Roy Halladay Ushers in 2010 Baseball

Spring training is finally upon us, and you know what that means: nothing. Not trying to curb your enthusiasm, but there’s not much to be gleaned from spring training performances. Still, it’s baseball and we’ve been without it for far too long — four months, not that I’ve been counting.

The Phillies hosted the New York Yankees this afternoon at Bright House Networks Field in Clearwater, Florida in the official spring training opener, a rematch of the 2009 World Series. It was sunny, about 50 degrees, and a 20 MPH wind persistently pushed balls in and towards right field.

C.C. Sabathia got the start for the Yankees and Roy Halladay took the bump for the Phillies. As a result of the starters, the Phillies rested lefties Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Raul Ibanez while the Yankees gave right-handers Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez the day off.

Halladay was flawless, pitching two perfect innings and faced one batter over the minimum as a result of an errant throw to first base by Placido Polanco. The Phillies’ new ace came out throwing strikes, as he struck out three and had his sinker in top form against the Yankees.

Kyle Kendrick followed Halladay with nearly as effective an outing, pitching two scoreless innings while only allowing one base runner and striking out one. His sinker,  like Halladay’s, was doing its job. Kendrick has become Halladay’s apprentice this spring training. In an interview with broadcasters Tom McCarthy and Gary Matthews, Kyle said he’s been striving to improve his change-up and cut fastball to supplement his two-seam fastball and there’s no better right-hander in the league to ask about two-seamers and cutters than Roy Halladay.

Jose Contreras took over in the fifth inning. He didn’t look as sharp as his predecessors Halladay and Kendrick, but he had good command of his curve ball and used it to notch three strikeouts in two innings of work. He did allow two hits but otherwise held the Yankees in check.

Andrew Carpenter got his two innings of work in the seventh and eighth innings. He worked the outside corner successfully to punch out two batters and allowed only one hit.

Sergio Escalona took the hill in the ninth with the Phillies staked to a 1-0 lead, but a couple of seeing-eye singles, a hard-hit single up the middle, and a high-chopper down the first base line with incredible spin allowed the Yankees to take the lead with two runs in the ninth. Escalona’s line looks bad — four hits and two runs in an inning of work — but he did not pitch poorly.

Overall, Phillies pitchers allowed two runs on eight hits in nine innings of work, but they struck out ten, did not walk a batter, and did not allow an extra-base hit.

Some other observations from today’s spring training game:

  • Placido Polanco looked uncomfortable defensively at third base, but he still has a month to learn the ropes.
  • Loved seeing Jayson Werth work the count several times today. He drew two walks and worked a full count in his final at-bat (I think, correct me if I am wrong; MLB Gameday isn’t up so I can’t verify this).
  • Brian Bocock took some good cuts in his four at-bats. He had two hits and drove the ball up the middle consistently.
  • Freddy Galvis came in to play second base late in the game and immediately had to field a grounder to his left and make a quick throw to first base to get the out, which he did with relative ease. If he can find a way to improve his bat, I’d love to see what he can accomplish at the Major League level.
  • Andrew Carpenter, despite allowing only one base runner in his two innings, was hit hard as he missed his spot on several occasions. First day of spring training, though, so nobody — besides Roy Halladay — is going to be perfect.
  • Domonic Brown’s swing looks, at least to the naked eye, to be very similar to that of Raul Ibanez. I wonder if he’s talked with Raul at all, or if that’s just a coincidence.
  • Quintin Berry took a gamble when he scored from first on a game-tying RBI double by Paul Hoover in the ninth inning. It’s spring training, so why not gamble? However, I wasn’t able to see if the third base coach put up the stop sign and Berry ran through it, or if he was given the green light. There was only one out so I’d think that Berry would have been asked to stop at third base, but again — spring training, so you never know.

Finally, per Todd Zolecki:

The Phillies will visit to the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday at 1:05 p.m. in Dunedin, Fla, with left-hander Cole Hamels making his Grapefruit League debut. The two clubs will also play a “B” game at 10 a.m. at Bright House Field. Left-hander Jamie Moyer will start that game for the Phillies.

Yay, baseball!

Image courtesy Yahoo! Sports / Al Messerschmidt, Getty Images (Link)

Finding An Utley in A Haystack

I happened to be perusing Baseball Reference earlier. Okay, I didn’t “happen” to find myself there, as I hang around BBref like teenagers hang around convenience stores… but I came across the amateur draft in the year 2000. Why is 2000 special? Well, that was the year Chase Utley was drafted 15th overall by the Philadelphia Phillies. Utley has gone on to have a fine career, has established himself as the game’s best second baseman, and he may find himself in the Hall of Fame when all is said and done.

The glaring theme with the 2000 draft was how few of the first-rounders panned out into productive Major Leaguers. 17 of the 40 (42.5%) never reached the Majors. Of the 17, only five were still active in 2009. Eight were out of professional baseball after 2007. Four went back to independent league baseball.

Of the 23 who did reach the Majors, 17 were still active in 2009. Of those 17, only 13 were still active in the Majors last year.

14 of the 23 are pitchers, only nine of them have thrown 100 or more innings at the Major League level. Five of the 14 pitchers have compiled a negative wins above replacement (WAR) total over their careers. Six of the 14 have compiled 1 WAR or more in the span of their careers.

Nine of the 23 are position players, only four of them have compiled 1,000 or more plate appearances at the Major League level.  Five of the nine position players have compiled a negative WAR total over their careers.

Overall, this is what the draft class of eventual Major Leaguers looked like:
(click to enlarge)

Utley has compiled more WAR in his career than the #2, 3, and 4 players (Gonzalez, Wainwright, Baldelli) combined. The Phillies could just as easily have passed on Utley. The Mets, with the 16th pick after Utley was picked 15th by the Phillies, selected Billy Traber. The Pirates took Sean Burnett 19th. The Phillies could have soured on Utley’s size and then lackluster defense and taken Traber, or Burnett or Phil Dumatrait, or someone else.

Hardly any of these picks have turned out well and the biggest successes have emerged with a team other than the one that selected them. Adrian Gonzalez was drafted by the Florida Marlins but was sent to Texas in the Ugueth Urbina deal, then sent to San Diego in the Adam Eaton/Akinori Otsuka trade. Adam Wainwright was sent to St. Louis as part of an exchange that brought J.D. Drew to Atlanta.

It’s not as if the other teams don’t draft well; it’s just that 2000 was such a poor draft for just about everyone but Ed Wade and the Phillies. In 2001, Joe Mauer, Mark Prior, Gavin Floyd, Mark Teixeira, Casey Kotchman, and David Wright were all taken in the first round. In 2002, B.J. Upton, Zack Greinke, Prince Fielder, Jeff Francis, Scott Kazmir, Nick Swisher, Cole Hamels, James Loney, Denard Span, Joe Blanton, Matt Cain, John Mayberry, and Mark Teahen were selected in the first round.

Looking at the five or so Major Leaguers from the Class of 2000 who have gone on to have productive Major League careers, it is quite breathtaking that not only did the Phillies have one of the five, but the far and away best of the five in Chase Utley.