Early in the off-season, the Phillies offered Chan Ho Park a one-year, $3 million deal to pitch exclusively out of the bullpen. Park is represented by super agent Scott Boras [EDIT: No he’s not; he’s represented by Jeff Borris, whose last name sounds the same], so it was no surprise when the Phils’ offer was turned down. Park wanted to start and he thought he could get more money elsewhere.
[Cue the cliche “pages flying off of a page-a-day calendar”]
As the winter grew older, the phones of Park and Boras Borris stayed silent. The Phillies did not increase their offer or give him an incentive to re-sign by promising him the chance to win the #5 spot. Instead, the Phillies moved on and signed another pitcher in Park’s mold in Jose Contreras for one year and $1.5 million.
The Phillies were right to do so. Park hasn’t pitched effectively as a starter since 2001, the end of his first stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers. During his second stint, in ’08, the Dodgers used him as a reliever with great success. Park put up a 3.84 ERA in over 70 innings of work. Last year, after a horrible seven starts to open the season, the Phillies moved him back to the bullpen where he compiled a 2.52 ERA in 50 innings.
Park’s waiting game did not pay off. After generating just a faint buzz of interest, the Chicago Cubs pondered adding him to their revamped roster, even offering him the chance to start. The New York Yankees threw their hat in the ring, sans a promise to pitch out of the back of the starting rotation, and won the bidding war.
Yankees and Cubs… bidding war… Scott Boras… how much money is Chan Ho swimming in now?
$1.2 million, with an additional $300,000 available in incentives.
That would be $1.5-1.8 million less than the Phillies’ initial offer this winter, and Park won’t even be realizing his dream of starting again.
“I have chosen the Yankees,” Park said. “A prestigious team that can advance to the World Series again.”
Of the 59 total contracts signed, 42 have been one-year deals. Clearly the economy along with a shift in philosophy has contributed to lesser players finding themselves unable to strike gold in the free agent market.
After Matt Holliday and Jason Bay signed their multi-year deals on January 5, the largest free agent contract signed was that of Ben Sheets for one year and $10 million with the Oakland Athletics. Joel Pineiro was the only one, out of 26 players, to sign a multi-year deal in that span of time.
Once again, GM Ruben Amaro is vindicated by the market. Many of us Phillies fans were hoping he would simply bite the bullet and sign Chan Ho Park for $4-5 million, money the Phillies simply couldn’t afford with their self-imposed $140 million payroll benchmark. If Amaro had listened to us, he would have overpaid by three to four times what Park eventually signed for with the Yankees. In the meantime, he signed a pitcher with a similar skillset and more upside in Jose Contreras.
[Bryce] Harper will likely join [Stephen] Strasburg in the Nationals organization. With a core that already includes third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, slugger Adam Dunn — only 30 and likely to be signed to an extension — and John Lannan and Jordan Zimmermann still with youth on their side, the Nationals could dig themselves out of this hole in the very near future.
The title is a nod to a Mets blog of the same name, which is unrelated to what will follow. I think it captures the issue perfectly, though.
News flash: Phillies fan criticizes Mets organization; Mets fans recoil.
Denis Leary, captured above, perfectly sums up the situation.
Disclaimer: What will follow will likely be boring to read, as it’s yet another response to an SB Nation blogger that felt personally insulted by something I wrote about his team. This is your opportunity to click your way out of here before you get swept up in blog drama.
Initially, I wasn’t going to respond to it because the author of the latest response, James Kannengieser, appears to be trolling. After he read my article at Baseball Daily Digest about the Mets’ lack of leadership, James sent me an e-mail informing me that he was, in fact, personally offended by my thoughts. He went as far as to call it, “an ignorant writeup I would expect to read at The Fightins‘ or Beer Leaguer or some other mongo Phillies blog,” and “the biggest turd of a piece you’ve ever written.”
I regret to send page views to Amazin’ Avenue for what clearly amounts to trolling, but I don’t want to show only one side of the argument. So if you want to read James’ full argument, instead of what I will selectively quote here, then click here to go to Amazin’ Avenue. I also recommend reading my BDD article that inspired James’ rebuttal.
James’ thoughts will be quoted in bold and my responses will follow in regular typeface.
Let’s just ignore the lame Phillie fan throwaway line about All-Star Jose Reyes being known more for celebrations than on-field performance. Although it does provide a backdrop for the (usually objective) writer’s perspective.
Perception is a funny thing. Human beings are egotistical beings, they really are. James accuses me of not being objective in my BDD article, and I don’t particularly disagree. I said as much prior to going into my argument:
Before I introduce my theory, in the interest of full disclosure, I’d like to put out there that I’m a die-hard Phillies fan with a blog about them. I’m sure there’s bias in my perception, so feel free to comment below and steer the ship back to center if you feel I’ve gone adrift.
But James, of course, is totally objective, right?. He…
…is a Mets fan;
…writes for a Mets-based blog;
…is on the Internet
In other words, he’s not impartial as he seems to think he is and just as biased as I am. I pointed this out in our back-and-forth via e-mail, saying that the crux of our argument hinges on perception; that there’s no one correct perception. It’s like saying, “You don’t have the right taste in music; there’s way too much country filling up your iTunes.”
If James had said, “I disagree, I think Jose Reyes showed leadership,” that would have been fine. That wouldn’t have merited his blog entry, of course, but it would have been fine. But James went the extra step in saying, “I think…” and indicting my opinions in the same breath. He wrote via e-mail, “don’t write about shit you don’t know about (the Mets).”
Reyes is selfish for wanting to come back from injury and do his job? Come again? Pushing his body to rehab from injury, in order to better his team, seems like the very opposite of “selfish”.
Selfish is defined as “Holding one’s self-interest as the standard for decision making”.
I linked to sources in the BDD article describing the Mets’ front office and the Mets fan base questioning Reyes’ toughness. I also linked to an article with quotes Reyes’ mindfulness of these criticisms. He attempted to return from a hamstring injury prematurely in an attempt to silence his critics. That is blatantly obvious.
Believe it or not, James agrees, he just doesn’t realize it. A couple months ago, he wrote:
It’s this foolishly negative perception that may have driven him too hard to try to come back this season from injury.
He completely agrees with my statement; he was just upset that the criticism of Reyes was coming from a Phillies fan, which is why he had the knee-jerk reaction. It’s akin to a brother picking on his sister at home, but standing up for her when she is picked on by someone else at the playground.
He pushed himself to come back and was bizarrely called selfish. If he didn’t come back, he’d be labeled “soft” and “not a gamer”.
Kannengieser seems to think that I’m in the business of bashing Jose Reyes, but I’m not. I recognize Reyes as one of the premier players in baseball when he’s healthy, and I admire his work ethic and loyalty to the Mets organization. I simply said it was a selfish decision to come back prematurely from a serious injury just to protect his public image. That is the very definition of selfish.
This revelation doesn’t mean Reyes is a selfish person, just that he made a selfish decision. It’s not exactly breaking news, as people make selfish decisions on a daily basis. When you’re on a team, though, selfish decisions are not good.
Mets management and players have made numerous embarrassing blunders the last few seasons — let’s not fabricate more for the sake of a tidy narrative.
Nothing was fabricated, as my thoughts on Reyes were preceded by the thoughts, directly quoted above, of Kannengieser himself.
Next, James doesn’t like my criticism of Johan Santana…
I tried to come up with reasons why a fun, harmless handshake exercise would be portrayed as a negative. The potential argument that Santana should be preparing for the game instead of wasting time with handshakes is a poor one — by my count the whole process took 1 minute, 24 seconds.
I think it’s funny that James took the time to e-mail me and to have a debate about this, yet posted this flawed argument anyway. I debunked this criticism by the time we got to the 20’s in our e-mails. It’s like Bill O’Reilly saying Richard Nixon never met Chairman Mao (true story), showing him video evidence of Nixon meeting Mao, and then O’Reilly arguing on his next show that Nixon never met Mao.
Anyway, my point about the handshakes is that Santana designed close to, if not more than, 25 unique handshakes for each of his teammates. In the video, it takes him about a minute and a half, as James mentions, to make his way through the dugout going through each unique gesture. That would be a solid debunking of my argument… if it were my argument.
I told James several times that that was not my argument. Yet he completely ignored that and used the strawman argument anyway.
My point is that it takes a lot of time to come up with, edit, and practice/memorize each of these unique handshakes. I challenged James to prove me wrong, telling him I’d donate $25 to a charity of his choice if he could come up with 25 reasonable and unique handshakes himself by the end of the night (it was about 6 PM when I wrote it, giving him six hours). He did not even acknowledge this (I challenged him at least twice), knowing full well he couldn’t and that my point was valid. I realize it’s a stupid challenge but it very well illustrates my point and, hey, it benefits a charity.
In the time Santana used to come up with those handshakes, he could have been doing something much more productive, such as working with his catcher, or pitching coach, or infield; poring over video tape; going over scouting reports, etc.
If Santana had just a few of those handshakes, that would be fine, but it’s clearly a hobby and an unproductive one at that.
Also, listen to Ron Darling describe Santana as a leader of the ballclub towards the end of the clip. Maybe Baer had his speakers on mute.
Because what Ron Darling says is gold. Let’s say a video exists of Gary “Sarge” Matthews (Phillies color broadcaster for you out-of-towners) in which he says Santana is not a leader. What happens? A stalemate?
It’s just an appeal to authority; just because Ron Darling says something doesn’t mean it is a fact.
What business is it of anyone how he spends his free time? More importantly, what in the name of Zeus’s butthole does this have to do with not exhibiting leadership?
I believe the concept of leadership is to set an example for younger or newer teammates. Correct me if I’m wrong. What if everyone on the Mets followed Johan’s lead and spent a lot of time working on handshakes when they could be going over scouting reports or something more productive?
In our e-mail conversation, I did admit to James that citing this probably did more to harm my point than to help it. However, that’s not because my point is flawed but because my point requires a bit more than the passive examination James gave it.
Hypothetically, if I were a 22 year-old rookie who made the Opening Day roster and Johan Santana approached me about creating a secret handshake, I’d be ecstatic. One of the best players in baseball wants to connect with me? Wow — I’d really feel like a part of the team.
As would I. I don’t deny there may be some positive effects from Johan’s handshake routines. However, the utility calculus doesn’t favor spending so much time on these handshakes. Others may calculate the utility differently; there’s no one correct calculus, hence why we perceive the same issue in different ways.
Maybe it’s a waste of time, but that lies in the eye of the beholder and has absolutely nothing to do with team leadership.
In this statement, James a) agrees with my entire point once again, rendering his rebuttal moot; and b) contradicts his previous point: “One of the best players in baseball wants to connect with me? Wow — I’d really feel like a part of the team.”
A classic myth propagated by the New York mainstream media is that of the 3 AM “middle of the night” firing of Willie Randolph.
Saying it happened at 3 AM is exaggeration in an attempt to make Mets management look as inept as possible.
James is absolutely correct that the firing took place shortly after midnight in Pacific Standard Time, which would be about 3 AM on the East coast. However, this is mere nitpicking on James’ part as he completely ignores the fact that Minaya waited to fire Randolph:
After he and the team flew out to the West coast on a six-game road trip
After the Mets won the opener in Los Angeles against the Angels
The situation was totally botched and it was completely embarrassing for Mets fans everywhere. The only thing that would have made it worse is if Minaya fired Randolph via text message.
In closing, SB Nation blogs don’t really like me too much it appears. I don’t know what it is but while some of their blogs and their respective communities are outstanding (Lookout Landing and Beyond the Box Score, among others), others are the equivalent of YouTube commenters (Halos Heaven and Amazin’ Avenue).
I think it says a lot about human nature that I left an open invitation for dissenters to comment on the article to point out where I erred, and no one used the opportunity. Instead, they stayed inside their gated communities and left snide comments such as:
Boy, that Baseball Daily Digest article really brought the stupid
those guys are douches
that’s the worst article I’ve ever read like, literally ever.
haha this is just comically bad writing
Why are people so stupid????
I really hope that, that guy is not paid to write, because oh my was that ridiculous.
People, for the most part, want to have their beliefs reinforced. When their sheltered beliefs are challenged by an outsider, they feel threatened and react accordingly. Looking through Amazin’ Avenue’s archives, claims very similar to mine have been made; the Mets organization and the players have been thoroughly roasted by their very own writers.When a Phillies fan does it, however, suddenly those points are immediately wrong and he is clearly “stupid”, a “douche”, “comically bad”, and “ridiculous”.
James’ trolling is simple preaching to the converted, a rallying of his base. It’s no different than Glenn Beck calling President Barack Obama a socialist. (In the interest of fairness, an equivalent analogy will be made. It’s like Keith Olbermann calling former President George W. Bush a war criminal.) In the end, we all like to feel that what we know and believe is true, and if we can push out the outsiders to keep our gated communities sterile, that’s what we’ll do.
Blogs should not be in the business of suppressing thought, but encouraging it. It is a disservice to the baseball (and Sabermetric) community to try and squelch opposing opinions. Blogs are at their best when they freely welcome in dissent and at their worst when a conscious effort is made to homogenize the community.
“The most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.” — George Orwell
Scott Lauber, a member of the army of Phillies scribes camping in Clearwater for spring training, blogged about the new and improved Cole Hamels. Detailed is the off-season training regimen he followed, his reflection on the struggles he endured in 2009, and a talk with Rich Dubee.
Something caught my eye, though:
Dubee said Hamels may spend more time developing a cutter/slider. Hamels said he has spoken with Cliff Lee, Steve Carlton and John Wetteland about their cutter. “Hitters made the adjustment, and now, it’s my time to make the adjustment,” Hamels said.
I have an urge to purchase a plane ticket and fly down to Clearwater, just to run up to Cole and yell, “Be yourself!” As we found out a week and a half ago, the same Cole Hamels from 2008 showed up in ’09 but experienced vastly different results, mostly attributable to luck. Changing his stripes seems reactionary and somewhat foolish. He has dominated at every level of baseball he’s played — why switch horses mid-stream?
Upon further review, however, it does make sense. Consider the Nash equilibrium:
Amy and Bill are in Nash equilibrium if Amy is making the best decision she can, taking into account Bill’s decision, and Bill is making the best decision he can, taking into account Amy’s decision.
To relate that to Hamels, he has to mix up his pitch repertoire to keep the hitters honest so that they can’t sit on any one particular pitch. The more he relies solely on his fastball and change-up (and a very ineffective and rarely used curveball), the more he will develop trends that the hitter will spot. Thus, the hitter will change his approach to suit.
Hamels faced 814 batters in 2009 and threw 3,116 pitches, an average of about 4 pitches per batter. With two types of pitches and four balls to throw, there are 16 possible combinations. With three types and four balls to throw, there are 64 possible combinations. With four pitches, there are 256 possible combinations. You can imagine why adding another effective pitch to the arsenal would be a plus for any pitcher, especially a starting pitcher who has to face the same hitters multiple times.
The caveat, of course, is that the new pitch has to be thrown effectively. As we have seen throughout his Major League career, Hamels has thrown a curveball but it hasn’t been a boon to his repertoire. Last year, FanGraphs valued his curve at -1.37 runs per 100 and Cole threw 327 of them for a total of about -4.5 runs.
Cole’s new pitch needs to be one that will complement his current repertoire. A change-up thrown by a left-hander is most effective against right-handed hitters as it will break down and away. To left-handed hitters, the change-up will break down and in, which is normally a bad area in which to loiter. Click here and watch the change-ups that Eugenio Velez and Ryan Garko swing at for examples of its effectiveness against opposite-handed hitters.
This holds up to statistical inquiry as Hamels has a reverse platoon split, which means Hamels pitches better against opposite-handed hitters. He has a career 3.67 FIP against right-handers and a 4.29 FIP against left-handers. Additionally, he allows about 6.5% more home runs per fly ball (17.1% to 10.5%) to left-handers.
As such, this new pitch should be one that neutralizes left-handed hitters. A slider or a cutter, which he may work on as described above, would suffice. The cutter is a hybrid of a slider and a fastball and is frequently utilized by pitchers such as Roy Halladay and Andy Pettitte.
If Cole ditches his curve, a slider would be a better pitch to develop since he would still have a pitch with significant lateral movement. If he sticks with the curve, then the cutter would be a welcome addition.
In the end, it’s all about minimizing the ability for opposing hitters to guess what’s coming. He has essentially been a two-pitch pitcher but with some hard work and dedication can become a four-pitch pitcher, making him exponentially more unpredictable.
At Baseball Daily Digest, I examine the leadership of the recent Phillies and Mets teams and conclude there’s at least some relationship present.
[…] There’s no way to quantify the effect of leadership, but there’s something to be said for the culture in the Phillies organization that has developed under the reign of manager Charlie Manuel and GM’s Pat Gillick and Ruben Amaro.
Phillies players have not submitted to the iron fist of a dictator but to the invisible hand of democracy. Unlike former manager Larry Bowa, Manuel has rarely had to resort to clubhouse tirades and the ruining of post-game spreads. Instead, he has let the players do the talking and mostly, the silence has been deafening.
Andre Dawson was recently elected to the Hall of Fame, which in and of itself caused some controversy. Many felt that while he was a great hitter, he didn’t merit Hall of Fame inclusion not unlike Jim Rice. The other controversy that came about revolved around the logo on the cap that would adorn his head on his plaque — it will be of the Montreal Expos and not the Chicago Cubs.
It makes sense — after all, he spent 11 of his 17 seasons in Montreal. He won his Rookie of the Year award, three of his four Silver Sluggers, six of his eight Gold Gloves, and twice finished second in MVP balloting as an Expo. As a Chicago Cub, he won his only MVP award, but earned just one Silver Slugger and two Gold Gloves.
However, I am not writing this to opine or offer solutions on the matter. I bring it up as an example of a controversy that may once again arise at the end of Roy Halladay’s career.
Halladay has spent his last twelve seasons in Major League Baseball in Canada as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. He is now a Phillie until at least 2013 and most likely ’14 assuming his option is used. In all likelihood, barring a monumental failure of a stint in Philadelphia, Halladay will sign an extension towards the end of his current contract to stay in the City of Brotherly Love. That may extend his tenure in Philadelphia to 2016 when he would be 39 years old.
If he retires before his age 40 season and the Phillies have kept him, that will mean he’ll have spent twelve seasons in Toronto and seven in Philadelphia. Dawson spent eleven in Montreal, six in Chicago, and two each in Boston and Florida.
When he retires, Roy Halladay is close to being a lock for the Hall of Fame. He was and still is an anomaly, having notched 49 complete games in his career in an era in which bullpens are used more than ever. In the 2000’s, only 35 pitchers racked up at least five complete games in one season for a total of 52 pitcher-seasons. Roy Halladay owns four of those (8%). Furthermore, only eight pitchers in the 2000’s have tossed at least four shut-outs in a season; Halladay is one of them, accomplishing the feat last year.
Halladay’s career .661 winning percentage is 18th on the all-time leaderboard. By the time he retires, he could be in the 250 win club (which has 46 members) and the 3,000 strikeout club (15 members). His career ERA+ is 133, tied for 27th on the all-time list.
It is rational to assume that Roy Halladay will have a solid Hall of Fame case at the end of his career. That, of course, will bring up the speculation as to which hat Halladay will wear on his plaque. As a Blue Jay, he made the All-Star team six times and won a Cy Young and finished in the top-five on four other occasions (the last four years, actually).
He has, however, never reached the post-season. Not his fault, of course, but almost all Hall of Fame pitchers have some post-season success on their resumes. If Halladay helps the Phillies reach the post-season on multiple occasions and pitches well in his playoff appearances (winning a World Series would really help), and if he can make a few All-Star teams, and if he can earn some Cy Young votes (the hardware would, again, really help), then a legitimate case can be made that he should go into the Hall of Fame with a Phillies cap.
After an off-season filled with mostly serious analytical posts here at Crashburn Alley, we need some levity. Take your thinking caps off and relax for a bit. What I am going to attempt to do today is assign key Phillies players a theme song for 2010 based on songs in my iTunes library. For the sake of simplicity, the relationship is entirely based off of the song’s title.
I invite you to share, in the comments section below, your suggestions for theme songs.
Without further ado…
* * *
1B Ryan Howard
The Mars Volta, “Goliath”
The Phillies need Howard need to be the goliath out of the #4 spot in the lineup if they are to defend their throne as the National League’s most potent offense. Howard has hit no fewer than 45 home runs and driven in no fewer than 136 runs since getting regular playing time in 2006.
However, his production against left-handed pitching has been trending down each season and this weakness was exposed to the world by the New York Yankees in the World Series, holding the slugger to a .631 OPS in 25 at-bats. It’s bad news if teams finally catch on to this and abuse the mis-match.
2B Chase Utley
Dream Theater, “Constant Motion”
It seems like Utley is always in constant motion, whether he’s on the bases or in the infield with his trusty leather glove at second base where he has consistently been one of baseball’s best defenders.
Last year, Chase Utley stole 23 bases. That is a good number. In fact, it was a career high for the Philadelphia Phillies’ All-Star second baseman. Even more remarkable was that Utley was not caught stealing once all season.
Since caught stealing statistics were first consistently recorded in the National League in 1951, there have been three major leaguers who have stolen at least 20 bases in a season without being caught once. Kevin McReynolds did it in 1988 with the New York Mets, and Paul Molitor matched the feat in 1994 with the Toronto Blue Jays.
3B Placido Polanco
Soundgarden, “Never the Machine Forever”
Aside from a pressing need for a better third baseman than Pedro Feliz, one of the reasons the Phillies signed Placido Polanco is his bat control. He has a reputation for striking out very rarely, putting the ball in play and often in a way that advances base runners. However, his OBP last year fell nearly 20 points below his career average. Additionally, he set a career low GB% and a career high FB%, contributing to a .295 BABIP that is — surprise — twenty points below his career average.
As is the question with Jimmy Rollins, do these signs point to the beginning of the end of a fantastic career, or is it a simple blip on the radar screen? Polanco can’t be a machine forever.
SS Jimmy Rollins
Silversun Pickups, “Growing Old Is Getting Old”
Was his sub-par season — both at the plate and in the field — an aberration, or is it the first step towards the end of Jimmy Rollins’ career? It seems that his problem last year was due to hitting too many fly balls, nullifying his speed. From 2008 to ’09, he had an increase of 10.5% in fly balls hit. As a result, his BABIP hit a career low .253 compared to his career average of .295. If Rollins can get back to getting on base at an above-average rate, then he can also get back to putting his speed to good use. Should Rollins bounce back, the Phillies may have one of the most dangerous 1-2 punches in baseball in Rollins and Polanco.
LF Raul Ibanez
From the start of the season until June 17, Raul was indestructible, compiling a triple-slash line of .312/.371/.656 along with 22 HR and 59 RBI in 280 plate appearances. When he returned on July 11, he was a different player. In the 285 plate appearances between his return and the end of the season, he put up a triple-slash line of .232/.323/.448 with 12 HR and 34 RBI.
I’m pretty sure the 2010 Raul wants to call upon the indestructible Raul from the first half of last season.
CF Shane Victorino
Coheed and Cambria, “The Running Free”
After attempting 41 and 47 stolen bases and successfully stealing 37 and 36 in 2007 and ’08 respectively, Shane Victorino dropped to merely 25 bags in 33 attempts last season. It wasn’t because he was getting on base less — his on-base percentage improved by .006; he was likely being more tentative on the base paths. The Shane we all know and love runs free on the bases.
RF Jayson Werth
Chevelle, “To Return”
Jayson Werth is a free agent after the 2010 season comes to a close, and most of us have come to grips with the fact that he likely will not return. He has become a superstar, a five-tool player and he will get paid like one. However, all of us will have hope that Werth will want to return to the franchise that turned him into a superstar — the franchise that gave him a shot when no one else was willing.
SP Roy Halladay
Boston, “More Than A Feeling”
This doesn’t really need an explanation. If Phillies fans aren’t in love with Roy Halladay when they see him pitch in spring training, they will when they see him on Opening Day against the Washington Nationals. And yes, that will be much, much more than a feeling.
SP Cole Hamels
A Perfect Circle, “Weak and Powerless”
Hamels has, for several years, been considered the future of the Phillies. He dominated Minor League hitters, then came up to the Majors and left opposing hitters befuddled from 2006-08. He hit a rough spot last year and everybody attributed that to character flaws and off-the-field activityinstead of an abnormally high BABIP (.325). Hamels is supposedly weak and powerless now, but he’ll be out to prove his detractors wrong in 2010.
SP Jamie Moyer
Audioslave, “Your Time Has Come”
Jamie’s time has come. He’s 47 years old and on the mend from several off-season surgeries. We all know he, like Brett Favre, can play forever and they’re “like kids out there”. But unlike Favre, the jury’s out on whether or not Moyer can still play at a high level. If last year — 4.94 ERA in 25 starts — is any indication, the answer is no.
SP J.A. Happ
Silversun Pickups, “There’s No Secrets This Year”
As we’ve gone over countless times here on the Interwebs, J.A. Happ is expected to regress in large part due to that low BABIP of his in 2009. That may not be his only contributor to a downfall in 2010, however.
He threw a fastball 85% of the time last season: 70% four-seam and 15% cut. Happ will need to utilize off-speed pitches (change-up and/or a curve ball) more often going forward so that hitters are kept honest and can’t sit on his fastball. If he doesn’t, there will be no secrets and he’ll be victimized on a more frequent basis.
CL Brad Lidge
Aesop Rock, “None Shall Pass”
In 2008, “None Shall Pass” was his motto, as he never allowed a meaningful base runner to cross home plate. He went perfect in save opportunities not just in the regular season but in the post-season as well. All told, he was asked to close the door 48 times and he closed the door 48 times.
2009 was a different story. In fact, it was about the exact opposite of his ’08 campaign — he was allowing meaningful base runners to score on a nightly basis it seemed. 2009 was a nightmare of a season for him any way you slice it — a period of time Lidge would like to completely erase from his mind going into a brand new season.
RP Ryan Madson
Between the Buried and Me, “The Primer”
Primer is a coating used to prepare your walls for painting. According to Wikipedia, primer “ensures better adhesion of paint to the surface, increases paint durability, and provides additional protection”.
Similarly, Ryan Madson will be Brad Lidge’s set-up guy. If he is able to be the dominant eighth-inning reliever that had a 3.55 K:BB ratio last year, the back of the Phillies’ bullpen is on its way to looking like a Rembrandt.
I consider this a great opportunity for the BBWAA to fix what’s wrong — a chance for them to win back the disenfranchised, a group to which I belong. Okay, that’s a little self-centered, let me put it this way: it’s a great opportunity for the BBWAA to fix what’s wrong. Period. The case of Frank Thomas highlights a lot of the bad logic some of the writers have used and will use.
So a mini-argument broke out on Twitter today. No one got hurt, fortunately, but feelings may have been bruised. It all started when radio host Kent Covington suggested that the starting rotation in Atlanta is better than the one in Philadelphia, which is not an outrageous claim in and of itself. However, he suggested that the Phillies’ duo of Roy Halladay and J.A. Happ is only marginally better than the Braves’ duo of Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson.
As a proclaimed radio host, I’m sure his intention was just to ruffle some feathers. He did so successfully, as his Twitter feed is mostly a litany of responses to outraged Tweeters. I don’t write this to call him out, however. It was a thought-provoking claim and it broke up the monotony of the baseball-less winter.
Still, I was curious. Is the Braves’ rotation better than that of the Phillies? Which rotation in the NL East is best? To answer these questions, I took the PECOTA projections from Baseball Prospectus (using WARP) and each team’s starting five according to the playing time projections from Heater Magazine. Here’s what I found:
PECOTA thinks the Phillies’ rotation is tops, about 1.5 WARP better than the Braves’ five. Additionally, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels are the top two pitchers in the NL East according to the projections.
A nifty chart for you visual learners (click to enlarge):
Note: Pitchers are ordered by WARP, not by probable spot in rotation.
Of course, these are just projections and the baseball season will never pan out exactly as the projections say they will.
Kent lost me when he attempted to put Jair Jurrjens on the same pedestal as Roy Halladay. In several Tweets, he said:
Didn’t forget a/b Halladay. Jurrjens posted 2.60 just ERA. Halladay has never posted an ERA that low in a full season.
Jurrjens has yet to prove he can be quite the innings horse that Halladay is, but my point is, Halladay isn’t 1995-Maddux.
Jurrjens had better ERA, opposing average, & fewer HR’s. Now then, I agree that Halladay had a tougher road in the AL East…
…& I’m not even saying that Jurrjens is better than Halladay. But when you look at numbers, it’s hard to make a credible…
argument that Hallday’s in a completely different class. The facts just don’t support that claim.
The only reason I highlight this is to stress the use of BABIP in analyzing pitchers. Frequent readers of this blog are likely tired of me harping on this, but it is so important. BABIP does not correlate from year to year. When that BABIP significantly deviates from .300 (the league average), barring an obvious explanation, we attribute that season to luck and label the season an outlier. Both Hamels’ 2008 and ’09 seasons were outliers thanks to the respective .270 and .325 BABIP.
Jurrjens last year had a .273 BABIP, which is nearly as low as Hamels’ in ’08. What makes it worse for him is that he didn’t have the favorable strikeout and walk rates (and subsequent K:BB ratio). Thanks to the depressed BABIP, Jurrjens was also able to strand an abnormal amount of runners — nearly 80% to be specific.
Jurrjens struck out a meager 6.36 and walked 3.14 per nine innings, a K:BB ratio of just over 2:1. It’s decent, but nothing awe-inspiring.
Halladay, meanwhile, struck out 7.83 and walked 1.32 per nine innings last year, which gave him a K:BB ratio of nearly 6:1. He had a BABIP of .313. As noted here, Halladay has compiled his eye-popping numbers in the most offensively-potent division in the Majors: the AL East. It is very reasonable to expect his numbers to improve given the weaker level of competition in the NL East.
In no universe, except the Bizarro universe, is Jurrjens comparable to Halladay. PECOTA puts Jurrjens at about 3 WARP in 2010; I will bet the under on that. Halladay is at about 4.5 WARP; I’ll take the over. And I’m not just being fannish — I’m the guy calling for a significant regression for J.A. Happ for reasons along the same lines as Jurrjens.
Pitchers who are at least one standard deviation above average in strikeouts enjoy the benefit of even lower BABIPs than moderately high strikeout pitchers. These extreme power pitchers have overall BABIP of about .285, and this drop in BABIP is consistent among all four count types.
If I’m a Braves fan, I’m putting my eggs the basket of Tommy Hanson; not Jair Jurrjens. Anything that Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, and Kenshin Kawakami give is dessert.