’t want a guy who’s a career 261/313/437 hitter against righties playing first base for you against them. If you order them by what they did in 2011, the list looks like this:

  1. Nix, .341
  2. Mayberry, .334
  3. Brown, .326
  4. Wigginton, .310
  5. Pierre, .276

Sure looks like the answer is not Pierre, but beyond that it gets a little confusing. Part of what makes it confusing is that Mayberry and Brown have so few plate appearances — they each have less than 250 plate appearances against righties for their career while Nix and Wigginton both have at least 1,500. Beyond that, Wigginton’s career numbers against righties are a little better than Nix’s, but Nix’s numbers over the last few seasons top Wigginton’s. Tune in next time.

This article about the Phillies rotation and guys to watch reminds that Austin Hyatt, who will be in Spring Training as an NRI, struck out 171 batters in 154 1/3 innings for Reading last season while throwing to a 3.85 ERA over 28 starts.

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