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.

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16 comments

  1. Nik

    September 24, 2012 09:26 AM

    Would be totally happy with Mayberry/Schierholtz platoon. However there is already talk that the Phillies are intrested in Cody Ross. So either they want to platoon Brown or they are down on Mayberry and want him to be a pure bench bat.

  2. mratfink

    September 24, 2012 10:31 AM

    nik,
    isn’t ross playing center field this season? they could want ross for center, and platoon mayberry and schierholtz in right

  3. nik

    September 24, 2012 11:29 AM

    mratfink, Ross can handle CF in a pinch, but he’s really a corner outfielder. Manuel has been bitching about defense lately, so no way do the Phillies sign Ross to play CF.

  4. Scott G

    September 24, 2012 11:32 AM

    It’s sad that “Charlie Manuel” will still be synonymous with The Phillies next season.

  5. hk

    September 24, 2012 11:49 AM

    Former manager Charlie Manuel would sure have a nice ring to it.

  6. hk

    September 24, 2012 11:53 AM

    Is it a foregone conclusion that there’s no chance that Victorino will be signed to come back and play CF?

  7. jauer

    September 24, 2012 12:01 PM

    Cody Ross is having a career year at age 31, posting an OPS+ of 117 at Fenway (yes, i realize OPS+ is park-factor normalized, but it’s still Fenway for a RHB). His UZR fluctuates every year, so I can’t imagine him providing significant value defensively in CF next year at age 32. From his age 26 season through age 31, he’s posted an OBP of only .329 and an OPS+ of 111. There’s no reason to expect his production to increase, and he will certainly be asking for an inappropriate amount of money after this season.

    Also, look at his face. Give me Victorino or Upton.

  8. hk

    September 24, 2012 12:10 PM

    jauer,

    I fear that Upton’s great August and his incredible September are going to drive his asking price into a place the Phillies might not go. At the right price, I’m all for them signing Upton, especially if Tampa doesn’t make a qualifying offer and signing him does not cost the Phils their first round pick.

    My greater fear is that RAJ is going to rush into the CF free agent market and lock up Bourn or Hamilton early and overpay in dollars and/or years plus squander another first round pick.

  9. Richard

    September 24, 2012 12:23 PM

    I’d rather them overpay Bourn or Hamilton than persist in any delusion that playing Utley at third and Galvis at second isn’t fucking stupid. Or was that not the topic?

  10. jauer

    September 24, 2012 12:55 PM

    Yes, it seems that Upton’s strong finish will make Victorino or even Pagan a better candidate.

    But as to your concerns about rushing into Hamilton/Bourn, the conspiracy theory is that Amaro’s family vacation is in January every year, and he likes to have his roster set by then, which means we may be having heroin-rehabilitation discussions on this site a year from now.

  11. hk

    September 24, 2012 12:55 PM

    Richard,

    Unfortunately, as you know, those events are not mutually exclusive. In fact, overpaying Bourn or Hamilton might enhance their view that they need to save money elsewhere and start Galvis.

  12. DARK STAR

    September 24, 2012 03:12 PM

    Mayberry Is not the answer neither is Brown. Keep Pierre for the bench and get a new outfield probably Victorino when he finds out there Is no $12 mill offer out there for him. Huge mistake when they didn’t sign Beltran.

  13. EricL

    September 24, 2012 03:49 PM

    Mayberry is what he is. He’ll be 29 next season, is a mediocre fielder who can’t hit RHP. I suppose he’d be a fine platoon player, although I’d rather see him in LF since Dom’s arm is much better suited for RF.

    I don’t mind Upton in CF, but I really think my first choice would be Melky Cabrera.

    Bourn’s going to be very much overpaid, same with Hamilton, and Victorino will probably come cheaper but is in the middle of his worst season in years (.225/.298/.303 since the trade). So maybe he’ll be cheap and bounce back, or maybe he’s starting to decline. He’s probably the riskiest OF option outside of Hamilton.

  14. LTG

    September 24, 2012 04:36 PM

    If Melky stays on the roids, let’s go get him. If not, not.

  15. jauer

    September 24, 2012 05:44 PM

    What LTG says.

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