Kyle Kendrick Gets Punk’d

Kendrick Target of Elaborate Prank:

After the Phillies’ workout on Saturday, Ruben Amaro Jr. summoned Kendrick into manager Charlie Manuel’s office at Bright House Networks Field. With a straight face, the assistant general manager told his gullible pitcher that he’d been dealt to the Yomiuri Giants of the Japanese Central League for a player named “Kobayashi Iwamura.”

Presented with a letter printed on Phillies stationery with official-sounding language, Kendrick was convinced of the “deal,” and given an itinerary of things he must do so the swap could be completed, supplied by traveling secretary Frank Coppenbarger.

Manuel assisted with the rouse by offering advice, since he made a career in the Far East. Kendrick’s agent, Joe Urbon, who also represents Japanese import Hiroki Kuroda, gets credit by confirming the deal when he received the stunned phone call from his client.

The media (who were clued in) played a part as well, asking Kendrick questions about being traded halfway around the world. The shell-shocked 23-year-old stammered through most of his answers, not knowing what to say.”

“Do they have good food in Japan?” Kendrick asked reporters, as the first words out of his mouth. “I don’t know what to think right now. I guess it’s going to be a whole new chapter, huh?”

Eventually, as a crowd gathered to watch the proceedings, the joke’s originator, Brett Myers, chimed in, “You’ve been punk’d.”

Breathing a huge sigh of relief, Kendrick said, “I’ve never been so happy. Seriously. Wow. I was not going on that flight in the morning.”

Video:

This Has to be Some Sick Joke

Ah, power rankings. Nowhere are they more meaningless than in baseball. But Aram Tolegian, whom I’ve never heard of until just now, released “the first batch” of MLB power rankings for FOX Sports.

It is a perfect storm: I have a lot of time on my hands, and this guy used tons of flawed logic. This day is going to go pretty fast.

#1 Detroit Tigers

No team had a better off-season, and for that reason the Tigers occupy the top spot.

The Tigers definitely had the best off-season. They ranked 9th out of 14 AL teams in runs allowed per game, and 2nd of 14 in runs scored per game. So what do they do? They go out and acquire Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis in a trade. They failed to improve their pitching staff, and they have overkill offensively. I wouldn’t say they had the best off-season. In fact, when you look at it objectively, they had a rather poor one. They had pitching problems at both ends going into the offseason, and they only addressed it by acquiring Willis, who can’t be relied upon for anything, as his ’07 campaign isn’t much of an aberration when you look at his statistics (everything is close to his career norm).

And the Boston Red Sox, the defending World Series champions, and the team that didn’t take a step back in anyway except in losing Curt Schilling to injury, should be #1.

#2 Cleveland Indians

No argument here.

#3 Boston Red Sox

The rotation doesn’t look overly strong and the offense certainly doesn’t project better than those owned by the Indians, Tigers or Yankees.

No argument about the Indians’ rotation. However…

Red Sox

Player: ’07 ERA+

Beckett: 145

Matsuzaka: 108

Wakefield: 100

Lester: 104

Buchholz: 298 (only 4 starts, one of which was a no-hitter)

Tigers

Verlander: 125

Rogers: 103

Robertson: 96

Bonderman: 91

Willis: 83

Yankees

Pettitte: 110

Wang: 121

Mussina: 87

Hughes: 100

Chamberlain: 1192 (only 24 IP, all as a reliever)

The starting rotation of the Red Sox is clearly the most dominant, with the Yankees’ trailing and the Tigers’ clearly lagging far behind.

#4 Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks may have arrived a year early last season, but that’s what often happens when there’s a boatload of endless upside on the roster.

No, that’s what happens when you out-perform your Pythagorean W-L by 11 games. The D-Backs allowed 732 runs and scored only 712. The Diamondbacks had one of the worst RS/RA margins of teams that made the playoffs. Adding Dan Haren will offset the crash to Earth that the Diamondbacks will face, but they’re not some powerhouse simply because they had very favorable run distribution last season.

Of their eight regulars, only four had an OPS+ over 100, and all of them were just barely:

Jackson: 110

Hudson: 106

Reynolds: 110

Byrnes: 104

The D-Backs ranked dead last in the NL in OBP and 9th of 16 in SLG. And who’d they add in the off-season to help provide more offense? Chris Burke?

Please consider that last year’s success was done primarily without Randy Johnson and with Dan Haren still in Oakland. Both will start the season as part of the rotation, which means the D-backs take another big step forward.

Randy Johnson needs to stay healthy. At age 44, how realistic is this expectation?

#5 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Fans had the entire off-season to project how big the Angels’ winning margin in the AL West would be. But all of that changed when the Mariners traded for Erik Bedard. Now things may not be so easy in the West. The Angels still deserve the nod simply because this is a team with very few holes and a solid mix of veterans and youth with upside.

Ugh, so many generalities. But he’s correct in saying that the Angels are the top team in the AL West. As we’ll find out, the Mariners are being overrated.

#6 New York Yankees

The organization is doing the right thing by building from within now that the strategy of being the league’s most active off-season team has proven futile. For a team that’s supposedly in transition, this season won’t be too painful.

There’s a reference to the youth on the Yankees, but no mention of how that will affect them. And there’s no reference to their shaky starting rotation. Chien-Ming Wang has an extremely low K-rate, and pitchers with low K-rates don’t have the same sustained success that those with high K-rates do.

What of Mike Mussina? Should he have just retired? 2007 was the worst season of his 17-year career. Excluding his first season in ’91, he set career lows in IP and strikeouts, and career highs in ERA and WHIP. And he’s 39.

Andy Pettitte is always reliable for decent production, but two straight seasons with a 1.4 WHIP is concerning.

Phil Hughes showed flashes of brilliance, but he’s only 21. Similarly, Joba Chamberlain is 22 and has never made a Major League start.

The Yankees will have a great offense as they always do, but their starting rotation will make or break them, as it does so many other teams.

#7 Los Angeles Dodgers

There are also several position battles in key places, like third base where Nomar Garciaparra may not have enough left in the tank to fend off prospect Andy LaRoche. Another battle to watch is in the outfield where the Dodgers have Juan Pierre, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp vying for the two spots flanking Andruw Jones. And what about Jason Schmidt? There have been no setbacks in his return from shoulder surgery, but fans should keep their fingers crossed nonetheless.

Nothing here justified the Dodgers at #7. They have a middle-of-the-road offense and after Brad Penny and Derek Lowe, their starting rotation falters. Of course, they have that great bullpen to fall back on, but it’s not even close to enough to justify them at #7.

#8 New York Mets

Trading for Johan Santana has energized the organization heading into spring.

He has the Diamondbacks (#4) and Dodgers (#7) ahead of the Mets, who appear to be solid on all fronts. The Mets had the NL’s fourth-best offense and 7th-best pitching staff, and before Santana, they had stayed relatively idle. Adding Santana gives them a top-tier pitching staff, and combine that with their top-tier offense, the Mets should be higher than #8 and #3 in the NL.

#9 Toronto Blue Jays

I’ll give you a minute to stop laughing before I quote him on why he put the Jays at #9.

Ready?

If you view the glass as half full in Toronto, you’ve got a team with a solid rotation, a major defensive improvement at third in Scott Rolen and a burgeoning superstar in OF Alex Rios.

2007 Troy Glaus Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP; accounts for both offense and defense): 5.8

2007 Scott Rolen WARP: 5.6

It’s a break-even change at best. Given Rolen’s back problems, playing on the Toronto turf isn’t going to help him any.

Let’s see… the Jays’ offense ranked 10th out of 14 teams, and their pitching staff ranked a distant second to the Red Sox. Yes, their starting rotation is relatively solid, but Dustin McGowan, Shaun Marcum, and Jesse Litsch are all in their mid-20’s and not one of them had sustained Major League success before 2007, so it’s hard to expect similar production from them in 2008. It’s fair to expect a regression.

Even in their bullpen, they featured guys having unexpected success. Jeremy Accardo, Casey Janssen, and Scott Downs never had anything close to the kind of success they had last season.

#9 is too high for the Jays.

#10 Colorado Rockies

The old style of thinking that pitching will ultimately do in the Rox has to be discarded. Although it would have been nice to see the team upgrade its rotation this off-season.

When you adjust for park effects (obviously, pitching in Coors Field deflates your pitching statistics, and all of their starters had 4.00+ ERA’s), the Rockies had a decent rotation. Among those who pitched 100+ innings…

Francis: 114 ERA+

Fogg: 97

Cook: 116

Hirsh: 100

In addition, the Rockies’ bullpen was superb. Even in Coors Field, the Rockies’ bullpen featured six guys who pitched 45+ innings and kept their ERA under 4.00:

Fuentes: 3.08 ERA (155 ERA+)

Corpas: 2.08 ERA (231 ERA+)

Affeldt: 3.51 ERA (137 ERA+)

Hawkins: 3.42 ERA (140 ERA+)

Julio: 3.93 ERA (122 ERA+)

Herges: 2.96 ERA (162 ERA+)

Of those six, only Affeldt and Julio departed. Their bullpen will be strong again in ’08. The Rockies should be top-three in the NL, along with the Mets and Phillies.

#11 Seattle Mariners

The addition of Erik Bedard cannot be understated as the M’s may own the best one-two punch in the West.

There are only three other teams to compete with… but even then, I’ll take John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar (or Jered Weaver since Escobar will miss the first month of the regular season) over Bedard and Felix Hernandez.

Lackey/Escobar/Weaver ERA+: 151/134/117

Bedard/Hernandez ERA+: 146/110

Bedard helps a middling Mariners pitching staff, but he won’t be enough to save Jarrod Washburn, Miguel Batista, and Carlos Silva from mediocrity.

Additionally, J.J. Putz aside, the Mariners’ great ’07 bullpen featured a bunch of young guys having phenomenal seasons (like the Blue Jays), and we can’t reasonably expect repeat performances.

Raul Ibanez and Ichiro Suzuki will be offensive mainstays for the Mariners, but they are going to feature Brad Wilkerson regularly in right field, and he hasn’t put up an above-average offensive season since 2004 when he was in Montreal. Adrian Beltre will be slightly above-average, and Richie Sexson will continue to kick his OBP and SLG into a black hole.

Bedard aside, the Mariners are mediocre and I’d be surprised if they finished within 5 games of the Angels in the AL West.

#12 Milwaukee Brewers

It’s kind of scary to think of what the Brewers accomplished last season with Ben Sheets managing only 141 innings and Rickie Weeks suffering from the lingering effects of a wrist injury.

The Brewers featured an above-average player at every offensive position except catcher and center field. Despite a sub-par starting rotation, the Brewers rode their offense and decent bullpen to a finish of four games over .500.

They lost Francisco Cordero, but they got Eric Gagne, David Riske, and Salomon Torres, which more than offsets the loss. In acquiring Cameron, Bill Hall will move to third base, and Ryan Braun will move to left field.

The Brewers probably won’t see any marked improvement in their 5th-best NL offense or 9th-best pitching staff. The neighborhood of 83 wins continues to be a likely landing spot.

#13 Philadelphia Phillies

The feeling here is that Phillies took a step back this off-season. How any team can trust Brad Lidge to close is beyond us. But that’s assuming he’s even on the mound. Lidge had surgery to repair cartilage in his right knee in October. It goes without saying that this is something to watch in spring. If you believe Aaron Rowand was the unsung hero of the offense last season, then being optimistic about the Phils gets that much harder now that he’s in San Francisco.

How the Phillies are 6th-best in the NL according to Aram is baffling. They feature the NL’s best offense by far, three legitimate MVP candidates in Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins, one of the best 1-2 punches in the NL with Cole Hamels and Brett Myers, and a markedly improved bullpen. In addition, their defense will set the standard in the NL, and they easily have the deepest bench in the league.

The only question marks with the Phillies are Cole Hamels’ health (he’s always been an injury concern, even throughout the Minor Leagues) and the #3-5 spots in the rotation. Kyle Kendrick had a stunning ’07 season and is a perfect fit for Citizens Bank Park given his ground ball tendencies. However, that was only one year and it could just be a fluke. Jamie Moyer, if Julio Franco doesn’t sign with a team, will be baseball’s oldest player on Opening Day, and Adam Eaton will have the #5 spot in the rotation most likely.

If the Santana pushes the Mets to #1 in the NL, the Phillies are #2.

Everyone, for some reason, assumes Brad Lidge is a wreck, but if you look at his ’07 season, it looks pretty damn good:

67 innings, 88 K, 30 BB, 3.36 ERA (131 ERA+), 1.254 WHIP

As for his injury concerns, his knee is healthy.

After Lidge, the Phillies have three solid pitchers in Tom Gordon, Ryan Madson, and J.C. Romero. The Phillies don’t have a bullpen as good as, say, the Rockies, but it’s still above-average.

Losing Aaron Rowand was inconsequential. Victorino simply moves to center field and right field will consist of a Geoff Jenkins/Jayson Werth platoon. Victorino is a huge improvement defensively, and the right field platoon will more than make up for Rowand’s offense.

#14 Chicago Cubs

Derrek Lee wasn’t himself last season and Alfonso Soriano had a down year. But even still, the Cubs won the Central. It’s reasonable to expect both Lee and Soriano to perform better. In that case, the Cubs are once again viable in the Central. Staying healthy in spring, especially 3B Aramis Ramirez, is key. As is finding a closer out of a group that includes Kerry Wood.

Soriano had a down year? You can say that, but it’s really nit-picking.

Soriano 2006: .351 OBP/.560 SLG

Soriano 2007: .337 OBP/.560 SLG

Just a .014 drop in OBP. He did miss about 20 more games than he usually does, but he isn’t an injury concern.

Derrek Lee wasn’t himself?

Lee career: .367 OBP/.502 SLG

Lee 2007: .400 OBP/.513 SLG (567 AB)

Looks like he had a pretty good season, no?

Aramis Ramirez has had 500+ AB every season since 2000, when he was still a young player looking for an everyday role. And I could find no news about the Cubs third baseman having any injury difficulties.

The Cubs feature the NL’s best starting rotation — a 100+ ERA at every slot. As for a closer, they have options, including Carlos Marmol, who had an exceptional 2007 season. Seeing as how it was his “breakout” season, it’s unreasonable to expect a 1.43 ERA in 69 innings again, but he could be the Cubs’ answer at closer. Bob Howry is the other candidate and he’s had four straight seasons with an ERA+ of at least 140.

The Cubs will feature a slightly improved offense now that they added Kosuke Fukudome, and will rival the Padres again for the league’s best overall pitching staff. The Cubs are a close #4 behind the Mets, Phillies, and Rockies in the NL.

#15 Atlanta Braves

It’s hard to like any team with two starting pitchers in their 40s. But John Smoltz and Tom Glavine have proven they can pitch with dignity, even in old age. But how long will that last? The offense remains solid, but certainly didn’t get better by swapping Andruw Jones for Mark Kotsay. And that says nothing about what the defense lost with Jones moving to L.A.

People are going to be sorry for underrating the Braves. Losing Andruw Jones isn’t a good thing, definitely, but given his poor mechanics, there’s a higher than usual possibility that Jones’ ’07 season wasn’t a fluke. If so, replacing Jones with Kotsay is much less of a drop-off than it appears.

In ’07, the Braves had the 3rd-best offense and 3rd-best pitching staff in the National League. Does adding Tom Glavine, behind Tim Hudson and John Smoltz, hurt them? I can’t think of a reason how. And the Braves will still feature three offensive mainstays in their line-up…

Johnson: 117 OPS+

C. Jones: 166

Diaz: 124

Catcher Brian McCann and right fielder Jeff Francoeur had average seasons in ’07, but if they learn how to draw a few more walks, they could make the Braves’ offense explosive. Either way, it’s an offense to be reckoned with, much like the Phillies’ and Mets’. It’s a three-horse race in the National League East, and three of the NL’s top five teams are from the East.

. . .

That’s the top-fifteen. There’s a lot of nit-picking to be done with his bottom-fifteen, but we can all universally agree that the Marlins, Royals, Pirates, Giants, Orioles, Twins, Cardinals, and White Sox will be bad. The Nationals, Padres, Astros, Rangers, and Athletics have the potential to be mediocre. And the Rays and Reds are mediocre teams that have the potential to have breakout seasons.

And what you’ve all been waiting for: my top-fifteen power rankings:

1. Boston Red Sox

2. Cleveland Indians

3. New York Mets

4. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

5. Philadelphia Phillies

6. Detroit Tigers

7. Colorado Rockies

8. Atlanta Braves

9. Chicago Cubs

10. New York Yankees

11. Milwaukee Brewers

12. Seattle Mariners

13. Arizona Diamondbacks

14. San Diego Padres

15. Los Angeles Dodgers

As always, feel free to berate me in the comments.

Harry Kalas Radio Interview

WIP radio host Angelo Cataldi had a radio interview with Harry Kalas (it’s 40 minutes and 33 seconds long).

Harry Kalas

Angelo Cataldi

I could listen to Kalas talk about anything — knitting, different types of leaves, flossing techniques — for hours on end. His voice and delivery are incredibly captivating, no doubt why he is a legend among legends in the broadcast booth. To boot, he is one of the most genuinely humble people you will ever have the privilege of hearing.

A few of my favorite lines from the interview between Angelo Cataldi and Kalas…

Talking about the late Richie Ashburn, “Whitey” (for whom Ashburn Alley at Citizens Bank Park, and subsequently this blog, are named):

He and I are sitting in a hotel bar in New York and a blonde hooker comes walking up. She says, “Boys, I’ll do anything you want for $100.” Whitey thought for a while and he said, “How about the pregame show?”

Cataldi asks Kalas about Whitey, long games, and hunger:

When I first joined the Phillies in ’71, Whitey and I would be working games, and if a game was getting late, if it was a late game, perhaps extra innings or just a long game and Whitey’d be getting hungry, he’d say, “Well, I wonder if those people at Celebri’s Pizza are listening tonight.” Within fifteen minutes, pizzas would be delievered to the booth. This went on for a couple of months.

Now, Phillies management called Whitey and they said, “Rich, Celebri’s is not a sponsor. You can’t be throwing their name out there on the air all the time. So, shortly after he was told this, maybe two or three weeks, extra inning game, he’s really hungry, and we do do birthday wishes. So Whitey said, “Well, Harry, we have special birthday wishes tonight: to the Celebri’s twins, Plain and Pepperoni!” And sure enough, fifteen minutes, the pizzas would be delivered to the booth.

About 32 minutes into the clip, Cataldi is asking Kalas about the most downtrodden he’s been on the air, and before he even said it, I was thinking “Craig Biggio’s ninth-inning three-run home run off of Billy Wagner in 2005.” I can remember Harry’s voice clearly to this day and it may have been the furthest my heart has sunk in my entire life.

Probably the most downer call I ever made, Angelo, is Billy Wagner’s last year with the Phillies when Biggio hit a home run off him and we were on our way to perhaps post-season, and when Biggio hit that home run — I mean I heard a replay of that…

The WIP team struggled with finding a clip of Harry’s call, and, unfortunately, there isn’t one on MLB.com, as they have the FSN Houston broadcast team for the September 7, 2005 game in question.

Do yourself a favor and listen to one of the greatest play-by-play announcers of all time.

Once again, I have to give credit to the Phillies forum Back She Goes for leading me to this (specific hat tip to gusmoney).

Well, Now That That’s Over

As the final seconds ticked off of the fourth quarter clock and the New York Giants earned victory in Super Bowl XLII, those of us who are more inclined towards baseball breathed a sigh of relief and marked another X on the calendar: A week and a half until P’s and C’s report; three weeks until exhibition games begin; seven weeks until the regular season begins.

The Phillies, for the most part, look like an improved team. Brad Lidge was acquired from the Houston Astros; Shane Victorino moved to center field following the departure of Aaron Rowand; Geoff Jenkins was signed to platoon with Jayson Werth in right field; Pedro Feliz was given red pinstripes as a hopeful answer to the team’s third base woes.

Meanwhile, the Phillies watched the Marlins pawn off their two franchise players, the Nationals sign and trade for no one important, the Braves lose Andruw Jones to free agency and trade Edgar Renteria to Detroit and replace them with weaker players. Oh, and the Mets traded for the best pitcher in baseball. The Johan Santana deal aside, everyone in the division either got weaker or stayed essentially in the same place.

Jimmy Rollins, almost a year after declaring the Phillies “the team to beat” in the NL East (and being proven correct on the last day of the regular season), claimed his team would win 100 games in 2008.

As I counted last August, the Phillies’ bullpen was responsible for at blowing at least 19 games between April and the end of August. Remember, this is a bullpen that featured — not just had; featured — Antonio Alfonseca, Clay Condrey, and Jose Mesa, among others, mostly due to the injuries to Closer #1 Tom Gordon, Closer #2 Brett Myers, and Ryan Madson.

Now, the Phillies feature a bona fide closer in Brad Lidge, a now-serviceable set-up man in Tom Gordon, and a surprisingly deep bullpen, now that Ryan Madson will once again be healthy, and the team kept J.C. Romero, who was stunningly effective since he arrived in Philadelphia in early June last season. The bullpen, barring injury, doesn’t figure to be a problem for the Phillies in 2008.

As always, the Phillies feature one of baseball’s best offenses. Shane Victorino, Carlos Ruiz, and the pitchers aside, the Phillies feature 20-25 HR potential at every position, and Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell, and Chase Utley are three of baseball’s best at getting on base. Obviously, scoring runs won’t be a problem for the Phillies, either, but given that Pedro Feliz and his sub-.300 OBP will be playing every day, expect a very slight regression in runs scored from ’07.

However, preventing them appears to be a problem for the starting rotation once you get past Cole Hamels and Brett Myers.

Jamie Moyer is 45, put up a 5.01 ERA, and averaged his highest base runners per inning rate since 2000. Age is less of a problem for a pitcher of Moyer’s ilk, since he relies not on speed, but purely on location and intellect. Either way, Moyer cannot be relied on anything more than league-average production.

Kyle Kendrick put up an impressing rookie campaign for the Phillies in which he revealed himself as a perfect fit for Citizens Bank Park and the Phillies. In 2007, more than 47% of Kendrick’s batted balls were of the ground ball variety, and in CBP, where the gusting winds push would-be fly ball outs halfway up the stands in left field, throwing ground balls creates a huge advantage for their Phillies and their now-great infield defense. Given Kendrick’s age and lack of MLB experience though, we can’t reliably predict a repeat.

Adam Eaton. Not much needs to be said about him other than that the sooner the Phillies get rid of him and his awful pitching, the better. Eaton might be the worst pitcher the Phillies have allowed to pitch 150 innings or more since Brandon Duckworth in 2002. The non-progressives in the Phillies’ front office likely don’t realize this and will try to justify paying him $24.5 million over three years by letting him take the mound once every five games.

Depending on how Kendrick pans out, and how quick the Phillies are to pull Eaton from the starting rotation, expect about average production from the Phillies’ rotation. Cole Hamels and Brett Myers will obviously be well above league-average but it won’t be enough to offset the lackluster performances from the others. If the Phillies can sign Kyle Lohse and bump Eaton from the rotation before the season even starts, that would be such a boon.

Defensively, the Phillies are easily above-average. Pedro Feliz is baseball’s best glove at third base, Chase Utley is a top-two defensive second baseman, Victorino is a gazelle with a cannon in center field, and Carlos Ruiz is one of the better defensive catchers in baseball. Pat Burrell and Geoff Jenkins lack range but both have strong arms, Jayson Werth has decent speed and a strong arm, and Jimmy Rollins provides average to slightly above-average shortstop defense. The only defensive curse on the Phillies is Ryan Howard at first base.

Overall, I expect the Phillies to have the National League’s best offense and Major League Baseball’s third-best, behind the Yankees and Tigers. Pitching-wise, overall, I expect a middle-of-the-pack performance, perhaps 9th out of the 16 National League teams. The starting rotation will rank about 10th or 11th and the bullpen will rank about 4th or 5th.

My prediction (with the roster as it is presently)

Phillies 2008 RPG:  5.42 (878 runs).

Phillies 2008 RAPG: 4.61 (747 runs).

Phillies 2008 record: 91-71, second in NL East behind the 93-69 Mets.

Bonus: Cole Hamels finishes a very close #2 to Johan Santana in Cy Young voting.

No Reason to Panic

I don’t know if any of you out there have heard, but the Mets traded for two-time Cy Young Award-winner Johan Santana. Yeah, I’m as surprised as you are. I could’ve sworn that the Red Sox and Yankees offered better packages. But the Twins’ front office isn’t who I want to criticize right now (plenty of people will be doing that between now and the end of the regular season); I want to question Don McKee’s logic in an article he wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

He titled it “Phils Fall Back in Arms Race.” It’s clever, probably unintentionally so. Does he mean that the Phillies are falling back, as in a relapse of sorts? Or does he mean that the Phillies are falling back, as in lagging behind the Mets? Probably the latter, but he spends the rest of the article implying the former.

McKee provides a summary of the Santana deal, then hammers out this doozy:

So here’s a friendly little road map that could guide the Phillies back to another of those scintillating stretch runs with their most hated (is it even close?) rivals.

First, send something to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Matt Morris, who has 121 career wins and too big a price tag for the team with the majors’ fourth-lowest payroll. (Since Morris is scheduled to make $9.5 million this season, the Bucs might be willing to accept Wes Helms, who makes about a third of that.)

Then ship Adam Eaton to Minnesota, which will be seeking an arm to fill out its rotation. The Twins could have some big problems without Santana: Francisco Liriano missed all of last season after elbow surgery and former Phillie Carlos Silva signed with Seattle as a free agent.

If you know who Scott Baker, Boof Bonser and Kevin Slowey are (the rest of Minnesota’s rotation), you get a stack of old Mike Lieberthal cards.

Morris has won at least 10 games in seven straight seasons and won 22 with St. Louis in 2001. He has had a losing record the last two seasons, but that may have had more to do with his teams (San Francisco and Pittsburgh) than him.

Is he Johan Santana? No. But neither is anybody else out there. And with every single arm in the Phillies’ projected rotation a question mark, Morris would be a welcome addition.

He suggests trading Wes Helms to the Pirates for Matt Morris. That sounds reasonable since we’re talking about Wes Helms, a mediocre player, and the Pittsburgh Pirates, whose front office has made a hobby out of collecting as many mediocre players as possible since 1992.

Morris is owed $9.5 million for the ’08 season and he has a $9 million club option with a $1 million buy-out clause for ’09. Helms is owed $2.5 million this season and he has a $3.75 million club option with a $750,000 buy-out clause for ’09. That’s a total of $6.25 million the Phillies would be required to take on this season. Not bad.

But if you look at the free agent market, once name sticks out: Kyle Lohse. Lohse doesn’t throw as many ground balls as Morris, but he’s a free agent, and that’s key. Instead of having to give up Helms to round out the rotation, the Phillies can sign Lohse, whose price tag drops with every passing day, and then flip Helms to some third base-desperate team who is willing to part with a relief pitcher. As anyone who watched the Phillies last season knows, you can’t have too many relief pitchers.

Lohse will probably take a three-year, $27 million deal, an average of $9 million per season. This also allows the Phillies the flexibility to add another arm to the bullpen by trading Helms.

Even more laughable is that the Phillies can just dump Adam Eaton on the Twins, as if their front office is collectively unconscious following the Santana trade (who knows, maybe he’s right). Dumping Eaton on the Twins would require eating a lot of his remaining salary, which is $7.635 million this season, $8.5 million in ’09, and a $9 million mutual option in ’10 with a $500,000 buy-out clause. The Phillies would have to fork over about half of Eaton’s ’08 salary, most likely.

So, here’s McKee’s plan in the big picture:

Phillies Get

Matt Morris ($9.5 million)

Some random Twins Minor Leaguer who will be serving fries in two years

Phillies Give Up

Wes Helms ($2.5 million)

Adam Eaton ($4 million of $7.635)

To find out how much money the Phillies would have to have, just add up Morris’ salary and the cash they’d send with Eaton, and subtract from it Helms’ salary. That’s $11 million they are paying essentially just for Matt Morris, a pitcher whose poor ’06-07 seasons McKee wrongfully labels as aberrations or due mostly to bad teams.

Take a look at the trends Morris has shown. In 2005, he was with the Cardinals, ’06 with the Giants, and split ’07 between the Giants and Pirates.

K/9

2005: 5.47

2006: 5.07 (-.40)

2007: 4.62 (-.45)

Career: 6.08

BB/9

2005: 1.73

2006: 2.73 (+1.0)

2007: 2.76 (+0.03)

Career: 2.53

WHIP

2005: 1.277

2006: 1.353 (+.076)

2007: 1.515 (+.162)

Career: 1.305

Fly Ball %

2005: 29.8%

2006: 33.4% (+3.6%)

2007: 31.5% (-1.9%)

Career: 31.7%

You can’t blame that on Morris’ teammates. He is striking out less hitters, walking them more, allowing more overall base runners, and is becoming slightly more fly ball-prone.

Also, isn’t it hilarious that McKee thinks it’s some trivial thing to know who Baker (MLB experience since ’05), Bonser (since ’06), and Slowey (’07 rookie) are? It’s not like all of America watched Baker attempt to hold down a perfect game in the 9th inning, or Bonser wasn’t included in one of the most lopsided trades in baseball history, or Slowey was the 17th-best overall prospect in 2005 according to Baseball America. You’d have to be the Schwab to know those guys.

So, the Mets got Santana. It probably makes them the pre-season favorites barring any other significant moves by the Phillies or Braves. It doesn’t mean the Phillies have to panic and just start randomly acquiring pitchers. Even if the Phillies don’t acquire Lohse and go into the season expecting Adam Eaton to start once every five days, it at least means the Phillies will have some funds available to make a mid-season trade if a player becomes available.

Phillies sign 3B Pedro Feliz

Reasons why you would ever consider signing free agent third baseman Pedro Feliz:

  • You are a bottom-feeding organization like the Tampa Bay Rays or Kansas City Royals.
  • You have never looked at baseball statistics before.
  • You like your hitters reaching base in less than 30% of their plate appearances.
  • You are a vengeful GM and the fans have wronged you.
  • Feliz blackmailed you.

Yet, the Phillies, who have three third basemen (Wes Helms, Greg Dobbs, and Eric Bruntlett) are close to signing Feliz to a two-year, $8.5 million deal:

An agreement is believed to be pending a physical, which could happen sometime this week, though the Phillies would only confirm that the sides are in discussions. The deal is reportedly for $8.5 million over two years with a team option for 2010 that could approach $15 million, according to an Associated Press report.

Feliz has played seven full seasons of Major League Baseball, and in none of them has he ever been close to the league average on-base percentage (usually between .330 and .345). In fact, he’s only been above .300 once in 2004 (.305).

Offensively, Feliz is a black hole. He ranked 31st on the San Francisco Giants in Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) at -2.7.

Defensively, Feliz does have value. The Fielding Bible awards named him the best-fielding third baseman in all of Major League Baseball, and he ranked first in the National League in Revised Zone Rating (RZR) and third in Out of Zone plays (OOZ).

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So, we’ve established that Feliz is unattractive offensively and attractive defensively. Depending on how much money the Phillies threw at him, this signing could be one of those where you just shrug your shoulders. Who knows, maybe Feliz will improve on his offense. After all, he did play in the very pitcher-friendly AT&T Park, and players, under the tutelage of manager/offensive guru Charlie Manuel and hitting coach Milt Thompson, usually end up being more prone to taking walks and set career highs in OBP. For instance:

  • Aaron Rowand: Career-high 32 walks before ’07’s total of 47 walk; career-high .361 OBP before ’07’s .374.
  • Rod Barajas: Career-high .306 OBP before ’07’s .352. He was, however, helped by hitting mostly eighth in the line-up, in front of the pitcher.
  • Jayson Werth: Career-high .338 OBP before ’07’s .404.
  • David Bell: Career-high .331 OBP before ’04’s .363.
  • Jason Michaels: .364 and .399 ’04-05 OBP’s with the Phillies; .326 and .324 ’06-07 OBP’s with the Indians.

Don’t forget that the Phillies have also had four of the best on-base players in the game in Chase Utley (.410 OBP in ’07), Ryan Howard (.392), Pat Burrell (.400), and Bobby Abreu (.408 career OBP).

Feliz will likely fill in as the #7 hitter, ahead of the catcher (Carlos Ruiz or Chris Coste) and the pitcher, so the impact of his lack of offense will be dulled a bit. Either way, it’s a questionable signing at best and rather unnecessary.

The Ryan Howard Situation

The Phillies’ front office has stated that they are done making major deals until spring training starts, though that doesn’t exclude a signing of someone like Kyle Lohse or Kris Benson. The only thing left to complete then is signing Ryan Howard to some kind of a deal, as Howard is arbitration-eligible for the first time in his brief career.

The Phillies and their Ruthian first baseman exchanged figures recently and were $3 million away from each other: the Phils offered him $7 million; Howard wanted $10 million. Should this be settled by an arbitrator, there’s little doubt the Phillies would win, as $10 million for a first-time arbitration-eligible player is unprecedented (as a comparison, Miguel Cabrera got $7.4 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility).

Before last season, however, Howard and the Phillies were at odds. The author of the Phillies’ franchise single-season home run record wanted a long-term deal. Instead, the Phillies gave him a one-year deal worth $900,000. Howard was disappointed, though it tied the record, held along with Albert Pujols, for the highest base salary for a non-arbitration-eligible player. When the deal was completed, Howard said:

It’s a little frustrating and a little disappointing that we didn’t get it done, but that’s the business aspect. Now you use it as a starting point. It’s over. Now you go out and play.

Should the Phillies give him a long-term deal now? They have control of him until after the 2011 season and can go year-to-year with him in arbitration until then. Let’s look at some possibilities.

The Phillies sign Howard to a large long-term deal worth $90 million over the next six seasons.

The Phillies now have control of Howard until after his age 33 season in 2013, when he would undoubtedly be in decline. For those six years, the Phillies wouldn’t have to worry about drafting a first baseman and would have an almost-definite above-average offense, since they also have Chase Utley locked up until after the ’13 season.

Adrian Cardenas, one of the Phillies’ top prospects, then becomes valuable to the Phillies in two ways: they can try him out as a potential third baseman (or perhaps an outfielder), or they can continue grooming him as a second baseman and use him as trade bait, since he’s road-blocked by Utley at his natural position.

By the time Howard’s contract is nearing its end, his annual salary will likely look like a bargain, given inflation. This benefits the Phillies two-fold: the relative cheapness gives them probable cap space to add players and it increases Howard’s trade value.

As for ’08, the Phillies will have little cap room to make another signing (i.e. Lohse) or an in-season move unless it involved shedding salary (perhaps that of Pat Burrell?).

The Phillies sign Howard to a back-loaded four-year, $65 million deal.

With this contract, Howard averages over $16 million per season, so he’s definitely being fairly compensated when you compare it to what he’d make in arbitration. Backloading the contract allows the Phillies flexibility in the immediate future, so they can still sign a player like Kyle Lohse to round out the starting rotation while still ensuring themselves that the mainstay in their offense is happy about his tenure in Philadelphia and doesn’t demand to be traded.

When Howard is reaching the end of this four-year deal and is destined for free agency, the Phillies may want to consider trading Howard and moving Chase Utley over to first base. This is feasible only if Adrian Cardenas makes significant progress in the Minor Leagues, another impact second baseman is drafted and climbs the ranks quickly, or the Phillies sign another good second baseman.

Howard’s deal will run out two years before Utley’s, so that means that unlike the hypothetical six-year deal, the Phillies won’t be left with having to deal with the simultaneous contracts of their two best players. The Phillies can deal Howard without fearing that their offense will collapse and won’t have enough talent to contend.

The Phillies go year-to-year with Ryan Howard until after the 2011 season.

This is a dangerous way to go, as it will all but guarantee that Howard will not be wearing a Phillies uniform in 2012. However, the Phillies would end up getting a bargain and paying market value for a top-tier first baseman, allowing them the financial flexibility to round out the roster and give them the best chance to make a run at the World Series. The Phillies are, if nothing else, a team built for the immediate future.

Towards 2011, the Phillies could shop Howard around similar to how the Twins are shopping Johan Santana. Teams would likely overpay for a top-five offensive juggernaut (assuming Howard averages a 130 or so OPS+) both in terms of players given up and the amount of Howard’s remaining contract taken. Then the Phillies could move Utley to first or shop for another first baseman in the off-season.

So, what should the Phillies do? The Good Phight analyzed how players most similar to Howard performed in their same-age seasons and concluded:

On balance, I think this data suggests that Howard is a solid bet to deliver very good to excellent production over at least the next 4-5 seasons.

“Very good” and “excellent” are ambiguous, perhaps intentionally so. Either way, I’ll take “very good to excellent production” with a backloaded four-year, $65-ish million deal for Howard. After ’11, either deal him or if he’s still productive as his career wanes in his mid-30’s, maybe he’ll want to sign another lighter contract for the Phillies.

STFU, Carlos Delgado

New York Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado must be getting antsy during the off-season, because he’s opening his mouth seemingly just to hear himself talk.

Via Yahoo:

“It was very disappointing because we know that we had the best team. And I believe that we still have a great team,” the first baseman said Thursday on a conference call.

Granted, the difference between the Phillies and Mets in the standings was one game, and it took an historic collapse from the Mets to push the Phillies into the playoffs, but the Phillies did have the best team, and I’ll prove that in several different ways.

First, the rough team-vs.-team comparisons.

Offense

Phillies: 5.51 runs per game

Mets: 4.96 runs per game (-.55)

Pitching

Mets: 4.63 runs per game

Phillies: 5.07 runs per game (-.44)

The teams are close when you add it up, with the Phillies having a .11 overall advantage in runs per game. Even the Pythagorean records have the Phillies one game better than the Mets, though each team is two games worse.

Now, let’s look at it position-by-position.

Catcher

Phillies

Carlos Ruiz: 429 PA, .736 OPS

Rod Barajas: 147 PA, .745 OPS

Chris Coste: 137 PA, .730 OPS

Mets

Paul Lo Duca: 488 PA, .689 OPS

Ramon Castro: 157 PA, .887 OPS

Mike DiFelice: 47 PA, .661 OPS

Sandy Alomar, Jr.: 22 PA, .318 OPS

The edge here goes to the Phillies. The production from their catchers was pretty much steady, while the Mets gave 68% of their catcher plate appearances to someone who just produced a .689 OPS. Castro was very productive but only got 22% of the catcher plate appearances.

First Base

Before the statistics are even laid out, you know who is going to win this one. Phillies in a landslide.

Phillies

Ryan Howard: 648 PA, .976 OPS

Mets

Carlos Delgado: 607 AB, .781 OPS

Second Base

Another Phillies landslide.

Phillies

Chase Utley: 613 PA, .976 OPS

Tadahito Iguchi: 156 PA, .803 OPS

Mets

Luis Castillo: 231 PA, .742 OPS

Damion Easley: 218 PA, .824 OPS

Ruben Gotay: 211 PA, .772 OPS

Jose Valentin: 183 PA, .676 OPS

Third Base

Finally, a victory for the Mets. You also don’t need statistics to decipher this one, but we’ll do it anyway.

Phillies

Greg Dobbs: 358 PA, .780 OPS

Wes Helms: 308 PA, .665 OPS

Abraham Nunez: 287 PA, .600 OPS

Mets

David Wright: 711 PA, .963 OPS

Shortstop

Phillies

Jimmy Rollins: 778 PA, .875 OPS

Mets

Jose Reyes: 765 PA, .775 OPS

Advantage Phillies.

Left Field

Phillies

Pat Burrell: 598 PA, .902 OPS

Michael Bourn: 133 PA, .727 OPS

Mets

Moises Alou: 360 PA, .916 OPS

Endy Chavez: 165 PA, .705 OPS

Carlos Gomez: 139 PA, .592 OPS

Marlon Anderson: 77 PA, .906 OPS

Edge goes to the Phillies here, since 82% of their left field at-bats went towards a .902 OPS, while the Mets only had 48.5% of their at-bats go towards Alou’s .916 OPS and 10% towards Anderson’s .906 OPS. The Mets also had a bunch of other nobodies but they logged less than 100 defensive innings, so I didn’t include them, actually benefiting the Mets. Those “nobodies” include Ricky Ledee, David Newhan, Ben Johnson, and Jeff Conine.

Center Field

Phillies

Aaron Rowand: 684 PA, .889 OPS

Mets

Carlos Beltran: 636 PA, .878 OPS

Very slight advantage to the Phillies here, since they had more plate appearances at a higher OPS from their center fielder.

Right Field

Phillies

Shane Victorino: 510 PA, .770 OPS

Jayson Werth: 304 PA, .863 OPS

Mets

Shawn Green: 491 PA, .782 OPS

Lastings Milledge: 206 PA, .787 OPS

This is another close one, but the Phillies get the edge here since 37% of their right field plate appearances went to solid .863 OPS production, while the Mets gave 697 place appearances to approximately .784 production between Green and Milledge. Victorino produced slightly below this but only took up 63% of the Phillies’ right field at-bats.

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Draw the tallies up and the Mets only have one starting position player advantage offensively, and that’s David Wright at third base.

If we included defense, it would slightly hurt the Phillies in left and center field. The Mets then might have gotten the nod in center field.

Starting Pitching

Phillies

The Phillies had four pitchers — Fabio Castro, John Ennis, Zack Segovia, and J.A. Happ — make one start apiece, and Brett Myers made three starts at the beginning of the season before he was converted to a relief pitcher.

The pitchers I will be looking at on the Phillies have made at least 10 starts. Likewise when I analyze the Mets’ starting pitching.

I’ll be using ERA+, so there is no room for discrepancy in regards to park effects (Shea Stadium is pro-pitching; Citizens Bank Park is pro-hitting).

Jamie Moyer: 199.1 IP, 92 ERA+

Cole Hamels: 183.1 IP, 136 ERA+

Adam Eaton: 167.2 IP, 73 ERA+

Kyle Kendrick: 121.0 IP, 119 ERA+

Jon Lieber*: 78.0 IP, 98 ERA+

J.D. Durbin*: 64.2 IP, 90 ERA+

Kyle Lohse*: 61.0 IP, 98 ERA+

Freddy Garcia: 58.0 IP, 78 ERA+

Mets

Tom Glavine: 200.1 IP, 96 ERA+

John Maine: 191.0 IP, 109 ERA+

Oliver Perez: 177.0 IP, 120 ERA+

Orlando Hernandez*: 147.2 IP, 115 ERA+

Jorge Sosa*: 112.2 IP, 95 ERA+

Mike Pelfrey*: 72.2 IP, 76 ERA+

*Pitched both as a starter and as a reliever. Statistics not adjusted for this.

Definitely a Mets advantage here.

Bullpen

The criteria here is at least 30 innings pitched out of the bullpen.

Phillies

Geoff Geary: 67.1 IP, 105 ERA+

Brett Myers*: 53.1 IP, 2.87 ERA (ERA+ not available)

Ryan Madson: 56.0 IP, 151 ERA+

Clay Condrey: 50.0 IP, 92 ERA+

Antonio Alfonseca: 49.2 IP, 85 ERA+

Tom Gordon: 40.0 IP, 98 ERA+

Jose Mesa: 39.0 IP, 83 ERA+

J.C. Romero: 36.1 IP, 373 ERA+

Mets

Aaron Heilman: 86.0 IP, 140 ERA+

Billy Wagner: 68.1 IP, 162 ERA+

Pedro Feliciano: 64.0 IP, 138 ERA+

Guillermo Mota: 59.1 IP, 74 ERA+

Scott Schoenweis: 59.0 IP, 85 ERA+

Aaron Sele: 53.2 IP, 79 ERA+

Joe Smith: 44.1 IP, 123 ERA+

Even though Myers’ ERA+ as a reliever isn’t available, I think it’s safe to say that he was pretty close to Billy Wagner’s level as a closer. The Phillies’ equivalent to Pedro Feliciano is J.C. Romero, but he logged 28 less innings, which is significant. Same deal with the Phillies’ equivalent to Aaron Heilman being Ryan Madson — he pitched 30 less innings. Otherwise, the Mets’ bullpen was nearly equally as bad as the Phillies.

However, the 58 innings that Feliciano and Heilman logged with well-above-average production gives the Mets the slight advantage.

Bench

I’m only counting players who got at least 100 plate appearances.

Phillies

Greg Dobbs: 358 PA, .780 OPS

Wes Helms: 308 PA, .665 OPS

Jayson Werth: 304 PA, .863 OPS

Tadahito Iguchi: 156 PA, .803 OPS

Rod Barajas: 147 PA, .745 OPS

Chris Coste: 137 PA, .730 OPS

Mets

Damion Easley: 218 PA, .824 OPS

Ruben Gotay: 211 PA, .772 OPS

Lastings Milledge: 206 PA, .787 OPS

Jose Valentin: 183 PA, .676 OPS

Endy Chavez: 165 PA, .705 OPS

Ramon Castro: 157 PA, .887 OPS

Carlos Gomez: 139 PA, .592 OPS

Pretty close, but the slight edge goes to the Phillies.

If you tally it up, the Phillies win 7 out of the 8 positions for offensive starting position players, and with the bench. The Mets have the better starting and bullpen pitching.

And as we showed in the beginning, the Phillies offense and pitching compared to that of the Mets’ leaves them with a .11 runs per game advantage.

The statistics show that the Phillies were the slightly better team.

As for the current situation on who’s better, let’s take a look at who both teams have gained and lost. OPS+ and ERA+ refer to the player’s career average. A player’s name has been bolded if he was traded.

Philadelphia Phillies

Lost

Aaron Rowand (106 OPS+); Abraham Nunez (62 OPS+); Tadahito Iguchi (98 OPS+); Rod Barajas (75 OPS+); Michael Bourn (79 OPS+); Kyle Lohse (95 ERA+); Jon Lieber (103 ERA+); Freddy Garcia (111 ERA+); Antonio Alfonseca (104 ERA+); Geoff Geary (116 ERA+).

5 average or above-average players lost. Consider that Lieber and Garcia both had mediocre, injury-laden stints with the Phillies.

One can also make the case that the Phillies gained a pretty good starting pitcher by moving Brett Myers (118 and 120 ERA+ in 2005 and ’06 as a starter) back to the starting rotation from the bullpen.

Gained

Chad Durbin (82 ERA+); Brad Lidge (132 ERA+); Shane Youman (85 ERA+); Eric Bruntlett (78 OPS+); Geoff Jenkins (116 OPS+); Chris Snelling (97 OPS+); So Taguchi (89 OPS+).

2 average or above-average players gained.

New York Mets

Lost

Paul Lo Duca (99 OPS+); Shawn Green (120 OPS+); Lastings Milledge (92 OPS+); Jose Valentin (96 OPS+); Tom Glavine (119 ERA+); Guillermo Mota (107 ERA+); Aaron Sele (100 ERA+).

4 average or above-average players lost. Consider that Mota and Green did not live up to their abilities with the Mets.

Gained

Matt Wise (108 ERA+); Brian Schneider (82 OPS+); Ryan Church (113 OPS+); Angel Pagan (81 OPS+).

2 average or above-average players gained.

The Phillies have improved their team well by flushing out a lot of sub-par players like Abraham Nunez, Michael Bourn, and Rod Barajas. The Mets lost a lot of players either close to, at, or above league-average, and replaced them with two above-average players and two-below average players.

So, Delgado is wrong in saying that the Mets were the best team last season, even though they were close. And the Mets definitely aren’t as good as the Phillies going into 2008.

Gerry Fraley, You Can Not Be Serious

As promised, I am going to delve into the new look of the Phillies’ outfield, and I also want to criticize Gerry Fraley for a ridiculous article he wrote for The Sporting News. Being the lazy person that I am, I’d like to kill two birds with one stone. I’m going to break it down Fire Joe Morgan-style (his words in bold; mine will follow in regular typeface).

In two seasons without center fielder Aaron Rowand, the Chicago White Sox are a .500 team and heading south.

You know this is going to be a pro-Rowand article based on the title, so let me just get this out of the way right off the bat: the White Sox are not bad because Aaron Rowand left. In 2007, they had the league’s worst offense, and the third-worst pitching. Rowand can’t pitch and I’m pretty sure he’s not potent enough to bring his team from a 4.28 runs per game average to around 5 per game, which would put them slightly behind sixth place. Barry Bonds might have been able to do that, but certainly not Aaron Rowand.

The White Sox were bad in ’07 because Paul Konerko had a .091 point decline in OPS from the previous season, Jermaine Dye had a .204 decline in OPS, and Jim Thome was the only potent offensive force in the lineup. Jon Garland has been decidedly mediocre, and the back of their starting rotation was about as unproductive as it could have been. And aside from Bobby Jenks, their bullpen was nearly as bad as the Phillies’.

After saying he wanted to stay with the Phillies, Rowand swerved and signed a five-year, $60-million deal with San Francisco. His change of heart puts the Phillies in a bind.

“Bind” is hyperbole. The Phillies would have preferred to keep Rowand in his age 30-32 years, but he wanted five years at $12 million, which is what he got from the Giants. He simply wasn’t worth it.

Jayson Werth isn’t a terrible Plan B, and Rowand’s departure simply made the Phillies look for a Plan B2 and B3, which was searching for either another regular center fielder (Cameron), or moving Victorino to center and finding a platoon partner for Werth (Geoff Jenkins).

Look at it this way, using simple OPS:

Aaron Rowand: .779 OPS vs. RHP (68% of career PA); .862 vs. LHP (32%); .805 vs. both.

Shane Victorino: .741 OPS vs. both.

Mike Cameron: .767 OPS vs. RHP (75% of career PA); .843 OPS vs. LHP (25%); .786 vs. both.

Geoff Jenkins: .883 OPS vs. RHP (76% of career PA)

Jayson Werth: .864 OPS vs. LHP (29% of career PA)

Here are the expected OPS, based on career averages, out of the possible CF and RF combinations:

Rowand/Victorino: .773 OPS

Cameron/Victorino: .764

Victorino/(Werth+Jenkins): .787*

* Because Jenkins will face RHP, and batters see RHP about 3 times more than LHP, I weighted Jenkins and Werth’s OPS to reflect this. I assumed that the two will combine for 625 at-bats (which is generous considering how potent the Phillies’ lineup is and how adept they are at getting on base).

Jenkins: Averages 1 base every 2.0 at-bats. With 75% of 625 at-bats, that’s 469 at-bats, giving him about 235 total bases, and a slugging percentage of .501.

Werth: Averages 1 base every 2.3 at-bats. With 25% of 625 at-bats, that’s 156 at-bats, giving him about 68 total bases, and a slugging percentage of .436.

(.501 * .75) + (.436 * .25) = (.376 + .109) = .485 SLG

Then we’ll just weigh their career OBP’s.

(.347 * .75) + (.352 * .25) = (.260 + 088) = .348 OBP

Add ’em together (.485 + .348 ) and you have an expected .833 OPS out of right field. *

Phew.

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They previously traded center-fielder-in-waiting Michael Bourn to Houston in the Brad Lidge deal. Plan C for the Phillies calls for moving Shane Victorino, whose durability is in question, to center and going with a platoon of Jayson Werth and Geoff Jenkins in right.

While the Phillies had some expectations of Bourn when he was considered a top prospect in their farm system (not hard to be, actually), he only showed Juan Pierre-esque ability: great speed, ability to bunt, and above-average range in the outfield. They already have a guy like that (but better) in Shane Victorino. Bourn simply didn’t fit and was thusly expendable.

And Fraley has the plans all messed up! Bourn is Plan B? Any team who has a Plan B as replacing a center fielder with decent defense and some power potential with a slap-hitter is clearly a team general-managed by Ned Colletti.

Shame on this guy also for not tiering the Plan B’s.

The Phillies will also learn what the White Sox now know. Rowand is harder to replace in the clubhouse than on the field.

Whenever sports journalists wax romantic on intangibles, the cholesterol lining my arteries gets a little bit harder. But I should know — intangibles have been tangiblized (hat tip to FJM).

Rowand is an NFL free safety masquerading as a center fielder. He plays relentlessly, a style the Phillies privately feared may shorten his career, and that rubs off on teammates. He is a leader in the true sense of the word.

First, I don’t see how being akin to an NFL free safety makes you a valuable baseball player. Then Gerry contradicts himself by saying the Phillies didn’t like his balls-out style of play because it increases his risk of injury and a “shortened career.”

Gerry, however, rebounds by saying that this career-shortening style of play is rubbing off on teammates! Hopefully not in the way it rubbed off on Chase Utley.

That is why the White Sox and the Phillies both wanted to sign Rowand. They have seen first-hand how valuable he is to the dynamic of a winning team.

Phillies players as or more important to the NL East pennant than Rowand: Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, J.C. Romero (arguably).

I get it: take Rowand away and the Phillies don’t win the East. But that can also be said of Russell Branyan, who was with the Phillies for all of 9 at-bats, one of which won them a game in Washington. And the Phillies won the East by one game.

Seasons of catering to Barry Bonds turned their clubhouse into a nest of apathy. Near the end of the season, manager Bruce Bochy said the last-place club lacked “a warrior spirit.”

The king of the team lacking “a warrior spirit” put up an OPS+ 170 with a knee that gets regular fluid injections at age forty-two. Forty-two. Save his injury-plagued 2005 season, Bonds has led the National League in on-base percentage every season since 2001.

The Giants were bad last year because, aside from Bonds and Randy Winn (barely), no one in the lineup was hitting at or above the league average, which makes it easy to believe that they had the league’s second-worst offense. They had a good, but not great starting rotation, and a decent bullpen. Blaming Bonds for the Giants’ failures last season (or in any season) is beyond reprehensible and downright ignorant.

San Francisco may remain stuck in last in the demanding National League West, but the Giants will not go quietly.

Earlier in the article, Fraley contends that teams that have Aaron Rowand win, and teams that lose him end up losing. Now Fraley says that the Giants get Rowand… but they “may remain stuck in last”?

In explaining the signing, general manager Brian Sabean said Rowand was “far and away a plus” in the areas of concern for the Giants.

“His no-nonsense approach is known throughout the game,” Sabean said. “Including inside the clubhouse.”

So, the areas of concern for the Giants aren’t offense, starting pitching, and the bullpen? It’s a no-nonsense approach? No wonder they haven’t reached 77 wins in three seasons.

At least Rowand can barbecue.