Phillies Best Ever, by Position

MLB Network recently aired an episode (likely a re-run) of Prime 9 where they looked at the best players at each position during the 1980’s. The usual candidates were mentioned: Gary Carter at catcher, Don Mattingly at first base, Ryne Sandberg at second, Cal Ripken at shortstop, Mike Schmidt at third — just to name a few. Since I have been beating the “Utley is super duper awesome” drum so loudly for a while, I was interested to see where the present-day second baseman ranks among his peers in Phillies franchise history.

Rk Player WAR From To Age PA OPS
1 Chase Utley 38.7 2003 2010 24-31 4324 .894
2 Tony Taylor 11.9 1960 1976 24-40 6424 .668
3 Placido Polanco 11.5 2002 2010 26-34 2112 .772
4 Dave Cash 10.9 1974 1976 26-28 2238 .719
5 Juan Samuel 9.8 1983 1989 22-28 3780 .749
6 Otto Knabe 9.8 1907 1913 23-29 4057 .643
7 Manny Trillo 6.1 1979 1982 28-31 2022 .689
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/26/2010.

In chart form:

Utley, over the course of his career, has been three times as valuable to the Phillies as the franchise’s second-best second baseman, Tony Taylor.  He also has the five best single seasons (and six of the top-ten) by a Phillies second baseman.

Rk Player WAR/pos Year
1 Chase Utley 7.7 2009
2 Chase Utley 6.6 2008
3 Chase Utley 6.6 2007
4 Chase Utley 6.2 2005
5 Chase Utley 5.7 2006
6 Dave Cash 4.7 1974
7 Granny Hamner 4.4 1954
8 Dave Cash 4.3 1975
9 Chase Utley 4.2 2010
10 Tony Taylor 4.0 1963
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/26/2010.

Prorating WAR to 700 PA, Utley ranks sixth among all Major League second baseman dating back to 1901.

Rk Player WAR WAR
700 PA
1 Rogers Hornsby 127.8 9.4
2 Jackie Robinson 63.2 7.6
3 Eddie Collins 126.7 7.4
4 Nap Lajoie 84.4 7.2
5 Joe Morgan 103.5 6.4
6 Chase Utley 38.7 6.3
7 Joe Gordon 54.9 5.9
8 Bobby Grich 67.6 5.8
9 Charlie Gehringer 80.9 5.5

While the above is simply overkill on a dead horse that has been beaten thoroughly, it does lead to an interesting question: who are the Phillies’ best players all-time by position? I sped to Baseball Reference’s Play Index to find out.

Catcher

Darren Daulton: 21.9 WAR

Notables:

Range between 1st and 2nd place: 4.2 WAR

First Base

Ryan Howard: 20.9 WAR

Notables:

Range between 1st and 2nd place: 1.2 WAR

Third Base

Mike Schmidt: 108.3 WAR

Notables:

  • Dick Allen: 37.1 WAR (2nd)
  • Scott Rolen: 28.3 WAR (3rd)

Range between 1st and 2nd place: 71.2 WAR

Shortstop

Jimmy Rollins: 30.3 WAR

Notables:

Range between 1st and 2nd place: 13.2 WAR

Left Field

Sherry Magee: 47.6 WAR

Notables:

Range between 1st and 2nd place: 15.9 WAR

Center Field

Richie Ashburn: 52.3 WAR

Notables:

Range between 1st and 2nd place: 22.5

Right Field

Bobby Abreu: 46.6 WAR

Notables:

  • Johnny Callison: 35.0 WAR (2nd)
  • Chuck Klein: 30.9 WAR (3rd)
  • Jayson Werth: 15.4 WAR (6th, with between one-third and one-half the PA of other qualifiers; trails only Abreu on a per-700 PA basis)

Range between 1st and 2nd place: 11.6 WAR

Starting Pitching

  • Robin Roberts: 67.8 WAR
  • Steve Carlton: 63.5 WAR
  • Pete (Grover Cleveland) Alexander: 54.6 WAR
  • Chris Short: 36.0 WAR
  • Curt Schilling: 34.6 WAR

The big takeaway from this is that the Phillies’ best first baseman, second baseman, and shortstop since 1901 (about 110 years) played in the 2007-2010 “post-season era”. All three were home-grown, to boot.  Throw in Werth, arguably the franchise’s second-best right fielder, some historically-great base running, consistently-elite defense, and solid pitching, and you have a  tasty recipe for playoff success.

Chase Utley Gets No Respect

If you tuned in to MLB Network on Monday, you may have overheard some crazy talk coming from former Philadelphia Phillies closer Mitch Williams. Following a discussion of the National League MVP award, the panel discussed the possibility of someone other than Josh Hamilton taking home the American League hardware. Miguel Cabrera was mentioned, as was Robinson Cano.

After a quick review of some basic statistics, Williams proceeded to call Cano the best player in baseball. This, following a discussion that included Albert Pujols on the NL side of things. Now, to clarify, Williams did not qualify his statement with “…in a few years” or with any if-statements. Right now, Cano is the best player in Major League Baseball in Williams’ eyes.

The problem is that Cano isn’t even the best player at his own position. That honor belongs to Chase Utley.

Cano’s 2010 season is ostensibly his peak. .389 wOBA, -0.9 UZR/150, -1.3 EQBRR, 6.4 WAR. That’s about as good as it’s going to get for Robbie.

Now consider Utley’s career lows since becoming a regular in 2005: .373 wOBA (2010), 7.6 UZR/150 (’06), 0.5 EQBRR (’05), 5.2 WAR (’10). At his worst, Utley is still comparable to Cano.

What about Utley’s best? .420 wOBA (’07), 19.3 UZR/150 (’08), 8.8 EQBRR (’09), 8.1 WAR (’08). Utley grades out much better than Cano by comparison.

It could very well be true that Cano is a better player in aggregate going forward especially since he is four years younger, but as of right now, Utley is the best player at his position and arguably the most valuable player in all of baseball. He is still on the good side of 30 (32 to be exact) and will have plenty of time to recuperate from a thumb injury that sidelined him for two months and completely sapped his power when he returned from the disabled list.

Bill James projects a .380 wOBA for Utley and .371 for Cano in 2011 (note: James’ projections tend to be very optimistic). Utley has a strong track record for elite defense while one would be kind to call Cano an average fielder. Utley has always contributed positively on the base paths including double-digit stolen base totals (with an 88% success rate) in five of his six full seasons. In short, Utley is a multi-talented player with a well-padded resume while Cano is a one-dimensional player with one really good season and two good finishes to his name.

Even in an era with mainstream acceptance of Sabermetric principles, Utley still goes relatively unnoticed and unrewarded. Utley could very well go down as the franchise’s second-best player of all time, behind third baseman Mike Schmidt. He already ranks eighth all-time in WAR at 38.7, about 28 WAR behind the man currently in second place, Ed Delahanty. If he has 5+ WAR seasons for the next four years, he could mail it in during his late 30’s and finish in second — if the Phillies decide to extend him beyond 2013, that is.

With shock jocks like Mike Missanelli calling for the team to ship Utley to another city, it’s time for people to wake up and realize just how great of a player Utley really is. Utley should be to the Phillies what Derek Jeter is — and what Cano will be — to the Yankees.

Be sure to read this post if you’d like to contribute a guest article to Crashburn Alley.

Programming Note

Just a quick note regarding new posts here at Crashburn Alley: they will likely come out less frequently for the next couple weeks. Thanksgiving is coming up, of course, but I am also working on a couple other writing projects in the meantime. I will be authoring a couple articles for the Maple Street Press Phillies annual, which will be sold in most local supermarkets and drug stores. My weekly fantasy baseball articles will also return to Baseball Prospectus around the first week of December if all goes according to schedule.

To help fill in some space here on the blog, I’ll be accepting guest articles. If you’d like to have one of your articles published here, send them to CrashburnAlley [at] Gmail [dot] com. It’s a good way to get some free publicity for your blog, or just to see your name somewhere on the Internets. Be sure to include any pertinent details you’d like included with your post, i.e. your name, your blog name and URL, and anything else you deem relevant. The articles don’t have to be Sabermetrically-oriented, but should be original work and relevant to Phillies fans. Try your best to make sure your article is cleaned up for spelling and grammar, but I’ll do some editing prior to publishing if necessary.

I’d also like to experiment with a “mailbag” feature. Send, to the same e-mail address listed above with “mailbag” somewhere in the subject line, any questions you have regarding the Phillies and I’ll post my best attempts at answering those questions every week. If it goes well, I’d like to incorporate it going into the 2011 regular season.

As we enter the doldrums of baseball’s off-season, sit tight and wait for the free agents to start signing and for GM’s to start making trades. Soon enough, we’ll have spring training baseball on our hands.

Phillies’ Bullpen Strengthened with Contreras

Between Brad Lidge‘s dream 2008, nightmare ’09, and resurgent ’10 seasons and Ryan Madson‘s rise to prominence, 38-year-old reliever Jose Contreras did not receive any recognition for an impressive turnout during the regular season. The starter-turned-reliever finished with a 3.34 ERA and 3.19 SIERA, averaging just over a strikeout per inning.

Impressively, Contreras struck out 14 batters before issuing his first walk of the season on May 8. He also filled in admirably as the closer when Lidge succumbed to elbow injuries and Madson broke his toe kicking a metal folding chair. In five appearances between May 10 and 28, he converted three of three save chances while striking out seven and walking only one batter.

Contreras hit a speed bump in the middle of the season, allowing three or more runs in three of 11 appearances between June 19 and July 15. From that point forward, however, Contreras allowed a run in only five of 31 appearances, putting up a 2.33 ERA, striking out 24 and walking seven in 27 innings.

Contreras became the third Phillies reliever since 1970 with at least a 9.0 K/9 and at most a 2.6 BB/9, joining Billy Wagner and Ryan Madson, both accomplishing the feat twice in consecutive seasons.

Player SO/9 BB/9 G Year Tm IP ERA+
Billy Wagner 10.99 1.12 45 2004 PHI 48.1 187
Ryan Madson 10.87 2.21 55 2010 PHI 53.0 159
Billy Wagner 10.08 2.32 75 2005 PHI 77.2 293
Ryan Madson 9.08 2.56 79 2009 PHI 77.1 131
Jose Contreras 9.05 2.54 67 2010 PHI 56.2 121
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/19/2010.

In a FanGraphs article posted on May 26, Dave Allen noted that Contreras had gone back to using two different arm slots, suggesting that the lower arm angle made his pitches harder for right-handed batters to pick up. It seemed to work as Contreras held them to a .271 wOBA, placing in the 82nd percentile among all Major League pitchers.

Although known for his mid-90’s fastball, it was Contreras’ soft pitches that were particularly tough for right-handers to hit. The following heat map, courtesy Baseball Analytics, shows the isolated power (ISO) of soft pitches thrown by Contreras to right-handed hitters in 2010, constituting 121 of 208 (58%) batters faced.

Right-handers compiled a .173 wOBA against Contreras’ soft stuff, placing his slop in the 97th percentile. They hit his fastballs much better (.333 wOBA), as one may expect.

Contreras had less success against lefties as his .339 wOBA allowed fell to the 55th percentile, very slightly above average. However, Contreras’ potential for dominance against right-handers and average performance against lefties still makes him a valuable asset — certainly worth the $5.5 million the Phillies invested over the next two seasons.

Narrowing Down the Options, and the Variance

Baseball’s off-season got a kick in the pants yesterday when the Florida Marlins, days after trading away the last memories of the failed Miguel Cabrera deal in Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin, sent second baseman Dan Uggla to the Atlanta Braves for a $20 gift card to Applebee’s. (They actually got Omar Infante and Michael Dunn.)

The Braves were a veritable thorn in the Phillies’ side for most of the 2010 season — a playoff team, now much better adding a second baseman who averages about 4 WAR per season. Naturally, Phillies fans want to see their team keep pace and make some splashes this winter. Obviously, Jayson Werth and Cliff Lee are at the top of the list, but so are names like Justin Upton and Adrian Beltre.

Other fans are concerned with finding a right-handed platoon partner for Domonic Brown or Raul Ibanez. Names like Marcus Thames and Jeff Francoeur have been bandied about.

Still more fans are getting creative, trying to find the diamond in the rough — the next Werth, if you will. I had a nice conversation via e-mail with a reader who suggested that the next diamond could be Jeremy Hermida, a former Marlin. Hermida’s had a rough go of it since an impressive showing in 2007, posting a .619 OPS with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics. It would be neat to give Hermida a shot and try to strike lightning in a bottle as the Phillies once did with Werth.

The difference between the Phillies pre-2007, when they signed Werth, and now is that the Phillies then were about an 85-win team that had consistently missed the playoffs. Teams that are close to .500 should take chances on riskier players like Werth then and Hermida now. A perennial 95-win team like the 2008-10 Phillies should attempt to reduce the variance in their players’ performances by going with known quantities.

(Note: All of the examples will use arbitrary numbers.)

Let’s say that the threshold for making the playoffs in any capacity (by winning the division or the Wild Card) is 90 wins. If the 2007 Phillies are an 85-win team with a variance of four games, they miss the playoffs a very large portion of the time, with a min-max of 81-89. If they add a question mark like Hermida — or Werth — who increases their variance by another two games, they likely win between 79 and 91 games, good enough for the playoffs. The 2007 Phillies have nothing to lose taking a flier on a player who, with a favorable roll of the die, can take them into the post-season.

On the other hand, if the present Phillies are a 94-win team with a variance of four games, they have a min-max of 90-98 wins, still making the playoffs almost all of the time. By adding more variance — Hermida’s two wins — they could potentially miss the playoffs if the player has a bad roll of the die.

Top-flight teams like the Phillies have more to lose with bad luck than they stand to gain with equivalently good luck. Middle-of-the-pack teams like the Milwaukee Brewers and Colorado Rockies are the ones that should be swapping out some low WAR players for some risky but potentially high-WAR guys — reclamation projects like Hermida.

In the wake of the Uggla heist by the Braves, the best thing we can hope for as Phillies fans is that only the surest of sure things are taken. Standing pat is, as odd as it may sound, a decent strategy, especially this off-season with very few attractive options available.

Roy Halladay Set to Earn Some Hardware

Originally written on November 8.

UPDATE: Halladay won the NL Cy Young award unanimously.

Major League Baseball will dole out awards starting on November 9. The NL Cy Young award will be issued on the 16th. The Phillies’ own Roy Halladay is the favorite but should receive competition from Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals and Josh Johnson of the Florida Marlins.

Halladay trailed Johnson and Wainwright in ERA, but led in the all-important ERA retrodictor race.

ERA xFIP SIERA
Halladay 2.44 2.92 2.93
Johnson 2.30 3.15 3.07
Wainwright 2.42 3.14 3.13

While Halladay lagged behind in K/9, he set the pace in BB/9 and established a huge lead in K/BB ratio. He trailed only Cliff Lee (10.3) in all of Major League Baseball.

K/9 BB/9 K/BB
Halladay 7.9 1.1 7.3
Johnson 9.1 2.4 3.9
Wainwright 8.3 2.2 3.8

He also tossed the only perfect game among NL pitchers, coincidentally defeating Johnson in that game on May 29.

Halladay led in wins (21), innings pitched (250.2), complete games (9), and shut-outs (4) as well, all the while pitching on the only playoff team among the three competitors.

Whether traditional or Sabermetric, the numbers seem to overwhelmingly support Halladay in the NL Cy Young race. It would be surprising to see anyone else take home the hardware, but stranger things have happened.

On Awards and Voting

Dejan Kovacevic, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s beat writer for the Pirates, caused a ruckus earlier today when it was revealed that his National League Rookie of the Year ballot diverged from the consensus with a Buster Posey, Neil Walker, Jose Tabata lineup, omitting Jason Heyward.

Prior to today, the ROY debate came down to the first place finisher — Posey or Heyward? It was unanimously believed that those two players made up the top two in either order. Walker or Tabata never entered the discussion.

Kovacevic’s voting resulted in lots of debates, and lots of baseless accusations and fallacious argumentation. FanGraphs’ Dave Cameron does a good job of defending Kovacevic but I would like to take it a bit further. As far as I can tell, there are two groups of people: the reactionary and the logical.

Imagine that we’re back on October 31 and you’re at a Halloween party. You, a liberal, strike up a conversation with someone who reveals himself to be a Tea Party supporter who plans to cast all his votes for people like Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell. Upon learning this, you can either be aghast that he’s a Teabagger (reactionary) or inquire more about his positions and then make a judgment (logical). It would be disingenuous to discredit him simply because he’s a Teabagger. After learning about his positions, you can legitimately discredit him after he says that he wants to see the deficit lowered but does not want to raise taxes or cut defense spending.

Similarly, many baseball fans and writers reacted as disingenuously to Kovacevic without ever hearing his justification, which can be found on his Twitter feed. When he justifies his voting with…

Re: ROY voting. Felt very firmly about Posey, thus chose him 1st. Felt Walker/Tabata had strong years, comparable to rest of class.

Neither Walker nor Tabata is off-the-board choice, as seen from list of NL rookies with 400 PA, ranked by OPS. tinyurl.com/3x9aghm

Obviously saw way more of Walker/Tabata than others, but that also gave perspective on them performing at high level in poor lineup/setting.

Feeling always has been with voting that broadest variety of perspectives bring best results. Few can argue final overall tally, I’d think.

…then you can go ahead and argue against him. Kovacevic could have had some legitimate justification but now that we see his reasoning is flimsy at best. Have at it!

The thing with these awards is that the criteria is so vague and amorphous that you can’t begrudge someone for the way they vote unless they have a completely objectively-reached ballot. Otherwise, their positions are unfalsifiable. “He’s a good clubhouse guy” or “he’s a leader” can’t be argued against by outsiders and that’s why a lot of voters resort to those defenses, as bland as they are.

Questionable ballots have been a part of awards voting for a while now — a product of a flawed system. Either you can have an automated system (based on pure objectivity; statistics) or you don’t. With the latter, you can’t fault the writers when their votes don’t line up with yours. You can argue against their reasoning, but not against their credibility to have the privilege of voting.

Awards are fun to discuss and debate, but in the end they’re mostly meaningless and will never mean much until they are turned over to an objective system. It is likely better for baseball to have this flawed system anyway, since we spend so much time talking about it — free publicity! In two weeks we’ll have forgotten that Kovacevic voted for Walker and Tabata over Heyward, turning our attention to the coming winter meetings.

In the event that Roy Halladay does not win the Cy Young award or receives fewer than all of the first-place votes, criticize the system and not the voters — until you hear their justification. Said differently, “don’t hate the player; hate the game.”

Should the Phillies Extend Rollins?

Is it possible that Jimmy Rollins is underrated? Following two consecutive sub-par years — by his standards — the contract extension that seemed to be guaranteed is anything but now. The Phillies picked up his $8.5 million option for the 2011 season, meaning that barring an extension, the organization’s long-time shortstop will be a free agent for the first time in his career in less than one year.

It isn’t quite a Derek Jeter-type situation, but both the Phillies and Rollins need each other. Rollins has been the face of the franchise as the opening day shortstop every year since 2001. There are no shortstops in the Minor League system ready to take the reins from Rollins, and the free agent market for shortstops isn’t exactly booming. With few shortstops available, that implies few openings for jobs — fewer teams will be available and willing to engage in a bidding for for the 32-year-0ld’s services. Rollins has been insistent on being a lead-off hitter with the Phillies to which manager Charlie Manuel has conceded. The shortstop is highly unlikely to receive that treatment elsewhere.

A contract extension behooves both sides, and better for that business to be completed now rather than during or after the season, when a renaissance season could increase the interest on the potential free agent.

Rollins’ last extension, a five-year, $40 million deal, was signed in June of 2005 when Rollins was 26 years old. Soon to be 32 years old, coming off of an injury-plagued 2010 season and two consecutive years of below-average offensive output, Rollins could be had for another team-friendly deal.

The question is — is he worth it?

A comment by Kevin H on Thursday’s article inspired this look at Rollins because it was very critical of the shortstop. Kevin wrote:

But why, oh why, would the Phillies want to extend Rollins? In 2010 the only regular players with lower OPS in the NL were: Bourn, Y. Molina, M. Cabrera, Schumaker, O. Cabrera, Theriot, Morgan & Escobar. In 2009 the only regular players in the NL with a lower OBP were: Clint Barmes and Benji Molina. So, for the last 2 years he has been one of the worst, non-pitcher, batters in the NL and he isn’t getting any younger or better. You can get a lot of guys who can field and be one of the worst hitters for minimum salary. If they actually work with the hitting coach and improve its a big bonus. Rollins says he doesn’t need a hitting coach despite his horrible hitting.

As mentioned above, it’s true — Rollins has been below-average offensively over the last two years. But he’s never really been anything more than an average hitter, his 2007 MVP season notwithstanding. His career .336 wOBA is within about 10 points of the league average, not all that much higher than his .316 and .317 marks the past two seasons. Overall, Rollins was debited 10.6 batting runs in 2009-10, but was credited 10.8 for playing a premium position — essentially a wash.

Where Rollins still provides tremendous value is on defense and on the bases. Since 2003, Rollins never finished a season with a negative UZR/150. With a career 5.3 mark, his grades the last three seasons have been incredible: 15.2, 5.0, and 12.3. In aggregate over the past three years among shortstops with at least 1,000 defensive innings, Rollins has the fourth-highest mark at 10.5.

Despite calf and thigh injuries that forced him to miss about half of the 2010 season, Rollins still finished as the team’s second-best base runner behind Shane Victorino. Using Equivalent Base Running Runs (EQBRR), Rollins added 2.7 runs on the bases. Although his base running has declined along with his offense — partly a function of not having those additional opportunities presented by better offense — he still provides value as the following chart displays.

Under the tutelage of Davey Lopes, Rollins became not only an aggressive base-stealer, but an extremely efficient base-stealer. He was a big part of the Phillies’ consistently MLB-best running game that eventually led to a World Series title in 2008. With limited opportunities last year, Rollins stole 31 bases in 39 attempts — an 80 percent success rate that is well above the break-even point of 70 percent.

Overall, since 2008, Rollins ranks fourth among all MLB shortstops in WAR at 10.3. Why? What he lacks in offense he makes up for with defense, base running, and playing a premium position. The 2012 free agent class for shortstops is underwhelming. Jose Reyes may be the best option available but it is likely that the New York Mets hand him a contract before that ever becomes an issue. The Phillies should do the same for Rollins. Although aging and injury prone, Rollins still ranks among the best shortstops in baseball. His value has nonetheless depreciated, making now a prime opportunity to secure themselves a productive shortstop for three more years while they try to groom a replacement.

Quick Overview of Early Rumors

Jayson Stark published perhaps the most thorough list of names related to the Phillies so what better time to examine the off-season than now?

Clubs that checked in on [Zack] Greinke have also come away with the impression he wouldn’t approve a deal to ANY major-market East Coast team (Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Mets).

One can appreciate Greinke’s reluctance to go into a major media market having been hampered by social anxiety and depression earlier in his career. It doesn’t seem like the Phillies would have legitimately been part of any discussions involving Greinke, but imagining the starting rotation with him included induces nearly as much drool as Cliff Lee.

Here’s one Phillies source on the odds of his team finding a way to keep Jayson Werth: “No chance. None. Zero.” In the end, it might not even be the annual dollars that will force the Phillies to move on. It’s their unwillingness to go beyond three or four years for a player who will turn 32 next May.

Goodbye, Jayson. It was nice knowing you.

So where might the Phillies turn? Reports of their interest in guys like Magglio Ordonez, Pat Burrell and Andruw Jones appear highly exaggerated. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. continues to talk up Ben Francisco, at least in a potential platoon with Domonic Brown — or with Ross Gload if they decide Brown isn’t ready. But the Phillies would still shop for another right-handed-hitting outfield bat. One name we’ve heard a lot: Jeff Francoeur, who has told friends he’d love to play for Charlie Manuel.

Let’s start from the top. Ordonez demolishes left-handed pitching (career .411 wOBA) and would be great in a platoon with Raul Ibanez but Patrick Berkery of PhillyBurbs.com suggests that a one-year deal for the former Detroit Tiger could cost about $10 million. While Ordonez is still quite potent with the bat, that price is too high for the cash-strapped Phillies.

Burrell could accept something more team-friendly and also hits well against lefties (career .381 wOBA). However, the Phillies already have someone who can handle left-handers in Francisco (albeit not quite as well) and will assuredly earn a salary in the vicinity of $1 million as the Phillies will likely avoid going to arbitration with the outfielder. Unless Burrell is willing to sign for a lot less money than he’s used to making, the better option is Francisco.

Jones hits lefties about as well as Francisco (career .355 wOBA), but he has the baggage of being a severely declining 34-year-old outfielder. Why sign a Francisco clone when you already have Francisco?

Francoeur. I think the letters “ROFL” sum up the thought. He does not hit lefties as well as perceived (.346 wOBA). Frenchy is actually so below-average against right-handers that his production against lefties seems great by comparison. And again, Francisco is at least an equivalent player still under team control for three more years. Why not give him the shot to platoon with Ibanez?

The snippet above talks about platooning with Brown, but I’m assuming GM Ruben Amaro isn’t into sabotaging the progression of his organization’s top prospects.

The free agent the Phillies have been most aggressive about trying to re-sign isn’t Werth. It’s right-hander Jose Contreras, who struck out 57 in 56 2/3 innings in his first full season in the bullpen.

The issue with Contreras is his price, of course. The Phillies took a $1.5 million flier on him last year and it worked out quite well for both sides. The problem with fliers is that, if the players succeed, their price jumps considerably. While relievers with a 9.1 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 are not plentiful, the Phillies should look elsewhere unless Contreras accepts a salary close to what he earned last year — very unlikely.

The Phillies have a limited budget. Overpaying for relief pitching is not smart with these constraints.

Amaro wouldn’t confirm that, but did say: “We’ve made contact with 40 free agents, predominantly bullpen guys.” He also said: “Left-handed relief is a priority for us.”

Two names that could top that shopping list: Mets escapees Pedro Feliciano and Hisanori Takahashi.

Feliciano would be a great addition to the Phillies’ lefty-empty bullpen. Over the course of his career, Feliciano has a 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio against fellow lefties, good for a 2.88 xFIP. Feliciano made $2.9 million last year. As a 34-year-old who led the league in appearances in each of the last three seasons, the wear-and-tear on his arm is a concern. However, he has not showed any signs of slowing down as his second-half production last year was better than the first-half, and his overall stats match those of seasons past, for the most part.

Takahashi has slightly better strikeout and walk numbers against lefties compared to Feliciano, and has the added benefit of being able to start in a pinch having started 12 games for the New York Mets in 2010. Takahashi would likely come at a cheaper price than Feliciano, making him the more attractive option to the Phillies.

In other news, Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com reports that the Phillies have signed former Atlanta Brave and Washington National Pete Orr. Offensively, Orr is around the same level as Eric Bruntlett and has experience playing both second and third base. The hot stove is burning!

Jeter Wins Gold Glove; Utley Does Not; Life Unfair

The National League Gold Glove awards were dished out just a few minutes ago. The Phillies’ own Shane Victorino won his third consecutive Gold Glove, perhaps undeservedly.

Once again, Chase Utley was not rewarded for his efforts. The anti-Gold Glove arguments have been made ad nauseam by now, so I’m not going to go on a tirade, but I will link to this article on Utley’s defense I wrote earlier this year.

Simply put, Utley has been the best defender since 2005 in aggregate, and in each individual season except 2007 (even then, arguably). Were the awards issued by myself, Utley would have been issued his fifth Gold Glove. But alas, it was not meant to be.

Your winners:

Over in the American League, Derek Jeter laughably won yet another Gold Glove at shortstop. Jeter gets one and Chase does not. Life is unfair, and the Gold Glove is meaningless. It’s not even worth arguing about anymore.