Mets-Phillies Game Thread 5/8/12

The Phillies haven’t won consecutive games in over a week and they haven’t been above .500 since Opening Day. After last night’s crushing loss on Jordany Valdespin‘s three-run ninth-inning home run, the Phillies will try to get back on their winning ways once again tonight. If ever there was a night for it, it is tonight as the Phillies will oppose the struggling 41-year-old Miguel Batista. The veteran right-hander has operated as a swing man in the Mets’ bullpen and will be making his second start of the season tonight. In 13 innings thus far, he has struck out 11 and walked 13, making for hilarious strikeout and walk rates. Batista will be opposed by Joe Blanton, coming off his best start as a Phillie last Thursday in Atlanta. In fact, Blanton is on a bit of a roll as he has not walked a batter in either of his previous two starts while striking out 14 in 16 and one-third innings.

Lineups

Mets

Phillies

Greetings From Clearwater – May 8

Originally written by Bradley Ankrom.

I’ll be honest, folks. It wasn’t a very good week for Phillies hitting prospects. A notable exception was Cesar Hernandez, who hit .444 in six games and continued to demonstrate improved power, collecting 20 total bases.

PLAYER

AGE

LVL

AVG/OBP/SLG

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

BB

SO

SB

CS

A. Altherr, of

21

A

.284/.336/.422

109

31

5

2

2

6

24

10

3

M. Alvarez, of

22

A+

.222/.222/.259

27

6

1

0

0

0

13

1

0

C. Asche, 3b

22

A+

.340/.374/.420

100

34

4

2

0

6

16

1

2

J. Barnes, 3b

25

A+

.140/.240/.163

43

6

1

0

0

6

17

0

0

L. Castro, of

23

AA

.222/.273/.322

90

20

6

0

1

3

22

2

3

K. Dugan, 1b/of

21

A

.245/.344/.396

53

13

2

0

2

7

15

0

0

E. Duran, ss

21

A+

.265/.304/.373

83

22

3

3

0

5

14

1

2

G. Eldemire, of

23

A

.239/.378/.318

88

21

5

1

0

18

27

14

2

M. Franco, 3b

19

A

.224/.303/.383

107

24

6

1

3

10

21

0

0

F. Galvis, ss

22

MLB

.189/.211/.289

90

17

6

0

1

3

15

0

0

T. Gillies, cf

23

AA

.279/.353/.423

104

29

6

3

1

8

18

4

1

G. Gonzalez, ss

21

A

.207/.241/.207

82

17

0

0

0

3

19

3

0

T. Greene, ss

19

A

.153/.279/.278

72

11

6

0

1

13

34

2

0

C. Hernandez, 2b

22

AA

.321/.345/.462

106

34

9

3

0

5

18

2

4

A. Hewitt, of

23

A+

.257/.312/.405

74

19

2

0

3

4

20

3

1

K. Hudson, cf

21

A

.165/.198/.209

91

15

2

1

0

2

33

14

3

J. James, cf

23

AA

.220/.260/.407

91

20

4

2

3

5

30

2

3

H. Martinez, 3b

22

A

.240/.278/.320

50

12

4

0

0

3

7

0

0

L. Moore, c

21

A

.194/.351/.323

62

12

5

0

1

12

21

0

1

C. Overbeck, 3b

26

AAA

.279/.321/.404

104

29

7

0

2

7

18

0

0

C. Perdomo, ss

22

A

.250/.321/.354

48

12

2

0

1

4

6

4

2

B. Pointer, of

20

A

.245/.331/.480

102

25

5

2

5

13

33

5

0

D. Ruf, 1b

25

AA

.368/.413/.509

106

39

6

0

3

10

18

2

0

C. Rupp, c

23

A+

.257/.329/.365

74

19

5

0

1

8

16

0

0

S. Valle, c

21

AA

.259/.299/.346

81

21

4

0

1

5

25

0

0

THE GREAT.

Cesar Hernandez – 12-for-27, 4 2B, 2 3B; the hottest player in the organization right now, Hernandez had four multi-hit games last week, including a 4-for-5 effort on May 4 that included a pair of doubles. He currently has nine doubles, two more than he had all of last year, and is on pace to surpass his career-best total of 13 before June.

THE GOOD.

Cody Asche – 9-for-25, 2B, 3B last week; went 4-for-5 (all singles) on Sunday, and currently has an eight-game hitting streak.

Edgar Duran – 7-for 20, 2B; snapped an eight-game walkless streak on May 2 and added another two days later.

Anthony Hewitt – 11-for-27, 2B, HR; has nine hits in his last three games, raising his batting average from .212 to .257. Still striking out much too often.

Leandro Castro – 5-for-20, 2B; currently has a five-game hitting streak and has scored a run in each of Reading’s last four games.

Carlos Perdomo – 4-for-9, 2B.

THE BAD.

Gauntlett Eldemire – 5-for-21, 2B; still walking, but not as regularly.

Tyson Gillies – 5-for-21, 3B; has a five-game walk streak and only struck out three times last week.

Gustavo Gonzalez – 3-for-15.

Tyler Greene – 1-for-11; inexplicably drew seven walks last week with only four strikeouts. Still not hitting, however, and has only two extra-base hits in his last 14 games.

Harold Martinez – 5-for-23; had doubles in four of his first five games, but no extra-base hits over his last eight.

Cody Overbeck – 3-for-21, 2B; batting average dropped from .313 to .279 in six games.

Cameron Rupp – 4-for-19, 2B; six strikeouts and one walk in his last four games.

THE UGLY.

Aaron Altherr – 4-for-23, 2B, HR; has whiffed in five-consecutive games, and totaled eight strikeouts (and two walks) last week.

Maikel Franco – 4-for-22, 2B; last night’s double was Franco’s first extra-base hit since April 28.

Jiwan James – 2-for-19, HR; only two-for-five on the basepaths after stealing 64 bases in 2010-11.

Brian Pointer – 2-for-24, 2 2B; the fact that both of his hits last week were doubles is the only thing that kept me from simply putting an emoticon frowny face as his comment.

Sebastian Valle – 3-for-17, 2B; on-base percentage dips below .300 for the first time this year.

Breaking It Down: Placido Polanco’s Bunt

Last night’s 5-2 loss to the New York Mets will be remembered for rookie Jordany Valdespin‘s three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning, the proverbial nail in the coffin. The 24-year-old had gone hitless in his first six plate appearances in the Majors, but got his first hit against one of the game’s most dominant relief pitchers in Papelbon.

However, while that play was quite memorable, the Phillies could have put themselves in a better position to win in the previous inning — and relied on the butterfly effect for Valdespin’s home run to have never happened — with some better judgment. In the bottom of the eighth, with the score tied at two apiece, the Phillies put their first two base runners on with singles by Ty Wigginton and Carlos Ruiz. Based on the 2011 season, 1.4 runs scored on average with runners on first and second with no outs. Charlie Manuel chose to have Placido Polanco bunt the runners over, which changes the run expectancy to 1.3 runs with runners on second and third with one out. That late in the game, with the score tied at home with your best reliever ostensibly fresh and not rusty after a week of riding the pine, such a play is defensible.

The problem was, though, that Freddy Galvis lurked on deck. Galvis, with a .105 ISO in his 91 PA to date, would need to power a ball to the outfield against Mets reliever Bobby Parnell, a hard-throwing right-hander with a great ability to miss bats and induce ground balls.

Here’s a look at where left-handed hitters have put the ball in play against Parnell so far this season, followed by a look at where Parnell tends to throw his pitches.

Only two lefties hit the ball well against Parnell: Chipper Jones in Atlanta and Adam LaRoche in New York (the location explains why they weren’t home runs). The only other fly ball was hit by Jimmy Rollins in the previous inning of last night’s game (it is the leftmost light-blue box in the outfield). Considering Parnell’s power and Galvis’ complete lack of it, a sacrifice fly would have been a miracle.

Here’s a look at where Galvis put the ball in play when he made contact with pitches on the outer-third of the strike zone against right-handed pitching.

The three deepest balls in left field were hit on fastballs. From left to right: against Jeff Karstens (90 MPH), against Ernesto Frieri (94 MPH), and against Anibal Sanchez (91 MPH, double). Mostly, Galvis hit ground balls between first and second base. Parnell hit 93-95 with his fastball leading up to his face-off with Galvis, then reached 97-98 against Galvis. Needless to say, the odds of Galvis catching up with a 97 MPH fastball and hitting it deep enough to the outfield to score a run were not in his favor.

The Phillies could have pinch-hit for Galvis for Laynce Nix, but they knew the Mets would have quickly replaced Parnell with lefty Tim Byrdak. In fact, that is exactly what happened after the at-bat involving Galvis. Right-handed options off the Phillies’ bench included Erik Kratz and… that’s it. So, here were the scenarios:

  • Hit with Polanco, keep 0.1 runs on average. Polanco had already doubled and had seven hits in his previous 21 PA entering the night. Even at his worst, he generally does a good job of putting the ball in play.
  • Bunt with Polanco, hit with Galvis. Lose 0.1 runs on average, and hope Galvis can hit a BABIP-inspired ground ball. Galvis entered the night with the eighth-lowest wOBA in the Majors.
  • Pinch-hit for Galvis with Nix, who then faces Byrdak (3.59 career xFIP vs. LHB). Nix carried a career .232 wOBA vs. LHP with a 32% fly ball rate.
  • Pinch-hit for Bastardo with Nix, then replace Nix with Kratz when the Mets call on Byrdak. The 32-year-old Kratz had a career .162 wOBA in 44 Major League plate appearances entering the night.

None of the post-bunt match-ups were any more favorable than Polanco vs. Parnell. Despite his woeful start to the season, Polanco has been able to muscle the ball to the outfield with regularity.

As it happened, Polanco successfully bunted the runners over to second and third. Galvis then followed it up with a ground ball that went all of 60 feet.

Afterwards, Nix pinch-hit for Antonio Bastardo. The Mets brought in Byrdak, so Manuel replaced Nix with Kratz, who struck out swinging. The Phillies scored zero runs in a situation that called for at least one, even after willingly giving up one of six remaining regulation outs.

There is no guarantee that Polanco succeeds against Parnell. In fact, the nature of baseball itself would make Polanco between two and three times as likely to fail as succeed. However, as we have been focusing a lot on optimal strategy thus far in the 2012 season, it seems as if letting Polanco swing away would have been the right call than letting the weak-hitting Galvis take his hacks.

Sub-optimal strategy was rarely a problem for the Phillies in previous years because they had enough talent to make up for it. For instance, Manuel’s unwillingness to remove an ineffective Brad Lidge from the closer’s role in 2009 certainly cost the Phillies a handful of games, but they won 93 games and took the NL East by a six-game margin. 2012 is a different story. Accounting for the first month of the season, Dan Szymborski’s updated ZiPS projections has the Phillies at 84-78, seven games behind in third place in the NL East. The Phillies simply don’t have the margin to cope with bad in-game decision-making. By bullpen mismanagement alone, Manuel has cost the Phillies up to five games and his repeated reliance on the sacrifice bunt even more. With moderately better strategy, the Phillies could reasonably have four more wins and four fewer losses, putting them at 18-12 instead of 14-16. Playing catch-up in a new-and-improved NL East would be monumentally easier, but that simply won’t be the case going forward if the Phillies don’t play smarter.

Phillies Reliever Usage, Graphically

Much has been made about the sub-optimal usage of relievers by manager Charlie Manuel lately. The Phillies are 0-4 in extra-inning games and in each of those four games, their $50 million reliever Jonathan Papelbon was never used. The Phillies also lost in nine innings on April 8 in Pittsburgh when Papelbon could have — and some would argue should have — been used. How, exactly, have the relievers been applied, though?

I arranged each plate appearance for each Phillies reliever from the beginning of the season through last night and created bar graphs indicating the leverage index. (Last night’s data not included as this post was compiled prior to the game. Unfortunately.)

As you can see, Jonathan Papelbon has had yet to face a batter with a leverage index greater than 4.00. The only other relievers in that same group are Jose Contreras, Joe Savery, and Mike Stutes. In fact, Papelbon’s highest-leverage plate appearance (3.78 on April 12) is the 20th-highest among Phillies relievers. The 20 ahead of him have all come on the road, however, and due to Manuel’s insistence that closers cannot be used in tie games on the road, he has been left to rot in the bullpen while inferior relievers stood on the mound only for the Phillies to lose the game.

Pitcher Date Inning H/A bHWE aHWE bLI aLI
Sanches 5/2/2012 9 A 0.65 0.50 6.40 2.18
Schwimer 5/4/2012 11 A 0.65 1.00 6.38 0.00
Schwimer 5/2/2012 8 A 0.34 0.75 6.07 4.49
Qualls 5/4/2012 8 A 0.63 0.50 5.44 2.22
Qualls 5/4/2012 8 A 0.38 0.78 5.37 3.34
Bastardo 4/8/2012 8 A 0.38 0.27 5.34 4.75
Qualls 5/4/2012 8 A 0.77 0.63 4.95 5.44
Herndon 4/8/2012 9 A 0.82 0.62 4.90 4.56
Bastardo 4/8/2012 8 A 0.27 0.59 4.75 3.46
Herndon 4/8/2012 9 A 0.62 1.00 4.56 0.00
Schwimer 5/2/2012 8 A 0.75 0.87 4.49 0.42
Bastardo 4/18/2012 11 A 0.68 1.00 4.42 0.00
Sanches 5/2/2012 9 A 0.69 0.60 4.36 4.21
Schwimer 5/2/2012 8 A 0.21 0.34 4.32 6.07
Bastardo 4/7/2012 9 A 0.61 0.50 4.28 2.24
Schwimer 5/4/2012 11 A 0.60 0.65 4.26 6.38
Sanches 5/2/2012 9 A 0.60 0.65 4.21 6.40
Qualls 5/4/2012 8 A 0.38 0.34 4.08 3.58
Kendrick 4/8/2012 8 A 0.38 0.29 4.04 3.32
Papelbon 4/12/2012 9 H 0.85 1.00 3.78 0.00

Note: A lower-case b indicates the stat before the PA was started and a lower-case a indicates the stat after the PA was completed. LI stands for Leverage Index and HWE stands for the home team’s Win Expectancy.

The following chart shows the percentage of a reliever’s own total PA have come in each leverage bucket. Two out of every three (66%) of Jonathan Papelbon’s PA have come with the leverage index under 1.00. As the leverage goes up, Papelbon’s appearance percentage goes from 66% to 20% to 7% to 7%.

This chart shows each reliever’s share within each leverage bucket. Jonathan Papelbon has had 30% of the Phillies’ bullpen’s PA in the 0-0.99 and 1-1.99 buckets.

Papelbon has shown to be the Phillies’ best reliever so far, averaging more than a strikeout per inning and more than three strikeouts for every walk. Why one wouldn’t consistently use him in the most important of situations is mind-boggling.

Special thanks to David Appelman of FanGraphs for providing me the data to play with, and to Matt (@Slap_Bet) for Excel help.

Regarding last night’s debacle involving Papelbon, my only comment is a link to this Wikipedia entry.