The Wednesday Ten: Starving for WiFi
Once again, the Tuesday 10 has become the Wednesday Ten as Paul, your regularly scheduled host, searches high and low in Manhattan for an Internet connection. Much as early man scoured the desert for water, man now crawls on his hands and knees, growing weaker by the hour until he finds WiFi. Is that… a Starbucks? With free Internet? No, couldn’t be. The closer you get, the more you think your search has ended until… nope, just a mirage. What you thought was a Starbucks in the distance turned out to be the halal cart.
Let’s jump into the Ten.
10. Chris Davis might just be for real.
Orioles first baseman Chris Davis was kind of a bust through the first four years of his career, three and a half of which he spent with the Texas Rangers. Through 2011, the lefty had a 94 adjusted OPS with an on-base percentage just barely over .300. At the trade deadline in 2011, the Rangers sent Davis and Tommy Hunter to the Orioles in exchange for reliever Koji Uehara. It wasn’t considered to be a meaningful trade as the Rangers moved two disappointing players for a reliever they didn’t expect to keep around for any extended period of time.
If you were to graph the 2012 season for Davis, it would look like a U as his best months were in April and September. In September, Davis mashed ten home runs to the tune of a .320/.397/.660 line. He has continued that through the first two months of this season as well, with a .348/.442/.728 line in April and .341/.431/.727 in May.
What’s crazy to think about is Davis hasn’t been his team’s most valuable player. That honor belongs to Manny Machado, who has played sterling defense and is on pace for 72 doubles, which would break Earl Webb‘s single-season record of 67 set in 1931. The highest doubles total posted by a player this millennium was 59 by Todd Helton in 2000.
9. Ben Revere is the best Phillie at something
It’s not something bad, and we’re not going to go over the awful base running situation again. It’s hitting for average. With Chase Utley (.272) out, Revere now has the highest batting average among Phillies with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. The lefty went 2-for-5 in last night’s 3-1 victory over the Red Sox, boosting his average up to .263, two points ahead of John Mayberry. His on-base percentage is 14 points higher than Ryan Howard‘s. If Revere can pick up the average a little bit in the final four months of the season, he would be one of his team’s better assets, as he already ranks third on the team in WAR (0.4), according to Baseball Reference. He trails Utley (1.5) and Domonic Brown (0.8).
Speaking of Brown…
8. Where are the walks?
Domonic Brown was named NL Player of the Week, which is awesome. He leads the team in homers with 11 and has been his team’s most fearsome hitter this side of Chase Utley. That said, his on-base percentage is under .300 at .294 thanks to not having drawn a walk since April 30. That’s right, Brown has gone the entire month of May without drawing a single walk, unintentional or otherwise. The power is very nice to see, but his weighted on-base average is .331, just six points ahead of the National League average for outfielders.
This is not to say that Brown hasn’t proven wrong the naysayers, who said he had burned all of his opportunities and didn’t deserve any more, but drawing walks was kind of his thing. He had a walk rate of 12 and 10 percent in 2011-12 but it has fallen to 4.6 percent this year. I surmised on Twitter to Eric, that Brown may have been advised or otherwise pressured to put balls in play rather than draw walks. I hope I am very, very wrong with that hypothesis and that the walks will start coming in droves as we head into June.
7. The greatest post-game interview you’ll see
Meet your new favorite non-Phillie, Munenori Kawasaki.
Kawasaki, a light-hitting shortstop playing in place of the injured Jose Reyes, got the game-winning hit on Sunday afternoon against the Orioles.
6. B.J. Upton has been baaaaaad
B.J. Upton, who signed a five-year, $75.25 million contract with the Braves in the off-season, went 0-for-3 in Sunday’s loss to the Mets and hasn’t played since, sitting on a .148/.236/.252 line in 176 trips to the plate. In the two games since, the Braves have used Jordan Schafer in center. At ESPN Sweet Spot, David Schoenfield asks what the Braves should do in center field. Compared to his career averages, Upton is walking about 1.5 percent less often, striking out about nine percent more often, and his isolated power has been cut by about 40 percent.
The Braves are 31-20, 4.5 games up on the second-place Nationals. Do you keep trotting Upton out there, knowing he can’t possibly be this bad? As Schoenfield notes, any alternative option has its own set of issues. For example, if the Braves were to use Evan Gattis in left field, he may be so bad defensively as to cancel out any good he brings with his bat. And his bat may not play this well the whole season once the rest of the league gets a book on him. Relying on Jordan Schafer in center puts all your eggs in the basket of a kid who had a career .606 OPS in 893 PA entering the season, though he is now hitting .874 in 95.
Coupled with their bullpen woes, the Braves should not, at any point, get comfortable with their place in the division, especially if they are unable to rectify the B.J. Upton situation.
5. Cliff Lee‘s trade value
With eight innings of one-run ball against the Red Sox last night, after shutting out the Marlins in nine on Wednesday, Cliff Lee’s ERA sits at a low 2.34 in a league-best 80.2 innings. The lefty has $62.5 million left on his contract between 2014-16 as well as a prorated portion of his $25 million salary for this season, which is a strong deterrent for many teams looking to acquire a top-tier starting pitcher for the stretch run. Despite the Phillies hanging around .500, just 6.5 games out of first, they have over-performed their Pythagorean record by four games and really don’t stack up well against most teams who might be their post-season competitor, which leads many to believe that the Phillies should consider themselves sellers going into the trade deadline.
With one of baseball’s weaker Minor League systems, trading away older soon-to-be free agents like Carlos Ruiz and Michael Young could net the Phillies a prospect or two. Remember, the Mets were able to land Zack Wheeler in the trade that sent Carlos Beltran to San Francisco in 2011. If the Phillies are willing to assume a healthy portion of Lee’s remaining salary, Lee could and arguably should be on the team’s list of salable assets. Jonathan Papelbon, too, for that matter.
4. Brandon Phillips is good at defense
The runner was safe, but still.
Wedge was talking about Ackley’s demotion to Triple-A and his mental approach, and he intimated that Ackley might have been too concerned with pitch selectivity and high on-base percentage, leading to a one-liner that hit on one of baseball’s most intriguing ongoing philosophical battles.
“It’s the new generation. It’s all this sabermetrics stuff, for lack of a better term, you know what I mean?” Wedge said. “People who haven’t played since they were 9 years old think they have it figured out. It gets in these kids’ heads.”
If you missed it, the Mariners recently demoted Ackley to Triple-A Tacoma after 1,215 PA of .651 OPS baseball in Seattle. But it isn’t just Ackley. Jesus Montero, the prize of the Michael Pineda trade, also hasn’t panned out. Neither has Justin Smoak, whom the Mariners acquired from the Rangers in the Cliff Lee trade. Or the other names David Schoenfield listed in yesterday’s post which called for Wedge’s ouster. Wedge has a .436 winning percentage as manager of the Mariners. The club’s woes lie not with Sabermetrics, but with their inability to develop talent and fill in around the edges.
2. End the Delmon Young era already
Normally, I’d suggest 89 plate appearances is too small of a sample size, and it really is. But Delmon Young has hit about as well as we would have expected as his on-base percentage is only 15 points behind last year’s .296 and his slugging percentage is 31 points behind last year’s .411. The biggest difference has been the 52 points of batting average he lacks from last year’s .267. But given that he hasn’t consistently made hard contact with baseballs, doesn’t have good at-bats (he saw five pitches total in four at-bats last night!), and is slower than a tortoise on the base paths, it’s not all that surprising.
If he had enough plate appearances to qualify his 78 adjusted OPS would rank second-worst on the team, ahead of only Ben Revere. Young hits right-handers poorly but the Phillies refuse to use him in a platoon. He doesn’t run well. And despite the few oddly strong throws he has made in right field, he plays horrible defense. Baseball Reference has him at -0.4 WAR. In 89 plate appearances.
1. Never assume anything
In the poll I had put in the right-hand sidebar at the end of April and ended only recently, I assumed the Phillies would score more runs in May than in April. Not so. The Phillies have scored 81 runs in 25 May games, an average of 3.24 runs per game. They scored 100 in 27 April games, an average of 3.70 per game. Their overall 3.48 average is second-worst in baseball, ahead of only the Marlins at 2.77. The 3.48 rate puts them on pace for 564 runs in 162 games, which would be their lowest runs scored total in a full 162-game season since they scored 558 in 1971. That team went 67-95. It would be the 106th-best runs scored total in a season of any length out of 131 seasons.