Crash Bag Vol. 39: Outfield Defense, the Offseason, and Vacation Destinations

With the 2017 Phillies season in the books, the questions this week focus mostly on the offseason and shaping the roster for 2018.
@RobertDalton52: 40 man roster, who gets cut/released/freeagent and who is on the bubble?
Including injured players, the Phillies have 47 players on the 40-man roster. Sure bets to be gone include free agents Clay Buchholz, Andres Blanco, Daniel Nava, and Hyun Soo Kim. Kevin Siegrist will probably be gone, along with Pedro Florimon. There’s talk of Florimon coming back as a utility player next year, but I don’t really see that happening. With that, we’re down to 41.

The clutchest man in baseball, Ty Kelly, just became a free agent. We’ve talked a lot in these pages about Cesar Hernandez as a trade candidate. I think either he or Freddy Galvis will be gone, with Cesar being the more likely candidate.  That brings us down to 39 players, but then back up to 40 if the return for Hernandez is a major league player.

There are several players who need to be protected from the Rule 5 draft, and, despite Andy MacPhail’s statements, the Phillies will probably sign a free agent pitcher. The Phillies likely need to clear at least 5 more spots.

The Phillies have a bunch of mediocre relief pitchers on the 40-man. Several of those players, like Alberto Tirado, Yacksel Rios, Kevin Siegrist, Zac Curtis, and Ricardo Pinto could be DFA’d to make room for prospects or free agents. Ditto Henderson Alvarez, who has only thrown 37 major league innings since the 2014 season when he was surprisingly the Marlins best pitcher. It’s possible the Phillies like what they see in one or more of these pitchers, but I don’t think any of these players would necessarily be a huge loss. That gets us down to 34.

Depending on who the Phillies want to protect from the Rule 5 draft and how active they are in free agency, that may be enough spots. I’ll probably do an update to this as the offseason progresses and the Phillies make it more clear what their intentions are.

@PompeyMalus: Nick Pivetta, future middle reliever?
Nick Pivetta looks like a classic move-to-the-bullpen guy. He’s got a big fastball and a good curve, but no third pitch and not enough control or command to stick in the rotation long term. His fastball velocity, which averages almost 95 mph in the rotation, would likely get a bump in the bullpen, and he could eliminate his weaker changeup.

As The Good Phight noted on twitter, he’s the first player to pitch 130+ innings with an ERA over 6 and at least 9.5 K/9. Sure enough, his 24.0% K% was 29th highest among the 105 pitchers who threw at least 130 innings this season, sandwiched between Jeff Samardzija and Jon Lester. Pivetta can strike dudes out, and it’s possible there’s a good late inning reliever in there somewhere.

@MELKasinkas: Who’s the better defender Altherr or Williams? Why do defensive metrics not like them? Optimally which one plays RF vs LF #crashbag

Here’s how their 2017 metrics stack up:

Here’s a quick definition of these terms in case you didn’t already know:

ARM – Obviously outfield throws. Outfielder gets credit for throwing players out or keeping them from advancing

RngR – Range

ErrR – Error frequency

UZR – Sum of the three above metrics

rARM – Same as ARM

rGFP – Extra points for Good Fielding Plays (i.e. not making the out but trapping a ball to avoid advancing); deductions for Defensive Misplays (i.e. second baseman could have turned a double play but only got one out because he fumbled with the ball)

rPM – Plus/Minus. Bases saved when compared to the average fielder, converted into runs

DRS – Sum of the three above metrics

Now, I’m extremely skeptical of single season sample sizes when it comes to defensive stats. I’m even more skeptical when it’s just a partial season. And I’m most skeptical when DRS says that our athletic outfielder is 4 runs worse than Kyle Schwarber in about 150 fewer innings. Nick Williams is not a -25 run defender in a full season. He’s got a plus arm and he’s fast enough to track down fly balls. He could be passable in centerfield, but ideally he’s a corner outfielder. He’s not going to be Jason Heyward out there, but he won’t be Domonic Brown either.

In 2017, UZR considered Altherr 5 runs below average. In just over 800 innings prior to 2017, he was considered almost 10 runs above average. In 2017, DRS considered Altherr 4 runs below average. In just over 800 innings prior to 2017, he was considered 9 runs above average. If you call 1350 innings an average season for a full time fielder, he’s been 4 runs above average per season by both UZR and DRS. I feel comfortable calling that his true talent level. Altherr, like Williams, has a plus arm.

So to answer your question, I don’t know why the defensive metrics don’t like Williams, but I’m not concerned about it. I always trust scouting reports over small sample defensive metrics. And for Altherr, the metrics have liked him before, I’ll guess they’re going to like him again next year.

For their positioning, I don’t really think it matters. I think Altherr has better footspeed, so he would probably make a better CF. For that reason, maybe I would put him in LF so if he fills in at CF for Odubel, Williams can stay in right and we can put the inferior defender in left. It doesn’t really matter though. They’re both good, and they both have strong arms. There’s no wrong answer.

With Odubel Herrera showing Gold Glove-caliber defense in center, this outfield has a chance to be special defensively.

@nurseintime: Who starts next year’s wild card game for the Phillies?

Shohei Otani.

@jdawg_27: Who are some realistic trade options for a SP? McPhail mentioned salary dumps as an option yesterday #crashbag

@Anton_Smolka: Who are some controllable pitchers the Phillies should look to trade for to boost the top of the rotation?

I answered this question a few weeks ago with Michael Fulmer, but since then, he’s had surgery, and there’s no chance the Tigers would be willing to part with him for a diminished package due to the injury. He’s staying put this winter.

Honestly, after that MacPhail press conference, it feels like the Phillies are going to stand pat unless someone falls into their lap. They’ll probably try to pick up a mid-rotation piece like Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb, but the front office may decide the bidding is too expensive for their taste.

I was kicking around a theory a couple seasons ago that in the “new dead ball era” pitching would become extremely cheap. When everyone can throw 95 with secondary pitches, hitters would be where everyone wants to spend their money. Well, thanks to the juiced ball, pitching is more valuable than ever, and frankly, I don’t think any teams are going to be moving their young controllable starters without receiving a king’s ransom in return.

@PaulSocolar: OK, so we’re getting investments in the stadium, not players, bcs we’ve got the oldest one in NL East. What improvements do we really need?

Without too much of a sample size (I’ve only been to like 5 MLB parks outside of Philadelphia), I’ll say that I think Citizens’ Bank Park is a very nice place to see a baseball game. The food’s good and there’s plenty of good beer options. I eat pescaterian, so it’s nice to see that they even have a lot of food options for alternative diets. I had a vegetarian cheesesteak last time I was at the park, and it was delicious.

That being said, if the Phillies want to invest money in making the stadium better, I don’t have a problem with that. I feel the same about the analytics and sports science departments. The rub is that investing in those things feels like something of a farce. I don’t know how much a new field costs or a sound system upgrade. And adding some staff to sports science and analytics obviously has some cost, but it pales in comparison to even mid-level MLB free agents. I’m pretty sure they’re just saying this because they don’t want to get fan hopes up that we’ll make a splash in free agency, and they’re too rich to cry poor.

And that’s fine. You don’t need to buy a starting rotation right now, especially in a market with no young pitchers. I’d rather the Phillies spend their money wisely. What the team really needs is a third baseman, a couple starters, and a shutdown reliever. I’m okay with the Phillies taking another season to figure out if they have any of those things within the organization. As long as the Phillies ownership is willing to spend when the Phillies get good and expensive, I’m perfectly fine with a $50 million payroll next year.

@bxe1234: Dear Mike, what’s the coolest place you have ever travelled and why? #crashbag

Ooooh, very formal with a salutation on the tweet.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel quite a bit in my young life. Brad, of course, is referencing the vacation that I’ll already be on by the time you’re reading this. I’m heading to Greece for a week with my girlfriend. Very excited. I’ll let you know how it is when I get back. Also, feel free to tweet at me with any recommendations.

I’d say the coolest place I’ve been to, though, is probably Peru. I went there with my former roommate and my brother, and the difference in culture was much more stark than any other country I’ve been to. Plus I spent a lot of time on that trip traveling alone, which is a cool way to immerse yourself in a place.

Also, I hear a lot of people say Machu Picchu is over-rated. Maybe I say this because I’m a civil engineer in my day job, but those people are wrong. The Incas built that place on the top of a mountain over 500 years ago without the use of a wheel, and it’s as strong as ever. There have been earthquakes and probably thousands of thunderstorms, blizzards, and hail storms. The stones they used in the buildings aren’t even mortared, they’re just precisely cut to fit together like a puzzle. That’s extremely impressive.

Have a good weekend everybody. And remember to give Tom Petty an honorary listen this weekend. We lost a legend this week, and some of his messages even apply to the Phillies.

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6 comments

  1. Kurdt Kobeyn

    October 06, 2017 12:07 PM

    I don’t see the Phils DFAing Pinto despite of the struggles in his 1st year as a big leaguer. Pinto has been one of the better pitching prospects that displayed good stuff and some success. Pinto is no Severino Gonzalez. Pinto is armed with a mid-90s FB and a plus CU and he can pitch in multiple innings. The Phils showed patience with Morgan and Luis Garcia, and the results has been positive. It will be wise to do the same with Pinto.

    If the Phils need to DFA somebody clear roster space, JDT comes 1st since he will not pitch for a year due to surgery. Pinto has better stuff and track record than JDT. Tirado can be another. Tirado has electric stuff but lack good success to be viable arm (either as SP or RP). ToJo, Cam Perkins and Rupp are older prospects with low ceiling – these 3 are easily replaceable talents with no significant loss. With better arms (Kilome, Seranthony, Ranger) expected to be protected, Leiter becomes expandable too since the Phils can easily replace someone like Leiter. Taveras, Anderson, Lively, Eshelman are better options than Leiter. Jake’s good September might have saved him his roster spot. Appel will be given a chance in the pen where his stuff is projected to be better than Leiter in the pen.

    My picking order for DFA (excluding pending FAs) candidates are as follows:

    1) Curtis
    2) JDT
    3) Tirado
    4) Rupp
    5) ToJo
    6) Perkins

    Klentak will probably try to trade Tirado, Rupp, ToJo and Perkins for PTBNL or cash. These 6 plus the pending FAs should open enough roster space to protect Kilome, Seranthony, Ranger (these trio are lock) while these 3 can be 50/50 – Austin Davis, Taveras and Tocci.

  2. Mike Fassano

    October 06, 2017 12:11 PM

    Best breakdown of the 40 man that I’ve seen. Thanks. Out of all the rookies who pitched this year for the Phillies, I think that Pivetta becomes the 5th starter next year. Call it a hunch, but I like his determination, and think he’ll improve. From what I see Altherr and Williams are above average outfielders, and I think the future numbers will back that up. Chichen Itza was the coolest place that I’ve visited for the same reasons you had for Machu Picchu. Have a great vacation, and don’t bother looking for Atlantis. It flew back to it’s home planet 5,000 years ago.

  3. Romus

    October 06, 2017 01:55 PM

    Watching Corey Kluber in these playoffs….guy was more or less a bust until age 27.
    Hoping similar transformation happens with Pivetta, Eflin, Thompson and Lively…maybe one or two of that group will do….and also before their age27 season.

    • Kurdt Kobeyn

      October 06, 2017 03:30 PM

      The Phils can afford to be patient with Pivetta, Eflin and Thompson (Lively is close to a finished product) – who are only 24, yo, 23 yo and 23 yo and have a physical body that teams like in a starter. Pivetta and Eflin on a good night, showed that they can dominate with their mid-90s FB and plus secondary pitch (CU for Eflin and CB for Pivetta). A 3rd pitch is the something that’s is missing but they have time in their side to develop a 3rd pitch as long as they can keep themselves healthy. The quartet need a top notch coach to tap whatever potential they still have.

  4. Shane

    October 08, 2017 01:26 AM

    “What the team really needs is a third baseman, a couple starters, and a shutdown reliever”

    Franco is still cheap. Despite this year’s WAR indicating that he is “replacement level”, who can you replace him with? Should we dig deep and lay out the cash for Moustakas or Fraizer? At that point, it seems they would be way over-paying for the perceived performance increase. I say it is better to stick with Franco as long as he is cheap and use that money towards pitching in a year or two. And Franco could bounce back. Plenty of arb years ahead for him to figure things out.

    • PhxPhilly

      October 09, 2017 04:46 AM

      Agree to give Franco another year. If ‘pro-hitter’ is available for ‘cheap’ then could sign Headley or Nunez, off course assuming Cesar and Freddy are gone.

      Velasquez and Pivetta are likely future relievers but may not be next year. Could be the new fireman/multi inning shutdown guy. I still have wishful hope on Appel.

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