Paul Hagen on Protection, RBI

Bloggers have often been critical of the media when they discuss Sabermetrics. The criticism has usually been somewhat justified as the media hasn’t always taken a sunny disposition towards statistical analysis. Recently, though, we have seen a sea change in the attitudes of most in the media. As a result, Sabermetrics is no longer that niche, taboo subject met with instant derision. It is now a well-respected method of analysis sweeping into Major League front offices.

Paul Hagen’s latest article for the Philadelphia Daily News is an excellent indication of the media’s growing acceptance of Sabermetrics. Viewing articles on Philly.com is usually a big no-no for me because of the Satan-spawned auto-play video ads. However, Hagen discusses the supposed lineup protection that Ryan Howard will be missing now that Jayson Werth moved on to the Washington Nationals. Logic and quotes from SABR’s Gary Gillette are used to provide the reader with reasons to adopt this alternative view of the game of baseball. It’s a great read and I highly recommend reading the full article, auto-play ads be damned. (Nothing this can’t fix, anyway.)

Because as everybody knows, without a legitimate righthanded threat behind him, Howard won’t get a pitch to hit all season long.

The kicker, of course, is that conventional wisdom frequently is somewhere between off base and flat wrong. And Gary Gillette, a writer and member of the board of directors of the Society for American Baseball Research, suggests that fretting about who will replace Werth in that slot is probably much ado about nothing.

“Everything I’ve looked at in the past has either showed no effect or minimal effect. In fact, sometimes it was the opposite,” he said yesterday at the Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort.

[...]

There’s another point to be made here. The point of a lineup is not to feature one player. It’s to maximize the number of runs a team scores.

So how often Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco and Chase Utley get on base in front of Howard is more crucial to how many RBI he gets than who bats behind him. And if he doesn’t get good pitches to hit, he has to be disciplined enough to take a walk if he isn’t seeing something he can handle.

Along with Hagen, other good Saber-friendly writers in the Philly media include Matt Gelb, David Hale, and David Murphy. For as much complaining as we bloggers do when it comes to the media, the fact is that a good portion of them have made room on the stage for us stats junkies. Writers like Hagen should be applauded for doing the responsible thing: providing the alternative viewpoints to their readers to let them make their own informed decisions.

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On a sadder note, Philly-Twitter favorite Logan Morrison’s father recently passed away. If you’re on Twitter, please take a minute to send him your well-wishes. Logan is a great guy and I’m sure he would be very appreciative of such kind sentiment in his time of need.

Logan Morrison’s Twitter: @LoMoMarlins

Guest Post: Phillies Just Fine Without Werth

This great first full week of December will round out with a guest post from Daniel Podheiser (@DanPodheiser on Twitter). He writes for the Bullpen Talk blog and will shortly become the sports editor at The Register Citizen. Dan will be discussing how the Phillies can hold serve despite losing one of the most productive hitters in baseball in Jayson Werth.

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The loss of Jayson Werth shouldn’t come as a surprise to most Phillies fans, but in the wake of his recent signing with the Nationals, many are beginning to revisit the question of how the Phillies are going to replace his production in the lineup.

First off, let’s face it: Werth has been one of the greatest outfielders in Phillies history over the past two years, and his 2010 season was simply remarkable. His .397 wOBA was second among NL outfielders to Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez, and his 5.0 WAR (according to Fangraphs) ranked sixth. Furthermore, as noted earlier in the week , Werth was especially difficult to get out at all points in the count, as he posted a .319 wOBA with two strikes.

Werth’s production is going to be missed. You can rest assured that the platoon combination of Domonic Brown, Ben Francisco and/or a new right-handed hitter like Josh Willingham or Cody Ross won’t combine to play like Werth did in 2010.

But let’s step back and take a deep breath, Phillies fans — the 2011 Phillies are going to be just fine, if not better than 2010.

On Aug. 10, in an article on The 700 Level, I proclaimed the 2010 Phillies to be the best team in franchise history. As we head into 2011, there’s only reason to assume this team will be even better.

Consider this: From the moment Jimmy Rollins got hurt in mid-April, the Phillies didn’t play with their everyday lineup until late in September. Of the entire Opening Day roster, only Werth remained healthy throughout the entire season.

The 2011 Phillies are adding player value simply through the merits of health. They’re getting back the best second baseman in the game, Chase Utley, for an entire season. Jimmy Rollins‘ value has gone down over the past few years, but he still remains one of the top shortstops in the game. Ryan Howard was having an excellent season before he went down in early August, and Carlos Ruiz, who has turned into one of the most productive catchers in the big leagues, missed a bulk of time, as well.

You could argue that the Phillies’ offense in 2011 will actually be better, and score more runs, than the 2010 squad, even though Werth is gone. The Phils were shut out 11 times last year, and from mid-May to about a week after the All-Star break, the lineup was as inconsistent as it’s been in the Charlie Manuel era. That probably won’t happen again this year.

But even if the ’11 and ’10 offenses are a wash, the Phillies have one thing that no other team in the entire league has: H2O.

A full season of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt will give the Phillies a rotation unlike anything the league has seen since the Atlanta Braves early in the decade (or, perhaps Clemens-Pettitte-Oswalt with Houston in 2005).

That trio will not only strike fear into every team it faces; it will also provide the bullpen with excellent rest when it takes the mound — 60 percent of the time, to be exact.

Do the 2011 Phillies have a weakness? Sure. Right field is not as stable as it was two months ago. It’s nothing to write home about. But by June, when the Phillies have asserted themselves as the clear favorites in the NL once again, not even this guy will be able to remember what was so cool about Jayson Werth‘s beard in the first place.

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Thanks to Dan for submitting his thoughts on the 2011 Phillies. Remember to give him a follow on Twitter and to check out his blog Bullpen Talk if you enjoyed reading his work.