GM Amaro Considered Blowing Up 2010 Squad

Not even a full day removed from clinching the NL East for the fourth straight season, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. joined Sirius XM hosts Jim Memolo and Rob Dibble on the MLB Network Radio channel on Tuesday. I received the transcription from one of the MLB Network representatives. What you are about to read may surprise you.

Host, Jim Memolo: “We talked to you earlier in the year, hard to believe that this team actually got shut out five times in an eight game stretch at some point this year. But since we talked to you last you got Roy Oswalt, Jayson Werth has turned it around hitting-wise, which I think is a major part of what has happened with your team. Has your vision of this team for next year, and what you’re going to do with this team, changed from earlier in the season to now?”

Ruben Amaro Jr.: “Oh, I think it has. We actually had thoughts in the middle of the season, when we were playing right around .500 baseball, of breaking it up. (laughs) There was some concern that maybe guys were getting older, less productive. If you look up and down our lineup, I don’t know if there is any guy, other than maybe Carlos Ruiz, who is having a career year. We talked about this internally and yet we still are creeping up on 95 wins, which is amazing to me. I would have been the first to be able to tell you that I didn’t think we were going to get to 90 wins when we were right around the middle of July. So for us to kind of turn on the way we’ve turned it on, is even surprising to me. What’s great about this is that, one, we really haven’t had the kind of production that we typically would have from even the guys in the middle. Chase Utley hasn’t had his typical year. Ryan Howard hasn’t had his typical year. Jimmy Rollins obviously hasn’t had a great year, he’s had injury issues and such. We’ve got a lot of down production from a lot of guys and hopefully they can turn it on and come up with some offensive production as we get into the postseason.”

While the sentiment of blowing up the team may surprise you, it wasn’t that unreasonable. The Phillies had to go on a ridiculous run to get to where they are now. On July 21, they were 48-46, in third place, and seven games back of the Atlanta Braves. Since then, the Phils have gone 47-18, which is a winning percentage of .723. Using the PythagenPat method with runs scored and runs allowed (312-217), we come up with a .660 winning percenage. That’s still great but it is a difference of nine games between expected W-L and actual W-L, which is enough to jettison themselves out of first place. Going 16-6 (.727)  in one-run games helped.

The big component of the Phillies’ second-half success is pitching. Since July 22, here’s how the Phillies’ starters have fared:

  • Roy Halladay: 96.2 IP, 2.51 ERA, 88 K, 11 BB, .287 BABIP
  • Roy Oswalt (since July 30): 81.2 IP, 1.65 ERA, 72 K, 21 BB, .221 BABIP
  • Cole Hamels: 87.2 IP, 2.36 ERA, 86 K, 19 BB, .279 BABIP
  • Joe Blanton: 80.2 IP, 3.24 ERA, 72 K, 20 BB, .328 BABIP
  • Kyle Kendrick: 67.1 IP, 4.68 ERA, 31 K, 16 BB, .317 BABIP

With the exception of Blanton and Kendrick, Phillie starters — Oswalt in particular — have benefited from below-average BABIP. While the K/BB rates are awesome for everyone not named Kendrick, it is easy to see that the starting rotation has collectively pitched over its head. Were it to play out over a full season, the team’s 3.3 runs allowed average since July 22 would be by far the best in baseball, beating out San Diego’s 3.6 by a long shot.

Attribute their success to whomever or whatever you’d like, but it took a statistically improbable run to get them to where they are now. Not to take anything away from what they have accomplished, but going into the post-season, the Phillies are neither as good as they showed in their final 65 nor as bad as they appeared in mid-July. Getting most of the core healthy was key. Given the late-season injuries teams like the Braves, Twins, and Rangers are dealing with, the Phillies are almost back to 100 percent. That should help offset some of the regression.

“First Pitch,” with Jim Memolo and Rob Dibble, airs weekdays (7-10 am ET) on MLB Network Radio, XM channel 175 and SIRIUS channel 210 for subscribers with the “Best of XM.”

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35 comments

  1. Aaron H

    September 30, 2010 05:18 PM

    While I love the guys that are currently on the squad, and I’m looking forward to seeing them on the field in years to come (even Ryan Howard-love the man, hate the contract), I’m glad to see RAJ put some thoughts on blowing up the squad. It might seem like he was getting impatient, but his impulse to go younger and constantly find ways to improve the team will bode well in the future. When the core really begins to stagnate, I hope he’ll recognize the situation the team would be in and start to find ways to bring in the next crop of young starts to put up the numbers of the Chases, Ryans, Jimmys, and Royses of the world.

  2. crusher

    September 30, 2010 05:46 PM

    Bill do you the reds’batters splits vs. RHP and LHP or where to look? thanks.

    Also, what does Amaro mean ” howard wasn’t having his typical year.”?

    Dude has been on the decline.

  3. Dan

    September 30, 2010 06:02 PM

    Crusher; Going from the high 40s in HRs to the low-to-mid 30s in one year is not decline, it’s an outlier.

    Even if he is in decline (can’t be proven just yet, only speculated), he wouldn’t go down by a full 10+ HRs a year.

  4. Bill Baer

    September 30, 2010 06:37 PM

    I don’t know if I’d go that far, Dan. His 60-point decline in ISO is concerning. Maybe it’s an outlier, maybe it’s not. We don’t have enough information yet — especially since he had a great showing in 2009.

  5. crusher

    September 30, 2010 07:02 PM

    want an outlier?

    Ryan Howard’s OPS in 06 and 07.

    And Thanks, bill.

  6. Scott G

    September 30, 2010 08:40 PM

    I think it’s ridiculous that Ruben considered blowing the team up. They went to the World Series last year, and only good changes were made.

    This year they had Halladay for a full season compared to Lee for half. Halladay is better anyway.

    Hamels was getting much better results this year than last year.

    The team had Oswalt for a half a year.

    I should equate Oswalt and Lee, Halladay for a full season, and Hamels getting good results.

    The lineup is exactly the same except with Polanco not Feliz (very good thing). How would he not expect the team to play well? A couple months isn’t a good enough sample to consider blowing up a team that has great chemistry and a collection of some of the best players at their respective positions.

  7. Richard

    September 30, 2010 08:44 PM

    Surely it was when the team was at its lowest ebb that he was thinking of blowing it up, no? The Oswalt trade was a result of deciding not to (as was not trading Werth).

  8. DrPete

    September 30, 2010 08:50 PM

    I was expecting Werth to get traded, given the way the season had gone. Then Vic got hurt and we needed Werth to play CF.
    I think that changed the dynamic completely.
    It’s interesting how something random — an injury — can have a profound effect on the outcome of a season.

  9. carl gillespie

    September 30, 2010 10:16 PM

    Just sign Werth next year or blow up Amaro.

  10. Jim

    October 01, 2010 01:38 AM

    @Scott G,

    The point is that he isn’t acting like a fan, like you are. Which is good. You’re ready to castrate the man for THINKING about blowing up the team; I hate to see how you would react when he does have to do so.

    Like Richard said, he obviously didn’t blow the team up. Instead, he fleeced Houston, and now we are where we are. Having the gumption to ask, “what if this team really is on the decline?” is not stupidity; it’s a mark of good management. If you don’t ask the tough questions, how are you going to find the answers? Maybe he asked that question, did some research and analysis, talked with a bunch of guys in the organization and concluded, “yeah, that’s pretty ridiculous.” Better than having blind faith, like, oh I don’t know… New York Mets comes to mind.

    I guarantee you he probably is happier about us winning 95 games (and possibly more) than any of us; after all, unlike for the rest of us where it is just our favorite team, for him this is actual professional accomplishment. Seems to me that besides the ridiculous contract he gave to Howard, Amaro just might be one of the best young GMs in MLB. And who knows if he is totally to blame for Howard’s contract? I’m starting to wonder if it really was his call…

  11. Bill

    October 01, 2010 02:23 AM

    Lets look at Amaro’s record. Let Brett Meyers walk got nothing in return. Could have had Pat Burrell for nothing since Rays were paying him, passed. Let Miguel Cairo walk to Cincy sign Juan Castro in his place. Traded prospect Jason Donald, Carlos Carrasco, and Lou Marson for Cliff Lee. traded Cliff Lee for 3 prospects who bombed in minor leagues. Traded Kyle Drabek and other top prospects for Roy Halliday.Now Roy halliday was a good pick up but Kyle Drabek will be a future #1. The Mariners got more for Lee them we got. because Amaro let Lee go for nothing we needed Oswalt and had to give up J Happ who will be a good #3 pitcher for years to come. Meyers pitched 32 games passed the 6th inning this year, Burrell has hit 18 home runs for san fran. Cairo had a great year for Cincy and Castro got cut. Oh yeah he gave Danny Beaz 2.5 million and all he does is give up runs. Donald and Carrasco will be effective big leaguers for many years to come. In short Amaro gets an F !!!

  12. Scott G

    October 01, 2010 07:20 AM

    Jim,

    My approach isn’t that of a fan when I say what I said. It doesn’t take a lot for me to say:

    We have Jayson Werth (top 5 offensive OF. He was having a good year all year despite what people will have you believe), Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard, Ryan Madson, Roy Halladay, and Cole Hamels. Some of these guys are clearly underachieving based on career numbers and will turn it around. Hey, we also had a ton of injuries. I’m not surprised that we haven’t won that many games. We had a great season last year, and it’s outrageous to think the entire team is on the decline due to age in less than one year.

    In a year or two when the team is considerably older, it won’t be a bad idea. Fresh off of two consecutive WS seasons with almost the exact same team, it is pretty absurd to suggest that their time has come.

  13. awh

    October 01, 2010 07:24 AM

    “…it took a statistically improbable run to get them to where they are now.”

    Bill, aren’t all runs that teams go on “statisticaly improbable”? (And I differentiate between a run and a streak thus: in winning “streaks” there are no losses and visa versa.)

    Isn’t the Twins run in the second half of this season (47-22 [.681] since July 15th, and 46-17 [.730] until a week ago) “statistically improbable” as well?

    Isn’t any winning streak of “X” number of games or longer also a statistical improbability?

    Mt point:

    I’m not sure that noting the “statistical improbability” of their run since July 22 really has any meaning other than being a casual observation. How many teams ever, over the course of a season, have played .730 baseball? [1906 Cubs - exactly ONE] Players and teams perform better or worse than their “statistical probabilities” all the time. Just take a look at Werth’s RISP performance for a large part of 2010. (sample size alert, but you get the idea)

  14. Scott G

    October 01, 2010 07:25 AM

    In 2008, The Phillies were 51-43 through 94 games. That’s a 3 game swing. Not that far off. Am I the only one here who was not worried in May and June that this team would turn it around based on the incredible amount of talent on the roster compared to the rest of the division? (Again, not approaching this as a fan)

  15. awh

    October 01, 2010 08:06 AM

    “Instead, he fleeced Houston”

    @Jim, while in the short-term Oswalt has been spectacular, keep in mind that he’s only here through 2011.

    Happ’s MLB service time should put him under HOU control for about another 4 years. They also got Brett Wallace from TOR for gose, and he may turn out to be a pretty good player.

    Let’s see how many games Happ wins for the ‘stros the next 4 years, and how well Wallace turns out.

    Right now, the Phillies sure look to have gotten the better end of the bargain, but 4 years from now we may be saying the trade was a lot more “fair”.

  16. Scott G

    October 01, 2010 08:24 AM

    Also, putting on my GM cap.

    From ’08-’10, the following players have cost the Phillies $/WAR. Raul is only ’09-’10 because he joined the team in ’09.

    Werth: $405,000; $781,000; $1,500,000
    Utley: $1,200,000; $1,500,000; $3,550,000
    Howard: $3,600,000; $3,125,000; $8,600,000
    Ibanez: $2,870,000; $12,166,666

    The organization has technically made bank on Jayson Werth. He has been providing the most bang for his buck over the last three years. Utley is close which is understandable.

    Even if the organization can’t give away Raul during this offseason in order to try and re-sign Werth, I think that they most certainly can take this hit for one season. Money is an unlimited resource in this sport. The owners have tons of it. Let’s say Werth signs a contract for 17,000,000 for about 4 years. Once Ibanez leaves, his $12,166,666 will be off the books and replaced by Dom Brown’s meager (can I really say that?) salary. That would be the equivalent to Ibanez never having been here the last two seasons and Werth being paid $4,833,333. This is definitely reasonable when you consider that Moyer won’t be here next year, you can put Worley in the rotation, Romero’s $4.25 Mil better come off.

    To quote a great movie, “Pay that man his money”.

    I’m thinking like a fan and a GM all at once.

  17. Hunter

    October 01, 2010 08:38 AM

    “Money is an unlimited resource in this sport. ”

    The Tampa Bay Rays are on line 1, wondering how to get their money tree so they can re-sign Carl Crawford next year.

  18. bill

    October 01, 2010 09:17 AM

    Arguments aside, how about Joe Blanton with a bout 8 K/9 since then? Man’s looking healthy.

  19. Van Pelt

    October 01, 2010 10:25 AM

    I agree that this is probably the most encouraging thing I’ve read about Ruben in a while. As was stated above, the fact that he was willing to ask the question about whether this was the right time to start moving guys shows a process of decision making that I think is essential to good management (understanding sunk cost, changing course based on new information ect.) It’s clear he made the right choice, but I’m glad that there was an open conversation about the alternatives.
    Honestly, I can’t get a read on the guy. This and the admission that he tried to reacquire Lee are good signs. But then you have other questionable contracts, the (seeming) dismissal of advanced analysis, and of course the smug doesn’t help. I think at this point I’m going to hold of on trying to pin Ruben down until he’s about 5-6 years in, when he’s replacing the guys inherited from previous management.

  20. Marc

    October 01, 2010 12:04 PM

    Scott,

    You’re not taking into account the rest of the roster, and only looking at part of it.

    The question of whether to resign Werth doesn’t come down to one year with Ibanez, it also involves Rollins. As bad a year Rollins has had, he is a free agent at the end of next year. Unlike Dom Brown, the Phillies do NOT have a shortstop in the minors to take his spot. Therefore, the question is:

    Sign Werth and lose Rollins? And please don’t tell me Valdez will be the answer for the next four years.

  21. hk

    October 01, 2010 12:54 PM

    I wonder what “blowing up the roster” would have looked like other than trading Werth and giving RF to Dom Brown. Maybe they could have traded Blanton, Contreras or Raul (if they were willing to pick up most or all of the money due to him through next year). Other than that, Chooch, Utley, Halladay, Hamels and Madson would seem to be untouchable and I don’t think they would have traded Victorino, who is both the youngest position player and is also signed at a reasonable price through 2012, or Happ if they were in dump mode. Howard, Rollins (while on the DL) and Lidge would seem to be untradeable. I can’t imagine there being much interest in anyone else.

  22. CH Phan

    October 01, 2010 01:42 PM

    If Ruiz, Utley, Halladay, Hamels, and Madson are untouchable — Victorino, Howard, Rollins and Lidge are untradeable — wow. Right now Halladay & Hamels (apart from his last game) are fine. Ruiz and Victorino are on & off right now. Madson, I don’t know, He seems fine. Utley, Howard haven’t been doing well until the last game or two. And Rollins hasn’t even been able to play until the last 2 games. Seriously what kind of team does that leave us?

    Trading Werth & putting Brown in RF (the way he’s played since they brought him up) would’ve effectively “blown” the team. As discussed already Werth filled-in at CF for Victorino during his injury, and honestly I have to wonder what this team would’ve been like without Werth’s bat in the past 3 wks? Hm. Okay, I don’t want to go there.

  23. hk

    October 01, 2010 02:04 PM

    CH Phan, the point of “blowing up the team” when it was 48-46 would have been to give up on 2010 and build for the future.

  24. jc

    October 01, 2010 02:40 PM

    If Rub were to “blow up” the team in July. I would have led the mob that broke into his office, tarred and feathered him, and drug him through the streets of Philadelphia.

  25. KH

    October 01, 2010 03:14 PM

    I hate the pythag win-loss. The Phillies have outscored there opponents significantly and are clearly the best team in the NL period end of story.

  26. KH

    October 01, 2010 03:15 PM

    Not to say that the pytag win-loss is totally useless but please the Phillies have outscored there opponents by over a 100 runs.

  27. Jim

    October 01, 2010 05:05 PM

    @Scott G,

    My point isn’t that the question itself is ridiculous or not; you might think it is, he might think it’s not. I happen to agree with Bill (the author of this blog, not the other Bill) that it is not that ridiculous, but that’s a difference of opinion and I really couldn’t care less about that.

    What IS important and what DID impress me is that however ridiculous, when trying to figure out why we were only 48-46 in JULY (that’s not that early in the season anymore), Amaro wasn’t afraid to ask a ridiculous question. If you were GM, you wouldn’t have asked that question, that’s obvious enough from your posts. Guess what, comparing the two, I have MUCH more confidence in Amaro’s ability to ask that question at the most appropriate time than my confidence of you asking that question at the appropriate time. With his approach, he can always just say “no” to the question, as he surely did by trading for Oswalt. With your approach, I’m afraid there is a chance you might be too late to say “yes.” The ONLY people who are too afraid or think it’s too ridiculous to ask the tough questions are the ones who are afraid of the answers.

  28. Jim

    October 01, 2010 05:13 PM

    @awh,

    You forget to factor in the fact that we might win a WS out of that Oswalt trade which we probably won’t if not for that trade. Like Bill said, we might be getting spoiled, because I would bet you anything that back in 2002, you would have traded 10 years of service in a pitcher of Happ’s caliber for just one WS championship. I applaud Amaro for not treating this year differently just because we won a WS already back in 2008; you pull triggers like that when you can.

    You’re perfectly right, maybe “fleeced” is too strong of a word. Maybe Houston did get a lot more out of it than we realize; I’m certainly willing to reserve final judgment on that. However, that doesn’t make Amaro’s decision wrong for the Phillies, regardless how Happ and Wallace turn out. Remember, like you said, Oswalt is here for another year? What would your mindset be if we end up winning the WS this year AND next? Happ and Wallace can end up being perennial all-stars and I wouldn’t give a damn.

  29. Sanj

    October 01, 2010 07:33 PM

    When Amaro talks about “blowing up the team”, I do not believe he means gutting half the roster. Prob just means trading some guys who they would lose at the end of the year anyway(ie Jayson Werth), as all non-playoff teams do. That would not have been the craziest move.

  30. Scott G

    October 01, 2010 07:40 PM

    Marc,

    You bring up Jimmy Rollins. Why can’t you have both? You can’t honestly tell me you think his next contract will be higher than his current one. This further supports my reasoning that the overall payroll will be less, or at least not significantly higher. Rollins has been a pretty awful offensive player the last few years, and while I hope the injuries don’t affect him, they certainly could make his defense worse. I never mentioned Valdez, but thank you for that. Why does everyone think the SS solutions must be from in house?

  31. Sanj

    October 01, 2010 07:41 PM

    What qualifies as a replacement player? If a team had all replacement-quality players, do they go 81-81, or worse? If replacement players get you to .500, I think that either the name needs to be changed or the value of a replacement needs to be lower.

  32. Scott G

    October 01, 2010 08:58 PM

    A team of replacement-level players are estimated to win about 40-50 games. I can’t find the post through the search, but Bill has talked about this recently. I’m pretty sure you were commenting on that thread too. Idk

  33. Sanj

    October 04, 2010 08:52 AM

    thx

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