Phillies/Cardinals Series Preview

Great timing, Phillies. Just as the St. Louis Cardinals come to town, they acquire OF Matt Holliday and $1.5 million from the Oakland Athletics for 3B Brett Wallace, OF Shane Peterson, and RHP Clayton Mortensen. Holliday could actually be in the lineup tonight as the Athletics were in New York to play the Yankees. Great.

The Cardinals’ offense, which was around the National League average of 4.42 runs per game, will get a huge boost from Holliday who has a career .926 OPS and the ability to swipe bags at a high rate of success (78-for-98, 79% career). A 3-4 of Albert Pujols and Holliday is going to create headaches for opposing pitchers, similar to the Yankees’ 3-4 of Mark Texeira and A-Rod.

Add a now above-average offense to their pitching staff and you have a distinct favorite in the NL Central. Heading into tonight’s games, the Cardinals had three starting pitchers with an ERA+ of 135 or better. Ryan Franklin has been one of the best closers in baseball despite his Osama beard. Both the Cardinals’ rotation and bullpen have ERA’s under 4.00 so the Phillies are going to be facing quality pitching throughout the game, including the Cards’ two LOOGY relievers Dennys Reyes and Trever Miller.

The Phillies, meanwhile, remain in hot pursuit of Roy Halladay as they pull further and further ahead of the NL East thanks to 15-2 run in their last 17 games. Despite the success, the Phillies could definitely use an upgrade in the starting rotation, which has a season ERA of 4.74. Aside from phenom J.A. Happ, Joe Blanton has the highest ERA+ among the starters at 101, and 100 is average.

The good news is that the Phillies will be facing Todd Wellemeyer, who started this game last season. What’s a guy gotta do to get a repeat performance?

Let’s find out.

(Note: WordPress automatically reduces the quality of all images. If the blurriness is bothersome, click the image for a full-quality version.)

Hitting

Pitching

After this series, the Phillies head out on a road trip to Arizona and San Francisco. Last year, the Phillies went 20-12 (.625) against the NL West including 7-9 on the road.

Why I Have Faith in Amaro

The title may come as a shock to you as I was constantly deriding GM Ruben Amaro during the off-season, particularly when he signed Raul Ibanez to a three-year contract. But I actually have faith in him as the trading deadline approaches and the race for Roy Halladay heads into the homestretch. I don’t have confidence in Amaro actually landing Halladay, of course, as there are a lot of factors well out of his control, but I have confidence that, if a deal is made, the prospects given up won’t come back to haunt the Phillies in the future.

Why?

Have a look at all of the trades the Phillies have made since 2003. Keep a special eye on players that were “prospects” at the time.

Transaction information courtesy Baseball Reference.

2003

  • Ben Margalski for Jeff D’Amico
  • Jeremy Giambi for Josh Hancock
  • Johnny Estrada for Kevin Millwood
  • Mike Wilson for Damon Minor
  • Lyle Mouton for Aaron Myette
  • Frank Brooks for Mike Williams
  • Eric Valent for Kelly Stinnett
  • Ezequiel Astacio, Taylor Buchholz, and Brandon Duckworth for Billy Wagner
  • Bobby Korecky, Nick Punto, and Carlos Silva for Eric Milton

2004

  • Scott Youngbauer for Robert Ellis
  • Ricky Ledee and Alfredo Simon for Felix Rodriguez
  • Josh Hancock and Andy Machado for Todd Jones and Brad Correll
  • Elizardo Ramirez, Javon Moran, and Joe Wilson for Cory Lidle
  • Felix Rodriguez for Kenny Lofton

2005

  • Marlon Byrd for Endy Chavez
  • Placido Polanco for Ramon Martinez and Ugueth Urbina
  • Tim Worrell for Matt Kata
  • Kevin Pichardo for Michael Tucker
  • Jim Thome for Aaron Rowand, Gio Gonzalez, and Daniel Haigwood
  • Vicente Padilla for Ricardo Rodriguez

2006

  • Jason Michaels for Arthur Rhodes
  • Aquilino Lopez for Matt Thayer and Trey Johnston
  • Robinson Tejeda and Jake Blalock for David Dellucci
  • Daniel Haigwood for Fabio Castro
  • Sal Fasano for Hector Made
  • David Bell for Wilfredo Laureano
  • Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle for C.J. Henry, Matt Smith, Carlos Monastrios, and Jesus Sanchez
  • Rheal Cormier for Justin Germano
  • Ryan Franklin for Zac Stott
  • Andrew Barb and Andy Baldwin for Jamie Moyer
  • Angel Chavez for Jeff Conine
  • Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez for Freddy Garcia
  • Adam Donachie for Alfredo Simon
  • Jeff Conine for Javon Moran and Brad Key

2007

  • Michael Dubee for Tadahito Iguchi
  • Matt Maloney for Kyle Lohse
  • Jesus Merchan for Julio Mateo
  • [Future Considerations] for Travis Dawkins
  • Mike Costanzo, Michael Bourn, and Geoff Geary for Brad Lidge and Eric Bruntlett

2008

  • Wes Helms for [PTBNL]
  • Adrian Cardenas, Josh Outman, and Matt Spencer for Joe Blanton
  • Brian Schlitter for Scott Eyre
  • Fabio Castro for Matt Stairs

As you can see from the list, the Phillies haven’t given up prospects that have turned into impact Major League contributors.

I perused the list and extracted as many names as I remember spending significant time at the Major League level. Then, I found how many Wins Above Replacement (WAR) they contributed with their new team(s). The results are not so good for the teams that opened their doors to the Phillies’ prospects.

Carlos Silva has been the most valuable prospect the Phillies have traded away judging by both gross and average WAR. Marlon Byrd and Gavin Floyd look to stick around in the Majors for a while. Out of the 14 recognizable names, only two or three have made any kind of Major League impact and none are superstars.

Considering the way the Phillies have drafted since, oh, I don’t know, around 1998, you have to conclude that upper management really knows how to evaluate prospects. Chase Utleys and Cole Hamelses don’t just grow on trees, you know.

While Pat Gillick is out of his role as GM, and Mike Arbuckle is with Kansas City, and who knows how many scouts have shifted around, it’s clearly not the same group of guys who brought you Utley and Hamels and Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard. But more likely, the success on prospects stems from an organizational philosophy, one that is likely to endure through the Ruben Amaro tenure.

So, if it turns out that the Phillies don’t end up getting Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays because Amaro didn’t want to give up Kyle Drabek, I’m fine with that. That tells me that something about Drabek really stands out to the Phillies upper management and scouts, and you have to respect that — it’s respect they’ve earned over the last ten years.

Having said all this, I’m confident in two things:

  • If Amaro does make a trade for Halladay, history suggests that the Phillies know exactly who they’re giving up. These players likely will not become solid Major League regulars.
  • If Amaro doesn’t make a trade, the players other teams wanted that the Phillies wouldn’t relent are really something special. Remember that around five years ago, Ryan Howard was in trade rumors for players like Ted Lilly (then of the Jays) and Kris Benson (then of the Pirates), but the trigger was never pulled by then-GM Ed Wade.

Overall, the Phillies have actually done very well in trades, even under Ed Wade, believe it or not.

Context is important in judging trades, as you may view the Abreu trade (executed by Pat Gillick) as a complete loss when it was in reality a complete salary dump. There aren’t any trades where you’re exclaiming, “Jesus! The Phillies got swindled!”

Heading into the last week of the month of July, I’m very confident that the Phillies will make decisions that best benefit the organization. And that may not include a trade for Roy Halladay, as hard as that is to believe among us lay people.

Ryan Howard vs. Rich Harden

If you happened to catch Ryan Howard’s at-bat against Rich Harden in the first inning, you probably thought RyHo looked awful. Pitch F/X makes him look even worse.

Howard struck out on three consecutive sliders from Harden. Have a look. Click the image for a larger version.

Thanks to Brooks Baseball for the chart.

The 9,923,984th Steroid/HoF Article

For those of you tired of my PED spiel, feel free to click the red X at the top right of your browser (assuming you’re a PC user) and go back to scouring the Interwebs for the Erin Pageviews peephole video. But the war wages on: I must FJM as many stupid, incessantly boring, relentless “OMFG STEROID USERzs R  BAD” articles written by pseudo-intellectuals employed by various mainstream media companies.

Someone, somewhere, some time will get it. The light will switch on and they will realize, “Damn, that was freaking stupid. Why’d I even do that anyway?” Car keys will be jingled and their attention will be diverted from drug use in baseball, and the hot air the sportswriters have been blowing will exit the Internets faster than a movie crowd on the premiere of Gigli.

The perp this time is Terence Moore of Fanhouse. You can see his picture to the left of his column. His eyes are squinting, if not completely shut. Either way, it serves as a metaphor to his recognition of real issues in Major League Baseball.

No steroids guys in Cooperstown.

What constitutes a guy as a “steroids guy”? What about women? The 1976 German swim team?

Seriously, though, if you’re not going to allow “steroids guys” into the Hall of Fame, then what of users of amphetamines like Mike Schmidt and Mike Cameron? Spitballers and ball scuffers and Gaylord Perry?

No Roger Clemens. No Barry Bonds. No Mark McGwire. No Sammy Sosa. No Rafael Palmeiro. No Alex Rodriguez.

Alex Rodriguez admitted to using steroids. Okay. I can sort of understand the argument there, but it’s still wrong by a million miles. Barry Bonds failed a test for amphetamines, so you have to ban Schmidt and others as well. Mark McGwire used androstenedione which was legal both under baseball’s rules and under U.S. law at the time. Sammy Sosa corked his bat, so you’d have to sweep out about a quarter of the Hall of Fame. Palmeiro failed a test for steroids. Nothing really on Clemens besides a Congressional hearing that went nowhere.

Terence, you have A-Rod and Palmeiro. Can’t really make a case against anyone else without substantial evidence.

Nobody within a syringe of evidence showing they were artificially enhanced during any portion of their playing career.

Smart, my man — smart. When unable to meet standards… lower the standards! The mantra of the U.S. education system.

I don’t care that Ty Cobb was a racist (and possibly worse)

Since anti-PED people often argue from a perspective of integrity and character, you should care that Ty Cobb exemplified many qualities of a person we despise.

But, no, Cobb’s racism shouldn’t keep him out of the Hall of Fame and nor should any player’s suspected or found drug use.

The Hall of Fame is not supposed to espouse any particular viewpoint. It is supposed to be a historical account of the great game of baseball. To attempt to keep Bonds and Clemens and McGwire — all deserving players — out of the Hall of Fame is to attempt to rewrite history; to pretend that their careers never existed.

Twenty years from now, we are going to look back on writers like Moore and wonder how we ever allowed them the privilege and power of espousing these close-minded and intolerant viewpoints to the masses.

that Mickey Mantle joined others as prolific drunks

Speaking of drunk, didn’t Babe Ruth drink alcohol during Prohibition? Prohibition lasted from 1920-33; Ruth’s career spanned 1914-35 and I find it hard to believe he never once drank in those 14 years during his playing career. So, Ruth was consuming a banned substance.

Most will react to that as “Eh, who cares? It was a stupid rule.”

Exactly.

Also, how is being a “prolific drunk” somehow a lesser offense than being someone who uses anabolic steroids for the purpose of enhancing athletic performance? The latter seems almost noble while the former seems embarrassing.

that Gaylord Perry spit his way into Cooperstown

If Moore didn’t include this sentence, his logic could have been at least defensible since he could say that he only cares about players who used illegal substances that enhanced performance. But to not care about Perry’s offense in putting an illegal substance on the baseball to enhance his performance as a pitcher is to have entirely contradictory logic when throwing barbs at steroid users.

They’re already in the Hall of Fame. I can’t do anything about their entries

You can write articles about how they don’t deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, sort of like what you’re doing now. You can try to change public opinion, sort of like what you’re trying to do now.

I can do something about Clemens, Bonds and the rest.

It’s always entertaining to read these sportswriters who fancy themselves as David going up against the steroid-loving Goliath. Like they’re doing something noble.

Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds need to be stopped! They have already sullied the integrity of the game during their playing days. Baseball had a lot of integrity before.

What Black Sox scandal? What hundreds of ball-scuffers and bat-corkers? What amphetamines users?

The point is, in contrast to most of the other Halls of Fame in amateur and professional sports, Cooperstown is more about quality than quantity.

This is an unprovable statement. May as well have never written it.

Mostly, I don’t care that you’re innocent until proven guilty under the law of the land. 

You don’t care that it’s a fair and logical and rational way to allow accused parties to defend themselves and their reputations?

TERENCE MOORE PLAGIARIZED AT LEAST 50% OF HIS ARTICLES.

Imagine that got passed around and everyone started to believe it. Writers and radio show hosts and TV commentators started talking about it, and suddenly, you’re guilty before you’ve even had a chance to address the issue.

Fanhouse fires you and there are no other publications that want to hire you because of your baggage.

And you have no way to defend yourself because, hey, “innocent until proven guilty” is freaking stupid, right?

Empathy, Terence. Try it.

And if somebody slips across Cooperstown’s city limits before folks discover he was guilty of steroids use, no problem. Baseball should do what college football once did to Billy Cannon when he was in its Hall of Fame and later was arrested by the feds on counterfeiting charges: Just kick the guy out.

This is funny because Terence apparently has a Hall of Fame vote. In the above paragraph, he says “Baseball should do…”

Major League Baseball can’t tell the Hall of Fame what to do; the HoF is privately owned. The HoF could put up religious propaganda and NFL memorabilia and a disco ball. Sure, they’d lose a lot of paying customers, but they could. Bud Selig can’t walk in and tell them what to do.

Secondly, earlier in the article, Moore says that he can’t do anything about Gaylord Perry being in the Hall. Yet, in the above paragraph, he has no problem with retroactive punishment: “Just kick the guy out.” So if Terence wants to remain logically consistent with keeping drug users out of the Hall of Fame, he should not be so lethargic to past offenses.

The difficult part is convincing others that Jackson, Rice, Telander and I have it exactly right, because we do.

It seems to be that the more confident a person is that he is right, the more likely he is to be wrong. See: Bush administration re: WMD’s in Iraq.

Honestly, no one is “right” as it pertains to this issue. It’s not a right or wrong thing. There is no such thing as a “right” set of morals, despite what Bible-thumpers claim.

Telander wanted the group to form a committee to develop guidelines for evaluating players from the Steroids Era when it comes to Hall of Fame voting.

Yes, the same group of guys who last year gave Edinson Volquez (not a rookie) three second-place votes for NL Rookie of the Year … should form a committee. Great. Grand. Wonderful.

Go on.

We’re left with the likelihood that a slew of cheats will be immortalized in bronze forever.

The appeals to emotion are so akin to Republicans using the terrorism scare as a tactic to get votes in elections during the Bush administration.

This isn’t life or death. Even if everybody mentioned in the article is 100% undeniably guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs, where does their offense rank among all offenses?

Certainly Brett Myers’ assault on his wife in Boston is much, much worse. His contributions to the Phillies’ 2008 World Series championship will be mentioned, even just in passing, in the Hall of Fame. Where are the articles campaigning for his removal from baseball history?

The reality is that using performance-enhancing drugs is a very minor offense. Using it affects only the user and no one else. Murder, rape, assault, theft, etc. are all offenses exponentially worse and there are some guilty parties enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

Furthermore, if PED’s do indeed enhance performance, where is the evidence? Nowhere is there a study that shows a statistically significant correlation between steroid, HGH, or amphetamine use and increased performance in any facet. For every Barry Bonds there is an Alex Sanchez. In fact, for every Bonds there are likely a hundred Sanchezes.

As a Hall of Fame voter, I’m a strict constructionist. To me, the key words in those rules are “integrity” and “character.” You don’t have integrity or character by using steroids.

There was a bunch written before this but none of it really noteworthy, but for some context, you may want to go ahead and read what was written before this. Stuff about the Constitution and interpretation. Yawn.

Remember above, when I wrote, “Since anti-PED people often argue from a perspective of integrity and character, you should care that Ty Cobb exemplified many qualities of a person we despise”?

Moore doesn’t care about Cobb and does indeed argue from a perspective of integrity and character.

How many contradictions are there in Moore’s argument now? Three? Four?

Loose constructionist see the key words in those rules as “record,” “ability” and “contributions.” To them, it sort of matters that a guy used steroids, but they mention he still had to swing, throw, run and catch at a high level.

Well, yeah. Give me steroids, give me a world class trainer, and give me any amount of time that you want. I will never, ever hit even 1% as well as Barry Bonds hit because I don’t have his talent or his intellect or his physical capabilities.

These blockhead mainstream sportswriters grossly overestimate the impact that performance-enhancing drugs have on an athlete. To boot, they use absolutely no science and argue entirely from an emotional, irrational perspective. And yet, they’re so sure, so confident.

This is simpler: Just listen to Jackson, Rice, Telander and me.

Just like I should have listened to people about Y2K. Like I should listen to Darren Daulton about 2012.

The more confident you are that you have all the answers, the more likely it is that you have no answers.

This is turning into a cult. “Follow me. Listen to me.”

It’s become more about being right than doing what’s right.

Tool had a great song called “Aenima” about L. Ron Hubbard and his cult of Scientology, but I think some of the lyrics apply here.

Some say the end is near.
Some say we’ll see armageddon soon.
I certainly hope we will.
I sure could use a vacation from this
Bullshit three ring circus sideshow of
Freaks

Phillies/Cubs Series Preview

The Phillies are on a roll. They’ve won eight games in a row and 12 of their last 13. In their eight-game streak, the Phils have scored 43 runs and allowed 24. The offense is on fire thanks to the usual suspects. In the three games since returning from the break, Rollins has a 1.000 OPS; Utley .905; Howard 1.323; and Ibanez 1.783.

Thank the starting pitching as well. Against the Marlins, the starters allowed one run in 19 innings (0.47 ERA). J.A. Happ continued his push as an NL Rookie of the Year candidate, Cole Hamels got back on track, and Jamie Moyer proved he hasn’t lost his touch at 46.

The Phillies now are faced with the unfortunate task of facing the Cubs’ three best starting pitchers in Ted Lilly, Rich Harden, and Carlos Zambrano. They will counter with their worst three in Rodrigo Lopez, Joe Blanton, and Jamie Moyer (though all three have pitched well lately).

The Cubs have a below-average offense that scores 4.23 runs per game on average, but have the league’s third best pitching staff that allows only 4.04 runs per game on average. Oddly enough, both the Cubs’ starters and relievers have an ERA of 3.77, showing you just how balanced their pitching staff is.

Historically, the Phillies have not fared well against the Cubs’ big three. They hit Lilly the best, are anemic against Harden, and struggle against Zambrano. Lilly and Zambrano are having great seasons for the Cubs while Harden has hit some rough patches, including when he missed about a month between his May 17 and June 13 starts.

Considering the match-ups, the Phillies should feel fortunate if they win two of three.

Let’s go the supremely awesome charts.

Hitting

Chicago Cubs @ Philadelphia Phillies, July 20-22

Chicago Cubs @ Philadelphia Phillies, July 20-22

Pitching

Chicago Cubs @ Philadelphia Phillies, July 20-22

Chicago Cubs @ Philadelphia Phillies, July 20-22

If the blurriness of the images bothers you as much as it does me, it’s because WordPress automatically reduces the image quality for some unknown reason.

Thanks to Todd Zolecki, here’s tonight’s lineup against Lilly:

Rollins SS
Victorino CF
Utley 2B
Howard 1B
Ibanez LF
Werth RF
Feliz 3B
Ruiz C
Lopez P

I presume that Werth is hitting sixth instead of fifth (breaking up the left-handed hitters) because of his recent struggles. After a stretch of 12 games from June 27 to July 9 in which he hit 7 HR with a 1.537 OPS, he has only one extra-base hit and a .561 OPS in the six games since.

BDD: Handicapping the RoY Race

At Baseball Daily Digest, I take a look at the many rookies making an impact across Major League Baseball this season.

Kenshin Kawakami’s pitching performance is most closely aligned with what we’d expect based on factors he can control (strikeouts, walks, home runs), while J.A. Happ has enjoyed much more success than we would expect.

Due to the fact that Happ plays on a winning team that just so happens to be the defending World Series champions, he will get a lot more notoriety for pitching well than Wells or Kawakami as both play on mediocre teams unlikely to reach the post-season. However, it will take a sterling pitching season to yank the Rookie of the Year award from Colby Rasmus.

BDD: Charlie Manuel, Sabermetrician?

At Baseball Daily Digest, I investigate into the matter of Charlie Manuel possibly subscribing to Sabermetrics.

As Brian Joseph pointed out yesterday, he’s a lot smarter than he is given credit for. Early in his tenure with the team, Phillies fans mocked his Southern drawl and an assumed lack of intelligence. No longer, of course. Throughout his stint with the Phillies, Manuel has generally done a good job with decision-making, especially with platoon splits. He doesn’t La Russa his bullpen, but he’s certainly not passive.