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.