Phillies Acquire Roy Oswalt

The Phillies finally have acquired Roy Oswalt from the Houston Astros, a much-ballyhooed rumor now blossomed into a reality. Let’s start with analysis of the tenured right-hander himself.

Oswalt, generously listed at 6’0″ on his Baseball Reference page, has finished in the top-five in National League Cy Young award voting five times in ten seasons. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in 2001 and is a three-time All-Star. He is definitely well-respected in mainstream circles. How does he rate with the Sabermetrics?

Over his career, he has an above average strikeout rate at 7.4 per nine and a below average walk rate at 2.1 per nine. His career 3.57 xFIP is a bit higher than his 3.24 ERA; both are extremely good numbers. His 3.34 SIERA this year is ninth-best in baseball and fourth-best in the National League (fifth-best if you include Dan Haren).

According to the pitch type linear weights found on FanGraphs, Oswalt’s curve ball ranks eighth-best in the Majors this year, slightly ahead of those thrown by Roy Halladay and Brett Myers. His fastball averages 93 MPH, a full MPH higher than the average Cole Hamels fastball.

There were concerns that Oswalt was hitting the skids after a disappointing 2009 in which he posted a 4.12 ERA, the fourth straight year his ERA had increased. Additionally, he induced fewer ground balls — his GB% was at its lowest since 2004. And while he was not a frequent addition to the disabled list, he always seemed to have some kind of ailment nagging him. Last year, he dealt with lower back and pitching hand issues. The back issues have persisted, but thanks to cortisone shots Oswalt has not missed a start this season.

In acquiring Oswalt from the Astros, the Phillies will give up J.A. Happ, Anthony Gose, and Jonathan Villar.

Happ is not exactly a favorite around these parts:

He will never be the same pitcher he was last year. He is not a maven of control, he is not able to miss bats on a frequent basis, and he has no special batted ball abilities. He is simply mundane. Happ pitches like a 4.50 ERA pitcher and that is what should be expected. His 2009 was a complete and utter fluke.

Gose is a 19-year-old center fielder that spent the entirety of this season in Clearwater where he hit .263 with a combined 28 doubles and triples in 418 at-bats. For someone of his age at his level, his 7% walk rate is fine but his 25% strikeout rate will need to come down for his bat and speed to be of any significant value. Jim Callis of Baseball America described him as a “raw tools guy” in a recent tweet.

Villar is also a 19-year-old, a shortstop who could be found in Lakewood. He has good speed and a plus-glove by all accounts, but has not yet developed the requisite bat. He is on a slightly faster track than Freddy Galvis, another light-hitting, slick-fielding shortstop currently with Reading. Given that the Phillies picked up Jimmy Rollins‘ option for next year and are likely to sign him to an extension beyond that, losing Villar is not a big deal especially with an insurance policy in Galvis.

The Phillies absolutely 100% swindled Astros GM Ed Wade. Not only did the Phillies give up no one of any real significance, but they also received $11 million along with their new #1-b pitcher. This trade will set the Astros back and will set the Phillies up for another run at the post-season in which they hope to become the first National League team since the 1942-44 St. Louis Cardinals to appear in three consecutive World Series. As much as GM Ruben Amaro has been criticized, he deserves some praise for this highway robbery.

For No Particular Reason

“For no particular reason” — other than to put another notch in the CG column on Roy Halladay‘s Baseball Reference page — describes Charlie Manuel’s use of the star pitcher last night. The Phillies defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks easily by a 7-1 margin in Domonic Brown‘s Major League debut. Everybody’s buzzing, but there was also some grumbling going into and through the top of the ninth inning last night. Everyone seemed to be in agreement that there was no reason for Halladay to be on the mound at that point. To quote Corey Seidman of Phillies Nation on Twitter, “Does Halladay really need a shutout here? Been dominant, 104 pitches, no need to make it 116-120. Bring in [Danys] Baez or [David Herndon].”

It is not the first time Manuel has foolishly and rather unnecessarily left his starting pitcher in too long. On July 21, Manuel chose to allow Joe Blanton to bat with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the seventh inning in a 1-1 game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Matt Swartz of Baseball Prospectus had a series of tweets detailing the lack of logic behind Manuel’s decision. To quote a selection:

I’m sorry, Blanton is at 74 pitches. It’s bases loaded and two out in the 7th inning. You could have a AA bullpen and you still pinch hit!

Diff in run expectancy is >0.5 runs b/w Blanton hitting and any of their PH. You’d need to think Blanton was a lock to pitch a scoreless 7th

What type of ERA does he think his bullpen should have? Unless it’s 5.00 runs worse than Blanton, you PH.

Let’s go back to May 1 when the New York Mets came in to Philadelphia. The Phillies went up 6-0 in the fourth inning and tacked on two more runs in the fifth and another two in the seventh. Halladay, at the most, should have gone seven innings. Instead, Manuel let him go out for the complete game shut-out. While it’s true that Halladay needed only 18 pitches to complete the eighth and ninth innings, he finished the day with 118 total pitches. It’s not about pitch counts or babying pitchers; it’s about not taking unnecessary risks. There is no reason for Halladay to be out on the mound with 100 pitches thrown in the eighth inning with a 10-0 lead.

A week later on May 7, Jamie Moyer was on the bump with the Atlanta Braves in town. The soft-tossing lefty held the Braves to two hits (both to Troy Glaus) in nine innings of work. It was cool because a 47-year-old threw a CG SHO. In fact, it was cool enough to merit the rare game recap here at Crashburn Alley (used as an excuse to post a movie clip). However, the Phillies were up 7-0 after five innings. After the bottom of the fifth, the Phillies’ probability of winning was 98.4% according to FanGraphs. It was 99.1% after the bottom of the sixth. As cool as a CG SHO by a 47-year-old may be, there is no reason for him to be on the mound after the sixth inning, much less the seventh.

Manuel left Moyer out for all nine innings on June 5 when the Phillies were at home playing the San Diego Padres. The Phillies didn’t have as large a lead as the last time Moyer notched a CG, but they were up 6-2 after five innings. When Moyer handily retired the Padres in order in the bottom of the seventh, their probability of winning was 96.9%. Leaving a pitcher out to complete a CG SHO is one thing — it is at least weakly defensible — but leaving the old man out there for all nine innings having already allowed two runs? Unnecessary, even if his pitch count was only at 98 when the game went final. You have a bullpen for a reason. The bullpen has collectively been league average. Use it.

On June 16, it was the same story with Moyer. The Phillies staked him to a 6-1 lead after three innings and the Yankees could only muster one more run through eight innings against Moyer. He was once again very effective, but he was also left in too long. After Moyer retired the Yankees in order in the bottom of the seventh, the Phillies were 96% favorites. Did the extra inning severely damage Moyer, or lead to the current injury that has him on the disabled list? Probably not, but it is about not taking risks if you don’t have to. The Phillies had a four-run lead after seven innings. Manuel must have thought his bullpen was of the 18.00 ERA variety to choose an eighth inning of Moyer over a fresh arm from the ‘pen.

June 24, the Cleveland Indians come into town against Joe Blanton and the good guys. Phillies bash Fausto Carmona for five runs in the second inning and are ahead 12-2 after six innings. Blanton should have been out after six innings, when the Phillies had a 2.8% chance to lose. Instead, Manuel lets him pitch deep into the eighth inning. Blanton tossed an additional 15 pitches in the seventh and 12 in the eighth when he allowed one run on two hits and recorded two outs before being lifted for Nelson Figueroa. The run was scored on an RBI single by Trevor Crowe, who increased the Indians’ probability of winning from 0.0% to 0.1%. Seriously. That game could have been played out one thousand times after Crowe’s single and the Indians would only be expected to win one of those matches. No reason for Blanton to have tossed the additional inning and two-thirds especially since he missed the first month with an injury.

Jamie Moyer again, June 27. The Phillies were in town to visit the Toronto Blue Jays in Philadelphia (yes, you read that right). Our heroes pounded Brett Cecil and Jason Frasor for an 11-2 lead after seven innings. Moyer took the bump for the seventh inning. Relatively harmless, but it was an additional 20 pitches, or roughly one-fifth of the 104 pitches Moyer threw that afternoon. If you compile all the extra pitches Moyer has thrown unnecessarily, it could add up to another start.

July 3, Kyle Kendrick and the Phillies in Pittsburgh against the Pirates. Kendrick logged his first career complete game, allowing four runs (three earned) on ten hits, two walks, and two home runs. Yeah, he didn’t exactly pitch a gem. The Phillies scored in six of the nine frames, racking up 12 runs including a 10-1 lead after five innings. At that point, the Phillies had a 99.3% chance of winning. After Kendrick’s seventh inning of work, the Phillies were 100% favorites. Kendrick threw 14 pitches in the seventh, 13 in the eighth (allowed one run), and 12 in the ninth (allowed one run). That’s between 25 and 39 unnecessary pitches.

The struggling Colorado Rockies came to town and faced Roy Halladay on July 23. Doc shut them decisively out over eight innings, logging 116 pitches in the process. The Phillies put up a 5-spot in the fifth inning and were more than 97% favorites after six innings. Halladay is super awesome, so putting him back out there for the seventh isn’t egregious, but it also shows that Manuel thinks his bullpen could allow five runs in three innings, equivalent to a 15.00 ERA. What’s more is that the Phillies tacked on their sixth run in the bottom of the eighth. Afterwards, Manuel opted for J.C. Romero in the ninth inning. Why use Halladay in the eighth if you’re not going to use him in the ninth? That doesn’t make much sense.

Those are just the obvious blunders this season. There may have been several that I missed and there are many more if you go back through the game logs from previous years. It’s true that Halladay has a penchant for CG’s and sometimes subsequent SHO’s but they’re just statistics. Managers shouldn’t be making decisions based on compiling numbers, especially with a pitcher they have locked up through at least 2013 for $60 million. Managers are very guilty of managing to the stats when they bring in closers only when a save situation is present, but the same could be true for complete game phenoms like Halladay and Cliff Lee.

According to Pitcher Abuse Points at Baseball Prospectus, Halladay is the third-most abused pitcher in baseball behind Edwin Jackson and Justin Verlander. Roy Oswalt, by comparison, has a PAP total nearly three and a half times lower in only 33 fewer innings. That’s not smart managing.

Brian Bannister Is Awesome

Not Phillies-related, but since this blog uses Sabermetrics so heavily, I thought this may be of interest:

Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Brian Bannister talks about how he uses Sabermetric principles and statistics to aid him in improving as a starter. He has some work to do as his 5.73 ERA and 4.86 xFIP aren’t encouraging. But it’s still cool to hear a Major Leaguer talk about how he applies this stuff to his job on a daily basis.

Hat tip to Repoz from Baseball Think Factory.

Analyzing the Phillies’ Lesser SP Targets

With July 31 on the horizon, the Phillies have been mentioned in a flurry of trade rumors. They were obvious candidates to acquire the services of Cliff Lee and Dan Haren, but they have since changed addresses in cities not named Philadelphia. Among big names, only Roy Oswalt remains. Oswalt presents a bit of a problem to the Phillies because he is expensive both in terms of prospects and in terms of money. So they have turned their attention to some lesser pitchers. Let’s go through the rumors and see if they’re worth acquiring.

Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse tweets:

Hearing possible Ted Lilly for JA Happ deal. NOT confirmed.

Lilly is owed $12 million in the final year of his four-year, $40 million contract. There is about $5 million left, all of which the Phillies would most likely have to pick up.

His K/9 has declined from 8.1 to 7.7 to 6.9 this year. He has decent control, but he allows a metric ton of fly balls (above 50% in each of the past two seasons). Because of the extreme fly ball rate, he has a lower-than-normal BABIP (.285 career), but he has even been lucky on that this year (.261). His SIERA is at 4.14 which is above-average but the Phillies can get that production from J.A. Happ, whose SIERA last year was 4.37.

The one good aspect of a Lilly trade would be that he will likely qualify as a Type-A free agent. Should the Phillies offer arbitration to him and Lilly declines to sign elsewhere, they will get a first-round draft pick and a sandwich pick as compensation. However, given GM Ruben Amaro’s prior apprehension to offering arbitration (see: Pat Burrell, Jamie Moyer), it’s hard to imagine him extending such an offer to Lilly.

The verdict on Lilly: pass.

Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated tweets:

#indians, #phillies talking trade. westbrook, carmona possibilities

Let’s start with Fausto Carmona, who starts tonight against the New York Yankees. He is signed through next year for $6.1 million, with club options for 2012-14.

Carmona is well-known for his ability to induce ground balls, his rate reaching as high as 64% in 2007 when he finished fourth in the American League Cy Young race. Aside from that, he has a Kyle Kendrick-esque K/9 of 5.0 and doesn’t possess great control with a BB/9 closer to 4.0 than 3.0. His SIERA, 2007-10: 3.52, 4.78, 4.82, 4.44.

Why give up prospects for a clone of Kendrick?

The verdict on Carmona: pass.

Carmona’s teammate Jake Westbrook has been mentioned in trade rumors for a while. He will earn $11 million this year, about $5 million of which remains.

Westbrook, like Carmona, has a penchant for inducing the ground ball with a career 59% rate. And, like Carmona, he has Kendrick-esque strikeout and walk numbers with a career 4.9 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. In fact, Carmona and Westbrook may as well be brothers as their respective SIERAs are within one one-hundredth of a point of each other, 4.44 and 4.43 respectively.

The verdict on Westbrook: pass.

AstrosCounty tweeted:

What would you do if Brett Myers and Roy Oswalt were packaged together for the Phillies?

The Phillies haven’t been officially linked to Myers, but the storyline is set: he’s cheap, will be a free agent after the season, and has significant history with the Phillies. It just makes too much sense not to happen, right?

Of the pitchers mentioned in this article (Lilly, Carmona, Westbrook), Myers is easily the most attractive option. He has pitched legitimately well this season as his 3.83 SIERA indicates and he has a long track record of success as a starter. Myers has been chronically underrated as his career ERA is 40 points higher than his career xFIP (4.26 to 3.88). Additionally, he has good strikeout and walk rates, 7.0 and 2.6 respectively. And he induces a lot of ground balls (career 48%).

The Astros aren’t likely to package Myers with Oswalt. Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports write, “two sources said the Astros will need to be overwhelmed in order to move him, citing the team’s hope that he could be a foundation for future rotations.” That, however, doesn’t make much sense since Myers is a free agent after the season and the Astros would need to use a large sum of money to convince him to stay with a team that, right now, is on pace to win 66 games.

The verdict on Myers: take.

Make it happen, Ruben!

Domonic Brown: Curb Your Enthusiasm?

UPDATE: Brown has been called up. (via Jim Salisbury of Comcast SportsNet)

Shane Victorino came up limping last night. Given the Phillies’ season-long bout with bad luck, it was to be expected. The reactions to the injury on Twitter were less than “to be expected.” In fact, some people were downright giddy because it increased the likelihood of phenom prospect (#1 in baseball actually, according to most prospect mavens) Domonic Brown getting his much-anticipated call up to the show.

Prior to Victorino’s injury, fans were looking forward to a trade of Jayson Werth. Why? Well, the majority of Philadelphia — including the sports media — had developed some kind of hatred for the bearded fellow but also because it signaled Dom Brown Time. The prevailing thought was that Werth was an expendable part and Brown would have no problem coming up and replacing the lost production. After all, Brown has a .951 OPS in Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

The problem is that Minor League statistics don’t translate exactly into Major League statistics. Context is very important. You wouldn’t consider 20 home runs in the confines of Safeco Field equivalent to 20 home runs at Yankee Stadium. Nor should you consider Brown’s production at Triple-A equivalent to what he will produce at the Major League level. He could; it’s not impossible. But it’s not likely.

To get an idea as to how a player’s Minor League stats equate to Major League competition, we use a method called Minor League Equivalency (MLE). Steve Slowinski of DRays Bay has written a nice overview of MLE at SaberLibrary. A snippet:

For example, if a minor leaguer is playing in the International League (Triple-A), their numbers will be adjusted to account for the fact that the competition isn’t as strong as in the major leagues, but is marginally stronger than the other Triple-A league, the Pacific Coast League.  If that player was to go on to the National League, their adjusted numbers would be different than if they went to the American League, since the National League is a slightly weaker environment than the American League.  Park effects are also taken into account, meaning that an offensive player’s numbers will be adjusted higher in Fenway Park than they would be in PETCO Park.

I went to Minor League Splits, where they have a MLE calculator. Brown’s current .346/.390/.561 triple-slash line for Lehigh Valley changes to .306/.348/.479 at the Major League level. An .827 OPS isn’t bad at all, but it also isn’t enough to make us forget about Jayson Werth.

It is, however, more than enough to make us forget about Victorino, who has been very underwhelming offensively. Shane’s .250 batting average is about 30 points below his career average; his .311 OBP is 30 points below; and his .438 SLG is right near it. Overall, his .749 OPS is one of the reasons the Phillies haven’t quite lived up to expectations offensively.

As much as it pains me to say it, Victorino’s injury couldn’t have come at a better time for the Phillies. Right before the trading deadline, Ruben Amaro will now be much less likely to trade Werth unless he receives a ridiculously good offer, i.e. Jesus Montero and six of his clones. (Be honest: you were afraid that the reports were true, that Amaro would flip Werth for as little as a “#4 starter“.) Additionally, the Phillies retain that all-important right-handed bat in the middle of their lineup. Sans Werth, the team’s most fearful right-handed hitter is Placido Polanco. He’s not chopped liver but he also doesn’t OPS .900.

All that remains is for Amaro to send Brown a car to get him to Philadelphia in time for tonight’s game (otherwise the Phillies would be operating with a 23-man bench, given Jimmy Rollins‘ recent limp). A team very rarely gets such an easy opportunity to upgrade the offense, essentially for free. This is a lay-up the Phillies should easily make.

Behind the Historical Eight-Ball?

The Phillies are trying to return to the World Series for the third consecutive year, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished by a National League team since the 1942-44 St. Louis Cardinals. Back then, the National League had eight teams, exactly half of the current field in the Senior Circuit. So you can imagine the type of history the Phillies could write.

Unfortunately, though, roadblock after roadblock has crept up, getting in the team’s way this season. Whether it’s injuries, offensive malaise, or rumor-mongering, the Phillies simply haven’t been able to get on a roll this season. Their largest winning streak is five games, spanning from April 9-14. They played exactly .500 baseball in June and are likely to do so in July, currently at 11-11.

There is another roadblock, however, and it is entirely out of the team’s control: recent history. Teams that have lost in the World Series have not done well the following year. The Tampa Bay Rays, after being dispatched in the 2008 World Series by the good guys, won only 84 games the next season, down from 97. They also missed the post-season. In fact, the last four World Series runner-ups have completely missed the playoffs. They averaged a .572 winning percentage in their World Series appearance years and .509 the next, a difference of more than ten wins.

Year WS Loser Wins Win% Next Wins Next Win% Playoffs? Result
2008 Rays 97 0.599 86 0.531 N
2007 Rockies 90 0.552 74 0.457 N
2006 Tigers 95 0.586 88 0.543 N
2005 Astros 89 0.549 82 0.506 N
2004 Cardinals 105 0.648 100 0.617 Y L NLCS
2003 Yankees 101 0.623 101 0.623 Y L ALCS
2002 Giants 95 0.586 100 0.617 Y L NLDS
2001 Yankees 95 0.586 103 0.636 Y L ALDS
2000 Mets 94 0.580 82 0.506 N
1999 Braves 103 0.636 95 0.586 Y L NLDS
1998 Padres 98 0.605 74 0.457 N
1997 Indians 86 0.531 89 0.549 Y L ALCS
1996 Braves 96 0.593 101 0.623 Y L NLCS
1244 0.590 1175 0.558

None of the teams listed above (the Wild Card era) returned to the World Series the following year. Overall their aggregate winning percentage dipped from .590 to .558, a difference of more than five wins. Given the small sample, the difference is not statistically significant but the recent trend is interesting to note. Could the reason behind the last four World Series runners-up be parity? As Maury Brown explained in October of 2008, uh, sort of. MLB sort of has parity and it sort of doesn’t. Brown writes, “parity is here, but it isn’t, which in some perverse way is just the way baseball likes it.”

When we look at World Series winners, we see similar results.

Year WS Winner Wins Win% Next Wins Next Win% Playoffs? Result
2008 Phillies 92 0.568 93 0.574 Y L WS
2007 Red Sox 96 0.593 95 0.586 Y L ALCS
2006 Cardinals 83 0.512 78 0.481 N
2005 White Sox 99 0.611 90 0.556 N
2004 Red Sox 98 0.605 95 0.586 Y L ALDS
2003 Marlins 91 0.562 83 0.512 N
2002 Angels 99 0.611 77 0.475 N
2001 D-Backs 92 0.568 98 0.605 Y L NLDS
2000 Yankees 87 0.537 95 0.586 Y L WS
1999 Yankees 98 0.605 87 0.537 Y W WS
1998 Yankees 114 0.704 98 0.605 Y W WS
1997 Marlins 92 0.568 54 0.333 N
1996 Yankees 92 0.568 96 0.593 Y L ALDS
1233 0.585 1139 0.541

There was a collective .044 drop in winning percentage after winning it all, accounting for more than seven wins. Of the 13 teams, eight returned to the post-season. However, unlike the losers above, two winners returned to the World Series, winning one and losing one (the Yankees both times). Oddly enough, the average winning percentage of World Series winners was lower than that of the losers, and the winning percentage the next year is also lower.

Winning or losing the World Series one year doesn’t have a lot to do with success or failure in the next year both in terms of winning regular season games and advancing to and through the post-season. If the Phillies miss the playoffs in 2010, they will do so on their own merits. Their winning percentage last year with 93 wins was .574; it is a meager .531 so far in 2010, putting them on pace to win 86 of 162 games. They have played exactly .531 baseball according to third-order wins at Baseball Prospectus.

Graph of the Intermittent Time Period

Phillies fans have been wondering why the team has been struggling to score runs this season. Cole Hamels, for the second straight game, received no run support as his offense left nine men on base and went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position going into the ninth inning of Saturday’s game in Chicago. Making a losing stretch even more unbearable, the Phils managed only one run in each of their last two games against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Their run-scoring woes are well-documented as our heroes have been shut out on eight different occasions this year, matching in 94 games what the 2008 squad achieved over 162 games. Prorated, the Phillies are on pace to be shut out 14 times in 162 games in 2010.

Overall, this is what the Phillies’ distribution of runs has looked like since 2008:

The raw data: frequency of X runs scored in a game.

Runs 2010 2009 2008
0 8 7 8
1 15 14 8
2 8 17 20
3 15 20 23
4 6 24 22
5 9 21 20
6 5 13 19
7 6 13 11
8 4 5 18
9 7 10 3
More 11 18 10
TOTAL 94 162 162

The 2010 Phillies more adept than their ’09 and ’08 counterparts at scoring 0-to-3 runs while they are by far the worst at scoring 4-to-6 runs.

WARNING: DEPRESSING CHART IS DEPRESSING!

(I has a sad.)

The Phillies’ starting pitchers’ collective ERA is better this year than in 2009 and ’08. If you want to know why the 48-46 Phillies have slightly under-performed their Pythagorean record, you can look no further than the offense; the starting pitching is not to blame, even as the back end is in upheaval. Scoring zero to three runs per game once every two games is not a great recipe for success.

sad pat gillick

The Werth Hate Fest Continues

I’m of the school of thought that trolls are to be ignored and never taken head-on. When a troll shows up in the comments here, their posts are discarded as soon as they are seen. Usually, the gimmick is extinguished and the troll moves on to the next target. However, every now and then, a troll needs to be challenged — especially one with influence — as an example to the acolytes. That’s right, sometimes the Glenn Becks of this world need to be acknowledged and taken down systematically.

The troll who will be acknowledged here is Mandy Housenick of TheMorningCall.com‘s blog The Phillies Files. I have to assume it’s trolling because it’s not journalism. And her writing is clearly looking for a reaction of some sort. She has two posts in which she uses the tired anti-Werth talking points: one and two. I’m going to go through them FJM-style. If you read Saturday’s article, you are probably familiar with the arguments so this may be a rehashing for you. But I promise to throw in some snark to make it interesting.

Her words will be in bold and my responses will follow in regular typeface.

Now I’m just going to put it out there — the Phillies should trade Jayson Werth. I don’t care that they’ll get two first-round draft picks for him when he signs with some other team at the end of the season. He needs to go — now.

The guy isn’t producing, and quite frankly, players usually have their best years when they’re playing for a contract. They see dollar signs, and I can’t blame them for having some extra pick-me-up in their step. But Werth doesn’t have that, and that’s worrisome.

Werth’s .376 wOBA is six one-thousandths behind his wOBA the previous two years (.382). If you’re not familiar with wOBA, click here. Saying that Werth “isn’t producing” is flat out wrong. Even his isolated power of .222 is barely behind that of 2008 and ’09 (.225 and.238, respectively).

You could say that his defense has gotten worse. His -6.0 UZR/150 this year is well behind his 7.4 mark last year. But that would require putting faith in small samples of UZR data — not recommended.

In terms of statistical significance, you can’t say his power is down. You can’t say he’s walking less or striking out more. You can’t say he’s swinging at bad pitches or making less contact.

He has an .873 OPS. His OPS was .879 last year and .861 the year before. By any statistical measure you use, you cannot legitimately say that Werth is “not producing”. Sure, he’s slumped, but what hitter doesn’t slump?

If I’m someone running a sportsbook, I see that I would be able to make a lot of money off of people betting against Werth. Much more profitable than inducing a bet on football.

Remember how he got picked off yesterday? Shouldn’t happen.

He has been picked off once this year. Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins have also been picked off once this year. Last year, Rollins was picked off five times; Victorino four; Werth three; Pedro Feliz twice; and six other players once. If anything, the Phillies — and Werth — are getting picked off less in 2010 (but that may simply be explained by injuries).

It happens. And when it does happen, it isn’t necessarily the runner’s fault. Sometimes a pitcher has a good move; sometimes the pitcher even balks but the balk isn’t called by the umpires. When it’s the runner’s fault, all that can be done is to admit the mistake and move on. Werth made a mistake, but overall he’s a good runner. One pick-off is not representative of anything.

But what worries me more is the way he acts in the clubhouse, something the organization prides itself in. I read about what he did in Chicago….totally uncalled for.

On Friday night after Ryan Madson gave up a game-winning home run in the eighth, Madson answered reporters’ questions. My understanding is it wasn’t a long interview (everybody can’t be as professional and cordial as Brad Lidge), but Madson stood there and did his job when I’m sure it was the last thing he felt like doing.

The same can’t be said for Werth.

He walked by the crowd of reporters who had just spoken to Madson and said, “Nice interview, guys.”

Nice attitude, Jayson.

The right fielder, who was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts (all looking), refused to answer questions.

Shocking.

He said something to the like of, “I don’t want to talk to you guys.”

The beat writers should never be the story. No journalist should ever be part of the story (unless it’s a story about journalists/journalism of course). If I was Werth, having been lambasted non-stop by the Philly fans and media, I wouldn’t want to talk to them either. Good for Jayson.

Werth, of course, is now getting the evil eye from the media because he didn’t make it easy for them to do their jobs. For the journalists — Housenick, Ryan Lawrence, etc. — to take this personally is totally irresponsible and immature.

If you’re a Phillies beat writer, do your job: get the facts, get whatever quotes you can, and write the story. Don’t inject personal opinion and conjecture into the narrative.

Not Werth. He can’t be bothered. It’s not the first time he’s been nasty to reporters or made unnecessary wise cracks.

Again, this isn’t relevant. And I would highly question the definition of “nasty” and “unnecessary”. In fact, who is the arbiter of what makes a “wise crack” unnecessary?

If a salesman doesn’t sell as many cars as he’s supposed to, his commission goes in the toilet. If I drastically misquote someone, I could be sued, the paper could be sued, I could get fired and lose all future credibility.

That ship has sailed.

If a prosecutor doesn’t present the facts clearly in court, a criminal could go free, and that same lawyer will have to answer reporters’ questions. If a waitress does poorly, she’ll get the lunch shift instead of the Saturday night dinner shift.

And if Werth (or Ryan Howard or Chase Utley) goes into a slump… what?

If Werth (or Howard or Utley) refuses to talk to the reporters… what?

I fail to see the analogy.

Yes, there are times when players choose not to talk to us. Chase Utley rarely talks to us, and when he does, he’s full of cliches. But when he has to, he does, and he doesn’t belittle us.

Jimmy Rollins turns us down, too, but he’s never rude. He just says something like, “Not tonight, guys. Maybe tomorrow.”

Said another way, “I hate Jayson Werth and it’s entirely irrational.”

Housenick tried to link Werth’s alleged lack of production (proven patently false) to his attitude but swung and missed on that attempt.

What this amounts to is character assassination:

Character assassination is an attempt to tarnish a person’s reputation. It may involve exaggeration or manipulation of facts to present an untrue picture of the targeted person. It is a form of defamation and can be a form of ad hominem argument.

As a journalist, Housenick should be well-versed in the lingo above. She and her anti-Werth compatriots in the media should be well aware that what they are doing cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered legitimate journalism. It’s garbage fit for a garbage website like TMZ. Gossip being presented as fact has no place in the world of journalism. Personal vendettas have no place in the world of journalism.

Moving onto her second entry…

Many of you just aren’t getting it.

Like you didn’t get the idea to do some cursory background research on Werth’s statistics before claiming that “the guy isn’t producing”? Like you didn’t get the idea to forget everything you learned in your college journalism classes?

I’m by no means saying the Phillies should trade Werth because of how he treats the media.

In the previous article, Housenick used two arguments to support a trade of Werth:

1. “The guy isn’t producing” which was proven false.
2. “[Werth] can’t be bothered. It’s not the first time he’s been nasty to reporters or made unnecessary wise cracks.”

If I missed another argument, let me know. But yeah, Mandy definitely did argue that “the Phillies should trade Werth because of how he treats the media”.

I’m saying that his problems go way beyond the way he is with us. He said the F-word to that fan the other day

Athletes use foul language? My word! Someone should back-trace it and report him to the cyber police!

If you ask any legitimate journalist what they hear in sports locker rooms on a daily basis, they will tell you that the F-word is about as common as the word “the” and “Broseph”. (Maybe not that last one.)

Secondly, I’ve seen and heard Howard use the F-word about a hundred times on TV after he strikes out. Let’s ship him out!

Thirdly, is there no “heat of the moment” clause for this kind of criticism? The fan clearly interfered with Werth’s ability to catch a baseball. I’d have been upset, too. In fact, Philly fans in general despise it when fans get in the way as my Twitter feed was full of “stupid fans” tweets during one of the day games against the Cincinnati Reds (the exact date escapes me at the moment).

Again, this is just another dumb excuse to publicly roast Werth.

he hardly looks like he cares out on the field

Prove it. Saying what a player “looks like” is absolutely meaningless. I think Jimmy Rollins looks like he didn’t like the movie The Blind Side. I think Raul Ibanez is both an atheist and a communist. I think Greg Dobbs looks like he voted for Ralph Nader.

Can I prove any of that? No. Therefore, it would be poor judgment on my part to publicize those statements with the authority that they are indeed infallible statements.

and believe me, many other things go on, that as reporters, we can’t talk about.

So don’t talk about it.

Werth’s play isn’t up to par, at bat or in the field.

At bat: false.

In the field: Subject to unreliability of defensive data.

And, his body language reads like he wants to be anywhere but Philadelphia.

Bad journalist! *smacks with newspaper* Bad! Think about what you’ve done!

Jimmy Rollins (and many others) would never say the F-word to a fan. He knows better than that.

Ignoring the stupidity of the argument… this. Or this.

The Phillies always talk about good clubhouse chemistry and respect and playing hard. They get those things from guys such as Ryan Howard, Brad Lidge, Chad Durbin, Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins, Raul Ibanez, Chooch, etc. Their attitude with each other, with the fans and with us all factors into the success of the team. They treat each other with respect and us and their fans. The same can’t be said for Werth.

Read the above paragraph again. Housenick led off her column with, “I’m by no means saying the Phillies should trade Werth because of how he treats the media.” Read that above paragraph again.

“I’m by no means saying the Phillies should trade Werth because of how he treats the media.”

Many Phillies fans loved Aaron Rowand because he played so hard and treated fans, his teammates and the media like he’d treat his brother or father or sister. He was a great guy and it was impossible not to respect his tireless work ethic.

Okay? Rowand is completely unrelated; a red herring. And he has a .681 OPS and a -2.0 UZR/150. I’m not sure what Housenick was going for, but rest assured that it was another swing and miss.

Believe it or not, that was how she closed her column. I guess she was really adhering to that inverted pyramid or something…

. . .

If there’s one takeaway to any journalists or any wannabe journalists reading this, it’s: don’t make yourself or your feelings part of the story. You are irrelevant to the story; you are merely reporting facts and fashioning them into an anecdote. If you call yourself a journalist, you should adhere to those guidelines. If you want to go off on tangents, then you need to discard the journalist moniker and you cannot be trusted as a provider of factual information.

That is not to say that journalists can’t provide analysis; they absolutely can. David Murphy of the High Cheese blog for the Philadelphia Daily News, Matt Gelb of the Phillies Zone blog for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Todd Zolecki of MLB.com‘s The Zo Zone do a fantastic job of sticking to the facts and leaving the personal issues at the door.

The downfall of the newspaper industry has led to a transition to online material for many content distributors. While it is true that most bloggers do not have to adhere to journalistic standards, journalists still have to adhere to those guidelines. That’s why Crashburn Alley couldn’t get a press credential before partnering with ESPN (and why I will have to adhere to journalistic standards when utilizing it) and that’s why Housenick can get a press credential with a snap of her fingers. A journalist running a blog is still a journalist.

What Housenick has written on her blog recently cannot in any way, shape or form be considered journalism. It is simply trolling and I don’t even think she did it for the pageviews, sadly.

Let’s Talk Base Running

We have heard about the Phillies’ punchless offense ad nauseam over the past couple months. It’s been tough dealing with the losses of Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, and Carlos Ruiz while Raul Ibanez has been slumping all season. Due to the surfeit of injuries, the Phillies have had to utilize the light bats of Juan Castro (who was recently released by the organization), Wilson Valdez, Paul Hoover, Dane Sardinha, Cody Ransom, and Greg Dobbs. And, of course, you have read all about Jayson Werth‘s offensive shortcomings this season.

The one thing conspicuously absent from the Phillies’ offense this year — besides any measure of stability — is base running aggressiveness. They tried to get back into the swing of things, attempting seven total stolen bases between July 17 and 18 against the Chicago Cubs. Still, the Phillies rank 13th out of 16 National League teams in total stolen bases (48) and stolen base attempts (58). However, on account of being thrown out the least (10), they lead in stolen base percentage (83%).

Team SB CS SBA SB%
PHI 48 10 58 83%
NYM 86 21 107 80%
FLA 57 16 73 78%
ARI 57 19 76 75%
MIL 50 17 67 75%
LgAvg 56 22 78 72%
PIT 58 23 81 72%
SDP 79 32 111 71%
WSN 67 29 96 70%
HOU 53 23 76 70%
ATL 40 18 58 69%
CIN 59 27 86 69%
STL 52 24 76 68%
CHC 35 17 52 67%
LAD 61 30 91 67%
COL 52 28 80 65%
SFG 35 20 55 64%

Using a more intricate measure of base running, we can see from which positions the Phillies clearly miss the threat of speed. Equivalent Base Running Runs (EQBRR) from Baseball Prospectus combines the contributions by base runners in several facets: base-stealing (SB), advancing on ground and air outs (GA and AA), advancing on hits (HA), and “other” (OA).

I prorated the 2010 Phillies over a full season, defined as their current EQBRR times 162 games divided by their current games played of 92. It’s not perfect of course, but I don’t think it will make a huge difference in the overall results. It will overrate Chase Utley, who will play less going forward than he has so far this season, and it will underrate Jimmy Rollins, who will play more going forward than he has so far this season.

Click on the graph below to view a larger version.

Each position was calculated with the inclusion of bench players. The bench player got credit at the position at which he logged the most playing time per Baseball Reference. No player was double-counted.

The biggest loss in 2010 is very clearly Jimmy Rollins. He was responsible for creating 10 extra runs on the bases in 2008 and ’09, roughly one extra win. As he has missed so much time this year, he has only been worth 0.5 EQBRR. If you prorate that production in 36 games over 92 games, it increases to 1.3. Over 162 games, his EQBRR is 2.3 — slightly better than he was last year.

He is simply not the same base-stealer he was in 2008 as this graph illustrates:

Note: the ‘p’ after 2010 indicates that the value has been prorated over 162 games.

In his 36 games, Rollins had attempted and successfully stolen a base six times. That prorates to 15 stolen bases in 92 games and 27 over a full season. Clearly, the base running aggression of Rollins — who earlier in the season said he wanted to steal 50 bases — has waned as a result of playing it safe having recuperated from two calf strains.

Also on the decline is Chase Utley. His 0.6 EQBRR pales in comparison to his 8.8 last year, even prorated. Over 92 games, his EQBRR goes to 0.8 and over 162 games only 1.4. The biggest difference? Stolen bases and advancing on hits (surprising, given Utley’s heralded baseball IQ).

While base running doesn’t have a huge impact like hitting and pitching, it can create a noticeable difference. This is especially true for the Phillies who set themselves apart from the league with well above-average base running aggression combined with well above-average base running efficiency (you can thank Davey Lopes later).

The 2008 Phillies created an extra two wins simply by being good, intelligent runners. The 2010 Phillies are on pace to cost the team more than a half of one win. Again, not a lot compared to other facets of the game, but still something worth noting with this aging, declining group of Phillies.

Philly’s New Pariah: Jayson Werth

Jayson Werth has eight hits in 44 at-bats in the month of July. Two of those hits went for extra-bases and both were mere doubles. He had another prolonged slump earlier in the season, between May 25 and June 22 in which he accrued a paltry 13 hits in 75 at-bats. Slumps are not fun experiences, not for the player in question nor for the fans watching in the stands, in bars, and at home.

Maybe that’s why Werth has become the new whipping boy in Philadelphia.

It seems like the perfect storm: he is a soon-to-be free agent, he is slumping, and the Phillies are underachieving. He also takes more called strike threes than we would like. Oh, and the team has an exciting young player by the name of Domonic Brown ready to take his spot. With the Nationals having called up Stephen Strasburg and the Braves, Mets, and Marlins receiving significant contributions from Jason Heyward, Ike Davis, and Gaby Sanchez respectively, it must be like, as a kid, watching all your friends get the popular new toy as a Christmas present while you get a pack of tube socks from grandma.

Overall, though, Werth has been about as good offensively as he has been over the previous two and a half years. His .371 wOBA is just a few points behind his .385, .382, and .382 numbers from 2007-09 respectively. It is true, however, that his home runs aren’t at the same level. Werth has 13 round-trippers in 355 plate appearances compared to 36 in 676 PA last year. If you prorate this year’s homers to 676 PA, he comes up short at 25.

Werth has also found himself in a salacious rumor involving the Phillies’ best player Chase Utley and his wife Jennifer. That rumor, though, was subsequently debunked in fine fashion by Max of Fire Eric Bruntlett.

Even some of the Philly scribes have turned against Werth. Beerleaguer quotes Ryan Lawrence using biting sarcasm (hey, that’s my gig!) to insult the Phillies’ right fielder:

[Ryan Madson] stood his ground as a couple of questions were lobbed his way. A few feet away in the close-quarters clubhouse, when Madson’s brief Q&A session ended, Jayson Werth decided to chime in. ‘Nice interview, guys,’ said the starting right fielder, who went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts, all looking, Friday.

“Nice game, Jayson,” Lawrence quips.
Elsewhere, John Finger tweeted (in a conversation about Werth’s struggles):
[Werth] doesn’t want to be here & it shows
When I asked this question to my Twitter followers
has Jayson Werth helped or hurt his value as a free agent with his production thus far in 2010?

…these were some of the responses I received:

It’s not the production that’s hurting him. By all accounts, he’s a bad apple. It’s why the Phils are shopping him. (@Beerleaguer)

his production has been poor. I think the pressure of a contract year has gotten to him. Some team will still pay him $15M (@FlyersFanShawn)

Werth has been disgraceful. No it’s not the numbers. His attitude and his overall lack of trying. Not worth what he’ll get. (@GregVince)

Werth’s attitude reminds me of David Bell. He seemed he could have cared less what happened on that field. (@KieranCarobine)

I think you just have to watch how he acts on the field to know Werth is a jackass. (@ballsticksstuff)

I’d say hurt, especially if you were one who considered him a 4/5 yr $60/75 mil player. He’s be overvalued from the jump. And if he stays at or around this level, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Phils offered arb and he took it. (@philsvilleblog)

Is it me or were these complaints never made in the three prior years that Werth has donned Phillies’ red? Wasn’t it just several months ago that Werth was a fan favorite simply because of his facial hair? A Twitter account was even made in its honor!

Werth a “bad apple”? Color me surprised.

If you ask me — and thanks for asking! — I think this is simply stage two of Phillies fans’ grieving with Werth’s imminent departure from Philadelphia for the greener pastures of free agency. The first stage was, of course, denial. We saw that in fine fashion from fans and bloggers who thought the Phillies grew money on trees and would easily budget in a multi-year contract extension for Werth along with extensions for Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. Oh, and pick up Jimmy Rollins‘ option, too. And a free agent third baseman. Some relievers. Don’t forget the bench bats.

Stage two is anger, what you are seeing now. Fans accept that Werth is leaving after the season (or even by the end of July) and are simply lashing out at him for perceived shortcomings. He’s not hitting enough. He’s not happy-go-lucky. He needs a shave, damn it! We don’t need him anyway! What’s Dom Brown doing?

You will see stage three — bargaining — soon. It will likely coincide with a hot streak. That is, if he gets on one in time before the trade deadline (or after, if he stays). Fans will put up with his perceived shortcomings as long as he helps the team win games. Those called strike threes and odd routes to fly balls (and an Abreu-esque fear of the fence) are fine as long as they are in proportion with doubles and home runs and Phillies wins.

For now, though, we’re in stage two. Werth will bear the brunt of a mostly irrational backlash that seems commonplace in Philadelphia. Exhibits A and B are Pat Burrell and Donovan McNabb. Each received similar criticisms as Werth. Burrell took too many called strike threes and he was complacent. Donovan McNabb wasn’t clutch and he had a weak stomach and oh my god those darts right into the grass are annoying, never-ending NFC Champsionship Game appearances be damned!

Using Sabermetrics, FanGraphs values Werth’s production this year at about $8 million. That puts him on pace for roughly $14.5 million for the year and he still has plenty of time to boost his value. He was worth $22.6 million and $21.5 million in 2008 and ’09, respectively. He appears to be on track to receive market value in the off-season from some organization. For now, though, appreciate that the Phillies are getting at least $14 million in value out of him while only paying him $7 million. A two-to-one return on investment is damn fine — especially compared to the loss on investment the Phillies are already dealing with in the form of Ryan Howard.