Fun with B-R Play Index

By now, everyone is familiar with the addiction that comes with Baseball Reference’s Play Index. I can get lost for hours on end on this page. To make matters worse, last night gave us a PI-worthy game, as Cliff Lee struck out 16 hitters in seven innings as the Phillies lost 5-0 to the Atlanta Braves. I’ll be surprised if a few of the following findings don’t show up in a Jayson Stark article soon.

16 or more strikeouts in 7 or fewer innings

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt App,Dec IP ER BB SO Pit
1 Cliff Lee 2011-05-06 PHI ATL L 0-5 GS-7 ,L 7.0 3 1 16 117
2 Jake Peavy 2007-04-25 SDP ARI L 2-3 GS-7 7.0 0 3 16 117
3 Jake Peavy 2006-05-22 SDP ATL L 1-3 GS-7 ,L 7.0 2 1 16 114
4 Randy Johnson 2001-09-27 ARI MIL W 13-11 GS-7 ,W 6.2 5 2 16 126
5 Randy Johnson 2001-08-23 ARI PIT L 1-5 GS-7 ,L 7.0 4 2 16 115
6 Randy Johnson 2001-07-18 ARI SDP W 3-0 3-9f ,W 7.0 0 1 16 109
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/7/2011.

16 or more strikeouts while earning a loss

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt App,Dec IP SO
1 Randy Johnson 1997-06-24 SEA OAK L 1-4 CG 9 ,L 9.0 19
2 Nolan Ryan 1974-08-20 CAL DET L 0-1 CG 11 ,L 11.0 19
3 Steve Carlton 1969-09-15 STL NYM L 3-4 CG 9 ,L 9.0 19
4 Jim Maloney 1965-06-14 CIN NYM L 0-1 CG 11 ,L 11.0 18
5 Warren Spahn 1952-06-14 BSN CHC L 1-3 CG 15 ,L 15.0 18
6 Bob Feller 1938-10-02 (1) CLE DET L 1-4 9.0 18
7 Pedro Martinez 2000-05-06 BOS TBD L 0-1 CG 9 ,L 9.0 17
8 Randy Johnson 1999-06-30 ARI CIN L 0-2 CG 8 ,L 8.0 17
9 Cliff Lee 2011-05-06 PHI ATL L 0-5 GS-7 ,L 7.0 16
10 Jake Peavy 2006-05-22 SDP ATL L 1-3 GS-7 ,L 7.0 16
11 Randy Johnson 2001-08-23 ARI PIT L 1-5 GS-7 ,L 7.0 16
12 Sid Fernandez 1989-07-14 NYM ATL L 2-3 CG 9 ,L 8.0 16
13 Dwight Gooden 1984-09-17 NYM PHI L 1-2 CG 8 ,L 8.0 16
14 Steve Carlton 1967-09-20 STL PHI L 1-3 CG 8 ,L 8.0 16
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/7/2011.

16 or more strikeouts, game score under 65

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt App,Dec IP H ER BB SO GSc
1 Randy Johnson 2001-08-23 ARI PIT L 1-5 GS-7 ,L 7.0 5 4 2 16 65
2 Cliff Lee 2011-05-06 PHI ATL L 0-5 GS-7 ,L 7.0 9 3 1 16 62
3 Randy Johnson 2001-09-27 ARI MIL W 13-11 GS-7 ,W 6.2 7 5 2 16 54
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/7/2011.

Phillies pitchers with 16 or more strikeouts in a game

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt App,Dec IP BB SO
1 Chris Short 1965-10-02 (2) PHI NYM T 0-0 GS-15 15.0 3 18
2 Art Mahaffey 1961-04-23 (2) PHI CHC W 6-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 1 17
3 Cliff Lee 2011-05-06 PHI ATL L 0-5 GS-7 ,L 7.0 1 16
4 Curt Schilling 1997-09-01 PHI NYY W 5-1 GS-8 ,W 8.0 0 16
5 Steve Carlton 1982-06-09 PHI CHC W 4-2 CG 9 ,W 9.0 2 16
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/7/2011.

The above is another great example of how great the PI is — I had forgotten about that 1965 game between the Phillies and Mets, which ended in a 0-0 tie. It was the second game of a double-header; a curfew ended that game, according to the Internet. It gets better: the two teams played 22 total innings the next day with another double-header; one, a standard nine-innning affair, while the second game went 13 innings.

Braves Series Preview with Peter Hjort

Don’t look now, but the team giving the Phillies a run for their money when it comes to pitching is the Atlanta Braves. Going into yesterday’s games, the two teams were tied in ERA and had nearly identical marks in xFIP. While the Phillies’ starters have received fanfare, the Braves’ starters have quietly been getting the job done. Of their five starters, Derek Lowe has the highest ERA at 3.72. Jair Jurrjens is shocking the world, currently sitting at 1.52. Is that for real? I asked that and a few other questions to Capitol Avenue Club‘s Peter Hjort, ESPN’s resident Braves expert as part of the SweetSpot blog network. We swapped questions and answers, so make it a point to click through to CAC to see my responses to his questions as well.

. . .

1. The offense has been stagnant for the Braves so far, ranking 11th or worse in the NL in AVG, OBP, SLG, and of course, OPS. Do you see it turning around?

Yeah, I do. For the first couple of weeks they were walking like, once every other game. As of late they’ve gotten back to taking their free passes with regularity, something they need to do to succeed. I also think they’ll hit better as the year goes on. Some of their sub-par batting average/slugging average can be attributed to a bit of poor luck, some of it to simply not squaring the ball, but I think in the end they’ll put it together and finish near the top of the league in all three categories.

2. One surprising bright spot with the offense has been Chipper Jones. Many of us assumed he was on the last legs of his career. If he has a good 2011 season, do you think he will come back in 2012?

Who knows. I don’t think Chipper Jones is in any hurry to retire and he’s said he’ll keep playing as long as he’s enjoying the game and can be as productive as he wants to, but I could see him hanging up the spikes after this year even if he keeps what he’s doing now up. I don’t have a good answer for you. I’ll say yes but it’s nothing more than a guess.

3. Some Braves fans were unhappy with Jason Heyward‘s spot in the lineup, but in mid-April, Fredi Gonzalez moved him from the #5-6 spots to #2-3. Do you like the change?

I do. Jason Heyward needs to be hitting second or fourth, period. That hitting him sixth thing was completely senseless and the justification for doing so was maddening and stupid. Since Heyward was moved to the top of the order the Braves have scored 5.11 runs/game and gone 10-7, before the move they were 7-8 and had scored 3.40 runs/game. Batting order obviously doesn’t explain that big of a jump in run production, but it’s completely unsurprising to me that the team’s offense got better once their best hitter started hitting towards the top of the line-up.

4. The Braves are neck-and-neck with the Phillies in aggregate xFIP for the pitching staff. In fact, prior to Thursday’s games, the two teams were tied exactly in ERA at 3.03. Do the Braves have the most underrated pitching?

Hmm, possibly. The Phillies have four K/BB machines on their staff, the Braves rely a bit more on ground balls than the Phillies do (the Braves currently lead the game in GB%, the Phillies in K/BB, though neither team is far off from the other). It’s difficult to reconcile the fact that the Braves are generally associated with starting pitching and the notion that they have an underrated staff, but considering the pre-season storyline was this team’s calling card would be its’ offense I don’t think it’s that crazy to say they’re underrated. Brandon Beachy has been a really nice surprise, Derek Lowe has continued his late-2010 pattern of throwing more sliders and it has worked for him, and Jair Jurrjens, Tim Hudson, and Tommy Hanson have all been great. All five of the starters have met or exceeded expectations so far. I expect the Phillies to finish the year with the better ERA/xFIP, and probably by a pretty substantial margin, but you could make a good argument that the Braves have the most underrated pitching staff in the league.

5. Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels will be toeing the slab in the series. The Braves miss Roy Halladay, but also miss the #5 starter, which was Vance Worley and will soon be Joe Blanton. If you could pick, which three pitchers would you prefer to match-up against the Braves?

True story: this showed up in my brain when I first saw the question.

The Braves have been destroyed by left-handed pitching for a few years now. Acquiring Dan Uggla was supposed to fix that, but so far he’s been their worst hitter: .218/.276/.395. If you replace Lee with Halladay and Hamels with Worley/Blanton, I guess the three right-handers are the group I’d take. Hamels is on a roll right now and he’s probably the one I’m dreading the Braves facing the most. There is no right answer, though, facing Roy Halladay always sucks.

6. Jair Jurrjens, who pitches Saturday, looks remarkable so far — his control is much, much better. His 3.47 xFIP puts him among some of the best in baseball. His 52 percent ground ball rate is significantly higher than his rate the past two years. Do you buy the new and improved Jurrjens?

He was injured to start the year and he’s only made four starts so far, but they’ve all been really, really good. He’s only walked 5 of the 115 batters he’s faced, that’s Cliff Lee-like. The rest of his game has been OK–his strikeout rate is down and his fastball isn’t moving like it has been in years past–but the improved control is what’s made him successful so far. If he can keep this up I expect him to have a very good year. Whether or not he can is closer to your question, and I really don’t know the answer to that.

7. There is nothing I fear more than watching the Phillies going up against Craig Kimbrel or Jonny Venters, trailing in the late innings of a close game. Give me some dirt on those guys — how can they be conquered in the batter’s box?

You can’t beat Jonny Venters. Not really, but he’s a tough one to face, especially with Alex Gonzalez backing him with great defense. The likelihood of a batter putting the ball in play against Venters small to begin with, and once it’s put in play it’s usually on the ground. I guess just hope you hit it to Dan Uggla and he boots it or the ball finds a hole somewhere, because solid contact off Venters isn’t something you see very often. He’s historically had a high walk rate, so the option of hoping his control is off is also there.

Craig Kimbrel is an easier one to face if you can catch up to mid-90’s heat. What you have to do to defeat him is this: let him beat himself before you try to beat him. This is a guy whose historically had beyond awful command, so early in the count I’d be extremely selective against him. There’s a chance you’re quickly down 0-2 on account of that, there’s also a decent chance you’ve put yourself in a position for the PA to end in a hitter’s count, received a free pass, or gotten the pitch you were looking for before he has a chance to put you away. Guys with command issues like Kimbrel has had in the past are always in trouble until the moment the batter lets them off the hook, even if they have plus-plus stuff, so remembering whose in trouble can do the batter a world of good.

. . .

Thanks as usual to Peter for taking some time to share his insight on the Braves. Follow him on Twitter (@CapitolAvenue) and bookmark Capitol Avenue Club for some of the best team-specific statistical analysis (and podcasts!) around. Before you finish your coffee, head over to CAC to read my take on the series from the Phillies’ point of view.

Graph of the Intermittent Time Period

Last night, in the first inning, Washington Nationals starter John Lannan hit Shane Victorino with a fastball. That marked the ninth time Lannan has hit a Phillie with a pitch, by far the highest total of players hit. The Florida Marlins come in second place with three batters hit by Lannan.

If you recall, Lannan broke Chase Utley‘s hand in 2007, curbing the second baseman’s run at a National League MVP award, as Utley was sitting on a .996 OPS at the time. The Phillies had a similar scare last year, when Lannan hit Ryan Howard on the elbow. While running the bases, Howard sprained his ankle, forcing him on the sidelines for three weeks. Howard was hit again earlier this season, this time on the hand, but thankfully no damage was done.

Even when he’s not pitching, Lannan has caused injury. In 2009, Cole Hamels attempted to field a Lannan bunt, but twisted his ankle — one ingredient in what was a nightmare season for Hamels.

Earlier this season, @FuquaManuel of The Good Phight called for Lannan’s incarceration. David Cohen disagreed, arguing that Lannan’s freedom meant extra runs for the Phillies. Meanwhile, WholeCamels prepared a lawsuit.

I side with FuquaManuel and WholeCamels. While Lannan is certainly awful against the Phillies and the free wins against the Nationals are nice, it is not worth losing a productive player to injury. Lannan should be detained in Guantanamo, where he will be waterboarded until he explains why he targets the Phillies with his fastballs.

Let’s Get Jimmy Rollins Locked Up

If I polled a random selection of Phillies fans about Jimmy Rollins‘ .287/.379/.374 triple-slash line, I wager most of them would express disappointment with his 2011 season thus far. They would cite the two RBI he had in his first 23 games, hitting out of the #3 spot in the batting order, and perhaps the low slugging percentage. The more Sabermetrically-inclined would be a bit less critical of Rollins, happy with the improved place discipline and walk rate, but critical nonetheless.

The reality, though, is that good shortstops are hard to find. On the SweetSpot blog, David Schoenfield wrote about the dearth of quality American League shortstops, but the problem exists in the National League as well. Yes, the NL has Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, and Jose Reyes, but after those three, there is just not much out there. Last season, the average NL shortstop posted a .713 OPS, tied with catchers for the lowest average OPS at any position.

Rollins’ current .753 OPS seems reasonable at this point, no? In early March, I discussed the potential negotiations between the Phillies and Rollins, who becomes a free agent after the season. This situation wasn’t swept up during the past off-season because the Phillies did not know what they were going to get out of Rollins. Injuries sidelined him for roughly half of the 2010 season, so he very well could have gone into this season as a huge injury risk, or with a near-empty tank.

That Rollins hasn’t started off on a blistering pace should be good news, in one respect, for the Phillies organization and for the fans. He has proven himself reliable in all facets (offense, defense, base running), but hasn’t done so in a prominent way (yet) that would draw significant interest in terms of phone calls leading up to the trading deadline and in terms of the eyeballs of other teams’ scouts towards the end of the regular season. His .753 OPS is deceptively good, especially since it’s heavy on the on-base percentage; his .348 wOBA is well above the .315 average. Effectively, Rollins’ good-but-not-great start makes him quite affordable to the Phillies, since his leverage is limited.

The Phillies don’t have any depth in the Minors when it comes to shortstops; just Freddy Galvis, a slick fielder with very little in the way of offense. Unless GM Ruben Amaro feels confident diving into the shallow pool of Major League free agent shortstops — think Miguel Tejada, currently earning $6.5 million on a one-year deal with the San Francisco Giants — or resorting to his guile in manufacturing a trade, signing Rollins to a short-term extension makes a world of sense for all parties involved.

His subpar and injury-plagued seasons included, only three shortstops have been more valuable from 2008-10 than Jimmy Rollins, going by FanGraphs WAR: Hanley Ramirez (18.9), Derek Jeter (13.2), and Troy Tulowitzki (13.0). Rollins, at 10.3, should be just fine going forward.

Update: I posted a question to David Hale’s live chat today, and he was kind enough to answer:

Comment From Bill Baer (Crashburn):  Have you heard anything about Jimmy Rollins and getting him signed to a contract beyond 2011?

David Hale: Neither side has said much on the subject since the spring but I have to believe that there’s some sense within the organization that they’d like to get something done.

There isn’t a clear solution of Rollins leaves. The only real improvement on the free agent market is Reyes, and I’m not sure how much that’s a realisitic possibility.

Within the organization, there are some good defenders, but a lot of offensive question marks.

Jimmy’s looked improved this year in the early going — and if that continues for another month or two, and he’s not asking for a ton of years — I’m guessing something gets done.

Make sure to follow Hale on Twitter (@Philled_In) and check out his blog Philled In for Phillies news and analysis.

. . .

On a tangential note, Vance Worley‘s success (now known as “Vance Vance Revolution” as per Matt Gelb) is great for the Phillies. Stop me when I start sounding crazy.  It’s great not just because he’s helped the team win, but because it makes Joe Blanton expendable. Worley may not be a true 0.75 ERA pitcher (tongue firmly in cheek), but his Minor League numbers over 403 innings suggest he should be about as good as Blanton given his strikeout and walk rates, the best predictors for a pitcher’s future performance.

Blanton will earn $8.5 million both this year and next. Should the Phillies feel a need to clear salary, they can do so by making Blanton available. Blanton would represent an upgrade to most teams’ starting rotations. Assuming the Phillies aren’t interested in receiving any legitimate prospects in a Blanton deal, finding a team to consume the remainder of Blanton’s contract should be rather easy.

In another scenario, the Phillies may still be looking for outfield or second base help going into late July, depending on how things shape up with Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez, and Domonic Brown. Blanton could certainly net the Phillies an everyday corner outfielder or second baseman, provided they cover most of his remaining salary.

On the other hand, Worley provides the Phillies quality insurance in the event a starting pitcher succumbs to injury, as was the case with Blanton. If the Phillies use Blanton to eat salary or make an offensive upgrade, that means Kyle Kendrick would be the first line of defense, a scenario no Phillies fan wants to envision. With Roy Oswalt‘s back problems, the Phillies will be weighing the pros and cons of a multitude of possible transactions as the season progresses.

Ibanez Trying to End Offensive Slump

While many baseball fans have been focusing on Andre Ethier‘s current 28-game hitting streak, Phillies fans have been bemoaning the current 34 at-bat hitless streak, spanning 11 games, of Raul Ibanez. He turns 39 years old in June and many — including myself — think he is simply done. Others point out that he is a notoriously streaky hitter, assuming that he will snap out of it sooner rather than later. Whatever the case, Ibanez is trying his hardest to once again contribute to the Phillies’ offense. He spent extra time in the batting cage yesterday, an off-day, attempting to work out the kinks.

Still, Ibanez is running out of rope not only with fans but with those in power within the Phillies organization. Recently, Charlie Manuel has opted to use John Mayberry, Jr. in lieu of Ibanez when an opposing left-handed starter takes the bump.

There’s even ample evidence that Ibanez’s recent struggles aren’t just a slump. He’s struck out in 30 percent of his 101 plate appearances, his ISO is currently more than three times lower than his career average (.055 to .190), and he is hitting 12 percent fewer balls on the ground compared to his career average (55 percent to 43 percent). Through 25 games last year, Ibanez was in a slump but had a strikeout-to-walk ratio at nearly one-to-one; this year, the ratio is three-to-one. Yes, Ibanez seems to have been a bit BABIP-unlucky, but given the amount of weak contact he has made overall, his .206 BABIP isn’t all that unrealistic.

Along with taking some extra cuts in the batting cage, Ibanez has been tinkering with his stance throughout the season, trying to find something that feels comfortable. The following animated .gif files illustrate the changes he has made at various points throughout the season.

Friday, April 1, 2011 vs. Houston Astros

Friday, April 15, 2011 vs. Florida Marlins

Friday, April 29, 2011 vs. New York Mets

In the first image from April 1, Ibanez has his traditional stance, which is fairly open. He is standing in the back of the batter’s box, his front foot nearly on the line closest to first base.

In the second image from April 15, Ibanez has a slightly less-open stance with the bat close to his shoulders, even tapping his left shoulder as a timing mechanism. He is considerably closer to home plate.

In the third image from April 29, Ibanez returned back to his old stance. He does not, however, go into his stance as the pitcher is winding up, as he does in the first one. He is not as close to the plate he was against the Marlins.

Obviously, nothing has worked thus far. Ibanez is running out of time, but it is clear that he is putting in the time and effort to try and turn things around for himself and for his team. For ESPN Insider, Eric Seidman points out that Ibanez is going out of the strike zone far too often, explaining the high strikeout numbers. Perhaps it’s best to request Ibanez focus on simply making contact, rather than hitting for power?

Phillies Injuries Proving Costly

Last year, I posted updates about the many injured Phillies, tallying up exactly how much money the Phillies were spending on shelved players. Unfortunately, the injury bug followed the Phillies into 2011, demanding yet more updates. The following is a summary of the team’s injuries so far, accurate as of yesterday’s game.

Player Injury DL Date Absent 2011 Salary Salary/G Injury Cost
Chase

Utley

Patellar tendinitis

R Knee

3/22 27 $15,000,000 $92,593 $2,500,000
Brad

Lidge

Rotator Cuff Strain

R Shoulder

3/25 27 $11,500,000 $70,988 $1,916,667
Joe

Blanton

Medial Impingement

R Elbow

4/24 7 $8,500,000 $52,469 $367,284
Jose

Contreras

Strained R Flexor

Pronator Tendon

4/22 9 $2,500,000 $15,432 $138,889
J.C.

Romero

Strained R Calf 4/19 12 $1,350,000 $8,333 $100,000
Domonic

Brown

Broken Hamate Bone

R Hand

3/22 27 $414,500 $2,559 $69,083
Carlos

Ruiz

Back Stiffness N/A 3 $2,750,000 $16,975 $50,926

Injuries have cost the Phillies over $5.1 million through 27 games, spanning 109 disabled list days (the remaining three include Ruiz, who has missed time but did not land on the DL). The injuries to Utley and Lidge represent approximately 87 percent of the team’s injury cost, a combination of their not having played a game in 2011 and their $15M and $11.5M salaries, respectively.

As for the return of some of these injured players, Matt Gelb has the latest. To summarize:

  • Chase Utley could be in Florida by the end of the week to begin his rehab.
  • Domonic Brown was optioned to Lehigh Valley. He had been hitting .400 with two home runs in 15 at-bats for Clearwater.
  • Joe Blanton will throw off of flat ground on Tuesday.
  • Carlos Ruiz could be ready by Tuesday.
  • J.C. Romero could return to the Phillies by Wednesday.

Talking Mets-Phillies with SNY.tv

I took a few minutes to chat about the upcoming Mets and Phillies series with Ted Berg (@OGTedBerg) of SNY.tv. We briefly talked about some injuries, the Phillies’ offensive decline, and the great pitching staff. (Now with more Worley!)

You can listen here:

Consider that a taste of what you can get every Tuesday at 3 PM ET and Wednesday at 2 PM ET on WOGL 98.1 HD-4 with the “Stathead” show.

Be sure to check out the series preview with Joe Janish. Click here for his answers to my questions, and click here for my answers to his questions.

Mets Series Preview with Joe Janish

The Phillies begin a trek through the NL East today, starting with the surprisingly hot New York Mets. Their six-game winning streak was snapped by the Washington Nationals last night behind a strong start from Livan Hernandez. The Mets have benefited from the incredible production of Ike Davis and a strong bullpen, covering up a lackluster starting rotation. Meanwhile, the Phillies only recently broke out of an offensive slump and will look to overpower the Mets in the upcoming three-game set.

I swapped questions with Joe Janish of Mets Today (@MetsToday) to help preview the series with our readers, so be sure to jump over to his blog to see what I had to say about the Phillies.

. . .

1. The Mets have gone on a roll recently, although their six-game winning streak came to a halt last night. To what do you attribute the success?

Part one is timing; they caught a so-so Diamondbacks club that was regressing to their mean and when their bullpen was a little shorthanded. Then they went to DC to play a terrible Nationals team that was further decimated by the absences of Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman and the idiotic managing of Jim Riggleman. Part two is that the Mets’ offense woke up, possibly sparked by the return of Jason Bay. Bay, Ike Davis, and David Wright are red-hot, and nearly everyone else in the lineup is hitting well lately — in particular, Jose Reyes, Dan Murphy, and Carlos Beltran, who despite making a lot of outs recently is getting good at-bats and hitting the ball hard. And the bullpen is suddenly pitching lights-out, though I attribute some of that to the slumping opposing hitters.

2. I think everyone who follows baseball is amazed at just how good Ike Davis has been. Is this a breakout year for him?

I hope so. It’s early and Ike is red-hot right now. He’s been going to left field frequently and that’s definitely helped his batting average. If he keeps doing that he may be able to avoid the streakiness that comes with his long swing.

3. David Wright catches a lot of heat in New York, but has been producing thus far. Is any of the criticism justified, or is he just a pariah as a result of the team’s recent misery?

David Wright will forever have “haters”, and part of it is because the Mets have positioned him as the face of the franchise and the franchise has yet to win a pennant since he’s been in New York. It doesn’t help that in the past two years Wright has been more streaky than ever before and he seems to pick up more detractors when he’s cold. Another part of the negativity is due to Wright not being perceived as leader. The Mets have not had enough strong personalities who give the press good stories and you need to have those types playing in the media capital of the world. Due to his ability to provide story-worthy quotes, R.A. Dickey has been a media darling and as a result is perceived by the public as a “leader”. In contrast, Wright has always provided the “right” quotes — you know, the typical cliches — and as a result is a boring interview and ergo, not seen by fans as a leader. In New York, you can’t get away with that unless you are getting “clutch” hits in World Series games. Wright regularly makes “big” plays and gets “clutch” hits but many fans tend to focus on his failures.

4. Carlos Beltran has been hitting well to start the season. Do you expect that to continue?

Yes. Beltran has been a great hitter for almost 15 years now and his bat speed and discipline are as good as they’ve ever been. You’ll notice he often gets close calls from the home plate umpires, which doesn’t hurt, either. The only question is whether his knees will hold up long enough to convince other teams he’s worth trading for at the deadline.

5. The Mets will go up against Vance Worley, Roy Halladay, and Cliff Lee. Assuming you enjoy the match-up against Worley, would you rather the Mets face Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels? What combination of Phillies’ starters is most favorable for the Mets?

Speaking as a Mets fan, I’d prefer to see Chad Ogea, Brandon Duckworth, and Andy Ashby. As a baseball fan and pitching coach, I very much look forward to these Mets-Phillies games precisely because I enjoy watching great pitchers like Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, and Hamels.

6. Do you buy the Marlins’ early-season success?

I do, and though I won’t make any predictions, I won’t be surprised if they keep up their current pace. Their pitching — both the rotation and the bullpen — is as solid and deep as any in the NL. Javy Vazquez is the only weak link they have on the entire staff, and if all the pitchers stay healthy, they should carry the team to at least 85-90 wins. Further, their offense has yet to really get going. A few guys are hitting over their heads, but Hanley Ramirez, John Buck, and Omar Infante are all slumping, and Mike Stanton hasn’t yet flashed his power. If they ever learn to play decent fundamental baseball and get a real third baseman, they could win the division.

. . .

As usual, thanks to Joe for stopping by and answering some questions about the Mets. Make sure to visit Mets Today for news and analysis of the Mets during the season, and definitely check it out today to read my take on the Phillies for the Mets fans.

Statistically Regressing the Phillies’ Offense

EDIT: Petti noticed an error in his calculator. He e-mailed me the updated numbers. As such, the post has been edited to reflect the changes.

At Beyond the Box Score, Bill Petti (@BillPetti) did some number-crunching, looking at the actual production (in terms of wOBA) from baseball’s best and worst hitters and comparing it to a regressed version, using each hitter’s numbers over the past three years. Petti described his process:

To gain some perspective on the early returns this season I decided to regress all batters with >=40 plate appearances by their 3-year average batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and their 3-year average HR/FB rate. The chart above presents the top-15 and bottom-15 batters in terms of the difference between their actual wOBA this year and what we would expect given their 3-year averages in BABIP and HR/FB.

Petti made his calculator public, so I downloaded it and ran the numbers for the Phillies. Below are the results.

Name Actual Adjusted Regressed
Raul Ibanez 0.231 0.236 0.293
Ryan Howard 0.362 0.344 0.408
Carlos Ruiz 0.304 0.309 0.328
Jimmy Rollins 0.306 0.307 0.321
Wilson Valdez 0.279 0.274 0.282
Ben Francisco 0.337 0.322 0.328
Shane Victorino 0.363 0.35 0.336
Placido Polanco 0.415 0.419 0.347

In graph form (click to enlarge):

Five of the eight hitters come out looking better after the regression. Ibanez goes from a .231 wOBA to .293, but that is still well below average (around .315). Howard had a .046 point regression up to .408, and Rollins went up .015 to .321. Ruiz jumped 24 points to .024 while Valdez had barely any change at all, moving only three points.

Polanco fell the hardest, from .415 to .347, an 68-point plunge. Victorino and Francisco were hit for 27 and 9 points to .336 and .328 respectively.

It’s not the most encouraging analysis, for sure, but things could be worse. The offense hasn’t been good lately and there aren’t any excuses for that, not even bad luck. That won’t change by any significant margin unless the Phillies get Chase Utley back and at his previous level of production, Domonic Brown makes a speedy rebound from a broken hamate bone, or if they get creative as Eric Seidman hypothesizes at Brotherly Glove.

Graph of the Intermittent Time Period

EDIT: There was a typographical error in the original post. This post has been edited to reflect the correct information.

After Kelly Johnson stole second base in the top of the third inning during tonight’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, I got the feeling that the Phillies haven’t been throwing out base-stealers all that often. I took a stroll over to Baseball Reference and found out that, unfortunately, is the case. Base-stealers are 18-for-22 running on the Phillies, a success rate of 82 percent. The league average stolen base success rate hovers in the 70-75 percent area.

Carlos Ruiz has been known as a solid defensive catcher, but that mostly comes from his great ability to block pitches in the dirt. Brian Schneider used to be quite good at catching runners, but given his age and significantly reduced playing time, his 21 percent caught stealing rate last year pales in comparison to his 37 percent career average.