Crash Bag Vol. 44 – The Best Phillies Rotation

This week was a quiet one if you weren’t Jerry Dipoto despite it being the GM’s meetings. So with that, some questions.

@MichaelStubel: You’re tasked with putting together a rotation comprised of Phillies starters from the post-integration era. Who makes the cut?

I laid some rules for this exercise before starting.

  • The pitcher had to spend some of their prime with the Phillies, I couldn’t use Pedro’s prime just because he was on the 2009 Phillies.
  • I was looking for an average prime era season from the pitcher, not just a one year outlier.
  • I get the pitcher vs the batters of their era. I didn’t want to figure out Robin Roberts vs 2010’s era batters.

My first search was to find the top single season pitcher bWAR for Phillies pitchers to get a list of candidates. Then to remove innings as a driver I sorted it by ERA+ as well to get a list of candidates: Steve Carlton, Robin Roberts, Roy Halladay, Jim Bunning, Cliff Lee, Chris Short, Cole Hamels, and Curt Schilling. Continue reading…

2017 Phillies Report Card: Cameron Rupp

I don’t know whether it feels like Cameron Rupp has been around forever or just a little bit of time. the 2017 season marked, Rupp’s 5th in the majors, but he only played a combined 22 games in his first two seasons. What it does mean is that the 29 year old will enter the offseason arbitration eligible for the first time in his career. Rupp has been somewhere between the Phillies starting catcher and leader of a tandem for the past 3 seasons. Over that time he has hit .236/.301/.417 in just over 1000 plate appearances. He has shown good power, and this year nearly doubled his 2016 walk rate. Yet, we enter the offseason with Rupp on the outside look in at two younger catchers taking his job. Why?

We can start with the offense. In 2015 and 2016, Cameron Rupp was a 3 true outcomes catcher with large platoon splits. Things went even more extreme during the 2017 season. Rupp’s walk rate did nearly double from 5.7% to 10.3%, but his strikeout rate also skyrocketed. Among hitters with at least 300 plate appearances, his strikeout rate of 34.4% was 8th highest in the majors. Against right handed pitchers, he struck out at a staggering 36.9% of the time. As for his platoon split, after years of wrecking LHPs (.915 OPS and .993 OPS), he was merely ok against them this season with a .839 OPS. Rupp has never hit righties well, and in addition to the walk strikeout rate, he only hit .195 off of them this season. Put it all together and Rupp’s 88 OPS+ was a big step back from his 2016 season. Continue reading…

Crash Bag Vol. 43: Missing Doc

We lost a legend this week. As I’m sure you’re aware, Roy Halladay, the greatest pitcher I’ve ever seen, died in a plane crash on Tuesday. He was only 40. And while the baseball world mourns his death, including here at the site, it’s important to remember that, even as we lost Doc, his children and his wife lost Dad. For us, the loss is still personal; he was our idol, our hero, but we saw him from afar. So let’s remember the Halladay family and keep them in your thoughts, as they’re living a nightmare.

It would be fitting to memorialize Doc here with statistics, to definitively show that he’s the best pitcher of his generation and one of the greatest ever, but you already know that. So in the spirit of the Crash Bag, I’m going to share a personal story about Doc. Continue reading…

Doc

Roy Halladay died today. It’s a crushing blow to his family, all his friends in Colorado, Florida, Toronto, and Philadelphia, as well as the Blue Jays and Phillies organizations. It doesn’t really matter that Roy Halladay was one of the best pitchers who ever lived – there’s a plaque in Cooperstown that will go up someday to tell you all about it. The legacy that Roy Halladay leaves behind, at least in the public sphere, is of his work ethic, humility, and spirit.

Continue reading…

2017 Phillies Report Card: Ty Kelly

Ty Kelly was not the most heralded addition to the 2017 roster. In fact, we didn’t really trade for him; it was more that we bought him from Toronto for cash. I don’t know how much “cash considerations” generally is, but I think it’s an insignificant sum.

And Kelly is a relatively insignificant player in the landscape of the MLB. He entered the season a borderline Major Leaguer and played all of one plate appearance with the Mets. He was then designated for assignment and claimed by the Blue Jays where he accrued exactly zero plate appearances. Four days later he was on the Phillies, replacing the injured Aaron Nola.

So after spending eight years in the minors and a cup of coffee with the Mets last year, he was playing for the third team of the season on April 22. He had that quality, a certain Chris Coste ness you might say, that made him, along with Brock Stassi, easy to root for. Unfortunately, like Stassi, Kelly looked the part of a career minor leaguer. He posted a 53 wRC+ in 103 PAs and negative-0.2 fWAR. Continue reading…

Crash Bag Vol. 41: Pitch Framing and Managing

I didn’t get many questions this week (I guess people are more interested in the World Series in the Phillies managerial search. Go figure), so I’ll just do something of a deep dive on the topics I was asked about.

@robertdalton52: How much of a difference does pitch framing make? Do the umps call strikes and balls based upon pitcher/catcher, and batter reputations?

The first part of this question is somewhat well-tread ground in sabermetrics. Pitch framing was always thought to be somewhat valuable, like blocking pitches, but research indicated that the overall spread in pitch framing value added was actually more on the order of wins than runs. According to Baseball Prospectus, the top pitch framer last year was Tyler Flowers, who produced 25.1 runs, or roughly two and a half wins, above average, while the worst surprisingly was former framing superstar Jonathan Lucroy at -17.7 runs. So the spread there was more than four wins. Continue reading…

2017 Phillies Report Card: Vince Velasquez

When the Phillies traded Ken Giles to Houston in exchange for Vince Velasquez and other pieces, they were supposed to be acquiring a long term rotation piece. Within the first month of his 2016 season, it looked like they had actually acquired an ace. The rest of Velasquez’s year did not go to script, and he entered 2017 looking to make improvements on the mound and more importantly staying healthy on it.

During the 2017 season, Velasquez only started 15 games and pitched 72 innings. He first missed time with a right flexor muscle strain, and then with a vascular injury in his right middle finger. Neither injury necessarily has a long term impact on Velasquez’s ability to pitch in 2018, and while the injuries have been concerning, they aren’t career ending. In 2017, only 75 pitchers pitched 150 innings. While, it would be nice if Velasquez could be a 200 inning pitcher, if he can pitch 140-150 innings a year, he has value as a starter. Continue reading…

2017 Phillies Report Card: Mark Leiter Jr

Mark Leiter Jr. is the type of guy every team needs, but no one really ever wants to have to use. He’s a replacement level player occupying the long man/spot starter role who was thrust into 90 innings this year.

Relative to expectations (of which there were none), Leiter did his job. Thanks to a basically league average strikeout rate (21.3%) and a slightly above average walk rate (7.9%), he wasn’t below replacement level, despite allowing 21% of his fly balls to go over the fence. Maybe there’s a little bit of bad luck involved there, as HR/FB% is one of the noisiest stats and the league average is just 13.7%. Among pitchers with at least 90 innings pitched, Leiter had the worst HR/FB% outside of Yankee Stadium (Michael Pineda) and Coors Field (Tyler Chatwood). Continue reading…

2017 Phillies Report Card: Nick Pivetta

“Neva” (NEE-vuh) is not a name you hear a lot. Or ever. But she was the nurse in charge of our birthing class in the summer of 2015. It was a glorious time to be a prospect-head and a Phillies fan, because as the trade deadline approached, the club was sooooooooooooo bad, putting them in line for a very high draft pick in 2016, and leaving them poised to trade away a bunch of talent, from all-around funster Ben Revere and ace Cole Hamels, to (god willing) the club’s jerk of a closer.

And so on July 28, when Neva called for a potty break, I was quickly on my phone in the hall of Holy Cross Hospital’s administrative wing, checking the Ol’ Twitter for Phils’ news. I wandered towards the chapel and before my eyes came a vision. A vision of Jonathan Papelbon being an A-hole for some other team – my adopted hometown team, The Washington Nationals! The return was a tall Canadian minor league starter with a reliever’s profile. Thankfully, it wasn’t Phillippe Aumont again.

Continue reading…

The Cesar Hernandez Trade Problem

The Phillies have a log jam in the middle infield. They have J.P. Crawford at shortstop, Scott Kingery and Cesar Hernandez at second, and Freddy Galvis still hanging around. In reality the real log jam is just at second base. Cesar Hernandez has turned himself into a really good baseball player, and Scott Kingery has turned himself into a very good prospect. We have evidence that Cesar Hernandez cannot play third base. We don’t have a lot of sample size of Scott Kingery at third, but his arm might be his weakest defensive tool. Even if Kingery or Hernandez could play third it would waste their biggest asset, their glove at second base. The long term solution is then to trade one of them, and of the two, it makes more sense to trade Hernandez because Kingery fits into the Phillies’ timeline better.

Before talking about what the Phillies would want in a trade, let’s eliminate the teams that don’t need Hernandez. I have carved out two groups here, teams with an established veteran on par with Hernandez, and teams with a young or new to MLB second baseman that they want to build around. Continue reading…