Crash Bag, Vol. 3: Niners vs. Logicians

I’m not even going to bother with an intro this week, because we’re leading right off with what is unquestionably the best question anyone’s asked in three weeks of the Crash Bag.

@Wzeiders: “How closely does this Phillies team resemble the Deep Space Niners?”

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Deep Space Niners, it’s the baseball team made up of the crew of the eponymous space station in the seventh season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. That episode, “Take Me Out to the Holosuite,” was unbelievably silly, perhaps a necessary diversion from the throes of the Dominion War, one of the darkest storylines of the darkest Star Trek series. Anyway, Captain Sisko, commander of the station and a huge baseball fan, is challenged to a game by Captain Solok, a Vuclan Starfleet academy classmate of Sisko’s who disdains humans in general and Sisko in particular.

Solok figures that if he and his Vulcan crew can beat Sisko’s team at Sisko’s own game, he’ll prove his superiority once and for all. Hijinks ensue, as do a bunch of interesting bits of trivia about the episode.

But to answer William’s question, yes. A lot. For starters, the strength of the Phillies’ team is its starting pitching, and the Niners’ pitcher, Sisko’s son Jake (played in the show by Kenny Lofton‘s nephew, as it happens), was by far the best player on the team. One can make parallels between the intensity of Worf and the intensity of Roy Halladay, and between the size, agility, and acrobatic defensive play of Ezri Dax and Freddy Galvis. Dr. Bashir, who comes in to play second halfway through the game, is a genetically enhanced superman, and one could make the argument that Chase Utley, who–we hope–will come in halfway through the season to play second base, is also superhuman.

But most of all, they remind me of the Phillies because we’ve seen a lot of this:

./Star Trek: Deep Space Nine/season7/baseball1.gif

So if you’re looking for a reason to hope for a team that’s long on pitching and has a lineup full of people who can’t really hit, don’t think of the 2010 Giants–think of the 2375 Deep Space Niners.

@SoMuchForPathos: “If you were tasked with writing a bildungsroman about any Phillie or IronPig, who would it be and what would happen?”

(googles “bildungsroman”)

Oh, a coming-of-age story. That I can do.

I’m pretty sure I’m going to try to write a book about Domonic Brown at some point. But for now, I think I’d do one of those semi-messianic science fiction stories in the vein of Harry Potter, Star Wars, Ender’s Game, and I think you could make the argument that Dune was a coming-of-age story of sorts, though I’ll admit it’s probably been 10 years since I’ve read the book. And I tried to watch the movie a while back, and it was unspeakably horrible. My now-fiancee loves Dune and I was all up to watch Jose Ferrer, Patrick Stewart, and Kyle McLachlan, but I had never seen a David Lynch movie before, and Lord Child, was it tedious.

Anyway, I think in my bildungsroman, Carlos Ruiz is the youngest son of a spaceship mechanic who is thrust into the midst of an interstellar war between the humans and a hostile alien race. When the aliens destroy the asteroid his family lives on, he volunteers to become a starship pilot, eventually rises to command his own ship, then goes on a suicide mission to rescue the president of Earth, succeeding and surviving in the process.

In this story, I think Brian Wilson would play the evil alien leader, with Yadier Molina as his underling, whose ugliness is matched only by the brutality of his men. Roy Halladay would be the president, who is betrayed and captured by a duplicitous alien envoy, played by Cody Ross. Ryan Howard is the commander-in-chief of the human starfleet, and Chase Utley is the grizzled starship commander who trains young Chooch but is heroically and heart-rendingly killed in battle.

Cliff Lee is the mouthy, emotional first officer of Utley’s ship, who ascends to command on Utley’s death and sends Chooch on the mission to rescue Halladay. Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence are the absentminded, hyperactive engineering savants who run the engine room, and Jimmy Rollins is the smooth-talking commander of the ship’s fighter squadron.

Jonathan Papelbon plays the smarmy space station commander with a heart of gold who sells Chooch the access codes to the alien defense network.

And David Wright is the beautiful alien woman Chooch falls for, but can never make his love known until the war is over.

Be right back–gotta go write a bildungsroman.

@agent_neon: “My roommate makes “meow” noises every time Ty Wigginton does anything at all on the field. He thinks ‘Ty Wigginton’ sounds like something you’d name a cute little kitten. So I guess this leads to two questions: 1) What is wrong with my roommate? 2) What animals would you associate with the Phillies players?”

1) He’s broaching the topic of getting a kitten in a non-threatening fashion. Buy him a kitten. But make sure it hunts mice. My cat doesn’t hunt mice, which makes her kind of like a bottle that doesn’t hold water–kind of useless.

2) Let’s just do this man-by-man:

  • Carlos Ruiz: Koala.
  • Ryan Howard: Bison. Bison are one of my favorite animals, and I think the Big Piece would make a great bison.
  • Chase Utley: Jack Russell terrier. Not all that big, but kind of nasty, even though everyone thinks he’s cute.
  • Jimmy Rollins: Sea lion. I’ve said this before, but if there were something that was to a sea lion what a dog is to a wolf, I’d have that pet and move to the beach. I want some sort of amphibious predator.
  • Placido Polanco: Beluga whale. Go ahead, try to argue.
  • Juan Pierre: Mouse
  • Shane Victorino: Woodpecker
  • Hunter Pence: Penguin
  • Roy Halladay: Chimera
  • Cliff Lee: Some sort of herding dog, I think. A collie, maybe?
  • Cole Hamels: Some sort of falcon
  • Joe Blanton: Slow loris
  • Kyle Kendrick: Echidna
  • Antonio Bastardo: Scorpion
  • Jonathan Papelbon: A bloodhound in an argyle sweater
  • Freddy Galvis: Ocelot
  • Ty Wigginton: He’s too big to be a regular housecat, no matter what his name might suggest about kittens. I could see him being a pillbug, maybe. Either way, I don’t think he’s particularly feline.

@AntsinIN: “For 2013-2016 which OF would you prefer: Brown/Pence/Vic or Brown/Hamilton/random AAAA guy? Assume similar cost.”

Oh, look at Mr. Serious with his serious question. Really I’d rather not have either. The similar cost thing might be a stretch, because once Pence hits free agency, I think he and Victorino will cost more together than Hamilton and the random quad-A dude. But assuming that, it depends on the quad-A guy. This scenario precludes the possibility of Tyson Gillies or some other minor league outfielder coming good, or the Phillies making a shrewd scrap heap pickup on the order of 2007 Jayson Werth. Though with the Phillies’ recent track record of not developing prospects or being shrewd, maybe we can safely assume that the quad-A guy will be replacement level.

All other things being equal, I think I’d rather have Pence and Victorino than Hamilton and a Laynce Nix type. I think we’re seeing the best of Hamilton right now, and while he’s in a conversation with A-Rod and Barry Bonds for most naturally gifted position player I’ve ever seen, he’ll be 32 at the start of next season, and I’d be inclined to stay away from a 32-year-old center fielder who has only once played more than 133 games in a season, no matter how well he’s hitting.

I was going to bring up this post about how Hamilton is swinging more or less indiscriminately right about now, and getting away with it because he’s hitting everything he sees. But that doesn’t have as much oomph as a criticism when the alternatives are Pence and Victorino. Anyway, it boils down to this: Hamilton would have to be better than both Pence and Victorino combined, and I don’t see that happening, due to aging and injury, over the next four years. Victorino and Pence each individually had a higher rWAR total than Hamilton last year. No matter what, I can see Pence and Victorino being serviceable regulars going forward, 2-3 WAR players. Given the Phillies’ organizational philosophy of paying 2-WAR players like 5-WAR players, it only makes sense that they’d remain here going forward.

The only way Hamilton/Joe Average is a better play is if Hamilton remains a 6-WAR player or so well into his late 30s, and I’d take the under on that line.

@DashTreyhorn: “Better name? Gauntlett Eldemire or Benedict Cumberbatch?”

Balthazar Getty.

@TheBridgerBowl: “If the 2012 phillies were going to have an ultimate showdown type fight, who would prevail?”

Let’s imagine a serious of one-on-one fights, not a melee, because in that case I could imagine everyone just sort of whaling on each other until everyone’s dead except the fastest guy, and I don’t think “Shane Victorino” is the answer we’re looking for.

Hand-to-hand, no weapons, this would be interesting, because to my knowledge, none of the Phillies have any advanced hand-to-hand combat training. If I’m wrong, let me know, but it’s not like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who’s a 46th-degree black belt in something or other and once blindsided AC Milan teammate Rodney Strasser with a roundhouse kick in practice, is on the roster. Ibra also got into a fight with then-teammate Oguchi Onyewu at practice once. Ibrahimovic is listed 192 cm tall and 84 kg, which is 6-foot-4 and 185 pounds, though he looks even bigger. Onyewu, being American, is measured in feet and pounds, and stands 6-foot-4 and weighs in at 210. Both of them are soccer players, which means they’re quick and neither has an ounce of fat on him. No, really, you break that fight up. I’m right behind you.

Anyway, with that in mind, I’d be inclined to think brute strength and reach would be the qualities that do you best in a one-on-one match. Assuming everyone’s healthy, you have to like the biggest guys: that’s Ryan Howard (6-4, 240) and Roy Halladay (6-6, 230). Jose Contreras is 6-4, 255, but he’s too old and creaky to last long. I think he gets dismantled by a quick, scrappy counterpuncher like Utley or Cliff Lee. Ditto the younger, but still slow Chad Qualls. I think on the other end, John Mayberry has a unique blend of size and quickness–he’s got some foot speed and a long reach at 6-foot-6, and I think Hunter Pence, listed at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, might be the best bet to knock off Howard or Halladay.

I think it comes down to three guys: Halladay for his reach and endurance–ain’t nobody going to outlast him; Howard for his knockout power and thick build. For all we talk about his body type and big first basemen not aging well, Howard isn’t fat like Mo Vaughn. He’s got that Blind Side left tackle build–big torso, long arms and legs, huge in the thighs and butt. I think he could outpunch anyone on the team and take some punishment on the body as well.

But here’s what I like about Pence. He’s giving up at least 10 pounds, probably more, to Halladay, and 20 pounds, probably more, to Howard, but I think he can stick and run, at least for a while. Remember that episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia where Mac and Dennis enter Charlie in an underground fighting ring because of his amazing ability to take physical punishment? I think Pence could do that. I think if he could avoid the big left hand from Howard, he could prevail in the end.

That said, if the Iron Pigs are allowed to play, Phillippe Aumont, despite being a native French-speaker who wears glasses, would probably destroy everyone on the 25-man roster. He’s listed at 6-foot-7 and 255 pounds and throws bullets–it stands to reason he could drop a decent punch as well. Plus he grew up in Canada, so he probably played some hockey and fought growing up.

Thanks for your questions, boys and girls. We almost didn’t get enough questions this time around, so if you want to see this feature continue weekly, write in for next week using the #crashbag hashtag or to crashbaumann@gmail.com.

Until then, have a pleasant Memorial Day weekend, and go Phillies.

 

Phillies Win First Game of 2011 NLDS Rematch

The Phillies went back to St. Louis for the first time since last October, when they lost the National League Division Series in five games. Joe Blanton opposed ground ball savant Jake Westbrook; however, it was anything but a pitcher’s duel, reminiscent of Game One of the NLDS. The Phillies jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead after three trips to the plate, but the Cardinals fought back and tied the game at 7-7 after five innings. Neither team’s bullpen could stop the bleeding, the Cardinals allowing three runs and the Phillies allowing two, good enough for a 10-9 victory.

It was one of those wins that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. As the score indicates, the game was sloppy all the way around. The Cardinals’ four-run fourth inning can be credited to great hitting, but also due to poor fundamentals as Ty Wigginton was late getting into position to cut the throw off from center field on Carlos Beltran‘s line drive single that drove in the second run, and Shane Victorino overthrew the cut-off on Yadier Molina‘s single to center, which brought the Cardinals to within two at 6-4. Blanton was hit hard, allowing five line drives  on 18 balls in play. He also surrendered two home runs, both in the fifth inning to Matt Holliday and Molina.

On the offensive side, the Phillies were very fortunate on batted balls in the first two innings. Shane Victorino barely beat out what could have been an inning-ending double play, allowing the first run to score. Shortly thereafter, Ty Wigginton hit a ground ball up the middle that was just out of the range of shortstop Rafael Furcal, putting the Phillies up 2-0. Freddy Galvis followed up with a single past the diving Tyler Greene at second base, scoring runs three and four in the inning. In the second inning, Jimmy Rollins led off with a weak, looping “line drive” to right field, also barely out of the reach of Greene. With two outs and Hunter Pence on first base, Carlos Ruiz singled up the middle, again outranging Furcal. The two would subsequently be knocked in on a Victorino line drive to left-center. With normal batted ball luck, the Phillies might have had one or two runs rather than six.

Despite the impact of luck, it was good to see the Phillies pound out 18 hits in the game. Placido Polanco, Ruiz, Wigginton, and Galvis each had three hits. Polanco has quietly gotten back on track. Since April 25, he is hitting .326 with a .786 OPS. Ruiz continues to hit as his OPS crossed 1.000. Wigginton had been slumping badly, as he had a .410 OPS in the month of May entering the night, but he added two singles and an eventual game-winning solo home run in the eighth inning. Galvis, the team leader in doubles, added two singles and a double. Although he has a sub-.700 OPS, he is still exceeding expectations as many did not believe he would be able to have any success against Major League pitching at this point in his career.

Ruiz, who has essentially done everything a baseball player can do this year, ran the bases quite swiftly on the two-run double by Victorino in the second inning. Starting on first base, Ruiz motored around the bases and expertly slid in at home plate. If you’re keeping score at home, Ruiz this year has handled the pitching staff, called games, blocked balls in the dirt, thrown out base-stealers, hit for average, hit for power, and even provided value on the bases.

On the flip side, the Phillies’ bullpen continued to falter. The Phillies entered the night with the second-worst bullpen ERA in the league at 4.78. Chad Qualls surrendered a solo home run to David Freese in the seventh, bringing the Cardinals back to 9-8. Lefty Antonio Bastardo allowed a run in the eighth on a lead-off double followed by a single and a sacrifice fly, putting the score at 10-9. Fortunately, Jonathan Papelbon was able to work around a one-out single in the ninth to preserve the win for the Phillies.

The ten runs marks the most the Phillies have scored in a game since losing 15-13 to the Braves on May 2. They reached double-digit runs for only the second time on the season, and they had scored a total of eight runs over their previous four games. Still, the Phillies only drew three walks, continuing an ongoing problem. They entered the night with the second-lowest walk rate in the league at 6.7%, well below the average 8.3%. The Phillies have also struck out at the lowest rate (17.1%; NL average 20.1%). With a below-average ISO (.126 to .140), they are a very contact-oriented team and thus very prone to the outcome of balls in play. Against teams with high-strikeout starting pitchers and good defenses, the Phillies will struggle. For example, the Phillies are 2-4 against the Nationals, who lead the league in both strikeout rate (23.5%) and defensive efficiency (.732) and park-adjusted defensive efficiency (3.29).