No Reason to Worry About Halladay

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has noticed some changes in Roy Halladay:

Halladay is using his trademark two-seam fastball 10 percent of the time, compared with 27 percent in ‘11 and 30 percent in ’10. His average fastball velocity is 90.1 mph, compared with 91.4 mph in ‘11 and 92.8 mph in ‘10.

He is throwing 51 percent cutters, 23 percent curveballs and 16 percent splitters, all increases over the past two seasons (Halladay had thrown only 13 percent curves through four starts in ’11 and 14 percent in ’10.).

Halladay’s velocities on all of those pitches also dropped from ’10 to ’11, and they’re down again in ’12. His cutter has gone from 92.1 mph to 90.5 mph to 88.7 during that time.

Not to pick on Ken, because he does fantastic work and is invaluable to the baseball community, but he ticks off a couple of boxes in Mike Fast’s “what not to do with Pitch F/X” article from a couple years ago at The Hardball Times.

Rosenthal mentions Halladay is using his two-seam fastball less. Fast wrote:

The pitch classifications in the PITCHf/x data, as shown on Brooks Baseball, Texas Leaguers and Fangraphs (not to be confused with the BIS pitch classifications also on Fangraphs), are done by an algorithm developed by Ross Paul at MLB Advanced Media. Ross has made significant updates to this algorithm every year, and one of the most noticeable impacts is that the percentage of pitches classified as two-seam fastballs has increased with each update. This does not mean that the pitchers themselves have changed anything about their pitch selection or the movement on their pitches.

If you want to know if a pitcher has really added a new pitch type, explore his data on a site like Texas Leaguers and see if he’s added a completely new pitch cluster from the previous year. Don’t pay attention to how the pitches are labeled; learn for yourself how the different pitch types behave. When you have mastered that, then you’re ready to identify when a pitcher has added a new pitch.

[Update: I originally said that Rosenthal wrote that Halladay was using his two-seam fastball more often, which was incorrect. I have made the appropriate edits, and apologize for the error.]

Rosenthal also notes a decline in velocity for Halladay. This article by Tristan H. Cockcroft at ESPN notes that fastball velocity is at its lowest in April and gradually increases with each month as temperatures rise.

Those March/April numbers are noticeably low, easily the worst in any single month, and while you might claim that less than a half-mile per hour difference between those April and May numbers is small, remember those numbers were accrued over several hundred thousand fastballs per year, and more than 50,000 per month. That’s one monstrous, whopping sample, and it shows that in “blanket statement” form, there might indeed be something to the dead-arm theory.

Rosenthal gets into Halladay’s pitch selection breakdown. While the shift in percentages may seem significant (13 to 23 percent on the curve, for instance), it’s only four starts. Per ESPN Stats & Info, Halladay’s pitch breakdown is as follows:

  • Fastball: 57
  • Cutter: 206
  • Change-up: 68
  • Curve: 98
  • TOTAL: 429

What if Halladay had an off-night where he wasn’t feeling one of his pitches, so he decided to lean on his curve? That could have been the case on April 16 against the San Francisco Giants, when 31 of Halladay’s 109 pitches (28 percent) were curves as opposed to his previous start, when he went to the curve for 23 of his 109 pitches (21 percent) against the Florida Marlins on April 11.

What if Halladay was facing a lineup that was comprised mostly of hitters who are weak against the curve? The Giants’ lineup featured three consecutive left-handed hitters in the 5-6-7 slots: Aubrey Huff, Brandon Belt, and Brandon Crawford. 14 of Halladay’s 31 curves (45 percent) were thrown to those three hitters exclusively. He threw only three curves against right-handed hitters throughout his entire start.

With a sample of only four starts, the effect one outlier can have is enormous. Sure, it’s possible that Halladay is wearing down after throwing so many innings season-in and season-out. But we must be cognizant of small samples this early in the season and be aware of our human tendency to look for stories where there may not be one.

The Phillies Offense, Visually

By now, everyone is firmly aware that the Phillies haven’t been hitting. They’ve managed two or fewer runs in five of their last six games and, looking at the personnel, it doesn’t portend to get significantly better until Chase Utley and Ryan Howard return from the disabled list, which may not come for another two or three months.

Just how bad has the offense been? I compared the Phillies’ wOBA by position to the National League average, then converted the difference into runs.

Pos PHI wOBA NL wOBA RAA
C .277 .320 -2.1
1B .335 .331 0.2
2B .251 .316 -3.1
3B .219 .308 -4.9
SS .272 .310 -2.1
LF .304 .298 0.3
CF .342 .355 -0.7
RF .305 .332 -1.5

It ain’t pretty. Note that the run values are through roughly 70 plate appearances, so for a fun mental exercise, you can multiply by 10 for a full season’s performance.

If the offense continues to flounder — and we have good reason to expect it should improve slightly, at least — then the Phillies will have a tough remaining five months of the regular season, and they will have to rely even more on their starting rotation.

The positions that stick out are second base and third base. Freddy Galvis, known for his glove and not his bat, has been filling in at second for Chase Utley, someone who twice posted a wOBA north of .400 (2007 and ’09). By comparison, the .250 wOBA of Galvis looks like a steep fall — and it is. Third baseman Placido Polanco has had a terrible start to what may be the end of his career. Now 36 years old, Polanco has had difficulty with just about everything opposing pitchers have thrown at him, and while he has never been known for his plate discipline, he has only drawn one walk in 54 plate appearances.

With the aging roster and the potential escape of soon-to-be free agents Cole Hamels and Shane Victorino, 2012 may be the Phillies’ best shot to win another championship. If it’s going to happen, they will need the offense to pick itself up by the bootstraps and score some more runs.

Phillies Bullpen Lacking Punch

With such a brilliant starting rotation comprised mostly of inning-eaters, it’s easy to lose sight of the bullpen. When your starters are regularly getting into the eighth inning, the importance of pitchers like David Herndon and Michael Stutes is diminished. Phillies relievers have compiled the fewest innings in the Majors at just 34.1, roughly 25 percent fewer innings than the average National League bullpen.

When those relievers have been used in games, however, they have lacked punch. As a whole, the Phillies’ bullpen has the second-lowest strikeout rate in the Majors, under 15 percent. In other words, only one in every 6 to 7 batters fails to put the ball in play. When more balls are put in play, there are more chances for hits or misplays by defenders. The Phillies have been fortunate in that regard, as the bullpen has posted a collective .259 BABIP. Only Chad Qualls and David Herndon have a notable ability to induce ground balls, while the rest either have no special batted ball abilities or are fly ball pitchers, which leads one to expect a regression to the mean going forward.

Additionally, their aggregate 2.62 ERA doesn’t match up with any ERA retrodictor.

  • FIP: 3.81
  • xFIP: 4.53
  • SIERA: 4.36
Phillies Bullpen NL Ranks
K% BB% Strand%
16th 8th 8th
ERA FIP xFIP SIERA
3rd 11th 15th 15th
BABIP LD% GB% FB% IFFB% HR/FB%
7th 11th 12th 9th 7th 4th

So far, the Phillies have skated by on a slightly higher than average infield fly ball rate (13 percent) and a below-average home run rate (5 percent), but it’s not sustainable. Unless the bullpen does a better job of missing bats as the season progresses, the later innings will become a spot for run-scoring for their opponents. Given how lackluster the offense has been — scoring two our fewer runs in five out of their last six games — runs are at a premium and they can’t afford to give up any more than they already have.

Phillies-Padres Game Thread 4/21/12

The Phillies are halfway through their grueling ten-game road trip. Game six of ten will be played tonight in San Diego as Roy Halladay matches up against Cory Luebke. Halladay has been nothing short of dominant thus far after a spring in which he had the Phillies fan base concerned. Despite the lack of offense, Doc has won all three of his starts so far with a 1.17 ERA. Meanwhile, Luebke is an up-and-coming lefty, just 27 years old. He broke out last year with a 3.29 ERA, a 9.9 K/9, and 2.8 BB/9 in 140 innings between the starting rotation and the bullpen. Expect the offensive impotency to continue from both sides.

Lineups

Phillies

Padres

You know what to do in the comments. I won’t be around, as I couldn’t possibly miss Jon “Bones” Jones in the UFC tonight.

EDIT: But Mike will be, so he’ll be starting the chat a few minutes before first pitch.

An Economic Theory of Sports Fandom

As sports fans, we really need to find out ways to have fun. Occasionally, it’s useful to feel anger or heartbreak at the results of a sporting event. The catharsis from watching, say, Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS can be momentarily agonizing but ultimately cleansing and rewarding, like getting out of bed to work out on a rainy day or taking a huge dump after a 12-hour car ride. But in general, if following sports makes you unhappy more than it makes you happy, you probably ought to stop.

I mean, being a sports fan is a completely optional undertaking that serves no purpose other than providing enjoyment and entertainment. Hundreds of millions of Americans opt out of fandom, and no one thinks any less of them, because deep down we understand that getting worked up (for better or for worse) over men you don’t know playing a game with a great deal of inherent randomness, the outcome of which is entirely outside your control. It’s only worth doing if, on balance, it does you good.

***

We haven’t had to think about that a whole lot, because the past few years have been really good for Phillies fans. When your team wins, it’s hard not to enjoy sports. But now we’re facing the possibility that the good times may not continue to roll for much longer. Of course, the Phillies are 7-7, four games out of first place , with more than 90 percent of the season to play. I’d hesitate to draw any conclusions about two weeks and change of baseball, other than the direction in which one is supposed to run the bases. So it’ s possible, even likely, that the Phillies will pick it up and make the playoffs again this season. In that case, this discussion can be tabled for a while longer.

But in the absence of continued and inexorable success, how do we derive enjoyment from sports? In my mind, it’s a communal thing–I have a lot of fun talking to my friends about baseball, and the Phillies in particular, and always have. And that’s a bigger draw than ever. I’ve always enjoyed discussing baseball with my dad, and a group of about half a dozen friends who gather religiously for major sporting events, but now, I’m involved in an ongoing, two-way conversation primarily about the Phillies with probably about 90 to 100 people on Twitter. These are relative strangers, for the most part–of my internet baseball friends, I’d say I’ve met ten percent in person more than once. Sports fandom creates and strengthens friendships–we trade ideas, jokes, and analysis, and generally everyone has a good time.

For me, at least, blogging is another check in the positive utility column–I get to combine the thing I like doing most (writing) with the thing I like thinking about most (baseball).

But those aren’t really specific to baseball. We can have friends outside of sports. What intrinsic value does baseball have if your team isn’t winning?

***

Remember the days of $7 upper-deck tickets at the Vet going unsold? You think people are flocking to Citizens Bank Park because the building is nicer? They’re turning out in droves because they’re more willing to plunk down $150 to take the family out to the ballpark when the Phillies are likely to win.

I went to all three games of a weekend series in Pittsburgh last June. When we arrived, the Pirates fans were sort of subdued and docile, good-naturedly tickled by the sight of a full PNC Park. But after the Pirates took the first two games of the series, the friendly, welcoming Pittsburghers disappeared, only to be replaced by a horde of rowdy, screaming, confrontational men and women, every inch as unaccommodating to interlopers as the national media thinks Philly fans are. Essentially, two wins in two days turned Pirates fans from extremely pleasant folk into Penguins and Steelers fans–arrogant, loud, pushy, and completely unconcerned with their image outside the city, as long as everyone knows how morally superior their teams are.

Not to single out Pittsburgh fans–every fan base has its jackasses, and just as I’d rather not be judged by those morons who beat up a Rangers fan after the Winter Classic, I don’t really believe all Pittsburghers are capable of hurling racist abuse at Wayne Simmonds over the internet. I only tell that story to illustrate what a profound effect winning can have on a fan’s psyche. Winning isn’t really everything, but it counts for a lot.

***

The key to understanding rational action is understanding an individual’s utility function. In any theory of behavior based on rational choice, we have to assume that an individual is going to do what he believes is best for him. Rational choice theories assume people act to maximize what is called utility, a catch-all measure of overall happiness or well-being, and figuring out what goes into that basket allows us to predict and evaluate behavior.

So a fan’s utility, we’ve established, is determined by the following:

  • W: How much the team wins (positive)
  • S: The strength of social bonds formed as a result of being part of a fan community (positive)
  • C: Cost of following the team in time and money (negative)
  • D: Disappointment over the team not living up to expectations (negative)

Therefore, if (W+S) > (C+D), it’s rational to be a sports fan. If not, you’re better off getting into decoupage or something. Overwhelmingly, the S function is so much bigger than the others that even fans of losing teams will still watch. This is borne out by the tendency of losing teams with huge fan bases and longstanding communal traditions (the Toronto Maple Leafs, Chicago Cubs, and Cleveland Browns, for instance) having large and ardent fan bases while teams with shallower roots (the Charlotte Bobcats and Columbus Blue Jackets) struggle to draw without being particularly less successful than their counterparts.

There’s got to be more than that, though. There’s a longstanding tradition in political science–and particularly in international relations, the discipline I come from–of explaining away irrational behavior by tinkering with the utility function until behavior becomes rational. We could stand to add a term or two.

***

If the Phillies got 86-76 and miss the playoffs this season, it won’t be as enjoyable as if they had done so in 2005 or so, because the team was perceived to be on the rise then, and such is not the case now, no matter how optimistic you might be about the 2012 vintage of the Phillies.

Hope for the future has to factor into the rationality of sports fandom somewhere. Fans of the Galactus of No. 1 overall picks, the Edmonton Oilers, are feeling this in hockey, as Penguins fans did coming out of the lockout. With the Kansas City Royals and Washington Nationals on the rise, their fans are in a good spot, perhaps with the hope of the division title promised in 2014 or 2015 might come a couple years early.

The good news for Phillies fans is that this trend of aging can’t go on forever. Even assuming the worst-case scenario for 2012–missing the playoffs, Utley and Howard irreparably damaged, and Cole Hamels leaving via free agency, by 2014, we’re going to see the end of some of those long-term, big-money contracts to aging veterans. That bottoming out may only take one or two years, and the Phillies will once again, by 2015 or so, be a team with a huge fan base, a top-5 media market, a nice stadium, more money than it knows what to do with, and a recent history of success–those sound like the building blocks of a contender to me. And even assuming the worst, that should happen in less time from now than has passed since the Phillies won the World Series.

Maybe the H term works for Phillies fans, because those of us who are panicking over the long view could probably stand to extend our view a little longer still. But is that enough to keep us from despairing if the Phillies have a real banana peel of a 2012?

***

I realized something during what will probably just be known as the Cain-Lee game. I should be beside myself that the Phillies got 10 shutout innings from their starter and still managed to lose. I should be killing hostages after the Phillies went out of their way to put a man at the top of the lineup who not only goes weeks bewteen walks and extra-base hits, but can’t even keep his feet in the batter’s box on a bunt. But I’m not. I’m finding all of this strangely enjoyable.

I alluded here to the idea that we watch sports not only because of an emotional attachment to the fortunes of a particular team, or to see a story play out, but something else.

When I was a freshman in college, I was walking with a friend from our dorm to the parking garage to get his car. On our way across the center of campus, we passed by three people: one wearing a panda costume playing soccer with a person in a mouse costume, with a third individual taking photographs. My friend turned to me and said, “I know this is a cliche, but I mean it this time: there’s something you don’t see every day.” From this we get the A term: aesthetics, and the final form of the economic theory of sports fandom:

It is rational to be a sports fan if: (W+S+H+A) > (C+D)

This is where the 2012 Phillies come good. Even if they completely hump the bunk, the Phillies are made up almost entirely of players with the potential to do something extraordinary. For Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, Roy Halladay, and Cliff Lee, the potential is to be extraordinary, leading to games like Lee’s 10 shutout innings, or either one of Halladay’s no-hitters. The Phillies also have several players with the ability to turn outstanding plays on defense, most notably Placido Polanco and Freddy Galvis, who have been a delight to watch thus far this season.

But we’re used to watching great things. This team is unique in its ability to produce weirdness. We get Juan Pierre playing lawn darts with his throws from left field. We have the second iteration of the Cole Hamels vs. Cliff Lee home run derby, and Freddy Galvis trying to systematically solve his on-base crisis the way most of us would try to solve a Rubik’s Cube–systematically and over a very long period of time. We get this new, creative bit of strategy from Charlie Manuel, what with the bunting and reliever usage. Though in this case, Manuel is creative in the same way the Children’s Crusade was creative. Think about it–the worst team in the history of modern baseball was the 1962 Mets, and they’ve gone down in history as distinct and strangely compelling.

It’s only been 14 games, but so far, the Phillies have in most cases either 1) won the game or 2) lost in dramatic, entertaining, often absurd fashion. I’m not sure there’s much more we can ask, and that’s what I’m going to tell myself from now on when the Phillies lose.

To sum up, there’s no way 2012 isn’t going to be unbelievably entertaining. Either the Phillies are going to overcome their offensive impotence and stage another playoff run, or they’re going to fall short in hilarious and absurd fashion. We’re all rooting for the first scenario, but if the second comes to pass, there may come a time when maximizing the A term in the utility function is the best thing. Sit back and enjoy the absurdity, boys and girls, because if you do, there’s no possible way not to enjoy the Phillies.

An Answer for the Sake of an Answer

Humans, as unique as we like like to portray ourselves, are remarkably easy to predict when we wonder. We notice something peculiar, intently observe the phenomenon, and try to come up with an explanation. Rarely, through the course of human history, has the conclusion been “we need to wait for more information.” This is why we homosapiens used to believe that the Earth was flat and that our planet was the center of the universe. In baseball, we act the same way, by and large. We notice peculiar early-season performances, assess them, and come up with a conclusion to satisfy our curiosity, often poorly-researched and made with impatience.

For example, a hitter will go 7-for-38 in his first 14 games. Fans and talking heads, who have watched most or all of those games, will offer something to the tune of “he’s just not seeing the ball well” or “his timing is off”, among any number of cliches. Hilariously, the better response to that 7-for-38 would have been a simple shrug of the shoulders. That is because 38 plate appearances tell us almost nothing about a hitter. As Brotherly Glove author Eric Seidman pointed out at FanGraphs several years ago, we need at least 150 PA for any of the truly meaningful stats to start to tell us anything useful about a player.

Why is that? One human comes from a group of other humans who generally share similar characteristics. This is as true for baseball players as it is for swimmers or biology students in a classroom. Given small samples, the mean of the population (all baseball players, all swimmers, all biology students, etc.) tells you more about any one player’s likely future performance than his current performance data. When the sample size grows large enough, we can make stronger inferences about a person’s skill level. In other words, we become more confident in what we know about the person in question.

For example, the world record for the 50 meter freestyle in swimming is 20.9 seconds held by Brazil’s César Cielo. I don’t know anything about swimming, but let’s say that the average time is 25 seconds. At the start of a new season, a team’s third-best swimmer (let’s call him Kwyjibo) puts up times of 28, 37, and 33 seconds. The fans start to panic. “Kwyjibo has lost it”, they say. “He’s putting too much pressure on himself!” Kwyjibo, however, is very much like his swimming peers, so he is more likely to put up times around 25 seconds than his current average of 33 seconds in three trials. You could completely ignore his current-season information, using only the population mean, and you will accurately predict Kwyjibo’s future performance more accurately than those who use his current-season information a vast majority of the time, until you have an appropriate number of trials.

If you weren’t able to decipher it above, the cited 7-for-38 player is John Mayberry, Jr. After a breakout 2011 season in which he posted a .369 weighted on-base average (wOBA; the league average was .316) in a shade under 300 PA, he sits with a paltry .173 mark as of this writing. His slow start has a lot of Phillies fans concerned as the offense collectively has been impotent and former top prospect Domonic Brown continues to wither away with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Most of the explanations for Mayberry’s start — e.g. “he’s just not seeing the ball well” — tell us less about his likely future performance than the National League averages. Hitting coach Greg Gross says that Mayberry starts to put pressure on himself and changes his batting stance slightly. Via Matt Gelb:

Hitting coach Greg Gross has preached consistency and is happy that Mayberry has not attempted any drastic experiments to correct his problems.

But Gross sees a player who does everything correctly behind the scenes only to press once he’s at the plate. The sign is when Mayberry crouches more than usual. It’s his way of “grinding through it,” Gross said.

April 5, 2012 @ Pittsburgh

April 20, 2012 @ San Diego

Now, I don’t know about you, but in these .gifs, I don’t see much of a difference. The first is from the first game of the season in which Mayberry had two hits and, ostensibly, was not pressing. The second is from last night’s game in San Diego when, ostensibly, Mayberry was pressing.

Below are stills. The point of comparison is directly after Mayberry’s front foot comes back down. (Please make a slight mental adjustment for the difference in camera angles.)

The reason why I am stressing this point is because human beings are programmed to satisfy their curiosity with an answer. Gross will repeat his incorrect conclusion about Mayberry because that sounds better than “small sample size”, the general public will accept it and repeat it verbatim because that satiates them better than “small sample size”, when all along, the better response was a shoulder-shrug and “small sample size.” You can replace “small sample size” with any number of non-sequiturs as well, such as Base Ba’al, luck dragons, or chaos.

It very well could be true that Mayberry will be worse in 2012 than he was last year. In fact, that will likely be the case when all is said and done —  PECOTA did project a .740 OPS for him this year, a 110-point decline from last year. However, his first 40 trips to the plate have almost no impact on that conclusion whatsoever. When he starts to approach 150 plate appearances, then we can start to worry if he still hasn’t drawn a walk and one out of every four fly balls end up in the gloves of infielders. Until then, accept the randomness and regress his remaining plate appearances towards the MLB average.

In closing, the following chart shows the ten qualified players who had the lowest OPS in baseball at the end of April last year, along with their OPS from the next game through the end of the season. Each player improved, and improved substantially. (click to enlarge)

I would bet that the claims you’re hearing about Mayberry — that he’s pressing, not seeing the ball well, etc. — were the same things being said of the players depicted in the chart, especially those who are more well-known and thus more likely to cause worry. The lesson is to be indifferent to the early part of the season.

Phillies-Padres Game Thread 4/20/12

Some runs are better than no runs. That’s what we told ourselves, at least, as the Phillies took the first game of their four-game set with the Padres last night. Vance Worley was phenomenal, striking out 11 batters over seven innings, and the bullpen was able to preserve the shut-out. It marked the third game in a row that the Phillies had scored two runs or fewer, and the eighth out of 13 games. The Phillies hope that changes tonight against Padres starter Edinson Volquez, who has walked 12 in 17 innings to start the season. Cole Hamels makes the start for the Phillies in his home town of San Diego.

Lineups

Phillies

Padres

No Cover It Live chat tonight, as most of the guys are out watching the Flyers. Use the comments below to chat about the game.

Greetings From Clearwater – April 20

Originally written by Bradley Ankrom.

You’ll probably notice something missing from today’s prospects update: hitters. Going forward, I’m going to split up the hitters and pitchers, running the former on Tuesdays and the latter on Fridays, so as to avoid time crunch situations like the one that occurred last week that resulted in my not having a timely update ready for you until today.

What we have today, however, is a pretty lengthy rundown of the pitching prospects currently playing meaningful baseball games in the Phillies organization. I’ve included season totals (through games of April 19) below, as well as start-by-start lines and commentary thereafter. Stats accrued through two weeks of baseball are still relatively meaningless, but the data is sizable enough to allow us to spot some early trends that bear watching.

Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that you’re now able to follow the statistics of Philadelphia’s top 20 prospects (as ranked by Kevin Goldstein) over at Baseball Prospectus’ new Top 11 Prospects Tracker.

(Note: to conserve pixels, I won’t be running the Top 30 Prospects list every week, but I will include a link to the list in each post: View the Top 30 Prospects)

PITCHER

AGE

LVL

W-L

ERA

WHIP

G-GS

SV

IP

H

HR

SO-BB

BABIP

Phillippe Aumont

23

AAA

0-0

4.26

0.95

6-0

4

6.3

2

1

9-4

.100

Jesse Biddle

20

A+

0-2

7.94

2.03

3-3

0

11.3

18

1

16-5

.472

Lisalberto Bonilla

22

A+

0-1

1.42

1.26

5-0

0

6.3

6

0

7-2

.333

David Buchanan

23

AA

1-1

2.37

0.89

3-3

0

19.0

15

2

15-2

.250

Michael Cisco

25

AA

1-1

1.17

1.43

5-0

0

7.7

9

0

8-2

.409

Tyler Cloyd

25

AA

2-0

3.75

1.33

2-2

0

12.0

16

1

8-0

.375

Tyler Cloyd

25

AAA

1-0

0.00

0.00

1-1

0

6.0

0

0

8-0

.000

Brody Colvin

21

A+

0-1

2.81

1.19

3-3

0

16.0

16

0

10-3

.302

Jake Diekman

25

AAA

0-0

0.00

1.33

5-0

2

6.0

8

0

9-0

.533

Ryan Duke

23

A

0-1

3.00

1.17

5-0

3

6.0

6

1

8-1

.333

Frank Gailey

26

A+

0-0

13.50

2.70

4-0

0

3.3

7

0

5-2

.538

Perci Garner

23

A+

0-1

2.70

1.70

2-2

0

10.0

10

0

6-7

.303

Mario Hollands

23

A

0-0

9.00

2.67

1-0

0

3.0

5

0

3-3

.500

Austin Hyatt

26

AAA

2-0

2.20

1.47

3-3

0

16.3

16

0

13-8

.314

Jay Johnson

22

AA

0-0

4.15

1.62

5-0

0

4.3

6

0

6-1

.500

Tyler Knigge

23

A+

0-0

0.00

1.00

5-0

0

5.0

4

0

3-1

.286

Ervis Manzanillo

20

A

0-1

6.55

2.36

3-3

0

11.0

19

0

7-7

.413

Lino Martinez

20

A

2-0

3.78

1.26

3-3

0

16.7

14

1

10-7

.250

Trevor May

22

AA

3-0

3.18

1.00

3-3

0

17.0

11

0

19-6

.256

Bryan Morgado

23

A

1-0

6.14

2.05

4-0

0

7.3

10

1

7-5

.391

Adam Morgan

22

A+

0-1

4.86

1.32

3-2

0

16.7

19

0

21-3

.413

Colton Murray

22

A

0-0

15.63

3.16

5-0

0

6.3

14

1

4-6

.481

Mike Nesseth

24

A

1-1

7.59

2.16

3-3

0

10.7

14

0

7-9

.368

Jon Pettibone

21

AA

1-1

2.95

1.64

3-3

0

18.3

26

1

7-4

.397

J.C. Ramirez

23

AA

0-1

9.00

2.67

4-0

0

6.0

9

1

5-7

.364

Julio Rodriguez

21

AA

1-0

2.45

1.27

2-2

0

11.0

9

0

7-5

.250

B.J. Rosenberg

26

AA

0-0

1.50

1.17

4-0

3

6.0

5

1

7-2

.250

Joe Savery

26

MLB

0-0

3.86

0.86

2-0

0

2.3

1

1

0-1

.000

Joe Savery

26

AAA

0-0

0.00

0.75

2-0

1

2.7

2

0

3-0

.250

Mike Schwimer

26

AAA

1-0

1.17

1.30

6-0

2

7.7

7

1

7-3

.261

Colby Shreve

24

A

1-1

4.38

1.22

5-0

0

12.3

10

2

14-5

.286

Juan Sosa

22

A+

0-1

9.00

1.40

5-0

0

5.0

7

2

5-0

.312

Ethan Stewart

21

A

0-1

1.10

1.04

3-3

0

16.3

10

1

16-7

.220

Austin Wright

22

A+

2-0

2.45

1.36

2-2

0

11.0

10

0

13-5

.333

Jesse Biddle, lhp

DATE

OPP

LVL

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

TBF

PIT-ST

GO/AO

4/7

@DUN

A+

4.0

4

3

1

0

3

5

19

2.50

4/13

LAK

A+

L

4.1

7

5

5

0

2

7

22

1.17

4/19

@LAK

A+

L

3.0

7

7

4

1

0

4

19

1.38

The youngest pitcher in the Florida State League, Biddle is off to a rough start in Clearwater, failing to get out of the fifth inning in any of his first three outings and averaging more than two base runners per inning. Right-handed batters have hit Biddle especially well, compiling a 1093 OPS in 38 plate appearances. When I saw Biddle in his first start at Dunedin, his fastball velocity sat 88-90 mph and touched 91 early, but fell to 86-88 by the fourth inning. He struggled with fastball command throughout the game, issuing four-pitch, four-fastball walks to right-handers Marcus Knecht and Michael Crouse. Biddle has labored through each of his starts this year, averaging 1.58 batters faced per out on April 7, 1.69 on April 13, and 2.11 in last night’s loss at Lakeland. He and catcher Cameron Rupp have struggled to control the running game, allowing five stolen bases in five tries over his last two starts. Four of those runners have come around to score. Slow starts are nothing new for Biddle, who carried a 7.16 ERA and 1.25 SO/BB after his first four starts in Lakewood last year. He rebounded to go 7-5 with a 2.39 ERA and 2.02 SO/BB over his next 21 games, surrendering more than three earned runs once.

David Buchanan, rhp

DATE

OPP

LVL

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

TBF

PIT-ST

GO/AO

4/7

POR

AA

W

7.0

2

0

0

0

1

9

24

93-65

0.50

4/13

@HAR

AA

6.0

7

3

3

1

0

2

25

79-53

1.08

4/18

@RIC

AA

L

6.0

6

2

2

1

1

4

23

93-61

1.05

Buchanan, the Phillies’ seventh-round pick out of Georgia State in 2010, has made a smooth transition to Double-A after finishing second in the organization with 14 wins between Lakewood and Clearwater in 2011. Through three starts, Buchanan has a 7.1 SO/9, up a tick from the 6.2 batters SO/9 he posted last year.

Tyler Cloyd, rhp

DATE

OPP

LVL

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

TBF

PIT-ST

GO/AO

4/5

SWB

AAA

W

6.0

0

0

0

0

0

8

18

73-46

2.33

4/11

NH

AA

W

6.0

6

2

2

1

0

6

22

88-56

1.00

4/16

@RIC

AA

W

6.0

10

3

3

0

0

2

28

87-60

1.2

Cloyd struck out eight Scranton/Wilkes-Barre hitters over six perfect innings in his Triple-A debut on April 5, but was bumped down to Double-A Reading when Dave Bush joined the Lehigh Valley rotation. The 25-year-old gets by with average stuff by having excellent command, demonstrated by his sparkling 16/0 SO/BB through three starts and 4.00 career mark. He gets strikeouts with an excellent changeup, but doesn’t profile as more than a back-of-the-rotation starter or middle reliever in the big leagues.

Brody Colvin, rhp

DATE

OPP

LVL

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

TBF

PIT-ST

GO/AO

4/6

DUN

A+

L

5.0

7

4

3

0

1

1

23

1.00

4/12

LAK

A+

5.0

7

4

2

0

2

3

24

1.08

4/17

@TAM

A+

6.0

2

0

0

0

0

6

20

1.31

In his full-season debut at Lakewood in 2009, Colvin struck out 7.8 batters per nine innings. That rate dropped to 6.0 last year and 5.6 though his first three starts in 2012. He’s also cut his walk rate nearly in half, so batters are putting the ball in play more frequently, which means Colvin is relying on the defense behind him to make plays. He has struggled with conditioning in the past, but reported to camp in good shape this spring, likely contributing to his improved command. At age 21, Colvin is still on schedule despite repeating Advanced Class-A this year, but he’ll need to find a way to miss bats if he’s to realize success further up the ladder.

Perci Garner, rhp

DATE

OPP

LVL

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

TBF

PIT-ST

GO/AO

4/10

TAM

A+

L

5.0

7

4

2

0

2

3

23

4.50

4/15

@TAM

A+

5.0

3

1

1

0

5

3

23

1.88

Injuries limited Garner to just 34 innings in his first two years after being drafted out of Ball State in the second round of the 2010 draft. Because of the time he’s missed, Garner is still raw, evidenced by the four stolen bases and seven walks he’s allowed in two starts at Clearwater.

Austin Hyatt, rhp

DATE

OPP

LVL

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

TBF

PIT-ST

GO/AO

4/6

SWB

AAA

5.2

6

4

2

0

0

6

24

92-63

0.71

4/11

SYR

AAA

W

5.0

6

2

2

0

4

3

23

98-58

0.69

4/16

BUF

AAA

W

5.2

4

1

0

0

4

4

25

90-60

0.67

After giving up 20 home runs at Double-A Reading in 2011, Hyatt has yet to surrender a long ball through his first 21.1 innings of 2012. He’s still leaving the ball up in the zone, however, so a few of those fly balls are bound to leave the yard.

Ervis Manzanillo, lhp

DATE

OPP

LVL

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

TBF

PIT-ST

GO/AO

4/6

@GVL

A

3.0

3

2

1

0

3

3

17

1.33

4/11

@GBO

A

L

2.2

7

4

4

0

4

1

20

0.75

4/16

GBO

A

5.1

9

4

2

0

0

3

25

1.25

Manzanillo has been generous with the walks this year, but so far only one of the seven walked batters has come around to score. He has been exceptionally hittable in his second tour of the South Atlantic League, however, giving up hits to three consecutive batters twice in his last two starts and averaging 15.54 hits per nine innings. Manzanillo was expected to move up to Advanced Class-A Clearwater this year, but he doesn’t appear ready for the challenge.

Lino Martinez, lhp

DATE

OPP

LVL

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

TBF

PIT-ST

GO/AO

4/5

@GVL

A

5.2

6

1

1

0

0

4

23

0.63

4/10

@GBO

A

W

5.0

3

3

3

0

6

2

23

1.08

4/15

HAG

A

W

6.0

5

3

3

1

1

4

24

0.95

Two walks, a single, and a third walk to lead off the sixth inning chased Martinez from his start at Greensboro on April 10, but entering the sixth he had allowed only one run on three hits through five innings. Opposing batters are hitting just .182 with two walks through the first four innings, but .316 with four walks thereafter

Trevor May, rhp

DATE

OPP

LVL

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

TBF

PIT-ST

GO/AO

4/6

POR

AA

W

5.0

3

4

4

0

3

6

21

1.25

4/12

@HAR

AA

W

7.0

4

1

1

0

1

6

25

85-59

0.77

4/17

@RIC

AA

W

5.0

4

1

1

0

2

7

22

92-53

0.78

May rebounded from an underwhelming performance in his Double-A debut to toss 12 innings of two-run ball over his next two starts, striking out more than a batter per inning allowing only eight batters to reach base. Opponents are hitting just .183/.250/.200 and have managed only one extra-base hit, a double in the second inning of May’s first start.

Adam Morgan, lhp

DATE

OPP

LVL

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

TBF

PIT-ST

GO/AO

4/5

@DUN

A+

4.2

7

3

3

0

3

6

23

0.00

4/11

TAM

A+

6.0

4

1

1

0

0

9

22

0.23

4/16

@TAM

A+

L

6.0

8

5

5

0

0

6

25

0.50

The Phillies selected Morgan out of Alabama in the third round of last year’s draft and assigned him to Advanced Class-A for his full-season debut. After walking 14 batters in 53.2 innings in his short-season debut last year, Morgan issued three free passes in his first appearance of 2012, but has walked zero in two starts since, striking out 21 in 16.2 innings overall. He’s limited right-handed batters to a .155 average since turning pro, but same-side hitters have hit .323.

Mike Nesseth, rhp

DATE

OPP

LVL

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

TBF

PIT-ST

GO/AO

4/7

@GVL

A

L

3.2

7

6

6

0

2

3

20

1.33

4/12

HAG

A

W

5.0

5

1

0

0

2

3

22

0.90

4/17

GBO

A

2.0

2

3

3

0

5

1

13

0.60

Nesseth turned 24 yesterday, but has been very hittable in the South Atlantic League so far this year, while also walking nine batters and striking out only seven through 10.2 innings of work.

Jonathan Pettibone, rhp

DATE

OPP

LVL

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

TBF

PIT-ST

GO/AO

4/5

POR

AA

6.0

10

1

1

0

0

1

23

1.40

4/10

NH

AA

L

6.2

8

3

3

1

2

3

27

99-59

1.00

4/15

@HAR

AA

W

5.2

8

2

2

0

2

3

25

96-56

1.53

He’s never been a high-strikeout pitcher, but Pettibone’s 3.4 SO/9 through 18.1 innings and .366 opponents’ batting average indicate that his 2.95 ERA is likely unsustainable.

Julio Rodriguez, rhp

DATE

OPP

LVL

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

TBF

PIT-ST

GO/AO

4/9

NH

AA

W

5.0

4

2

2

0

3

4

22

85-51

0.83

4/14

@HAR

AA

6.0

5

3

1

0

2

3

27

95-61

0.59

The right-handed Rodriguez led Phillies farmhands with 16 wins and a 2.76 ERA last year, and is off to a good start at Double-A Reading. His frame and strikeout numbers throughout his career suggest better stuff, but Rodriguez works with an average fastball and series of good-not-great off-speed offerings.

Ethan Stewart, lhp

DATE

OPP

LVL

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

TBF

PIT-ST

GO/AO

4/8

@GVL

A

L

5.1

4

1

1

1

2

5

21

0.67

4/13

HAG

A

6.0

3

1

1

0

1

7

22

0.75

4/18

GBO

A

5.0

3

0

0

0

4

4

22

1.00

Stewart leads the Lakewood rotation in ERA (1.10), strikeouts (16), and WHIP (1.04) through three turns, striking out 25 percent of the batters he’s faced.

Austin Wright, lhp

DATE

OPP

LVL

DEC

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

TBF

PIT-ST

GO/AO

4/9

TAM

A+

W

5.0

5

3

2

0

2

7

21

2.50

4/14

LAK

A+

W

6.0

5

2

1

0

3

6

27

1.22

Last year’s eighth-round pick out of Alabama, Wright may not be long for the Florida State League after striking out 13 batters in 11 innings while winning his first two starts for the Threshers.


Guest Post: Giants series displays flaws in Manuel’s strategy

Mitch Goldich has previously written for espnW.com and is currently a sports blogger for The Huffington Post.  Follow him on Twitter.

Baseball, like every other sport, is a results-oriented business.  At the end of the day—or the season—the only things that truly matter are wins and losses.  Sometimes this is unfortunate, as it often muddies the way coaching decisions are evaluated.

Should we pinch hit with a righty?  Should we go for it on 4th-and-1?  Should we foul before they can attempt a three-pointer?  Either side of those coins will routinely be praised or ridiculed, depending on whether or not the game is won.

One popular draw of the sabermetric movement is that the reliance on empirical data forces observers to judge the process instead of the outcome.  While the majority of people focus on what happened, the statistically-informed focus on what should have happened.

Enter Charlie Manuel.  Manuel was criticized because on Wednesday night he used Jim Thome as a pinch hitter, and then left Thome in when a left-handed pitcher was brought on to face him.  Had Thome gotten a hit (or even a sac fly), the old-school crowd would have praised Manuel because of the outcome.  He “knows his ballclub.”  He “pushes the right buttons.”  He “instills confidence in his players.”

Thome struck out, and Manuel was ripped.

Interestingly, his rationale for leaving Thome in was more disturbing than the act.

Matt Gelb writes that Manuel explained, “Thome is 2 for 11 off the guy [Javier Lopez] with three strikeouts.  That means he put the ball in play eight times.  If he hits a ball, as big and strong as he is, we have a chance to score a run.”

This is troubling for several reasons.  First, note that Manuel particularly liked the matchup even though Thome was batting .182 off of him.  Second, Placido Polanco was available to hit for Thome.  Polanco is not only right-handed, but was the third hardest batter to strike out in the NL last season.  Finally, most damning of all, let’s dive deeper into Thome’s 11 at bats that were the basis for the decision.

Year PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP
2003 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000
2004 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000
2005 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000
2006 3 2 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 .500 .667
2007 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000
2008 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000
RegSeason 12 11 2 1 0 0 0 1 3 .182 .250

As you can see, there were three in 2003, three in 2004 and only five within the last seven years.  The decision was made primarily based on at bats that occurred when Thome was an everyday first baseman, with an OPS over .950 and a WAR above 4.0.

Manuel has always relied heavily on batter vs. pitcher data, so it’s hard to be surprised by his thinking.  The disturbing trend is that he continues to do so with an increasingly older team, relying on increasingly older sets of data.  Manuel has to understand that his players, particularly his aging players, are not who they were in their primes.

Reliance on outdated statistics displays a strange form of bias, akin to being unable to separate in his mind the players on his roster from the players they used to be.  Making decisions today based exclusively on data from more than half a decade ago is like trying to win on Jeopardy! by studying yesterday’s clues.

Consider the first game of the Giants’ series, against Tim Lincecum on Monday night.

Gelb wrote in his game preview (and I have no reason to doubt him), “Why is [Juan] Pierre starting over John Mayberry Jr., who is the superior defender, in a big ballpark? It probably has to do with these career numbers vs. Lincecum.”

Gelb didn’t break them down by year, but I will.

Year PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP
2007 3 3 1 0 1 0 2 0 0 .333 .333
2008 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333
2009 7 6 4 1 1 0 1 1 0 .667 .714
RegSeason 13 12 6 1 2 0 3 1 1 .500 .538

Sure, Pierre has had success against Lincecum.  But the data shows just 12 at bats, much of it four or five years old, all during a stretch when Pierre was a .294 hitter, which he has not been in the years since.

While these at bats are at least more recent than Thome’s against Javier Lopez, it’s wrong to allow this miniscule sample size to carry more weight than the hundreds of at bats since.

There’s a reason small sample sizes aren’t dependable.  For an example, let’s go back to Wednesday night’s game and think about why Polanco was available to pinch hit in the first place.  Polanco was on the bench not only because of his early season struggles, but because Manuel wanted Ty Wigginton to start at third base against Matt Cain.

“How did I decide on it,” Manuel asked himself.  “Nix is 8 for 20 with a homer off this guy. Wigginton is 3 for 9 with a homer. Those guys have seen them, have some hits on him, so why shouldn’t I put them in the lineup?”

Yes, Wigginton was 3-for-9, for a shiny .333 average and a homer.  But stats can fluctuate so much over nine at bats.  One of those three hits was a ground ball through third base in a 10-1 ballgame.  If that ball had been gobbled up for an out, making Wigginton a career .222 hitter against Cain, would he have been on the bench?  The point is that one measly ground ball on one random day, and one homerun (at Coors Field by the way), shouldn’t matter as much as his 1,000 at bats over the last two years, in which he batted under .250.

The blame doesn’t all fall on Manuel when the Phillies’ offense comes up empty.  Ruben Amaro built this roster, and Manuel has other coaches to help him make in-game decisions.  Plus, I’m just like everyone else: Had Thome popped a homerun, I’m probably not writing about this.

The roster and the injury bug have dealt Manuel a bad hand.  To his credit, he has not publicly used that as an excuse.  If he did, it probably wouldn’t be well-received, but I think it would be defensible.  If he disregarded important statistics like career platoon splits or contact rates to play a star, or go with the hot hand, that too would often be defensible.

But for him to repeatedly explain after games that his decisions are based on statistics—and then use insignificant or outdated ones—shows a lack of understanding about how the decision-making process works.  That, to me, is indefensible.

Phillies/Padres Game Thread 4/19/12

Last night, Cliff Lee threw the 24th ten-or-more-inning shutout for the Phillies since 1918, and looked nothing short of brilliant in the process, as Paul detailed earlier today. Still, the Phillies were left standing on the field, watching the other team celebrate, because they could not produce a single run in 37 trips to the plate. That sort of heartbreaking outcome has been typical for the Phillies when playing at AT&T, so, while they find themselves in another offense-suppressing venue, it’s a welcome change of scenery.

Tonight, the Padres (3-10) send Joe Wieland to the mound with the staggering task of keeping the Philly bats silent in PETCO park. He is matched up against Vance Worley (3.66 xFIP in 2011), who had some trouble with the long ball in his last start against the Mets, surrendering one a piece to Lucas Duda and David Wright. In his 3rd start, Worley will look to resume his modus operandi: called third strikes and limiting the long flies. He’ll have the benefit of facing a Padres offense that has been substantially below average so far (though not as woeful as Philadelphia’s), in a park where the flyballs tend to stay out of the bleachers. With a win tonight, the Phillies can pull within a game of .500.

Lineups

Phillies

Padres