Rest Is Important for 2012 Phillies

The Phillies have the oldest roster in the National League when it comes to position players, and we have seen the problems that arise from relying on older players. As documented here several times, they have lost a lot of production and money as their players have taken turns on the disabled list. That tune hasn’t changed in 2012 as Chase Utley and Ryan Howard both missed significant portions of the first half, while Roy Halladay, Freddy Galvis, Laynce Nix and others joined them on the sideline at various points throughout the season.

Despite winning their third consecutive game last night against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Phillies are virtually out of playoff contention in last place, 13 games behind the first place Washington Nationals and 10.5 games behind the second wild card-leading Pittsburgh Pirates. GM Ruben Amaro will go into the July 31 trading deadline with the mindset of a seller, looking to get something in return for soon-to-be free agents Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton, and Cole Hamels (if he can’t be signed to a contract extension).

The Phillies should be realistic about their playoff hopes for this season and utilize their players accordingly. Last night, Blanton came back out for the eighth inning even though he was just under 100 pitches. It’s generally not a big deal, but Blanton has already drawn interest from some teams like the Baltimore Orioles. Winning last night’s game doesn’t mean anything for the Phillies and there is a non-zero chance he gets injured again. Why risk spinning the wheel and landing on “bankrupt” with any of the players you’re looking to sell? This isn’t advocating disuse of those players, as they still need to compete and continuously establish their value, but the Phillies should err on the side of caution.

Similarly, the Phillies should take it easy with players that they aren’t likely to move as well. Carlos Ruiz will start again tonight, marking the 13th consecutive game in which he has started behind home plate. His previous high was six consecutive starts between June 17 and 24, and in 2011, he started nine consecutive games between April 10 and 20. Brian Schneider is currently on the disabled list and the Phillies are currently using Minor League veteran Erik Kratz as the back-up catcher. Yes, the Phillies stand to win more games with Ruiz in the lineup, but wins aren’t all that important anymore. There is a non-zero chance that Ruiz suffers an injury that can either knock him out for a significant amount of time next year (like Howard) or linger, reducing his effectiveness and durability over time (like Jimmy Rollins).

The safety concerns extend to Utley and Howard. The Phillies said they would be adhering to a “two on, one off” schedule for Utley, which they have stuck to so far. Likewise, it appears Howard will be getting rest more or less on every third day. However, there is reason to be skeptical that the Phillies will be disciplined and judicious in the use of their franchise players.  Utley returned from his injury on May 23 last year. By the end of June, when the Phillies were 20 games over .500 with a comfortable division lead, they continued to lean on their second baseman. Between June 28 and August 3, Utley started at second base in each game, resting only on scheduled off-days for the team. He finally got a day off on August 4, then went on another streak, starting every game between the 5th and September 7.

Phillies games are not all that fun to watch these days and stand to be even less so when the lineup includes Mike Fontenot and John Mayberry instead of Utley and Howard, but it is important for both the 2012 and ’13 teams. They have to be realistic about their chances this season and do everything in their power to ensure they won’t be in a similar position going forward. They can do this by being extra careful with some of their more important players, simply by giving them more rest than would normally be warranted.

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44 comments

  1. ccole

    July 17, 2012 07:57 AM

    Completely disagree. The phils can still make the playoffs this year. Worry about next year next year.

  2. David D.

    July 17, 2012 07:58 AM

    The Chooch stat is slightly misleading with a smallish thing called the all star break in those consecutive starts..

  3. LTG

    July 17, 2012 08:41 AM

    I take it the team and even perhaps the fo agrees with ccole.

  4. hk

    July 17, 2012 09:01 AM

    I am not opposed to the Phils playing out the month of July as if they still have a chance. Between now and July 29, they have 11 games including 8 against teams that are ahead of them in the Wild Card. If they can win 9 or more of those 11, I’d like to see their odds of making the playoffs at that point. However, if between now and then they do not increase their odds of making the playoffs, I fully agree that they should play their key, older players judiciously.

  5. BM

    July 17, 2012 09:32 AM

    You play to win the game.

  6. ccole

    July 17, 2012 09:33 AM

    ccole (talking in 3rd person) is well aware the Phils shot at the playoffs this year are quite small. However, winning every series the rest of the way gets them to 88 wins. Let’s go on a run and see what happens…..

  7. Phillie697

    July 17, 2012 09:44 AM

    Hey I’m back!!!

    Anyway, these same people advocating the Phils to continue to go for it must be the same people who said, “the Papelbon deal was a damn good deal. Who else are we going to spend the money on?”

    Yes, because, you know, having a $50M closer on a .440 team is so worth watching a 29-year-old 2nd best lefty in the entire MLB pitching for someone else.

  8. Richard

    July 17, 2012 09:53 AM

    “Yes, because, you know, having a $50M closer on a .440 team is so worth watching a 29-year-old 2nd best lefty in the entire MLB pitching for someone else.”

    I’m not defending the Papelbon deal, but it’s pretty clearly not an obstacle in re-sigining Hamels. But keep pretending it necessarily must be the case!

  9. Phillie697

    July 17, 2012 10:04 AM

    “I’m not defending the Papelbon deal, but it’s pretty clearly not an obstacle in re-sigining Hamels. But keep pretending it necessarily must be the case!”

    Yes, because, you know, having an extra $50M in your pocket does nothing to improve the chance of re-signing the 2nd best lefty in MLB. Nothing at all.

  10. hk

    July 17, 2012 10:27 AM

    Phillie697,

    I disagree. It is possible to have been opposed to the Papelbon signing, but still on board with the Phils trying one last ditch effort to get back into the Wild Card race (as long as they know when to pull the plug on that effort). As I mentioned above, the 11 games that take them to July 29 are mostly against teams ahead of them in the standings. In addition, 3 of the 11 will be started by Roy Hallladay and (maybe more importantly) none of the 11 will be started by Kyle Kendrick. If they lose 3 of the next 11 (or if they lose 3 sooner than the next 11), they should begin looking to next year by making trades and being judicious with playing time for Chooch, Howard, Utley, Halladay and Lee.

  11. Noah

    July 17, 2012 11:20 AM

    The chooch stat is misleading with the allstar break. But Cholly’s gonna try to win no matter what. As long as they force him to stick to resting Utley and Howard it’s okay. I agree they could of done last year more with Utley, but different circumstances even if they didn’t need the extra wins. Easy to rest them this year if they are clearly out of it down the stretch.

  12. Dave Gauntt

    July 17, 2012 11:38 AM

    Wins are not what’s important right now. Seriously????? I will say it again your blog is horrible, go get your fan graphs and throw them out the window. let’s sell everyone, ruin a good thing, run all the fans out of the ball park and loose all the games in the second half. Why should the Phillies try to win, because to you that’s not important. You obvious don’t remember the 90′s when the team or horrible and nobody went to the vet.

  13. Phillie697

    July 17, 2012 11:43 AM

    Throwing good money after bad will not help us win more games in the long run, and therefore not alleviate your fears of us turning back into the 90s one bit. What brought back the fans wasn’t us playing .500 ball at all costs. It was winning a WS in 2008. If that’s not your goal, then I’m glad you’re not the FO.

  14. jauer

    July 17, 2012 11:50 AM

    By this logic, once Auguts 20 rolls around and the Phillies are 11 games out of the wild card, why even play Chase Utley or Carlos Ruiz at all?

    I’m not attacking the logic, I’m just taking it a step further. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Papelbon, Hamels (if he’s here), Rollins, Utley, Ruiz, and Howard should all be shut down for the remainder of the season after about August 20. Play the rest of August with a 17 man roster, give Kendrick/Worley/Sanches/Valdes the Jim Tracy rotation-treatment, and enjoy your new draft position. Once it gets to 40-man rosters, it’s even more of a reason to not play these guys. Yeah it sucks for the fans, but I don’t give a damn about the people in section 308 booing Jayson Werth.

  15. LTG

    July 17, 2012 12:37 PM

    697 returns and the comments flood. I love it!

  16. LTG

    July 17, 2012 12:39 PM

    Dave,

    If you don’t think you can learn anything from this blog, why do you read it?

  17. Richard

    July 17, 2012 01:02 PM

    “Yes, because, you know, having an extra $50M in your pocket does nothing to improve the chance of re-signing the 2nd best lefty in MLB. Nothing at all.”

    Look, you’re making a huge assumption, and then characterizing that assumption as fact.

    Yes, it sure seems like deals such as the Howard & Papelbon contracts would make it harder to re-sign Hamels, if you’re assuming that because of those deals the team is not willing/able to give Hamels a market offer. But there’s no reason to think that’s what’s happening. What’s more likely the case, if Hamels does not re-sign, is that the Phillies were not willing to substantially overpay. Which is what they will be doing if they go much higher than the reported 5/120 figure. But people seem to be talking as if Hamels has ever had a season as good as Cliff Lee’s last four, which he has not. So it’s a mystery to me why it should be assumed that the Phillies have to pay him like he has, or is likely to.

    Now, you may reply, if they’re willing to vastly overpay for Howard’s services, and arguably for Papelbon’s (though there is indeed a solid saber-argument in favor of his, not that you’re interested in it), why not overpay for Hamels. At least for him, as opposed to Howard, it wouldn’t be an egregious overpay! No doubt. But it’s the team making decisions. Not “can’t pay because of x or y contract using up resources”, but deciding they don’t value Hamels in the same way we do. We can argue against that valuation (as I would), but it’s pretty obviously the case the major factor here (along with a philosophical reluctance to give long contracts to pitchers).

  18. hk

    July 17, 2012 01:14 PM

    I agree with Richard. If the team is willing to offer Hamels $120M over 5 years, the Howard and Papelbon contracts are not costing them the chance to re-sign him. That being said, if Hamels accepts $120M over 5 years and the team plans to continue staying under the luxury tax limit, the argument will be that the Howard and Papelbon contracts are the reason that the Phils have to keep shopping in the bargain basement bin for players (like Qualls, Wigginton and Pierre) to fill key roles.

  19. Noah

    July 17, 2012 02:15 PM

    Nobody can say definitively that one dollar spent on one player is the cause for not being able to offer more to Hamels. But Richard as you state I believe most would argue that Hamels value is greater than both Pabelbon and Howard. At the same time I don’t think anyone is advocating paying him hugely over market value. If paying him a huge sum that is more than he’s worth it would handicap the teams flexibility further. In that case the money is probably better spent elsewhere. Good starting pitching is going to win way more games than an elite closer ever will. I think everyone also agree’s Papelbon is indeed an elite closer and an asset. But bottom line is that there is money tied up in Howard and Paps so it effects other contracts. The full effect we probably will never completely know.

  20. Ryan

    July 17, 2012 02:20 PM

    Utley and Howard should play every day for the rest of the month. There are two off days built in already, so it’s not like you’re extending them a whole lot more than the 2 on, 1 off strategy anyway (maybe rest Howard against a tough lefty). At the end of the month, they can look at the standings and proceed accordingly. There is plenty of time in August and September to rest them if we’re out of it.

    Also, I don’t see how anyone can argue that Papelbon and Howard’s contracts are preventing the Phillies from signing Hamels. They have the money–there’s no question about that. They’re just hesitant to give him 6+ years.

  21. Miguel

    July 17, 2012 02:52 PM

    Agreed n the rest and the fact that they should sell. BUT WILL THEY?

    I certainly hope Amaro and the rest are being realistic about this year and the future. No more dumb mistakes and gambles!

  22. The Citizens Bankers

    July 17, 2012 03:37 PM

    The mystery continues as to who put Chase Utley on a pedal stool. Why are true fans not answering these crucial questions!? We deserve answers!!!

  23. Chris

    July 17, 2012 04:47 PM

    While I agree with the title of the article, I don’t agree with a lot of the content. I think there is a greater than 0.4% chance we sneak into the playoffs. 10 games? 2.5 months left? Move up 4 games a month and boom! You’re there. Not to mention this will be the first time all season where Charlie has the lineup and staff that most closely resembles the one that won 102 games last season. I won’t give up until we are mathematically eliminated. Thus I don’t think we should be dead sellers at the deadline. Now that may change in 2 weeks, but right now I strongly disagree with being a strictly selling team. I do think it’s wise to at least shop a few players, see what’s out there, get a feel for the market so if you do wind up selling you’re prepared, but right now, I think the objective should be as Herm Edwards says: “You play to win the game!!!”.

  24. Josh G

    July 17, 2012 05:46 PM

    jauer had a really good point.

    The Phillies draw the most fans in MLB. There could be severe financial implications if the team is not playing to win games. I know some people will be disenchanted when they are out of a playoff chase. Personally, I would be even more disappointed if they stopped trying to compete. I suppose I could always spend my time/money on the team next year. but the cost this year surely outweighs the risk aversion for next year.

  25. bbair

    July 17, 2012 08:47 PM

    Are you people kidding me? You’re crazy to think that the Phils are completely out of it. Remember, we’re in “the garbage division”- a division of choke artists. We’re 13 games out, and guess what- the Nats just gave up a two run lead in the top of the 9th- to the garbage Mets!! A 3 run home run to some Met nobody. Keep the faith fair-weather-fans…

  26. Noah

    July 17, 2012 10:28 PM

    Fair weather fans don’t actively follow the team. They don’t pay any attention when the team is losing. But you are right, they probably blog about it instead.

  27. hk

    July 18, 2012 06:04 AM

    bbair,

    If by “garbage division” you mean the one where the other 4 teams are a combined 25 games over .500, you would be correct. Guess what – the Nats rallied to beat the Mets and are showing no signs of choking. However, the Nats aren’t particularly relevant right now. The teams that the Phils must catch are the Braves and Pirates and the Braves lost last night, so the Phils are 11 behind both of them in the loss column. To reiterate, I am all for the Phils going until July 29 to see if they can make a dent in the deficit. However, if at that point they are pretty sure they are out of it, I hope they sell and build towards next year as the last thing anyone should want to see is an Eagles-like late run to .500.

  28. Phillie697

    July 18, 2012 10:31 AM

    @Richard,

    They are not willing to substantially overpay because they don’t have the money to overpay. You do realize we still owe Ryan Howard over $100M for what most at this point have come to conclude will be mediocre production? On what planet with an ounce of logic will you conclude that if the Phillies had unlimited money, they would be less willing to overpay Cole Hamels than Ryan Howard? They aren’t willing now BECAUSE of Howard’s and Papelbon’s contract.

    The funny thing is, most of the people defending Papelbon’s contract at the beginning of the season all conceded that it’s a bad deal if we end up not re-signing Hamel. Yet now, the revisionist in them wants to rewrite history and claim that if we don’t re-sign him it’s because we don’t want to overpay, not because of Papelbon’s contract. Sorry, I can’t have logical discussions with people who constantly move the target of the discussion at their whim.

    As for the argument about why not just stop playing all of our older players altogether… Unless you’re willing to (1) disagree with Bill that being judicious with the playing times of older players won’t have any benefits for them for next season, AND (2) somehow not playing at all for the rest of the season will not create rust and make them worse next season, then sure, not playing them at all could be a choice. Probably one no one is willing to make tho. Alas, I don’t agree with the two assumptions above to begin with. Rest might be important for older players, but they still gotta hone their craft.

  29. Phillie697

    July 18, 2012 10:47 AM

    @hk,

    Well, to play devil’s advocate… If the Phillies do make an Eagles-like late run to .500, it sure as heck will make things exciting for the rest of the season, which then can be built on for next season. THAT SAID, I very much doubt they can make a late run like that. Maybe some of us are more realistic than others. I’ll let others debate on whether that’s proper “fan” behavior.

  30. LTG

    July 18, 2012 10:50 AM

    What counts as overpaying Hamels here? From reports, it sounds as if the Phils are willing to pay him $24-5 M/year. That’s more than Cain’s $21-2 M/year by a substantial amount. By that measure, the Phils are willing to overpay Hamels, since Cain and Hamels are roughly equal in production (or perhaps Cain is better but I’m taking the weaker premise for this argument).

    Now the anti-thesis. We suspect the Dodgers and Yankees are also willing to pay Hamels $25 M/year. So, his market value is just that. To overpay him, the Phils must pay him more than $25 M/year. But it seems they are not offering him that, so they aren’t willing to overpay him.

    But which of these two is the correct conception of overpay here?

  31. LTG

    July 18, 2012 10:53 AM

    At any rate, hk seems right to me. From reports it sounds like the money is not contested but only the number of years. Since those years are beyond 5, they are years in which both the Howard and Papelbon contracts will have expired. So, it can’t be those contracts interfering with the deal.

    Of course, the reports could be wrong…

  32. Phillie697

    July 18, 2012 10:56 AM

    @LTG,

    Hence why you stick to reality, whether we re-sign Hamels or not, not the perception of whether it’s too much. To argue that if we had an extra $50M in our pockets, or hell an extra $175M in our pockets, it would not significantly increase our odds AND desire to re-sign Hamels is absurd imho.

  33. Phillie697

    July 18, 2012 10:58 AM

    @LTG,

    That’s again wrong, because you assume the total sum is evenly spread over the 5 years of the deal, which we do not know.

  34. LTG

    July 18, 2012 11:30 AM

    That doesn’t matter, if it’s true that the Hamels camp would accept a deal similar to the 5-year deal in AAV but extended a couple more years. The premise is that the sides have already agreed on how to spread out the total value. So, that can’t be standing in the way of making the deal. Again, that premise could be wrong, but it is how I understand the reports about the negotiations.

    But, similar to what hk noted, if the deal is backloaded because of the H and P contracts, then, even after those contracts expire, the H and P contracts could effectively hamper attempts to sign other free agents.

  35. Phillie697

    July 18, 2012 11:38 AM

    @LTG,

    For the most recent proof how too much back-loading of a contract will change a team’s mind about signing a player, see Lin, Jeremy, the New York Knicks. You don’t get more recent than that.

    The fact that they might HAVE to backload the contract would be proof that the Howard and Papelbon contracts IS affecting our ability to re-sign Hamels. If Hamels wants more, and we end up have to backload even more? Then those contracts could be the reason we don’t re-sign him. It’s not black and white since we don’t have all the information.

  36. Jesse

    July 18, 2012 12:37 PM

    @Phillie697,

    To the extent Phillies are trying to stay under the luxury tax threshold, unlike in basketball, AAV is what counts. So backloading helps with year-to-year expenses, not staying under the cap. (Gelb had a good explanation of this during Spring Training).

    This is not to say that the H and P contracts had no effect, but my guess is that if total years is the hang-up, it has more to do with the organization’s view of his worth/durability than anything else.

    And frankly, if that is the case, I think that’s even dumber. By the end of 2013, the following players’ contracts (other than Hamels’) will expire: Victorino, Blanton, Polanco, Ruiz, Utley, Halladay, and Pence. Rollins is still a quality shortstop but is clearly on the back end of his career. Howard, when healthy, is a solid but by no means outstanding first baseman (and we don’t know how long it will be before he is truly 100%). And the farm system is weak. Cole is integral to this team being competitive over the next three to five years.

    Now, if the Phillies either didn’t have the money or had the money but valued Cole less than the market did, I’d understand them passing on him, getting what they can in a trade and moving on. (I’d still be mad about it, but it would make sense to me). But it makes no sense, IMO, to sacrifice your best chance to be good in 2013-15 because you perceive a risk in 2018 or 2019. (Not to mention that, unlike with the Howard deal, there is a reasonably good chance Cole will still be a top-level pitcher at the end of even a 7-year contract).

  37. LTG

    July 18, 2012 02:06 PM

    Phillie,

    If the two-sides have already agreed that a $25 M/year AAV at 5 years with whatever structure is a starting point and the extension beyond 5 years would not raise the AAV, then the structure is not standing in the way of making the deal. The antecedent of that conditional was one of the premises of my original post and, I gather, of hk’s. In your most recent post, you seem to be denying that premise. That’s fine. Maybe the Phils are not agreed to a structure and the extension requires one they are not happy with. The premise could be false and then the ultimate conclusion that the H and P contracts are not keeping the Phils from resigning Hamels is up for grabs again. But the argument is valid, in the sense that if the premises are true then the conclusion is true. You haven’t given me any reason to think otherwise. You’ve just challenged the premise. So, if by ‘wrong’ you mean my conclusion doesn’t follow from my premises, I deny it. But if by ‘wrong’ you mean my conclusion is false because I take false premises, then I say, “Possibly. What’s your evidence that the premise is false?”

    Furthermore, I take the reports about the negotiations to favor the premises I’ve used. If you can point out reports that contradict, I’m all ears.

    Now, you might also be thinking that extending the years requires tacking on years at the yearly pay of the 5th year. Then, if the contract is backloaded, the Phils might be shelling out $30 M in years 6 and 7 for a mid 30s Hamels. And it is plausible to think they don’t want to do that. But this is just to deny the premise that the AAV would not rise if extra years were added on. And the same question as before arises.

  38. Phillie697

    July 18, 2012 03:19 PM

    @LTG/Jesse,

    Thanks for the information, that’s good to know.

    @LTG,

    Well we haven’t signed Hamels yet, and we don’t know what the hangup is, so we’ll just have to wait and see. Most people here thought that once the season started, we would for sure sign Hamels. That didn’t happen, and now we’re in July. Obviously Papelbon’s contract played a role. However, if we do end up re-signing Hamels, then whatever annoyance we’ve had to endure these past few months would not really matter all that much, even if I’m kinda upset we have had to endure it in the first place.

    Sorry, my faith in the FO is nowhere near as much as some people here. In fact, I would say it’s non-existent.

  39. LTG

    July 18, 2012 03:38 PM

    “That didn’t happen, and now we’re in July. Obviously Papelbon’s contract played a role.” It is only obvious if ‘role’ is left indeterminate. What kind of role do you mean? I’ve argued that the role it played is not of the preventing them from doing it kind. Of course, it is part of the historical context in which the Hamels negotiations are taking place; so, it plays an historical role.

    I never claimed ‘faith’ in the FO. I wish they would just give Hamels the years and we’ll all bite the bullet if Hamels’ arm blows up. I have no idea whether they will do that. The claim is simply that the explanation for failing to resign Hamels is not plausibly through the H and P contracts. This has nothing to do with having faith or lacking it.

  40. Phillie697

    July 18, 2012 04:52 PM

    @LTG,

    So basically, your take is, even if we end up not signing Hamels, there is already enough data for you to conclude that it had nothing to do with the Papelbon contract? Because that’s the ONLY logical conclusion I draw from the sum of your comments. If that’s the case, we HAVE to agree to disagree, because that to me is patently ridiculous.

  41. Phillie697

    July 18, 2012 05:05 PM

    And before you say “yes,” which is the answer I expect at this point, think of the ramifications of what you are also concluding, that the reason why Hamels hasn’t been given a long-term contract yet is not Howard or Papelbon, but that the FO was never comfortable with giving him the contract that his market value dictated, back in 2008, 2009, 2011, or last August, before the Howard extension, before the Cliff Lee deal, before the Papelbon contract. Because that’s the only way I can conclude that Howard and Papelbon’s contracts had nothing to do with it. Which means, taking all that into consideration, that the FO thought that a $125M gamble on a 30-year-old 1B a year and half before his then contract was even up was a better gamble than a gamble for less money on a 25, 26, or 27-year-old top-3-in-the-league lefty SP? And somehow you’re MORE comfortable with that explanation than simply that the H&P contracts got in the way?

    Why haven’t you jumped off the Walt Whitman Bridge yet?

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