Padres-Phillies Game Thread 5/11/12

These guys again. Following last month’s split of a 4 game series, the Padres (11-21) roll into Philadelphia for an NL cellar-dweller face off. The Phillies (14-18), needless to say, have seen better days. Along with bullpen problems, they’ve slogged through injuries, defensive kinks, and offensive woes on the way to assembling a miserable start to the 2012 season. The Phillies have not begun the season 14-18 since 2007, and they’ve not begun the season worse than that since 2002.

All of this prompted manager Charlie Manuel to call the vaunted closed-door meeting, but a simple glance at the roster is enough to raise doubts that this is anything but a simple personnel problem — a problem which is unlikely to be helped by the call ups of relievers Raul Valdes and Jake Diekman, and utility man Hector Luna. The former two are likely innings fodder for a struggling bullpen, and the latter hasn’t had more than 100 plate appearances in the majors since Pinochet last drew breath.

The Phillies are at least on the favorable side of the pitching match-ups in their next attempt to get the season on track. Tonight, right-hander Vance Worley (3.45 SIERA in 2012) goes against Clayton Richard (4.22). Worley’s April 19th start in San Diego was one of the best of his young career; he threw 7 innings of scoreless ball and struck out 11 Padres. Tomorrow, Roy Halladay (3.52), fresh off a very good comeback start, meets former Red Edinson Volquez (4.14), acquired by the Padres in the Mat Latos deal. And on Sunday, Cole Hamels (2.55), currently sporting 44 strikeouts to just 6 walks, takes on Jeff Suppan (4.48) in a 1:35 PM start. Jeff Suppan! Ha! Life.

Lineups

Padres

Phillies

Today: Draftstreet.com $250 Free Fantasy Baseball Challenge

If you missed it Wednesday, you still have time to sign up for Draftstreet.com’s $250 fantasy baseball freeroll, exclusive to Crashburn Alley readers. The top six places will earn cash. All you have to do is set up a fantasy baseball roster for tonight’s games. Setting up your team isn’t as easy as it sounds, as you’ll have to balance your roster within a $100,000 budget. Grabbing Cliff Lee at $18,000 means you may have to sacrifice quality elsewhere on your roster, so choose wisely.

Have fun with it, and feel free to share your results here in the comments.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 1: Trade Everyone

We’re trying something new today. For the first time…well, not ever, I don’t think, but at least since I’ve been around here, we’re taking your questions in print form. We’ll try to make this a weekly thing, so send in your questions via Twitter to me (@atomicruckus) and/or with the hashtag #crashbag. Or you can email them to crashbaumann (at) gmail.com. If this doesn’t work out, well…

Also, keep sending in your questions for Twitter Q and A for the podcast–it’s our favorite part of the show and probably the most interesting, because people who think about baseball as much as and the way we do tend to be the kind of people you don’t want to talk to at parties. That hashtag is #crashburn. Include your name, or if you don’t have one, your Twitter handle, so we can give you credit.

We’ll keep this going as long as necessary. If there are questions, I will answer. BIGGLES! THE SOFT CUSHIONS!

@Estebomb: “Would you recommend all of the Phillies’ relievers go on steroids immediately?”

I don’t know. My understanding is that PEDs, if anything, are more about injury recovery than improving skills, and if anything I think we’d want to see Kyle Kendrick, for instance, out of the lineup more than in it. And putting the relievers on steroids might have some unintended consequences. For instance, Michael Schwimer is 6-foot-8 and kind of swarthy. Do you really want to see him on the juice? It would be the most terrifying thing ever, particularly if he gets backne and rage issues. So let’s say Schwimer gets mid-1980s East German women’s swim team-level roided-out. I think the only way that ends is with him tearing off his clothing and going on a homicidal rampage through the visiting bullpen at CBP, killing everyone who doesn’t move quickly enough with a scimitar and wearing their skins as a cloak.

Come to think of it, that would probably be a far more constructive use for the Phillies’ bullpen than we’ve seen thus far. If you can’t be good, be entertaining, I always say.

@thomeshomies “Outside of Hamels Pence and Victorino, do you think there any Phillies non-minor-leaguers who could fetch a decent return?”

I think Halladay, Papelbon, and Lee would fetch a pretty penny. But as far as players the Phillies might conceivably trade? I think Worley is worth something. With every successful start, he raises his value. I thought he’d be a guy who could hang as a starter for a while, but would ultimately wind up as a pretty good bullpen arm. Maybe not a shutdown relief ace, but a very good middle reliever or setup man. But as long as he keeps getting that two-seamer over, his potential swings further toward “good No. 4 starter” and less toward “good right-handed setup guy.” But Vanimal is effective, relatively young, and cheap, so while he’d have quite a bit of value in a trade, he might be more valuable to a Phillies team that has spent far too much money on the old and ineffective.

Speaking of which, I’ve long had a fantasy about using Domonic Brown and Worley to clear Ryan Howard‘s terrible contract. The problem is, there may not be a front office with so much money and so little good sense as the Phillies’, so that Howard-Worley-and-Brown-to-Baltimore for Manny Machado deal I’ve been fantasizing about will most likely not happen.

Otherwise…we talked about trading Joe Blanton on the podcast last week. The problem with that is that Blanton is a free agent-to-be, aged 31, and not really an impact arm. So the Phillies would need to dump him on a contender outside the NL East with a major-league ready bat to return. There’s probably not a market.

TWIN QUESTIONS
@jonathanbietz “doom and gloom: What’s a reasonable trade return for Hamels, Victorino, and Pence? Not in one deal, obviously.”
and
@euphronius “Would trading Hamels get anything near equal value. Signing him seems better than trading for prospect. He is young for a P”

I’ll be honest. I’ve always been a little tone-deaf when it comes to constructing a good trade, so if I’m completely off-base, I apologize.

To answer Euphronius’ question: no. Not a few months before free agency. I think the best-case scenario is what the Indians got back for CC Sabathia in 2008: four prospects, one of whom turns  into a decent major-league regular. It probably would make more sense to sign Hamels if they can find the money somewhere. It’s a pity that the Phillies have $33 million committed in 2013 to an aging first baseman who’s averaged less than 3 WAR a season for his career and a reliever who’s never thrown 70 innings in a season. If only something could have been done to prevent that they could taken a flier on Hamels long-term. Or if they had locked him up when he was merely an All-Star-quality pitcher and not one of the best starters in the game.

But those mistakes have already been made, and the Phillies will pay for them with the playoff viability of their franchise.

As far as Victorino goes, the absolute best-case scenario is a one-for-one deal for an impact prospect from a team with playoff pretensions and absolutely no strength in the outfield. Last season, the Mets (and I have no idea how they pulled this off) flipped Carlos Beltran for right-handed pitcher Zack Wheeler, who was No. 27 on Keith Law’s top 100 heading into this season. That kind of return is unlikely, to say the least, as is any trade of Victorino (or Hamels or Pence or Blanton) unless the Phillies are clearly out of it by July 31.

For Pence, you’d have to be a total idiot to trade multiple high-level prospects for a corner outfielder in his late 20s, with defensive and baserunning issues who has never been anything more than a slightly-above-average bat when his BABIP hadn’t spiked to the upper .300s. Only a GM who had taken complete leave of his senses would do such a thing.

Time for a lighter question.

@Giving_Chase has two, which we’ll take one by one.

“What would be your All-Rookie team right now?”

I think you have to go with Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and I think the Calder committee got it right when they picked Adam Henrique for the third spot on the ballot over Sean Couturier and Matt Read. For my defensemen, I’d pick Justin Faulk of Carolina and Slava Voynov of the Kings in a squeaker over New Jersey’s Adam Larsson. For goalie, I’d go with Columbus’ Allen York, who’s the best of a weak crop. What?

Oh, baseball. Well, it’s eminently possible that the rookie of the year for both leagues is not in the majors yet. And honestly, this rookie class hasn’t had enough time to gather a head of steam. There’s just about no one who’s rookie eligible, has played 10 or more games, and has a positive rWAR, but here’s my ballot, through six weeks or so:

Catcher: Jesus Montero, Seattle, if you think he’s a catcher. Devin Mesoraco of Cincinnati if you don’t.
First Base:  Alex Liddi, Seattle
Second Base: Freddy Galvis, Philadelphia
Shortstop: Zack Cozart, Cincinnati
Third Base: Steve Lombardozzi, Washington
Outfield: Bryce Harper, Washington, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, New York Mets, Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland
Starting Pitcher: Yu Darvish, Texas
Relief Pitcher: Addison Reed, Chicago White Sox

Now, on to @Giving_Chase’s second question.

“What would you eat for your last meal?”

This. Now this is a question. I’ve actually put some thought into this one over the years, and I figure that if it’s my last meal, there’s no consideration to whether it will make me fat, or give me diarrhea. I know it’s sexy right now for both intelligent sportswriters and arrogant bourgeois young adults from the Northeast to be really concerned with what they eat, going all organic and healthy and free range and so on. I am both of those things, in one way or another, and I think that’s a load of crap. If it’s cheap and sits well with Frank’s Red Hot, I’ll eat it no matter what’s in it.

But I might shoot a little higher for my last meal without straying from my roots of processed food, hot sauce, and carbohydrates. I spent my entire morning thinking about this, and I’ve come to a conclusion: Appetizer: pita chips with hummus and buffalo chicken dip. For the main course: the lamb burger from The Pour House in Westmont, N.J., with a side of raw fries and bleu cheese from the Cock ‘N Bull in Columbia, S.C., with an order of boneless wings from Carolina Wings (also in Columbia, S.C.), half buffalo cajun ranch, half Doc’s wing sauce. And since I don’t have worry about overstuffing myself (since I’m dying), a heaping helping of potato salad (not mustard-based, because I’m not a communist). To drink, Vanilla Coke Zero.

After a brief interlude (with a glass of Jack Daniels honey whiskey on the rocks to tide me over), dessert will be chocolate cake with raspberry syrup poured over it. After that, I’d probably die of internal bleeding, if not from the firing squad.

@_magowan “what are your thoughts on the ever-growing numbers of outfield wall ads? Too many?”

I don’t mind. I wish we’d have some more interesting on the CBP wall than…come to think of it, what’s out there? Modell’s, right? Is that Lukoil sign out on the wall, still? I’d rather have something…with better social underpinnings than a Russian petrochemical company.

But still, I think the outfield wall ads are fine, as long as they don’t interfere with the hitter’s background. And I remember when I was a kid and my little league field got outfield wall ads. It made me feel like a major leaguer. So I guess what’  I’m saying is, leave wall ads up. For that matter, get some more. Do it for the kids.

@themankev “What would you rank as the top 5 most important offensive statistics?”

Of the five Crashburn writers, I’m probably the least stats-inclined, so rather than try to rank them, I’ll just tell you what I look at on a player’s FanGraphs or Baseball-Reference page.

  • WAR You’ll get minor differences between the two main flavors, but either one gives an all-encompassing stat for a player’s total value, comparable across leagues and positions, and both pages will split it up into offensive and defensive categories. Plus, it’s a simple counting stat–the numbers are small, more is better, and twice as much is twice as good. The simplicity of WAR is huge.
  • OPS+ It’s pretty low-tech, compared to other stats, but it adjusts for league and park effects, includes both power and patience in its calculus, and has a simple scale: 100 is league average, more is better, and less is worse.
  • wOBA It’s the same concept as OPS and OPS+, an attempt to include the contributions of batting average with the other half of a batter’s job, patience and power. It’s far less simple than OPS, but more precise. The barest standard of competence is .300, while the very best hitters will crack .400 (Ryan Howard posted a .436 wOBA in 2006).
  • BABIP Batters have more control over BABIP than pitchers do. Generally, faster players who hit more ground balls will have a higher BABIP (Ichiro’s career mark: .351), while slower fly ball hitters will have a lower BABIP (Jose Bautista: .272). Still, you can get an idea of whether a player is hitting over his head by comparing a seasonal BABIP to a player’s career mark. For instance, both as a rookie and last season, Hunter Pence hit like a total badass (.384 wOBA in 2007, .378 in 2011) when his BABIP was .360 or higher, but in the three years in between, his BABIP dropped closer to .300, and his wOBA dropped with it, to between .334 and .351. So maybe not BABIP in a vacuum, but in concert with a batted ball breakdown and compared to the player’s career average, is quite useful looking forward.
  • Contact Rates: FanGraphs’ plate discipline numbers are really useful–it shows how how often a batter swings, at what, and how often he makes contact. Which is really the whole point.

@vansantc “Do you love me?”

If you really loved me, you’d know the answer to that already.

Enjoy the weekend’s games, everyone.

 

An Explanation for the Phillies’ Recent Bullpen Silliness

Perhaps no publication has had an editorial stance of being more distraught and mystified by Charlie Manuel’s bullpen usage than this one. However, a source inside the Phillies’ front office has told us that the Phillies’ manager, a keen student of history, is in fact adapting a tactical doctrine from the late 12th Century to baseball.

It’s not unusual for coaches to adapt tenets of military strategy to sports as motivational or organizational guideposts–Patriots coach Bill Belichick is fond of Sun Tzu, though Clausewitz is also said to be popular–but Manuel, the source says, is fond of a doctrine first conceived of in the Third Crusade.

The story centers on a man named Louis Phillippe, a barber from Anjou, France. When Pope Gregory VIII called for a crusade to retake Jerusalem–which had been lost in a siege in 1187, the events of which were stylized and loosely retold in Ridley Scott’s 2005 film Kingdom of Heaven–Louis Phillippe, a deeply religious man, responded to the call and volunteered to serve as a man-at-arms in the army of King Richard I of England. Barbers of the time often doubled as makeshift doctors and surgeons, so when Louis Phillippe’s unit was separated from the army and ambushed by a Byzantine battalion six months into the campaign. Louis Phillippe tended expertly to the wounded, and when the survivors retreated to safety, he fought bravely at the rearguard, allowing dozens of his fellow soldiers to escape.

When Louis Phillippe and his companions were reunited with the Crusader army, news of his heroism reached King Richard himself, and he was granted an audience before the Holy See himself. Pope Celestine III, who succeeded Gregory and Clement III, both of whom had died in the intervening years, took a liking to the young man and insisted that he be released from the Crusader army and serve as the Pope’s personal valet and barber.

Louis Phillippe served happily in Rome until 1196, when the pontiff had a dream that he took to be a vision from God Himself. Celestine called for Louis Phillippe and asked him to crop his hair short and remove his trademark beard. Louis Phillippe did so, and the newly-shorn pope commanded his barber to return to his home in Anjou with a lock of the pope’s hair, seek an audience with the count, and declare that it was God’s will for all of Europe to be united under a single flag to conquer not only Jerusalem–which Richard the Lionheart would ultimately fail to do–but the Moorish caliphate in Iberia as well. It is said that Celestine sent out dozens of such messengers around this time.

Louis Phillippe, the pope’s friend and servant, took a letter of introduction from Pope Celestine and a bag of his hair, and set off for Anjou. When he arrived at the castle, he was stopped at the gate and denied entry, arrested, and brought before the count in chains. Louis Phillippe’s letter had been confiscated in the meantime, and when he preached the Pope’s vision of the united Christian Europe, he was laughed out of the room, arrested and sentenced to be burned at the stake as a heretic.

Louis Phillippe protested, citing his bond of friendship with the pope, but the count was unimpressed. He had no reason to believe Louis Phillippe was who he said he was–an emissary from the pontiff–and demanded the sentence be carried out immediately.

Louis Phillippe of Anjou was executed on December 1, 1195. His ashes were scattered in a field somewhere in northwestern France.

If you’re wondering what possible application this story has to baseball, here’s what Charlie Manuel got out of it:

A papal bond is worthless if you’re in a situation where you can’t get credit for the shave.