Crash Bag, Vol. 21: Halliburton, BP and the Chrysler Sebring

Welcome to the final Crash Bag ever. It’s been a pleasure doing this for the past 21 weeks, and I hope you’ve had as much fun reading this as I’ve had writing it. It’s been a great 9 months at Crashburn Alley, but I’m at least reasonably confident Bill is going to have to fire me for some of the horrifically offensive things I wrote in this post. So enjoy, and I’ll see you around the block.

@hangingsliders: “If Braves play Nats in NLDS, who should Phillies fans root for?”

Hmmm. On the surface, this looks like a tough one. A matchup between division rivals with whom the Phillies have enjoyed a robust antagonism in recent years. There are reasons not to like both of these teams, and one could easily make the argument that the only partisan interest Phillies fans should have in this series is that the aliens from Independence Day come and destroy all life on this planet so neither of these teams can win. I totally respect this position: it’s a position I take twice every college football season, when Clemson plays Miami and Georgia plays Florida. So if you’re content to recuse yourself and either not watch or not take a rooting interest, that’s certainly an option.

But here’s the thing: This is not Sophie’s Choice. If you’re going to root for a team in this series, there’s a clear answer.

Here’s why you’d hate the Nationals:

  1. Bryce Harper offends you. He’s 19 years old and has national (so to speak) fame and millions of dollars in the bank. And people have been telling him how great he is since he was a child. If I were Bryce Harper, my ego would be so big I wouldn’t be able to find pants that fit. I’d have a douchey customized Mercedes and put bazookas on it. I’d have a douchey haircut and go out to center field with an eagle on my shoulder. That Harper seems only to be a self-aggrandizing airheaded bro ought to be enough to get him beatified. Plus he plays a rather entertaining brand of baseball. I view him as a positive, but if you want to project your own personal code of ethics onto a kid and say that he failed to live up to it without ever meeting or speaking to him, that’s your prerogative.
  2. Natitude. Yeah, it’s annoying, and yeah, it screams of pumping oneself up in the hope that the body will be able to scrape up enough loose change so it doesn’t bounce the checks the ego’s writing. But you know what? The Nationals have made good this year. They deserve to crow a little.
  3. Jayson Werth. Bill wrote about this yesterday, and he’s absolutely right, but I think he pulled his punches some. Look in the mirror. Are you sad that a grown man took a better job without considering the feelings of strangers? Are you sad that a grown man might take offense when those who had once supported him pilloried him for taking that better job? Are you sad that a grown man, having been turned on and having had horrific verbal abuse hurled at him (including cheering when he comes to physical harm), might hold a grudge?
    I’m not sure what Phillies fans want from Werth. We started it by treating him horribly since he left, and he’s only responding in kind. And yes, I say “we” because we’re responsible for the actions of whoever was born in reasonable geographic proximity–that’s how sports fandom works. So when a bunch of morons go to Washington and cheer when Werth breaks his wrist because he hurt their feelings by taking a better job without considering the emotional impact on a bunch of strangers, we all suffer the consequences. This is not how honorable men act. This is not how right-thinking, rational men (forgive me my gender-normative language, but it’s mostly men we’re talking about) behave. A man you’ve never met hurt your feelings by taking a better job without consulting you first. And you think this gives you the right to hurl insults at him? Get over yourself. Grow up. There are debates with two sides, where I can disagree with someone, shake his or her hand, and walk away friends. This is not one of them. When Jayson Werth worked for the Phillies, he played hard and he played well. He doesn’t anymore, so he doesn’t owe them, or us–particularly not us–a goddamn thing.
    I don’t understand grown-ass men who, again, are offended by a man they’ve never met taking a better job without considering the feelings of strangers. Whatever else they may be outside of sports fandom, their actions in this case are offensive, deplorable and indicative of weakness. They disgust me.

(uses asthma inhaler)

So anyway, there are a few reasons the Washington Nationals might not make your innards fizz. But let’s not confuse their upstart, spunky and frankly adorable brand of brashness for evil.

For that’s what the Atlanta Braves are.

The Atlanta Braves are a symbol of oppression and hegemony that has slipped under the radar because greater, more oppressive hegemons exist elsewhere. They are Franco’s Spain. The Atlanta Braves are primary colors, crisp, starched white uniforms in a palace of blandness. They are DAR apple pie-and-bunting Americana, wrapping themselves in the flag while perpetuating racist stereotypes and glorying in the historic oppression of a people who couldn’t defend themselves.

The Atlanta Braves ruled the National League for a generation, boring their opponents into submission with a combination of understated smugness and a pitching staff that enjoyed strike zone half again the size of the one the Phillies and Mets got. For fifteen years, they were the big kid in the pool, holding our heads under the water and letting us up only long enough to draw one short, frightened, panicked breath before pushing us underwater once again. Just enough air not to drown, just enough hope not to give up entirely. They kept everyone else down and, once they got to the playoffs, invariably gagged it all away to the Cardinals or Marlins or Yankees in almost casual fashion, as if to tease the proletariat by showing how little the elite care for their wealth. If in behavioral rather than financial terms, the Braves are the 1%.

They are to the Phillies as the Phillies are to the Nationals.

The Atlanta Braves are McDonald’s chicken nuggets, men’s rights activists and Larry the Cable Guy. They are Halliburton, BP and the Chrysler Sebring. They are Tom Sawyer’s whitewashed fence, the Omegas from Animal House and the steampunk Nazi zombies from Sucker Punch. They are Sucker Punch. They are the Cylons, Jeremy Piven and Bud Light. They are the ingrown fingernail, the Olive Garden, the sheriff in O Brother, Where Art Thou? and the flood that kills him. They are the all-consuming, suffocating blandness, a malaise, a miasma, the toothache that you ignore because you hate going to the dentist.

They are Kristen Stewart.

The Atlanta Braves are the crisp, starched white of the Imperial stormtroopers. The Atlanta Braves are cloying, over-sugared sweet tea and unthinking, reactionary dominance, the privileged who never appreciate their own good fortune and have deluded themselves into thinking that they’re somehow entitled to their exalted position.

And their fans.

Those fans who supported Bobby Cox, Chipper Jones and John Rocker. Who took for granted an unprecedented run of dominance. Whose knee-jerk reaction to division titles, to playoff losses, to historic seasons by Maddux and Jones and Kimbrel and Heyward, to sadness and death and to joy and love, to all stimuli, in fact, is to call for the firing of Mark Richt. Who lionized Jeff Francoeur. Who condemned Jason Heyward and held high Jose Constanza. Who see Phantom Madduxes in every Tom, Dick and Harry who comes up, throws six decent innings and gets traded to Kansas City and Dayton Moore’s Home for Wayward Former Braves.

Atlanta is an appropriate place to set the pilot of The Walking Dead.

A proper sports city would have gloried in the Braves’ success, cherished it, reached such levels of arrogance and ego as to make Boston and New York blush. But there they sat, glassy-eyed like a child after his first burger at The Varsity, paralyzed like traffic on I-85, lacking even the wherewithal to crow properly. It is an act of negligence, of disdain, to be a Braves fan. It is to hold in contempt the warmth of the blood within one’s own veins, to deny the very capabilities of feeling that define our humanity.

Except for my fiancee’s mother, who is a wonderful woman whom I love dearly.

The Nationals are the cat that keeps jumping on the counter and scratches up your furniture–an ultimately enjoyable and lovable annoyance. The Braves, in short, are the bad guys. And I will not condone Phillies fans supporting them under any circumstances.

@SoMuchForPathos: “Who should Phillies fans (without other real rooting interests) be pulling for in the playoffs?”

Ah, the same question, couched in positive terms. Anyone but the Braves and Yankees. There’s some positive to be found in every other team. I find the Giants kind of distasteful, but if you’re over the 2010 NLCS and stand in awe of Buster Posey, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, or if you still hold some residual love for Hunter Pence, I get that. Ditto the St. Louis Cardinals.

On the National League side, I’ll probably be rooting for the Nationals because I like Davey Johnson and Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman. They’re probably the most fun team in the NL bracket.

In the American League, Paul has made his Oakland A’s partisanship quite clear, and while I don’t share it, the A’s are an interesting team. I’m personally in the Texas Rangers’ camp–they’ve come so close the past two years that I’m starting to feel bad for them, they’ve got a roster full of exciting, likeable players and most importantly, this team is simply so good that it ought to have one title before the lights go dark on the Josh Hamilton era.

The stalking horse in this field is, of course, the Baltimore Orioles, who, despite being baseball’s equivalent to infinite monkeys typing Shakespeare, are very much in the thick of things. The O’s are a fun team–they’ve got exciting young players, the Mark Reynolds circus act and a warehouse full of entropy. As someone who enjoys entropy in tournament sports, I do harbor a soft spot in my heart for the Orioles.

But this has the potential to be a fun offseason; just don’t root for the Braves or Yankees.

@mferrier31: “What would be your lineup/rotation/closer for USA in the WBC, &which phillies do you think will be on it?”

Okay, so the WBC roster includes 28 players, including at least 13 pitchers and at least two catchers. The pitchers are tough calls, particularly the starters, because of injury and fatigue concerns. So younger guys on pitch counts are likely out, as are players with recent injuries. So that cuts out Chris Sale, Clayton Kershaw and Stephen Strasburg for the USA, which is rough. The good news is that Israel didn’t make the finals, so there’s no national/religious tug-of-war for the likes of Ian Kinsler, Kevin Youkilis and Ryan Braun. So assuming that everyone who’s healthy now is healthy come March, and that everyone is willing to participate.

Catcher: Buster Posey,  Joe Mauer and whichever of Matt Wieters and Brian McCann goes less far in the playoffs.
First Base: Prince Fielder. Posey and Mauer can play here in a pinch. It’s also worth noting that Adrian Gonzalez, despite being just as American as you and I, played for Mexico in the past two WBCs. I say we revoke his citizenship.
Second Base: Ian Kinsler, Ben Zobrist
Third Base: David Wright, Evan Longoria
Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins, Manny Machado (Jeter will probably want to play, but screw him)
Outfield: Mike Trout, Ryan Braun, Andrew McCutchen, Jason Heyward, Giancarlo Stanton.
Starting Pitchers: Justin Verlander, David Price, Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke (starting pitching and outfield are the USA’s deepest positions–you could make four roughly equal four-man rotations–the last WBC team only had four starters)
Relief Pitchers:  David Robertson, Jonathan Papelbon, Craig Kimbrel, Mike Adams, Sean Marshall, Tim Collins, Aaron Crow, Jonny Venters, Joel Hanrahan.

Robertson, Kimbrel, Venters and Mauer at least have health/workload issues, and whether Greinke is allowed to pitch by his new team remains to be seen.

So anyway, that’s, what, three Phillies in Hamels, Rollins and Papelbon? Cliff Lee would probably have a shot to go if he wanted to, but I’d say at least one Phillie makes the American roster.

@buttbbutt: “who is your choice for best performance in a feature length tinkle porn this year?”

Bobby Valentine.

@4Who4What: “Will Halladay be peeling off the sides of his beard to reveal its been his duplicate all year, or is this what to expect in 2013?”

@mattjedruch: “who is more likely to have a ‘bounce back’ 2013? Halladay or Howard”

I’ll answer both of these at once. I think the offseason will do Halladay good for one of two reasons. His velocity was down a couple miles an hour this season, and there’s quite a difference between pitching off a 92-94 mph fastball and an 89-91 mph fastball. This winter I think that either his shoulder will heal or he’ll come to terms with his own mortality and adjust his approach to pitching. Roy Halladay still has a surfeit of quality off-speed pitches and top-notch control, and even with the decline in his fastball, we’re still looking at a pretty decent starting pitcher. So even if he doesn’t come back with that extra couple ticks on the heater, Halladay knows what he’s doing. I’m sure he’ll figure out a way to adjust and regain at least some of his effectiveness.

To address your concerns specifically, I suppose it’s possible that we’re dealing with a Roy Halladay transporter accident doppelganger  who sees that the Maquis have something to gain by sabotaging the Phillies’ season. I just find it unlikely.

And I think Howard’s going to have a better season by virtue of being able to use the entire offseason to rest and prepare rather than rehabbing a Windowshade Achilles. And when he gets back, the hope is that he won’t be as geologically slow in the field and on the bases as he’s been in 2012. But he’s still going to strike out 200 times and hit into a ton of ground ball double plays. The trouble is that he’s going to slowly deteriorate before our eyes like  troubled inner city. For the next four years.

@goldenmonkey: “give me your nightmare offseason for the Phillies.”

Signing Josh Hamilton, trading Domonic Brown and one or more of the young bullpen arms (particularly Aumont and/or JDF) for another expensive veteran at God knows what position, emptying the farm system, such as it is, for Chase Headley–NO! Not Headley, for, like, Dan Uggla and moving Utley to third base. Roy Halladay never gets completely healthy and Howard reinjures his ankle.

And heights. Most of my nightmares involve heights. And spiders. I took a nap a couple weeks ago and I dreamed that a spider the size of a Basset hound was in my bedroom, slowly moving toward me and weaving webs between me and the door. It wasn’t really threatening me, but I knew that if I tried to make a break for it, it would pounce on me and eat me slowly and feet-first. It finally got right up next to my bed and I woke up covered in sweat with my heart racing. It was not pleasant.

So my Phillies nightmare offseason probably involves heights and spiders. Maybe Chase Utley pours a jar of spiders down my pants and shoves me off a bridge. That’d be a pretty awful dream.

@uublog: “Season Wrapup Edition! Who/what were the most disappointing and satisfying players/games/events of the season?”

The year in review it shall be.

Disappointing:

  • Roy Halladay. Never really got off the ground, got hurt, came back…kind of a writeoff season for someone who may no longer be among the best players in the game.
  • All the games they lost with the game tied late. We’ll just start with the first one, 2-1 in 10 innings with Joe Blanton on the mound.
  • Chad Qualls. Really thought he was going to work out.
  • That Chipper Jones walkoff game was a doozy.
  • So was the Jordany Valdespin game.

Satisfying:

  • NOT disappointing, however, was the Lee vs. Cain heavyweight title bout back in April. That was freakin’ awesome to watch, even though the Phillies lost.
  • Ruben Amaro. Since the Papelbon contract, he’s had a great year. Lots of shrewd moves: he cut bait on Victorino, Pence and Blanton at the right time and got a good return, he took decisive action on Cole Hamels (though that’s really only correcting a previous error) and he constructed the bullpen extremely well, even if Chad Qualls didn’t work out.
  • Carlos Ruiz. Gone from mild-mannered defense-first catcher to full-blooded Dothraki warrior.
  • Erik Kratz. I know you know the story, but you haven’t really heard the story until you’ve heard it told by Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus.
  • Chase Utley’s home run in his first at-bat back from the DL.
  • Phillippe Aumont.
  • I went to a game during that last Marlins series and got The Heater at Campo’s in Ashburn Alley. I’d never eaten there before and it might be the best ballpark food I’ve ever had.

@GoingHard_inger: “If you had to choose 1 player on the Phils to make you a delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwich, who would it be?”

I betcha Phillippe Aumont would put nutella on it. Nutella is delicious.

@LONG_DRIVE: “After this season, what would be the classiest way to off myself?”

You think this season was frustrating? We’ve still got at least 13 Eagles games left, son. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

That said, I’d go with the homage to Luke Wilson in The Royal Tenenbaums, even though it didn’t work.

@CubeSide: “If you could predict the future, would you say Ruf is in LF on opening day?”

Absolutely not. You know why? Because if I could predict the future, I can’t even begin to describe how low on my list of priorities baseball would be. There’s the moral imperative to at least do some good. You know, preventing crime: murders, rapes, robberies and so forth, pulling pedestrians out of the way of cars and so forth. I imagine I’d have to advise the government in some respects: you know, stuff like “No, don’t invade Vietnam, it will only end in tears.”

But once I’m done with that, I’d do nothing but enrich myself through gambling, the stock market and so on. I’d probably hire myself out at a soothsayer for an exorbitant fee. And once that’s done, I’d probably retire to some remote hamlet in the Alps and read good books and drink good bourbon all day. I guess my point is: if you ever come into the ability to predict the future, whatever you do, don’t waste it on predicting who the Phillies’ opening-day left fielder is going to be.

But to answer your question, I don’t think so, but I wouldn’t rule it out. With that said, I’ve watched enough Star Trek to know that my making that prediction has altered the timeline such that we can’t know if Ruf will be in left on opening day or not. Damn you, temporal mechanics.

That’ll do it for the Crash Bag, and, indeed, for the regular season, as we’ll be into the playoffs by the time next Friday rolls around. As of right now, the plan is to keep doing the Crash Bag every Friday, as usual, but that all depends on the flow of questions. So until further notice (or until Bill fires me), normal service remains uninterrupted. I’m Bob Vila, and for Norm Abrams, thanks for watching This Old House.

Jayson Werth Deserves Philadelphia’s Respect

Apparently, Jayson Werth is still a lightning rod for controversy in the city of Philadelphia. Hearken back to the days of yore when former GM Pat Gillick signed him as a free agent before the 2007 season. Werth transformed from a garbage bin pick-up to a mega-millionaire, leading his team to one championship and one failed World Series bid, and secured the right field position at a very cost-efficient price. Werth clashed at times with members of the media for not being the best interview (Chase Utley is deeply despised by the Phillies’ beat writers for the same reason), but was everything the Phillies could have asked of him and much, much more.

Let’s go back to the beginning of the saga, which I will quote from the 38th installment (page 97) in my book “100 Things Phillies Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die“:

With the [Los Angeles Dodgers], Werth was expected to blossom, but his career was nearly ended when A.J. Burnett hit him with a fastball during a spring training game on March 2, 2005. Werth didn’t return until late May, but his power was gone. He hit just seven home runs in 395 plate appearances and slugged a paltry .374. The wrist problems persisted, causing him to miss the entire 2006 season.

Werth says he saw many doctors, but none could properly diagnose his wrist problem. “No matter who I saw for my wrist, it was always the same old thing: As long as you can tolerate it, you can play,” he said.

Fate very well may have intervened when Werth went home to Springfield, Illinois. He ran into a friend of the family, an orthopedist. Werth detailed his wrist injury and was quickly referred to the Mayo Clinic. There, his wrist injury was properly diagnosed as a split tear of the ulnotriquetral ligament. Werth had surgery, then made his way into free agency.

From there, the rest is history. Werth finished the ’07 season with a .385 wOBA, the fifth-highest among all right fielders. His offense was a big reason why the Phillies, as a team, led the league in on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Werth was also crucial to the Phillies trampling the New York Mets in the waning days of the regular season, snapping a 14-year playoff drought.

In 2008, Werth shared right field with Jenkins again, but it became obvious that the right-hander’s bat needed to be in the lineup every day. At the end of the regular season, Werth had a .382 wOBA and stole 20 bases in 21 attempts while playing solid defense in right. As the Phillies cut through post-season competition like a hot knife through butter en route to their first World Series championship since 1980, Werth was always dependable, finishing the playoffs with a .969 OPS in 14 games.

Prior to the start of the 2009 season, Werth and the Phillies avoided arbitration, agreeing to a two-year, $10 million extension. It turned out to be arguably the best contract the Phillies have ever signed as Werth’s 09-10 seasons were incredibly productive. Werth hit a career-high 36 home runs and drove in a career-best 99 runs while his wOBA stayed constant at .382. He continued to add value with aggressive-but-efficient base running and solid defense in right field. The Phillies returned to the World Series only to be pushed out by the New York Yankees in six games. It wasn’t Werth’s fault, though, as he posted a 1.129 OPS in 15 post-season games.

As 2010 approached, it became obvious that the Phillies were going to have to pay Werth like a superstar or face losing him to another team. Werth didn’t budge on his contract demands, and the Phillies remained steadfast in avoiding another big contract, having to that point awarded $125 million over five years to Ryan Howard and $60 million over three years to Roy Halladay. With top prospect Domonic Brown waiting in the wings, GM Ruben Amaro felt that losing Werth wasn’t the end of the world. Meanwhile, as the rumors swirled around Werth throughout the 2010 regular season, he put up the best numbers of his career including a .397 wOBA and a league-leading 46 doubles. The Phillies reached the post-season for the fourth year in a row — and the fourth year in a row with Werth on the roster — only to be booted out of the NLCS by the San Francisco Giants in six games.

The Phillies waved goodbye to Werth as he went out into the marketplace. On December 6, 2010, Werth and the Nationals agreed to a seven-year, $126 million contract. It was a statement by the Washington Nationals that they were very serious about becoming contenders in the NL East, with uber prospect Stephen Strasburg — taken #1 overall in the 2009 draft — on the horizon. The Nats would later draft another uber prospect in Bryce Harper, the #1 overall pick in the 2010 draft. During the 2011 regular season, the Phillies utilized a combination of Ben Francisco and Domonic Brown in right field before trading for Hunter Pence at the end of July. Meanwhile, Werth was having an awful first year in Washington. Everything that made him successful in Philadelphia disappeared when he went south on I-95: his batting average dropped to .232, his on-base percentage to .330, and his slugging percentage to .389. After posting an aggregate 130 OPS+ in four years with the Phillies, his first year with the Nats ended with a 97 OPS+.

Werth rebounded this season in a big way. Although he missed time between May and August due to another wrist injury — coincidentally suffered in a game against the Phillies — his production is back up to pre-2011 levels, and just for good measure, his strikeout rate is significantly down as well. Best of all for the Nationals, he is looking as if he will return at least some value for his monstrous seven-year contract and the Nats are going to the post-season for the first time in team history, and for the first time since 1981 in franchise history.

Why do I bring all of this up? Because for some reason, despite his significance to the team between 2007-10, Phillies fans are mad at Werth. It isn’t exactly new, either. When Werth suffered his wrist injury, he was jeered — in Washington — by Phillies fans as he walked off:

twitter.com/CrashburnAlley/status/199613674225287169

A particular Philadelphia sports blog encouraged the mistreatment of Werth.

twitter.com/CrashburnAlley/status/199313240310808576

(Nats fans on Twitter that night confirmed that my conjecture was correct.)

UPDATE: Adding this in here:

twitter.com/timcusumano/status/251328945281196032

Talking about the incident later, Werth remarked, “I am motivated to get back quickly and see to it personally those people never walk down Broad Street in celebration again.” Once again, this rankled Phillies fans for some reason. Gee, I wonder why Werth would say such a thing.

Fast forward to last night. The Nats have already clinched at least a playoff appearance and likely the NL East crown while the Phillies are on the brink of mathematical elimination, but the two teams are finishing the second game of a three-game series in Philadelphia before three more in Washington to close out the season. During the game, Werth was involved in another incident that drew the ire of Phillies fans.

[…] it appeared as if the Nats’ rightfielder faked tossing a foul ball into the crowd to a group of kids before tossing it aside into the dugout.

[…] “Earlier in the game I flipped a ball into the seats to a fan and it flipped off her hand and landed on someone else’s lap. Then a guy reached over — a Phillies fan — and grabbed the ball off her lap and threw it back onto the field,” Werth explained.

“In the ninth I was going to flip the ball to a group of kids and behind them was all these unruly, middle-aged men who to me appeared to be snarling. It’s the ninth, so who knows. I got the sense that maybe they were intoxicated. I was going to flip it to the kids and then thought maybe not because of the group behind the little innocent children there, remembering what happened earlier in right field.”

The Phillies had battled back late to close the Nats’ lead to one run at 5-4 entering the ninth. Werth came up with runners on first and third with two outs. As Werth worked the count to 2-2 against Justin De Fratus, catcher Kurt Suzuki stole second base, putting both runners in scoring position. On the fifth pitch, Werth drove a single up the middle, plating both runs. The former Phillies right fielder clapped his hands in excitement rounding the first base bag.

This morning, I was perusing Twitter, as I usually do, only to see friend of the blog and WIP’s Spike Eskin (@SpikeEskin) trying to talk sense into hordes of angry Phillies fans. The anger ranged from the purely emotional to emotional rationalizations.

twitter.com/SpikeEskin/status/251295810816446464

I write all of this because I don’t get it. The Werth hate makes absolutely no sense. At least with the Rollins hate that went on earlier this season, there was some small sliver of rationality. Why does a city hate a player who came from nothing and blossomed into an incredibly productive player at a cost under $13 million? To put that in perspective, Werth put up 15 WAR as a Phillie according to Baseball Reference. Roughly $5 million will net you one win above replacement, so Werth’s 15 WAR was worth about $75 million. In other words, the Phillies got about six times the return on their investment in Werth. He led the Phillies to four consecutive playoff appearances, including one championship and another World Series appearance. He became the third-most-efficient base stealer of all time under the tutelage of Davey Lopes.

He left Philadelphia because he could make more money somewhere else, and who can blame him? The Phillies had overspent in other areas, leaving themselves unable to justify matching the market price for Werth. Did Phillies fans expect him to take a significant pay cut, as if playing in Philadelphia is the only city in baseball where the sky is blue and grass is green? When he lashed out at the Phillies fans who cheered his injury, did they expect him to laugh and say, “ha, those grown men wishing physical harm on me? That’s hilarious”?

Werth has handled all of the mistreatment and adversity with aplomb. He never lashed out at the selfish writers who besmirched his name for being an introvert. He did not address the Phillies fans who labeled him a selfish money-chaser. It was only after suffering a frightening and potentially career-ending injury to the glee of a pocket of Phillies fans at Nationals Park did he show the slightest hint of frustration — completely justified frustration, I might add.

Phillies fans get a bad rap around the country for uncouth behavior. Most of it is unwarranted as a few bad apples shouldn’t spoil the bunch, and the intermittent bad behavior that does occur is not unique to Philadelphia. Even the batteries thrown at J.D. Drew isn’t a behavior that only Philadelphians exhibit — a fan in Oakland threw a cell phone from the second deck that hit Carl Everett back in 2003, for instance. On this issue, though, Phillies fans are simply wrong and grossly humiliating themselves on the national stage. I get that “fan” is derived from “fanatic” — “a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal” — but that doesn’t justify treating an integral part of the greatest era of Phillies baseball in 130 years as less than human. Any fans that continue to harbor ill will towards Werth are an embarrassment to those of us who call ourselves Phillies fans and to the city of Philadelphia.

Obscure Former Phillies Hour, Vol. 2: Willie Montanez

Hello and welcome! It’s Obscure Former Phillies Hour!

Today’s lucky contestant comes courtesy of reader @jcamaratta, who submitted a favorite player from his childhood. We’ve chosen him because out of the list (and I do have a list) of suggestions after the first OFPH, most of them were from those terrible Phillies teams around the turn of the century–which, if I’m honest, is kind of what I had in mind–but it’s good to acknowledge that there was Phillies baseball even before the 1990s.

So step on down…Willie Montanez! This is your career in twenty points.

  1. Willie Montanez was born April 1, 1948, in Catano, Puerto Rico, home of what is actually a pretty awesome municipal flag for a small town:
  2. Willie Montanez was originally property of the St. Louis Cardinals, but he was selected out of rookie ball in the Rule V draft by the California Angels at the age of 18.
  3. Montanez’s cameo with the Angels went about as well as you might think: eight games, two plate appearances (both strikeouts), two runs and a stolen base. He was back with the Cardinals by May.
  4. Among first-year position players to debut in the 1960s, age 18 and under, Tony LaRussa played in the fifth-most games. Dave Duncan played in the seventh-most. Dave Duncan went on to win three World Series with the A’s and had a long and successful career as a pitching coach. Tony LaRussa went on to drink a lot of wine and fall asleep behind the wheel of his car.
  5. You know how Curt Flood was supposed to be traded to the Phillies in 1969 and refused, retired, then sued MLB for free agency and lost, serving as kind of a spiritual martyr for the Messersmith Case? Willie Montanez was the guy the Cardinals sent to Philly instead.
  6. Montanez had a cup of coffee with the Phillies in 1970, but it was in 1971 that he broke out, hitting 30 home runs, posting a 124 OPS+ and finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting.
  7. In 1972, Montanez led the major leagues in doubles with 39.
  8. In his first three full seasons, Montanez hit a combined .255/.324/.417, good for a 107 OPS+ and a total of 1.8 bWAR.
  9. Something  changed for him in 1974, though, because for some reason, his batting average shot up about 50 points from his career average, and over the next three seasons, he hit .308/.350/.415, but thanks to the changing run environment, his OPS+ only went up to 111. Still not great for a first baseman, but serviceable.
  10. On May 4, 1975, the Phillies traded Willie Montanez to the San Francisco Giants for Garry Maddox. Candlestick Park flooded the next day…get it? Because 2/3 of the world is covered by water and the rest is covered by Garry Maddoooooh forget it.
  11. Montanez was a horrific basestealer: 32-for-74 in his career. That’s the 12th-worst percentage in history, minimum 25 stolen bases.
  12. Montanez got traded a lot: eight times in 14 major league seasons.
  13. Montanez was traded for two Hall of Fame pitchers in his career. He was traded from Atlanta to the Mets on December 8, 1977 in a four-team, ten-player trade that kind of reads like this: “Willie Montanez…mumblemumblemumblemumble…BERT BLYLEVEN…mumblemumblemumblemumble…Al Oliver.”
    The other sent him from the Rangers to the Padres on February 15, 1980 for a package of three players that included Gaylord Perry. I mean, yeah, Perry was 41 and pretty well cooked by that point, but I can’t say that I was traded for a Hall of Famer…and two other guys.
  14. The third-most similar player to Montanez, according to Baseball Reference, was Vic Power, another athletic first baseman from Puerto Rico with a reputation for a slick glove. Vic Power, according to Bill James in the New Historical Baseball Abstract, was widely regarded as a flashy, hot-doggin’ player, and as such, was a rather polarizing figure. Remember this.
  15. The first sentence of Willie Montanez’s Wikipedia page says, essentially: “Willie Montanez is a retired ballplayer.” The rest of the first paragraph is more or less all about how he was a show-off and everyone hated him.
  16. I didn’t have to look that stuff about Vic Power up, because my copy of the New Historical Baseball Abstract spent my last two years of college next to my toilet. As a result, I’ve pretty much got James’ 998-page volume memorized.
  17. Vic Power, by the way, was actually named Victor Pellot, in case you were wondering (as I was) how a Puerto Rican got the last name “Power.”
  18. Montanez was traded again on August 31, 1980, from the Padres to the Montreal Expos for minor leaguer Tony Phillips. Tony Phillips might be the most underrated player of my lifetime. During his career, he started at every position except for pitcher and catcher, and in an 18-year major league career, he posted a .345 wOBA and accumulated 51.5 fWAR. He was like the Ben Zobrist of my dad’s generation: a guy who was massively valuable, but no one noticed because of his relatively low batting average and because he played a bunch of different positions for a (bunch of, in Phillips’ case) relatively unheralded team(s). I’m not saying he’s a Hall of Famer, but let’s give the guy some respect.
  19. Montanez wore three different numbers with the Phillies, and eight different numbers overall. I’m not sure why that was necessary, but he did. Chuck Klein wore seven different numbers with the Phillies, so whatever, I guess.
  20. In an act of adorable bookendishness, the only time Montanez changed teams via free agency was his last–after being released in mid-1982 by the Pirates, Montanez signed with the Phillies on August 10, 1982. He played in 18 games, collecting a single and a walk in 17 plate appearances, and was released on November 4 at the age of 34. He never played in the major leagues again.

A sincere thanks to Joe Camaratta for suggesting such an interesting Obscure Former Phillie, and a sincere thanks y’all for taking the time to read about Willie Montanez.

Ignominy and All, Papelbon Still Among Game’s Best

Jonathan Papelbon is responsible for giving up two of the most soul-crushing home runs that have been hit this year, one to Jordany Valdespin of the New York Mets back in May, and the other more recently to Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves.

The Valdespin home run had a win expectancy shift of 45.4 percent, from 48 percent down to three percent. The Jones home run was much worse, with a win expectancy shift of 87 percent, from 13 percent to 100 percent. As a result, Papelbon has the tenth-highest negative Win Percent Added (WPA) among all Major League relievers. Those ahead of him have had very troubling seasons, including John Axford, Alfredo Aceves, and Heath Bell.

Despite the adversity, Papelbon has been very successful in his first year as the Phillies’ closer after signing a four-year, $50 million contract back in November. A 31-year-old free agent, Papelbon exited the sinking ship that was the Boston Red Sox and joined a team that appeared to be on a quick ascent into the ionosphere, having won 102 games in the 2011 regular season. Although Papelbon has pitched well all season long, the same cannot be said for the rest of the bullpen. Between injuries (David Herndon, Michael Stutes) and shockingly-awful performances (Chad Qualls), holding down a small lead or keeping a tie score in the later innings was an enormous chore for manager Charlie Manuel.

When the game was left in Papelbon’s hands, however, he has persevered. His 2.30 ERA is the eighth-best among all qualified relievers in the National League, and his 2.21 SIERA is seventh-best. Nearly one-third of the batters he has faced have gone down swinging, the seventh-highest rate in the league. As a result, he is averaging five strikeouts for every one walk, a ratio that leaves him sixth among all NL relievers. Looking at shutdowns and meltdowns — a statistic that mimics saves but is based on actual win probability and leaves out all of the arbitrary rules — Papelbon has 34 shutdowns, the second-highest total in the league behind Aroldis Chapman‘s 37. His nine meltdowns are tied with 10 other players and sits near the league average (one in every seven games).

As the Phillies seemed to be under a rain cloud for one reason or another all season long, Papelbon has been consistent and reliable in the back of the bullpen, locking down leads whenever his team could manage to pass the baton without crumbling to the ground QWOP-style. His contract may be too lengthy and expensive, but there are very few pitchers you’d rather have in the ninth inning than Papelbon.

The Order Is: Engage the Darin Ruf

Shout it from the rooftops, proclaim it from the highest mountaintops! Send heralds and criers to deliver the news, for salvation is close and hand! The world will be in harmony and we shall be united in brotherhood, for our prayers are answered.

DARIN RUF IS STARTING TONIGHT. Rejoice and be glad, you sorry sunzabitches.

I have here, in greatest Crashburn Alley tradition, the substance of Charlie Manuel’s pregame speech to the team announcing that Ruf would be starting in left field and batting seventh.

Unfortunately, we don’t have video for this one, but we do have audio for most of it.

Here we go:

Charlie Manuel: Comrades! This is your manager speaking.  It is an honor to speak to you today, and I am honored to be serving with you on the maiden voyage of our front office’s most recent achievement. And once more, we play our dangerous game. A game of baseball, against our old adversaries: the Washington Nationals.

For years, your fathers before you and your older brothers played this game and played it well. But today, the game is different. We have the advantage.

It reminds me of the heady days of Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, when the league trembled at the sound of our cutters. Well they will tremble again at the sound of our home runs. The order is: engage the Darin Ruf.

Comrades, our own team doesn’t know our full potential. They will do everything possible to test us, but they will only test their own embarrassment. We will leave our stadium behind–we will pass the Nationals’ starting rotation, pass their vaunted bullpen, and lay off their home stadium…and listen to their “Natitude.” While we conduct batting drills.

And when we are finished, the only sound they will hear is our laughter, while we fly to Miami, where the sun is warm and so is the…comradeship.

A great day, comrades: we bat into history.

Red October indeed.

Chase Utley Back to Form in 2012

This season, the city of Philadelphia has been focused on two key words regarding Chase Utley, completely unrelated to what he has done thus far: “knee” and “third base”. Utley suffered from patellar tendinitis and chondromalacia in his left knee, delaying his 2012 debut until June 27, the Phillies’ 77th game of the season. Even before he was set to return, there was speculation — spurred in part because of the city becoming smitten with Freddy Galvis and the chronic injury problems of Placido Polanco — that Utley should move from second base across the diamond to third base both as a way to get Galvis in the lineup and to save Utley’s knees in the long term.

Lost in the frenzy of discussion surrounding those two topics is Utley’s very productive season. In his 325 at-bats between the end of June and present day, his weighted on-base average (wOBA) is .359, the third-best mark in all of baseball among second basemen with at least 300 plate appearances. The average NL second baseman has a .304 wOBA. The .055 wOBA difference, when converted to runs, is about 15, or roughly one and a half wins. Comparatively, in Galvis’ brief stint as a regular before his back injury and drug suspension, he posted a .266 wOBA. Over 325 PA, the difference between Utley and Galvis is 26 runs, or nearly three wins. You can double that, if you dare, to get a feel for the difference over a full season.

The Phillies more or less have the old Utley back, with an emphasis on old. He is 33 years old, so his days as a regular 30 home run hitter are long behind him. However, his isolated power (ISO) at .190 is the highest it has been since 2009 (.226). It is also the second-best on the team behind Carlos Ruiz‘s .214, ahead of Jimmy Rollins‘ .179. The average NL second basemen has a .122 ISO, (think Jason Kipnis or Daniel Murphy).

Along with the power, Utley has brought along his always-incredible plate discipline. He is one of nine players in all of baseball (min. 300 PA) with more walks than strikeouts; his BB/K ratio at 1.11 is fifth-best in the Majors. As a result, Utley’s on-base percentage is an elite .375, tied for the best mark among all second basemen with Ben Zobrist.

As expected, Utley has lost a step or two defensively, but is still an above-average second baseman. The sample size is still too small to even think about citing defensive statistics, but Utley’s value as a defender has never centered on his physical ability; rather, by his great decision-making and positioning. As a base runner, FanGraphs has him adding 2.5 runs while Baseball Prospectus is slightly behind at 2.2, the third-best mark on the team behind Rollins and Juan Pierre. Utley, the most efficient base stealer of all time, has stolen nine bases in ten attempts and has taken the extra base (e.g. first to third) in 59 percent of his opportunities, compared to the 41 percent league average.

Baseball Reference has Utley at 2.8 WAR while FanGraphs has him at 3.1, both very, very good marks in a half-season considering two WAR is what we expect out of an average player. While we have focused on his taking grounders at third base, Utley has taken the field day in and day out and has arguably become the Phillies’ most valuable player of the second half. He enters the final year of his contract in 2013, potentially his last hurrah in Philadelphia given his advancing age and nagging injury worries. Make no mistake, though — Utley can still hang with the best players in baseball.

The Intersection of Ignorance and Arrogance

In the great “stats vs. scouts” debates we’ve had over these many years, Saberists have often been labeled as arrogant know-it-alls. Some of it was warranted; some statheads were, and still are, too confident in fallible methods of objective measurement. However, it is typically grounded in the scientific method, by definition the least arrogant method of observation out there. For those, like me, who have long been separated from their last science class, the steps to the scientific method are:

  • Ask a question. E.g. “Are strikeouts strongly related to a pitcher’s success?”
  • Form a hypothesis. E.g. “Strikeouts are strongly correlated to a pitcher’s success in both the short- and long-term.”
  • Make a prediction. E.g. “Strikeouts will be strongly correlated to a pitcher’s success at a statistically significant level.”
  • Test your hypothesis. E.g. finding the strikeout rates and earned run averages of all pitchers who threw at least 150 innings in a season dating back to 2007 and determining the correlation between the two.
  • Analyze the results. E.g. “There is a statistically significant relationship between strikeouts and same-season ERA. r = .87, p < .05.”

Above examples and figures are completely made up.

Adhering to the scientific method is the least arrogant way one can attempt to answer any of life’s questions ranging from the trivial to those of the utmost importance. It is admitting your fallibility as a human being, realizing that your perception and your memory are too unreliable to take any untested claim as truth. Of course, humans are just as fallible using their memory to provide key details as they are running unbiased, methodologically-sound scientific tests, so one should take any single test’s results with a grain of salt as well.

I bring this up because Sam Donnellon wrote an article for the Daily News yesterday that smacked of old school arrogance.

RUBEN AMARO JR. is right. Moving Chase Utley to third base so Freddy Galvis can play second will improve the Phillies in 2013.

He just can’t prove it.

This is the exact opposite of the scientific method: make a claim, realize there is no evidence nor is there any objective way to validate your claim, and then declare it correct anyway. “Kim Kardashian is right. When it rains, it is really just God crying about your sins. She just can’t prove it.” Belief in the absence of facts is not only foolish but incredibly arrogant, to state matter-of-factly that your experience and perception not only should but does match that of everybody else.

Donnellon spends some time in the article talking about the lack of reliable defensive statistics, and he isn’t wrong. Sabermetric defensive statistics are far behind offensive statistics in terms of reliability. Colin Wyers (@cwyers) of Baseball Prospectus fame has done yeoman’s work over the years pointing out the fallacy of relying on subjective classification of batted balls. In other words, one scorer’s line drive is another’s fly ball. Of course Donnellon’s criticism is much less nuanced than Wyers’, but it is easy to see where he is going. Being skeptical of defensive statistics is completely warranted.

What many old school types have done in the past, when confronted with a new statistic that they don’t trust, is to find the biggest outlier and use that as a justification to discard the statistic entirely and return to the older, more familiar (and less illuminating) statistics of the past. For instance, Wins Above Replacement has only recently become an accepted part of the mainstream baseball lexicon. It wasn’t that long ago that writers dismissed it out of hand because Mark Reynolds earned a higher grade, according to the statistic, than Ryan Howard. WAR certainly has its problems (reliance on single-season samples, subjectivity of human scorers, etc.) but just because it isn’t a perfect statistic, you don’t revert back to the problematic methods that got us here in the first place. It’s like saying, “Chemotherapy isn’t guaranteed to cure my cancer, so I’m just going to go back to using mercury.”

Later in the article, Donnellon romanticizes the old school scout types like Pat Gillick. There is certainly nothing wrong with saying that the subjective has a legitimate place in baseball; objective measurements have not and will never come close to encapsulating all of the known variables. However, it is clearly wrong to defer, unquestioningly, to them on all subjects. Pat Gillick is one of the brightest baseball minds the game has ever seen, but I’m always going to be skeptical of anything that he — or anyone else — says until it is tested empirically. To uncritically take a statement as fact is ignorant; to pass that deference off as an admirable quality is arrogance, and a particularly offensive arrogance that some old school types have displayed when their preconceived notions have clashed with Sabermetric revelations.

Towards the end of his article, Donnellon writes:

These are plays not measured in any comprehensible statistics, although those scripting for something called “The Fielding Bible” have given it an honest effort. But all baserunners do not have the same speed, guts or baseball IQ. Strength of arm is not just about putouts, but by a lack of attempts to run on that arm. They have tried to measure range, but these are not dynamic or even easily understandable stats.

Essentially, Donnellon says in the above paragraph that some smart people have attempted to quantify defense, but it is imperfect because it fails to consider the several listed variables. Donnellon takes the absence of evidence as evidence of absence (of quality), and uses that to revert to his preconceived notion that the eye test is still the best method of defensive evaluation. What he should have done, instead of lazily clinging to old ideas, is talk to John Dewan or any of the other smart minds who work on The Fielding Bible. If they weren’t aware of Donnellon’s criticisms already, they likely would have welcomed the criticism and considered it deeply. Or he could have talked to Sean Forman of Baseball Reference, UZR creator Mitchel Lichtman, or any number of other smart minds in the baseball research arena. People like Donnellon are important to the progress of Sabermetrics because many prescribe to the doctrine and thus are biased and less likely to be aware of methodological flaws.

Instead, Donnellon firmly entrenches himself in the soil of old ideas, closing out his article:

The good news for you people is that Amaro, whose resume is still without a championship and thus incomplete, seems to get it, too.

I can’t tell you how many runs will be saved in moving Utley to third and having Galvis at second for a season.

But my eyes can tell he’s right for doing it.

Human perception and memory have been scientifically proven, time and time again, to be unreliable and often simply inaccurate. Furthermore, their knowledge of how the human brain processes and retains information is often lacking. As a result, they give far too much credit to our ability to pick out, process, and remember key information. For instance, in this study, all 16 experts disagreed with the statement “human memory works like a video camera, accurately recording the events we see and hear so that we can review and inspect them later.” 63 percent of the 1,500 regular people polled agreed with the statement.

Rather, statistics and “the eyes” should act as tools in a tool box, ready to be used at any particular moment for a job that they are specifically useful in completing. Statistics, compared to the eyes, will be the best choice when trying to determine exactly how much less impactful Chase Utley’s offensive contributions will be at third base than at second base. On the other hand, the eyes will be the best tool for the job when you’re watching Roy Halladay throw a bullpen and notice something isn’t quite right. Even if Pitch F/X was available for bullpens, we may not be able to notice anything if velocity, movement, and release point remain unchanged, but a trained professional like Rich Dubee will be able to see that Halladay is laboring and shouldn’t make his next start.

As it happens, the more accurate our objective measurements become, the less reliant we are on experts who utilize subjectivity. Thanks to amazing advances in medical knowledge and technology over many years, we can quickly and easily run a test to see if a woman is pregnant. No longer do we have to inject urine into female rabbits to reach a conclusion. The progress of and increased reliance on Sabermetrics to answer questions is emblematic of yet another area in which the scientific method has increased our awareness and knowledge where none existed previously. That progress should be celebrated and anyone that tries to tell you otherwise is attempting to sell you swampland in Florida.

Those who have firmly dug their heels into the ground may learn from Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave“. (Warning: The video below has some repetitive flashing lights, which may be bad for those of you with epilepsy.)

Obscure Former Phillies Hour, Vol. 1: David Dellucci

I had a little compulsive fit on Twitter over the weekend in which I went to Jeromy Burnitz‘s Baseball Reference page and rattled off several interesting facts about his career, which turned out to be sneakily compelling. On the request of Rant Sports writer Jake Pavorsky, I’ve decided to do the same with former Phillies reserve outfielder David Dellucci. If there’s interest, I’ll make this a running feature, so if you’ve got requests, let me know, either in the comment section or via Twitter.

And now, without further delay, David Dellucci in eighteen points.

  1. David Dellucci was born on October 31, 1973, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Three Louisiana natives (Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Fontenot and Mike Stutes) have appeared for the Phillies this season, but Dellucci was the only player born in Louisiana to play for the Phillies from 2001-2008.
  2. Louisiana is one of two states in the union not to divide itself into counties. In Louisiana, counties are called “parishes,” while in Alaska they are called “boroughs.” Alaska’s North Slope Borough is the largest county in the United States, which, at nearly 90,000 square miles, is roughly the size of Ireland. That doesn’t have a thing to do with David Dellucci, but you’re just going to have to deal with it.
  3. David Dellucci’s wife is pregnant. The due date (February 23, 2013) is posted on Dellucci’s Wikipedia page. I feel like that’s particularly important information for public consumption.
  4. Also from Dellucci’s Wikipedia page: he was inducted into the Louisiana American-Italian Hall of Fame in 2011. Which is a thing, I guess. Other notable members: James Gandolfini’s character in the remake of All the King’s Men. I can’t think of any other Louisiana American-Italians off the top of my head.
  5. Also on Dellucci’s Wikipedia page: he was voted one of the 50 greatest athletes in the history of the University of Mississippi. I mean, Dellucci had a 13-year major league career, but it’s not like Ole Miss is North Dakota Directional A&M. This is an SEC school. They do big sports there. And Dellucci is one of their top 50 athletes ever? Okay: Archie Manning, Eli Manning, Mike Wallace, Armintie Price, Patrick Willis…maybe Lance Lynn and Drew Pomeranz in a few years…All-time XFL leading rusher John Avery…Michael Oher? Wow, Ole Miss athletics suck.
  6. David Dellucci was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 10th round of the 1995 amateur draft, four spots behind Ryan Freel, who I always loved as a player for three reasons: 1) He played a bunch of positions 2) he was really fast 3) he discussed his imaginary friend Farley openly during his playing days. Gotta respect that.
  7. David Dellucci was chosen with the 45th pick in the 1997 expansion draft. The best part of that draft? Tampa Bay taking Bobby Abreu, then flipping him to the Phillies for Kevin Stocker. That was awesome? Why don’t the Phillies trade punchless infielders for borderline Hall-of-Famers anymore. You think there’s any promise in a Freddy Galvis-for-Wil Myers deal? No? Damn.
  8. David Dellucci led the National League in triples in 1998. I was unaware of that previously.
  9. Rickey Henderson, perhaps the greatest power/speed threat in baseball history, never led the league in triples. Neither did Tim Raines. Nor did Jackie Robinson.
  10. In 1998, Dellucci stole three bases and was caught five times. In 2003 he stole 12 bases and was not caught once. Dellucci’s 1998 might have been one of the weirdest speed seasons ever.
  11. In 1999, Dellucci was hitting .394/.463/.505 before a wrist injury ended his season in July. Yet he’d only had 123 plate appearances through that point despite having been on the roster since Opening Day. Now, I know 123 plate appearances is a small sample, but if a guy’s hitting close to .400, at some point you’ve got to start riding the hot hand, right? Maybe this is why Buck Showalter got fired.
  12. The second-most similar player to Dellucci, according to Baseball Reference, is John Vander Wal, another lefty fourth outfielder who made his name in the NL West. Vander Wal is best known for his ridiculous 1995 season, where he posted a 1.026 OPS for the Rockies as a pinch-hitter. His 28 pinch hits that season set a new major league record. Eat your heart out, 2008 Greg Dobbs.
  13. David Dellucci was part of a package that was traded for Raul Mondesi at the 2003 trade deadline.
  14. The Phillies acquired David Dellucci for pitcher Robinson Tejeda and minor league outfielder Jake Blalock. Jake Blalock is the younger brother of former Texas Rangers all-star third baseman Hank Blalock, and part of a proud lineage of the Phillies having the wrong brother. I’m looking at you: Ken Brett, Mike Maddux and Jeremy Giambi. (shakes fist angrily at the sky)
  15. David Dellucci qualified for the batting title exactly once in his career: 2005 with the Texas Rangers, where he hit 29 home runs and posted an .879 OPS.
  16. A testament to his career as a bench bat, Dellucci batted nearly eight times as often against right-handed pitchers as he did against lefties. There’s a good reason for this: Dellucci’s career OPS against righties was .803 (roughly equal to Torii Hunter). Against lefties? .550, which is roughly equal to Blue Moon Odom, who was a pitcher. In the late 1960s, the worst offensive period since the Dead Ball Era.
  17. David Dellucci had more career home runs than Frank Baker, a Hall of Fame third baseman whose nickname was “Home Run.”
  18. David Dellucci was active in charity work during the relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina. For this he was commended by the Louisiana state legislature. We too commend him for this.

I give you David Dellucci, 1999 National League triples champion. If you would like to see a player honored in Obscure Former Phillies Hour, don’t hesitate to ask. It’s going to be a long offseason.

A Tale of Two Mayberries

John Mayberry had a frustrating, bad, awful first half. Well, almost every Phillie did it seemed, but Mayberry was particularly perplexing given the Phillies’ outfield situation and their justified decision to give him regular playing time following a fantastic 2011 showing. The right-hander finished the end of April with a .449 OPS and while he got slightly better in the coming months, he finished the first half with a disappointing .646 OPS. Once considered a potential starter, Mayberry was never the reliable, go-to bench bat throughout most of the first half. Due to the team’s poor performance in 2012 overall, entering July in last place and 11 games behind first place in the NL East, the Phillies decided to trade away center fielder Shane Victorino and right fielder Hunter Pence. And like that, Mayberry was back in the fold.

The second half has been a different story altogether. Since returning from the All-Star break, Mayberry’s OPS sits at .795 and he has had a number of big hits, including this go-ahead three-run home run that broke broadcaster Tom McCarthy’s throat:

The difference is fairly obvious: Mayberry’s mastery of the strike zone improved tremendously. In the first half, he struck out six times more often than he walked (61 to 10); in the second half, he is striking out less than twice for every walk (41 to 21). Mayberry’s ratio last year was similar at 55 to 26.

The second-half Mayberry has become a more dynamic hitter as well. In the first half, he was a dead-pull hitter. While still pulling frequently, he has gone to center and the opposite field much more often in the second half, as you can see in the following hit charts:

Mayberry hasn’t improved tremendously on pulled balls in play, sporting a .436 wOBA on batted balls hit to left field in the first half, and .447 in the second half. Similarly, his .312 first-half wOBA on balls hit to center is similar to his .335 second-half mark. On balls hit to the opposite field, however, his wOBA has jumped from .261 to .328. The pitch frequency heat maps hilariously show the difference in pitch selection:

It may simply be coincidental, but it does appear as if the All-Star break allowed Mayberry, and those who actively work with him on a daily basis, to pinpoint his issues whether judgmental or mechanical. He struck out at least once in nine consecutive games between June 20-30, and had 15 strikeouts with one unintentional walk from the 20th through the end of the first half. From his return to the end of July, he struck out only eight times in 39 at-bats. The walks have come in bunches recently, drawing 10 of his 29 unintentional walks between September 4-15, including three multi-walk games.

The Phillies are expected to be in hot pursuit of a center fielder during the upcoming off-season, particularly with big names like Josh Hamilton and Michael Bourn. GM Ruben Amaro may also choose to spend extravagantly on a third baseman, at least one reliever, and a starting pitcher. Depending on how active the Phillies are and assuming Domonic Brown gets sole possession of left field for 2013, right field will be open for audition with the likes of Laynce Nix, Nate Schierholtz, and Juan Pierre (if he is retained). Once considered persona non grata, Mayberry has played himself back into a potential starting job or at the least a role as a platoon player. In fact, a Schierholtz/Mayberry platoon in right field might be the most logical solution for the Phillies going forward.

The Chipper Jones Character Assassination Email Chain

Our friends over at The Good Phight are having a little bit of a Chipper Jones hate party this afternoon. A noble effort, I think, worthy of a player so detestable.

Anyway, TGP Blog Lord Liz Roscher (Is “Blog Lord” gender-neutral? We’ll figure that out later, I guess) and I got together for a little bit of cathartic spleen-venting against the Atlanta Braves icon. Consider it an ecumenical multi-blog parting gift.

Anyway, if you’re feeling particularly vitriolic, you can read my exchange with Liz at The Good Phight, along with Jones-bashing from Phillies blogosphere poet laureate Wet Luzinski and others.

Congratulations on a great career, Larry Wayne. Now get the hell off of my baseball field.