Projections, Arbitrary End Points, and Hope

For better and for worse, it’s projection season in baseball. Spring training has yet to begin, but rosters are gradually taking their final shape, or as close to the final shape as we’ll know before a single pitch is thrown. Consequently, computers are sorting through the past few seasons of statistical data and spitting out their best projections for what players will do in 2016. Roll those player projections in with roster projections and we’re beginning to get ideas of how computers “think” teams will perform this year. Unsurprisingly, the computers aren’t impressed with the Phillies but perhaps somewhat surprising is the degree to which they’re unimpressed.

Along with small sample sizes, one of the more common statistical traps we fall into with baseball analysis is arbitrary endpoints. When you think about it, every season stat line you’ve ever looked at is defined by arbitrary endpoints. Are stats from the 162 games played between April and October truly more meaningful than the stats for a 162 game set played between July and the following June? In most ways the answer is no. But season starts and finishes are extraordinarily convenient endpoints and so they regularly appear in analyses. There’s nothing wrong with season-to-season analysis as long as we’re aware that there’s an arbitrary nature to the statistics we’re dealing with. I say all of this to set up a quick look at an even more arbitrary endpoint: 1st and 2nd halves.

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Who Are You: Charlie Morton

This is part of an ongoing series profiling new members of the 2016 Phillies roster. Previous installments:

Jeremy Hellickson
Peter Bourjos


Charlie Morton RHP
Born: 11/12/83, entering age 32 season
Height: 6’5″, Weight: 225 lb.
2015 Stats: 9-9, 4.81 ERA, 129 IP, 17.1 K%, 7.3 BB%, 57.3 GB%, 21.5 FB%, 80 ERA+
Career: 45-70, 4.54 ERA, 875.2 IP, 15.8 K%, 8.5 BB%, 55.3 GB%, 23.9 FB%, 84 ERA+
Contract Status: $8M in 2016; $9.5M team option for 2017 with a $1M buyout

History

In the 2002 MLB Draft, the Atlanta Braves took a local high school outfielder named Jeff Francoeur in the 1st round, a local high school catcher named Brian McCann in the 2nd round, and a high school pitcher from Connecticut named Charlie Morton in the third round. Francoeur and McCann went on to have success (and, in Francoeur’s case, failure) with the major league team, but Morton was traded less than a year after his 2008 MLB debut to the Pittsburgh Pirates with Gorkys Hernandez and Jeff Locke for outfielder Nate McLouth.

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Phillies Fans Aren’t The Only Ones Excited About Phillies Prospects

I don’t write often about the mental aspect of the game here at Crashburn and, contrary to dated stereotypes, it’s not because I don’t believe it has a real impact on the game. It’s a topic I avoid because analyzing “makeup” or “chemistry” is often a fruitless undertaking. It takes extreme conditions for anyone on the outside to accurately assess anything as abstract as the mental or emotional conditions of a situation.

It’s a bit like trying to understand someone else’s family dynamics. Chances are you can pick up on the extreme marital discord between Uncle Bobby and Auntie Sue almost immediately, but the more subtle family dynamics like cousin Jack’s relationship with his father would take years for you to unpack. I prefer to write what I know and I don’t know why Jack tenses up around his father or what goes on inside the head of athletes, but I know marital stress when I see Bobby and Sue and I know Ryne Sandberg lost the clubhouse… and I know something encouraging is happening in the Phillies organization right now.

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Who Are You: Peter Bourjos

This is part of an ongoing series profiling new members of the 2016 Phillies roster. Previous installments:

Jeremy Hellickson


Peter Bourjos (OF) – RHB
Born:
3/31/87, entering age 29 season
Height: 6’1″, Weight: 185 lb.
Contract Status: Final year of arbitration; will be a free agent after the 2016 season
2015 Stats: 225 PA, 8.4 BB%, 26.2 K%, .263 BABIP, .200/.290/.333, 70 wRC+, -0.5 fWAR, -0.8 rWAR
Career: 1655 PA, 6.2 BB%, 23.4 K%, .304 BABIP, .241/.302/.380, 90 wRC+, 10.3 fWAR, 9.0 rWAR

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Who Are You: Jeremy Hellickson

This is the first post in a weekly series which will run each Thursday. Over the next several weeks, I’ll take a deep dive look at new members of the Phillies roster including guys like Peter Bourjos, Charlie Morton and, today’s subject, Jeremy Hellickson. We’re just a couple months away from settling down to watch these guys day-in and day-out for half a year, so let’s try to find out who they are and what to expect from them in 2016.


Jeremy Hellickson – RHP
Born:
4/8/87, entering age 29 season
Height: 6’1″, Weight: 190 lb.
2015 Stats: 9-12, 4.62 ERA, 146 IP, 19.0 K%, 6.8 BB%, 42.4 GB%, 36.5 FB%, 88 ERA+
Career: 49-48, 3.94 ERA, 786 IP, 17.6 K%, 7.6 BB%, 39.2 GB%, 40.5 FB%, 98 ERA+

History

A fourth round draft pick by Tampa Bay out of high school in 2005, Hellickson steadily rose to prospect stardom. Prior to his 2011 rookie season, he was ranked the #6 overall prospect by Baseball America, #9 overall by Baseball Prospectus, and #14 overall by Keith Law at ESPN. Scouts raved about his pin-point command, stellar changeup, solid fastball, and developing curveball.

He rode that prospect hype to an outstanding rookie campaign (189 IP, 2.95 ERA, 3.8 rWAR) which won him the AL Rookie of the Year award. His sophomore season was nearly as successful (177 IP, 3.10 ERA, 3.2 rWAR), but his initial success was riddled with red flags. The reason I used ERA to illustrate his success is that his peripheral stats told a remarkably different story. Including his 36.1 inning cup of coffee at the end of the 2010 season his 2010-2012 MLB stats were as follows:

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Phillies Announce Spring Training Invites for Non-Roster Prospects

The report date for pitchers and catchers is rapidly approaching and if you’ve forgotten how to get excited about the Phillies over the long offseason, the Phillies dropped some news today to help you get back in the spirit:

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