Down and Certainly Not Out — Not Anymore

The Phillies tried desperately to give the New York Mets a victory yesterday, squandering a 5-0 lead, and then an 8-5 lead. The Mets — Billy Wagner, specifically — wouldn’t hear of it and promptly forked over 3 runs in the bottom of the eighth and nine innings after taking a 10-8 lead, to lose in dramatic fashion.

The Phillies hit ‘em hard (two homeruns from Pat Burrell, a Ruthian two-run homerun from Ryan Howard, and a solo homerun from Aaron Rowand) and they hit ‘em soft (bloop RBI singles from Carlos Ruiz and Shane Victorino, and a slow-rolling RBI single up the middle from Jimmy Rollins).

The most impressive feat of the series, though, was not the offense (outscoring the Mets 27-16 in the four-game series) — it was the bullpen (sans Thursday):

August 27: 2.2 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 0 BB, 3 K
August 28: 4.1 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 2 BB, 4 K
August 29: 3 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 2 BB, 1 K

Total: 10 IP, 0 R, 5 H, 4 BB, 8 K

And then the ugly August 30 day game: 5.1 IP, 7 R, 5 H, 6 BB, 0 K

The Mets’ bullpen, on the other hand… not so fortunate:

August 27: 3.1 IP, 4 R, 8 H, 2 BB, 2 K
August 28: 2 IP, 4 R, 5 H, 2 BB, 0 K
August 29: 2 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 0 BB, 1 K
August 30: 5.1 IP, 6 R, 11 H, 4 BB, 5 K

Total: 12.2 IP, 14 R, 25 H, 8 BB, 8 K

Kudos to Pat Burrell for continuing his hot streak. Burrell leads the Major Leagues in on-base percentage and slugging percentage since the All-Star break. He put up a 1.486 OPS in the four games against the Mets, hitting 4 HR and knocking in 7 runs.

Jimmy Rollins put up a 1.342 OPS for the series, hitting 2 HR and knocking in 3 runs.

How about Jayson Werth? 1.278 OPS for the series, and his 2 stolen bases in the 9th inning against Billy Wagner allowed Tadahito Iguchi to knock in the 10th and tying run with a marginally-deep sacrifice fly, or any base hit.

An interesting note about the series: each game was unique. The 27th was a mild blowout, the 28th was a come-from-behind win, the 29th ended on an umpire’s judgment, and the 30th was a mild blowout that turned into a come-from-behind win. Anyone who bought tickets to any of those four games definitely got their money’s worth (especially those who sat in Section 302).

And the Phillies did all this without Cole Hamels starting a game. With Utley missing the third game against Mets starter Oliver Perez. With Shane Victorino playing sparingly. With a makeshift starting rotation. With all the pressure the city of Philadelphia could throw on top of them. Four straight wins against the division leader, where even a series split would have been devastating to the Phillies’ playoff hopes.

Baseball Prospectus now lists the Phillies’ odds of making the postseason at 39% (the Wild Card-leading Padres are at 62%, and the East-leading Mets are at 85%). The Mets are playing two games better than their Pythagorean W-L record, and the Phillies are exactly where the PWL calculates them, which says that the Phillies are on par with the Mets, and a division title is not out of the realm of possibility.

So, now we look on with our newfound playoff hopes.

August 31-September 2, Phillies @ Florida Marlins

Kyle Kendrick (116 ERA+) vs. Sergio Mitre (98 ERA+)

J.D. Durbin (111 ERA+) vs. Byung-Hyun Kim (95 ERA+)

Adam Eaton* (72 ERA+) vs. Scott Olsen (75 ERA+)

This is a sweep-able series. The Mets go to Atlanta to face the Braves, and they have to face both Tim Hudson and John Smoltz. Even better — on Saturday, the Mets will trot out Mike Pelfrey to the bump.

So, by Monday, the Phillies could find themselves in first place in the NL East.

It’s about time the Phillies start getting some respect.

* Cole Hamels was supposed to start in the series finale against Scott Olsen, but, according to Todd Zolecki of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels has suffered a setback and will not start Sunday against the Florida Marlins at Dolphins Stadium.

The Phillies said Hamels had discomfort in his left elbow in his last bullpen session. They will shut him down from throwing for the next few days and progress him accordingly.

Hamels went on the disabled list August 22 with a mild elbow strain. He has not pitched since August 16 at Washington.

Adam Eaton will start Sunday in Hamels’ place.

A Poker Tip for Playing Tournaments

Lately, I have noticed a common trend among most Internet poker players: they don’t know how to play tournament-style poker.

The scenario I am talking about is when a player is all-in, and there are two other players in the hand playing for a side-pot. Oftentimes, one player will bet out at the other in attempt to win the side-pot and go against the all-in player. And, in my experience, the player that bet out at the side-pot ends up losing to the all-in player, allowing him to not only continue playing in the tournament, but to have a good shot at building up his chip stack even more.

The two players should not even bet to create a side pot; they should check the hand down to the river, that way they have two hands that can possibly knock out the all-in player, allowing themselves to move up in the money.

The only time one should ever bet in that situation is if he is sure he has the best hand (i.e. getting the nut flush or a full house) and he is trying to extract chips from his opponent. If your hand is not made (and getting a pair, or even two pair, does not constitute “made”), collude (this is legal collusion) with your opponent. As the proverb goes, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Just for clarification, here are two scenarios — one is correct, one is not.

Incorrect

Blinds $25/$50

Player A posts small blind $25

Player B posts big blind $50

Player C folds

Player D folds

Player E raises to $250 and is all-in

Player F folds

Player G folds

Player A calls $225

Player B calls $200

Flop [Ks 9d 3s]

Player A bets $100

Player B folds

Turn [5c]

River [2d]

Player A shows [Ac Qd]

Player E shows [8d 8c]

Player E has a pair of eights

Player A has high card — Ace kicker

Player E wins main pot ($750) with a pair of eights

Correct

Blinds $25/$50

Player A posts small blind $25

Player B posts big blind $50

Player C folds

Player D folds

Player E raises to $250 and is all-in

Player F folds

Player G folds

Player A calls $225

Player B calls $200

Flop [Ks 9d 3s]

Player A checks

Player B checks

Player A checks

Turn [5c]

Player B checks

Player A checks

Player B checks

River [2d]

Player A shows [Ac Qd]

Player B shows [5d 5s]

Player E shows [8d 8c]

Player A has high card — Ace kicker

Player B has three of a kind, three fives

Player E has a pair of eights

Player B wins main pot ($750) with three of a kind, three fives

Player E finished the tournament in 7th place

The side-pot-betting isn’t so bad early in tournaments, but when it’s getting down towards the final table, there’s no question you want everyone else to drop like flies. Roughly, you’re cutting down your all-in opponent’s chance to win by 17% regardless of what the cards are (1-on-1 is 50%/50%; 2-on-1 is 33%/33%/33%).

Phillies Bullpen Is Back to Normal

With the return of Brett Myers and Tom Gordon from the disabled list, the Phillies’ bullpen was finally able to stabilize and return to its status quo of forking over leads late in the game. The two combined in an impressive effort on August 25 against the San Diego Padres, allowing three solo homeruns in two innings of work.

Kyle Lohse pitched six and two-thirds of excellent baseball, and J.C. Romero met the bullpen quota of a scoreless one-third of an inning to retire the Padres in the seventh inning.

In comes Gordon with his arsenal of belt-high fastballs. As if on cue, he served one on a platter to the show-boating Milton Bradley to tie the game at two-all.

Many disagreed with Charlie Manuel’s decision to use Brett Myers in the ninth inning of a tie game, but Myers has really been the only reliable arm in the bullpen. It seems Manuel is not a fan of statistics, because the following should indicate that Myers is never to be used in relief of a tie game:

Tie Game: 1.016 OPS

Within 1 run: .912 OPS

Within 2 runs: .785 OPS

Within 3 runs: .762 OPS

Cue solo homeruns to Kevin Kouzmanoff and Terrmel Sledge to make it a 4-2 game — out of reach, even for the comeback-prone Phillies, who did score one run in the bottom of the ninth, but Aaron Rowand whiffed with Ryan Howard standing on first base to end the game.

After the game, Brett Myers gave many an open door to make references to his domestic abuse issue last summer by physically threatening a reporter who was needling him about the homeruns he gave up, and blamed on the size of Citizens Bank Park. Myers is still unapologetic to the reporter he berated and threatened, but did apologize to the other members of the media.

Three things I want to address:

1. Just how bad is the Phillies’ bullpen?

2. What is in Brett Myers’ future?

3. Is Citizens Bank Park really a “joke” as Milton Bradley insists?


1. Just how bad is the Phillies’ bullpen? I’ve scoured the FanGraphs and I’ve come up with quite a few games that the Phillies’ bullpen has blown.
Bullpen blew a lead or tie, Phillies lost
  1. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Tom Gordon (1 run), Brett Myers (2 runs); Phillies lose, 4-3
  2. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): J.C. Romero (1 run), Tom Gordon (1 run), Geoff Geary (2 runs); Phillies lose, 5-2.
  3. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): J.C. Romero (1 run), Antonio Alfonseca (3 runs), Yoel Hernandez (1 run); Phillies lose, 8-4.
  4. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Jose Mesa (3 runs), Mike Zagurski (1 run), Antonio Alfonseca (1 run); Phillies lose, 11-6.
  5. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Brett Myers (2 runs); Phillies lose, 4-2.
  6. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Tom Gordon (2 runs); Phillies lose, 6-5.
  7. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): J.C. Romero (2 runs), Mike Zagurski (2 runs); Phillies lose, 7-6.
  8. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Mike Zagurski (1 run), Jose Mesa (1 run), Antonio Alfonseca (1 run), J.D. Durbin (1 run); Phillies lose, 7-6.
  9. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Antonio Alfonseca (1 run), Jose Mesa (1 run); Phillies lose, 5-4.
  10. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Geoff Geary (4 runs), Mike Zagurski (2 runs), Ryan Madson (1 run), Jose Mesa (2 runs); Phillies lose, 9-6.
  11. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Geoff Geary (1 run), Yoel Hernandez (5 runs); Phillies lose, 7-4.
  12. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Francisco Rosario (1 run); Phillies lose, 4-3.
  13. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Antonio Alfonseca (1 run), Francisco Rosario (1 run); Phillies lose, 4-3.
  14. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Antonio Alfonseca (3 runs); Phillies lose, 5-2.
  15. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Tom Gordon (2 runs); Phillies lose, 2-1.
  16. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Francisco Rosario (1 run); Phillies lose, 5-4.
  17. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Matt Smith (1 run), Geoff Geary (2 runs), Jon Lieber (5 runs); Phillies lose, 11-5.
  18. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Tom Gordon (2 runs), Ryan Madson (1 run); Phillies lose, 3-2.
  19. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-o…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Ryan Madson (2 runs); Phillies lose, 5-3.

Even if the bullpen is just moderately bad — let’s say they only blow 10 leads — the Phillies would be 76-53, good for the second-best record in baseball behind the Boston Red Sox, and they would be three games in front of the New York Mets instead of six games back.

2. What is in Brett Myers’ future?

Myers will continue to be the Phillies’ closer, as he has done a great job when he is trying to nail down a lead — 12-for-13 in save opportunities. After 2007, however, is a question.

Citing Curt Schilling, Scott Rolen, and Jason Michaels just from recent memory, the Phillies’ upper management has been quick to ship out players that aren’t displaying good behavior. Schilling and Rolen had openly criticized the Phillies’ organization, and Michaels punched a police officer.

However, the Phillies’ starting rotation is in shambles and will continue to be in the off-season. Jamie Moyer could retire. Freddy Garcia will most likely not be resigned. Jon Lieber is a free agent. So, that leaves the Phillies rotation with Cole Hamels, Adam Eaton, and Kyle Kendrick as certainties, and one or two spots to fill depending on which direction the Phillies go in. If Moyer comes back for another year, and the Phillies decide to use a prospect in the rotation (J.A. Happ would be the most likely candidate), Myers will once again be the Phillies’ closer.

If the Phillies’ front office decides to stock up on relievers, Myers will probably be pushed back to the starting rotation, no matter how much he enjoys closing. Scott Mathieson, who has missed most of this season following “Tommy John” surgery, could be a dark horse candidate for the closing role.

Adding to the uncertainty is the rumor that Pat Gillick will not be returning as the Phillies’ GM. Granted, the source of this rumor is one Howard Eskin (the “journalist” who famously brought manager Charlie Manuel to a rolling boil following an 8-1 loss to the New York Mets). Assistant GM Ruben Amaro is likely to take the reins should Gillick leave.

3. Is Citizens Bank Park really a “joke” as Milton Bradley insists?

The ballpark has been criticized by many in Major League Baseball. Milton Bradley said of his fifth-inning three-run homerun against the Phillies on Saturday, “I thought I flied out. This park is a joke.”

Recently, I wrote about the Atlanta Braves whining about the ballpark when they lost to the Phillies 5-3 due to Ryan Howard’s lead-changing three-run homerun off of Buddy Carlyle

Well, is there something fishy about the ballpark? And if so, does it provide a distinct advantage to the Phillies?

According to ESPN.com’s park factors, Citizens Bank Park ranks eleventh in runs, and first in homeruns. A look back since the park’s inception:

2007: Runs, 11th; HR, 1st.

2006: Runs, 8th; HR, 6th.

2005: Runs, 2nd; HR, 2nd.

2004: Runs, 12th; HR, 5th.

So, the ballpark has always been homer-friendly, and home of above-average run scoring. Now, let’s find out how much the Phillies have benefited from this (keep in mind that, before the 2006 season, they moved the fences in left field back five feet and raised 2.5 feet):

From the above chart, we can glean that the Phillies get a slight bump in OPS from playing at home. The .019 average difference between their OPS and the OPS allowed at home is essentially the difference in slugging between Chipper Jones and Magglio Ordonez, to put it in perspective (in other words, not that much).

This season, the Phillies’ 103 HR allowed at home ranks first among all thirty Major League teams, while their 61 HR allowed away from home ranks twenty-third among all thirty Major League teams. So, the Phillies’ opponents seem to get a huge advantage in homeruns when they play in Philadelphia.

It’s not the dimensions of the field that make it so homer-friendly — it’s the wind. As Anthony Wood of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes,

In contrast to hulking Veterans Stadium, winds pour through Citizens Bank Park like water through a flow-through tea bag. Balls that get airborne are lifted up, up and away.

The most obvious suspects are the prevailing southwest and south winds of summer, which blow straight out to center and right-center fields. Those winds increase with height. Other factors might also be at work.

[…] [Phillies president Dave] Montgomery believes that the structural mass of Veterans Stadium – totally enclosed save for the exit-ramp openings – had a blocking effect on the movement of air. Jim Eberwine, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, says Montgomery is on sound scientific footing. A massive building would affect air currents the way an island distorts approaching waves. […]

In the new park, a wind blowing toward center outside the park blows toward center inside, too.

An important difference between the two stadiums is how Citizens Bank Park uses prevailing winds to benefit hitters.

Well after the park was designed, the Phillies retained a Canadian engineering firm to study air-flow patterns at the site. Using Weather Service data, RWDI Inc. determined that the prevailing winds on summer nights were from the south, averaging about 12 m.p.h.

So, if the Phillies want to cut down on homeruns at Citizens Bank Park, they can do one of two things:

Marcus Hayes, You’re On Notice

If you read through my What’s Wrong With Ryan Howard? article, you might have read, and probably became upset with Marcus Hayes’ disparaging remarks towards a Sabermetric-using Phillies fan.

A contributor at The Good Phight wrote about it here. Jim from Broad Street Bastards initially sent Hayes the E-Mail that prompted the wrath of the Daily News columnist.

Philadelphia Will Do caught wind of the article written at TGP, and reposted Hayes’ comments, and slammed him in defense of Sabermetrics.

[Quoting Hayes] Sabremetrics [SIC] are the bastion of wannabes who never could quite figure out which hand the mitt went on, a false industry created and fueled by people whose association with the game always will be vicarious, and, frankly, pathetic.

As opposed to sports writers, who are clearly… former… major league… baseball… players? Ha ha, remember when the Phillies were short in the bullpen and they got Marcus Hayes to close that one night? Man, that was awesome.

Marcus Hayes himself apparently showed up and posted a comment to PWD’s blog. He responded thusly:

Numberheads,

Just letting you blogicians know:
No longer will you, or anyone else, be afforded the privilege (burden?) of corresponding with me. When I reply to an individual it is intended to be a confidential response. Since I can’t trust you, I assume I can’t trust anyone.
It is not meant to be posted on anyone’s blog, and certainly not on a for-profit entity of a direct competitor.
So, no more responses. Can’t trust you, so don’t bother writing.
But then, if you hold my replies in such low esteem, why bother writing?
Of course, this gives many of you more time for your World of Warcraft RPG endeavors.
Happy gaming.
Hope the eczema clears up.
M

Marcus Hayes, of the Philadelphia Daily News, you’re officially On Notice!

On Notice

As a self-described distributor of truth, I would like to clear up a few assumptions Hayes makes in his comment (if that was really him):

  • E-Mails are not implicitly confidential. Any parties that you send the E-Mail to have ownership of said E-Mail and can do with it what they wish. However, no one has the right to actually go through your E-Mail (despite what the USA PATRIOT Act says).Most people would abide by a simple request to keep the E-Mail(s) confidential.And it is also important to remember the context in which the exchange between “jonk” at TGP and Hayes took place. It was an informal conversation. Jonk was not interviewing Hayes for the purpose of an article, so the conversation had nothing to do with actual journalism. If Hayes hadn’t been so disparaging, the exchange would have never been posted, most likely.
  • Hayes says that Proponents of Sabermetrics are role-playing nerds with eczema. I can cite two professional baseball players off of the top of my head that are proponents of the Sabermetric approach: Billy Beane, and Carlos Gomez (let me know if there are others, as I’m curious myself).And then there’s Hayes’ ignorant use of stereotypes — that bloggers are unathletic nerds that live in their mothers’ basements. What’s sad is that Hayes’ beliefs about proponents of Sabermetrics are shared by many others in the journalism circles. Fire Joe Morgan does a great job of holding most of them accountable.Oh, and there’s also the irony. In Hayes’ original E-Mail to “jonk” at TGP, he accuses bloggers of living vicariously through the athletes. Well, what do you do then, Mr. Hayes? Aren’t you the one jamming tape recorders under their chin, and talking and writing about them on a daily basis — for which you went to school for four years of your life?

I think Hayes did a great job of making himself look extremely foolish and immature. He has given me ample reasoning to never purchase a newspaper from the Philadelphia Daily News again (not that I had been recently anyway).

If any of my readers are interested in joining me in this boycott, Hayes also appears weekly on ESPN’s First Take, and he participates on a somewhat regular basis with Comcast SportsNet’s Daily News Live, a show featuring host Michael Barkann and three or more guests — writers from the Philadelphia Daily News, as well as some guests (athletes, celebrities, comedians, etc.).

Marcus Hayes, you’re On Notice. You don’t want to be Dead to Me.

2007 NFL Predictions

It’s almost time for regular season football, and you know what that means. Predictions. These are my “incredibly genius now, incredibly stupid later” picks (note: I’m pretty sure the records add up to 256-256). +/- of last season’s record in parentheses.

AFC East

Patriots: 13-3 (+1)
Jets: 10-6 (0)
Dolphins: 5-11 (-1)
Bills: 4-12 (-3)

AFC North

Ravens: 10-6 (-3)
Bengals: 10-6 (+2)
Steelers: 8-8 (0)
Browns: 3-13 (-1)

AFC South

Colts: 11-5 (-1)
Jaguars: 8-8 (0)
Texans: 7-9 (+1)
Titans: 7-9 (-1)

AFC West

Chargers: 12-4 (-2)
Broncos: 9-7 (0)
Chiefs: 7-9 (-2)
Raiders: 6-10 (+4)

NFC East

Eagles: 11-5 (+1)
Cowboys: 9-7 (0)
Giants: 8-8 (0)
Redskins: 6-10 (+1)

NFC North

Chicago: 11-5 (-2)
Minnesota: 8-8 (+2)
Detroit: 6-10 (+3)
Green Bay: 6-10 (-2)

NFC South

Saints: 10-6 (0)
Panthers: 8-8 (0)
Buccaneers: 6-10 (+2)
Falcons: 5-11 (-2)

NFC West

Seahawks: 10-6 (+1)
49ers: 9-7 (+2)
Rams: 7-9 (-1)
Cardinals: 6-10 (+1)


Playoffs

AFC

1. Patriots
2. Chargers

3. Colts
4. Ravens
5. Jets
6. Bengals

3. Colts > 6. Bengals
4. Ravens > 5. Jets

1. Patriots > 4. Ravens
2. Chargers > 3. Colts

1. Patriots > 2. Chargers

NFC

1. Bears
2. Eagles

3. Saints
4. Seahawks
5. 49ers
6. Cowboys

3. Saints > 6. Cowboys
5. 49ers > 4. Seahawks

1. Bears > 5. 49ers
3. Saints > 2. Eagles

1. Bears > 3. Saints

SUPER BOWL

Patriots > Bears

Feel free to post your predictions and tell me how wrong mine are in the comments.

Now Is It Over?

Cole HamelsThe Phillies have been run through the gauntlet and lived to tell about it. Injury after injury, and bad luck that would make a professional poker player weep (somewhere, Phil Hellmuth is weeping).

It wasn’t enough for the baseball gods to take our most valuable position player from us. They had to take our most valuable pitcher away from us now, as well.

Yes, Cole Hamels is the latest Phillies casualty, succumbing to a mild left elbow strain. According to the Phillies’ website, “A worst-case scenario has the young hurler missing up to three weeks.”

Without Hamels, the starting rotation includes a 44-year-old who passed his prime during the Clinton administration (Jamie Moyer), a right-hander with two months of Major League experience and an extremely low strikeout rate (Kyle Kendrick), the dictionary definition of average (Kyle Lohse), a right-hander that was passed over by three other teams before he was picked out of the dumpster by the Phillies (J.D. Durbin), and now, a question mark (?) should the Phillies feel the need to move along with a five-man rotation.

According to Michael Radano,

Hamels will miss at least two starts because he’s getting an MRI on his mild strained left medial elbow. According to Hamels its at least that long due to the dye that will be injected and he won’t be able to picth. Retro to Aug 17 means he can’t come off the DL until Sept. 2. [SIC]

And, as much as ColeHamelsFacts declares otherwise, Cole cannot pitch equally as effective with his right hand.

At this point, they may as well give some of the Minor League talent a try.

  • J.A. Happ: Has pitched at least six innings in his last five starts, and has allowed no more than three runs in those starts (including two consecutive shutout appearances of six and two-thirds and seven innings).
  • Carlos Carrasco: Threw a six-inning no-hitter on Tuesday. He’s had a few shaky outings recently, but he’s the best pitcher in the Phillies’ Minor League system and it might benefit both parties to give him some Major League experience.
  • Zack Segovia: He’s pitched well for the most part since the beginning of July. He’s pitched at least six innings in six of his last eight outings, averaging an allowance of three runs in each one.
  • Josh Outman: Pitched eight shutout innings on Monday, allowing only four hits, but he did walk five. Prior to that start, he had only pitched past the fifth inning once in his previous four starts, and seems to struggle with control. Nevertheless, he is a left-hander, and left-handers can always find a job at the Major League level.

Other than that, the Phillies really don’t have many options available.

  • They could trade for garbage by scrounging the waiver wires, but it wouldn’t be worth it.
  • Brett Myers won’t be moved back into the rotation.
  • It’s unlikely they will mimic last season’s desperation when they made lifetime relief pitcher Aaron Fultz make a spot start against the Blue Jays.
  • Freddy Garcia still needs three or four rehab starts, according to Rotoworld.

It’s just one more unfortunate situation the Phillies find themselves in, and it couldn’t have happened to a more important player on the Phillies’ roster. They will have to once again walk through the muck and try to survive these next two weeks and hope that the return of Chase Utley and Shane Victorino are adequate reinforcements.

Phillies Need Patience with Utley

Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley hasn’t played in a game since July 27, when his fourth metacarpal bone in his right hand was broken by a pitch from Washington Nationals left-hander John Lannan.

Yesterday, Utley was given clearance by his doctors to resume swinging a bat, and he hopes to find himself in the Phillies’ lineup as early as August 27, when the Phillies begin a crucial four-game series with the New York Mets at home.

Prior to his injury, Utley was arguably the National League’s leading candidate for the Most Valuable Player award, as he led or was near the top in many offensive categories including VORP (Value Over Replacement Player), EQA (Equivalent Average), and ESPN’s Player Ratings. In fact, he is still among the leaders in those categories despite having missed nearly a month — he ranks 5th in VORP, 6th in EQA, and 11th in ESPN’s Player Ratings currently. Add to that his impeccable defense — highest Zone Rating among NL second basemen — as well.

Getting Utley back should be a huge boost for the Phillies, although the offense hasn’t really skipped a beat in his absence (5.5 runs per game in the 22 games he’s missed, going 13-9 in that span). However, the Phillies should not rush Utley back in a desperate attempt to gain as much ground in the NL East and Wild Card races as possible.

If Phillies organization is looking for guidance, they should look at Derrek Lee of the Chicago Cubs. Lee had two bones in his hand broken in a collision with the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Rafael Furcal last season on April 19. He didn’t return until June 25 — about two months and a week of missed time.

Lee hit only 5 homeruns the rest of the season (36 games). He missed time from July 24 to August 28 with problems stemming from his injured wrist, likely due to the Cubs rushing him back. Lee said of his injury problems,

It’s just a situation where it isn’t getting better. I was kind of just playing for the sake of playing. I wasn’t helping anybody. So if you’re not helping the team, you’re not helping yourself. (ESPN)

Lee’s line after his initial injury, but before the injury flared up again:

.326 OBP/.320 SLG (1 HR) in 20 games

Lee’s line after the injury flared up, until the end of the season:

.350 OBP/.571 SLG (4 HR) in 16 games

If the Cubs had just been patient with Lee’s recovery, they would have saved themselves (and Lee) a lot of aggravation and probably could have had someone more productive in Lee’s spot.

The Phillies can learn from this. If they don’t see that Utley has returned 100% (they should be observing Utley with a high-intensity magnifying glass every time he picks up a bat or throws a ball), he should not be taken off of the disabled list until mid-September at the earliest (they begin a 3-game series with the Mets at Shea Stadium on September 14).

There is no question that there is a mountain of pressure on the Phillies organization, on manager Charlie Manuel, and on the players (especially the longer-tenured ones like Jimmy Rollins and Pat Burrell) to at least make the playoffs. But they should not attempt to do so at the expense of the health of one of the best overall players in baseball, and the face of the Phillies franchise.

The Phillies’ front office thought he was valuable enough to pay him $85 million over the next 7 seasons, so he is valuable enough to recuperate at a steady pace.

Here’s hoping he turns out just fine.

What’s Wrong With Ryan Howard?

Our 2005 Rookie of the Year and 2006 National League Most Valuable Player is slumping again. He has certainly earned the right to slump every now and then, as he isn’t the recipient of a lucrative contract (like Pat Burrell) where production is expected. With just a $900,000 salary this season, and with a well-stocked trophy case, Howard has earned the patience of the Philadelphia fans, but I am looking at the calendar, thinking of the date when the town turns against him as they did to Burrell and almost every other big-name Philadelphia athlete (see: McNabb, Donovan; Abreu, Bobby; Rolen, Scott; Schmidt, Mike).

Of course, Howard could just bust out of that slump by altering his approach at the plate and/or his mechanics. “FTN,” a poster at a Phillies forum called Back She Goes, had done some tremendous in-depth analysis of Howard’s mechanics and at-bats from July 25 to August 3. He notes:

Looking at the snapshots of Howard’s AB’s, I see a guy who had some good AB’s early in this “streak”, but then a guy who began to just guess at the plate and wasn’t really seeing the ball. Some of the AB’s deep into this run he just looks like he has no clue what’s coming, even though the sequence is obvious at the time. High-Low-High-Low, or High-High-Low-Low. There isn’t a whole lot of trickery here, except for Eyre coming up with a completely different gear the second time he faced Howard in relief. Howard chased a lot of pitches out of the zone, and in some AB’s, the best pitch of the AB was the first pitch, which he more times than not just let go for a strike. It seems like he’s pressing, that’s probably obvious, and he hasn’t been the same since Utley went down. When he presses, he gets over anxious and tries to do too much with pitches he can’t pull, especially pitches on the outside corner, and he’s vulnerable to the high and inside pitch.

I think at this point, he’s still very conscious of that high and inside hole in his swing, and he’s been setting up very open to try and pull that pitch and not get tied up. As a result of this, his stance is wide open, and when he does his toe tap/load up, he’s still too far open and pointing toward 1B. This forces him to not see the outside pitch, and even if he picks it up, he’s trying to pull it instead of just dumping it into left field.

FTN was also thorough enough to do some mechanical analysis, using some footage of a game against the Florida Marlins last season, and of a game against the Washington Nationals from July 26 of this season. He draws the following conclusions:

Looking at these two swings, I see two real big problems.

1. His stance is way too crouched right now. When you’re bent in that manner, you have to raise yourself back up to make contact, which creates more movement in the swing. His head position is key, as his head remains very steady on the left frame, but moves quite a bit to the right. When trying to pick up spin on a baseball, if you move your head, your eyes obviously are going to move, and it will make it more difficult to pick up spin.

2. He’s very conscious of the inside pitch. In the pitch by pitch sequences above, pitchers are starting to throw him inside more, and he isn’t handling the pitches well. Last year, pitches kept pitching him away and rarely exploited the high/inside quadrant, but that has changed this year. The compensate, Howard is cheating and opening up quicker, trying to pull around on that inside pitch. When he’s doing this, he’s losing his balance, his head is moving, and he’s not seeing the ball.

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Since Chase Utley was injured on July 26 (21 games), Howard has hit just 4 HR and 13 RBI and an OPS of .697. He is neither getting on base (just 13 walks in 95 plate appearances) nor hitting for power. Additionally, he’s been increasingly unable to hit left-handed pitching, which was a staple of his success in 2005 and ’06.

July 27 vs. John Grabow (PIT): Grounds into double play to the second baseman in a two-pitch at-bat. (0-1)

July 28 vs. Shane Youman (PIT): Grounds into fielders choice to the pitcher in a two-pitch at-bat; singles to center field in a three-pitch at-bat; walks on a five-pitch at-bat. (1-2, BB)

July 29 vs. Damaso Marte (PIT): Strikes out swinging in a five-pitch at-bat. (0-1, 1 K)

July 30 vs. Ted Lilly (CHC): Strikes out swinging in a five-pitch at-bat; doubles to right field in a two-pitch at-bat; grounds out to shortstop in a three-pitch at-bat. (1-3, 1 K)

July 31 vs. Will Ohman (CHC): Singles to center field in a three-pitch at-bat. (1-1)

August 1 vs. Rich Hill (CHC): Strikes out swinging in a three-pitch at-bat; strikes out swinging in a seven-pitch at-bat; doubles to center field in a one-pitch at-bat. (1-3, 2 K)

… vs. Scott Eyre (CHC): Strikes out swinging in a five-pitch at-bat. (0-1, 1 K)

August 2 vs. Sean Marshall (CHC): Singles to right field in a two-pitch at-bat; pops up to third base in a five-pitch at-bat. (1-2)

… vs. Scott Eyre (CHC): Strikes out swinging in a five-pitch at-bat. (0-1, 1 K)

August 5 vs. Manny Parra (MIL): Walks in a four-pitch at-bat. (0-0, BB)

August 8 vs. Dontrelle Willis (FLA): Walks in a six-pitch at-bat; pops up to third base in a six-pitch at-bat; flies out to left field in a two-pitch at-bat; singles to left field in a nine-pitch at-bat. (1-3, BB)

… vs. Taylor Tankersley (FLA): Strikes out swinging in a three-pitch at-bat. (0-1, 1 K)

August 9 vs. Taylor Tankersley (FLA): Strikes out swinging in a four-pitch at-bat. (0-1, 1 K)

August 10 vs. Chuck James (ATL): Sacrifice flies to left field in a three-pitch at-bat; flies out to center field in a one-pitch at-bat; grounds out to second base in a one-pitch at-bat. (0-2)

August 14 vs. Ray King (WAS): Grounds out to second base in a three-pitch at-bat. (0-1)
August 17 vs. Tom Gorzelanny (PIT): Pops out to third base in a six-pitch at-bat; pops out foul to third base in a two-pitch at-bat; strikes out looking in a four-pitch at-bat. (0-3, 1 K)

… vs. Shane Youman (PIT): Strikes out swinging in a four-pitch at-bat. (0-1, 1 K)

August 18 vs. Paul Maholm (PIT): Singles to right field in a five-pitch at-bat; grounded out to first base in a four-pitch at-bat; struck out swinging in a five-pitch at-bat; struck out swinging in a five-pitch at-bat. (1-4, 2 K)

That is an aggregate 7-for-31 (.226) with three walks and only two of those hits going for extra bases. In addition, 12 of his 24 outs (50%) have been strikeouts, which indicates that Howard probably isn’t seeing the ball well, and backs up FTN’s conclusions.

So, kudos to FTN for some excellent analysis which appears to be entirely correct. I’d be interested in seeing some screencap-analysis of some of his more recent at-bats (I would but I’m not a MLB.TV subscriber).

Some other interesting analysis similar to that done by FTN from The Hardball Times:

Chamberlain or Hughes: Who’s Got Better Mechanics?

The Four Greatest Homerun Hitters of All-Time: A Video Analysis of Their Swings

The D-Train’s Mechanics

In other Phillies news…

– Ed Wade gets stuck in a tree. [ABC]

– The Philadelphia Daily News’ Marcus Hayes rips proponents of Sabermetrics. [The Good Phight]

Sabremetrics [sic] are the bastion of wannabes who never could quite figure out which hand the mitt went on, a false industry created and fueled by people whose association with the game always will be vicarious, and, frankly, pathetic.

– Mike Zagurski becomes the latest Phillies casualty — a pulled hamstring. [Phillies.com]

The list of Phillies to have seen time on the disabled list this season:

  • Rod Barajas, 1 year/$3M , plus $5M 2008 club option
  • Michael Bourn, 1 year/$380,000
  • Adam Eaton,in first year of 3 years/$24.51M contract, plus $9M 2010 mutual option, earning $6.875M in 2007
  • Freddy Garcia, $10M/1 year remaining on 3 years/$27M contract
  • Tom Gordon, 3 years/$18M ($4.5M club option in ’09), earning $7M in 2007
  • Ryan Howard, 1 year/$900,000
  • Jon Lieber, $7.5M/1 year remaining on 3 years/$21M contract
  • Ryan Madson, 1 year/$1.1M
  • Scott Mathieson, 1 year/$380,000
  • Brett Myers, In first year of 3 years/$25.75M contract, earning $5M in 2007
  • Francisco Rosario, 1 year/$100,000
  • Chase Utley, In first year of 7 years/$85M contract, earning $4.5M in 2007
  • Shane Victorino, 1 year/$410,000
  • Jayson Werth, 1 year/$850,000
  • Mike Zagurski, Major League minimum ($380,000)

That is $48,375,000 worth of Major League talent on the disabled list. The Phillies went into the 2007 season with a $89,428,213 payroll. The injuries make up for 54% of the total payroll. And yet the Phillies are still 8 games over .500.

How Many Would Bonds Have Hit [at Home]?

I was pleased to see that my “How Many Would Bonds Have Hit?” article got a lot of feedback, mostly positive, some negative. At the end of my analysis, I asked readers to let me know if I fudged my math at all, and I was told by two readers that I had made two errors: I used Bonds’ home park factor for all of his career HR, instead of just his home HR; and I “turned” all of Bonds’ intentional walks into hypothetical at-bats, instead of using a league-average, or the top-five average I implemented.

The intentional walks issue is minuscule, as the league-average would probably be less than 2, so I’m not going to bother with that. But I definitely need to edit my math (and the title!), using the park factor only to account for homeruns Bonds hit at home.

The adjustment I made doesn’t need a lot of explanation. I simply just created another column for Bonds’ homeruns hit at home, and divided that by the park factor. When that math is done, we find that Bonds has an adjusted 569 homeruns hit at home. Then, we add that to his road homeruns (382, including tonight’s homerun in Florida against the Marlins), and we come up with 951 homeruns.

In the interest of accuracy, I should also adjust for his road homeruns, but that’s just a lot of work. I’d have to find the park factor of every ballpark Bonds played in for each of his 22 seasons.

[Click for full image] That is definitely more realistic than 1,056 — 105 less homeruns, but if I had adjusted for his road homeruns as well, Bonds’ total would likely be back in the four-digits.

You can download the updated spreadsheet here.

How Many Would Bonds Have Hit?

I thought it’d be fun to crunch some numbers to find out how many more homeruns our all-time and single-season homerun king could have hit if he hadn’t played so many years in a home ballpark that was pitcher-friendly, and if he hadn’t been walked so much.

Barry Bonds

To make it fair for walks, I took the top-five in walks in the National League each year that Bonds was among the leaders, and I got the average. Instead of using some of Bonds’ abnormally high walk totals, I used the league-average so that he would hypothetically be getting the usual amount of at-bats. For instance, in 2004, Bonds had only 373 at-bats despite playing in 147 games. That was because he was walked an astronomically high 232 times, 120 of them intentional.First, I got the park factor of Bonds’ home stadium each season (from Wikipedia).

Park Factor

The above equation uses runs. I simply replaced them with homeruns.

Bonds played in Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium from 1986 to ’92, in San Francisco’s Candlestick Park from ’93 to ’99, and AT&T Park from 2000 to present.

When I found the park factor, I simply divided each season’s homerun total by its respective park factor. Here are the findings:

Bonds has 914 adjusted homeruns.

Then I found the top-five non-Bonds NL leaders in walks each year, which you can find here. You can switch years by editing the last four numbers in the URL. The link I provided gives you the 1989 NL leaders in walks.

I averaged the top-five non-Bonds walks leaders, and used that as Bonds “new” walks total.

Next, I calculated his at-bats per homerun using his actual totals in at-bats and homeruns for each year.

I found his “adjusted at-bats” by taking the season’s at-bats total, and adding to it the “adjusted walks,” which is Bonds’ actual walks total subtracted by his “new” walks total (the average of the top-five).

Bonds now has 980 adjusted homeruns.

Finally, I accounted for all of his intentional walks — at-bats in which he had a 0% chance to hit a homerun. I took his “adjusted AB” and added his intentional walks total to it, then divided by his HR/AB rate.

Bonds now has 1,056 adjusted homeruns — 300 more than Hank Aaron.

For reference, I did not adjust Bonds’ first three seasons, his injury-shortened 2005 season, or for 2007. The reason why is that his walks were pretty much average in his first three seasons, it would be pure 100% speculation to come up with a 2005 homerun total, and although there is nothing wrong with it, I did not want to fudge numbers of a season in progress.

You can download my spreadsheet by clicking here. There are two sheets: the first one has the math you have seen in the above screenshots; the second has the top-five leaders in walks every year from 1989 to 2006.

Please let me know if I fudged my math, either by leaving a comment, instant messaging me (UltraMegaOK1988), or by E-Mailing me (crashburnalley [at] gmail [dot] com).