The Truth About J.A. Happ

Despite an improved pitching staff compared to last season, the Phillies have been on the lookout for arms that could bolster the starting rotation. There were rumors bringing Cliff Lee back in Phillies pinstripes, but they were ultimately silenced. Then there was Dan Haren and Roy Oswalt. Some of us have been clamoring for Brett Myers. Pedro Martinez is still unsigned, you know.

As you can see, the Phillies do have options if they’re willing to pay the price and take the risk. The more conservative among us are banking on the return of J.A. Happ, currently rehabbing in the Minor Leagues. Happ, of course, was knighted the future of the Phillies’ rotation after a breakout year in which he posted a 2.93 ERA in 166 innings of work. He was credited as a big help to the Phillies, who won their third straight division title. And rightly so.

Going into 2010, many wondered if he would be able to replicate his success from ’09. His strikeout and walk rates were average at best and his ERA was suppressed by an unsustainable .270 BABIP and subsequent 85.2% strand rate. Among qualified starters, that was by far the highest strand rate, beating Matt Cain‘s 81.6% by a mile (the league average is 72%). Additionally, Happ did not have any special ability to induce ground balls. Taking that information into account, it is no surprise that his 4.37 SIERA was in direct conflict with his 2.93 ERA.

Happ, however, defied the odds in his first two starts of 2010 before landing on the disabled list. Despite striking out only five and walking eight in 10 and one-third innings, Happ did not allow a single earned run to cross home plate. Yeah, that’s right: a 0.00 ERA.

Fast forward through his injury to his Minor League rehab starts, where he has struggled. In 34 and two-thirds innings of work, Happ struck out 31 and walked 19. The strikeouts are good; the walks are not. Additionally, Happ has allowed 44 hits and 25 earned runs (6.49 ERA). His performance merited the Phillies filing for an extension on Happ’s rehabilitation so that they are able to retain a useful player until he shows marked improvement.

Many are simply attributing Happ’s struggles to his injury, but that is simply not the case. Happ’s walk rate of 4.9 per nine innings is high, but not substantially higher than his Minor League average of 3.6. He has also allowed a bunch of hits, but as we know, that is not something pitchers have a whole lot of control over. When his rehab stats are put side-by-side with his 2009 Major League stats, you are left scrambling for some sort of explanation. The easiest conclusion is that Happ must be struggling because he’s still injured.

Todd Zolecki has this quote from GM Ruben Amaro:

“He’s not quite the same pitcher as he was last year yet, but he’s getting close.”

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.

When Happ returns, he will likely usurp the role of Kyle Kendrick. As they say, “six in one hand, half a dozen in the other.” If the Phillies want to bolster the starting rotation, waiting for Happ is not the solution.

Dusty Baker Is Unoriginal

You may recall early in 2008 the Phillies played a prank on Kyle Kendrick. Charlie Manuel told him that they had traded him to the Yomiuri Giants in Japan for a player named Kobayashi Iwamura. Kendrick fell for it pretty hard before Brett Myers, the brains of the operation (imagine that), screamed “You just got Punk’d!” in his face in front of a crowd of reporters who guffawed at the young right-hander.

Direct link to YouTube video

Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker decided to play a similar prank on journeyman reliever Arthur Rhodes before telling him that the lefty had made the All-Star team. Per Yahoo! Sports:

Arthur Rhodes recently got summoned to manager Dusty Baker’s office for the news: The Cincinnati Reds were trading him to the New York Mets.

It was a joke. Yet, the way his journeyman career has gone, Rhodes believed it. And why not?

“He already had the team picked out,” Rhodes said. “I was a little emotional.”

Then Baker gave Rhodes the real message. He was going to a new team, all right—his first All-Star team, at age 40.

Zero points for originality, Dusty. But the prank never gets old. I would give the prank a 6 out of 10 rating, but there was no video to accompany it, so I’ll give it a 4.

Although picking the New York Mets as a destination may be a low blow. Any trade to the Mets should be accompanied with a prescription for anti-depressants.

Phillies Hitters’ Second-Half Itinerary

Have you ordered the Trade Deadline Primer yet?

The Phillies went into the All-Star break on a positive note, sweeping the Cincinnati Reds in four games and finishing at seven games over .500. They are presenty on pace for 88 wins. While that is lower than we would expect from the Phils, it does not require the Phillies to make drastic changes in an attempt to secure a playoff spot. If the Phillies had gone into the break at say 42-45, the fan base may have shrieked enough to pressure Ruben Amaro into making a foolish acquisition or two. They need only stay the course — unless it involves trading for Dan Haren — and pray that Chase Utley is back by September. But there are some other things that need to fall in place to increase the odds of making the post-season.

Jimmy Rollins

Rollins has had a couple clutch hits since he was activated from the disabled list late in June. He hit a walk-off home run against Kerry Wood on June 23 and a walk-off single against Logan Ondrusek. But overall, he has a triple-slash line of .208/.287/.338 since his return from the DL. Charlie Manuel has used Rollins at the top of the lineup in all but four games since his return. If the Phillies plan to win baseball games on a consistent basis, Rollins needs to get on base at a higher clip as they cannot rely on Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels to put up goose eggs every night, as they did to close out the Reds series.

Shane Victorino

Tell me if you notice anything peculiar:

  • 2009: .315 BABIP, 21.7% line drives, 33.2% fly balls
  • 2010: .253 BABIP, 15.2% line drives, 41.3% fly balls

Victorino has magically morphed line drives into fly balls. It was well-documented on the Phillies broadcasts that Charlie Manuel had noticed mechanical flaws in Vic’s swing but given his July OPS falling in the low .700’s, it doesn’t look like there has been a cure yet. The good news is that, with the increased fly balls, he has also increased his HR/FB rate from 5.5% last year to 11.2% this year. As a result, he went into the break with 14 home runs, tying a career high. With a complimentary 17 stolen bases, Victorino projects to be one of the few 20 HR/25 SB players in baseball.

Chase Utley

Despite a down year by his standards, Utley was still on pace for another seven-win season. The biggest change was Utley’s lack of power as a result of a significant increase in ground balls. Last year, his GB/FB split was 34.0%/47.5% with a HR/FB rate of 14%. In 2010, those numbers changed to 41.6%/38.5% with a HR/FB rate of 12.4%. As a result, his isolated power dropped from .226 to .189. He hit only 11 home runs before landing on the disabled list. Dates when Utley hit his 11th home run in previous years:

  • 2005: June 29
  • 2006: June 4
  • 2007: June 5
  • 2008: April 30
  • 2009: May 21
  • 2010: June 18

When Utley comes back in late August or early September, it will be nice to have his pristine defense. But it would be even better if he came back having found his power.

Ryan Howard

Just by reading the heading “Ryan Howard” you most likely know what will be discussed here. His power has vanished. Sure, he has a team-high 17 home runs but his ISO is 77 points lower than it was last year. He was a maven of extra-base hits in previous years — roughly one out of every two hits was a double or better. This year, however, 65% of his hits are singles. His slugging percentage is at a meager .509, which would easily beat his career low .543 set in 2008.

The reason for Howard’s loss in power may surprise you. His struggles against left-handed pitchers are well-documented, but it isn’t southpaws causing him the trouble; it’s right-handers. Over his career, Howard has a .340 ISO against RHP and .214 against LHP. This year, those numbers are .231 and .185, declines of 109 and 29 points  respectively. Additionally, while his rate of fly balls is right at his career averages, he is not turning those fly balls into home runs at a similar clip:

  • 2010 vs. RHP: 37.5% fly balls, 16.7% HR/FB
  • Career vs. RHP: 37.5% fly balls, 33.3% HR/FB

When Howard was given his five-year, $125 million extension, all of us — even the Sabermetrically-inclined — assumed he would not have problems with right-handers. Rather, most of us already knew that Howard struggled with lefties and that would continue to plague him throughout his career. His mediocre production against RHP should come as a complete shock to everyone, although I don’t think many people are aware of it.

Jayson Werth

Despite some prolonged cold streaks offensively, Werth has been the team’s best hitter (tied with the injured Utley in wOBA at .377). Werth’s itinerary for the second-half? Keep on doing what he’s doing.

Raul Ibanez

From the time he started playing every day in 2002 through ’09, Ibanez’s career-low in wOBA was .342 in ’03. His wOBA this year is .313. You can understand why there is a lot of concern over the 38-year-old. This was exactly the problem most people had when Ruben Amaro signed Ibanez as a free agent prior to last season. The objectors said that he was old, poor defensively, and that his recent production against left-handed pitchers was a fluke.

Ibanez had a triple-slash line of .232/.323/.448 following his month-long stint on the disabled list. His struggles have continued into 2010 as he is hitting .243/.326/.397. Despite his .413 wOBA against left-handers last year, he is hitting only .274 against them this year.

His struggles have brought about the possibility that Ben Francisco becomes his platoon partner in left field. Raul would get right-handers while Ben would get the lefties. Sadly, this is what it has come to for the 38-year-old to whom the Phillies pledged $31.5 million over three years (and to whom they still owe $11.5 million next year). It is still unlikely that Ibanez will be demoted to a platoon as Charlie Manuel, a player’s manager, isn’t one to embarrass an established veteran. However, it may be the Phillies’ best chance at getting the most production out of the left field position.

Placido Polanco

As with Werth, Polanco has been solid in 2010. Currently on the disabled list, Polanco was one of the consistent hitters buoying an aging and declining Phillies offense. His itinerary is to simply work his way back to a clean bill of health and try to recapture his first-half production.

Carlos Ruiz

If I told you that, through May 10, Ruiz had a .969 OPS, would you believe me? Well, it’s true. However, since then, Ruiz has tapered and dealt with concussion symptoms after being hit in the head with a shard of Jason Kubel‘s bat on June 18. Since May 10, Ruiz had a triple-slash line of .208/.315/.286. In his two games since returning from the disabled list, though, Ruiz has three hits (all doubles) in seven at-bats.

Ruiz has increased his walk rate but he has not shown the same power we saw last year when he finished with nine home runs. He has two presently. This is because he is hitting a lot fewer fly balls and a lot more line drives and ground balls. I call that a fair exchange. As a #7/8 hitter, it is better for him to work on getting on base rather than developing a power swing.

Now Available: Trade Deadline Primer

As promised last week, the comprehensive Trade Deadline Primer is now available for purchase. See who the Phillies are targeting, which players the Phillies could send packing, and an overview of some of the key prospects. You will get similar analysis for the remaining 29 teams as well from bloggers such as Dan Wade (Nationals), Peter Hjort (Braves), Michael Jong (Marlins), and Joe Janish (Mets). You will be hard-pressed to find such a breadth of trade deadline coverage anywhere.

If you’d like to get a leg up on the trade deadline, click here to purchase the Primer for $9.95. Of course, you probably don’t want to make a purchase without knowing what to expect. You can download 25% of the Primer for free by clicking here. If you like what you read, support the time and hard work put into this project by TwinsCentric and their cadre of bloggers.

Whether you’re a Phillies fan, a baseball expert or a fantasy baseball guru, this is your reference guide to the 2010 trading season. Written by Crashburn Alley’s Bill Baer and a host of experts from other teams, this 160+ page e-book provides all the info you’ll ever need:
- Foreword by Rob Neyer of ESPN.com
- Summaries of what every other team is looking to do at the deadline, including how it could help your fantasy team
- 150+ easily referenced trade targets with breakdowns
- 120+ impact prospects
- Essays about what other team in the NL East may be focusing on.
Order now and you’ll receive your copy within minutes!

The Cardiac Phillies

Via FanGraphs:

July 8

July 9

July 10

July 8 was a typical close game. Neither team ever had a lead greater than one run. The Phillies’ win expectancy was at its lowest after Jimmy Rollins flied out to start the bottom of the first with his team trailing 1-0. With runners on first and second in the ninth inning, Brad Lidge got Jay Bruce to ground into a double play that brought his team’s win expectancy to 87% but he allowed the tying run to score on a single by Miguel Cairo. There was no more scoring through the top of the twelfth inning. In the bottom half, rookie Jordan Smith was called upon to bring the Reds to a 13th inning, but Brian Schneider played the role of hero, depositing a walk-off solo home run down the right field line.

Things got crazy last night. It appeared to be a blowout, another shaky outing from Joe Blanton and lethargy from the Phillies’ offense. For eight innings, Mike Leake dominated, holding the Phillies to one run. Reds manager Dusty Baker, not known for his judicious use of starting pitchers, let Leake take the mound in the ninth inning for the complete game. At that point, the Phillies had a 0.5% chance to win according to FanGraphs.

Victorino led off the inning with a double, but that only boosted the Phillies to a 1% chance to win, down by six runs. Raul Ibanez moved Victorino over to third with a fly ball and Ryan Howard singled him in. With a five run deficit, the Phillies were incredible long shots to win, still at less than 1%. Jayson Werth singled. 2%. Greg Dobbs hit a three-run home run off of the right field foul pole. 5%. I like where this is going.

Brian Schneider flied out for the second out of the inning. Despite the nice attempt, it appeared that the Phillies would come up short. But Ben Francisco drew a walk, bringing the Phillies back from 2% to 5% to win. Then Cody Ransom happened. He hit a game-tying two-run home run to bring the score to seven-all. The Phillies, having home field in a tie game, were now 54% to win. From 0.5% to 54%.

Ryan Madson made quick work of the Reds in the tenth inning, striking out Joey Votto and Drew Stubbs in a 1-2-3 inning. Arthur Rhodes took the bump for the Reds in the bottom-half. Rhodes is well-known in Philadelphia for his horrendous 2006 in Phillies pinstripes and also for his disparaging yet hilarious remarks about the late Cory Lidle. Despite his sterling 1.04 ERA coming into the game (on the heels of an All-Star invitation), he continued his inability to retire Phillies hitters. They tagged him for three runs on three hits and a walk on June 29. Perhaps expectedly, Raul Ibanez doubled to lead off the inning. 81.6%. Ryan Howard knocked him in with a walk-off two-run home run to left field. 100%.

Back-to-back walk-off wins are exhilarating enough, especially against a division leader. But the Reds and Phillies weren’t done inducing heart attacks for their respective fans. With Roy Halladay slated to face rookie Travis Wood tonight, it was expected to be a relatively easy win for the Phillies. Wood, however, would have none of it as he brought a perfect game into the ninth inning. While Halladay did not have a perfect game bid of his own, he matched Wood through eight innings as both teams were scoreless.

Wood lost his perfect game on the first batter he faced in the ninth inning as Carlos Ruiz lined a double to left-center. Wilson Valdez failed to sacrifice bunt Ruiz to third and Ruiz was eventually stranded. The Reds had a prime scoring opportunity in the tenth as Brad Lidge had runners on second and third with one out. The Phillies’ win expectancy was at a game-low 28.5%. The fans’ confidence in Lidge was even lower. However, Lidge struck out Ryan Hanigan. Then, after intentionally walking Laynce Nix, Lidge was able to get Brandon Phillips to fly out weakly to right field.

Exhale.

The bottom of the tenth and the top of the eleventh went by quickly as neither team mounted much of an offensive threat. Reds left-hander Bill Bray was brought out for the eleventh inning after getting two outs in the tenth. Carlos Ruiz got the ball rolling with one out, hitting a double very nearly to the same spot he hit his previous double. Dusty Baker chose to intentionally walk Wilson Valdez to bring up the left-handed-hitting Ross Gload. Bray won the match-up as Gload lined out to right field. Jimmy Rollins was the Phillies’ last hope to win it before going to the twelfth.

Rollins has had a couple nice walk-off moments in recent memory. One came during the playoffs last year against Jonathan Broxton of the Los Angeles Dodgers and another came earlier this year against Kerry Wood of the Cleveland Indians. His flair for the dramatic continued as he hit a line drive off of Logan Ondrusek down the right field line, scoring Ruiz for the third consecutive walk-off win against the Reds.

You may recall the use of some relief-pitcher metrics known as “shutdowns” and “meltdowns” previously. A reliever earns a shutdown if he adds .05 WPA and a meltdown if he subtracts .05 WPA. Here’s a rundown of shutdowns and meltdowns awarded in these three games.

July 8

July 9

July 10

Meanwhile, the Phillies continued to not score for Roy Halladay. Per PhoulBallz via Twitter:

Halladay, with a 2.09 ERA at home before tonight, has 4 home losses. #Phillies have scored a combined 5 runs in those losses.

The trend continued tonight as Halladay received zero runs of support and received a no-decision. His line? 9 IP, 0 R, 5 H, 1 BB, 9 K. And people wonder why the W-L record is useless. Travis Wood also received a no-decision and he had a perfect game going into the ninth!

All told, a great win for the Phillies. They remain 5.5 back of the Atlanta Braves and pull to within a half-game of the New York Mets in second place. The Phillies win their first series since taking two of three from the Toronto Blue Jays on June 27 — nearly two weeks ago.

In other news, the Trade Deadline Primer should be put up for purchase shortly. Click here if you’d like more information.

Everyone In This Room Is Now Dumber

There are no numbers that exist the breadth of stupidity contained within this Bill Conlin article. I haven’t FJM’ed an article in a while, a great sign actually. But this deserves a fisking.

The bulk of Conlin’s article quotes a friend of Comcast SportsNet’s Michael Barkann who proposes a trade with the Seattle Mariners that swaps Cole Hamels and Jonathan Singleton for Cliff Lee. I’ll give you a second to facepalm. And let’s begin…

WHEN I’M King of the World . . .
Ruben and his Merry Men will do some out-of-the-box thinking to help dig the Phillies’ M*A*S*H Unit out of what could become a midseason grave . . .

The Phillies are five games out of first place behind the Atlanta Braves and two games out of the Wild Card behind the New York Mets. Sure, there have been a lot of injuries and inconsistencies but they can hardly be defined as “a midseason grave”. But leave it to the mainstream media to exaggerate for article fodder.

Overreacting to first-half struggles is also not a great decision.

“Daily News Live” host Michael Barkann passed on the spin of a friend, name withheld, who definitely was thinking outside the box.

Case of writer’s block for Conlin, you think?

“Why does no one talk about trading Cole Hamels in a Cliff Lee deal?”

1. Cliff Lee would be a two-month rental. Although you bolster a lackluster starting rotation, the effect is only felt for one year and it is unlikely that the Phillies would be able to lock up Lee to a long-term contract. Consider that they are uncertain that they can retain Jayson Werth, who will come at a cheaper price than Lee.

2. Cole Hamels is signed to a contract through 2011 and has one more year of arbitration in ’12. As much as the mainstream media and most Phillies fans like to think Hamels is a terrible pitcher, having a player with that kind of cost certainty — especially compared to Lee — is valuable. Hamels is earning $6.65 million this year (essentially paying him as a 1.7 WAR pitcher) and $9.5 million in ’11 (2.4 WAR).

3. When the original Lee rumors were surfacing when he was in Cleveland, they were a team attempting a more drastic rebuilding effort. Their goal was to acquire younger players with high upside. However, a team like the Mariners would be more likely to consider accepting Cole Hamels in a trade as they don’t expect to go into full rebuilding mode.

4. If Cole is apparently so bad as Conlin and others assert, why would the Mariners take him in a trade?

The Roy Halladay-Cole Hamels duo was supposed to give Charlie Manuel a No. 1 and 1A at the top of his rotation.

Steve Slowinski of DRays Bay posted an excellent article yesterday about B.J. Upton and “The Power of Expectations”. Upton, the second overall pick in the first round of the 2002 draft, had one really great season in 2007 and hasn’t measured up since. As a result, he has been viewed as a disappointment despite posting a higher WAR in ’08 (4.6 to 4.2 in ’07), 2.1 WAR last year, and 1.2 WAR already this year.

Slowinski wrote:

In many ways, BJ Upton’s 2007 season was one of the worst things that could happen to him. His .300 average, 24 home run season was fueled by two unsustainable rates – a .393 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) and a 19.8% HR/FB rate. Upton strikes out too much for him to be a .300 hitter; his true-talent level is more in the .240-.260 range. He also isn’t a 20+ home run guy, but more like a 15 home run hitter that will also hit 35 doubles and a handful of triples. He walks a lot, steals lots of bases at a high success rate, and plays above-average defense in center field. He’s not the 5-6 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) monster we were expecting, but instead a 3 WAR player. Is that valuable? That sure as heck is, but it’s tough to see that sometimes when our expectations have blinded us.

Similarly, Hamels’ success in ’08 may have had a negative effect. His success that year, helping the Phillies win their first World Series since 1980, confirmed what many of us believed having watched him progress quickly through the Minors — that he can be a legitimate ace pitcher in the Majors on a consistent basis. What most people didn’t see was how unsustainable that level of success was as it was based on a .270 BABIP. Realistically, the expectations for Hamels should have been centered around an ERA in the 3.50 to 4.00 range which is still pretty good. Instead, Hamels was expected to have an ERA in the high 2’s to low 3’s and those expectations simply are not going to be met.

That Hamels hasn’t lived up to his billing is not his fault but the mainstream media’s (and the general fan base). They built him up and now they are tearing him down.

There is a reason for the ongoing wave of fan outrage at the Cliff Lee deal, which looks more and more pointless and arbitrary with each passing day.

I realize that it’s frustrating given the many ways this team has appeared to come up short this season while Cliff Lee has been making short work of American League hitters, but the Lee deal cannot be properly analyzed for at least a couple more years. People tend to look at trades in a vacuum in terms of “Who did we get?” and “Who did we give up?” But it’s not that simple.

The primary reason Lee was traded was to restock a barren farm system after trading for Roy Halladay. Don’t forget that the Phillies gave up Jason Donald, Lou Marson, Carlos Carrasco, and Jason Knapp to acquire Lee. While they haven’t amounted to much so far, they were still a bulk of the Phillies’ top prospects. Then add in that Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor, and Travis d’Arnaud were relinquished for Halladay. They were all in the Phillies’ top-10 prospect list according to Baseball America.

While Phillippe Aumont hasn’t had a great season so far, he still has promise as does Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez. Give them more than a half-season to prove themselves before jumping ship.

Additionally, Lee was traded because the Phillies felt they could get more out of him in a trade than they could in recouping two compensatory picks following a rejected arbitration offer after the 2010 season. The players acquired are more Major League-ready, obviously, than comp draft picks.

If the Lee trade is “pointless and arbitrary” you’re not looking at the details hard enough.

If the suits calling the shots had even rented Lee for 2010, Manuel would have had two No. 1s and a No. 1A. Nobody in baseball has that.

But what of 2011 and beyond? Focusing on one year is completely understandable if you’re a fan but at least be realistic. I, too, would have enjoyed a rotation of Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee and they would likely have been World Series favorites from the start, but you can’t put all your eggs in one basket, especially if you’re the GM of the team.

I don’t defend Ruben Amaro too much but I will defend him for the Lee trade.

So, what about Halladay and Lee without Hamels (6-7, 4.05), who is having another pedestrian season and falling short of being a No. 2, let alone a 1A.

Again, not his fault. And he has actually pitched quite well as his 3.48 SIERA indicates (15th-best in baseball, 8th best in the National League). He’s averaging nearly a strikeout per inning and he’s a hair over three walks per nine. A 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio isn’t quite at Halladay or Lee levels, but it’s quite good nonetheless.

Once again this year, Hamels has been victimized by bad luck. He has a slightly higher-than-normal BABIP at .309 but he has been really unlucky on fly balls turning into home runs (16.1%).

However, he does deserve some blame for his struggles. I can’t understand why he has been using his change-up so infrequently. It has accounted for fewer than one out of every four of his pitches compared to nearly one out of every three in previous years. Over the course of a game in which he throws 100 pitches, that’s a difference of 8 change-ups. Essentially, he has swapped out eight uses of his best pitches for inferior pitches, never a good sign.

Barkann’s friend explains:

“Hamels would be perfect in Seattle. They would have 1 1/2 years to sign him long-term. He would be back on the West Coast with zero pressure . . . and he can go 17-12 every year for Seattle making $12 million a season.”

There’s no way Hamels makes $12 million in 2013 and beyond. He’ll earn nearly $10 million next year and he will get a raise in his final year of arbitration in ’12. He obviously wouldn’t be giving any hometown discounts, so it is more likely that Hamels makes $15-16 million annually when he signs his next multi-year contract.

At that point, Barkann’s friend flies into a Fantasy League froth of moves that brings back Cliff Lee and his off-the-charts numbers for Hamels and Low Class A teenage first-base phenom Jonathan Singleton.

There may be some general managers in baseball who will overvalue one really good half-season at Single-A but not too many and I certainly doubt that Jack Zduriencik will. The Phillies haven’t been loud about the value of their prospects (despite trading them for significant value). The New York Mets and New York Yankees (notice any similarities?) have done well in recent years in generating hype for otherwise mediocre prospects.

It would take more than Hamels and Singleton to outbid several other teams for Lee’s services. And, frankly, if I’m the Mariners, I don’t trade Lee for anything less than Domonic Brown.

Then Ruben wraps up Jayson Werth “for 4 or 5 years at $13 million per season.”

Fans love to throw other people’s money around, don’t they? Here’s the Phillies’ payroll for the next few years. Notice at the bottom of 2011 it says $134.7 million. And notice how many players have salaries filled in that column (17). They have five arbitration-eligible players (Dobbs will likely be the only player not given an offer). How do you add $13 million and still round out the roster? Factor in that the Major League minimum salary is $400,000 and the young players used this year will be given slight pay raises. Factor in that more than 25 players will be utilized throughout the season. Factor in that the Phillies may want flexibility to make an in-season trade.

For the Phillies to re-sign Werth, one of two things needs to happen: Werth would need to accept a heavily back-loaded extension, or the Phillies would need to unload a lot of salary. Raul Ibanez is the obvious target, but the market is not exactly ripe for 38-year-olds owed $12 million after slugging under .400 (his SLG currently sits at .393).

Shane Victorino is traded in the winter and there is a flurry of moves and contracts aimed at tightening up the bullpen.

If you’re going to play GM, be specific. What is Victorino’s market? What does this market have to offer?

Which relievers will be available to aim these contracts at?

It’s fine to make these vague statements in a bar conversation or an IM chat, but to put this to press for mass public consumption? This is totally irresponsible.

And what about Lee’s deal? “Lee will cost $18-20 million for 4 or 5 years.” OK, stop the movie right there. Ruben Amaro was instructed to draw a line in the sand. No deals for a starting pitcher longer than 3 years. Lee was offered the same length and terms as those accepted by Halladay. Before Lee could make a counteroffer, he was a Seattle Mariner. And in shock.

So… is Conlin refuting Barkann’s friend’s contract assumption? It’s not clear. At any rate, Barkann’s friend wants the Phillies to add $13 million annually and Lee at $20 million annually, so the Phillies are adding $33 million in payroll for just two players. That would balloon their 2011 total to nearly $170 million. Apparently, the Phillies are playing with Monopoly money.

There was an interesting observation at the end of all the proposed wheeling and dealing.

“I am still convinced that the Phillies ‘parked’ Lee in Seattle and with [Pat] Gillick’s relationship to the Mariners, Amaro will get a right-of-first refusal on trade offers thrown at Seattle.” Pat does have a history of maintaining cordial relations with the first three ballclubs he successfully served as general manager. That said, I don’t see Cliff Lee ever wearing a Phillies uniform again.

Because nothing says “facts” like “I am still convinced”. There is absolutely no evidence given for this claim besides the circumstances of Gillick’s ties to Seattle. Apparently, this guy is saying that Gillick intentionally took an inferior package from Seattle just to put him there, where he and his suave ways could talk the Mariners into taking an inferior package from the Phillies in another trade. The Mariners’ front office is made up of masochists, didn’t you get that memo?

Finally, at the end, Barkann’s friend lets us know that the whole exercise was a waste of time. More importantly, though, it shows us exactly why 99.99% of fans would make absolutely awful general managers. And it shows us that Bill Conlin is mailing it in a weekly basis (or however often he musters up the energy to pen a column).

Trade Deadline Primer

With the 2010 MLB trading deadline on the horizon, TwinsCentric has led a rag-tag group of bloggers on a mission to put out the best Trade Deadline Primer ever. It’s an e-book that will go on sale hopefully by next Monday. Inside, you will find a wealth of information from team-specific bloggers such as myself (Phillies), Peter Hjort (Braves, Capitol Avenue Club), Michael Jong (Marlins, Marlin Maniac) and Joe Janish (Mets, Mets Today) — and that’s just the NL East. We’ll tell you who is likely to go, who is likely to stay, which players each team is targeting, as well as a look at the prospects that could change addresses. It is truly a comprehensive look at the trade deadline.

I haven’t seen anything quite like this and I’m proud of the work that I’ve put into it, and I’m sure the others feel the same way. I’ll post a link to the e-book when it goes up for sale. You can help justify our hard work by purchasing the relatively cheap Trade Deadline Primer for $9.95. Know that the proceeds will go towards supporting a legion of bloggers who put in a lot of time and effort without ever being guaranteed that they will be rewarded monetarily for their efforts.

Here’s a taste of what is in the Phillies’ section of the primer regarding Jayson Werth:

The Phillies could conclude that they are unlikely to retain Jayson Werth after the 2010 season. The organization has nearly $135 million already on the books for 2011 and with Werth likely to command at least $15 million per season in a multi-year deal, such a conclusion is very realistic. As such, the Phillies could decide to capitalize on his value by trading him for prospects and cost-controlled Major League players. This is more likely to happen if the Phillies happen to fall out of the playoff race.

By the way, regarding the last part about falling out of the playoff race — when I wrote that about a month ago, I chuckled to myself. Not so funny anymore! However, despite the fact that they haven’t been this far out of first place (5 GB entering last night’s game) since 2007, there are still 81 games to play and the Braves and Mets are bound to experience some trials and tribulations of their own. Of the three, the Phillies are best-equipped to handle adversity, don’t you think?

There’s also this, their record through 81 games over the past few seasons:

  • 2010: 43-38, 4 GB, 3rd
  • 2009: 43-38, –, 1st
  • 2008: 43-38, –, 1st
  • 2007: 41-40, 6 GB, 3rd

In short, support us bloggers by buying the Trade Deadline Primer that will go on sale within a week and… optimism!

Ruben Amaro’s Albatross

When Ryan Howard signed that contract extension back in April, we number-crunchers acted like the Phillies just invested all our money in Goldman Sachs. Remember when Keith Law criticized the extension on ESPN 97.5 only to have Mike Missanelli repeatedly yell “He’s the preeminent power hitter of our generation”? The prevailing thought among the critics was that while Howard may provide some short-term value, he would not be able to justify his salary in the latter half of his deal due to aging and his one-dimensional set of baseball skills.

The following chart displays all Major League first basemen with at least 250 plate appearances and 500 defensive innings at first base this season, ranked by the differential between their prorated 2010 salary (to date, going into Friday’s games) and their current value above replacement.

Howard has, so far, been the fifth-least valuable first baseman in baseball, “costing” his team about $4 million. That means that if the Phillies had spent the money they paid Howard so far, minus $4 million, they could have found equivalent production on the free agent market.

“The preeminent power hitter of our generation” is ahead of four other aging players awarded expensive free agent contracts or extensions. And over the rest of the 2010 season, Howard projects to be the third-least valuable first baseman behind Mark Teixeira and Todd Helton.

It isn’t going to get better from here. Opposing managers are going to continue to utilize left-handed relief pitchers late in games to neutralize his bat, opposing pitchers will continue to throw him slop that breaks away, his bat speed will continue to wane, and as he ages he will become less mobile defensively and on the bases. If the chart above is depressing, then you better load up on the Prozac because Howard’s $125 million and declining production will begin to cripple the Phillies when it kicks in, starting in 2012.

Oh, and the Phillies’ lineup tonight is Rollins-Ibanez-Werth-Howard-Francisco-Dobbs-Valdez-Sardinha-Moyer.

Happy weekend!