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.

. . .

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.

. . .

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.

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40 comments

  1. Kevin Wilson

    December 09, 2010 08:14 AM

    I understand your premise, but you are basing it on the idea that the Phillies 2011 lineup will be fully healthy, all the time, or at least a great, great deal of the time. That’s a faulty premise, in my opinion.

    Is it possible? Absolutely. But it certainly isn’t likely that the team that is a year older in seven of eight positions, stays significantly healthier than last year’s team.

  2. Patrick Gordon

    December 09, 2010 09:37 AM

    Hold on a second … do you still believe the 2010 Phillies were the best club in franchise history? I’m using various methods to rank the different Phillies’ clubs in franchise history and I can say right off the bat the 2009, 2008, and 1993 clubs were much better from a statistic/sabermetric point. What is your basis on such a comment?

  3. Scott G

    December 09, 2010 10:01 AM

    I agree with Kevin. The team is a year older. Previously injured players are most likely more susceptible to being re-injured (depending on the injury). Not only that, but most of the important players are one more year out of their prime so their skills will also most likely diminish. Werth was the only guy who remained healthy. He’s gone. His replacements are younger so I’ll assume they stay healthy all year. Less productive healthy people plus less productive older people (injury prone), I’m sorry, I just don’t see how this adds up to being better than last year. It could, but I doubt it.

  4. Jessamynn

    December 09, 2010 11:13 AM

    @ Kevin, Scott G

    I don’t think the assumption of better health is faulty at all – in fact, you could easily argue that it MUST be assumed.

    Yes, it’s easier to get hurt as you get older. However, players don’t hit the DL every single season – Ryan Howard’s stint was his second in 6 seasons. Utley’s only been on the DL twice in 7 seasons, and one of those times was the freak broken hand from the Lannen pitch. Polanco’s stint was his first in 5 years, and Ruiz’s stint was just his second in 5 years.

    On top of that, isn’t it less likely that Utley will suffer another TWO MONTH injury? Isn’t it also less likely that Ryan Madson will kick another chair and miss two months himself? After all, how often to players suffer 2-3 month injuries in their career? Sure, it happens to older guys (like Chipper Jones) playing at age 37-38, but we’re not talking about 37-38 year old players – our guys are 31-32.

    In my opinion, the only player who we’re seeing an injury trend from right now is Rollins, and of course that’s a cause for concern. However, like I said, I don’t think it’s wrong to say that it’s likely the Phillies will be healthier this season.

  5. KH

    December 09, 2010 12:02 PM

    I don’t think you can say the offense will be better with any certainty. Brown could bomb and Ibanez take another step backwards and that could wash out gains in other places. The Phillies will have the best starting pitching in baseball though so they will still be very good regardless. The Phillies don’t need to score the five runs a game they used to need to win.

  6. Scott G

    December 09, 2010 12:09 PM

    Jessamynn,

    Utley has been injured/playing hurt for the last few seasons. He wears down. He’s older, it’s likely unless Manuel doesn’t wear him down that he’ll get injured/need to play hurt again.
    Rollins injury prone. Ibanez is not 31-32. He also was injured/had surgery. Polanco needed surgery so it’s not guarantee he’s 100%.

  7. Jon

    December 09, 2010 12:18 PM

    I’m with Jessamynn on this one. Logic certainly dictates that Rollins is likely to get hurt again, and 1-2 other regulars, but since the other players haven’t been chronically injured in the past, having them ALL get hurt again isn’t too likely.

    Then again, it wasn’t too likely in 2010 either.

  8. Richard

    December 09, 2010 12:58 PM

    Rollins injuries this past season point to poor conditioning on his part. That is, it’s something correctable with better conditioning. He mentioned the possibility of yoga. Unfortunately, he also laughed about it, saying he’d hoped he’d not have to resort to it, like it wasn’t manly enough or something, which is too bad, since yoga is exactly what he should be doing.

    Health cannot be predicted. But for this kind of exercize, you do have to assume it will improve. And if the gang is healthy this year, I think we see big bounceback offensive seasons from Rollins, Utley, and Howard (who was not having an excellent season before he got injured). If that happens, being better than last year is a real possibility.

  9. Dan P

    December 09, 2010 03:16 PM

    @Patrick: The 2010 Phillies won 97 games DESPITE many of the players having down years. Offensively, it was one of the team’s worst years in their recent run of making the playoffs — but the numbers didn’t really fit any sort of trend, other than when you factor in injuries.

    And yes, you do have to assume health, or at least a good measure of it. IMO, there are only few big league players that you can “predict” injury for, i.e. Nick Johnson.

  10. Bob

    December 09, 2010 03:22 PM

    I am not as enamored of Werth’s stats that everyone keeps quoting. The only one I care about – He was in the bottom ten in MLB for hitting with RISP. I could care less about the stats he racked up other than that because it was that type of stat that led to 11 shutouts this year. My favorite player who won a World Series title (several in fact) was Sal Bando with the Oakland Athletics. In 1974, he hit only .243 but had 130 RBI’s. THAT’S the kind of player I hope Rube finds us…..

  11. Bill Baer

    December 09, 2010 03:24 PM

    In 2009, Jayson Werth put up a .918 OPS with RISP. Did he un-learn how to hit with RISP?

    The explanation for that is that a player’s RISP stats have very little year-to-year correlation and thus are not a very enlightening metric when evaluating a player’s talent.

  12. Richard

    December 09, 2010 03:41 PM

    Sal Bando’s probably available.

  13. FanSince09

    December 09, 2010 03:44 PM

    Phillies are cheap and should of kept him, just like they should of kept Cliff Lee last year. They can pay stiffs like Cole Hammel, but can’t pay a superstar like Werth? This team won’t even make the playoffs this season!

  14. Ted

    December 09, 2010 03:57 PM

    Jayson Werth likes turtles and can’t hit with RISP. shoulda kept cliff leeeee!

  15. Dan

    December 09, 2010 04:40 PM

    FanSince09, I already tore you apart on another website, so I won’t bother feeding the trolls here.

    Ted, if we had kept Cliff Lee we would not have Halladay and we would have lost him this year as well as Werth. That would have stung even more.

    Also, Lee had an alright year. He also got injured. We probably wouldn’t have made the playoffs had we not traded him and acquired Halladay. Which also means we probably wouldn’t have acquired Oswalt.

    What it boils down to is would you rather have 1 year of Lee-Hamels, or 1-2 years of Halladay-Oswalt-Hamels, and 3 years of Halladay-Hamels? I’ll take the latter, thank you.

  16. Dan

    December 09, 2010 04:54 PM

    Then I apologize.

    I would join in on the mocking, but as I said I already tore him apart on another website.

  17. Moose

    December 09, 2010 05:01 PM

    Someone, please explain to me how after all this time people fail to realize that FanSince09 is mocking all the bandwagoners who suddenly showed up after 08 and no nothing about the team prior to that? Maybe I have an advantage cause I was a faithful thefightins reader? Similarly, how, after all this time can people still try to use RISP as a valid argument?

  18. Moose

    December 09, 2010 05:01 PM

    and by no nothing I mean know nothing. Just look at the name, FanSince09

  19. Bob V

    December 09, 2010 06:09 PM

    Look oh arrogant Phillie junkies, you guys could lose God himself and still think you’re gonna win. Wrong, Mr. Werth will be sorely missed, just wait and see after the Phillies finish out of the play-offs in 2011. It almost happened in 2010 if it were not for Jason picking the team up and carrying it when everybody and his brother was on the DL. Get Real!!

  20. Gary

    December 10, 2010 11:02 AM

    I agree with Dan who makes a great point. I continue to be amused by the fans who are still wringing their hands over losing/trading Lee. Granted, RAJ should have gotten much more when he traded him but this also shows the falacy of hanging onto a $200 million pitcher hoping you will be able to remortgage the city to pay him. It never would have happened, nor should it have. Had RAJ not traded Lee the team never would have been able to justify more prospects for Oswalt. In the game today it is all about how long you can LOCK up a contract – not who is on your team this year alone. Moreover, if you have a sense Lee would not sign with you (7 yrs. for $175) why keep him – move on people.

  21. css228

    December 10, 2010 11:55 AM

    Yeah lets just say, as I’ve always said, trading Cliff was right. Just wish we got better, more major league ready prospects for him. Really only 1 is in the top 100, Gillies is a deaf outfielder (can’t wait to watch someone get injured when he can’t hear them calling him off a ball), and Juan Ramierez. Note that neither pitcher in the deal is ever projected to be a start, let alone a top of the rotation starter? Given that we gave up some pretty good prospects to get him, shouldn’t we have gotten way more back? That’s the real issue. Especially since the Mariners not only got better prospects, but more prospects, for a half year rent-a-pitcher deal, such as Smoak, we shoulda gotten more out of trading Lee. I don’t care that we couldn’t lock up his contract. I feel like that deal was a knee jerk deal, that even a day or two wait could have drawn better prospects from somewhere. That’s all.

  22. Gary

    December 10, 2010 01:26 PM

    Couldn’t agree more that RAJ should have “shopped” Lee…but i don’t think the prospects Phils gave up to Indians will amount to much – Carrasco had several good outings at end of yr but he is known to be a deer in the headlights with men on base. Phils could use Marson as add’l catcher but he won’t be a frontliner ever: Knapp throws very hard but is injury prone and is still recovering. Of the 3 received from Seattle, I would think only Aumonte will have any value – as a reliever only – and at that, they have to rebuild his whole motion etc. I really don’t think Seattle got alot for Lee either as Smoak has been very “iffy” and is not quite the hitter all thought. Maybe its the Lee curse ? Wait till some idiotic team signs him for 7 yrs and he reverts to a “norm” and somebody is still paying him 25++ at ages 37 to 39……

  23. css228

    December 10, 2010 06:23 PM

    Yeah well Gilles was also arrested for cocaine possession, and Aumont was demoted to Single A where his ERA was still 4.48, JC Ramirez had the best year of them. As for our prospects, Donald’s now in the majors, Marson should be a decent backup to Santana (still don’t get why they wanted him), Carrasco well hes Carrasco, and Knapp could be a good 2-4 starter (anywhere in there, hes a top 100 prospect). So basically we go the short end of the stick on this.

  24. hk

    December 11, 2010 09:50 AM

    css228, time will tell if we got the short end of the stick solely on the prospects part of the Lee trades, but you also have to include the three great months that the Phils got from Lee and the cost controlled Ben Francisco (if only they’d use him) in the equation. When all is said and done, I suspect that 3 months of Lee + Francisco + Ramirez + Gillies + Aumont will be better than Carrasco + Donald + Marson + Knapp.

  25. hk

    December 11, 2010 09:57 AM

    Bob V., are you assuming that “everyone and his brother” will be on the DL again in 2011 and that the Phillies will once again need their RF to carry them? If so, you are probably right that they won’t be bailed out by their RF. However, their pitching should be better with both Oswalt and Blanton for the full year, so they will not be as reliant on their offense as they were for the first four months of 2010. Fear not, barring significant injuries again, they are again the team to beat in the NL East.

  26. css228

    December 11, 2010 10:57 AM

    hk, Fair enough, didn’t think about that part. I’m just really worried that our farm is getting kind of thin.

  27. Scott G

    December 11, 2010 04:09 PM

    Bill,

    How do you feel about Carl Crawford? I think I always just accepted that he was a “great player”. Since his signing in Boston, I looked up his stats. His career OBP and SLG are not that great. His career wOBA is slightly above average. Over the last 2 years, his numbers have gone up, but still considerably below Werth’s. Yes he steals more bases, but at a lower success rate. He also plays LF (one of the “easiest” positions to replace). How do people value him that much more over Werth? I get that he’s younger, but he plays a less important position, isn’t as good with the bat, but does steal more bases.

  28. hk

    December 11, 2010 04:39 PM

    Scott G,

    Crawford’s excess value is primarily tied up in his defense (especially if you use UZR as the defensive metric of choice), although I’m also not sure why people value him so much more than Werth. Over the past 4 seasons, Crawford’s Fangraphs WAR – aided by using UZR – is 18.1 vs. 18.2 for Werth (and Werth’s was hurt by only have 1/2 a season of PA’s in 2007 and by having a negative UZR this year). Baseball Reference WAR shows an even bigger advantage for Werth 15.4 to. 14.4 for Crawford in the same time period.

  29. Moose

    December 12, 2010 12:42 AM

    I always thought Crawford was overrated. hk shed some light on it, thanks dude

  30. CH Phan

    December 13, 2010 03:22 PM

    I always thought Crawford was overrated too but I never said anything b/c I thought I was missing something that others saw. I thought maybe his value was based on his base speed & his number of SB.

    Re: the team, of course we’re all speaking from the perspective of December 13. So barring any giant trades or unforeseen big contracts, or (God forbid – injuries) the Phillies will probably win the 2011 division. However, I don’t think they’ll win because they’re such a great team. I also don’t think they’ll go much farther than the division win. I think they’ll win the division because the only team measurably better in the NL East right now is the Braves and they have a new manager who’ll likely still be feeling his way through the season.

    The Phillies still need a heavy hitting righty to watch Howard’s back (preferrably one that has a steady personality type to fit in the clubhouse). When we had that player in place (Werth), that’s when the team won.

    Ok, they’re chronologically older, but that doesn’t necessarily = worse physically. Also one person’s old isn’t another person’s old. Individuals being different, factors vary. Guess we’ll see.

    I can’t believe, given the facts, that anyone with a brain would bet on Domonic Brown at this point. He is not ready. Not only were his numbers poor when he was given a chance (he was also given every excuse in the world), but his numbers finally got to the point of outright BAD in winter ball and he was sent home.

  31. hk

    December 13, 2010 04:45 PM

    CH Phan,

    I have a brain and I’d be willing to bet that Dom Brown would produce what you’d expect from a highly touted rookie if given the chance to start 130 games next year. The small sample sizes of 70 MLB PA’s given in a mostly sporadic fashion to a not even 23 year old who’s used to playing every day tells us very little about his future prospects. Another 29 PA’s in Winter ball tells us even less. My fear is that the front office thinks like you and does something other than give him the job in RF, bat him 7th to take off the pressure and let him learn at the MLB level.

  32. Moose

    December 13, 2010 09:35 PM

    If Rube gets us Cliff back…

  33. css228

    December 13, 2010 10:29 PM

    So Bill, 2 questions. 1 who’s the next right handed outfielder option (who hopefully has some range and isn’t out there for offensive purposes only) and 2 what’s the chance Lee is back in red and white pinstripes next year?

  34. Moose

    December 14, 2010 12:12 AM

    Got ‘im.

  35. css228

    December 14, 2010 12:18 AM

    apparently, very good

  36. obsessivegiantscompulsive

    December 14, 2010 02:30 PM

    For those touting how long-term healthiness means a good future for those who recently had an injury, I will submit the sad Giants story of Ray Durham, free agent, early 30′s, never had serious injury in his life, played 150+ games for 5-6 full seasons: never had one season with Giants without at least one extended time on the DL.

    Prior health does not equal future health, only suggests it. Utley I can see, maybe (but I recall that he plays hard, and those players age faster), but Rollins is SS, hard position on the body, and Howard’s body is not one that ages well and he’s into his 30′s now.

    And the key thing is that the Phillies main players are all 30 and above except for Hamels. Yes, the guys who were injured in 2010 probably won’t repeat, but then what about the other 30+ YO who wasn’t injured in 2010? I think the assumption of perfect health is too much to count on.

    And I’ll admit here that I did the same with the Giants during mid-2000′s, which has chastened me regarding health and older players. I wouldn’t expect everyone to be hurt, but to expect perfect health except for Rollins is the other side of the same coin.

    Now how to account for that? Don’t know if there is any established way to account for this, but do know assuming complete health is not a good position either.

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