Phillies Drop Another Series Opener

The Phillies dropped yet another series opener, this time against the Milwaukee Brewers — their fifth consecutive series-opening loss out of six. The offense continued to struggle, scoring only three runs through 12 innings against Shaun Marcum and the Brewers’ bullpen. The Phillies’ hitters showed better plate discipline, but their nine hits were all singles and they drew only three walks in 50 plate appearances (six percent). They couldn’t mount any offensive threats in extra innings before Kyle Kendrick punted the game in the 12th inning.

I took umbrage with two more of Charlie Manuel’s decisions tonight.

The first problem was using J.C. Romero to start the ninth against pinch-hitter Erick Almonte, Rickie Weeks, and Carlos Gomez. They are all right-handed hitters. I’ve written about why Romero should be used strictly as a LOOGY before — he is absolutely terrible against right-handed hitters (5.33 xFIP) and effective against lefties (3.58 xFIP).

It turned out that using Romero didn’t kill the Phillies as Romero got two outs and narrowly missed a third on an infield single by Gomez. However, Romero came up limping and left the game with a right calf strain. A completely avoidable injury in hindsight, but the egregious offense wasn’t that Romero was injured unnecessarily, but that he was used against right-handed hitters.

The second problem was bunting with a runner on first and no outs in the bottom of the ninth inning with Wilson Valdez at the plate. When I tweeted this, many people responded that Valdez is a double-play machine. I’ve joked around with that on Twitter many times, but the reality is that the GIDP’s are a minor side effect of his ground ball tendency. The run expectancy with a runner on first and no outs is 0.87, which lowers to 0.66 when you give up an out to move that runner to second base. A bunt eliminates the roughly 25 percent chance that Valdez gets a single, which could potentially mean a first and third with no outs (run expectancy: 1.70), or better.

Valdez does hit a lot of ground balls — 60 percent over his career, entering tonight. 154 of his 776 career plate appearances have come with a runner on first base. Only 21 of them ended in a double play (14 percent), so the GIDP threat wasn’t a huge issue.

I have one more gripe, and that’s with the fact that Kendrick is still on a Major League roster with nearly 500 innings under his belt, despite his inability to miss bats (career K/9 is barely above 4.0) and a barely above-average ability to induce ground balls (46 percent) and prevent hits (career .291 BABIP). His career xFIP is 4.72, yet was given $2.45 million by the Phillies in avoiding arbitration. That, when the Phillies have a horde of good, cheap arms capable of handling Kendrick’s low-leverage role in the bullpen, including:

Kendrick’s punting of tonight’s game was extremely frustrating and entirely predictable. However, it really isn’t his fault. The Phillies have had ample time to evaluate him and have wrongly concluded that he is capable of succeeding at the Major League level. Kendrick didn’t steal $2.45 million from the Phillies; they gave it to him. I’m guilty of directing my frustration at him, but it should really be directed at the front office. Kendrick is doing his best in a tough environment, which just isn’t enough.

With the last few posts being rather pessimistic towards the Phillies, how about a tip of the cap to Joe Blanton, who rebounded from two tough starts to begin the season by throwing seven innings of two-run baseball tonight? He’s the forgotten one (literally) among the Phillies’ starters, and is the victim of low expectations, but will be more than capable of holding his own every five days.

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27 comments

  1. COAL HAMLETS

    April 18, 2011 10:47 PM

    I was more than pleased with Blanton’s solid outing tonight, and it’s just a damn shame that he couldn’t have been award with a W for his efforts. The offense has been painfully frustrating lately, and I really wish we’d see more walks and patience at the plate. We knew before the season even began that we’d be looking at a Phillies offense that would have to rely on more than just the longball to get the job done.

    Having more patience at the plate would go a long way towards helping with the offense, but us wishing them to do better doesn’t mean they are going to.

    Even with the starting pitching being as good as it is, 3 runs is just not going to do the job to secure a win every night… and I wish somebody could get it through to these guys to be more patient.

  2. BigPhil

    April 18, 2011 10:49 PM

    You’re 100% right. Kyle Kendrick should’ve been traded to Japan years ago…
    My question/gripe is with the offense. We’re seeing the no-punch, no-rally offense that hurt us for stretches of last year. Polanco and Chooch are the only ones who give quality, “professional” at bats. Everyone else is just up there hacking, doesn’t bother (or can’t) work walks and has no regard for situational hitting (Victorino and Francisco are the worst at this). I’d also point out Wilson Valdez, but he’s our 8th hitter and wouldn’t be player if not for injuries.
    So I guess my question is, is there any hope for this offense (other than people hitting above .300)? Or is this what we’re stuck with for the rest of the year?

  3. Ken

    April 18, 2011 10:59 PM

    We need to be a little careful on overpraising the would be replacement relievers. DeFratus wasn’t exactly brilliant in his brief ST exposure. Stutes might be like Herndon last year. He was great in ST (scoreless, as I recall), and then was what…fair maybe in season? Mathieson…well. I dunno. I remember he walked the bases loaded toward the end of ST when he was about as close to the parent club roster as he was gonna get. I guess what I’m saying is yeah, Kendrick is frustrating. And I don’t quibble for a sec on what’s up with the 2.45 mil. But while at least DeFratus and Stutes should be here next year for a good portion of the year, it’s not like they aren’t still developing. At this point, I’m clueless on how the club evaluates Mathieson. I’d guess Kendrick might have some good games this year out of the pen. More than I’d have guessed he would have as a starter at any point through last year. Tonight wasn’t one. Duh.

  4. Sloth

    April 18, 2011 11:00 PM

    Not much you can do there Phillies should have scored on Polly’s hit off Mitre and could have most likely won.

    Positives:
    Blanton was sharp.
    Madson got in and out of trouble without his best stuff and a tight zone.
    Big Truck was sharp.
    Rest of the Pen’ was nice tonight.

    Negatives:
    Raul is old and something needs to be done about this.
    Kendrick needs to be optioned/released so a younger guy can have a chance.

    Other than the Kendrick inning I felt it was a solid game that they had a chance to win the whole time.

  5. Bill Baer

    April 18, 2011 11:57 PM

    Ken,

    You make a lot of claims but your evidence is lacking. I don’t mean to pick on you, but I like to hold a high standard for argumentation here. :)

    DeFratus wasn’t exactly brilliant in his brief ST exposure.

    Spring training numbers are almost meaningless, and you don’t have nearly enough of a sample size.

    Stutes might be like Herndon last year. He was great in ST (scoreless, as I recall), and then was what…fair maybe in season?

    Again, spring training stats aren’t too meaningful. And the difference between Herndon and Stutes is that Stutes can miss bats. He also walks more, but I’ll take the high-K, high-BB guy over the low-K, low-BB guy who induces a ton of contact in a one-inning stint, where limiting base-advancement is key.

    Mathieson…well. I dunno. I remember he walked the bases loaded toward the end of ST when he was about as close to the parent club roster as he was gonna get.

    Evaluating Mathieson on one isolated incident? Not a great idea.

  6. Ajay

    April 19, 2011 12:23 AM

    I just hope Kyle Kendrick realizes how amazingly lucky he is to not only be on a major league roster, but be getting paid millions to be largely ineffective…

  7. Scott G

    April 19, 2011 05:45 AM

    BigPhil,

    What is your basis for having “professional ABs”? I am looking at P/PA for the starters, and they look like this:

    Rollins: 3.66
    Francisco: 3.61
    Ruiz: 3.59
    Victorino: 3.47
    Ibanez: 3.38
    Polanco 3.24
    Howard: 3.21
    Valdez: 2.82

    Polanco is the definition of a free swinger, and always has been. From these numbers, Rollins, Francisco, and Ruiz are our most patient/”professional” hitters – not that their numbers are anything to write home about.

  8. BigPhil

    April 19, 2011 08:23 AM

    Hey Scott G,

    Nice feedback/response.

    I put quotes around “professional” because I knew Polanco’s a free swinger who never walks. I just feel like when Polanco’s behind in the count that he still puts together good at-bats, fights off pitches, and puts good wood on the ball (and I realize that’s a completely subjective statement). The other regulars in the line-up, when they’re down 1-2 or 0-2, I feel like they’re automatic outs. Obviously, 0-2 and 1-2 are low-percentage situations for any player, but again, I feel like they get in those bad hitting situations because they’re just up there hacking.

    This is totally from feel, and if someone has stats to back that up or disprove it, I’d be grateful.

    And I’m surprised that Francisco’s so high in the P/PA list. However, after a torrid start, he’s been cooling back down (along with the rest of the Phillies offense), so I’m curious to see how he does after 200ABs or so. I’m pulling for him!

  9. Dave

    April 19, 2011 08:29 AM

    I posed a similar question to Bill last night, and I hope someone can steer me in the right direction.

    What is Raul’s flyball/line drive rate? I concede small sample size, but, golly, he seems to be hitting a lot of routine ground balls to second.

    Does B-Ref have this info?

    Thanks guys.

  10. Richard

    April 19, 2011 08:34 AM

    I’m just as alarmed by the overall lack of plate discipline as anybody, but sometimes you have to give the other pitcher some credit for limiting pitches seen by the opposing batters (after all, do we think others are simply being impatient when Cliff Lee throws a CG w/only 99 pitches?). Marcum was throwing strikes and junk, and the Phillies batters tried a few different approaches, which mostly failed; when they took pitches, they quickly fell behind. But Marcum is good. On the other hand, they were simply not patient enough with the wild relievers who came in in the 7th and 9th, especially the 9th. Victorino was terrible in that inning. And Rollins has been working some good counts, has been perhaps a relative bright spot when it comes to pitches/PA, but has not been able to execute when he’s gotten his pitches.

    I missed the top of the 12th (thankfully). Kendrick’s throwing error: was he trying to get the lead runner? If so, would a good throw have had him?

    I’d also like to take note of Ibanez’s awful decision/throw, which eventually led to the Brewers’ second run, by allowing a runner to reach second base unnecessarily.

  11. phatti

    April 19, 2011 08:49 AM

    Bill,

    I’m not entirely sure that the bunt was a bad move, primarily because in the 14% of times that Valdez hits into a double play, it pretty much ends the game. I ran some numbers based on Valdez’s performance in 2010 and got the following probabilities for outcomes, and the win expectancy that would lead to
    Outcome Probability Win Expect.
    1B 0.18 0.56*
    2B 0.05 0.72
    3B 0.01 0.91
    HR 0.01 1.00
    BB/HB 0.05 0.52
    K 0.13 0.21
    GIDP 0.14 0.04
    GbO, no DP 0.20 0.28
    Fb/Ld out 0.23 0.21

    * For this, I’m considering a 70% chance of 1st and 2nd, and a 30% chance of 1st and 3rd, since Ruiz is not fast.
    If you multiply those out, you get a predicted Win Expectancy with Valdez at the plate of 31.5%.
    A successful sacrifice lowers Win Expectancy to 28.2%, but we have to also consider the chance of Valdez getting a hit or a failed fielder’s choice (as well as the possibility of a failed sacrifice). I estimate if Valdez succeeds in the sacrifice 75% of the time, fails 8% of the time, and gets a 1st and 2nd the other 17% of the time, the resulting Win Expectancy is 31.6%. Are those targets realistic? I don’t have my copy of “The Book” at work, and I know it deals with that, but those numbers don’t feel outlandish to me.
    What is also interesting in this is that Valdez is a bad enough hitter that his presence at the plate reduces win expectancy from 33.1% to 31.5%. So maybe the right move was to pinch hit Mayberry for Valdez and then use Schneider or Orr for the 9th spot.

  12. Begatts

    April 19, 2011 09:00 AM

    The plate discipline is alarming and has been an issue for years along with their terrible situational hitting (or lack of). The Phils big power numbers overshadowed this for years. However, with the absence of Werth and Utley, they have to work counts better and take walks to put pressure on opposing pitchers and get the advantage. They are not doing that and it is coming back to bite them.

    Funny reading Bill’s assessment of the Kendrick situation this morning. It is almost exactly my thought after the game last night: They Phils have at least 4 better arms at AAA right now if you include Zagurski. Kendrick is one of those nibblers with nothing “stuff” who doesn’t miss bats. For a “sinker” pitcher he doesn’t even get ground balls. How has he made it this far? Really frustrating that the Phils, who are budget-strapped, are trotting this guy making $2.45mm out there when they have less-expensive, better arms down at AAA!

  13. PTN

    April 19, 2011 09:02 AM

    I agree with Bill about Kendrick. They already have two guys in Baez and Herndon who can’t strike anybody out. Kendrick is superfluous.

  14. Ken

    April 19, 2011 10:45 AM

    Bill,

    Per your diplomatic reply to my post above, so you know, the “I dunno” about Mathieson was as much an expression of this guy can’t catch a break with this organization dismay and I wish he’d pitch like he can when it means the most than an I don’t know. I make zero apologies for not being sequestered in numbers as you choose to. That’s not a shot, it’s a mere fact that you have that perrogative, as I do of watching the game from a largely, but not wholly common sense point of view. While I cited one painful memory of Mathieson walking the sacks full in an exhibition game, you’ll no doubt recall he did not fare well in his brief stint here last summer. Again, in that case, a VERY small sampling, but life doesn’t offer too many shots at the big prize.

    When you get to within a week of the final roster, and walk the bases loaded, that’s not good. When you get the midsummer call up, and can’t throw strikes, that’s not good. While I hope his laborsome story ends successfully, where is the evidence of him taking advantage of important exposure that takes him beyond minor league stats that translate to more than cautionary optimism if he’s given a longer term chance? Whatever DeFratus’s numbers were in the spring, did he look poised enough to you that he’s ready enough for the majors with more than caution if he were promoted? Are minor league numbers that much more telling than spring training for young guys attempting to prove themselves? I’m not so much defending spring stats as I’m paying respect to the huge leap from Triple A, or any A to the bigs. I’m as disappointed as the next guy that Kendrick’s still here. I just don’t see any blatant visibility that anyone off the farm is so far beyond grass is always greener on the other side optimism.

    Above all, your diplomatic please don’t post here is capiched. If you think about it, based on the language you speak, and the language I speak, it’s not like there’s a real incentive to do so on a regular basis, is there? Not to overlook the amount of work you must do, and work that gives into your site, but wanting someone to post, and someone wanting to post is a 2 way street.

    Thanks for the space, and read.

  15. Brad

    April 19, 2011 11:54 AM

    I am largely in agreement with Bill, especially about the plate discipline.

    One other comment/venting of frustration: What is up with Ibanez’s arm? It was never good, but in the last week there have been three throws that were downright pathetic. I believe it was Sunday where he fielded a ball on a full sprint forward, had a great shot of getting the runner who was just getting to third, was halfway to the infield before he even threw, and still uncorked a three-hopper to Ruiz that was wide of the plate. Time to sub for him after the seventh like Chuck used to do for Burrell (who has/had a much better arm)?

  16. Matt

    April 19, 2011 11:58 AM

    Richard,

    KK did not go for the leadoff man. He made a clean pick up, made the smart move (not even looking to second, where he had zero chance), composed himself and threw way over Howard’s head. Thankfully Francisco got to it quickly and kept the damage to a minimum.

  17. phatti

    April 19, 2011 12:19 PM

    @Matt–”to a minimum” might not be the best term, since 1st and 3rd with no outs and Ryan Braun (and then Fielder) coming to the plate is pretty much a formula for disaster. It’s amazing to think of it, but Kendrick might have gotten out of that inning if he makes that throw.

    That was one of the weirdest innings I’ve ever seen. The Brewers’ batting average in the inning was 1.000– 1 for 1. Every other plate appearance was a non at bat:

    walk
    sacrifice with error
    sacrifice fly
    hit batsman
    intentional walk
    sacrifice fly
    intentional walk
    then finally,

    single with man thrown out at plate

    8 batters to the plate, 1 at bat, not a single one retired in a “normal” way. Weird.

  18. Moose

    April 19, 2011 12:52 PM

    Bill,

    I’m assuming the latter half of this post is a response to my request at the end of the comments in the previous post. And for that, I thank you. Simply put, Kendrick sucks and needs to go.

  19. hk

    April 19, 2011 04:00 PM

    The point I don’t get is that on Friday night, Cholly trusted Baez enough to put him in a highly leveraged situation – 7th inning, one run lead and a man on 1st – and tonight he used Kendrick, the only guy on the team who is worse than Baez, before Baez.

  20. COAL HAMLETS

    April 19, 2011 10:45 PM

    Hey, is it just me or does Roy Halladay seem to have poor outings after having extra rest?

    I don’t have any information handy to back this up, but it just seems like Roy tends to have bad outings when his original starting day get’s pushed back.

    Anyone else noticed this, or is it just my perception?

  21. Bill Baer

    April 19, 2011 11:37 PM

    From last year, via his game logs on Baseball Reference…

    4 days rest (19 starts): 143.2 IP, 2.94 ERA, 8.0 K/9, 1.1 BB/9, 42% GB

    5 days rest (12 starts): 94 IP, 1.44 ERA, 7.6 K/9, 1.1 BB/9, 46% GB

    Could be different in years past, but I don’t see a noticeable difference. I’d chalk the ERA gap to variance.

  22. Adam

    April 20, 2011 08:02 AM

    Regarding the decision to have Valdez bunt, isn’t run expectancy an inappropriate metric because it takes into account the magnitude of possible runs, when only one run is needed to win in the ninth inning? Given that the Phils were down 1 at that point, whatever metric you use should consider 3 runs or more effectively the same as just 2 runs.

  23. Scott G

    April 20, 2011 03:00 PM

    Bill (or anyone for that matter),

    Just a quick question. I’ve been having discussions with some Red Sox fans, and we are in extreme disagreement.

    If Roy Oswalt were on the Boston Red Sox, what number in the rotation would he be?

  24. COAL HAMLETS

    April 20, 2011 03:57 PM

    If your asking me, I think Roy would be their #2 or #3 at worst, and I actually feel Boston’s rotation is somewhat over-rated. Outside of Jon Lester, there’s honestly nobody i’d rather have in the Phillies rotation from Boston.

  25. John K

    April 20, 2011 04:36 PM

    I admit I use the Run Expectancy matrix similarly, but I always feel it’s somewhat disingenuous. The obvious reason is that it’s an unconditional expected value. What we really want here is a RE matrix for Valdez’s at bat which factors in his ISO, GB%, etc. (you could even imagine it taking into account base runners’ speed!). So when I see the bunt there I cringed like you did, but I probably shouldn’t loath it as much as I do. I suspect the outcome might be same, but I’m not sure. Even if there is a difference when you factor in the GB tendencies, would it be significant? Doesn’t seem that obvious to me

  26. MG

    April 21, 2011 01:30 PM

    Your griping about KK but not about Herndon? Seems like a bit of a double standard.

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