2014 Phillies Report Card: Ruben Amaro, Jr.

If Opening Day isn’t my favorite day of the year, it’s second only to Thanksgiving because let’s be real, it’s darn near impossible to top all the turkey, mashed potatoes, and pie you can eat. But Opening Day is full of magic. Every team is in first place. Every player’s stat lines are wiped clean. There are new faces in new uniforms. And hope abounds; after all, it must be some team’s year, so why not us?

While teams and individual players get a magical restart button annually, the same isn’t true for returning general managers. There is no way to neatly splice up the career of a GM and gain a comprehensive look at how the GM is performing because each move he makes has a direct impact on moves in both the near and distant future. As an example, the Marlon Byrd signing by Ruben Amaro, Jr. last November occurred as a direct result of Amaro opting for Delmon Young on a one year deal in 2013 instead of a multi-year deal for someone like Nick Swisher. A GM can make a great move that is a direct result of a bad move he previously made and vice versa. This report card will only deal directly with the transactions (and non-transactions) Amaro made from the day after the end of the 2013 season through the final day of the 2014 season, so it goes without saying that this will not give a complete picture of Ruben Amaro’s GM’ing.

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2014 Phillies Report Card: Ryne Sandberg

Grading players is easy. Every little thing a batter or pitcher does throughout the course of a season is run through a spectrometer whose readings spew statistics that traverse the visible range of objective (and subjective) evaluation. What’s left is a full color palette, hues unblended, from which an encompassing picture can be painted.

There is no such spectrometer for managers. How many of the Phillies’ 73 wins in 2014 came as a direct result of a decision made by Ryne Sandberg? Was the decision textbook or unconventional? Was it really good process, or did it just luck out? By the same token, how many of those 89 losses can be hung around Sandberg’s neck?

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On the Rumors of a Torn Phillies Clubhouse

There is some speculation out this morning from the usual untrustworthy sources that Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, and Marlon Byrd are the biggest contributors to a bad atmosphere in the Phillies’ clubhouse. I will not provide a link so as not to reward baseless rumor-mongering with page views, but a Google search should bring you what you’re looking for if curiosity persists.

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2014 Phillies Report Card: Jonathan Papelbon

I was wrong. Three words I don’t enjoy saying, but I have no other choice. For months and months and months, I crowed about closer Jonathan Papelbon‘s declining velocity, predicting impending doom for the right-handed veteran. When Papelbon questioned the concern about his velocity (or “velo”, as he called it), I rebuked him.

To Papelbon’s credit, he has continued to dominate despite that falling velocity. 2014 was his third season in a Phillies uniform and his best. In 66 1/3 innings, he saved 39 games in 43 chances with a 2.04 ERA and a 63/15 K/BB ratio. He was among the game’s best closers — again — despite a strikeout rate that was eight percent lower than it was just two years ago and despite a fastball that averaged 2.5 fewer MPH than in 2012.

A selection of closers since 2012:

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2014 Phillies Report Card: A.J. Burnett

A.J. Burnett will not be a Phillie in 2015. We learned this yesterday, when he declined his $12.75 million player option for the coming season. Previously it seemed almost certain he would either collect his 2015 paycheck in Philadelphia or retire, but Jayson Stark reported yesterday that Burnett will instead forego his guaranteed keep so that he can seek to pitch for a “contender.” Fair. Ouch, but fair.

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2014 Phillies Report Card: Grady Sizemore

I thought about writing up Grady Sizemore‘s season as if I thought he was Scott Sizemore, but I’m pretty sure there’s not much material there, since Scott’s season was even less impactful that Grady’s, (Scott took all of 16 big league PAs in 2014). Next came the idea that somehow I could play off his name, indicating perhaps that his new contract was making me “sigh more” about the state of the team, but I made that joke on Twitter when he signed, and it wasn’t funny the first time, and hoping to somehow phrase it better with more characters available is a reach. And the first name, Grady, kind of goes with the theme of report cards, but his year was better than something between a D- and an F+, so “Grade: E” doesn’t really help me out. Even after I looked for the graphic and deftly added the line at the bottom of the F.

As such, I’m left with talking about Grady Sizemore’s 2014. Stay with me, folks. I’ll try to keep it lively. Continue reading…

2014 Phillies Report Card: Ken Giles

Ken Giles pitched the first 45.2 innings of his Major League career in 2014, which is about 60% of a full season for a reliever. We can’t really draw any meaningful conclusions from a sample size that small. Sure, we could run through all the awesome highlights from Giles’ statistics in those 45.2 innings – for example, the fact that of 171 relievers who pitched 40 innings or more, Giles was seventh in K% at 38.6%, behind Aroldis Chapman (a ridiculous 52.5%), Andrew Miller and Brad Boxberger (42.6% and 42.1%, both also completely ridiculous), Dellin Betances and Wade Davis (39.6% and 39.1%) and Craig Kimbrel (38.9%). Or we could talk about his K-BB% of 31.9%, which was sixth behind Chapman, Miller, Sean Dollittle, Boxberger, and Betances (and better than Davis, Kenley Jansen, Greg Holland, Koji Uehara, Kimbrel, and David Robertson). Since this report card is supposed to be an evaluation of the player’s performance this season, that kind of analysis is warranted. OK, fine.

Giles 1.18 1.34 2.03 1.51 38.6% 6.6% 31.9% 0.79
Rank (of 171 RP with 40+ IP) 3rd 3rd 7th 5th 7th 49th 6th 5th

Any way we slice it, Giles had a fantastic season in 2014. He struck out everybody, didn’t walk nearly as many batters as he did in the minors, and the ERA retrodictors indicate his performance is backed up by his skills. I don’t want to go any further with the numbers now, and if you want more, Bill already did some good statistical analysis in this August 20 article. I want to step away from the nerdtastic data analysis we usually do, just for a moment, to take a longer-angle view of Giles and how he symbolizes the next era of Phillies baseball.

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2014 Phillies Report Card: Freddy Galvis

It feels wrong to talk about “the heady days” of 2012, but that’s appropriate in the case of Freddy Galvis. As the understudy for the injured Chase Utley, Galvis was a defensive revelation and fan favorite in a little more than two months of play at second base. He didn’t hit well at all–.226/.254/.363 in 200 PA–but he was simply magnificent in the field, and the ability to pick up for Utley without missing a step, as well as his cherubic disposition, made him a fan favorite. A couple of us even tried to get a silly nickname–El Falcon, after his home state in Venezuela–to stick on Galvis.

The hope was that Galvis would turn into the kind of dynamic defensive shortstop who could be an acceptable starter in this new dead ball era without contributing much with the bat. Now that we’re not expecting everyone to hit .280 with 20 home runs anymore, you can get away with a shortstop who doesn’t hit at all if he’s truly elite with the glove. The archetype of this player is Andrelton Simmons, who is simply the best defensive shortstop in the world, but there are others, including Brandon Crawford and Alcides Escobar. Galvis, who doesn’t run as well as Escobar or hit for as much power as Simmons, had a ways to go, but as a 22-year-old rookie, El Falcon represented a player we could dream on.

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2014 Phillies Report Card: Andres Blanco

The first season of Friday Night Lights *pilot episode mild spoiler alert* depicts a backup quarterback, the thoroughly lovable Matt Saracen, being thrust into the role of starting quarterback, or “QB1” in the show’s vernacular, following a devastating injury to the original QB1. The immediate shift in expectations and attention on Saracen depict the massive impact depth charts can have on a player’s mindset. As the backup, Saracen never expected to take an in-game snap but moving just one rung up the chart changed Saracen’s life completely. */spoilers*

While depth charts in football may be more well-defined, they clearly play a role in baseball as well. One can quibble over the exact order, but allow me to present a depiction of the Phillies middle infield (MI) depth chart from the beginning of the 2014 season: Continue reading…