Couple more articles up at Baseball Digest Daily:
Couple more articles up at Baseball Digest Daily:
Dave Rouleau of Baseball Digest Daily contacted me earlier today and expressed interest in having me write for their web site, and I happily accepted. He’d like me to focus on transaction analysis on the entire MLB with a daily article, and has a very loose leash on me, which is nice.
How that affects Crashburn Alley remains to be seen. If possible, I’d like to continue posting regularly here as well for my Phillies-specific and potpourri posts.
When their website is back up and running, make sure to bookmark their website and my section on there as well.
I was planning to do a recap of every game but I realized that you can basically get a recap on any major baseball website and I was just burdening myself with unnecessary writing. I’ll just stick to the analysis that I don’t see being done.
That said, posts may be cranked out at a slower rate for the time being because I finally upgraded from Microsoft Office 2000 to 2007 and now I can use Pitch F/X data in Excel. So, I’ll be trying to learn how to correctly use and analyze that, and I’ll try to implement it into my analysis when possible.
To anyone who does have expertise with Pitch F/X, I will be needing any pointers I can get, so please drop some hints for me if you can (my contact information is listed at the bottom of this page). I’m really interested in learning how to create graphs like the ones Mike Fast has in this article about Johnny Cueto’s first start. I’ve also read his tutorial on building a database for Pitch F/X data, and while my mind went numb almost immediately, it does sound like a cool idea, but I know very little about Perl and MySQL, so that’s another call to any experts out there willing to lend a few pointers.
But enough about me and my shortcomings (that’s your cue to offer a hug).
Yeah… and the St. Louis Cardinals signed him for one year at $4.25 million. Granted, he did face a Rockies lineup that has been struggling all season and a Nationals offense that isn’t expected to be much better than last year’s MLB-worst, but he’s pitched 12 innings without surrendering a single run. That’s impressive.
I will give credit where credit is due, however, and that’s to Adam Eaton. On April 5 in Cincinnati, Eaton held a decent Reds offense to three runs in 7 and two-thirds innings. He had nearly a 2-to-1 strikes-to-balls ratio, but he still managed to walk four. It’s an encouraging start from a pitcher almost everyone, myself included, gave up on a long time ago. If the Phillies can just get league-average production from Eaton, it’s a huge burden lifted off of the bullpen.
If the Phillies’ front office is thinking about letting Burrell walk when the season is over, they’re crazy. He’s started the season hitting 3 HR and driving in 9 runs in the first seven games, posting an OPS of 1.476.
On Monday night’s Baseball Tonight, Karl Ravech said, half-seriously, that people should be thinking about Burrell potentially completing the Philadelphia-themed MVP trifecta, since most people are predicting that if anyone is going to win it as a Phillie this year, it will be Chase Utley.
Since the Baseball Writers Association of America doesn’t really know how to factor in a player’s true defensive contributions, it is actually a realistic thought to imagine Burrell being named the National League MVP. Burrell is not at all fleet of foot, and as a result, his defense is burdensome. If the BBWAA knew of any of the metrics that display this fact in all its glory, there’s not a chance in hell that Burrell wins the award outside of a 60 HR, 150 RBI season.
It will be a shame if Burrell is forced to sign elsewhere after the season because he has indicated that he relishes playing in Philadelphia, so he’d probably be willing to take a hometown discount. If the Phillies do decide to lock him up for a few more years, they know what they’ll be getting, as Burrell is as consistent as they come. From 2005 to ’07, his slugging percentage ranged from .502 to .504 and his OBP ranged from .388 to .400; home runs from 29 to 32; doubles from 24 to 27, and all of this consistency comes while losing at-bats in ’06 and ’07 from Charlie Manuel taking him out after the sixth or seventh inning in a lot of games.
For me, though, the most satisfying statistic of his from 2007 is his 114 walks in just 598 plate appearances.
Jayson Werth vs. Geoff Jenkins
So far, Charlie Manuel has used the right field platoon as intended: Werth against left-handed starters, Jenkins against right-handers. However, Werth only has five at-bats in the Phillies’ first seven games. Granted, the Phillies have only faced one left-handed starter, and that was on Opening Day (Matt Chico of the Nationals), but you can’t just hold Werth for the lefty starter — you have to start him against a right-hander every now and then as well.
Geoff Jenkins is 33 years old and doesn’t appear to be getting any better, unsurprisingly. He’s been above-average over his career (115 OPS+) but in ’06 and ’07, he was just league average (101 OPS+ in both seasons). Definitely use Jenkins against right-handers only, but let him sit out one every now and then in favor of Werth.
In 19 at-bats, Feliz has put up an uninspiring 22 OPS+ for the Phillies. That is not a misprint; that is a real, live, correctly calculated 22 OPS+. He has four hits — all of them singles — and one walk. There’s just nothing to say here. I know it’s early in the season, small sample sizes and all that good stuff, but… a 22 OPS+? Come on.
What we didn’t see coming is that he’d be a bottom-feeder defensively. Baseball’s best-fielding third baseman has sunk to the 12th out of 16 qualified NL third-sackers in Revised Zone Rating. It won’t stay that way forever, and I fully expect Feliz to climb his way back up, but it just illustrates how little value Feliz has to the Phillies right now. He’s worse than a black hole.
What’s not to be concerned with? From the Phillies website:
Myers suspects he may have tipping his pitches, a problem he licked early in his career — which doesn’t mean it can’t re-occur.
“There were a few pitches that I had to question whether I was tipping or not,” said Myers, who added that he didn’t notice anything after looking at the game video. “They had good approaches. I’m not saying I was [tipping pitches]. I’m just saying they had good approaches.”
From the dugout, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel saw a pitcher whose fastball velocity appeared lower than normal. Myers normally throws in the 92-95 mph range. On Sunday, he reached 92 once, and mostly stayed in the 88-91-mph range.
Myers is way too important to the Phillies to have any extended stretch of bad pitching. Let’s hope he figures it out when he starts against the Chicago Cubs on Friday.
Three-Game Set at Shea
The Phillies begin a three-game series in Queens bright and early: a 1:10 EST start. Here are the pitching match-ups:
The first thing you should notice about the match-ups is that the Phillies get to miss Johan Santana, as expected.
Second, Adam Eaton starts a game at Shea Stadium, and that has boded well for him. His starts at Shea last season:
That last start aside, he was great in Queens last season. Over his career, Eaton has a 2.81 ERA in the Mets’ home ballpark and just over a 1.0 WHIP in 32 innings.
It’s been said you can tell a lot about a person by her shoes. And now, as CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports, shoes may also say something about who takes the lead in a crisis and who follows in another’s footsteps.
New research suggests those buying three pairs of sneakers a year are more likely to be walking in the shoes of a serious leader.
We must know how many pairs of shoes Derek Jeter and Aaron Rowand buy per year!
It is only when we get a hold of these figures that we can take Sabermetric research seriously. Seriously, think of SPARP — Shoes Purchased Above Replacement Player and its partner, LQ — Leadership Quotient. What is being divided, I don’t know, but until then, you calculator nerds continue holding down the couch springs in your mothers’ basements.
Yeah, you read that right: the Phillies’ bullpen shined in a victory over the Reds! Starter Kyle Kendrick looked pedestrian, but was able to get out of some jams and limit the Reds to four runs. Afterward, the Phillies’ bullpen pitched four scoreless innings, allowing only one hit, no walks, and striking out three.
The game was originally slated for a 7:10 start, but was delayed more than an hour and a half due to rain (those of us in the Philly area were treated to some videos reliving the 1980 season). Nevertheless, the Phillies’ offense was on, as Chase Utley hit two home runs and drove in three runs, and Pat Burrell hit a first-inning two-run homer as well.
Kendrick allowed eight hits — three of which were doubles — and walked two in five innings. He did start the sixth inning, but walked lead-off hitter Edwin Encarnacion.
The second-most surprising element of the game, after the Phillies’ great bullpen performance, was that Pedro Feliz drew a walk! Even better is that he started the at-bat taking two strikes.
Ryan Howard isn’t looking particularly good so far this season, but there are 158 more games to play. He’s yet to get an extra base hit.
Aside from that, it was a relatively easy victory for the Phils, and it went almost according to plan. Manager Charlie Manuel would have preferred if Kendrick could have notched six innings instead of five, but Ryan Madson made up for it with two scoreless innings of relief. Both Tom Gordon and Chad Durbin were unavailable. Gordon has pitched in two out of the Phillies’ three prior games; Durbin had pitched in all three.
Tomorrow afternoon, Adam Eaton faces Aaron Harang for a 1:10 meeting.
ESPN’s Jayson Stark describes the Ryan Howard situation in Philly:
For one thing, the two sides haven’t spent 10 seconds talking about a deal since the arbitration hearing. For another, Howard and agent Casey Close continue to position him as an unprecedented player, who therefore deserves an unprecedented contract.
It shouldn’t be surprising that Howard is going to ask for so much money. He’s been a premier offensive threat in all of baseball since he won the NL MVP in 2005. However, if Stark’s description of Howard’s desires — “an unprecented contract” — are true, then it really is time to start thinking about moving him. Not this year, and not next year, but perhaps at the trading deadline in 2010.
The Phillies have control of Howard until after the 2011 season, so they can choose to continue to go year-to-year with him and pay him according to precedents. Even if the Phillies are forced to pay him something like $18 million in 2010, this would still be reasonable as opposed to locking up the slugger — who will be 30 at the start of the 2010 season — long-term for “unprecedented” big bucks.
Howard isn’t truly an unprecedented player. He’s a power-hitting first baseman with below-average defense, a weight issue that will always have a chance of recurring with a build like Howard’s, and inconsistent mechanics (compared to 2005 and ’06, he didn’t use left field nearly as much in ’07, for instance).
He does have great upside, but he’s not some legendary player. He’ll hit 45+ HR and drive in 125+ easily, put up a 1.000-ish OPS year in and year out, and draw about 70 unintentional walks every season. Players that productive are not a dime a dozen, but also not productive enough to warrant an “unprecedented contract.”
The Phillies should let some other team burden themselves with such a contract. Sell Howard while he’s still valued high. Keep him through his prime years (late 20’s) and dispatch of him and his burdensome salary demands immediately afterward. Without a stroke of genius and/or luck, they will not replace his production but they can make some creative moves (like moving Chase Utley to first base and calling up Adrian Cardenas to play second base).
Should the Phils trade Howard, they could ask for a king’s ransom and likely get it. I’m talking comparable to, or even better than what the Twins got for Johan Santana. If the trade is done right, the Phillies can set up their Minor League system for years to come while still keeping a highly competitive MLB roster. However, the problem is that when it comes to trading star players, the Phillies always botch it:
In the Schilling deal, the Phillies got 1.5 league-average seasons from Daal, a half-season of slightly above league-average pitching from Figueroa, and 2.5 below-average seasons from Lee. Padilla is the only player in the deal that both stayed with the Phillies long enough to make it worthwhile, and be productive as well.
With the Rolen trade, Smith pitched less than 95 innings in three and a half seasons for the Phillies’ Minor League teams, and never made it to the Majors due to injuries. Timlin gave the Phils a half-season of league-average relief pitching. Polanco, as we all know, was a decent second and third baseman in his two and a half seasons in Philly.
The Abreu deal is clearly the biggest bust of all, but it was more of a salary dump than anything. None of the players acquired are likely to ever help the Phillies at the Major League level. Matt Smith had reconstructive surgery on his left elbow last season and it’s unlikely he’ll be able to help the Phillies out again. He did perform very well for the Phils in ’06 after he was traded, but he pitched a grand total of four Major League innings in ’07. Henry is a huge bust of a prospect. He’s never been above the A level, but his OPS has gone from .714 in ’05 to .692 in ’06 all the way to .560 last season. Monasterios, a pitcher, and Sanchez, a catcher, aren’t regarded very highly and neither are likely to make the Majors.
With Pat Gillick retiring from his position as GM of the Phillies at the end of the season, it becomes crucial that a capable mind is hired. The likely choice will be Ruben Amaro, Jr., who has been a typical yes-man who tows the party line. He’s currently the Assistant GM to Gillick, handling Q & A with the media about acquisitions, injuries, and the like. There’s no doubt that the Phillies’ ownership highly prefers Amaro over everyone else.
Mike Arbuckle is the Phillies’ Assistant General Manager, Scouting and Player Development, and is #2 on the totem pole behind Amaro for the soon-to-be vacant GM job. Like Amaro, he’s never been one to dance to a different drumbeat and he’s been loyal to the organization. Frankly, since he has so much experience evaluating players, he’d be more reliable than Amaro to make a trade of Ryan Howard.
Looking outside the box for a moment, Brian Cashman’s contract is up after the ’08 season. When Ed Wade was fired after the ’05 season, Cashman was one of the candidates the Phillies had on their list before they decided to go with Gillick, and he is no stranger to a big trade — remember Alfonso Soriano being sent to the Texas Rangers for Alex Rodriguez?
While the Phillies’ upper management may be coming to the realization that Howard’s days in Philly are numbered, they can still thoroughly research Gillick’s potential successors and successfully set themselves up for a franchise-defining trade in 2010.
In case you missed Wednesday night’s SportsCenter, the Cincinnati Reds had a thrilling come-from-behind victory when Edwin Encarnacion hit a game-winning three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning with his team down 5-3 to the Arizona Diamondbacks. That wasn’t the best part, though. Jeff Brantley, the color analyst for FSN Ohio, spends nearly the whole at-bat criticizing Encarnacion first for his lack of bunting ability, and later for not being “clutch.”
Fire Joe Morgan, expectedly, loved it. They have the clip up, so check out their post if you’d like to watch it.
Brantley: Encarnacion has struck out three of his last five AB’s, hasn’t hit the ball out of the infield, he had a terrible spring training, and after that pitch right there, like I said, you need to make sure he can bunt. I don’t think he can.
Brennaman: Well, there is no way they’re going to ask him, or at least you would assume there is NO way they’re going to ask him to bunt with two strikes.
One and two to Encarnacion. Breaking ball in the dirt. Count even now at two balls and two strikes.
See, that’s the problem when you ask a guy who has never bunted —
Brantley: Take him out of the game!
(Brennaman and Brantley talk over each other)
Brantley: Put somebody else in there.
Brennaman: If you believe in the bunt in this situation —
Brantley: You’re at home, you’ve got to tie the game.
Brennaman: That’s a “by the book” kind of thing. I don’t know if there’s anybody on that bench that you’re going to bring in and bat for Encarnacion.
Brantley: This guy is not a clutch hitter. He is not a clutch hitter.
Brennaman: His numbers would be contrary to that.
Brantley: He’s not a clutch player.
Brennaman: Two-two pitch.
(Encarnacion hits game-winning three-run home run, Brennaman is extremely excited)
Brantley: You called it! My goodness. I stand corrected, my friend! Wow![…]
Brantley: Boy, when I’m wrong, I love to be wrong like that, my friend.
For starters, yes, Brantley was proven wrong in that event that Encarnacion isn’t “clutch,” (humoring, for the moment, that “clutch” exists in some meaningful way). However, if “clutch” does exist, one event does not turn a player from “unclutch” to “clutch” (just ask Alex Rodriguez bashers). Brantley isn’t necessarily wrong that Encarnacion is not “clutch.”
Brantley is quick to admit his fault, though, and does so in a good-natured way. You have to respect this. A lot of those in the media would slowly tip-toe away from the situation or just completely deny it altogether.
Where Brantley definitively errs is using spring training statistics to back up his statement that Encarnacion isn’t the guy you want up at the plate at that moment. As has been stated numerous times in recent years, there is little correlation between spring training and regular season performance.
Also, bunting in that situation can and cannot be a smart move. Using last year’s Run Expectancy Matrix, runners on second and third with one out yields 1.44328 expected runs as opposed to 1.51044 expected runs with runners on first and second with no outs. However, bunting the runners over eliminates the double play and, obviously, gives the Reds a chance to tie the game up on almost any base hit to the outfield. In the context of that situation — down by two runs in the ninth inning at home — bunting is a winning play.
So, while Brantley probably should stray from the concept of “clutch” since it’s just one of those intangible elements for which its proponents have produced no evidence, he should be given leniency for being a victim of bad timing. Nothing he said was way off the mark, and he was cordial in admitting fault.
Before the bottom of the sixth inning in the third game of the season, the Phillies were pathetically averaging as many errors as runs: 7 in two and a half games.
The Phillies’ strengths last season — offense and defense — seemed to be their 2008 Achilles’ Heel. Nothing was going right and all of the bounces favored their opponents. Suddenly, in the bottom of the sixth inning, batted balls that were being caught previously were finding holes and dropping in front of fielders. They scored six runs in an impressive rally that consisted of no extra-base hits; rather, eight singles, a hit batter, and a wild pitch. Nine straight Phillies batters reached base before Chase Utley hit into a 3-2-3 double play to end the inning. A recap of the carnage:
Heading into the top of the seventh with their first lead since the bottom of the fourth inning on Monday’s Opening Day game, the Phillies asked their bullpen to be efficient. Ryan Madson responded, quickly retiring all three Washington Nationals hitters he faced.
They had a chance to pad their newfound lead when Ryan Howard singled and Pat Burrell doubled to lead off the bottom of the seventh, but the offense went back into hiding as Geoff Jenkins struck out, and Pedro Feliz and Chris Coste grounded out. Unfortunately, the Phillies had to ask their bullpen to hold onto a one-run lead, and as expected, they couldn’t do that.
Ryan Madson returned to the mound to start the eighth inning and promptly walked lead-off hitter Ronnie Belliard on four pitches. He got Felipe Lopez to lazily fly out to center fielder Shane Victorino, and Jesus Flores almost did as well, but the ball fell in the proverbial Bermuda’s Triangle between Jimmy Rollins, Burrell’s replacement in left field Jayson Werth, and Victorino.
With Rob Mackowiak, a left-handed pinch-hitter, announced, Charlie Manuel replaced Madson with J.C. Romero. Nationals’ manager Manny Acta countered by pinch-hitting Paul Lo Duca for Mackowiak. Romero appeared wild, not having thrown a true strike for the first five pitches, but Lo Duca helped him out by swinging 3-1 at what would have been ball four. Following suit as the previous two hitters, Lo Duca also lazily flied out to center, and the Phillies looked like they’d actually escape with the lead. Not so.
Cristian Guzman sharply hit a grounder just out of the reach of third baseman Pedro Feliz. Jimmy Rollins slid to try and keep the ball near the infield to prevent the tying run from scoring, but the ball instead deflected off of his glove towards foul territory, and that did allow Belliard to touch home plate. Lastings Milledge followed with another infield single to load the bases for the dreaded Ryan Zimmerman, already with two game-winning HR to his name. Luckily, the Phillies continued his oh-fer day, as he grounded out to Jimmy Rollins to end the inning at 7 runs apiece.
The Phillies loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the eighth but couldn’t push in the go-ahead run. Manuel elected to use Opening Day victim Tom Gordon to hold the game in a tie in the top of the ninth inning, and boy, does Gordon make it interesting. He started off well, striking out Austin Kearns, but Nick Johnson, after a great at-bat in which he started 0-2 and worked it to 3-2, reached base via a line drive that was just barely out of the reach of Utley’s glove. The next three at-bats went walk, fly out, walk, so the bases were loaded with two outs. Pinch-hitter Willie Harris came out to bat for reliever Luis Ayala, and everyone in the stadium held their breath as Ryan Howard cleanly fielded a grounder and flipped it to Gordon to end the inning, the game still tied at 7-all. Gordon had a scoreless inning! His ERA went down more than 100 points, from 135.00 to 33.75!
To mimic Seinfeld, yada yada yada, Phillies waste a Jenkins lead-off double in the bottom of the ninth, yada yada yada, game goes to extra innings, yada yada yada, Jimmy Rollins starts off the bottom of the tenth with a lead-off infield single. Victorino sacrifice bunts Rollins to second and Rollins, noticing that only shortstop Cristian Guzman would be able to cover third, raced him to the bag and did so safely, giving the Phillies a runner on third base with one out, and Chase Utley and Ryan Howard due up. Acta, for the second time in the game, ordered both of them to be walked, putting the pressure on Jayson Werth. Reliever Jesus Colome couldn’t find the plate and walked in the winning run on four pitches, giving the Phillies their first win of the season.
Kyle Kendrick will face Josh Fogg tomorrow night when the Phillies visit the Cincinnati Reds for a 7:10 start.
Game graph courtesy FanGraphs.
On a cold, windy night in Philadelphia, last year’s best offense was stymied by Washington Nationals starter Tim Redding. If the game was a series of coin flips, the Phillies called heads every time and it always landed tails. Every ball they hit hard was right at a defender, and one of the many balls hitters did not hit well accounted for the only run of the game — a Ryan Zimmerman solo home run that eked over the right field fence.
For those counting, that’s two game-winning home runs in three games for the third baseman. Of course, his homer tonight wasn’t as dramatic as the one that won the Nationals’ home opener, but they both counted the same in the box score.
Lost in the disappointment is the great start from Cole Hamels: eight innings, five hits, two walks, and 6 strikeouts. Unfortunately, he gets marked down as having lost that game (insert rant against the W/L metric here).
Had the winds not been blowing in so strongly from left field, and had the temperature been a bit higher, Hamels might have been credited with giving up more runs, as Ryan Zimmerman lost a well-hit three-run homer in the first inning. Off the bat, it looked like it’d be way out, but the ball had such a high trajectory that it was pushed back in and caught in front of the warning track by left fielder Pat Burrell.
The Phillies’ lone hit came courtesy third baseman Pedro Feliz — a grounder up the middle. The other three base runners reached via a Redding walk to Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Geoff Jenkins.
Tonight marks the third straight season in which the Phillies dropped the first two games of the season, and at least so far, they look to be en route to their fifth straight sub-.500 April.
The Nationals start the season 3-0 for the first time since 2003, when they were the Montreal Expos.
Tomorrow’s 1:05 game will have the Phillies’ Jamie Moyer facing the Nationals’ Jason Bergmann.
Seanez signed, Helms D’ed For A
Assumed to be a reaction to Tom Gordon’s blow-up on Monday, the Phillies signed right-handed reliever Rudy Seanez. Despite his age — 39 — he is still effective, having put up great a ERA+ in three of the past four seasons:
2004: 133 ERA+
He tends to stray from walking hitters — 3.2 per 9 innings in ’07 — and still has the ability strike hitters out in bunches, averaging 8.6 per 9 last season.
To make room for Seanez, displaced third baseman Wes Helms was designated for assignment, the culmination of the Phillies’ unsuccessful efforts to find a suitor for him. The Phillies have 10 days to trade or release him. The Dodgers are hurting for a third baseman, but they were discussing a Seanez-for-Helms deal and opted instead to drop the reliever.
Game graph courtesy Fan Graphs.