The Tuesday 10: 4/16/13

A brief aside before I get to the new feature: Yesterday’s events in Boston were obviously horrid, and those in the area could use your help. If you can spare it, you can donate monetarily to the victims through the Red Cross here. Now, back to baseball.

Bill’s begun to introduce you to a neat, concise weekly round-up of the most important plays of the past week with his Week In Review series. As something of a supplement, here’s something a touch more long-form about the week that was around the Phillies and the league at-large, with 10 points that caught our attention.

10. SD/LA Brawl, or “The Ruckus at the Ravine”

No one is calling it that. Why aren’t they calling it that? (UPDATE: This is why.)

The brawl that wrecked Zack Greinke‘s collarbone presents a scary scenario for every team. Granted, mound-charging isn’t really common, and there aren’t many people who decide to try and lower the boom against a stampeding man who outweighs them by a solid 30-plus, but what if that were Cole Hamels leading with his right shoulder against a rampaging Lucas Duda? Obviously, no athlete wants to look like they’re showing the smallest chip in their machismo armor, but protecting your health and career would (hopefully) override the need to stand your ground against an obviously insane Carlos Quentin.

That really just seems like one of those things you can’t truly prepare for, and can only see what actions you’d taken when finally presented with the choices. Shame it had to end like it did.

9. Mike Adams Family Values

Some have made the argument that Mike Adams was a superfluous signing this winter, that the money placed in his pockets was better allocated toward an outfield upgrade. And I can understand that, especially given the off-and-on start of Brown’s career and the unimpressive paper associated with the hydra of other outfielders currently on the roster.

But, to start, they’re doing alright. Brown has been, well, off-and-on, but still shows promise. Mayberry and Nix are both slugging over .540. Ezequiel Carrera has a -57 OPS+ but hey who’s counting?

But even if they weren’t performing that well to start the year and making that roster hole seem bigger, Adams was a fine signing. He was probably only available at his current rate (two years, $12 million) because of the thoracic outlet syndrome surgery he underwent this offseason. There was risk involved. Heck, just look at Chris Carpenter. But Adams has looked positively stellar in his first handful of outings: 5.1 IP, 9 K, 3 H and 1 R allowed prior to Monday’s unlucky appearance. His first four showings weren’t exactly the most pressure-packed – trailing by 5, trailing by two and twice ahead by five – but in the last two, he’s delivered what he’s being for, allowing no runs in tie games.

Sure, the Phillies had (and still have) some reliever depth and close-to-the-Majors guys, but the only reliever currently in the organization better than Adams is Jonathan Papelbon, and even then it’s actually pretty close. Adams is an excellent reliever, whose addition will hardly be wasteful spending (Monday’s less than stellar outing included).

8. Ryan Howard, Once and Future Dinger

Two weeks in and I still don’t know what to make of Howard. His line stands at .255/.291/.392 entering Tuesday, with 14 strikeouts in 55 plate appearances and a 1-for-15 start against lefties (including eight of those 14 Ks). At times, he’s looked utterly lost. At others, he’s squared the ball up and either hit it out or made a long out. He’s still not moving well, but he still seems much better than he did when he came back in 2012.

Personally, I’ve found rooting for Howard has come full circle. When he came up and dominated through 2006-07, he was a blast to watch at the plate. Then the shift happened and his flaws became more pronounced, and he became irritating. His contract extension didn’t help things, either. Now, as we watch a Howard clone weathered by injury and late-inning lefty after late-inning lefty, it’s hard not to root for him to get back to hitting 40 dingers and driving in Chase Utley. Will it happen with the same frequency as the heyday? Probably not. But where I once felt only frustration over that, I now find that cynicism overtaken by genuine hope for a return to homer-swatting glory.

7. What IS Domonic Brown Doing For Us?

Dom Brown likes inside pitches. But there seems to be a thin line somewhere in his definition of “inside” that separates a crushed ball from a jam shot.

strike-zone

And so appears said line. Brown stands a fair distance from the plate, but must still try to get extension when pulling balls that far in and is instead producing weaker contact. We know he can show some big power when he squares the ball up, but swinging at these pitches most likely isn’t going to let him show that off.

6. More Like Chad “Stalls”

I’m going to continue to make bad title puns and there is probably very little you can do about it.

Qualls entered Sunday’s appearance against the Phillies with a 10.35 ERA; it fell by more than four runs by the time he left. He threw 28 pitches to get seven outs, including just nine to get the first five. His WPA for the outing was .142, a number higher than all but one of his outings as a member of the Phillies.

strike-zone (1)strike-zone (2)

He stayed away, away, away from everyone, and no one could generate enough power to do anything with the elevated pitches on the outer half. Positively frustrating to be unable to touch a guy who was utter crap for your own team a season ago. Utter crap. Such a fun phrase. Except here because it’s Chad Qualls.

5. Who Framed Roy Halladay?

According to TruMedia, which has produced the heat maps you see above, Roy Halladay has thrown nine pitches all season that were, graphically, in the strike zone but called balls. Five of those came Sunday, with Humberto Quintero catching him. Quintero has caught Halladay’s last two starts, following the bizarre 3.1 IP, 9 K debut caught by Erik Kratz. In total, Quintero has seven of those nine “bad frames,” or so we’ll call them. You could also call it on the particular umpire, so there’s too much noise to draw definitively from the data we’ve got so far. Heck, even Chooch had a few games catching Doc in 2012 where he had multiple nibble-y pitches get called balls. Sometimes, it just happens.

Now, this is loose, as there’s some margin for error with the graphics, but it’s worth keeping an eye on, as my eye test alarm went off just watching the last outing.

4. Brown and Howard’s Dinger Dojo

3. Missin’ You, Chooch

Harkening back to the point about pitch framing, watching Kratz and Quintero really makes you miss having Carlos Ruiz behind the plate. We’re only 13 games into the season – and so only just past the halfway mark of Ruiz’s 25-game ban – but his absence is already being felt. After Monday’s 0-for-3, Kratz is hitting .171/.167/.293, while Quintero sits at .222/.222/.333 in limited action. In fact, the Phillies remain the only team not to have a catcher draw at least one walk yet this season.

2. Healthy Utley Is Best Utley

Monday’s game-tying, pinch-hit homer elevated Utley’s line to .292/.340/.602, giving Utley three homers on the season in 53 PA. In 2012, Utley hit his third dinger in his 64th PA, and in ’11 on his 83rd. Not that that’s necessarily indicative of anything (we’re talking about, really, a three-game and seven-game difference, respectively), I just wanted to point it out.

Really, though, we can all see that Utley’s better to start this season than at almost any point in recent or fairly distant memory. He looks great in the field, too. He keeps looking like this, and he may just get a new contract after all.

1. The Ben Revere Catch

Look at this catch. Look at this beautiful freaking catch. That’s some Jim Edmonds ish, right there.

The word on Revere has been that’s a plus defender, and even when he doesn’t make the best initial read (he froze for a moment after the ball was hit) he has the speed to make up for it. Sound familiar? Don’t let that make you think Revere’s just another Victorino-type in center field, though; on the whole, Revere’s CF play has been above his predecessor’s, and should hopefully continue to be.

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22 comments

  1. Jon Weisman

    April 16, 2013 09:33 AM

    “No one is calling it that. Why aren’t they calling it that?”

    Respectfully, it wasn’t at the Ravine – it was in San Diego.

  2. TomG

    April 16, 2013 09:46 AM

    Got nothing against that little bow thing Brown and Howard had going on, especially since it was done off to the side, after Brown’d already made the trip around the bases; really not much more than a congratulatory high five … but I have to say, I’m far more impressed by Utley’s approach to these things. Which is: he hits it out, does NOT stand and admire his shot – no Hanley/Manny Ramirez poses or anything like that – he just runs the bases at what looks to be 90-95% speed (no attention-milking home run trot at 40%), no kissy-fingers given up to God or Buddha or Richard Dawkins or whoever as he touches the plate … in fact, no attempt to show anybody up at all.

    And this, because it’s so rare nowadaze, is, to me, the most enjoyable celebration of all: A guy who lets he ball-playing performance speak for itself. I sometimes think this is one of the things I admire most about Utley: When he does something great, he acts as though he’s done it before – because he has.

    But every home run Hanley Ramirez hits? It’s the first one he’s ever hit, if you go by the after-performance. And Hanley is by no means alone in this.

  3. SJHaack

    April 16, 2013 10:43 AM

    If I did a thing significant enough in a sporting event often enough that it would be worth celebrating afterwards, I damn well would make up a celebration ritual for it too.

    You think Messi doesn’t celebrate when he scores goals? (Just to be clear, he does)

  4. Pencilfish

    April 16, 2013 11:27 AM

    The Phillies not only miss Ruiz’s bat but his game-calling behind the plate. This is a wake-up call for those who were suggesting we trade Ruiz mid-season and allow Kratz to become the starting catcher. It’s still early of course, but the notion that Kratz can replace Ruiz is just preposterous.

    While Revere is superior to Victorino defensively, he can’t hold a candle to Victorino’s bat. We essentially got better defensively at CF at the expense of offense, so we have to hope that Brown and D. Young make up for that in the OF.

  5. LTG

    April 16, 2013 11:48 AM

    I might be wrong about this but…

    The people advocating for trading Ruiz mid-year are operating with a caveat, namely, only if the Phillies are not in contention. If they’re not in contention, then who cares if Kratz is not an adequate replacement this year. The Phillies will have to start rebuilding anyway.

  6. hk

    April 16, 2013 12:00 PM

    Pencilfish,

    I don’t recall many calling for Ruiz to be traded so that he could be replaced by Kratz. I recall people calling for Ruiz to be traded if the Phils are out of it and are rebuilding. I agree with you that it would be preposterous to trade Ruiz and make Kratz the starter for a team that has any thoughts of competing for a playoff spot in 2013 or 2014.

    I agree with your assessment of the CF situation. As much as we have to hope that others pick up the slack offensively, we should also hope that the manager realizes the folly of giving the most PA’s to his worst hitter.

  7. Pencilfish

    April 16, 2013 12:44 PM

    Trading Ruiz in mid-season should only be done if a short-term extension of his contract (2-yrs?) is out of reach because:a) there aren’t any ML-ready catchers in the minors, and b) the return (in terms of prospects) for a half-season rental will not be significant. I don’t think Ruiz will yield a ML-ready prospect.

    I know that Brian McCann is a FA next off-season (at age 30), but the Phillies may not be interested if they believe Joseph will ready in 1-2 seasons.

    With the 2nd WC, the Phillies and most other fringe teams probably themselves as contenders. A good indicator is whether they choose to extend Utley’s contract in mid-season. If they do, I can’t see how they can trade Ruiz or Lee and still call themselves a contender.

  8. LTG

    April 16, 2013 01:57 PM

    A further premise, which I find plausible: if the Phillies are not in contention this year, they will not be in contention next year.

    Or if you disagree with that one, a slightly weaker premise, which I also find plausible: if the Phillies are not in contention this year, retaining Ruiz will not make the difference between the Phillies contending next year and not contending next year.

    And then there is a separate argument that it is better for the Phillies to commit to rebuilding this year (if not in contention) than continue to construct rosters that are on the borderline between contending and not contending.

  9. Pencilfish

    April 16, 2013 02:55 PM

    LTG,

    Rebuilding has many different degrees. What do we do with Utley and Lee, if we trade Ruiz and drop Halladay?

    Not saying we can’t trade or get rid all of these guys, but players like Brown, Ruf, Morgan, Asche, Joseph, etc must all step up to keep the product on the field viable, because ideally rebuilding must be done without a sharp drop in revenue. Let’s avoid the Mets and Marlins approach.

    Putting a losing product on the field reduces revenue and the Phillies leverage in the upcoming TV contract negotiations. What kind of business owner would run a franchise like that?

    From the owners’ point of view, it is better to be on the edge of contending than to be the Padres, Cubs, Marlins or Mets.

  10. LTG

    April 16, 2013 03:28 PM

    To clarify, by contending I meant having a reasonable chance of winning the 5th spot. Not contending means not having a reasonable chance of winning the 5th spot. I interpret this to mean worse than last year’s team.
    From this it follows that the premises I outlined above entail that the Phillies will be putting a losing product on the field whether they trade Ruiz or not. That 3rd paragraph is a non-starter.

    Many consecutive years of teams on the borderline of contention, like last year’s team, will not be better than a few years of bad teams that allow the team to retool. Eventually, fans will stay away for most of the year and become cynical about how the club is run.

    If we’re trading Ruiz, we’re trading Lee. Utley is a special case given how beloved he is. The team can be bad and people will come out to watch Utley push for the Hall of Fame. Even if revenue takes a hit, Utley softens the blow.

    What’s wrong with the position the Mets are in? Looks a lot like the Phillies from early last decade. Some talent breaking in and some talent not far behind. If Minaya had given up on his roster sooner maybe they would have become a contender sooner. (On the other hand, the current GM was rumored to be willing to move Wheeler and D’Arnaud for Stanton, which makes me wonder about him. It’s not a totally crazy thing to do, but it’s not like Stanton makes them competitive with the Braves and Nationals right now.)

    To take the owner’s perspective–and to treat it as one that cares first for profit and only secondarily for winning–is just a cop out from the argument. Those who advocate blowing this team up and rebuilding take winning as the primary and only goal. If your disagreement over trading Ruiz depends on taking the owner’s perspective then you are just talking past your interlocutors.

    As I’ve said here before, I don’t actually advocate blowing the team up. I hold that it is possible to navigate this precarious pass from aging veterans to younger contributors. It will, however, require trading Lee (and Halladay if he fixes himself into a 3rd starter). So, in the end, I’m not sure that trading Ruiz is right. But I also think reasonable people can disagree on the matter. Neither side needs a “wake-up call”, unless either side baldly misrepresents the other side’s view or the reasons that the other side has for holding its view.

  11. LTG

    April 16, 2013 03:30 PM

    I know, I know, tl;dr.

  12. Pencilfish

    April 16, 2013 11:32 PM

    LTG,

    Your failure (lack of exposure to personnel issues, I suppose) to appreciate the business side of baseball means you are prone to dreaming up unrealistic scenarios. Naively suggesting trading Lee and Ruiz implies that the Phillies will get something significant in return (they won’t). Have you thought about the Phillies starting rotation in 2014 without Lee and Halladay and their chances of contending? This goes back to my statement about different degrees of rebuilding and the “wake-up call”. You deny that you favor blowing up the team, but you advocate shipping off two key cogs of the current team, which in effect firmly places the team in the “average” status. Your approach means the Phillies neither gets the top 10 picks (the team isn’t bad enough) nor the bottom 10 (the team isn’t good enough). That’s a great recipe for a team to hover around .500.

    Second, “Those who advocate blowing this team up and rebuilding take winning as the primary and only goal” is an absurd statement. Those who advocate blowing the team UNREALISTICALLY hope that the rebuilt team WILL win. There are no guarantees that a rebuilt team will win. It could be WORSE than the current team. Much worse. Think Astros or Pirates.

    Saying the Mets current situation is similar to the Phillies’ situation a decade ago can be charitably described as simplistic. You must not live in NY or follow the Mets closely. The Mets revenue structure, team building philosophy and organizational management is completely different.

    I reluctantly endorse RAJ’s current strategy (hold on to veterans, sign some cheap talent, hope that some farm hands develop to take over, etc) because the alternatives are far more risky and uncertain. Unfortunately, there are no magic formula to keep the team a serious WS contender on a continuous basis.

  13. Pencilfish

    April 16, 2013 11:52 PM

    LTG,

    By the way, what kind of prospects (top 50, top 100, organizational fill, etc) do you think the Phillies get for Lee, Halladay and Ruiz? It will be interesting to keep track of in case RAJ pulls the trigger in July.

  14. Pencilfish

    April 17, 2013 09:28 AM

    LTG,

    Re-phrasing 2nd paragraph for clarity:

    Second, “Those who advocate blowing this team up and rebuilding take winning as the primary and only goal” is an unhelpful truism. Why else would people advocate blowing up this team? Those who advocate blowing the team NAIVELY assume that the rebuilt team WILL be better. There are no guarantees. It could be WORSE than the current team. Much worse. Think Astros or Pirates.

  15. LTG

    April 17, 2013 03:23 PM

    1) I’m flattered that you parrot my use of “truism” but that is not a truism since there could be other reasons for blowing up a team, including money reasons, e.g., the Marlins. And I pointed it out in order to show how you are, or seemed to be, talking past your opponent. So, it was useful. Indeed, you used it to reformulate your disagreement such that it actually takes your opponent’s reasons into account and responds to them. See, not truistic and helpful.

    2) So, it is possible that the Phillies can’t get anything useful for Lee or Ruiz, in which case, sure, keeping them might be better. It might not be better, if the salary saved could be better used elsewhere. But to offer some reason that Lee, at least, might draw something useful in the near future, there were rumors about a Lee for Upton deal. If that deal looked initially plausible then Lee probably still has good value on the trade market.

    3) The blow-up the team position does not have to claim that the team WILL get better but rather that is more likely to be better sooner than a team that ages out of contention will be. Again, I take this to be a matter of reasonable disagreement, and you are reasonably disagreeing with that evaluation.

    4) You keep pointing to the Astros and Pirates as examples of teams that have blown up teams and failed to rebuild. But the Astros didn’t really blow-up their teams and they are currently building a large stable of young talent that could soon make the Astros a contender. The Pirates have been horribly mismanaged. Mismanagement like that can’t compete no matter what path is taken. And the Oakland As continue to compete while also dismantling teams rather often. So, although dismantling a team is not without risk, we shouldn’t focus only on examples where it has failed.

    5) Lots of things you say in your post suggest you have expert knowledge about the inner-workings of MLB front offices. But you provide no support for that stance and make claims that you don’t explain. What relevant personnel issues am I unexposed to? What are the revenue structures and organizational philosophy that make the Mets different from the Phillies early last decade? Why won’t Lee bring back anything significant like a haul similar to the one Dickey brought? I’m very willing to hear evidence and revise my view, but you have to actually present it rather than bash me with pejorative and condescending terms.

    6) You express a reluctant preference for what appears to be RAJ’s current strategy. But I have two objections. For one, you claim that my view (the intermediate view) will lead to middling draft picks. But that is exactly what RAJ’s current strategy produced last season and is likely to produce this season. Indeed, this claim seems to support blowing the team up, not keeping with RAJ’s strategy. For two, you say your position depends on a hope that some farm hands develop to take over. But all reports indicate that we have no farm hands to replace the players aging out. Rather, we only have players who could support the aging players we already have if we could keep their production from fading. I think an advantage of the intermediate view is that it allows that farm talent to fit where it should (e.g., Biddle at #4 or #3 at highest rather than #2, or #1), while bringing in better young talent or freeing up cash to sign higher-level talent. If we do not supplement the current farm talent with better talent, the team will be out of contention anyway. So, if the success of RAJ’s strategy depends on hope for the current farm, I doubt it is the best strategy going forward.

    I’m interested to hear your response.

  16. LTG

    April 17, 2013 03:28 PM

    I should also say, and I hate saying it, the intermediate view might advocate trading Utley rather than Lee. But that depends on how the two project to hold onto their value and what replacement options are available. If Galvis’s bat suddenly becomes viable–contrary to scouts’ expectations–and we expect Lee to age like Randy Johnson, Utley might be the best trade chip.

  17. Phillie697

    April 17, 2013 04:13 PM

    That’s it. Anyone making a hint/suggestion/hypothetical discussion that we trade Utley will be hit by a monkfish. In the face. Multiple times.

  18. LTG

    April 17, 2013 04:30 PM

    If I get to keep the fish and fry it with some lemon and sage and serve it with snow peas, fingerling potatoes, and a moscow mule, then I will say we should trade Utley weekly.

  19. Phillie697

    April 18, 2013 09:34 AM

    Wait, is monkfish even tasty?

  20. LTG

    April 18, 2013 11:34 AM

    Monkfish is delectable! You live in dc? I’m sure you can find a hipster restaurant that serves it.

  21. Phillie697

    April 18, 2013 03:50 PM

    Well, you learn something everyday. I will be sure to find such a restaurant, just for MB.

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