Who’s the Leaker?

At The Hardball Times, Shysterball’s Craig Calcaterra asks a very important question: Who’s the leaker?

The 2003 drug tests administered in Major League Baseball were supposed to be anonymous, so why are names being leaked? It’s wrong, if not illegal. Calcaterra, a lawyer, has some hopes.

I wanna know who’s doing it. Specifically, I want the judge to get good and angry and sic the feds on the matter to suss out who’s doing it. Short of that, I want someone in the investigatory side of the media to take it upon themselves to find out who’s leaking.

While everyone focuses on the steroids bogeyman, the real issue is the wrongful leaking of players who tested positive in 2003. This is bigger than baseball.

Talkin’ Giants with Bay City Ball

On the heels of the Cliff Lee trade, the Phillies head to San Francisco on a rush. They’ve won 15 of their last 18 games. They haven’t lost back-to-back games since that sweep in Atlanta to start the month of July. Baseball’s hottest team just added last year’s AL Cy Young award winner — what are the Giants thinking? Are they scared?

I talked with Chris Quick of the Saber-friendly Giants blog Bay City Ball to get some insight on the upcoming series. And some Aaron Rowand gossip. Chris was kind enough to share his time with Crashburn Alley, let’s jump right into the questioning.

1. How unwatchable would the Giants’ infield be without Pablo Sandoval? Your first and second basemen and shortstop have an OPS+ of 90, 49, and 66 respectively.
It would have been very, very, very unwatchable. The Giants infield (specifically SS and 2B) have been major problems for this year’s team. Ishikawa has been up-and-down as a hitter, but he plays top notch defense at first, so he’s not the worst offender of this sad group.

Pablo’s season has been fantastic for Giants fans. He’s really built upon his successful, but brief, 2008 season in which he hit .345/.357/.490. Not only has he kept on hitting, but he’s walking more (almost league average — for a contact-oriented hacker that’s not terrible) and hitting for more power. The Giants haven’t produced a quality position player since the Carter administration and Pablo is not only giving fans a great performance, but some hope as well that things could be changing.

2. What has Aaron Rowand crashed into lately?

You name it: walls, small children, vendors in the stands, elephants. As a card carrying member of the GAMER Union, Rowand is contractually obligated to run into things. He’s currently nursing a nasty arm bruise that he got as a result of getting plunked a few games ago.

Giants fans have been a little slow to warm up to Rowand (his ’08 season was pretty meh-worthy) but he’s having a nice year so far.

3. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain: best one-two in baseball? If not, who ranks higher in your opinion? Are you worried that both pitchers’ great campaigns are going to hurt their NL Cy Young chances?

I’m going to be biased and say that it’s tough to get better than Lincecum and Cain at the top of your rotation. I think you could make the argument that they are the best 1-2 in baseball. I think a healthy Brandon Webb and Dan Haren could give them a run for their money. Jon Lester and Josh Beckett are near the top for any 1-2 pairing in the game.

RE: Their Cy Young chances — I’m not overly worried. I think Lincecum could repeat his CYA season this year, he’s definitely pitched well enough. Matt Cain is still viewed as an oddity by a lot of the press. He’s essentially the same pitcher he’s always been but without the soul-crushing poor run support this year.

4. The Giants are the NL’s best defensive team according to UZR at 7.3. They were at 2.1 last season. Who or what deserves credit for the defensive improvement?

Travis Ishikawa has been huge in the infield — he’s ranking as something like a +20 run defender at 1B over 150 games by UZR. I doubt he’s truly a +20 run defender, but +10 runs isn’t out of the question. The OF is very good starting with a Rowand bounce-back defensively (he posted a -6.5 run season in CF last season vs. a +4.5 run season this year).

Randy Winn has always been a great defender and the Giants have filled the corners with plus-defenders like Fred Lewis, Nate Schierholtz, and Andres Torres. There really isnt’ a bad defender in our OF.

Maybe most shocking is that Sandoval — he of girth — has played an average defensive 3B. I was definitely worried about how he would handle the position defensively but Sandoval has shown that he has enough at the moment to play 3B full-time.

In short: Amazing OF with some highlights in the INF = pretty darned good defensive team.

5. Are you worried about the Rockies impeding the Giants’ path to the playoffs?

A little. The Rockies are legit. Bizzaro Jason Marquis has somehow thrived in Coors Field this year and I’ve always been a fan of Ubaldo Jimenez. The Rockies can flat out hit the baseball and they’ve been on a tear lately.

I’m not a true beliver (yet) that the Giants are a playoff team, but they’ve exceeded most fan’s expectations.

BONUS: Crystal ball time. We have Rodrigo Lopez/Jonathan Sanchez, Joe Blanton/Ryan Sadowski, Jamie Moyer/Tim Lincecum, and Cole Hamels/Barry Zito. How do you see the series panning out? The teams split the season series last year 3-3 with each winning its home series 2-1.

[NOTE: As you can tell, these questions were asked and answered prior to the Cliff Lee trade, so adjust accordingly]

I’ll take Sanchez over Rodrigo Lopez (whom I had no idea was still pitching), Blanton over Sadowski, Lincecum over Moyer, and Hamels over Zito. I’ll be boring and call it a 2-2 split. I think, from a Giants angle, the wild card is Sanchez. He’s got great potential, but unravels sometimes.

I’ll state right now that I can’t stand watching Moyer pitch to teams like the Giants. We hack, don’t walk, and Moyer usually will take full advantage of these types of teams. But, I can’t bet against Lincecum.

. . .

Thanks to Chris for his time and insight.

The Giants’ lineup is still pretty weak, even with the addition of Freddy Sanchez. Pablo Sandoval is far and away the biggest threat in the lineup. I think it would behoove the Phillies not to touch him with a ten-foot pole when first base is open. Give him the Albert Pujols treatment. Sandoval has a 141 OPS+ while Sanchez has the next-highest at 109. Huge drop-off.

Now that the Phillies have Cliff Lee, he and Cole Hamels have to vault near the top of the list in baseball’s best 1-2 punches in starting pitching. I’d still take Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, despite Cain’s 3.74 FIP compared to his 2.12 ERA this season.

As for Lee, no one’s sure yet when he’s going to start but it will either be tomorrow in place of Joe Blanton against Ryan Sadowski or Saturday in place of Jamie Moyer against Tim Lincecum.

Make sure to keep up with the quality analysis at Bay City Ball. One of my favorite posts is the analysis of Jonathan Sanchez’s no-hitter.

[In the voice of the blind kid from Dumb and Dumber]

Pretty graphs. Yes, can you say pretty graphs? Pretty graphs, yeah, pretty graphs… Polly want a cracker?

Sleight of Hand: Phils Acquire Cliff Lee

Sabermetrician Eric Seidman of, well, just about everywhere, made a prescient comment to me in a short e-mail conversation we were having about the Roy Halladay trade rumors and the Phillies’ prospects.

 As [an] occasional magician, the only way to trick people is to misdirect.

Eric really is an occasional magician, in case you thought he was being facetious.

Keeping tabs on the Phillies this year as the July 31 trading deadline approached has been a real treat, believe it or not. Much as he did in the off-season and in spring training, GM Ruben Amaro has impressed with his cunning strategy in improving the team. We fans all have opinions on what should be done and a lot of it includes taking the quick-and-painless route — just get it done. Drabek and whatever else for Halladay, just do it.

Not Ruben.

Instead of simply taking Halladay when he first had the chance — and getting a couple extra starts out of him — Amaro waited, patiently, for a better opportunity. He knew that J.P. Ricciardi had no leverage, so he shouldn’t have to give up Kyle Drabek and Dominic Brown or Michael Taylor. He was right — and it was Indians’ GM Mark Shapiro who wasn’t getting the Phillies’ real top prospects.

From Todd Zolecki’s Twitter:

Source: Phillies have reached agreement with Indians, pending medical reviews. Lee and Francisco for Knapp, Carrasco, Donald and Marson.

In case you’re wondering about first names, they are Cliff, Ben, Jason, Carlos, Jason, and Lou respectively.

Jason Knapp is a great under-the-radar pitching prospect. I was telling Seidman that I think Knapp is a better prospect than Drabek. But he’s also more of an unknown, with only one and a half years of professional experience under his belt. Still, he has a K/9 rate over 11. Other than Knapp the Phillies didn’t give up much.

In Marson the Phillies gave up their second-best catching prospect, with the best being Travis D’Arnaud. Carrasco might not even make the Phillies’ top-three list for prospect pitchers, even if you exclude J.A. Happ. Jason Donald simply was not going to contribute at the Major League level for the Phillies. Overall, the Phillies gave up very little, relatively speaking. They keep the pitching prospect they covet in Drabek, they keep the starting pitcher who kept the Phillies afloat when the rest of the rotation was faltering in Happ, and they keep their two impressive outfield prospects in Brown and Taylor.

The Phillies get the reigning AL Cy Young award winner in Lee and the right-handed bench bat they’ve needed for two years in Franscisco.

This is, far and away, an exceptional win for the Phillies. Easily the best trade they’ve made in a long, long time.

What are the Phillies getting in Cliff Lee? He strikes out around 6-7 batters per nine innings, walks very few (under two per nine innings), and is very efficient, averaging around 15 pitches per inning. They now have two ace left-handers atop the rotation with Lee and Cole Hamels, and can mix and match with the hot hands during the playoffs.

If you thought before that the Phillies might struggle in the playoffs against teams with great starting pitching (like the Giants), think again!

BDD: Ricciardi Has No Leverage

At Baseball Daily Digest, I use some logic to deduce the Phillies as the only logical landing spot for Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay.

Comparatively, the Jays turned down the Phillies’ counter-offer of Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Michael Taylor, and J.A. Happ, the #2, 4, 6, and 9 prospects according to BA. That offer was fair and extremely unlikely to be matched by anyone for whom Halladay would be willing to waive his no-trade clause. Ricciardi shot it down with flair.

Meet the Mess

The New York Mets are a steaming pile right now; a team in total disarray. It’s to the point where, as a Phillies fan, I no longer enjoy the schadenfreude. I now pity the New York Mets and their fan base. It is a pathetically-run organization.

This video displays unequivocally the most embarrassing two minutes of Omar Minaya’s embarrassing tenure as GM of the New York Mets.

Appropriate reactions to Minaya’s press conference regarding Tony Bernazard’s firing:

Phillies/D-Backs Series Preview

For the second time this season, the Phillies travel to the West coast. The first trip was a success: they outscored the Padres 20-9 in a series sweep, and split a four-game series with the Dodgers — which should have been a sweep had Brad Lidge not blown back-to-back save opportunities. Overall, the Phillies will gladly take a 5-2 road trip.

This time, the Phillies are up against the Arizona Diamondbacks for three games then move to San Francisco for a four-game set with the Giants, who are six games over .500 and only two games back in the NL Wild Card.

Against the D-Backs, the Phillies will throw out three left-handed starting pitchers in Jamie Moyer, Cole Hamels, and NL Rookie of the Year candidate J.A. Happ. Arizona is 9-18 against left-handed starters despite hitting for a higher OPS against them.

They have a slightly above-average offense overall, but have the NL’s third-worst pitching staff. As you may expect with a staff that features Dan Haren, the bullpen has a lot more to do with the staff’s overall poor performance. Their relievers have a 4.81 ERA while starters sport a 4.13 ERA.

With Mark Reynolds and Justin Upton, the D-Backs can not only go yard, but they can swipe some bags as well. Three True Outcomes man Reynolds is tied for second in the National League with 26 home runs but has also stolen 18 bases. Upton has hit 18 homers and swiped 13. As a team, Arizona is third in the league in stolen bases and fourth in slugging percentage; the Phillies are sixth and first, respectively.

The big test in the series will come against Dan Haren. He’s second in the Majors in ERA, although FIP puts him closer to a 3.00 level of production. Only three Phillies have had double-digit plate appearances against him and only Raul Ibanez has had any success against him. The Phillies hit Jon Garland and Yusmeiro Petit in the limited opportunities they’ve had, so even if they get shut down by Haren, they should win the series anyway.

Small sample size alert with the data. Click the table to improve the quality.

Hitting

Pitching

The Phillies should be 58-41 when they go to San Francisco. Jon Garland is garbage. So is Yusmeiro Petit.

I Do Not Like Julio Lugo

Julio LugoJulio Lugo had a .726 career OPS heading into tonight’s game against the Phillies. He’s never finished a season with a slugging percentage higher than .431 and only once has he had an above-average OPS+ (2005 with Tampa Bay). Calling Lugo with his career .391 SLG light-hitting is an insult to light-hitting hitters everywhere.

But don’t let Lugo hear this when he’s playing the Phillies. The Phillies are to Lugo as steroids allegedly were to Barry Bonds; as mushrooms are to Mario; as prescription drugs are to Rush Limbaugh. When Julio is facing the Phillies, he goes from a David Eckstein impersonator to Frank Robinson.

Against starter Rodrigo Lopez and the Phillies’ bullpen yesterday afternoon, Lugo went 4-for-5 with a double and a triple, an RBI, and a stolen base. That brought Lugo’s OPS against the Phillies in nearly 100 plate appearances to 1.225. Teammate Albert Pujols had a 1.155 OPS on the season heading into the game. That’s how good Lugo is, apparently. Check out the chart (click to enlarge, enhance quality).

Julio Lugo OPS

Despite that only 2% of Lugo’s career PA have come against the Phillies, he’s had:

  • 3% of his runs;
  • 3% of his hits;
  • 4% of his doubles;
  • 7% of his triples;
  • 4% of his home runs;
  • 3% of his RBI;
  • 4% of his walks; and
  • 2% of his stolen bases

…against the Phillies. This is a guy who only saw the Phillies in interleague play, really, since he was essentially an AL East player with the Rays and Red Sox.

During the off-season, the New York Mets signed starter Tim Redding essentially because he had a track record of Cy Young-caliber performances against the Phillies. Well, New York, you should be taking a good, long look at Julio Lugo.

Jayson Werth Has Some Good Ideas

Per Jayson Stark, ESPN:

“I don’t know what those guys get if they win [the Home Run Derby],” Werth told Rumblings. “But I think they should get a bag of cash.”

Wait. A bag of cash? Like what, a shopping bag? Full of $20 bills?

“No, of hundreds,” Werth said. “I’m talking about a sack full. Maybe a little leprechaun could carry it out there and throw it at your feet if you win. Then you’d hop in the back of a big Brinks truck and ride away. That would be awesome.”

Check out The Phightins to see what it would have looked like if Werth’s idea had been implemented when Ryan Howard won the Derby in 2006.

Phillies/Cardinals Series Preview

Great timing, Phillies. Just as the St. Louis Cardinals come to town, they acquire OF Matt Holliday and $1.5 million from the Oakland Athletics for 3B Brett Wallace, OF Shane Peterson, and RHP Clayton Mortensen. Holliday could actually be in the lineup tonight as the Athletics were in New York to play the Yankees. Great.

The Cardinals’ offense, which was around the National League average of 4.42 runs per game, will get a huge boost from Holliday who has a career .926 OPS and the ability to swipe bags at a high rate of success (78-for-98, 79% career). A 3-4 of Albert Pujols and Holliday is going to create headaches for opposing pitchers, similar to the Yankees’ 3-4 of Mark Texeira and A-Rod.

Add a now above-average offense to their pitching staff and you have a distinct favorite in the NL Central. Heading into tonight’s games, the Cardinals had three starting pitchers with an ERA+ of 135 or better. Ryan Franklin has been one of the best closers in baseball despite his Osama beard. Both the Cardinals’ rotation and bullpen have ERA’s under 4.00 so the Phillies are going to be facing quality pitching throughout the game, including the Cards’ two LOOGY relievers Dennys Reyes and Trever Miller.

The Phillies, meanwhile, remain in hot pursuit of Roy Halladay as they pull further and further ahead of the NL East thanks to 15-2 run in their last 17 games. Despite the success, the Phillies could definitely use an upgrade in the starting rotation, which has a season ERA of 4.74. Aside from phenom J.A. Happ, Joe Blanton has the highest ERA+ among the starters at 101, and 100 is average.

The good news is that the Phillies will be facing Todd Wellemeyer, who started this game last season. What’s a guy gotta do to get a repeat performance?

Let’s find out.

(Note: WordPress automatically reduces the quality of all images. If the blurriness is bothersome, click the image for a full-quality version.)

Hitting

Pitching

After this series, the Phillies head out on a road trip to Arizona and San Francisco. Last year, the Phillies went 20-12 (.625) against the NL West including 7-9 on the road.

Why I Have Faith in Amaro

The title may come as a shock to you as I was constantly deriding GM Ruben Amaro during the off-season, particularly when he signed Raul Ibanez to a three-year contract. But I actually have faith in him as the trading deadline approaches and the race for Roy Halladay heads into the homestretch. I don’t have confidence in Amaro actually landing Halladay, of course, as there are a lot of factors well out of his control, but I have confidence that, if a deal is made, the prospects given up won’t come back to haunt the Phillies in the future.

Why?

Have a look at all of the trades the Phillies have made since 2003. Keep a special eye on players that were “prospects” at the time.

Transaction information courtesy Baseball Reference.

2003

  • Ben Margalski for Jeff D’Amico
  • Jeremy Giambi for Josh Hancock
  • Johnny Estrada for Kevin Millwood
  • Mike Wilson for Damon Minor
  • Lyle Mouton for Aaron Myette
  • Frank Brooks for Mike Williams
  • Eric Valent for Kelly Stinnett
  • Ezequiel Astacio, Taylor Buchholz, and Brandon Duckworth for Billy Wagner
  • Bobby Korecky, Nick Punto, and Carlos Silva for Eric Milton

2004

  • Scott Youngbauer for Robert Ellis
  • Ricky Ledee and Alfredo Simon for Felix Rodriguez
  • Josh Hancock and Andy Machado for Todd Jones and Brad Correll
  • Elizardo Ramirez, Javon Moran, and Joe Wilson for Cory Lidle
  • Felix Rodriguez for Kenny Lofton

2005

  • Marlon Byrd for Endy Chavez
  • Placido Polanco for Ramon Martinez and Ugueth Urbina
  • Tim Worrell for Matt Kata
  • Kevin Pichardo for Michael Tucker
  • Jim Thome for Aaron Rowand, Gio Gonzalez, and Daniel Haigwood
  • Vicente Padilla for Ricardo Rodriguez

2006

  • Jason Michaels for Arthur Rhodes
  • Aquilino Lopez for Matt Thayer and Trey Johnston
  • Robinson Tejeda and Jake Blalock for David Dellucci
  • Daniel Haigwood for Fabio Castro
  • Sal Fasano for Hector Made
  • David Bell for Wilfredo Laureano
  • Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle for C.J. Henry, Matt Smith, Carlos Monastrios, and Jesus Sanchez
  • Rheal Cormier for Justin Germano
  • Ryan Franklin for Zac Stott
  • Andrew Barb and Andy Baldwin for Jamie Moyer
  • Angel Chavez for Jeff Conine
  • Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez for Freddy Garcia
  • Adam Donachie for Alfredo Simon
  • Jeff Conine for Javon Moran and Brad Key

2007

  • Michael Dubee for Tadahito Iguchi
  • Matt Maloney for Kyle Lohse
  • Jesus Merchan for Julio Mateo
  • [Future Considerations] for Travis Dawkins
  • Mike Costanzo, Michael Bourn, and Geoff Geary for Brad Lidge and Eric Bruntlett

2008

  • Wes Helms for [PTBNL]
  • Adrian Cardenas, Josh Outman, and Matt Spencer for Joe Blanton
  • Brian Schlitter for Scott Eyre
  • Fabio Castro for Matt Stairs

As you can see from the list, the Phillies haven’t given up prospects that have turned into impact Major League contributors.

I perused the list and extracted as many names as I remember spending significant time at the Major League level. Then, I found how many Wins Above Replacement (WAR) they contributed with their new team(s). The results are not so good for the teams that opened their doors to the Phillies’ prospects.

Carlos Silva has been the most valuable prospect the Phillies have traded away judging by both gross and average WAR. Marlon Byrd and Gavin Floyd look to stick around in the Majors for a while. Out of the 14 recognizable names, only two or three have made any kind of Major League impact and none are superstars.

Considering the way the Phillies have drafted since, oh, I don’t know, around 1998, you have to conclude that upper management really knows how to evaluate prospects. Chase Utleys and Cole Hamelses don’t just grow on trees, you know.

While Pat Gillick is out of his role as GM, and Mike Arbuckle is with Kansas City, and who knows how many scouts have shifted around, it’s clearly not the same group of guys who brought you Utley and Hamels and Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard. But more likely, the success on prospects stems from an organizational philosophy, one that is likely to endure through the Ruben Amaro tenure.

So, if it turns out that the Phillies don’t end up getting Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays because Amaro didn’t want to give up Kyle Drabek, I’m fine with that. That tells me that something about Drabek really stands out to the Phillies upper management and scouts, and you have to respect that — it’s respect they’ve earned over the last ten years.

Having said all this, I’m confident in two things:

  • If Amaro does make a trade for Halladay, history suggests that the Phillies know exactly who they’re giving up. These players likely will not become solid Major League regulars.
  • If Amaro doesn’t make a trade, the players other teams wanted that the Phillies wouldn’t relent are really something special. Remember that around five years ago, Ryan Howard was in trade rumors for players like Ted Lilly (then of the Jays) and Kris Benson (then of the Pirates), but the trigger was never pulled by then-GM Ed Wade.

Overall, the Phillies have actually done very well in trades, even under Ed Wade, believe it or not.

Context is important in judging trades, as you may view the Abreu trade (executed by Pat Gillick) as a complete loss when it was in reality a complete salary dump. There aren’t any trades where you’re exclaiming, “Jesus! The Phillies got swindled!”

Heading into the last week of the month of July, I’m very confident that the Phillies will make decisions that best benefit the organization. And that may not include a trade for Roy Halladay, as hard as that is to believe among us lay people.