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.