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.