Cubs-Phillies Game Thread 4/28/12

Last night’s thread mentioned that the Cubs were one of the worst offensive teams in baseball, but it didn’t look that way last night. The Cubs scraped together three runs against Roy Halladay while Cubs starter Paul Maholm stymied the Phillies through six and a third — the only damage coming from a Ty Wigginton solo homer. Yes, it was the Phillies once again looking impotent on offense, but they will look to change that tonight against Randy Wells. In his season debut on Sunday, he allowed only two runs against the Cincinnati Reds despite striking out only two and walking five in five innings of work. The Phillies — not known for their plate discipline — will need to be patient against the right-hander tonight if they have any hope of mounting a run-scoring threat.

Lineups

Cubs

Phillies

What We Know: 20 Games In

The Phillies are 9-11, five games back of first place in the NL East. Slow April starts are nothing new, but the past few years have featured more talent (on paper) than this year’s squad, leading to more confidence on a deeper level. The light at the end of the tunnel is the hope that two offensive pillars in Ryan Howard and Chase Utley will be returning in a month or so, but treading water until then will prove a dicey proposition, if it’s even enough to stay competitive with a hot Nationals squad (albeit one with a cupcake schedule to date).

Games 11-20 Recap

  • Record: 4-6
  • RS: 31; RA: 38
  • Notes: Cliff Lee hit the 15-day DL on April 21; Mike Stutes was also placed on the 15-day DL on April 24
  • Through 20 games, Cole Hamels has more hits and extra-base hits in eight fewer PA than Jim Thome
The surprise dynamic duo
There’s an unexpected but of offensive contribution coming for the new acquisition tandem of Ty Wigginton and Laynce Nix. In 81 combined PA (the majority of those being Wigginton’s), they’ve contributed a .329/.383/.548 line with three of the club’s 13 home runs. That’s certainly more than was expected of them entering the year, as Wigginton began his Phillies tenure with a .768 career OPS, and Nix with a .718 career OPS.
That said, it’s wet blanket time, but you could probably see this one coming: it’s not going to last. Wigginton fashions a .368 BABIP, .076 points above his career average and .053 points above his best single-season total. Nix, in a smaller sample, has a .467 BABIP, good for 4th-highest in the National League among those with at least 25 plate appearances. At this point, the Phillies are thankful for their good fortune in receiving this production, and the fact that both players have line drive rates at 20 percent (beyond that, the same 40/40 percent split in GB/FB, too) lends credence to their starts being comparable parts luck and skill. That said, it’s basically certain neither rate is sustainable, given the years of prior Major League info we have on both players. When they begin to fall back, the more talented core will have to step up; that includes Jimmy Rollins (.496 OPS), Placido Polanco (.595 OPS) and Shane Victorino (.699 OPS).
Pitching depths
Losing Cliff Lee to the DL puts a three-start onus on Kyle Kendrick to perform, and hopefully that’s as long a leash as he’ll get. Kendrick, who signed a two-year, $7.5 million deal this offseason (in case you forgot), had an abysmal start in Arizona April 23. His Bill James Game Score was 9.
In 4.2 IP before that start, he’d managed a sub-2.00 ERA despite walking on more hitter than he’d struck out, but now faces the harsh reality of a 9.39 ERA to go with three Ks and four BBs in 7.2 total innings in five appearances. In fact, since 2008 (485 total innings), Kendrick has a 4.62 ERA with a 4.2 K/9. It might not surprise you to learn that, since that 2008 season and among all pitchers with 400+ IP since that time, Kendrick’s K/9 is the lowest in baseball.
The Phillies will need some 2007 luck out of KK if they’re to manage in Lee’s absence.
Freddy Gloves
Freddy Galvis has quickly made a name for himself with great fielding at second base in Chase Utley’s absence. Utley was an impeccable fielder at his best, too, but with knee troubles lingering, it seems fair to wonder just how big the time split will be at second between Galvis and Utley when he returns.
According to BIS data, Galvis has made 14 GFPs (Good Fielding Plays, which contribute to stats like +/-) against just one DM (Defensive Misplay) in 20 games. His +4 is currently fourth in the league at second base, behind Kelly Johnson (+8), Alexi Casilla (+6) and Robinson Cano (+5), and his Runs Saved (4) are third, trailing only Johnson and Cano. The .560 OPS at the plate has been expected, but the play in the field has passed both the eye test and the stat test so far.

Cubs-Phillies Game Thread 4/27/12

With the way the Phillies have hit over the first three weeks of the season, you’d be hard-pressed to find a similarly-impotent offense in the National League. Fortunately for the Phillies, one of them is in town tonight for the first game of a four-game series in the Chicago Cubs, who are in last place in the NL Central with a 6-13 record. As a team, the Cubs have posted a .278 wOBA, third-worst in all of baseball. They have the lowest isolated power at .098, and only one player has hit more than one home run: Bryan LaHair with four. Starter Paul Maholm will be looking to silence the Phillies in the hope that his team can scratch and claw their way to a couple runs in support. Roy Halladay, currently with a 1.50 ERA, looks to win his fourth game in five starts and, at the same time, quiet the recent concerns about his lack of strikeouts.

Lineups

Cubs

Phillies

Greetings From Clearwater – April 27

Originally written by Bradley Ankrom.

It was an interesting week for Phillies pitching prospects, to say the least. Jesse Biddle and Brody Colvin continued to confound while Trevor May continued his domination of Double-A hitters. At Lakewood, Lino Martinez turned in the worst pitching line of any Phillies farmhand this year, done in by eight-consecutive hits that resulted in a nine-run fourth inning last Friday.

PLAYER

LVL

AGE

W-L

ERA

WHIP

G-GS

SV

IP

H

HR

SO-BB

BABIP

P. Aumont, rhp

AAA

23

0-0

4.32

1.56

8-0

4

8.3

6

1

13-7

.312

J. Biddle, lhp

A+

20

0-2

5.71

1.79

4-4

0

17.3

22

2

20-9

.377

L. Bonilla, rhp

A+

22

1-1

1.59

0.97

8-0

1

11.3

9

0

17-2

.346

D. Buchanan, rhp

AA

23

1-1

2.16

1.00

4-4

0

25.0

18

2

19-7

.239

M. Cisco, rhp

AA

25

1-1

1.17

1.43

5-0

0

7.7

9

0

8-2

.409

T. Cloyd, rhp

AA

25

3-0

2.37

1.11

3-3

0

19.0

21

1

13-0

.333

T. Cloyd, rhp

AAA

25

1-0

0.00

0.00

1-1

0

6.0

0

0

8-0

.000

B. Colvin, rhp

A+

21

0-2

4.43

1.38

4-4

0

20.3

23

1

13-5

.324

J. De Fratus, rhp

A+

24

0-0

0.00

1.00

1-1

0

1.0

1

0

0-0

.250

J. Diekman, lhp

AAA

25

0-0

0.93

1.34

8-0

3

9.7

12

0

14-1

.480

R. Duke, rhp

A

23

0-2

3.38

1.25

6-0

3

8.0

8

1

10-2

.333

F. Gailey, lhp

A+

26

0-0

13.50

2.70

4-0

0

3.3

7

0

5-2

.538

P. Garner, rhp

A+

23

0-1

3.95

1.76

3-3

0

13.7

14

0

9-10

.311

M. Hollands, lhp

A

23

0-0

9.00

2.67

1-0

0

3.0

5

0

3-3

.500

A. Hyatt, rhp

AAA

26

2-1

2.53

1.45

4-4

0

21.3

22

0

16-9

.319

J. Johnson, lhp

AA

22

0-0

4.15

1.62

5-0

0

4.3

6

0

6-1

.500

T. Knigge, rhp

A+

23

0-0

0.00

0.67

7-0

0

9.0

4

0

6-2

.190

E. Manzanillo, lhp

A

20

0-1

6.75

2.19

4-4

0

16.0

27

1

10-8

.406

L. Martinez, lhp

A

20

2-1

8.55

1.80

4-4

0

20.0

28

4

11-8

.333

T. May, rhp

AA

22

4-0

2.35

0.87

4-4

0

23.0

12

0

26-8

.222

B. Morgado, lhp

A

23

1-0

4.82

1.93

5-0

0

9.3

11

1

9-7

.370

A. Morgan, lhp

A+

22

0-1

3.42

1.18

4-3

0

23.7

23

0

27-5

.365

C. Murray, rhp

A

22

0-1

11.88

2.52

6-0

0

8.3

15

1

5-6

.412

M. Nesseth, rhp

A

24

1-1

6.60

2.00

4-4

0

15.0

15

0

12-15

.333

J. Pettibone, rhp

AA

21

1-2

4.24

1.76

4-4

0

23.3

33

1

9-8

.381

J. Ramirez, rhp

AA

23

0-1

5.23

1.84

6-0

0

10.3

11

1

8-8

.294

J. Rodriguez, rhp

AA

21

1-0

3.21

1.50

3-3

0

14.0

13

0

10-8

.283

B. Rosenberg, rhp

AA

26

1-0

1.12

0.88

5-0

3

8.0

5

1

10-2

.211

B. Rosenberg, rhp

AAA

26

0-0

7.71

1.71

1-0

0

2.3

3

1

1-1

.286

J. Savery, lhp

MLB

26

0-0

1.59

0.53

4-0

0

5.7

2

1

1-1

.056

J. Savery, lhp

AAA

26

0-0

0.00

0.75

2-0

1

2.7

2

0

3-0

.250

M. Schwimer, rhp

MLB

26

0-0

0.00

0.00

1-0

0

1.0

0

0

0-0

.000

M. Schwimer, rhp

AAA

26

1-0

1.04

1.38

7-0

2

8.7

9

1

9-3

.308

C. Shreve, rhp

A

24

2-1

3.60

1.27

6-0

0

15.0

12

2

16-7

.294

J. Sosa, rhp

A+

22

0-1

6.23

1.04

7-0

0

8.7

9

2

9-0

.280

E. Stewart, lhp

A

21

0-1

1.33

1.18

4-4

0

20.3

14

1

19-10

.245

A. Wright, lhp

A+

22

3-0

2.81

1.38

3-2

0

16.0

14

0

23-8

.359

Jesse Biddle

DATE

OPP

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

GO/AO

PIT-ST

4/26

DAY

6.0

4

2

1

1

4

4

1.36

The second-best pitching prospect in the Phillies organization had arguably the best start of his young season last night at home against Daytona, scattering four hits over six innings and avoiding his third-straight loss. The frenzy on the base paths continued, however, as Biddle and catcher Cameron Rupp allowed three stolen bases in three tries, though only one Daytona runner came around to score. That runner, Matt Szczur, likely would have been stranded had Biddle not made a throwing error and allowed him to advance to third on the play.

David Buchanan

DATE

OPP

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

GO/AO

PIT-ST

4/26

RIC

6.0

3

1

1

0

5

4

1.22

Buchanan put nine Flying Squirrels on base via hit, walk, or hit-by-pitch last night, but managed to get through six innings of one-run ball. Buchanan’s quintuplet of walks was three more than he had allowed through his first three starts of the season and matched a career-high. Though he’s averaged a baserunner per inning through four starts, all four of those starts were quality in nature (at least six innings and three or fewer earned runs allowed).

Tyler Cloyd

DATE

OPP

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

GO/AO

PIT-ST

4/24

RIC

W

7.0

5

0

0

0

0

5

0.82

82-58

Seven shutout innings against Richmond on April 24 enabled Cloyd to win his fourth-consecutive game, and his third since being demoted to Double-A Reading. Cloyd rebounded from a shaky start at Richmond on April 16 – in which he allowed 10 hits and three runs over six innings – to ground the Flying Squirrels. (Note: three of the pitchers we’ll talk about today made starts against Richmond last week, and I’m inclined to refer to their nickname, the Flying Squirrels, as often as possible. I love minor league baseball.)

Brody Colvin

DATE

OPP

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

GO/AO

PIT-ST

4/25

DAY

L

4.1

7

5

5

1

2

3

1.56

It appeared as through Colvin had turned a corner when he shut down Tampa on two hits and six strikeouts in six innings on April 17, but he failed to get out fo the fifth inning against Daytona on Wednesday night. Colvin allowed a season-high five runs and surrendered seven hits for the third time in four appearances.

Austin Hyatt

DATE

OPP

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

GO/AO

PIT-ST

4/22

@ROC

L

5.0

6

3

2

0

1

3

0.62

76-57

Hyatt has thrown at least five innings and given up two or fewer earned runs in each of his four starts for the IronPigs this season. After averaging more than 11 strikeouts per nine innings through Double-A, Hyatt’s whiff rate has plummeted by nearly 40 percent at Triple-A, where he’s struck out 16 in 21.1 innings (6.76 SO/9). He’s also putting more runners on base via walk, issuing 3.80 free passes per nine innings this year compared to his pre-2012 career rate of 2.68. If you’re looking for a silver lining, consider that after placing second in the Eastern League with 20 home runs allowed in 2011, Hyatt has yet to surrender a longball this year.

Ervis Manzanillo

DATE

OPP

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

GO/AO

PIT-ST

4/24

ASH

5.0

8

4

4

1

1

3

1.11

Manzanillo made it through five innings for the second time this year, but it wasn’t pretty. Through 16 innnings, the young Venezuelan has allowed 36 base runners, though his 4.5 BB/9 is actually a marked improvement over his 5.4 rate in 2011. Though he’s repeating the level, he’s still young for the South Atlantic League and has plenty of time to work on his command.

Lino Martinez

DATE

OPP

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

GO/AO

PIT-ST

4/20

@HAG

L

3.1

14

12

12

3

1

1

0.92

A nine-run fourth inning blew open a relatively-close game and chased Martinez after he retired only 10 of the 25 Hagerstown batters he faced on April 20. Seven-consecutive Suns batters reached base via hit before an Adrian Nieto three-run homer cleared the bases and gave Hagerstown an 11-1 lead. Martinez was finally able to secure an out when J.P. Ramirez was retired on a fly ball to left field, but that was followed by a Brett Newsome solo home run to center field. Ryan Sasaki relieved Martinez after the Newsome homer, and induced a pair of ground ball outs to escape the inning.

It’s fair to say Martinez’s 2012 season has been a roller coaster to this point:

4/5 @ GVL (ND): 5.2 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 SO
4/10 @ GBO (W): 5.0 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 6 BB, 2 SO
4/15 vs. HAG (W): 6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO
4/20 @ HAG (L): 3.1 IP, 14 H, 12 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO

Trevor May

DATE

OPP

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

GO/AO

PIT-ST

4/25

RIC

W

6.0

1

0

0

0

2

7

0.75

90-55

Another week, another stellar performance from the Phillies’ top prospect, who struck out seven Richmond batters over six innings while allowing only three base runners (one hit, two walks) in the win on April 25. May entered the year having averaged 7.0 H/9 through 375.2 career innings, but has cut that rate down even further to 4.7 at Double-A. For comparison’s sake, the National League’s top three pitchers in H/9 last year were Clayton Kershaw (6.7), Cole Hamels (7.0), and Matt Cain (7.2). May’s rough season debut, in which he allowed four runs in five innings, mars his overall season line. In his three starts since, May has struck out 20, walked five, and given up nine hits over 18 innings, compiling an 0.90 ERA over that stretch.

Adam Morgan

DATE

OPP

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

GO/AO

PIT-ST

4/24

BRV

7.0

4

0

0

0

2

6

0.74

96-63

A six-strikeout performance against Brevard County on April 24 gave Morgan 27 whiffs on the year, a total which currently paces the Florida State League. Morgan rebounded from a loss on April 16 in which he allowed five runs on eight hits at Tampa.

Mike Nesseth

DATE

OPP

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

GO/AO

PIT-ST

4/25

ASH

4.1

1

2

2

0

6

5

0.50

Nesseth set a new season-high with five strikeouts against Asheville on Wednesday, though he failed to escape the fifth inning for the third time in four tries. After walking five Greensboro batters in his previous start, Nesseth walked six Tourists, giving him 15 walks through 15 innings this year.

Jonathan Pettibone

DATE

OPP

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

GO/AO

PIT-ST

4/21

AKR

L

5.0

7

5

5

0

4

2

1.48

96-63

After four starts, it’s safe to start drawing some conclusions about Pettibone’s hittability versus advanced batters. Entering the year, Pettibone had allowed 8.2 hits per nine innings over four seasons, but he’s allowed at least seven hits in each of his four Double-A starts this year and carries a 12.8 H/9 on the year. Right-handed hitters are teeing off at a .382/.408/.471 clip through 71 plate appearances.

Julio Rodriguez

DATE

OPP

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

GO/AO

PIT-ST

4/20

AKR

3.0

4

2

2

0

3

3

0.57

80-46

Rodriguez labored through three innings against Akron on April 20, exiting after three innings, three walks, four hits, a hit batsman, and two earned runs. He was spared the loss when Reading came back to tie the game in the ninth inning and defeating the Aeros on Steve Susdorf’s game-winning double in the bottom of the tenth. In his three innings, Rodriguez averaged 4.7 pitches per batter. It was also the second-consecutive game in which the 21-year-old had hit a batter with a pitch.

Ethan Stewart

DATE

OPP

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

GO/AO

PIT-ST

4/26

ASH

4.0

4

1

1

0

3

3

1.11

Stewart hasn’t given up more than four hits in any of his four starts this year, but is still seeking his first win after averaging just over five innings per start. He only lasted four innings last night, striking out a season-low three Asheville batters.

Austin Wright

DATE

OPP

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

GO/AO

PIT-ST

4/22

BRV

W

5.0

4

2

2

0

3

10

1.50

With 23 strikeouts through his first 16 innings, the former Mississippi hurler is making a strong case for a quick promotion out of the Florida State League. Wright matched his career-best with 10 strikeouts in the win on April 22, his third-consecutive winning decision. He’s proven effective against hitters from both sides of the plate, for the moment silencing critics who believe his ultimate destination will be the bullpen.

The Value of a Closer

At The Book Blog, MGL fleshes out an opinion which goes against the Sabermetric consensus that closers are overpaid:

A replacement level short reliever allows around .5 runs per game more than an average pitcher.

An elite closer allows around 1 run better than an average pitcher, or 1.5 runs per game less than a replacement reliever.

A typical elite closer pitches around 70 innings with an average Leverage Index (LI) of 2.0. That means that he pitches 140 “effective” innings.

For 140 innings at 1.5 per 9 innings less than a replacement reliever, that is 23.33 runs better than a replacement reliever, or 2.33 WAR.

In other words, an elite closer is worth around 2.33 WAR per season.

What is that worth in the FA market? Almost 12 million dollars. So, Brian Wilson, Heath Bell, et al. are actually underpaid.

Does that mean that a team cannot acquire a very good reliever who can function as a closer for less than market value, based on his expected (projected) WAR? No, it does not. In fact, it is much easier for a savvy team to acquire and/or use a cheap but good reliever as a closer than it is for a team to do so with any other position.

Still, closers are NOT overpaid as a class, especially the elite ones. In fact, you can make the argument that they are underpaid. Some are of course. But, so are players at any other position.

I take issue with the conclusion for its use of replacement level. Replacement level is great for position players because they are usually replaced by an actual replacement-level player. This isn’t the case for closers. The Cincinnati Reds didn’t replace Ryan Madson with Sam LeCure; they called on Sean Marshall, a lefty who has been nothing short of elite since moving to the bullpen in 2009.

The pecking order for high-leverage relievers is deeper than that of position players or even starting pitchers. It’s a math problem, simply. The bullpen consists of, generally, seven pitchers whose sole job is to get through one inning of work with the least amount of damage. Based on skill, experience, and reputation, those one inning stints will come in a variety of situations, so you have a closer, a set-up man (eighth inning), a LOOGY, a long reliever (two-plus innings in blowouts), and a few middle relievers.

At second base, the Phillies went from Chase Utley to Freddy Galvis, who is your typical replacement level player. Conversely, if Jonathan Papelbon goes down, they simply go to Chad Qualls or Antonio Bastardo, two arms that are decidedly not replacement-level. Those high-leverage innings aren’t given to Michael Schwimer or Joe Savery. The replacement level for closers should be significantly higher than for relievers in general, which is why MGL’s comparison is not accurate.

As an example, let’s say you’re on Yelp, looking for roof repair. You read reviews for a bunch of different candidates, noticing very little correlation between price and competency. The lesser-known roofing companies (LK) have won as many Roofing Company of the Year awards as the big-name companies (BNC). You also notice the lower-quality roofing companies (LQ) who don’t do nearly as good of a job, but some of them charge as much or more than the lesser-known, higher-quality roofing companies. MGL is saying the equivalent of, “BNC aren’t too pricy — they’re cheaper than LQ and do a much better job! LQ only do shingles!” When, in reality, relative to their actual competition (no smart consumer will hire LQ), LK is the much better value: they do the same job at a cheaper price.

When the home team is ahead by one run going into the top of the eighth inning, they are sending their set-up man into a situation with a leverage index of 2.2. When they do the same with their closer in the ninth, the LI is 2.9. Even considering that both titles are fabricated and entirely meaningless in the grand scheme of things, the average salaries of the two positions are not proportional — the closer makes significantly more than the set-up man. By that notion alone, closers are vastly overpaid.

I went through last year’s most frequent eighth- and ninth-inning relievers and noted their 2011 salaries as well. These were the results:

Team Set-Up Salary Closer Salary Difference
NYY Robertson $0.46 M Rivera $15.00 M $14.54 M
NYM Isringhausen Rodriguez $12.17 M $12.17 M
BOS Bard $0.51 M Papelbon $12.00 M $11.50 M
CIN Masset $1.55 M Cordero $12.13 M $10.58 M
MIN Perkins $0.70 M Capps $7.15 M $6.45 M
SDP Adams $2.54 M Bell $7.50 M $4.97 M
SFG J. Lopez $2.38 M Wilson $6.50 M $4.13 M
PHI Bastardo $0.42 M Madson $4.50 M $4.08 M
ARI Hernandez $0.42 M Putz $4.00 M $3.58 M
COL Betancourt $3.78 M Street $7.30 M $3.53 M
BAL Johnson $0.98 M Gregg $4.20 M $3.23 M
TOR Janssen $1.10 M Francisco $4.00 M $2.91 M
FLA Mujica $0.80 M Nunez $3.65 M $2.85 M
KCR Crow $1.40 M Soria $4.00 M $2.60 M
TBR Peralta $0.93 M Farnsworth $3.25 M $2.33 M
CLE Pestano $0.41 M Perez $2.23 M $1.81 M
CHC Wood $1.50 M Marmol $3.20 M $1.70 M
DET Benoit $5.50 M Valverde $7.00 M $1.50 M
PIT Veras Hanrahan $1.40 M $1.40 M
SEA Wright $0.90 M League $2.25 M $1.35 M
STL Motte $0.44 M Salas $0.41 M -$0.02 M
HOU W. Lopez $0.44 M Melancon $0.42 M -$0.02 M
WSN Clippard $0.44 M Storen $0.42 M -$0.03 M
ATL Venters $0.53 M Kimbrel $0.42 M -$0.11 M
MIL Loe $1.25 M Axford $0.44 M -$0.81 M
LAD Guerrier $1.50 M Guerra -$1.50 M
CHW Thornton $3.00 M Santos $0.44 M -$2.57 M
TEX Oliver $3.25 M Feliz $0.46 M -$2.79 M
OAK Balfour $3.75 M Bailey $0.47 M -$3.29 M
LAA Downs $5.00 M Walden $0.41 M -$4.59 M
AVG $1.64 M $4.39 M

(Blank spaces in the “salary” columns indicate that the player was on a Minor League contract. Cot’s Contracts did not list a salary figure, but it was likely around $415,000.)

Note that while some teams used a more expensive set-up man, the highest set-up salary belonged to Joaquin Benoit at $5.5 million. Five closer salaries exceeded that (four more than doubled it, in fact) and an additional six were between $4-5.5 million.

For the average closer’s salary to have been proportional to the average set-up man’s salary, with regard to their typical leverage index (2.2 to 2.9), it should have been $2.16 million as opposed to $4.39 million. So, based on last year’s data, the average closer was paid roughly twice what he was worth on average relative to set-up men — their next-of-kin.

Off-Day Links

The Phillies finally travel back home after a ten-game road trip that took them through San Francisco, San Diego, and Arizona. Overall, they went 5-5 and had some offensive doldrums as expected. However, the series in Arizona should provide some encouragement as they scored 20 runs in three games, including five home runs. Tomorrow, the Phillies will open up a four-game series at home against the Chicago Cubs before going back on the road to Atlanta and Washington.

Today is an off-day for us Phillies fans as well, so here are some interesting links from around the Internet.

First, some self-promotion:

  • Paul Boye looks at the evolution of Roy Halladay‘s curve [Link]
  • Bradley Ankrom has an update on the Phillies Minor League system [Link]
  • I lament the two-year contract given to Kyle Kendrick in February [Link]
  • If you haven’t picked it up yet, you can still grab my book “100 Things Phillies Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die” [Link]
  • And a note: due to technical difficulties, we’ll be recording Episode 3 of the Crashburn Alley podcast some time this weekend, hopefully. It’s been tough to get all of us together at the same time and to avoid technical mishaps. For those of you waiting with bated breath, continue being patient.

Phillies Links

  • At Brotherly Glove, Eric Seidman wonders what the Phillies should do when Chase Utley returns [Link]
  • Liz Roscher of The Good Phight asks how she should feel about the 2012 Phillies [Link]
  • TBOH’s John Ricco looks at the Phillies’ disappointing plate discipline [Link]
  • Michael Schickling of Thome’s Homies lists 10 things that should cheer you up about the Phillies [Link]
  • David Hale joins the litany of Phillies writers who don’t buy into Roy Halladay’s alleged velocity issues [Link]
  • Matt Gelb ponders playing Utley at first base when he’s cleared to play [Link]
  • David Murphy looks at the road ahead for the Phillies in what was supposed to be an easy start to the season [Link]
  • Now that the good beat writers are out of the way, a Phillies beat writer who once wished a broken neck on Michael Vick calls me a “bad guy” [Link]

General Baseball Links:

  • Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra has the perfect response to Pedro Gomez’s McCarthyistic comments about Jeff Bagwell [Link]
  • Tangotiger has a GREAT illustration of mean-regression nearly perfectly predicting future results [Link]
  • Listen to Chicago White Sox broadcaster “Hawk” Harrelson call this Yoenis Cespdes home run. By far the worst broadcaster in baseball. [Link]
  • At ESPN Sweet Spot, David Schoenfield says that Albert Pujols is no longer baseball’s best hitter. I’m inclined to agree — I think it’s Matt Kemp. [Link]
  • Via Big League Stew, this batting stance is weird, but still not quite as weird as Tony Batista. [Link]
  • Baseball Prospectus ranks the best batting stances [Link]
  • Getting Blanked’s Dustin Parkes has a great response to all of the fuss made about any website’s power rankings [Link]
  • This is just a smart play by Yonder Alonso [Link]
  • We need more players like Brandon McCarthy. He calls out the homophobic nature of ballpark “kiss cams” [Link]
  • Rolling Stone asked rock stars about pitch counts. The majority of them are surprisingly forward-thinking [Link]
  • When the anti-Sabermetric sentiment was strong, I wish I had this to pass around. It’s a neat look at rhetological fallacies [Link]

Tweets of the Day

The Diamondbacks had a cool feature at Chase Field where they would display tweets on the outfield scoreboard as long as they included the hashtag #GoDBacks. This didn’t stop Phillies fans from abusing the privilege.

twitter.com/nickpiecoro/status/195220738045788161

twitter.com/nickpiecoro/status/195221551401013249

twitter.com/Schrotime/status/195257393947475968

twitter.com/wdeacon/status/195249958704787458

twitter.com/USFCollin/status/195224384565280769

twitter.com/krisealy/status/195241781875576832

twitter.com/CrashburnAlley/status/195220417156358145

Picture of the Day

The evolution of baseball players… if they were Pokemon. (via /r/baseball)

Website of the Day

Turn down your speakers, just in case, as there is no volume adjustment. This page is simply awesome.

More on Halladay’s Curve “Evolution”

It’s a hot topic these days, Roy Halladay’s velocity. The facts and figures do point to a change in Halladay’s pitch speed, though whether that’s a cause for concern or evidence of a pitcher evolving and adapting to his age is a bit less certain.

Leaving that portion of the discussion aside, let’s continue the volley of examinations on this topic with an entry by David Hale on Delaware Online earlier Wednesday with a closer look at Halladay over 2011 and the first month of 2012. One table Hale has put together near the end of his post is Doc’s curveball rate by month in 2011, and the rise in usage is starkly evident. From 12.5 percent in April to more than double that with 28.7 percent in September, according to Texas Leaguers’ Pitch f/x data.

Naturally, then, my first thought was about effectiveness; as Halladay’s use of the bender increased, did it stay consistently effective at keeping hitters off-balance and off the bases? To examine this, I’ll be using the data provided by TruMedia to stay consistent, but the percentages only differ very slightly from those featured in Hale’s table.

The numbers I’m paying specific attention to, besides the usage rate, are how opponents
fared against it (triple slash stats and wOBA), how many swinging strikes it incurred and
how frequently it induced ground balls, all keys to any pitcher’s success. In summary, it looks something like this:

CB Total CB% AVG OBP SLG wOBA Whiff% GB%
April ’11 85 686 .124 .148 .179 .148 .155 30.8 56.3
May ’11 95 694 .137 .174 .167 .174 .150 50.0 50.0
June ’11 79 542 .146 .111 .111 .167 .119 43.2 50.0
July ’11 78 507 .154 .000 .000 .000 .000 42.4 60.0
Aug ’11 108 528 .205 .206 .229 .206 .201 36.0 36.8
Sept ’11 144 509 .283 .172 .242 .310 .237 50.8 44.4
April ’12 98 429 .228 .174 .240 .217 .215 31.0 58.8

The curve was supremely effective in smaller doses early in the season, limiting opposing
hitters to minuscule slash stats and wOBAs (including that nice, round zero in July), and
even as its usage increased, it stayed effective. Its effectiveness was diminished somewhat, but when you’re talking about wOBAs in the low .200s instead of mid-.100s, it’s a bit more difficult to complain or stress.

Though it went unnoticed in 2010, Halladay’s first year in Philadelphia, a similar trend occurred. By month in percentages, starting April, Doc’s 2010 curve usage was 14.3, 14.7, 14.3, 20.5, 21.6 and 17. That year, of course, Halladay walked away with a Cy Young Award, and 2011 saw him finish runner-up. Hey, if it ain’t broke…

Halladay will, in all likelihood, make one additional start this month, so the final row’s
numbers are destined to change, although it seems safe to assume that the ones in the
middle and right will stay plenty pleasing to the eye. And, if history is any indicator, Halladay and Carlos Ruiz will continue to fashion this deadly breaking ball more as the season progresses.

Phillies-DBacks Game Thread 4/25/12

Apologies for the lack of game threads lately. All of us have been quite busy and/or under the weather lately. In our absence, however, we have been treated to an offensive explosion as the Phillies have scored 13 runs in their last two games against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Phillies were held scoreless through eight in the first game, but managed to cross the halfway point of a nine-run comeback in the ninth inning. In the second game, Laynce Nix was the hero, going 3-for-3 with a home run and a long single that was almost a homer as well. Pete Orr, surprisingly, knocked in three with a bases-clearing triple as well.

Thankfully, the arduous West coast trip ends today at 3:40 PM as Cole Hamels opposes Trevor Cahill. Hamels is off to a great start, as expected and is looking to bring the Phillies home on a positive note. If the Marlins lose tonight against the Mets, the Phillies could finally get out of the NL East cellar!

Lineups

Phillies

Diamondbacks

Greetings From Clearwater – April 24

Originally written by Bradley Ankrom.

Last week, one of my early-season prospect crushes, Gauntlett Eldemire, let me down, but another, Brian Pointer, continued to rake. Also, Anthony Hewitt made his season debut at Clearwater, but it took a while for him to get into the swing of things. Let’s take a look at how Eldemire, Pointer, Hewitt, and the rest of the Phillies cadre of hitting prospects have fared in the early going.

View the Top 30 Prospects

HITTER

AGE

LVL

AVG/OBP/SLG

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

BB

SO

SB

CS

A. Altherr, lf

21

A

.316/.365/.456

57

18

3

1

1

4

12

6

2

M. Alvarez, of

22

A+

.222/.222/.259

27

6

1

0

0

0

13

1

0

C. Asche, 3b

22

A+

.312/.365/.396

48

15

2

1

0

4

5

1

0

J. Barnes, 3b

25

A+

.140/.240/.163

43

6

1

0

0

6

17

0

0

L. Castro, of

23

AA

.273/.288/.418

55

15

5

0

1

0

12

2

2

K. Dugan, of/1b

21

A

.245/.344/.396

53

13

2

0

2

7

15

0

0

E. Duran, ss

21

A+

.261/.300/.326

46

12

1

1

0

3

7

1

2

G. Eldemire, rf

23

A

.240/.397/.360

50

12

4

1

0

13

18

9

2

M. Franco, 3b

19

A

.263/.333/.439

57

15

4

0

2

5

11

0

0

F. Galvis, ss/2b

22

MLB

.214/.233/.339

56

12

4

0

1

2

9

0

0

T. Gillies, cf

23

AA

.267/.302/.433

60

16

3

2

1

1

11

1

0

G. Gonzalez, ss

21

A

.152/.152/.152

46

7

0

0

0

0

10

2

0

T. Greene, ss

19

A

.205/.280/.386

44

9

5

0

1

5

21

1

0

C. Hernandez, 2b

22

AA

.281/.300/.404

57

16

5

1

0

2

9

1

2

A. Hewitt, of

23

A+

.120/.120/.280

25

3

1

0

1

0

6

0

0

K. Hudson, cf

21

A

.143/.204/.163

49

7

1

0

0

2

18

8

3

J. James, cf

23

AA

.319/.346/.596

47

15

3

2

2

3

16

1

1

L. Moore, c

21

A

.216/.326/.378

37

8

3

0

1

3

12

0

1

C. Overbeck, 1b

26

AAA

.293/.344/.414

58

17

4

0

1

5

10

0

0

C. Perdomo, ss

22

A

.182/.217/.182

22

4

0

0

0

1

3

2

0

B. Pointer, of

20

A

.296/.365/.630

54

16

2

2

4

7

15

3

0

D. Ruf, 1b

25

AA

.393/.406/.554

56

22

6

0

1

4

12

1

0

C. Rupp, c

23

A+

.263/.333/.421

38

10

3

0

1

4

7

0

0

S. Valle, c

21

AA

.304/.340/.413

46

14

2

0

1

3

18

0

0

A four-game cold stretch in which he went 2-for-16 dropped Aaron Altherr’s batting average down to .233 on April 13, but he’s been on a tear since, collecting hits in six of seven games and raising his season line to .316/.365/.456. Altherr began 2011 in Lakewood, but was demoted to Williamsport after striking out in 28.8 percent of his trips to the plate through the first two months of the season. Despite his 6-foot-5 frame, Altherr is an above-average runner, and his six steals rank eighth in the South Atlantic League.

Clearwater’s Miguel Alvarez was placed on the disabled list after the Threshers’ April 12 game against Lakeland. Prior to being deactivated, the 22-year-old outfielder was mired in an 0-for-13 slump and had managed only one extra-base hit in 27 at-bats.

After striking out nearly 20 percent of the time at Williamsport last year, third baseman Cody Asche has demonstrated improved plate discipline in his full-season debut. The Phillies’ fourth-round pick last year out of Nebraska, Asche has a hit in 11 of the 12 games he’s started and currently owns a five-game hitting streak.

Asche’s teammate, third baseman/designated hitter Jeremy Barnes, is on a different kind of streak, having gone hitless in five-consecutive games and losing .110 off of his batting average. Barnes is repeating the Florida State League after hitting .267/.335/.403 for the Threshers last year, and time may be running out for the 25-year-old.

The only minor-league player to have gone longer than Leandro Castro without drawing a walk this year is Tigers farmhand James Robbins, who owns a 23:0 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 63 plate appearances.

Kelly  Dugan spent his first three professional seasons in the outfield, but a logjam at Class-A Lakewood prompted the Phillies to move their top pick from 2009 back to his high school position of first base this year. After going 2-for-4 with a home run on opening day, Dugan finally hit his second homer of the year on April 19 in the BlueClaws’ 11-9 loss at Hagerstown. Southpaws continues to give Dugan fits – he’s hitting .125/.300/.125 with six strikeouts in 16 at-bats against lefties – but he’s already matched his season-best home run total through 61 plate appearances.

Speaking of significant left/right splits, Clearwater shortstop Edgar Duran has hit .345/.387/.379 against right-handed pitchers but only .118/.167/.235 versus lefties.

Gauntlett Eldemire, one of the toolsiest players in the Phillies organization, has been on a nasty skid since going 2-for-3 with a pair of stolen bases on April 10. The 23-year-old right fielder has gone 5-for-31 in nine games since, though he’s drawn nine walks during his slump .

Lakewood third baseman Maikel Franco has three multi-hit games out of his last six contests and has hit both of his home runs in those six games. He struggled in a late-season promotion from Williamsport last year, hitting just .123/.149/.200 in 65 August at-bats, but is handling himself well this year as one of only 15 players under the age of 20 in the South Atlantic League.

Freddy Galvis put together a modest five-game hitting streak during the Phillies first homestand of the year, but hasn’t done much with the bat since the streak was snapped on April 15. Offensive expectations were minimal, however, and Galvis is delivering on defense, leading all major-league second basemen with 1.66 fielding runs above average (FRAA).

Reading center fielder Tyson Gillies has strung together a seven-game hit streak, raising his batting average to .267.

Considering how raw his tools are, Tyler Greene’s opening day assignment to a full-season league came as somewhat of a surprise. He’s been overmatched at the plate, striking out 21 times in 44 at-bats, and could be in line for a trip T. Williamsport when short-season leagues open in June if his struggles continue.

Cesar Hernandez has added 15 pounds to his 5-foot-10 frame since last year, which could explain his uptick in extra-base hits. Hernandez is already more than 70 percent of the way toward matching his 2011 doubles total of seven.

After beginning his season on a 1-for-20 slide, Clearwater right fielder Anthony Hewitt may have turned things around last night against Brevard County, going 2-for-5 with his first extra-base hits of the season, a double and a home run off of Brewers prospect Jed Bradley.

Reading’s Jiwan James had four multi-hit games in the first week of the season, but has gone 5-for-23 with eight strikeouts since April 12. James still leads the Double-A Phillies in slugging average and is second behind first baseman Darin Ruf in OPS.

Drafted out of Mississippi as a third baseman, Cody Overbeck has played first base almost exclusively since arriving at Triple-A Lehigh Valley last June. Unfortunately, the power he showed at Double-A and below has yet to manifest itself, severely limiting his major-league upside.

Lakewood’s Brian Pointer has shuffled between the outfield corners, but it hasn’t affected his bat, as the 20-year-old currently leads the South Atlantic League with four home runs and is tied for sixth in triples and 10th in slugging average. Philadelphia plucked Pointer out of a Nevada high school in the 28th round of the 2010 draft and signed him away from an Oregon State commitment for $350,000. Pointer spent last year in the Gulf Coast League, hitting .278/.353/.503, but it wasn’t enough for him to rank among the league’s top 20 prospects according to Baseball America. He draws a fair number of walks and is a good baserunner, having swiped 11 bases in 11 tries as a pro. His power-speed combination elicits some comparisons to Domonic Brown, but Pointer isn’t the physical specimen that the enigmatic Brown is, nor does he possess Brown’s raw speed. The lefty hitter struggles mightily against same-side pitching, hitting .143/.250/.229 last year and only .133/.300/.200 through 19 plate appearances at Lakewood this season. He’s gotten hits in 12 of 14 starts this year, going hitless only games started by Greensboro left-hander Adam Conley.

Reading first baseman Darin Ruf ranks third in the Eastern League with a .393 batting average, and he went 5-for-5 with a double and a home run at Richmond on April 17.

Top catching prospect Sebastian Valle continues to hit in Double-A, and after walking in just 3.6 percent of his plate appearances in 2011, has posted a 6.0 percent walk rate through 50 plate appearances. Seventy-two percent of his trips to the plate have ended in a hit, walk, or strikeout, and he’s fanned multiple times in six of his last seven games.

.

Kyle Kendrick and Plan B

Back in December, when the Phillies were still deciding on their future with right-hander Kyle Kendrick, I suggested that they cut their ties with the veteran swingman. Pitchers like Kendrick, I argued, are plentiful in the world of baseball, so paying upwards of $3 million per season to keep him around just wasn’t worth it. The Phillies initially avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $3.585 million salary for 2011, but in February, they announced they had signed Kendrick to a two-year, $7.5 million deal.

We have gone over Kendrick’s abilities ad nauseam here, so I won’t waste your time going over those. For passers-by, here some some relevant links:

  • Phillies Must Make Tough Choice Regarding Kyle Kendrick [Link]
  • Phillies Sign Kyle Kendrick for $3.585 Million [Link]
  • Kyle Kendrick Receives 2 year, $7.5 Million Extension [Link]
  • Kitschy Kyle Kendrick [Link]

As a result of Cliff Lee‘s placement on the disabled list recently, Kendrick moved into the starting rotation, making his first start of the 2012 season last night against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was absolutely terrible over three innings of work, allowing 11 hits, including a home run to Justin Upton and four doubles, and a total of seven runs. In true KK fashion, he walked one and struck out one out of 21 total batters faced.

Kendrick is certainly not nearly as bad as he looked last night, but in Triple-A Lehigh Valley, there are four pitchers who reasonably could have been called upon to make a spot start or two in Lee’s absence: journeymen Dave Bush and Scott Elarton, left-hander Pat Misch, and right-hander Austin Hyatt (who, unlike Kendrick, is getting Triple-A experience before Major League experience). Their existence and placement in the Phillies’ system is entirely independent of Kendrick’s, so the Phillies would have had just as much of a contingency plan if they had non-tendered Kendrick as opposed to the route they chose.

Kendrick is not, in any respect, noticeably better than any of those four options. What Kendrick has is lore: he was the Phillies’ unsung hero in the 2007 season. As Matt Swartz pointed out on Twitter, the Phillies have been paying for that fluky performance ever since:

twitter.com/Matt_Swa/status/194606700010020864

Kendrick also gets too much credit for his versatility — his ability and willingness to bounce between the bullpen and starting rotation at a moment’s notice. While that is nice, it has no practical benefit. The Phillies still had to make a roster move (recalling Joe Savery) in response, so while it appears that Kendrick eats two roster spots for the price of one, he is just a mediocre pitcher who really doesn’t fit anywhere but in a Triple-A rotation as an innings-eater.

It just as easily could have been Bush or Hyatt getting taken for seven runs in three innings last night, but they wouldn’t have been on the books for $7.5 million over two years while doing so. Kendrick’s performance last night was just a painful reminder of the superfluous way GM Ruben Amaro has doled out money since taking over for Pat Gillick after the 2008 season. From needlessly signing Ryan Howard to a five-year contract extension in 2010, giving bench bat Laynce Nix, reliever Danys Baez, and catcher Brian Schneider two guaranteed years, and awarding closer Jonathan Papelbon the largest contract ever for a relief pitcher, the Phillies have been terribly inefficient and backwards-thinking. When you run a payroll in excess of $170 million, money can cover up a lot of mistakes, but it won’t be the case as this roster continues to age and key pieces — such as Cole Hamels and Shane Victorino — have the potential to change their addresses.