Papelbon in a Non-Save Situation

For the second time this season, Jonathan Papelbon came into a tie game at home in the ninth inning, and for the second time, he allowed the go-ahead run to score after giving up an extra-base hit to a guy not exactly known for his power. I know y’all thought that, even on the heels of Papelbon’s five-out save on Friday, that this might be the end of Charlie Manuel’s more liberal usage of his best relief pitcher in high-leverage situations, but I actually managed to have a word with the Phillies skipper after the game and I think everything is going to be okay. Here’s how the conversation went:

Mike Baumann: Reach for the sky!
Charlie Manuel: Huh?
Baumann: This town ain’t big enough for the two of us!
Manuel: What?
Baumann: Somebody’s poisoned the waterhole!
Manuel: Papelbon’s busted.
Baumann: Who are you calling busted, Buster?
Manuel: Huh?
Baumann: That’s right! I’m talking to you, Charlie Manuel! We don’t like the bullpen having games blown up, Cholly. Or smashed, or ripped apart.
Manuel: [hyperventilating] W-we?
Baumann: That’s right, your fans!
[Fans get up and surround the terrified Manuel] Baumann: From now on, you must continue to have Jonathan Papelbon pitch in high-leverage situations whether or not there’s a save on the line, because if you don’t, we’ll find out, Charlie!
Baumann: [while turning head around slowly] We toys can see EVERYTHING!
Baumann: [speaking and moving] So play nice!
[Manuel screams and runs inside]

Declaration of the Rights of Fan and of the Citizen

Phillies fans have become a very well-celebrated traveling circus in recent years, particularly in Washington, and our behavior, and the behavior of our hosts, has become, at times, a national news story. I really can’t figure out why anyone gives a crap about this, but in this part of the world, there seems to be the conception that entering a sporting arena entitles an individual not only to abdicate his sense of decorum and propriety, but to hurl verbal and sometimes physical abuse on strangers.

I don’t really like watching live sports all the time. I’d rather watch from home, where I don’t have to block out the entire night and pay exorbitant amounts for admission and transportation to sit out in the elements. If I want a communal experience, I’ll go on Twitter, and if I really want a communal experience, I’ll head around the corner to the bar. Don’t get me wrong, I do like going to games from time to time, but I don’t need to be there all the time–if I get to half a dozen Phillies games a year, I’m generally happy.

But anyway, when I do catch a live event, I almost would rather be a visiting fan than go see my team at home. I like going out in a different city, seeing a different ballpark, and taking in new ballpark traditions, and, as often as not, meeting local fans. There are some exceptions–after winning two straight against the Phillies last June, Pirates fans got a little nasty, and a little kid at a Flyers-Thrashers game once flipped me off and called me an asshole–but otherwise, my interactions with others as a visiting fan have been absolutely positive in all cases.

I bring this up because I’m heading to Baltimore this weekend to catch the series between the Phillies and Orioles–I suspect at least a couple other Phillies fans have had this idea–and I want the run of good feelings to continue.

One of the pivotal moments of the French Revolution–and the only moment in French history pre-Napoleon that I’m particularly familiar with that didn’t involve tennis equipment or messy executions–was the publication of “The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen,” a philosophical and legal document that’s exactly what it sounds line. I was inspired by this declaration to write, considering that Camden Yards will most likely be overrun by Phillies fans this weekend, a similar document is in order: “The Declaration of the Rights of Fan, and of the Citizen,” inspired by the Marcliff du Leefayette, and Juan Robespierre…yeah, never mind.

Anyway, I don’t want to Rovell y’all and give out a bunch of rules undemocratically–which would be quite ironic, given the source material–so consider this as a suggestion, rather than a set of laws that everyone should follow because I said so. Though if everyone follows these just because I said so, that’d be totally cool.

RIGHTS OF THE VISITING FAN

  • To be free from physical oppression or intimidation. No one wants a Brian Stow incident, or that nastiness outside Geno’s after the Winter Classic.
  • To be given free access to the stadium and surrounding amenities or entertainment venues. None of this “we’re only selling tickets to Virginians and Marylanders” malarkey. Anyone who can afford a ticket should be welcome.
  • To be free from excessive verbal abuse or ad hominem attacks. You probably shouldn’t get your panties in a twist if you wear a Scott Hartnell jersey to Madison Square Garden and someone makes a Jeff Carter joke. But on the other hand, I was in the student section for a South Carolina-LSU football game once, when people spotted a kid in a purple sweatshirt a few rows down from me. Within minutes, almost literally the entire 12,000-person student section was chanting “Get the fuck out!” at this poor kid, who had done nothing wrong except wear the wrong colors in the wrong spot. Stadia should not resemble gang turf wars, or the lynch mob scene from To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • To wear your team’s colors and cheer when something good happens to them. That said, don’t act like a jackass. Stand up and cheer and clap at a big base hit, or yell the occasional “CHOOOOCH!” but if you’re a total boor, The Committee for Public Safety takes no responsibility for what happens to you.

For that matter, I think all of those things are contingent on the manners and good behavior of the visiting fan. If you show up in another team’s stadium and are obnoxious, confrontational, or disruptive, they have every right to be rude to you back. But there’s no reason why adults of different allegiances can’t enjoy a baseball game (or really any sport that isn’t soccer or college football) in relative harmony. I look forward to exploring an unfamiliar city this weekend and meeting new fans with a different take on the game than the insular Phillies-based community in which I find myself, as well as making about a billion references to The Wire. And even to exchange a bit of good-natured ribbing and banter. I’d like to think that if an Orioles fan (or any fan, for that matter) came to take in a series in Philadelphia, he’d be able to do so without encountering open hostility.

Additions to this list? Deletions? Or should the Committee for Public Safety just go on with the beheadings?

Crashburn Alley Podcast Episode 5

The Crash Pod returns, and so does Bill Baer, who talks with Michael Baumann and Ryan Sommers about Kyle Kendrick, Juan Pierre, Roy Halladay‘s injury, and the first two months of the Phillies season. As a result, everyone gets really cranky, resulting in Bill and Ryan getting into the first out-and-out argument in Crash Pod history.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Topics:

  • Joey Pankake update
  • Jonathan Papelbon‘s five-out save
  • Roy Halladay’s strained muscle
  • Season in review over two months
  • Kyle Kendrick: Master of the Universe
  • Trivia
  • Twitter Q and A

As always, feedback is welcome, and be sure to follow us on Twitter if you want to write in for either next week’s podcast or Friday’s Crash Bag:

  • Bill: @CrashburnAlley
  • Paul: @Phrontiersman
  • Michael: @AtomicRuckus
  • Ryan: @Phylan
  • Bradley: @BradleyAnkrom

Thanks again to Dirty Ghosts for providing our interstitial music this week.

The Fall of J-Roll

During the off-season, the Phillies kept franchise shortstop Jimmy Rollins in the mix by signing him to a three-year, $33 million contract that takes him through his age-35 season. It was a bit of a risky contract, considering everything else the Phillies have done in the meantime: counting Rollins, the Phillies owe more than $100 million to six players in 2013. With a payroll that is expected to be below the luxury tax threshold ($178 million in 2013), guaranteeing a large sum of money to an aging player is not exactly how they draw it up. Still, Rollins plays a premium position, has always hit at about the league average (career .334 wOBA), runs the bases well, and plays great defense.

The gamble for the Phillies centers around Rollins’ health and his bat. From 2004-08, Rollins’ wOBA ranged between .341 and .378. In 2009, it plummeted to .316. Battling injuries in 2010, it was .317. He had a bit of a rebound last year, moving up to .329, but as he has aged, he has been considerably weaker at the plate. Still, those offensive performances are palatable as long as he does everything else well and stays healthy. 2012 has been a different story as his wOBA had a precipitous fall to .280 entering yesterday afternoon’s game (he went 0-for-4).

Everything that could go wrong for Rollins has gone wrong. His walk rate is down to seven percent, the second-lowest rate since 2007. His strikeout rate is up above 15 percent, the highest it’s been since 2003. His isolated power is down to .076, easily a career-worst (next-lowest: .124 in 2003). And his BABIP isn’t all that bad — at .280, it is only a hair below his career average .288.

The image to the right shows where Rollins’ hits have landed in 2012. Very few of Rollins’ hits have caused the outfielders to move backward instead of forward, and when he has, he has severely pulled the ball as a left-handed hitter.  His infield pop-up rate is twice his career average (21 percent; 11 percent) while his HR/FB has been cut by nearly two thirds (three percent; eight percent). He has been equally as bad with fastballs as off-speed stuff: .265 wOBA against the former, and .269 against the latter.

As the chart may indicate via deductive reasoning, Rollins has been nearly worthless as a right-handed hitter. Left-handed pitching has held him to a .072 wOBA in 25 PA. That is certainly not a sample size that yields any confidence at all. Still, Rollins has manged to put 21 balls in play against southpaws, but only one of them has been a line drive. He’s swinging at more pitches out of the strike zone as well: in 2011, against lefties, he swung at 74 percent of pitches in the strike zone. That rate has dropped to 67 percent in 2012.

It has been mentioned on Phillies TV broadcasts frequently that Rollins is pressing, trying to do too much to reverse his and his team’s fortunes. Perhaps that is the case, and if it is true, it is theoretically a reversible path. Otherwise, however, these are the trends thought up in nightmares. There are zero positive trends to speak of for Rollins this year. As a result, Rollins needs to be even better in other areas to justify his regular spot in the lineup.

One unfortunate side effect of Rollins’ offensive malaise is that he is on the bases less frequently. As Baseball Prospectus shows, Rollins has been the team’s second-most valuable base runner behind Mike Fontenot. Even if Rollins was getting on base at his normal rate while still withstanding the power outage, the value he would add on the bases could help make up for it. He is 78-for-95 (82 percent) stealing bases since 2009 and 10-for-11 (91 percent) this year. Add in his still above-average defense and we’re still talking about a 3-win player. But as he has been on base three to four percent less often than he has in previous years, his base running skills aren’t being used to their fullest potential. As a result, if Rollins keeps plodding along this path, we will be lucky if he reaches two wins and it is about as poor a start to a three-year contract as the Phillies could have expected going into 2012.