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.