2014 Phillies Report Cards Anthology

Since the beginning of October, we’ve been posting a report card for nearly every player to don Phillies red pinstripes in 2014. At long last, the list has been exhausted (as are we). If you missed any of them, use the convenient list below. Each author’s name is a link to his or her Twitter account, so make sure you’re following all of us!

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2014 Phillies Report Card: Ryan Howard

One of my fondest early memories of Ryan Howard as a major league player was a simple, one-sentence post on a sports forum I frequent:

Ryan Howard is amazing.

This was written by a Yankees fan. It was 2006, a season after the Phillies had finished one game out of the Wild Card race and fired Ed Wade, and fans of other teams were starting to notice positive things about the Phillies, which was a nice thing in the grouchy thicket one waded into to yell about sports on the internet in the mid-00s. More specifically, it was June 20th, and the Phillies were at home against Yankees. Ryan Howard had repeatedly given the Phillies the lead (he had 2 home runs already), and Phillies pitching had repeatedly handed it back to the Yankees. What prompted the above quote was Ryan Howard snatching the lead back for a third time in the 7th, with a line drive triple to right that scored Pat Burrell and Chase Utley, his 6th and 7th runs driven in on the day.

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2014 Phillies Report Card: Luis Garcia

There are 25 Luis Garcias on Wikipedia. I’m surprised there aren’t more. I wouldn’t mind talking about this one, who won the Champions League with Liverpool, a little more than the Phillies’ Luis Garcia, their minor-league pitcher of the year.

It’s not even remotely Garcia’s fault, but it’s impossible to discuss  him now without that context. You can talk about the small sample of Garcia’s major league career, how stupid good he was as Lehigh Valley’s closer last year, how plus-plus Longenhagen says his fastball is, and the extenuating circumstances surrounding the Phillies’ other top pitchers: Aaron Nola only turned pro in midseason, while Ken Giles got called up to the majors. Yoel Mecias was recovering from Tommy John surgery, and neither he nor Nefi Ogando pitched even close to as well as Garcia, despite facing lower-minors competition. Adam Morgan and Ethan Martin both hurt their shoulders, and Morgan’s re-learning how to throw hard, while Martin’s re-learning how to throw strikes. And I know I’ve said this before, but in case you were still unsure of how black the cloud surrounding the Phillies is right now, Jesse Biddle essentially lost a season to a chain of events that starting with him being hit on the head with a hailstone.

I’m so entirely aware of this–and you should be, too–and Garcia didn’t do anything except pitch very well in AAA in order to deserve this. And yet I can’t get over the fact that the Phillies’ reigning minor league pitcher of the year is a former barber who’s older than I am, who’s got a ceiling as a middle reliever even in a best-case scenario, and who’s walked more major league hitters than he’s struck out.

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2014 Phillies Report Card: Cole Hamels

From way out west there was this fella I wanna tell ya about. Goes by the name of Cole Hamels. At least that was the handle his loving parents gave him, but he never had much use for it himself. See, this Hamels, he called himself “Hollywood”, (does anyone still call him that?). Now, “Hollywood” – there’s a name no man would self-apply where I come from, (no politician here in DC ever wants to be labeled as “Hollywood”). But then there was a lot about Hollywood that didn’t make a whole lot of sense, (his baffling change-up, for the most part). And a lot about where he played, likewise, (their reluctance to come into the modern age of player analytics, among many, many, many other things). But then again, maybe that’s why I found the place so darned frustratin’. 

See, they call Philadelphia the “City Of Brotherly Love”; but I didn’t find it to be that, exactly, (what with all the fans booin’ and battery chuckin’ and security guards tasin’ folks and closers crotch grabbin’). Continue reading…

2014 Phillies Report Card: Ruben Amaro, Jr.

If Opening Day isn’t my favorite day of the year, it’s second only to Thanksgiving because let’s be real, it’s darn near impossible to top all the turkey, mashed potatoes, and pie you can eat. But Opening Day is full of magic. Every team is in first place. Every player’s stat lines are wiped clean. There are new faces in new uniforms. And hope abounds; after all, it must be some team’s year, so why not us?

While teams and individual players get a magical restart button annually, the same isn’t true for returning general managers. There is no way to neatly splice up the career of a GM and gain a comprehensive look at how the GM is performing because each move he makes has a direct impact on moves in both the near and distant future. As an example, the Marlon Byrd signing by Ruben Amaro, Jr. last November occurred as a direct result of Amaro opting for Delmon Young on a one year deal in 2013 instead of a multi-year deal for someone like Nick Swisher. A GM can make a great move that is a direct result of a bad move he previously made and vice versa. This report card will only deal directly with the transactions (and non-transactions) Amaro made from the day after the end of the 2013 season through the final day of the 2014 season, so it goes without saying that this will not give a complete picture of Ruben Amaro’s GM’ing.

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2014 Phillies Report Card: Ryne Sandberg

Grading players is easy. Every little thing a batter or pitcher does throughout the course of a season is run through a spectrometer whose readings spew statistics that traverse the visible range of objective (and subjective) evaluation. What’s left is a full color palette, hues unblended, from which an encompassing picture can be painted.

There is no such spectrometer for managers. How many of the Phillies’ 73 wins in 2014 came as a direct result of a decision made by Ryne Sandberg? Was the decision textbook or unconventional? Was it really good process, or did it just luck out? By the same token, how many of those 89 losses can be hung around Sandberg’s neck?

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2014 Phillies Report Card: Jonathan Papelbon

I was wrong. Three words I don’t enjoy saying, but I have no other choice. For months and months and months, I crowed about closer Jonathan Papelbon‘s declining velocity, predicting impending doom for the right-handed veteran. When Papelbon questioned the concern about his velocity (or “velo”, as he called it), I rebuked him.

To Papelbon’s credit, he has continued to dominate despite that falling velocity. 2014 was his third season in a Phillies uniform and his best. In 66 1/3 innings, he saved 39 games in 43 chances with a 2.04 ERA and a 63/15 K/BB ratio. He was among the game’s best closers — again — despite a strikeout rate that was eight percent lower than it was just two years ago and despite a fastball that averaged 2.5 fewer MPH than in 2012.

A selection of closers since 2012:

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2014 Phillies Report Card: A.J. Burnett

A.J. Burnett will not be a Phillie in 2015. We learned this yesterday, when he declined his $12.75 million player option for the coming season. Previously it seemed almost certain he would either collect his 2015 paycheck in Philadelphia or retire, but Jayson Stark reported yesterday that Burnett will instead forego his guaranteed keep so that he can seek to pitch for a “contender.” Fair. Ouch, but fair.

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2014 Phillies Report Card: Grady Sizemore

I thought about writing up Grady Sizemore‘s season as if I thought he was Scott Sizemore, but I’m pretty sure there’s not much material there, since Scott’s season was even less impactful that Grady’s, (Scott took all of 16 big league PAs in 2014). Next came the idea that somehow I could play off his name, indicating perhaps that his new contract was making me “sigh more” about the state of the team, but I made that joke on Twitter when he signed, and it wasn’t funny the first time, and hoping to somehow phrase it better with more characters available is a reach. And the first name, Grady, kind of goes with the theme of report cards, but his year was better than something between a D- and an F+, so “Grade: E” doesn’t really help me out. Even after I looked for the graphic and deftly added the line at the bottom of the F.

As such, I’m left with talking about Grady Sizemore’s 2014. Stay with me, folks. I’ll try to keep it lively. Continue reading…

2014 Phillies Report Card: Ken Giles

Ken Giles pitched the first 45.2 innings of his Major League career in 2014, which is about 60% of a full season for a reliever. We can’t really draw any meaningful conclusions from a sample size that small. Sure, we could run through all the awesome highlights from Giles’ statistics in those 45.2 innings – for example, the fact that of 171 relievers who pitched 40 innings or more, Giles was seventh in K% at 38.6%, behind Aroldis Chapman (a ridiculous 52.5%), Andrew Miller and Brad Boxberger (42.6% and 42.1%, both also completely ridiculous), Dellin Betances and Wade Davis (39.6% and 39.1%) and Craig Kimbrel (38.9%). Or we could talk about his K-BB% of 31.9%, which was sixth behind Chapman, Miller, Sean Dollittle, Boxberger, and Betances (and better than Davis, Kenley Jansen, Greg Holland, Koji Uehara, Kimbrel, and David Robertson). Since this report card is supposed to be an evaluation of the player’s performance this season, that kind of analysis is warranted. OK, fine.

Giles 1.18 1.34 2.03 1.51 38.6% 6.6% 31.9% 0.79
Rank (of 171 RP with 40+ IP) 3rd 3rd 7th 5th 7th 49th 6th 5th

Any way we slice it, Giles had a fantastic season in 2014. He struck out everybody, didn’t walk nearly as many batters as he did in the minors, and the ERA retrodictors indicate his performance is backed up by his skills. I don’t want to go any further with the numbers now, and if you want more, Bill already did some good statistical analysis in this August 20 article. I want to step away from the nerdtastic data analysis we usually do, just for a moment, to take a longer-angle view of Giles and how he symbolizes the next era of Phillies baseball.

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