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Mike Sweeney to Fill the Howard Void

Posted By Bill Baer On August 4, 2010 @ 4:53 pm In MLB,Philadelphia Phillies,Sabermetrics | 12 Comments

Todd Zolecki, via Twitter:

Phillies acquire first baseman Mike Sweeney from the Seattle Mariners for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

Since Ryan Howard was placed on the disabled list, Sweeney’s role is to help the Phillies bridge the gap. At one point in his career (1999-2002), Sweeney was an extremely productive hitter but chronic back problems and two knee surgeries limited him to under 1,000 plate appearances from 2006-09.

This year, in 110 PA with the Seattle Mariners, Sweeney hit for a 118 OPS+ which is exactly at his career average. His ISO is as high as it has been since 2005 with the Royals and his walk rate is as high as it has been since ’06. But wait, there’s more! Sweeney has been tearing it up for Seattle’s Triple-A affiliate in Tacoma. Last night, he had three hits in four at-bats, including two home runs and four RBI. Overall, he has a 1.054 OPS in 50 PA during his rehab assignment.

Defensively, Sweeney likely leaves a lot to be desired as he has almost exclusively been a designated hitter. Dave Cameron of U.S.S. Mariner, who has watched Sweeney since the start of last season, doesn’t see Sweeney working out too well at first base. Via Twitter, he wrote:

With no malice intended towards Sweeney, do Phillies really think he can play the field? He hurt himself every time he tried this year.

He physically can’t do it. Not kidding – he plays the field, the next day he’s unavailable.

Given the Phillies’ rash of injuries, the addition of Sweeney could potentially add more heartache to a rough season.

Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports via Twitter that Charlie Manuel intends to use Sweeney as the everyday first baseman. Sweeney does not have much of a platoon split: .824 OPS against left-handers and .864 against right-handers. I have seen a lot of people wondering why there won’t be a platoon with Sweeney and Ross Gload, but it won’t make much of a difference. Gload is actually hitting lefties much better this year and his career OPS against right-handed pitchers is a lot lower than Sweeney’s.

All told, this is a low-risk (virtually no-risk) move that could end up rewarding the Phillies greatly. Even if Sweeney does not emulate Ryan Howard — and no one is expecting him to — he is a solid upgrade over Cody Ransom and Greg Dobbs, the two other options aside from Gload who could play first base.


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