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.

Still doesn’t make him comparable to Joe Morgan.

3. Ack!

Mariners manager Eric Wedge blames Sabermetrics for former top prospect Dustin Ackley‘s struggles:

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.

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31 comments

  1. Richard

    May 29, 2013 10:11 AM

    eh, I wouldn’t place too much weight on the Phillies’ pythag. record…. their run differential looks a lot different if you remove three games in which injured pitchers (Halladay twice and Lannan once) got pummeled… these games represent -33 of their -41 run differential. Not saying those games shouldn’t count, of course, just that they’ve played like more or less what they are: a roughly .500 team.

    Also, the Mets landing Wheeler is not at all a useful precedent, since no one liked the trade at the time, and it didn’t work out for SF. Those kinds of deals are highly unlikely anymore.

  2. Souled0ut1

    May 29, 2013 10:26 AM

    I’m no expert, but I think there might be a simple answer to “8. Where are the Walks.” The foregone walks are ending up over the outfield fence in the stands in the form of home runs.

    Brown is getting good pitches to hit and turning them into Dom Bombs. Once pitchers start pitching around Brown, the walks will come. But I’ll take a Dom Bomb over a base on balls any day of the week.

  3. Phillie697

    May 29, 2013 10:31 AM

    BB,

    Wasn’t there worries about Mini-Keg’s defense by some scouts when he was called up? I mean, really? The kid is playing Polanco-like defense to go with a monster season so far at the plate. How can they miss THAT much?

    Although I’m pretty damn sure that .374 BABIP is not going to last. He’s basically Dom Brown with better luck right now offensively. Yes, boys and girls, I am comparing our boy Dom to Mini-Keg. Get over it.

  4. Eric Longenhagen

    May 29, 2013 10:40 AM

    There were no concerns about Machado’s defense. Some though maybe one day he’d get too thick and heavy to play SS but nobody ever thought he’d be bad at 3B if he had to move.

  5. Phillie697

    May 29, 2013 10:44 AM

    @Eric,

    He keeps playing like this he’ll take the “best 3B of AL” away from Beltre.

  6. USC

    May 29, 2013 10:45 AM

    Richard – don’t forget that Holliday went for Wallace too. Again, while that trade didn’t work out, at the time, Wallace was a top 75 prospect. I can see a lot of the expiring contracts going for decent, but raw, prospects.

    Utley, whom I don’t see traded – top 50 prospect
    M. Young – marginal prospect
    D. Young – a can of coke
    Ruiz – toolsy prospect, or failed prospect

    Hell, if Halladay comes back and pitches well, even he might be let go.

  7. LTG

    May 29, 2013 10:47 AM

    BB,

    I agree with Richard on the pythag record. And to elaborate a bit: the Phillies offense has somehow underproduced its woefully low expected production due to bad luck. While their hitting has been bad, their sequencing has been even worse. For this reason and the reason Richard offers, I don’t think we should look at pythag either to say what their record should be right now or what we should expect their record to turn into.

    697,

    I’m pretty sure Machado was making a transition from SS to 3B *in MLB*. That’s why scouts were skeptical. It seems reasonable to worry that a player who hasn’t played a position in the minors will struggle to play that position in the majors.

  8. Bill Baer

    May 29, 2013 10:48 AM

    @ Richard

    I wasn’t trying to say the Phillies would likely get a Wheeler, just that it’s a possibility. You never know. The Astros were able to finagle Jonathan Singleton and Domingo Santana from the Phillies for Hunter Pence.

  9. LTG

    May 29, 2013 10:48 AM

    Or what EL said because my memory sucks.

  10. Phillie697

    May 29, 2013 10:53 AM

    BB,

    What’s your best guess that the Phillies would get for Papelbon if we were to, say, pick up $4M per year on his remaining salary? Seems like league-wide teams (the non-RAJ division anyway) are starting to properly value closers better. I can’t imagine we’d get a top-50 prospect even if we agreed to pay that much.

  11. Bill Baer

    May 29, 2013 10:58 AM

    It’s hard to know this early since a lot of teams still consider themselves contenders. We’ll know more when the herd is thinned out in mid-July.

  12. Phillie697

    May 29, 2013 11:06 AM

    Does anyone know if we agree to pay part of Lee and/or Papelbon’s salaries in a trade, is the amount we agree to pay count against our salary cap?

  13. Dante

    May 29, 2013 11:25 AM

    Re: Brown’s swinging rates – per BBRef, he is not swinging at a ton more pitches, or getting thrown a bunch more strikes. He’s swinging 51% of the time (approx 47% career before, while getting 64% strikes (approx 62% career before). He’s swinging at the first pitch much more than MLB avg of 26% (35%) and seeing 3.77 P/PA (MLB avg 3.82).

  14. Dante

    May 29, 2013 11:26 AM

    Phille – Yes, if we pay some of their salary, it is a cap hit.

  15. Pencilfish

    May 29, 2013 12:39 PM

    Money-wise, it would be illogical for RAJ to gut the team before 2015. The reason? There will be a new TV contract by then. I think he will continue to field an expensive team to (hopefully) generate revenue through attendance.

    Fielding a team with prospects is likely to turn them into the Mets, Marlins or Royals. That’s not the kind of bargaining power he needs for the new TV contract.

  16. Pencilfish

    May 29, 2013 12:42 PM

    Phillie697, Dante,

    MLB does not have a salary cap. There is a luxury-tax threshold, which goes from 178 to 189 million next year.

  17. Pencilfish

    May 29, 2013 12:48 PM

    Cesar Hernandez was just called up to replace Michael Young (bereavement list). If you want to see the future, here’s another potential piece, along with Brown and Galvis. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ruf and Asche find their way to Philly later this year, too.

  18. yo

    May 29, 2013 01:49 PM

    a lot of guys may be called up because the phillies are old, will get hurt and suck. don’t confuse call-ups with great young talent. top MILB prospect Profar is more than holding his own in the majors, but will be sent down b/c the Rangers don’t have a spot. the phils, who suck and don’t have anyone near a Profar, may call up some middling talent in the 2nd half. awesome.

  19. SJHaack

    May 29, 2013 02:38 PM

    @Richard

    The Phillies are 4-7 in 1 Run games. That’s not great but they’re not getting the crap end of the stick for it. The Phillies’ greatest Margin of Victory is 6 runs, which they have achieved once. They have lost games by 6 or more runs nine times. They have more 3-4 run wins than losses, but when they lose they lose large. They have come into their -40 run differential honestly.

  20. VoteForDelmon

    May 29, 2013 02:39 PM

    End the Delmon Young era. By voting him into the all star game.

  21. Phillie697

    May 29, 2013 08:11 PM

    “I think he will continue to field an expensive team to (hopefully) generate revenue through attendance.”

    Please explain to me how fielding an expensive team = generate revenue through attendance. Our freaking team sure is hella expensive this year, and we are seeing a decline in attendance. WINNING generate attendance, and you have to do MORE than spending money like it grows on trees to win.

    I can guarantee you $170M in the hands of RAJ isn’t going to win us any freaking favorable TV contracts in 2015. Not when he’s already spent $100M of it already (yeah, Hamels, Howard, Lee, AND Papelbon are still on the books) on players that are not likely to be worth their salaries by then. Well, save Hamels. You still haven’t realized how much RAJ screwed us, do you?

  22. Cutter McCool

    May 29, 2013 10:06 PM

    Howard isn’t worth his salary now.

  23. Pencilfish

    May 29, 2013 11:42 PM

    Phillie697,

    You equate declining attendance with being non-profitable. That isn’t true in 2013. At least, not yet.

    The Phillies are 5th highest in home-game attendance so far in 2013, behind the Dodgers, Giants, Cards and Rangers. Behind the Phillies are the Yankees, Angels, Tigers, Nats and Red Sox.

    RAJ’s contract runs through 2014, which is just a year shy of the new TV contract. Guess who’s working hard to get that huge profit revenue that will allow the team to continue spending like the big boys (ie, see the list of teams above)?

    Btw, the bottom of the attendance list includes the Royals (22nd), Pirates (24th), A’s (26th), Rays (28th). These are all teams with small payrolls. You want the Phillies to keep company with these teams?

  24. Phillie697

    May 30, 2013 09:58 AM

    @Pencilfish,

    You’re making straw-man arguments now. Other team’s payroll, attendance number, and/or win-loss record, are only of secondary relevance when it comes to Phillies’ TV contract in 2015, as the broadcast company attempts to figure out what the market value of Phillies’ TV broadcast rights are. The UTMOST important factor for them is the interest of the local market in watching Phillies games on TV, and that has a DIRECT correlation to PHILLIES attendance record (please don’t tell me you dispute this).

    No matter what, Phillies are going to get a new TV contract in 2015. Do you know what’s an ironclad truth? Had Phillies sold out every year since 2009 until 2015, that TV contract will be larger than what RAJ will be able to get in 2015 in reality. I don’t think you need a high school GED to figure that out. And we do that by keep on winning. Instead, because of RAJ’s ineptitude, our team is no longer competitive, and our attendance record has suffered because of it, so our new TV contract is going to be smaller. RAJ, in essence, has cost us money.

  25. Pencilfish

    May 30, 2013 10:13 AM

    Phillie697,

    Straw-man arguments?! You mean like this:

    “I can guarantee you $170M in the hands of RAJ isn’t going to win us any freaking favorable TV contracts in 2015.”

    You definitely need a GED to figure the logic here. If you think the RAJ will get a very unfavorable TV contract, then I agree with your team philosophy: let’s turn the clock back and put the Phillies in the company of the Pirates, Rays, A’s and Royals. Let’s hold a fire sale, promote the AAA team, build from within 100% and hope for one winning season in 28 years.

    Let’s postpone this discussion until the July trade deadline. I’m curious to see if RAJ will be a seller or buyer. That will further feed the narrative about winning, attendance and the new TV contract.

  26. Phillie697

    May 30, 2013 10:47 AM

    @Pencilfish,

    I would rather a GM who HAD been paying attention to player development since 2009 so that our options aren’t either try to spend ourselves into contention (big fail so far), or go into super-duper rebuilding mode (because our farm, you know, suck). You keep wanting to forget how we got here. The rest of us aren’t, because the many in charge is the one who got us here. Get rid of HIM then I can do exactly what you want me to do, focus completely on the future.

  27. LTG

    May 30, 2013 11:09 AM

    The premise behind this conversation–that the Phils either stay pat or gut–is false. The Phils could move some older, expensive talent for other MLB-ready (or nearly ready) talent and sign a free agent or two and try to compete with a slightly different roster. You can doubt RAJ’s ability to do that successfully, but it is an option. This option would probably better satisfy the requirements that the Phils keep the fan-base optimistic for purely fiduciary concerns and that the team really try to compete while transitioning to a new era of players.

  28. LTG

    May 30, 2013 01:21 PM

    BB, Richard, Haack:

    For a better way to gage how the Phils current record stands with respect to what we should now expect of them, it is better to look at adjusted projections. Fortunately, FG does this for us (caveats about a particular site’s methods):
    www.fangraphs.com/depthcharts.aspx?position=Standings
    That projection puts the Phils right around where they are now.

    To emend my previous post, the Phil’s wOBA differential puts them around their pythag. So, even if their offensive sequencing has been unlucky, it looks like their pitching sequencing has been equally lucky.

  29. Pencilfish

    May 30, 2013 03:39 PM

    LTG,

    The (unannounced) transition has already started with Brown and then Pettibone. Cesar Hernandez debuts tonight at 2B (bats 2nd). Unloading some veterans (Ruiz, Halladay, Utley, the Youngs) won’t fetch much, but it will bring salary relief and allow future FA signings. You are probably correct that this is the likely course of action.

  30. Lloyd

    May 31, 2013 11:04 PM

    I agree with Souldout1, as long as Brown is getting hits and a lot of them are going out over the fence, I don’t care.

    I see Brown, if he can continue this, as a Pat Burrell kind of player. A good five hole hitter, limited defensive ability, decent arm, better speed than Pat (I can run better and I’m 58 years old). 35 HR’s and about 100 RBI (if he can get some base runners in front of him) . I’m ok with that. Like Soul said, the walks will come.

  31. Renee Patel

    June 03, 2013 03:34 AM

    The Phillies’ offense would in 1888 be ranked among the bottom of the league, being fourth in doubles (151), fifth in walks (268), sixth in runs scored (535), strikeouts (485), on-base percentage (.269) and slugging percentage (.290), seventh in hits (1021), triples (46), home runs (16), batting average (.225) and stolen bases (246) and eighth in at-bats (4528), as well as having 418 RBIs and having 51 hit batsmen. The Phillies’ pitchers would end the season being number one in saves (3), second in ERA (2.38), shut outs (16), hits allowed (1072), runs allowed (509), home runs allowed (26) and walks (196), fourth in strike outs (519), seventh in complete games (125) and eighth in innings pitched (1167), as well as finishing seven games, giving up 309 earned runs, throwing 50 wild pitches, hitting 25 batters and throwing 2 balks.

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