Rob Neyer Is Movin’ On

UPDATE: It’s official: Neyer has signed on with SB Nation.

Rob Neyer announced on his blog today that he is hanging up his blogging spikes.

Today, I hand off this space to whoever’s next. I don’t know yet who is next, but I’m highly confident that this blog and the SweetSpot Network will soon be in excellent hands.

Meanwhile, I’ll be around. The kids tell me it’s all about search these days. You won’t have to search real hard to find me, if you want.

Happy trails, until we meet again.

Reactions to the legendary writer’s announcement were swift and heartfelt. There are too many to link to, and too many good odes would be left by the wayside. Suffice it to say that this writer feels the same way about Neyer — his writing and his contributions to the Sabermetric community.

It meant the world to me when I opened up my Gmail account in late September of 2009 to find Neyer reaching out to me, even going so far as to compliment my work, inviting me to join his SweetSpot blog network. I joined a team of bloggers whose work I had long admired and have watched as others joined the team. There is no doubt in my mind that Neyer bringing me into his blog network also helped bring me the opportunity to write for Baseball Prospectus.

As to what Neyer’s departure means for the SweetSpot network — nothing will change as far as I know. Someone will be given the unenviable task of filling Neyer’s shoes. How the new guy or gal chooses to run the ship remains to be seen but I imagine it will be with the same lax leash that Neyer used. So the content here will remain the same.

I wish the best of luck to Rob in his future endeavors and I sincerely hope he sticks around in the Internet baseball community. Feel free to leave your compliments and well-wishes for Rob in the comments below. I’m sure he’ll take a lap around the blogs before the night is over.

Tango thinks Neyer will be moving onto MLB Network. I’m skeptical, but would nonetheless be thrilled if this were the case. The level of analysis on that channel could use a real pick-me-up and Neyer would provide just that.

Comparing the Phillies’ and Giants’ Rotations

On Twitter, @TheBaseballChik asks:

Better 4-man rotation, Giants or Phillies?

Let’s take a look using SIERA over the last three years. Click on the charts to view a much larger version.

What you should be noticing is a lot of red leaning towards the left side of the graph. If not for Tim Lincecum, the Phillies would currently own the four-best starting pitchers in each of the 2008, ’09, and ’10 seasons among the eight pitchers in question. (Note that Madison Bumgarner was a rookie last year, but even still, he was the seventh best out of eight.)

Of the big four, the only significant regression we can expect out of the Phillies’ four pitchers would be from Roy Oswalt. Near the end of December, I analyzed the starters and concluded:

Oswalt, on the other hand, did have a bit of a lucky 2010 season. His 2.76 ERA was separated from his 3.33 SIERA because of a .261 BABIP and a 78 percent strand rate. Over his career (spanning over 2,000 innings), however, he has shown some legitimate ability to strand runners as his career average lies at 76 percent. Halladay, by comparison, has a 73 percent strand rate — much closer to the league average which tends to reside in the 70-72 percent range.

Since we’re using mostly-luck-neutral statistics, though, Oswalt still grades out well among the eight pitchers in question.

On the Giants’ end of things, there is no question that Tim Lincecum is one of the top-two starters along with Roy Halladay. However, Matt Cain may be one of the most overrated pitchers in baseball (though you can’t fault him for pitching to the strengths of his home ballpark**) and Jonathan Sanchez‘s enormously high walk rate sabotages the benefits of his high strikeout rate. Consider that both Sanchez and Cole Hamels had a K/9 above 9.0 in 2010 (Sanchez 9.5, Hamels 9.1) but Hamels walked nearly half as many batters (Sanchez 4.5 BB/9, Hamels 2.6). Bumgarner has promise but will need to bolster his K/9 well into the 7.0 territory and keep his BB/9 in the low 2’s.

** (Joe Posnanski-esque aside) Many have been insistent on docking players like Matt Holliday and Carlos Gonzalez points in MVP award voting for having divergent home/road splits. Why don’t we do the same for pitchers? Matt Cain is widely regarded as among the best in the game, but he’s a fly ball pitcher (45 percent career average) in a very spacious ballpark (home run park factor of 82 per StatCorner.com). Cain has a career home ERA of 3.19 with a 4.47 xFIP and a career road ERA of 3.76 with a 4.39 xFIP. AT&T Park has been very good to Cain.

For what it’s worth, Matthew Pouliot ranked all 30 Major League teams’ starting rotations and the Phillies’ came out on top by an overwhelming margin.

The question that @TheBaseballChik posed is interesting, especially when we’re all dying for some baseball, but there is really no debate.

On Howard Eskin, Other Media

You have no doubt heard about the Howard Eskin tiff with Roy Halladay by now. The Burger King lookalike criticized the 2010 National League Cy Young award winner’s availability to the media. Patrick Berkery has the details for PhillyBurbs.com:

In the two-and-a-half-minute rant, Eskin condescendingly reminds us that if not for members of the media like himself, fans would have no idea what the players are thinking. He claims that Major League Baseball forced Halladay to speak to the media two days after tossing his NLDS no-hitter against the Reds, failing to mention that Halladay spoke at length to the media immediately after the game.

Eskin says Halladay hasn’t spoken to the media at all since the season ended, giving fans no indication how he feels about pitching in the same rotation with Cliff Lee.

Just about everyone with a Phillies blog has ripped Eskin to shreds already, so I will not beat that dead horse. However, I think this fiasco is yet another example of the growing decay of media in general, sports being one microcosm of the larger picture. Most attempts at editorializing are poorly-disguised attempts to create controversy where none exists. And in the dead of winter when baseball is still weeks away and TV and radio stations are grasping at straws for every extra viewer and listener (and writers struggle to find article fodder), rabble-rousing is the oft-selected route.

As many have pointed out, Eskin isn’t a legitimate voice in the Phillies community the way Mike Missanelli is — especially not in the way that Eskin is with the Eagles. And given Eskin’s history of pot-stirring, it becomes quite easy to deduce his intentions.

To my knowledge, Halladay hasn’t addressed the Eskin issue at all, exactly what you would expect from the stately right-hander. All too often, though, athletes are baited by the media in an attempt to get some free publicity. Then, when athletes don’t make themselves available to the media, the shock jocks and pot-stirrers play the role of the victim and cry foul.

There is no clearer example of this than Barry Bonds. Bonds marched to the beat of his own drum; an aloof fellow, for sure. Bonds didn’t always make himself available for interviews and didn’t provide many exciting sound bites. By not making the writers’ jobs easy, they painted a negative picture of him — sometimes intentionally, but oftentimes subconsciously. And when it came to “innocent before proven guilty” regarding the BALCO scandal, they were all too willing to condemn Bonds before any official verdict was levied.

Even in end-of-season awards and Hall of Fame voting, some writers have used a player’s media availability as one criterion that can be used for and against the player in question.

Now that traditional media is evaporating and blogs (and Tweeters) have popped up like flowers in spring, members of the mainstream media are trying even harder to earn precious viewers, listeners, and click-throughs. Eskin is but one of a vast group of professionals resorting to amateur tactics to maintain relevancy in a very crowded marketplace.

What Eskin did was unprofessional in every way, shape, and form. But we rewarded his behavior by talking about it, by browsing NBC10’s website for the sound bite, and by tuning into 610 WIP during the aftermath. How we punish such unprofessional behavior in the future is by ignoring it. Sometimes you need to actively confront a troll, but Eskin’s reputation as a troll precedes him and he should be shunned into obscurity.

Eskin says, in a pretentious fashion, that the media is the middleman between the fans and the athletes. And he’s right. Fans will be more willing to consume the product (Phillies baseball) if they feel a connection to the players, and that is accomplished primarily (overwhelmingly so, in fact) through the media.

But just as the fans and athletes need each other, the media needs both those fans and the athletes. Let’s say Todd Zolecki has a bad encounter with Shane Victorino and blasts him for it in his next article. (Todd wouldn’t, because he’s one of the best writers around, but humor the hypothetical.) Victorino will be much less willing to take time out of his schedule to talk to Todd, much less provide any juicy factoids that would make for good article fodder. Subsequently, Todd’s articles become boring and repetitive (especially in comparison to his peers, who are getting more unique information), and he loses readers. When Todd loses enough readers, he loses his job. Or, more realistically, Todd will resort to Eskin-like tactics to maintain relevancy and draw in readers before losing his job.

There is no reason why a member of the mainstream media — or a blogger, for that matter — should be bashing players for any reason whatsoever unless there is a 100 percent factual, provable (and relevant) foundation lying underneath.

The funny thing is, Eskin could have handled the Halladay issue privately and without conflict. Eskin thinks Halladay hasn’t been making himself available enough to the media? Send him an e-mail or a text message, or call him on the phone. Say to Halladay, “It’s not a huge deal, but I think you ought to do a couple interviews before you show up in Clearwater. Fans want to know what you think about the Cliff Lee signing, among other things.”

. . .

As the Eskin issue illustrates, January has been very boring in Phillies-land. If there’s anything you’d like to see covered on this blog before spring training starts, feel free to post suggestions in the comments. I’ve already taken suggestions on Twitter and have a couple of ideas permeating, but nothing that I think would turn into good blog fodder yet.

Otherwise, feel free to use this thread to talk about anything Phillies-related, even outside of Eskin/Halladay.

Should Phillies Fans Cheer Logan Morrison?

If you’re not on Twitter, make an account right now and immediately follow @LoMoMarlins, the account of Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison. In a short time on Twitter, Morrison has made a splash with Marlins fans and also with baseball fans in general, particularly Phillies fans.

What separates Morrison’s Twitter feed from those of other athletes is that he doesn’t simply post banal material, such as how excited he is for the upcoming season and how hard he’s working. He talks with fans about almost anything, and even promoted the “Sharktits” meme.

LoMo made a splash with Phillies fans due to a combination of his sense of humor and admiration for Phillies players, particularly their pitchers:

Can I tell you how excited I am to face R2C2 (great name btw!) *Breaking News* Logan Morrison goes hitless vs Phillies until his 30th bday

He even respects Roy Oswalt’s ability to play the outfield:

Roy BUT I’m a WAY better LHP than him RT @OuttaHerrrrreee: who plays a better LF, you or Roy Oswalt?

Pitching prospect Jarred Cosart expressed dismay at having to earn a job against the Phillies’ fearsome foursome. Morrison played the role of realtor:

Good point. Forget renting in Lehigh Valley you may want 2 buy RT @JarredCosart: Try having 2 b the guy trying 2 take 1 of their jobs

Surely, you can see why Phillies fans have taken a liking to the guy. However, a certain segment of Phillies fans on Twitter think the LoMo love has gone too far, and worry that Philadelphia’s reputation as a tough sports town and the Phillies’ home field advantage are in jeopardy if fans openly cheer for Morrison at home games.

What Morrison has done on Twitter is great for baseball and more athletes should take note. He has established a real connection with both Marlins fans and fans of other teams, which is very, very hard to do. It is likely that Morrison’s personality will get more than a handful of non-Marlins fans to tune into his games during the season, which is great for advertisers and for MLB.tv. It may lead to the Marlins getting some more national exposure on FOX and ESPN. All because of “sharktits”.

But should Phillies put their reputation on the line and cheer for him? That’s up to each fan individually. There are some that feel that such behavior needs to be regulated, but ultimately, the decision is up to you. Part of being a baseball fan is choosing who you root for and who you root against, and sometimes the boundaries are blurred.

Consider Ken Griffey, Jr — incredible player, and an even better personality. If you actively disliked Junior, you were the one with the problem, even if you were a fan of the California Angels. Some players transcend those traditional boundaries. Morrison may not be the same caliber of player as Junior, but his use of technology to foster communication with fans can make him just as likable.

Follow @LoMoMarlins? Follow @CrashburnAlley, too!

Kyle Kendrick’s Arbitration Case

Recently at Beyond the Box Score, the omnipresent Dave Gershman wrote a simulation of an arbitration hearing, using Francisco Liriano as an example. It was very informative and enlightening, but with Kyle Kendrick headed to arbitration, I wish to be a fly on the wall in that exchange. Here’s my best guess as to how Kendrick’s arbitration process will go down.

. . .

Kendrick’s agent slides a folded piece of looseleaf paper across the table towards GM Ruben Amaro. Amaro does the same. Both unfold the paper and read the suggestion for Kendrick’s 2011 salary.

Amaro: This is outrageous. I can’t afford to pay Kyle that much. He won’t even start the season in the rotation.

Agent: We think it’s fair compensation for the time and effort Kyle put in during his time in the organization. He’s done whatever the Phillies have asked of him, whether it’s filling in for an injured pitcher, moving to the bullpen, or accepting a demotion down to the Minors. Kyle’s a team guy and he deserves to be recognized for it.

Amaro sits quietly, listening to Kendrick’s agent. Amaro pauses for several seconds after the agent stops talking, reveals a TV remote, and turns the flat-screen TV on. This video clip plays.

Amaro: I can’t pay $3 million for that. Kyle, I recognize and appreciate everything you’ve done for our organization, but your performance doesn’t merit that kind of salary. I was happy to pay you $480,000 last year and I am quite fine with raising your pay, but not to that level. Unless we trade Joe Blanton, you won’t even be in the starting rotation. It just doesn’t work.

Kendrick attempts “sad puppy eyes”. Amaro is unfazed.

Agent: What will you do if and when you trade Blanton? You have no one else to step up and fill in. Everyone knows Blanton will be wearing a different uniform by August 1. What if Kyle decides he doesn’t want to be a team guy anymore because you jilted him in arbitration?

Amaro leans back in his chair, sipping from his styrofoam cup of coffee. He belches.

Amaro: We are fine with letting Vance Worley get a turn in the rotation. His numbers are superior to Kyle’s in every way, you know.

Agent: His numbers are so good that you let him start a whopping two times. How about in 2007 when Kyle was thrown in the rotation and pitched the Phillies into the playoffs?

Amaro: If we had that rotation from 2007 now, where Kendrick was a legit #3, I’d be more open to meeting your demands. But we have R2C2. We could use a 4-man rotation if we wanted to.

Amaro’s Blackberry, resting on the table, vibrates. He checks it, reading his daily Joke of the Day text. A sight smile breaks the scowl Amaro had been wearing for the past 20 minutes.

Kendrick: Listen, I’m not asking for much. I just want to be fairly compensated for my effort like everybody else in the league. What’s the big deal? You spent like a billion dollars on Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee but you can’t give me an extra million or two?

Remember that time you guys pranked me and told me I was traded to Japan? I took that like a champ. I was such a good sport. Now I kind of wish I really had been traded.

Amaro: Actually, we have been talking with some Japanese teams about moving you. They would be willing to pay you what you think you’re worth. We haven’t agreed on anything yet, but we could get something done within the next month or so.

Kendrick: Really?

Amaro: No.

Kendrick: What the fork! Pranking me in an arbitration conference?

Amaro finishes the last of his cinnamon roll. Some icing is left on the corner of his mouth. He lifts up his tie and wipes it off.

Amaro: This is boring and I have places to be. I’ll go $1.5 million for you this year, that’s about as high as we can go. If you two think you can do better, you’re welcome to move on. The fact is, pitchers like Kyle are a dime-a-dozen. You guys should be happy I’m even willing to discuss a pay raise at all. Kyle’s K/9 was the lowest in the Majors last year. His sinker barely sinks and his fastball is flat. That’s not an integral part of the 2011 Phillies.

Amaro lifts up the remote and plays this video clip, then exits the room.

Kendrick and his agent quietly discuss their options. Kendrick takes out his laptop.

Agent: You should take the $1.5 million. You have a good thing going here and you might even win another World Series. And I don’t really think the arbiters will rule in your favor anyway.

Kendrick doesn’t acknowledge what his agent said.

Agent: Hello? Kyle? You listening?

Kendrick emphatically slams the Enter key, then folds up his laptop. A printer turns on.

Agent: What did you just do?

Kendrick walks over to the printer. It is a receipt from an airline website.

Kendrick: I just bought a one-way ticket to Japan. Get on the phone and find me a job over there. Inform my wife.

Ricciardi, Pagan Help Mets Meet Trash Talk Quota

Carlos Beltran, 2008:

So this year, to Jimmy Rollins, we are the team to beat. (New York Daily News)

Francisco Rodriguez, going into 2009:

Of course, we’re going to try to win the division. Of course, we’re going to be the front-runner. Of course, we’re going to be the team to beat. (ESPN)

J.P. Ricciardi, special assistant to Mets GM Sandy Alderson, going into the 2011 season:

So now that Mr. Ricciardi is a special assistant to Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, the prospect of having to wrench supremacy in the National League East away from the Philadelphia Phillies doesn’t fill him with much apprehension.

“The AL East always had two or three teams coming at you,” he said by phone recently. “After having done it so many years against the Yankees and the Red Sox and Tampa being good through that cycle, I’ll take my chances. Even though the Phillies are really good, I’ll take my chances over here.” (Wall Street Journal)

Angel Pagan on Wednesday:

Angel Pagan knows that much of the baseball world is “talking about Philadelphia” since the Phillies added Cliff Lee to an already-imposing rotation. But Pagan wants to make sure no one forgets about the Mets, either, even if they’ve had a much lower-profile winter. “If we have health, we can give them a fight,” Pagan said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “Everyone is counting on Philadelphia, but they have to do it. I got my money on my team, bro. I love challenges and that’s why I’m looking forward to it. I believe in surprises.” (New York Daily News)

You’d think that, after four seasons of the Phillies dominating the NL East, the Mets would learn to keep their mouths shut. Everybody and their mother has already concluded that the Mets will be golfing in October. That is, everyone except Ricciardi and Pagan, it seems.

FanGraphs Fan Projections Are Craaaaazy

UPDATE: The always great David Appelman of FanGraphs found and fixed the problem with the projections.

FanGraphs’ fan projections are crazier than Jim Sipala.

Dave Allen found that fans projected their favorite team’s players more inaccurately than players on other teams. It makes sense: fans are biased towards their team and are unaware of that bias and/or are unable to remove that bias in their evaluation.

But… some of the 2011 fan projections are ridiculous. Take a look at some of the Atlanta Braves hitter projections using wOBA and pitcher projections using FIP:

(Note: positive differentials for hitters are optimistic while negative differentials for pitchers are optimistic.)

Player Pos Fans CarAvg Diff
Heyward, J RF .426 .376 .050
McCann, B C .383 .364 .019
Uggla, D 2B .381 .351 .030
McLouth, N CF .380 .343 .037
Prado, M UTIL .371 .352 .019
Freeman, F 1B .368 N/A N/A
Gonzalez, A SS .339 .298 .041

The pitchers:

Player Fans CarAvg Diff
Hanson, T 2.63 3.38 -0.75
Minor, M 3.24 N/A N/A
Lowe, D 3.43 3.80 -0.37
Jurrjens, J 3.46 3.85 -0.39
Hudson, T 3.51 3.82 -0.31

As you can see, the fans are optimistic that every player with a listed projection will out-pace his career average. In most cases, significantly out-pace their career average.

Just to illustrate how zany the projections are, the .426 wOBA for Heyward would have ranked fourth-best in the Majors in 2010, behind Josh Hamilton, Joey Votto, and Miguel Cabrera. I think Heyward is a great player, but a .426 wOBA in his sophomore season after posting a .376 wOBA? 50 points of wOBA was the difference between Ryan Braun and Jonny Gomes last year.

Fans expect Jair Jurrjens to increase his K/9 by 1.5 and lower his BB/9  by 0.5 compared to his career averages. Derek Lowe is projected to post his highest K/9 since 2001, when he was pitching out of the bullpen for the Boston Red Sox. Tommy Hanson is expected to put up a 2.63 FIP. By comparison, Roy Halladay has only once posted a FIP that low and it was in a short season in which he made just 16 starts.

Meanwhile, the Phillies’ projections aren’t nearly as crazy.

Player Pos Fans CarAvg Diff
Utley, C 2B .395 .388 .007
Howard, R 1B .372 .391 -.019
Victorino, S CF .341 .343 -.002
Ibanez, R LF .334 .351 -.017
Ruiz, C C .330 .326 .004
Rollins, J SS .329 .336 .-007
Polanco, P 3B .321 .334 -.013

Four of the Braves’ hitters — including Nate McLouth and almost Martin Prado — are projected to perform better than Ryan Howard. Heyward is expected to be significantly better than Chase Utley.

Overall, fans are more realistic, or just plain conservative, about the Phillies’ hitters. The largest gap between a player’s career average wOBA and their fan-projected wOBA is Howard at -.019. Every Braves hitter had an equivalent disagreement or greater above their career average.

Player Fans CarAvg Diff
Halladay, R 3.07 3.42 -0.35
Lee, C 3.02 3.77 -0.75
Oswalt, R 3.61 3.34 0.24
Hamels, C 3.62 3.77 -0.15
Blanton, J 4.44 4.21 0.23

Despite equivalent disagreements between the fan-projected FIP and their career averages, Tommy Hanson‘s projection is more unrealistic than Cliff Lee‘s because of how far down his FIP lies. Additionally, Lee’s pitching prior to 2008 is included and we all know that Lee transformed during the same year that the Phillies won the World Series. Overall, the fans are generally optimistic about the Phillies’ starting rotation, but fans are pessimistic about Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton. On the other hand, each pitcher in the Braves’ rotation is expected to best his career average FIP.

Oddly enough, Mike Minor is expected to post a 3.24 FIP, which is outstanding for a pitcher with all of 41 innings of Major League experience. His 9.5 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 were excellent and his 5.98 ERA was egregiously high, but a 3.24 FIP is still unrealistic. Even with those great numbers, his FIP in 2010 was still 3.86.

The fan projections are fun, but they don’t appear to be reliable in any way. Take them with a huge grain of salt; take the more objective methods of projection with a slightly smaller grain of salt.

Chase Utley vs. Robinson Cano

Over at Beyond the Box Score, Daniel Moroz of Camden Crazies compared Chase Utley and Robinson Cano, the top two second basemen in Major League Baseball. He concludes:

Robinson Cano is a very good player. Chase Utley is a very good player. If you want the second-baseman who will put the ball in play more and make flashier looking plays with the glove, then you take Cano. If you want the second-baseman who will make fewer outs and save more runs defensively, then you take Utley.

If Utley doesn’t bounce back at the plate – while Cano maintains his production from 2010 – then we’ll need to revisit this and perhaps give the Yankee the edge. If someone wants to take up the banner for Cano right now though, I’d be glad to hear the arguments.

Right now, I take Utley without hesitation. Last year in what was a career year for Cano, he was worth 6.4 fWAR. Utley, in a career-worst year, was worth 5.2. Utley at his worst is still very close to Cano at his best — that’s just how good Utley is.

However, there are question marks surrounding Utley. He has suffered two major hand injuries (a broken hand and a torn thumb ligament) in his career, recently turned 31 years old, and tends to wear down at the end of the season. In the Utley/Cano debate, Utley is best short-term, but Cano is superior in the long run.

Offseason Smug

Well, you know, the Eagles had a great season and it was really fun to watch them develop and obviously we were all hopeful that they would have moved on, but hopefully the fans can enjoy some baseball here — in another month or so we get into spring training, and we’re excited about it.

(Smug Meter courtesy The Good Phight)

Are Jayson Werth and Bobby Abreu Overrated?

January is a super-boring month for baseball fans as there’s not much going on. All the big names have found homes and all the trade rumors have died down. There is no excitement — that’s why Hall of Fame debates are so popular and so spirited: people are bored!

Even writers get bored and struggle to come up with fresh material, so they stretch and write cliche articles such as this by Tony Lee of NESN.com:

Jayson Werth, A.J. Burnett Among Baseball’s Most Overrated, Overpaid Players

Along with Werth, Lee also claims Abreu is among the most overrated. As he hacks at a couple former Phillies, I’m bored enough to meet his claims with a response. Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments below, whether you disagree with me or would like to tack on additional points.

Abreu left Philadelphia during the 2006 season. The Phillies have made the playoffs each year from 2007-2010.

This is by far the most-cited piece of “evidence” that Abreu isn’t “a winning player”. The problem is that it makes the mistake of implying causation with correlation. Wikipedia has a couple of humorous examples of absurd correlation/causation fallacies:

With a decrease in the number of pirates, there has been an increase in global warming over the same period.
Therefore, global warming is caused by a lack of pirates.

[...]

Since the 1950s, both the atmospheric CO2 level and crime levels have increased sharply.
Hence, atmospheric CO2 causes crime.

There are far too many variables that separate the Abreu-era Phillies from the post-Abreu Phillies, such as randomness, division strength, timing, injuries, and the fact that the ’07 team can be objectively judged as a better team than in ’06. Furthermore, the ’07 Phillies didn’t exactly sizzle in the post-season as they were swept out of the National League Division Series by the Colorado Rockies. That, after winning the division by the skin of their teeth on the last day of the regular season.

Had Abreu been on that team, rather than finishing his Phillies career on a team that missed the Wild Card by three games, would he have shed his “not a losing player” reputation?

Baseball is well-known for being a sport based upon individual match-ups, but post-season berths are won and lost by entire teams, not by individual players.

At this point in his career, Abreu is likely underrated. Plenty of people think he’s about to hit rock bottom, but a soon-to-be 37-year-old with above-average on-base skills and moderate power is actually quite valuable. Last year, Abreu was a 2.2 fWAR player, which was worth about $9 million — exactly what he earned and what he will earn in 2011. With just a slight mean-regression in BABIP, Abreu should be worth at least $9 million in the upcoming season.

He is not the sole reason for any of this, but Abreu seems to lack that certain something that can make an impact in the middle of a lineup, even given his steady production over the years.

Throughout his Phillies career, Abreu was an offensive force; an on-base machine with considerable power. Abreu was 32 years old when he was traded to the Yankees. Unsurprisingly, his production declined rather than improved. From 1998-2006, Abreu’s lowest on-base percentage was .393 in ’01. His OBP has since ranged from .352 last year to .390 in ’09. If teams have been relying on an aging, declining Abreu for incredible offense in the middle of their lineup, they were sorely mistaken — and that is their fault, not Abreu’s, just as it will be the Washington Nationals’ fault if and when Jayson Werth declines over the course of his seven-year contract.

He has also frustrated fans in each city with his less-than-daring approach to the outfield wall.

Despite his Gold Glove from his ’05 season, Abreu has never been impressive defensively. As with Manny Ramirez, Abreu was productive enough offensively that you accepted that flaw. It would have been nice if he was better with the glove, but his defense was only a point of contention when fans became frustrated with the Phillies’ post-season near-misses in the mid-2000’s. Fans were not outraged at Abreu’s defense with the 65-97 Phillies in 2000.

Werth’s time in the City of Brotherly Love resulted in some nice results and a legion of beard-sporting followers, but it was not the type of stint that deserved seven years and $126 million, the contract he received from Washington.

The contract awarded Werth recently is absolutely excessive. It was a calculated risk taken by the Nationals’ front office, one that will likely not pay off in the end. There are certainly several legitimate arguments to be made against the Werth deal.

Werth has never hit .300, has never driven in 100 runs and has shrunk in high-pressure situations throughout his career, at least those in the regular season

This is not one of them.

Werth never hit .300, but did you know that he hit .298 in ’07 and .296 last year? If Werth had one more hit and one less out in ’07, he is a .302 hitter; if he had two more hits and two less outs last year, he’s a .300 hitter. Seems like a couple hundredths of points in batting average fall well within the range of expected variance.

Additionally, Werth drove in 99 runs in ’09. Obsessing with nice round numbers like .300 and 100 — ignoring the fact that they’re relating to batting average and RBI, the Windows 95 and 98 of baseball metrics, respectively** — ignores the larger point.

** Nerd slam!

Finally, Lee gets caught up in the false belief that Werth is not a “clutch” player. Werth was notoriously awful with two outs and runners in scoring position last year, and he was — he had just a .680 OPS in those situations. But did you know that Werth had a .985 OPS in those situations in ’09?

Logically, one who believes Werth was not clutch last year must believe that Werth was clutch in ’09. So, what happened? Did Werth forget how to be clutch last year? Or… are clutch statistics based on a small sample size and thus subject to a ton of variance? I think the answer is quite obvious here.

In one of Lee’s previous articles, he argues that Carlos Ruiz is among baseball’s most underrated. His argument isn’t really worth fisking other than noting that he uses last year’s batting average and slugging percentage as evidence that Ruiz is improving, but misses that they are based heavily on BABIP luck and are likely to regress in 2011.

Generally speaking, articles like these aren’t even worth mentioning since everybody does them, but I’m bored and needed something to write about. I have no personal issues with Tony Lee or his writing; he is simply an unfortunate bystander in my boredom storm. Aside from commentary on this and Lee’s articles, consider this an open thread for anything Phillies-related. I eagerly await FanSince09‘s appearance. (Should of kept Matt Smith!)