Estimating the Impact

Last night was unbelievably confusing if you are able to maintain a pulse while on the Internet. Disparate information was flying in from all angles, and there was enough overreaction to fuel an entire season of Dr. Phil programs. In the few hours during which most of us slept, some dust has settled.

Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Phillies are close to extending Halladay with a three-year, $60 million offer that may include vesting options for a fourth and maybe even a fifth year. So the Phillies may have Halladay, one of the best pitchers in baseball, until 2014. Of course, he’ll be 33 in May, so the Phillies aren’t paying for his prime years. However, he has shown no signs of slowing down with four consecutive seasons in which he’s thrown at least 220 innings and made 31 starts, and he’s finished in the top-five in AL Cy Young voting as well.

Aside from gaining Halladay and $6 million and relinquishing Cliff Lee, the Phillies have essentially swapped prospects. Destined for Toronto’s Minor League system are C Travis D’Arnaud, P Kyle Drabek, and OF Michael Taylor. In are P Phillippe Aumont, OF Tyson Gillies, and P Juan Ramirez from Seattle.

At about this time last year, John Manuel of Baseball America ranked Drabek, Taylor, and D’Arnaud as the Phillies’ #5, 6, and 7 prospects respectively. About five weeks ago, those rankings changed to #2, 3, and 4.

For the Mariners, Aumont and Ramirez ranked #3 and 5 in the Mariners’ system (with Gillies out of the top-ten) a year ago. I’m not finding a more recent top-ten ranking, so that will have to suffice.

Now, let’s dig in and learn what we can about the prospects.

* * *

BP’s Kevin Goldstein on Kyle Drabek (July 2, 2009):

Drabek’s smallish frame and injury history contribute to the trouble many have figuring out exactly which direction his path will take him, but the scout saw him succeeding in a variety of roles. “He really could be anything,” the scout surmised, “I could see him starting, I could see him relieving… he could have a lot of different careers, but they’re all good ones.”

Goldstein on Michael Taylor (May 1, 2009):

After three disappointing years at Stanford, Taylor got away from the single-plane “Stanford swing” in 2008 and suddenly delivered a .346/.412/.557 season while suddenly looking like the player who in high school was one of the best tools guys in the country. A monster athlete at six-foot-six and 250 pounds, Taylor is batting .424 during a current seven game hitting streak and .338/.389/.569 overall. The scary part? Some think he’s just starting to tap into his potential.

Goldstein on Travis D’Arnaud (June 22, 2009):

The Good: D’Arnaud is a big, athletic catcher with plenty of upside. He takes a powerful swing and projects for above-average power down the road. He’s a very good athlete for a catcher with excellent receiving skills, a plus arm, and the attitude of a field general.

The Bad: D’Arnaud needs to tighten his approach at the plate. His swing has a bit of a loop in it, and while he’ll likely always have high strikeout totals, he complicates matters by lunging at breaking balls and chasing nearly any pitch on the outer half. His throws are strong, but could use improved accuracy.

Goldstein on Phillippe Aumont (February 27, 2009):

The Good: Aumont’s best pitch is a low-90s sinker that touches 95 and has explosive late life, with one scout calling it a major league-ready offering right now. He’ll flash a decent slider at times, is aggressive in the strike zone, and he brings a lot of intensity to the mound.

The Bad: Aumount’s elbow problems are a concern, as he does tend to throw across his body. While the slider is effective, it also flattens out far too often, and with a below-average changeup, some think that he’d be put to better use in the bullpen. He needs to get in more innings; he pitched less than 60 last year. He also needs to harness his emotions, as his tendency to stare down umpires and slam his glove whenever he was being pulled from a game did him no favors at Low-A.

Goldstein (from the same link above) on Juan Ramirez:

The Good: Ramirez has a nearly perfect power-pitching frame and mechanics, and he effortlessly throws 92-94 mph fastballs that can touch 96. His heater features good late life, and he locates the pitch extremely well for being so inexperienced. He flashes a good slider, and he was at his best toward the end of the season.

The Bad: Ramirez’ secondary pitches lag well behind his power stuff; he gets around on his slider and flattens it out often, and his changeup is rather rudimentary. The latter is of most concern, as he could use another weapon against left-handers.

Goldstein on Tyson Gillies (June 15, 2009):

A Canadian import who is legally deaf, Gillies is an absolute burner who the Mariners hoped would be able to take off with an assignment to the hitters’ paradise of High Desert. He’s beginning to work the count much better, and that’s helping every aspect of his game.

In a BP chat in late August, when asked if Gillies is “for real,” Goldstein responded, “He’s pretty real. I don’t think he’s a monster prospect, but he’ll certainly [be] on the M’s offseason [top prospect] list.”

* * *

So, we have the Phillies turning their #2, 3, and 4 prospects into the Mariners’ #3, 5, and unranked prospects, according to Baseball America. Baseball Prospectus ranked the Mariners’ system 17th out of 30 teams back in March, while the Phillies came in at 14th.

It appears that the Phillies lost value in swapping prospects, especially since Drabek projects as a starter and Aumont projects as a reliever (though likely a closer). Drabek, of course, has had injury problems and already has undergone Tommy John surgery — he is no sure thing. However, relievers tend to throw about one-third the amount of innings as starters, so essentially the Phillies just lost 2/3 of Kyle Drabek if we assume the two pitching prospects to be of similar value.

The following animated GIFs come from Lookout Landing. They depict Aumont’s fastball and curve ball from his appearance in the World Baseball Classic.

Phillippe Aumont's fastball

Phillippe Aumont's curveball

Overall, I tend to agree with Jeff Sullivan’s summary from Lookout Landing:

But, at least as a Mariner, Aumont’s in the bullpen. Relievers simply aren’t very valuable unless they develop into the best of the best, and the odds are against that happening. While Aumont has great stuff and should make the Majors, it’s questionable whether he ever gains the command to reach the upper level. Then you’ve got guys like Juan Ramirez, a solid but by no means can’t-miss starter in high-A, and Tyson Gillies, a slap-hitting speedy outfielder with low upside…these are nice prospects to have, but they’re not the sort of prospects you freak out over when you have the opportunity to land a Cliff Lee.

The Phillies would have been better off simply trading with the Blue Jays one-on-one, and I’m sure all of us would prefer Drabek, Taylor, and D’Arnaud to Aumont, Ramirez, and Gillies. However, the three-way trade isn’t terrible and the Phillies did come out victorious in that they still have rotation depth with Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ, and the team is in better shape beyond 2010. For that, GM Ruben Amaro deserves some credit. He did not get ransacked in this deal.

For another perspective on the trade, head to Phuture Phillies for a 4,600-word essay.

Phillies Trade Lee for Halladay

Jon Heyman of SI.com is reporting that the Phillies have indeed traded left-hander Cliff Lee in a three-team trade that nets them right-hander Roy Halladay.

The following will be updated as more information comes in. The incomplete roster:

PHI gets: Roy Halladay and $6 million from TOR; P Phillippe Aumont, OF Tyson Gillies, and P Juan Ramirez from SEA

SEA gets: Cliff Lee

TOR gets: C Travis D’Arnaud, P Kyle Drabek, OF Michael Taylor from PHI

UPDATE#1 (4:25 PM EST): Typer Kepner Tweets that Lee’s agent has not heard of the deal.

UPDATE #2 (4:35 PM EST): Jon Heyman Tweets:

im being told #halladay will agree on deal with #phillies, which would finalize trade. but not likely to happen today

UPDATE #3 (5:00 PM EST): Jon Morosi Tweets:

Source says Aumont (from SEA) and M. Taylor (from PHI) among players heading to TOR.

UPDATE #4 (6:15 PM EST): Jayson Stark was just on ESPN reporting that the Phillies are sending catcher Travis D’Arnaud and the Mariners P Phillippe Aumont to the Jays. The Phillies will get two prospects from the M’s. More to come.

UPDATE #5 (7:15 PM EST): The Associated Press reports that Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ, and Domonic Brown all took physicals today. Thus, it becomes more likely that all three are involved in the deal, though certainly possible that it was all preemptive.

UPDATE #6 (12/15 12:30 AM EST): Ken Rosenthal Tweets:

#Phils getting $6M from #Jays in Halladay deal. Drabek, Taylor, likely D’Arnaud to TOR, Aumont, Gillies and 3rd player to PHI…

* * *

If you’ve stopped by recently, you know how I feel about the whole deal. GM Ruben Amaro is clearly trying to position the Phillies for future success beyond 2010, for which you certainly cannot fault him. However, trading Lee and prospect(s) for Halladay and cash is essentially a lateral move for 2010, the team’s best shot at winning another World Series.

That being said, I’d like to publicly apologize for chastising Ken Rosenthal for reporting on “I’ve got a hunch” on Saturday. While any professional journalist should play it safe on hunches (especially one who six months ago roasted blogger Jerod Morris for conjecture), clearly Rosenthal felt strongly about his source and he turned out to be correct. Kudos to Ken who has once again proven that he is the best in the business.

Trade Proposal Fail

Read this article by Ken Rosenthal at FOX Sports. Let it sink in. Experience his ideas. When you’ve done that, move down to the next paragraph.

* * *

Rosenthal proposes a multi-team trade involving the Toronto Blue Jays, the Philadelphia Phillies, and a third team:

So, here’s the deal: Lee goes somewhere for prospects. The Phillies include the prospects in their package for Halladay, maybe keep one or two for themselves. Halladay gets his extension, the Jays get a bounty of young players and some lucky team gets Lee for one year at his bargain salary of $9 million.

That’s right: Ken proposes that the budget-constrained Phillies send away a 6-7.5 WAR pitcher (Lee) making $8 million in 2010 in an effort to acquire a a 6-7.5 WAR pitcher (Halladay) making nearly $16 million. He suggests that the Blue Jays — desperate to recoup value on the sure-to-depart pitcher — would pay for part of his salary. Unless the Jays cover at least $10 million, there’s absolutely no reason why this trade proposal even begins to make sense.

That is the biggest offense in Rosenthal’s article, but he leads off with the following:

I have no proof that the Phillies are trying to move left-hander Cliff Lee as part of a three- or four-team trade for Blue Jays right-hander Roy Halladay.

But I’ve got a hunch.

“I have no proof; I’ve got a hunch.” The mark of true professional journalism, folks.

Trading Lee, on the other hand, would help the Phillies save an additional $2 million or so in salary. 

This doesn’t make sense. Lee is earning half as much as Halladay in 2010. In order for the Phillies to “save an additional $2 million or so,” the Blue Jays would have to send $10 million to the Phillies along with Halladay, which would be an outrageous gesture on the part of the Jays.

Trading Lee also would bring the Phillies better prospects, enabling them to send fewer of their own top young players to the Jays.

The Phillies would not get as strong a package for Lee as they would give for Halladay.

There was no editing in the above quote — that’s how it is printed in the article. So not only would the Phillies add on more salary (unless the Jays inexplicably include what represents 12% of their 2009 payroll), they would also be losing prospect value for a break-even exchange or, at the most generous, a very slim upgrade of 0.3 WAR or so in the starting rotation.

Of course, this entire proposal assumes that the Blue Jays have leverage, which they don’t. Halladay has said that he wants to be traded by spring training or he will not waive his no-trade clause. So the Jays have about two months to make a move. If they don’t trade him, they risk only recouping two draft picks (a first-rounder and a sandwich pick) and that’s only if they offer him arbitration. There’s a realistic possibility that they don’t depending on how their payroll shapes out over the next 11 months.

The Jays could still trade Halladay by July 31, but that would require A) convincing Halladay between the start of spring training and July 31 to waive his no-trade clause and B) getting back even less for Halladay than in a trade prior to spring training.

Toronto has absolutely no leverage. The Phillies can offer them a modest package that includes J.A. Happ and Michael Taylor and a lower-tier prospect like Anthony Gose. That should be enough to entice the Jays to relinquish Halladay (if new GM Alex Anthopoulos is interested in not repeating the errors of his predecessor J.P. Ricciardi).

Instead of having only one premier pitcher, the Phillies will have two — so long as they are willing to surpass the $140 million budget limit they seem to have set for themselves. The Jays actually get some return on Halladay instead of settling for two compensatory draft picks — silhouettes of players at this point — in the draft.

Neither the Jays nor the Phillies should have any interest in involving a third team directly in a Roy Halladay trade. The Phillies can subsequently attempt to unload Joe Blanton, who will likely make $6 million in arbitration, to clear some salary. Involving a third (or even fourth, as Rosenthal suggests) only cuts into the return value for both the Phillies and the Jays.

UPDATE: Rosenthal was right. See apology here.

Roy Something-or-Other

The Interwebs are abuzz with Roy Halladay rumors, hints, whispers, and sweet nothings. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro has been eager to dismiss each and every suggestion of a possible trade. Twitter has been there to get us excited again. Like a squirrel searching for an acorn, we are clicking our way through to the other end of the Internet to find the truth to the Halladay saga.

That’s why I’ve created a nice visual to help guide you on your quest through the Internet forest. This graph will show you the likelihood of a Halladay trade to Philadelphia according to various sources. If it appears to be of low quality, click it and it will open up in a new window at 100% quality.

  • Twitter: According to Twitterers, the deal is done. The only thing between Roy Halladay and Philadelphia is a physical. Don’t worry, though: Roy trains in the off-season with Chuck Norris so you know he’s in tip-top shape.
  • National Writers: The national sportswriters are pretty darn optimistic. To quote Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated, “Already the two-time league champion, the Phillies, given their aggressiveness and stockpile of young talent, are emerging as the favorite to land Toronto ace Roy Halladay.” Many other national writers, as you will see in the links below, also put the Phillies in the lead.
  • Beat writers: Former Phillies beat writer Todd Zolecki, why must you give us a painful cold shower? Todd Tweeted, “maybe a 35 percent chance of getting [Halladay]. Definitely not 75 percent.” Come on man, let us dream!
  • Reality: The Phillies are imposing a $140 million limit on the payroll. According to Cot’s Contracts, they’re already at $116 million with a couple bullpen spots to fill and some arbitration cases to settle (Joe Blanton and Shane Victorino namely). The Toronto Blue Jays are still going to want some return value to make the trade worthwhile, so the Phillies will have to part with J.A. Happ, at least one of Dominic Brown or Michael Taylor, and one or two lower-tier prospects. Furthermore, the Phillies will likely have to move Blanton (or Victorino) to have space on the payroll for Halladay. While it’s true that the Phillies are probably the favorites, it’s still possible that the Los Angeles Angels add on to their already existing offer of Joe Saunders, Erick Aybar, and prospect Peter Bourjos.
  • Ruben Amaro: Per Zolecki, the Phillies’ GM quipped, “I don’t think there’s any likeliness” that the team acquires Halladay from Toronto. “There’s nothing likely. How about that?” In other words, expect Halladay to don Phillies pinstripes in spring training.

More links to Roy Halladay rumors than you can possibly stand:

Get To Know Your BBA Members

Click here to read my interview for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. Stay tuned for more interviews of the other various members as well.

Here’s my favorite question from the set:

Question 7: How much of the “Philly fan” reputation is deserved?

None. You can’t make rash generalizations about groups of people. There are bad apples in every bushel. For instance, several years ago, a couple fans in Oakland threw cherry bombs and injured a young boy. The Royals’ first base coach, Tom Gamboa, was stabbed during a baseball game in Chicago against the White Sox. There is nothing inherent to living in Philadelphia that makes one significantly more vicious at sporting events.

At every Phillies game I’ve gone to, the fans have been very civil.

BDD: NYY-DET-ARI Three-Way

At Baseball Daily Digest, I analyze the three-way trade made between the New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, and Arizona Diamondbacks.

Overall, it appears to be a great trade for both the Yankees and Tigers, and a remarkably poor trade for the Diamondbacks. The D-Backs gave up four years of control of a young, cheap Max Scherzer for two years of control of a young, relatively expensive Edwin Jackson. And Ian Kennedy.

Offseason Rumors: Yea or Nay

The Phillies have been linked to many names, even after adding Dewayne Wise, Juan Castro, Brian Schneider, and Placido Polanco. Among potential additions are Brandon Lyon, J.J. Putz, John Smoltz, and even Aroldis Chapman. The Phils are also thinking about bringing some familiar faces back such as Chan Ho Park, Scott Eyre, and Chad Durbin.

This won’t be an extensive study of each player, but a simple yea or nay with a couple of supporting facts. Feel free to share your opinions by writing a comment below.

Let’s start with the familiar faces we could see in 2010:

  • Chan Ho Park: Yea, only if he’s brought back as a reliever, and for a similar salary as in 2009. Reports say that he’s still looking for a starting job somewhere. He needs to suck it up and admit he’s just not a starter anymore. He’s an elite seventh-inning reliever. Throughout his career, opposing batters hit for a .030 higher OPS against Park as a starter than as a reliever, and that includes his 1996-2001 seasons when he was, in fact, a decent starter
  • Chad Durbin: Nay. His 2008 season was a complete fluke. Relievers of his ilk are a dime a dozen. The Phillies paid him $1.635 million last year. They can get similar production for a fraction of the price, hopefully by calling up an arm from the Minor League system (Scott Mathieson, please).
  • Scott Eyre: Yea. Over his career, he’s held left-handed hitters to a mere .717 OPS, and the Phillies could use a LOOGY considering J.C. Romero spent most of the 2009 season on the disabled list after a questionable 50-game suspension. GM Ruben Amaro was quoted as saying that Eyre “may have priced himself out of our range”.
  • Pedro Martinez: Yea, but only if it means that the Phillies are going to trade Joe Blanton to acquire an elite reliever or Roy Halladay. That seems unlikely, so I’d otherwise prefer the Phillies spend the money on the reliever they’re looking for.

Now let’s look at potential newcomers.

  • Brandon Lyon: Nay. He made $4.25 million in 2009, and isn’t likely to take a significant pay cut. His two best seasons as a reliever have come last year and in ’07, but the Phillies are going to use him like they use Ryan Madson. That’s just not worth spending $4 million on, and the Phillies’ officials agree. Lyon is also looking for a multi-year deal.
  • J.J. Putz: Yea, but only on a relatively cheap, short-term, incentive-laden deal. Putz was an elite reliever in 2006 and ’07, but has spent time on the disabled list in each of the past two seasons. The Phillies should go after Putz only if they feel like they can compete even if he is hurt, and are able to adequately replace him. If Putz is still unsigned in late January, and the Phillies have made at least one other signing of a reliever, Putz would be a great low-risk, high-reward signing.
  • George Sherill: Yea. The Dodgers are looking to trade Sherill to bolster their starting rotation, and to clear up some payroll space if possible. With Scott Eyre more likely to retire than to return to Philadelphia, Sherrill is just the kind of elite reliever the Phillies are looking for in return for Joe Blanton. It’s a perfect match: the Dodgers balance the middle of their starting rotation without taking on a heavy contract (Blanton will likely make $5-6 million in arbitration), and the Phillies get their LOOGY and potential replacement for Brad Lidge if he struggles (since everyone seems to have soured on Ryan Madson’s prospects as a closer).
  • Roy Halladay: Yea. For obvious reasons. Requires a perfect storm, as Andy Martino details.
  • John Smoltz: Nay. The Phillies can get similar production out of the #5 spot in the rotation with arms already on the team payroll, such as Jamie Moyer, Kyle Kendrick, or Antonio Bastardo.
  • Aroldis Chapman: Yea. For obvious reasons. However, I can’t see the Phillies actually winning this one with their self-inflicted limited payroll.
  • Adam Everett: Yea. I’m sorry I keep mentioning him whenever I get a chance, but I simply have a man-crush on him. He is an elite defender by any fielding metric you choose to use. While he has only played shortstop in his Major League career, it wouldn’t be much to ask him to make a spot start at second or third base, depending on how the Phillies choose to use Placido Polanco when Chase Utley is given a day off. He’s light with the bat (just like Eric Bruntlett and Juan Castro) but his defense is exceptional, and he only made $1 million last year. I don’t think he’s ever been on the Phillies’ radar, unfortunately. [EDIT: Everett re-signed with the Detroit Tigers. See comments.]

What do you think? Which players should the Phillies target? Who should they ignore? Are they looking past anybody?

BDD: The Matt Lindstrom Conundrum

At Baseball Daily Digest, I take a look at Matt Lindstrom and determine if he’s worth the risk to the several teams interested in trading for his services.

His runners left on base percentage (LOB%) was 61.6% after previously resting at 72.3% and 76.3% the previous two seasons. Aha. Lindstrom was allowing hits at about a 34% clip and averaging about a walk every two innings — a bad combination. The league average LOB% is 72%.

While some of his LOB% woes may be due simply to randomness (or bad luck if you prefer), it’s so far under what we’d expect that there has to be an underlying factor. My theory is that as a result of his walk rate, and coupled with his thin pitch repertoire, he was very transparent on the mound. Thus, hitters were more successful against Lindstrom when there was at least one runner on base as opposed to the bases empty. The statistics bear this out […]

Raul Ibanez and Ruben Amaro: On Notice

Scott Lauber reported yesterday, after the Phillies had signed Placido Polanco, that recent signee and left fielder Raul Ibanez helped to recruit The Forehead for the former WFC’s. Polanco got a three-year, $18 million deal that will end when he’s nearly 38 years old.

Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports is reporting that the Seattle Mariners and Chone Figgins are very close to agreeing on a four-year, $36 million deal. Ken-Ro adds, “The contact will include a $9 million vesting option for 2013, bringing the potential value of the package to $45 million.”

As I explained yesterday, the Polanco signing was misguided for a number of reasons, among them was the alacrity with which Rube opened his checkbook for a mediocre, aging second baseman third baseman. There are two main reasons why a GM would want to be so quick to sign a player, and that’s if he’s A) being heavily pursued by other teams and/or B) if he’s signing for significantly under market value.

About a month ago, I evaluated all of the free agent third basemen likely to pique the Phillies’ interest (at that point, Polanco was but a small blip on the radar). I concluded that, in 2009, Figgins was worth nearly 7 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), covering all of offense, defense, and base running. And yesterday, we learned that Polanco is worth about 3 WAR. In dollar amounts, Polanco is worth about $14 million, which isn’t bad. However, Figgins was worth about $30.5 million last season.

So, we have a simple calculation to determine the better investment. The Phillies could have paid Figgins $9 million annually for nearly $31 million of production (3.4 times their investment) or Polanco $6 million annually for $14 million of production (2.3 times their investment). We, of course, assume Figgins will produce at his 2009 level, which isn’t the most likely scenario. Let’s lop off a full win. He’s still worth nearly three times the $9 million investment at 5.8 WAR and 2.5 times at 5.0 WAR.

This is exactly why I said two weeks ago that we cannot abstain from being critical of Ruben Amaro, even though he made some head-scratching maneuvers for the 2009 team that did not backfire. There are plenty of third basemen for everyone: Figgins, Polanco, Adrian Beltre, Mark DeRosa, Joe Crede, Pedro Feliz again. Inquiries about Mark Teahen of the Kansas City Royals could have been made. No need to be a quick draw with the wallet — it’s a buyer’s market.

Let’s recap Amaro’s off-season so far:

  • Paid $700,000 for one year of Juan Castro, who turns 38 on June 20. He has a career OPS+ of 57, possesses no base running skills. His calling card is defensive versatility in the infield. Sound like someone familiar? He’s an older version of Eric Bruntlett (career 64 OPS+) with worse legs.
  • Signed Brian Schneider to a two-year, $2.75 million deal. That was three days ago, so some factors may have changed, but that certainly doesn’t seem favorable now that Gregg Zaun has signed with the Milwaukee Brewers on a one-year deal with a base salary of $1.4 million and incentives that could bring it to $2.25 million. Another example of why acting quickly in the off-season is poor strategy. I was, however, a supporter of the signing at the time.
  • Signed Placido Polanco to a three-year, $18 million deal with a mutual option for a fourth year.

We use retrospect here because it demonstrates how Ruben Amaro could have signed a better back-up infielder (Adam Everett, anyone?), back-up catcher (Zaun), and starting third baseman (Figgins) for only slightly more — about $5 million — than he spent on Castro, Schneider, and Polanco if he had simply not acted like a kid in a candy store. The Phillies have had an incredible showing at the turnstiles for two straight seasons, so the payroll should not be regressing.

Like his predecessor Pat Gillick, Amaro’s best work appears to come during the season. That is unfortunate because it costs the Phillies more than simply money and draft pick lottery tickets.

That’s why I am now putting Amaro and Ibanez (who recruited Polanco) on notice. Any more slip-ups and they’ll be Dead to Me.

Chris Jaffe’s Evaluating Baseball’s Managers: Gene Mauch

Chris Jaffe is the author of the book Evaluating Baseball’s Managers: A History and Analysis of Performance in the Major Leagues, 1876–2008. If you’re like me and a huge baseball fan, it already sounds interesting, but Chris was nice enough to forward me an excerpt from his book about a Phillies-related manager he studied.

You may recall Gene Mauch as the manager of the worst collapse one of the worst collapses in baseball history when he was at the helm of the 1964 Phillies squad, but there is a lot more to the man besides that blemish. Jaffe’s study on Mauch reveals there is much more to a manager than simply rolling dice and preventing mutiny. Here is an excerpt from Evaluating Baseball Managers on Mauch. Both Chris and I hope you enjoy learning about a former Phillies manager.

***

Gene Mauch

W/L Record: 1,902-2,037 (.483)
Managed:

Full Seasons: Philadelphia 1960-67; Montreal 1969-75; Minnesota 1976-79; California 1982, 1985-87

Majority in: Minnesota 1980; California 1981

Minority of:  Philadelphia 1968

Birnbaum Database: +231 runs

Individual Hitters: +163 runs
Individual Pitchers: +56 runs
Pythagenpat Difference: -59 runs
Team Offense: +75 runs
Team Defense: -10 runs

Team Characteristics: Befitting his reputation, Mauch loved playing inside baseball.  His teams bunted constantly, focused on platoon advantage, and had numerous in-game substitutions and pinch hitters.  He did a little bit of pitcher leveraging early in his career (most notably Jim Owens had an AOWP+ of 106 in 22 starts in 1960), but he never did it that much.

LPA: 2.73 (through 1965 only)
LPA+: 80 (through 1965 only)

Few men have been as widely heralded for their ability to manage the game as Gene Mauch.  Though he had the longest managerial career without a pennant, even his detractors acknowledged that his mind contained a comprehensive understanding of the game.  He was one of the game’s leading tinkerers, always looking for that little extra edge on the opponent.  Three tendencies especially stand out.

First, Gene Mauch loved to bunt.  He would have anyone bunt: from 1967-80, everyone with at least 300 plate appearances in a season for him had at least one sacrifice hit.  Seven players on his 1979 Twins cracked double digits in sacrifices.  The team’s second basemen (not just the starter, but the total performance from everyone playing that position) combined for 36 sacrifice hits.  Since 1956, no other team’s second basemen have cracked 28.  That squad’s third basemen had twenty bunts, tied for the most by any squad in the Retrosheet era.  Similarly, the most bunts ever attained by a team’s catchers came from Mauch’s 1982 Angels, with 24.  Only one other team had more than nineteen.  Bob Boone, Mauch’s starting catcher that year, bunted more times than his previous six seasons combined.  Since 1956, at least one of Mauch’s teams rank in the top five in sacrifice bunts from shortstop, designated hitter, and right field.  Incredibly, none of his pitching staffs are in the top 140.  For other managers, the bunt was a default move.  For Mauch, it was a weapon – hence the difference with pitchers.

By reputation, Mauch was the all-time champion of bunting to move the runner into scoring position.   Thanks to the Retrosheet’s work, this can be verified.  One split generated by that website’s data shows what all teams did with a runner on first and the remaining bases empty.  Looking at how likely teams were to sacrifice in that situation (sacrifice hits divided by total plate appearances in that split), Mauch’s dominance is overwhelming.  He managed nine of the 23 most bunt-prone squads, and sixteen of the top 64 (out of 1,316 teams since 1956).

Over his career, Mauch called 86% of his bunts with only a runner on first, which is the highest percentage by any manager who lasted four or more full seasons in the last half-century.  That should not happen.  Across all baseball, most bunts occur with a runner on first and no one else on.  By bunting more than anyone else (not just in this split, but overall as well), it should be that much harder for Mauch to be the manager with the highest percentage of bunts called with a runner on first and the remaining bases empty.  Clearly, Mauch was passionate about bunting his runners into scoring position.

Bunting a player from first to second provides a crucial advantage: it removes the possibility of a double play.  The twin killing was also something Mauch had an intense interest in.  Not only did he try to prevent his batters from hitting into them, but he wanted his defenders performing them.  As noted in the Hughie Jennings commentary, the following formula in the Tendencies Database determines which defenses did the best job turning double plays based on opportunity:  DP/(H-2B-3B-HR+BB+HB-SH-SB-CS).  It is double plays turned divided by the times someone should have been on first base.  The following managers’ squads were the most adept at turning two:

Most Double Plays Turned
Danny Murtaugh    0.497
Earl Weaver        0.531
Gene Mauch        0.591
Casey Stengel        0.667
Whitey Herzog    0.670

Murtaugh scores the highest, but he had uber-whiz Bill Mazeroski at second base.  Earl Weaver also benefited from spending his entire career with one team and a core of defensive specialists up the middle.  In contrast, Mauch, constantly created new double play combinations.  Account for that, and Mauch may have been baseball’s best at coaxing double plays from his fielders.  He found the best gloves he could, coached them to focus on the double play, and had them positioned so they could pull it off.  Mauch took advantage of whatever little nooks and crannies existed for the manager to increase the number of double plays turned.  On several occasions, Mauch famously used a defensive alignment featuring five infielders and two outfielders, a maneuver that greatly aided the likelihood of a double play.

By the Tendencies Database’s double play formula, Gene Mauch ran the two best teams in history at this play.  Incredibly, they were separate franchises with completely different middle infielders – the 1979 Twins and 1985 Angels.  Both turned a double play in 14.9% of all opportunities while no other units are over 14.7%.  Mauch managed two of the only seven teams in the last half-century that turned over 200 double plays. With each of the four teams he managed, he set franchise defensive records that still stand for most double plays in a season: 179 with the 1961 Phillies, 193 with the 1970 Expos, 203 with the 1979 Twins, and 202 with the 1985 Angels.

Delving into team splits data makes Mauch’s interest in players who could make the double play even more apparent.  Add together splits at Baseball-Reference.com that includes a runner on first base (a runner only on first, runners on first and second, runners on the corners, and bases loaded), and use the formula DP/(PA-K-BB-HR-HB-SB-CS-PK) to determine how successful squads were at turning this play when they had the opportunity.  Six Mauch teams led the league; those squads featured five different starting second baseman and four shortstops.  Another half-dozen Mauch-managed clubs came in second place.
Due to his intense focus on the double play, Mauch’s teams greatly benefited from this play.  Only once did his batters hit into more than 140 double plays in a season while Mauch’s defenders pulled off at least 141 double plays every season except his rookie campaign and the strike shortened 1981 season.  Each one of the 26 teams Mauch managed pulled off more double plays than they hit into.

However, the previous sentence is not quite as impressive as it sounds.  League-wide, double plays turned are always higher than those grounded into.  That sounds impossible – because for every double play hit into, another is turned – yet that is the case.  Baseball has three main statistical reference sources: the ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia, Baseball-Reference.com, and Retrosheet.  The ESPN book gives defensive double plays, but not offensive ones hit into.  Retrosheet has team totals for GIDP, but not DP.  (Retrosheet does provide double plays for the years they have game logs, but not earlier, and the game logs from the 1950s onward are sometimes incomplete).  Baseball-Reference alone features both.  Its GIDP info matches Retrosheet and its team DP numbers are the same as ESPN’s book, yet Baseball-Reference’s league-wide DP are always higher than their GIDP.  Sometimes, every single team in a league has more DP turned than hit into.  I do not know the reason for this discrepancy.  My best guess is that the GIDP counts only those double plays grounded into, and not outfield flies, or strike out/throw out double plays.

That puts us in a quandary.  Mauch clearly benefited from double plays on both sides of the ball, yet it is difficult to put the two halves together.  There is no perfect way to solve this riddle, but an effective rough approximation exists.  Take the 1961 NL, for example: every team in that league supposedly turned more double plays than they hit into, for a combined difference of 294 DPs.  At eight teams, that was a difference of 36.75 double plays per club – so adjust all teams in the league by that.  In 1961, Mauch’s Phillies grounded into 130 double plays while their defenders turned 179.  That difference of 49 becomes 12.25 when adjusted by the league average differential (49 – 36.75 = 12.25).  Once the same adjustment is made for all teams in each league in every season, estimated double play differentials can be determined for all managers.  The following had the best career marks:

Best Adjusted Double Play Differentials
Casey Stengel        +537 double plays
Gene Mauch        +423 double plays
Roger Craig         +326 double plays
Whitey Herzog    +285 double plays
Sparky Anderson    +283 double plays

Only one other manager is over +200 (Phil Garner at +212).  By this reckoning, Mauch had 22 teams benefit from double plays.  Only once (1973 Expos) did he have a team do worse than –10.

Mauch also fixated on platoon advantage, a fact Retrosheet’s splits can verify.  Those splits contain righty/lefty breakdowns for all teams’ pitching staffs and offenses for the last half-century.  Determine what percentage of each teams’ plate appearances contained the platoon edge, and likewise for the batters faced by their pitchers.  Run both items through the Tendencies Database, and add them together to determine which managers since 1956 had the greatest overall interest in ensuring their squads had the platoon advantage working in their favor:

Combined Platoon Advantage
Gene Mauch        1.098
Bruce Bochy        1.332
Whitey Herzog    1.354
Frank Robinson    1.402
Bill Virdon        1.420

Mauch dominates this list.  He scored best overall with pitchers, and second with hitters.  Whitey Herzog beats him in the latter category, but only because he possessed numerous switch hitters in St. Louis.  Five times Mauch’s hitters had the platoon advantage in the highest percentage of plate appearances in the league.  His pitchers topped the league nine times.

One aspect of Mauch’s managerial style appears out of place with the overall thrust of his career: he had little interest in the stolen base.  His teams were not historically averse to stealing, but it is not what one would expect from such a staunch supporter of the game’s details.  However, Mauch’s interest in the bunt negated the point of stealing.  Most steals are of second base, and his teams bunted their way there.  To steal, a team needs players with speed, but nearly anyone can be taught to bunt competently.

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A hearty thank you to Chris Jaffe for sharing a Phillies-related excerpt from his book Evaluating Baseball Managers. If you enjoyed that, make sure to pick yourself — and your friends and family — a copy for the holiday season.

If you’d like to hear Mr. Jaffe’s thoughts on more modern managerial affairs, check out my two-part interview with him from September at Baseball Daily Digest: