Graph of the Intermittent Time Period

Now that Chase Utley and Placido Polanco have been placed on the disabled list, it’s once again time to look at just how badly the injuries are piling up for the Phillies. I have created a timeline detailing the length of each player’s stint on the disabled list. The red bars indicate DL stints; light red bars indicate games missed with day-to-day injuries; and gray bars indicate when the player was not on the active roster.

Click on the thumbnail below to view a much larger version.

And the data:

Player Absent Injury $/Gm $ to Date Injury Cost
Brad Lidge 41 R Flexor Tendon
Surgery / R Elbow
$70,988 $5.25 M $2.91 M
Jimmy Rollins 58 R Calf Strain
(Grade II, Grade I)
$46,296 $3.43 M $2.69 M
Ryan Madson 55* R Big Toe Fracture $27,778 $2.06 M $1.53 M
J.C. Romero 22 L Flexor Tendon
$24,691 $1.83 M $0.54 M
Chase Utley 5* R Thumb UCL Sprain $92,593 $6.85 M $0.46 M
J.A. Happ 67* L Forearm Strain $2,901 $0.21 M $0.19 M
Carlos Ruiz 16* Concussion $11,728 $0.87 M $0.19 M
Placido Polanco 5* L Elbow Bruise $30,864 $2.28 M $0.15 M
Joe Blanton 24 L Oblique Strain $6,173 $0.46 M $0.15 M
Chad Durbin 7 R Hamstring Strain $13,117 $0.97 M $0.09 M
Brian Schneider 13 L Achilles Strain $6,173 $0.46 M $0.08 M
Antonio Bastardo 13* L Elbow Ulnar Neuritis $2,500 $0.19 M $0.03 M
Juan Castro 5 L Hamstring Strain $4,321 $0.32 M $0.02 M
TOTAL 331 $25.17 M $9.04 M

* Still on disabled list

Of the nearly $140 million the Phillies are paying out this year, more than $9 million (6.5 percent) has been lost due to injuries. With seven players currently on the disabled list and several more sure to join them given the daily grind in a baseball life, that number will only continue to grow as the season progresses. 2010 is not looking like a charmed season for the Fightin’s. If the Phillies are to reach the World Series for a third consecutive year, they are truly going to have to earn it.

Give Utley His Gold Glove

I’m not normally one to care too much about end-of-season awards. They make for some nice speculative conversation and it gives me a chance to laugh at people who still think batting average and won-lost records are the holy grail of baseball statistics, but they don’t mean a whole lot in the big picture. When it comes down to it though, it is always nice to see your favorite team’s players earn some accolades. Back on June 18, I explained why Roy Halladay would not be adding a Cy Young award to his mantle this year (don’t cry, ZWR). Now, I would like to focus on something positive — why Chase Utley needs to get a Gold Glove award.

While in the Minors, Utley’s defense was a concern. In fact, they had tried to convert him to a third baseman during the Scott Rolen fiasco but concluded that he lacked the requisite arm strength for the position, choosing to groom him as a second baseman. Always the diligent worker, Utley put in the time to improve and eventually master the position. The following table displays the top-ten single-season UZR/150 scores from all qualified National League second basemen between 2005-09.

Name Team Innings DPR RngR ErrR UZR UZR/150
Chase Utley (’08) PHI 1395 -0.5 19.0 -0.2 18.4 19.3
Chase Utley (’05) PHI 1195 -0.6 16.9 -0.6 15.7 17.4
Brandon Phillips (’07) CIN 1371 1.2 12.1 3.2 16.5 17.2
Chase Utley (’07) PHI 1167 -1.5 12.8 1.3 12.6 14.9
Luis Castillo (’05) FLA 1012 2.0 5.9 2.6 10.5 13.7
Brandon Phillips (’08) CIN 1237 -0.8 9.7 3.3 12.2 13.0
Chase Utley (’09) PHI 1357 0.1 10.9 0.2 11.2 12.2
Mark Grudzielanek (’05) STL 1158 2.8 2.0 4.3 9.0 9.2
Craig Counsell (’05) ARI 1244 -1.2 4.9 3.9 7.6 8.4
Chase Utley (’06) PHI 1367 1.4 7.6 -1.9 7.1 7.6

Glossary: DPR – Double Play Runs; RngR – Range Runs; ErrR – Error Runs

Single-season UZR isn’t totally reliable, but even if we go over the past three calendar years, Utley is still far and away the best defender at second base in baseball.

Name Team Innings DPR RngR ErrR UZR UZR/150
Chase Utley PHI 3339 0.6 37.3 -1.2 37.0 16.4
Mark Ellis OAK 2213 1.4 9.7 5.2 16.0 10.3
Dustin Pedroia BOS 3370 4.1 14.3 4.8 23.0 9.6
Brandon Phillips CIN 3208 -0.6 10.7 8.4 19.0 7.8
Placido Polanco – – – 2510 -2.4 8.4 7.2 13.0 7.4
Freddy Sanchez – – – 2361 -1.1 2.3 7.7 8.9 5.6
Ian Kinsler TEX 2750 2.2 10.6 -5.6 7.2 3.1

Utley has been the best defender at second base in four out of five seasons from ’05-09. That means he should have four Gold Glove awards, right? Wrong. The award was won by Luis Castillo in ’05; Orlando Hudson in ’06 and ’07; Brandon Phillips in ’08; and Hudson again in ’09. We are, after all, talking about an award that was given to Rafael Palmeiro in 1999 when he logged 28 games at first base and 135 games as a designated hitter. There is a long, frustrating history of the Gold Glove award being assigned based on reputation and, even worse, hitting prowess.

Could this be the year Utley finally wins a Gold Glove? There is no doubting that he deserves it as he once again leads the National League in UZR/150.

Numbers accurate prior to games on Friday, June 20 (when this article was written).

Name Team Innings DPR RngR ErrR UZR UZR/150
Chase Utley PHI 587 1.0 7.4 -1.2 7.2 17.8
David Eckstein SDP 561 0.2 2.8 3.3 6.2 16.2
Brandon Phillips CIN 638 0.0 -0.1 2.4 2.3 5.1
Martin Prado ATL 590 -0.8 -0.4 1.9 0.7 3.1
Dan Uggla FLA 627 -0.9 0.4 0.1 -0.3 0.5
Kelly Johnson ARI 575 -0.7 -0.1 0.5 -0.3 0.2

Appropriate sample size caveats apply, as usual. Given that Eckstein doesn’t have a history of being a plus-defender whether at second base (a relatively new position for him) or shortstop, it seems reasonable to expect him to drop off as the season progresses. On the other hand, given Utley’s extensive history of well above-average defense, it is not unreasonable to expect him to finish at or near his current 17.8 UZR/150.

The best we can do is close our eyes, cross our fingers, and hope that Utley gets his due accolades.

Olney: Howard, Not Utley, Is Irreplaceable

If you have Insider access at, you can see Buster Olney’s list of baseball’s most irreplaceable players. Standard list of a bunch of great players: Albert Pujols, Ubaldo Jimenez, Evan Longoria, etc. But what grabbed my attention was Olney’s nominee for the Phillies’ irreplaceable player: Ryan Howard. I’ve railed on Howard before, particularly because he was the beneficiary of a ludicrous $125 million contract extension, but there is no doubting that he currently provides a lot of value.

However, there is just no replacing Chase Utley no matter how you slice it. Howard plays a non-premium position; Utley plays a premium position. Howard plays average defense; Utley has been the best defensive second baseman since 2005 (I will go into detail on that tomorrow). Even offensively, Utley has been better than Howard dating back to 2007.

Don’t take my word for it though, check out the data from FanGraphs.

Click the image to view a larger version.

Weighted on-base average (wOBA):

Wins Above Replacement (WAR):

Even going forward, Utley projects as the far superior player. Using the tenyear PECOTA forecasts (using WARP; essentially WAR with an extra letter) from Baseball Prospectus:

A reasonable argument could be made that Utley is one of the three most valuable players in all of baseball. Meanwhile, you would be hard-pressed to successfully argue that Howard belongs in the top-30. Needless to say, I respectfully disagree with Olney’s nominee and I think this once again proves that Utley is still somehow one of baseball’s chronically underrated players.

Blue Jays Series Preview: Ian Hunter

I swear I wasn’t stalking Zoo With Roy while he answered questions for Ian Hunter of the blog Blue Jay Hunter. Turns out ZWR and I were targeting the same prey as I wanted to get Ian’s thoughts on the series as well. You can check out ZWR’s thoughts at BJH by clicking here and Ian’s other (read: inferior) thoughts by clicking here. Is this confusing? Are we going to end up on Jerry Springer? Anyway, here’s my Q&A with Ian:

. . .

1. The Phillies get three extra home games at the expense of the Blue Jays. Where do you stand on this — fair or unfair?

As much as I would have loved to see Roy Halladay back in Toronto tonight, I completely understand why the series was moved to Philadelphia. The G20 Summit is turning the city of Toronto into a near lock-down state, so can you imagine trying to get to the ballpark through that kind of security? It’s funny because technically the Phillies have the edge in this series even though they’re the “visitors”, but it will be American League rules.

2. What turned the Jays into a home run hitting team? Was there an organizational change in hitting philosophy?

There was a changing of the guard at the end of the season and the previous hitting coach Gene Tenace was let go making way for Dwayne Murphy. Along with manager Cito Gaston, they seem to be preaching the “grip it and rip it” philosophy, which probably has to do in large part to the surplus of home runs the Blue Jays are hitting.

It seems like the Jays have been very aggressive early in the count, which has paid dividends for them early in the season. Now it appears that opposing pitchers have caught on to this philosophy and have adapted to throw off-speed pitches early in the count rather than fastballs.

3. Aaron Hill and Adam Lind were two of the Jays’ most reliable hitters last year, but have seemingly been the only two absent from the hit parades. Are you worried about those two, or do you think they will come around eventually?

I think the consensus is both guys will eventually turn things around. The causes for their power outages are a bit baffling, however Aaron Hill has been looking much better in the month of June, but his batting average is still below the Mendoza Line. There is a bit of concern with Adam Lind, since last season he was killing over the entire ballpark.

4. With a rotation led by Ricky Romero and Shaun Marcum, it seems like the Jays have gotten over the loss of Roy Halladay quickly. As a fan, what is it like now without Halladay’s pitching every fifth day?

Prior to Halladay’s departure, every game he would start was like a blockbuster event for me. I always made sure I was watching the game because you never knew if you would be witnessing history. It’s weird to not have him around, but surprisingly the starting pitchers have fared pretty well without Roy Halladay, so that definitely helps cushion the blow of losing a Cy Young award winner like that.

5. Kevin Gregg has struggled as of late, with an 8.10 ERA in his last seven appearances. Do you see the Jays trading for relief help by the July 31 trading deadline?

Actually, I would be surprised if the opposite happens: if the Blue Jays trade away relief pitchers. I think the Blue Jays picked up Kevin Gregg in hopes he would build some value and the Jays could trade him at the deadline. Although he’s second in the AL in saves with 18, but it comes along with that bloated 4.20 ERA you mentioned.

6. Fred Lewis was a sly early-season pick-up by the Jays, currently sitting with an .801 OPS. He will go into arbitration for the first time after the season. Does he figure into the Jays’ long-term plans?

That’s a tough one to say: Fred Lewis has very quickly become a staple in the Blue Jays lineup and has settled into the lead off role very nicely. I believe he’s under 3 years of major league service time, so Fred Lewis definitely fits into the short to mid-term plans for the Blue Jays.

7. Brandon Morrow has pitched very well out of the starting rotation as of late. Is he simply a stopgap destined for the bullpen, or is this going to be a permanent spot for him?

He’ll definitely stay in the starting rotation. One thing the Blue Jays promised Morrow once he arrived in Toronto was a spot as a starter. You can tell he felt the ill effects from bouncing between the bullpen in the rotation in Seattle, and now Morrow has started to put forth solid outings as the Blue Jays #3 starter.

8. It seems that now more than ever before, complaints about division and schedule inequality have risen due to the Jays being in fourth place despite being four games above .500. As a Jays fan, would you prefer changes made to balance the divisions and the schedules?

I don’t expect any division realignments to happen anytime soon, however the Blue Jays would certainly benefit from a balanced schedule. They face the Red Sox and the Yankees each 18 times this season, and the sheer amount of those inter-divisional games go a long way to determining who makes the playoffs.

BONUS: How do you see this Jays-Phillies series unfolding? The match-ups are: Halladay-Litsch, Hamels-Marcum, and Moyer/Cecil.

Overall, it should be a very well-pitched series all around. The Phillies will have to tangle with two of the Blue Jays three best starters in Marcum and Cecil, but they are fortunate to miss Ricky Romero. Obviously, the big ticket will be tonight with Halladay pitching against the Jays, and I hope he doesn’t make his former teammates look too silly.

Keep your eyes on the Marcum/Hamels matchup on Saturday, as I suspect that one to be a great pitcher’s duel considering Hamels performed fairly well against the Jays in Interleague play last season. If history serves itself, we’re probably due for a slugfest on Sunday between Moyer and Cecil to make up for all the lack of offense we might see (or not see) on Friday and Saturday).

. . .

Many thanks to Ian for sharing some insight on our neighbors to the north as this wacky series unfolds. It will be odd seeing the ‘home’ team wearing road grays.

Contest: We Have A Winner!

Back on June 14, Lee Panas was kind enough to offer a copy of his book Beyond Batting Average to the winner of a contest of my choosing. Given the Phillies’ offensive woes, I chose to base the contest around a prediction of the offense over the next six games.

The winner is David who got in the last of 21 entries. Clutch!

The Phillies scored 36 runs over those six games (the consensus guessed 28 runs). The tie-breaker questions were not needed, but here are the results anyway:

  • Ryan Howard home runs: 4
    • 2 correct guesses (9.5%)
    • consensus guessed 2 HR
  • Wilson Valdez ground ball double plays: 1
    • 6 correct guesses (29%)
    • consensus guessed 1 GIDP
  • Raul Ibanez slugging percentage: .401
    • 0 correct guesses
    • consensus guessed .413 SLG
  • Greg Dobbs pinch-hits: 0
    • 14 correct guesses (67%)
    • consensus guessed 0 PH
  • Chase Utley extra-base hits: 3
    • 5 correct guesses (24%)
    • consensus guessed 4 XBH

You can still preview and order Lee’s book — both as a downloadable file and as a tangible book — by clicking here.

Filling Out My All-Star Ballot

With July 13 quickly approaching, members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance are filling out their All-Star ballots. Here are my picks.

National League

Catcher: Miguel Olivo, Colorado Rockies

Going into 2010, Olivo’s career-high in on-base percentage was .263, set in ’06 with the Florida Marlins. His OBP currently sits at .368 and his SLG is also at a career-high .529. His BABIP is about 75 points above his career average but his success isn’t simply luck. He has somehow learned plate discipline as his walk rate of 9.3 percent is more than double his career average of 4.1 percent. Additionally, his ISO is actually lower than it was last year thanks to a 21.8 percent line drive rate, his highest since ’03.

Olivo has also been a defensive stalwart, nailing a whopping 53 percent of base-stealers. The only catcher in Olivo’s statosphere in this area is Yadier Molina, who has caught 51.5 percent.

Back-ups: Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves; Geovany Soto, Chicago Cubs

First Base: Adrian Gonzalez, San Diego Padres

Both Gonzalez and Albert Pujols have an incredible .404 wOBA, but I am going with Gonzalez because he needs some publicity and he has meant more to the Padres than Pujols has to his St. Louis Cardinals. Gonzalez’s 3.2 WAR makes up 29 percent of the Padres’ 11.0 WAR while Pujols’ 2.4 WAR makes up 20.7 percent of the Cardinals’ 11.6 WAR. Gonzalez has more WAR than Pujols due to better defense, but 600 defensive innings isn’t a big sample size for UZR.

Back-ups: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals; Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

Second Base: Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies

Despite his prolonged slump, Utley still sits atop the WAR leaderboard for second basemen thanks to defense that rarely if ever slumps. FanGraphs credits him with 7.2 defensive runs. Only two other fielders come close to him: David Eckstein and Jeff Baker, and both have hurt their teams offensively. Utley’s .378 wOBA is second only to Kelly Johnson of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Few players not only at second base but at any position can combine elite offense with elite defense. Utley is one of those rare players.

Back-ups: Martin Prado, Atlanta Braves; Kelly Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks

Third Base: Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals

Zim is a lot like Utley at third base: he is an elite offensive threat and he can absolutely pick it at the hot corner. He is far and away the best defender at third base this year according to UZR (small sample size caveat). That is not a fluke as he led qualified third basemen in UZR last year, and come in second in 2008 and ’07 (trailing Pedro Feliz both years). His .383 wOBA is second-best among third basemen behind Scott Rolen‘s .392.

Back-ups: Scott Rolen, Cincinnati Reds; David Wright, New York Mets

Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies (replaced by Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins)

Before getting hit with a pitch that broke his wrist, Tulowitzki had rebounded well from a rough start to the 2010 season. Through his first 38 games, he had hit only one home run and compiled a meager .766 OPS. Between May 20 and June 17, Tulo hit eight homers and his OPS was a sky-high 1.059. He had even swiped four bases in four attempts. Along with his offense, Tulo played above-average defense which helped him climb to the top of the WAR leaderboard for shortstops, even ahead of Hanley Ramirez.

Due to the wrist injury, Tulowitzki will not be able to participate in the All-Star Game festivities, so Han-Ram will take his place.

Back-ups: Juan Uribe, San Francisco Giants; Rafael Furcal, Los Angeles Dodgers

Outfield: Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals; Marlon Byrd, Chicago Cubs; Andres Torres, San Francisco Giants

Holliday has been part of a very productive Cardinal outfield that includes Ryan Ludwick and Colby Rasmus. He is second among qualified National League outfielders in WAR and his .382 wOBA is excellent. Along with his bat, he brings a hint of speed (six stolen bases in seven attempts) and above-average defense.

Marlon Byrd is having by far the best season of his career. Through 69 games, he is on pace for a 6 WAR season and he may have hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo to thank. Byrd worked with Jaramillo when he was with the Texas Rangers from 2007-09 and they reunited in Chicago this season. Between 2002 and ’06, Byrd compiled only one good offensive season thanks in large part to a .360 BABIP. In his three years with the Rangers, Byrd hit 40 home runs and his isolated power jumped to career highs. And, like Holliday, Byrd plays great defense to add to his offensive potency.

Andres Torres may have figured this baseball thing out. Between 1998-2009, Torres racked up nearly 4,400 plate appearances in the Minor Leagues, spending time with affiliates of the Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, the Tigers again, the Chicago Cubs and finally the San Francisco Giants. He was called up several times between ’02-05 but was never able to accomplish much. The Giants gave him a shot last year and he made the most of it, hitting for a .379 wOBA and playing great defense in the outfield. He has repeated that in ’10 with the same exact wOBA and similarly great defense.

Back-ups: Ryan Ludwick, St. Louis Cardinals; Angel Pagan, New York Mets; Josh Willingham, Washington Nationals; Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

Starting Pitcher: Ubaldo Jimenez, Colorado Rockies

Is there any other choice? Despite trailing Roy Halladay and others in ERA retrodictors like xFIP and SIERA, there is no denying Jimenez’s dominance over the first half of the baseball season. Even those of us who use Sabermetrics stand in awe of his 13-1 record and 1.15 ERA through 14 starts.

Back-ups: Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies; Josh Johnson, Florida Marlins; Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals; Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants; Jaime Garcia, St. Louis Cardinals; Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals

Closer: Jonathan Broxton, Los Angeles Dodgers

Broxton has a Cliff Lee-esque 14-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He is averaging one and a half strikeouts per inning and fewer than one walk per nine innings. He has a 0.92 ERA and has converted 15 consecutive saves. There are no closers in baseball that have approached Broxton’s level of dominance.

Back-ups: Billy Wagner, Atlanta Braves; Luke Gregerson, San Diego Padres; Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs; Arthur Rhodes; Cincinnati Reds

Representative count: Astros (0); Braves (3); Brewers (0); Cardinals (5); Cubs (3); Diamondbacks (1); Dodgers (2); Giants (3); Marlins (1); Mets (2); Nationals (3); Padres (2); Phillies (2); Pirates (1); Reds (3); Rockies (3)

American League

Catcher: Jorge Posada, New York Yankees

He turns 39 in mid-August but he looks like he has at least ten more years left the way he has been hitting. Posada’s .411 wOBA is eight-best in the American League and best among catchers. He does not thwart the running game well, but none of his competitors are much better — certainly not enough to close the chasm in offense between Posada and the rest.

Back-ups: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins; Victor Martinez, Boston Red Sox

First Base: Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins

Not only has Morneau been by far the best hitter at first base, but he has also been the best fielder. His .452 wOBA is exquisite and his 18.4 UZR/150 is to die for. He has been as valuable as Miguel Cabrera (2.6 WAR) and Paul Konerko (1.7 WAR) combined.

Back-ups: Kevin Youkilis, Boston Red Sox; Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

Second Base: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees

Who else could it have been? 4.4 WAR, .436 wOBA, and a 10.1 UZR/150. No one else comes close to Cano.

Back-ups: Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox; Orlando Hudson, Minnesota Twins

Third Base: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays

Finally, a close race. It was a toss-up between Longoria and Adrian Beltre. Beltre does not have quite the offensive numbers as Longoria (trails by .010 in wOBA) but has played better defense according to the metrics on FanGraphs (12.9 to 2.2 in UZR/150). Given the uncertainty surrounding defensive data in small sample sizes, the edge went to Longoria.

Back-ups: Adrian Beltre, Boston Red Sox; Michael Young, Texas Rangers

Shortstop: Alex Gonzalez, Toronto Blue Jays

Shortstop in the American League is a very shallow position. Alex Gonzalez leads the pack with a “meh” .347 wOBA.

Back-ups: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees; Marco Scutaro, Boston Red Sox

Outfield: Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay Rays; Alex Rios, Chicago White Sox; Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers

Crawford, with free agency in sight, is having a career year. His on-base and slugging percentages (and subsequently wOBA) are at career highs and he may even shatter his career best in stolen bases set last year (60). Add in his normally excellent defense and you have a hell of a player ready to collect an eight-figure contract during the off-season.

Think the Blue Jays gave up too early on Alex Rios? Like Crawford, he is setting career highs in OBP, SLG, wOBA, and potentially stolen bases as well. He has also played above-average defense and as such will likely set a new high in WAR as well.

Welcome back, Josh Hamilton. He struggled last year with injuries but has rebounded nicely in 2010. His .600 SLG is impressive and is also on pace to set some career highs in HR, SLG, wOBA, and WAR so long as he stays healthy.

Back-ups: Vernon Wells, Toronto Blue Jays; Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners; Magglio Ordonez, Detroit Tigers; Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland Indians; Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays

Starting Pitcher: Cliff Lee, Seattle Mariners

Lee barely edged out Francisco Liriano of the Minnesota Twins. His ERA is about a half-run better despite having a nearly identical SIERA (2.94 to 2.95). Along with three complete games and one shut-out, Lee’s strikeout-to-walk ratio is a godly 17-to-1.

Back-ups: Francisco Liriano, Minnesota Twins; Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim; Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox; Ricky Romero, Toronto Blue Jays; Colby Lewis, Texas Rangers

Closer: Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees

Who else?

Back-ups: Rafael Soriano, Tampa Bay Rays; Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers; Andrew Bailey, Oakland Athletics; Jose Valverde, Detroit Tigers

Representative count: Angels (1); Athletics (1); Blue Jays (3); Indians (1); Mariners (2); Orioles (0); Rangers (4); Rays (4); Red Sox (6); Royals (0); Tigers (3); Twins (4); White Sox (1); Yankees (4)

Of the 34 All-Stars, 17 come from the AL East. No surprise, since that division is home to the top-three best teams in the league.

Feel free to comment below with your All-Star rosters or your thoughts on my rosters.

Time to Cut Danys Baez

I could simply post this chart as evidence enough that Danys Baez isn’t fit to handle high-leverage innings anymore.

You are not mis-reading the chart: Baez’s strikeout rate has been in solid decline since 2003. Surprisingly, it has little to do with the Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss all of the 2008 season as his punch-outs had, obviously, fallen for four straight years.

Throughout his career, he showed average to slightly above-average control with an aggregate 3.2 BB/9 between 2003-06. In ’07, his walk rate ballooned to 5.2 per nine and he missed a combined 42 days due to right forearm tendinitis and a sprained UCL in his right elbow, which eventually forced Baez to go under the knife. Baez returned in ’09 with the Orioles and regained his control, averaging 2.8 walks per nine. He finished the season completely healthy with a 4.02 ERA and walked into free agency.

Baez was snapped up by GM Ruben Amaro and agreed to terms with the Phillies for two years and $5.25 million. The transaction was not received well with most Phillies fans because he was a 32-year-old with an injury history and a rather unimpressive resume.

The skeptics have been proven right as Baez has seen his strikeout rate continue its descent and his walk rate has ballooned to match his strikeout rate, both at 4.8 per nine. Of 248 pitchers who have pitched at least 28 innings, Baez ranks 214th with a 5.09 SIERA. To give you an idea of just how bad that is, Joe BlantonJoe Blanton! — has a better SIERA at 4.98. And, as mentioned yesterday, Baez leads the team in “meltdowns” having earned his seventh yesterday when he allowed three runs to the Minnesota Twins in the eleventh inning.

Baez has not been the victim of any bad luck as his BABIP is at a relatively normal .289, his strand rate is at the average 70 percent, and his HR/FB rate is at 13.3%, about the same level it has been since 2007.

There is no reason to think that Baez will improve as the season progresses. Relievers who strike out hitters at a Jamie Moyer rate tend to fail quite impressively. The Phillies’ best bet is to eat the remainder of Baez’s contract and offer him to another team for a box of Rice-A-Roni, then give his vacant bullpen spot to Scott Mathieson, the subject of a confusing roster maneuver that left most of Philadelphia befuddled yesterday.

The New York Mets have kicked Mike Jacobs, Frank Catalanotto, and Gary Matthews Jr. from their roster. The Mets aren’t the only team capable of ridding themselves of unproductive players… are they?

Enter Offense; Exeunt Bullpen

Great timing, guys. I don’t think I could have timed it better myself. Wait three weeks for the offense to re-emerge while the pitching staff pitches mostly lights-out, then once the offense busts through the front door, the bullpen runs out the back and leaps out of a fifth-story window.

The win probability graph to the right (via FanGraphs) says it all. After Cole Hamels allowed three runs in the first inning (BABIP!) to start this afternoon’s ballgame against the Minnesota Twins, the Phillies had a 27.5 percent chance to win. That percentage moved all the way up to 93 percent after Raul Ibanez led off the bottom of the third inning with a solo home run to bring the score to 8-3. The Phillies looked like they had this game in the bag, but then they handed the game over to the bullpen.

It was 9-4 when Jose Contreras toed the rubber to start the top of the ninth inning. That’s fine. Teams in the exact same position — up by five runs with three outs to go — won 98.5 percent of the time. With the Phillies’ bullpen having pitched well through 65 games, it felt like the Phillies had a 100 percent chance to win.

The Twins rallied. Delmon Young singled and Jim Thome homered, bringing the score up to 9-6 and the Phillies’ chances down to 96.4 percent. That’s fine; the cat’s still in the bag. Contreras would walk Nick Punto before Brad Lidge would be called upon for three outs, a task he had handled rather well in 2010 after a nightmarish ’09. With Punto on third base and one out, Denard Span hit a line drive back through the middle. 9-7, 91 percent. That’s fine. Lidge rebounded and struck out Orlando Hudson. 96 percent. As Conan O’Brien would say, “Keep cool my babies.”

Last year’s American League Most Valuable Player award winner Joe Mauer represented the last of the Twins’ hopes to win the game. 96 times out of 100, teams down by two runs with two outs and a runner on second lost the game. And the Twins got their winning lottery ticket in the form of a Joe Mauer two-out ninth inning game-tying home run.

That’s fine. The Phillies get another at-bat and the top of the order is batting. Surely, they could scratch and claw for one more run after scoring nine. After Shane Victorino struck out, Placido Polanco and Chase Utley laced back-to-back singles. Prior to the Phillies’ offensive surge, singles accounted for over 70 percent of Ryan Howard‘s hits. If ever there was a time for a single, it was then. But Howard, having hit three home runs in his last two games, tried to plate three runs instead of one and struck out. Jayson Werth would follow suit, watching strike three dive across the plate for the final out. That’s fine. Hold ’em scoreless and win it in the 11th inning.

Charlie Manuel called upon Chad Durbin to pitch the tenth inning. That’s fine. Durbin has pitched well this year, rediscovering his control from 2008 that eluded him last year. He had a 3.06 ERA entering the game. After Contreras, he was the Phillies’ most reliable relief pitcher. Durbin’s first challenger was Drew Butera, a rookie with a .375 OPS in 42 plate appearances. In the Minor Leagues, he had a career .613 OPS and 21 home runs in 1,630 plate appearances. In a game full of statistical improbabilities, you can guess what happened. Butera hit a home run to put the Twins ahead 10-9. Durbin would continue to make Phillies fans squirm in their seats as he allowed two hits after getting two outs.

The score would have been 11-9 if not for an exquisite display of defense from Utley. With runners on first and second and two outs, Denard Span hit a grounder up the middle, seemingly destined for center field. Reminiscent of Game 5 of the 2008 World Series, Utley corralled the ball and threw home as Nick Punto (playing the part of Jason Bartlett) was tagged out. If the Phillies ended up winning, Durbin was treating Utley to a lavish steak dinner.

Leading off the bottom of the tenth for the Phillies was fan favorite Greg Dobbs. In what can only be described as a “professional at-bat”, Dobbs swung at the first pitch from Twins closer Jon Rauch, popping it up towards the visitors’ dugout. Mauer reached out and snagged it. One pitch, one out. Great plate discipline, Dobbs. Brian Schneider rolled over on a Rauch change-up, grounding out to first baseman Justin Morneau for the second out. At that point — down by one run, two outs, no one on base — teams lose 95 percent of the time. Ross Gload, however, played the role of hero and tied the game up with a line drive home run down the right field line. 10-all; the Phillies were back in this.

If asked to scan a list of the Phillies’ bullpen arms and rank them according to skill level, Danys Baez will always come out last. There is absolutely nothing to like about him unless you are easily excited by flat 94 MPH fastballs. His strikeout rate is just barely higher than Jamie Moyer‘s and his walk rate is nearly as high as his strikeout rate. And yet, there he was in the tenth inning beholden to prevent runs from scoring. Notice that is “runs” pluralized. While allowing one run is bad enough, the Phillies are capable of catching up as they did in the tenth inning. Baez, with a team-leading six “meltdowns” entering the game, would allow three runs.

Baez struck out Hudson to start the inning, but showed trepidation with Mauer before walking him. With a runner on first base (first base!), Justin Morneau was intentionally walked to bring up Jon Rauch. Rauch was not going to be pinch-hit for because the Twins were out of bench players. So with runners on first and second and one out, Rauch did what any pitcher is asked to do: he successfully bunted the runners over. With runners on second and third and two outs, the next two hitters due up were Delmon Young and Matt Tolbert. Young came into the game with an .838 OPS that included a near-.500 SLG and .302 batting average. Tolbert came into the game with a  .586 OPS and a .214 batting average, neither number too far away from his career average.

The smart baseball mind notices that, with first base open, Young — the clearly superior hitter — can be intentionally walked not only to bring up Tolbert, but to create a force play at every base. According to the run expectancy matrix from Baseball Prospectus, runners on second and third with two outs yields 0.59 runs on average while the bases loaded with two outs yields 0.85. That is not too high a jump considering that for the runner on first — Young, not a fleet runner — to score, Tolbert would have to get an extra-base hit. With a career .334 SLG, only 21 of his career 87 hits (24 percent) went for extra bases.

Instead, Manuel chose to let Baez pitch to Young. The Phillies paid for it as Young laced a grounder through the hole between third base and shortstop, snagged by Wilson Valdez but far too late for any out to be recorded. If the bases had been loaded and the ball was hit in the same spot, Valdez could have gone to second for an easy force out. Instead, the Twins took the 11-10 lead and Tolbert came to the plate and put the game away, driving two runs with a weakly-hit line drive to left field. The probability of winning went back below five percent. The Phillies were unable to rally once again, losing in embarrassing fashion. Once up 9-4 with three outs to go, they had lost 13-10.

Four Phillies relievers earned “meltdowns” (WPA of -.06 or lower):

Going into this afternoon’s game, the most meltdowns in one game by the Phillies’ bullpen was two, occurring three times: April 15 (Ryan Madson and Baez), April 20 (Madson and Contreras), and April 25 (David Herndon and Baez). And of the 1,009 Major League Baseball games played this year going into games on June 19, in only three of them (0.3 percent) did four relievers earn meltdowns:

If Phillies fans wanted to pull a Ray Finkle, they wouldn’t know which reliever’s name to scribble on the wall.

Because It Needs to be Said

Scott Mathieson made his return to the Major Leagues tonight against the Minnesota Twins. It did not go well. He allowed two runs on three hits and only recorded two outs. Based on that, one is bound to conclude that Mathieson struggled but that was not the case.

Delmon Young was Mathieson’s first obstacle. The right-hander got ahead 1-2 then tossed a fastball about a foot off the plate, hoping to induce a defensive swing, but Young laid off. On the next pitch Young grounded a low and inside fastball into the hole between third base and shortstop. Placido Polanco got leather on it but was not able to corral the ball allowing Young to reach safely with a single.

Mathieson got ahead of Nick Punto 0-2, then threw two high-and-away fastballs for balls one and two, an attempt to get Punto to fish and either swing and miss or pop the ball up. On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Mathieson finally broke out a breaking ball. The curveball was down the middle but below the knees. Punto took a very defensive swing and was able to weakly ground the ball into right field for a single.

Danny Valencia, with runners on first and second and no outs, got ahead 2-0 but weakly fouled out to catcher Brian Schneider for the first out.

Denard Span worked the count 1-1 before hitting a line drive back up the middle, loading the bases with one out.

Orlando Hudson was Mathieson’s final batter. Perhaps nervous, Mathieson’s first pitch was a fastball in the dirt that skipped away, allowing a run to score and two base runners to advance. He rebounded and got ahead in the count 1-2, breaking out the change-up for a called strike two on the third pitch. He attempted to get Hudson fishing with a rising fastball but to no avail. Finally, he came back with a fastball which Hudson grounded to shortstop Wilson Valdez for the second out, allowing another run to score.

The tally? Three ground balls, a weak foul pop-up, and a line drive. All in all, I’d say Mathieson performed just fine.

Another complaint I expect to hear is that Mathieson is a one-trick pony, as 19 of his 22 pitches were fastballs. However, that is likely not to be the case going forward. When Mathieson came in, the score was 9-3 so the modus operandi is simply to throw strikes and get the game over with as soon as possible. Additionally, the kid was making his first Major League appearance since September of 2006. The orders were, likely, to simply pump fastballs to get his feet wet. Mathieson did each of his other pitches exactly once: his change-up, slider, and curve. So it was more of a trial run than anything.

His fastball looked good, maxing out at 99 MPH and averaging 96 MPH. I liked his use of the high fastball to induce bad swings. Unfortunately, the Twins are third in the American League in walks, so their ability to lay off of those high fastballs is to be commended.

I thought Mathieson pitched well despite the box score. If you tell me ahead of time that a pitcher will face five batters, inducing three ground balls and an infield pop-up, I’ll tell you that the pitcher should enjoy a lot of success.

Why Roy Halladay Will Not Win the Cy Young

Over the past few days, “Ubaldo Jimenez has been lucky” articles have been making the rounds. Matt Swartz penned a great one at Baseball Prospectus. Jack Moore of FanGraphs and Disciples of Uecker called one of Jimenez’s starts “unimpressive”. Joe Sheehan included Jimenez in a list of lucky pitchers in an article for Sports Illustrated.

Yeah, that .239 BABIP doesn’t have staying power, nor does his stranding of over 91 percent of base runners. Neither does the HR/FB rate at 3.8 percent — pitching his home games at Coors Field, no less. If I’m a betting man, I’m with Swartz and Moore and Sheehan — I’m betting on Jimenez regressing to that mean.

Still, Jimenez finds himself in waters charted rarely throughout baseball history. Including Jimenez, only four pitchers since 1980 won 13 games in their teams’ first 66 games according to Baseball Reference.

This is a Phillies blog, so why am I wasting so much time praising Jimenez? In mid-February, I wrote that Roy Halladay has a strong case as a Hall of Famer and that would only be helped by adding some more hardware to his mantle, be it a World Series trophy or MVP award, or a Cy Young award. Halladay, with a 2.36 ERA, has five complete games and three shut-outs including a perfect game to his credit in 2010. He is expected to be a heavy contender for the NL Cy Young award, awarded during the off-season. No other pitcher in baseball has compiled more Wins Above Replacement (WAR) than Halladay. Not even Jimenez.

I don’t write this to say that Jimenez is going to impede Halladay’s progress as a Hall of Famer — that would be ridiculous — but to highlight the one clear and present threat to some end-of-season hardware for Doc. We all want Doc to get his mitts on that hardware, right?

Jimenez currently has a 1.15 ERA and is on pace to accrue 248 and one-third innings by season’s end. That means he is on pace to hurl another 147 and one-third innings. In order for his ERA to cross the 2.00 threshold, Jimenez would have to allow 43 runs over those 147.3 innings (2.63 ERA). To cross the 3.00 threshold, Jimenez would have to allow 70 runs (4.27 ERA).

Halladay currently has a 2.36 ERA and is on pace to accrue 271 innings by season’s end, meaning he is on pace to hurl another 164 innings. Let’s say Jimenez finishes with a 2.00 ERA. Halladay would have to allow 32 runs in his next 164 innings (1.76 ERA) to match Jimenez. If Jimenez finishes at 3.00, Halladay would have to allow 62 runs in 164 innings (3.41 ERA) to match him.

By Sabermetric accounts, Halladay has thus far been the better pitcher. His 3.04 SIERA is vastly superior to Jimenez’s 3.47. Of course, we know that these awards are not dictated by Sabermetric merits but by the Baseball Writer’s Association of America who are tickled pink by won-lost records and earned run average. With Jimenez at 13-1 and Halladay at 8-5, if Doc wants to win the NL Cy Young award, not only is he going to have to pitch lights-out baseball (and that is certainly not an impossible task given his pedigree) but he is going to have to hope Jimenez falls off the proverbial cliff.