Don’t Fret If “Stand Pat” Stands Pat

With the heavy rumors of Manny Ramirez being traded to the division rival Florida Marlins, and with the Mets flying under the radar in search of a corner outfield and a relief pitcher, the Phillies may find themselves having made only one move — Joe Blanton — when August 1 rolls around. That’s fine, even if the Mets and Marlins make a move.

Before you fetch the strait jacket for me, let me explain why Pat Gillick has done some good work in August and beyond.

  • Ryan Franklin, August 7, 2006: Traded by the Philadelphia Phillies with cash to the Cincinnati Reds for a player to be named later. The Cincinnati Reds sent Zac Stott to the Philadelphia Phillies to complete the trade.
  • Jamie Moyer, August 19, 2006: Traded by the Seattle Mariners to the Philadelphia Phillies for Andrew Barb and Andy Baldwin.
  • Jose Hernandez, August 22, 2006: Purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
  • Jeff Conine, August 27, 2006: raded by the Baltimore Orioles to the Philadelphia Phillies Angel Chavez.
  • Randall Simon, September 1, 2006: Purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies from the Texas Rangers.

Franklin wasn’t anything special, and the Phillies got a warm body from the Cardinals for his services. Stott hasn’t been that bad for the Phillies in Clearwater, posting a 3.85 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 2.62 BB/9, and 5.31 K/9.

The Moyer acquisition was brilliant, and it’s still paying dividends as we speak, literally (as of this writing, he’s gone 6 innings and given up 3 runs to the Nationals — another quality start). He’s no Johan Santana, Dan Haren, or C.C. Sabathia, but he’s given the Phillies exactly what they needed in the middle of their rotation.

Since joining the Phillies, Moyer has averaged six innings per start each season and has been above-average for the most part. In eight starts in ’06, he put up a 116 ERA+, a 92 ERA+ in 33 starts last season, and excluding tonight’s start, he has a 119 ERA+ in 21 starts this season. Additionally, Moyer has been relatively cheap, earning $6 million last season and $3.5 million this season.

Andrew Baldwin has been terrible in AAA Tacoma and Andrew Barb hasn’t thrown a pitch this season at any level. I have no idea what happened to him but he presumably got injured or quit. Neither of the two were worth keeping around the Phillies got two and a half seasons of productive pitching out of Moyer.

When Gillick leaves, we may look back on his tenure and point to Moyer as his greatest acquisition.

Jose Hernandez was unproductive but he was only given 32 at-bats. Ditto Randall Simon, who was given only 21 at-bats.

Conine was given 100 at-bats and put up an 80 OPS+ which consisted of a .327 OBP/.390 SLG. Too many at-bats, but he was about as productive as Pedro Feliz has been this season (Conine played in the outfield, though).

  • Russell Branyan, August 9, 2007: Purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies from the Cleveland Indians.
  • Russell Branyan, August 31, 2007: Traded by the Philadelphia Phillies to the St. Louis Cardinals for PTBNL.
  • Pete LaForest, September 4, 2007: Selected off waivers by the Philadelphia Phillies from the San Diego Padres.

Branyan was given nine at-bats in a Phillies uniform but one of them left an indelible mark on the remarkable 2007 season. On August 14 in Washington, the Phillies were shut down by Nationals starter Shawn Hill and Luis Ayala. Hill allowed only one hit and gave up only one walk and struck out seven. Jon Rauch came in to pitch the eighth for the Nationals, and it appeared that the game was destined to end up in the loss column for the Phillies.

With one out, Jayson Werth reached on an error, and Carlos Ruiz drove him in with a single to make it 2-1. Branyan pinch-hit for Antonio Alfonseca, and on the second pitch from Rauch, he hit a mammoth home run to right field to give the Phillies a 3-2 lead and eventually a 3-2 win.

Branyan hit another home run on the 19th against the Pirates in Pittsburgh, and that pretty much sums up his stint with the Phillies. Nine at-bats, two homers, five RBI.

Gillick traded him to the St. Louis Cardinals for a player to be named later (I still have no clue who the PTBNL was), and Branyan was unproductive the rest of the way.

LaForest was very unproductive (hard to imagine, but his OPS+ was in the negatives at -13), but was only given 11 at-bats.

Of the players Gillick acquired past the July 31 trading deadline, two were very productive and the rest, while unproductive, weren’t given enough at-bats to really make a dent.

Even if the Phillies don’t get Manny Ramirez or Brian Fuentes, there are still moves to be made and we can count on Gillick, even if his time in Philly is running out.

Apropos Trivia?

Below, I will list the lines for starts made against the Phillies by a particular starting pitcher, see if you can name him.

Pitching lines

This pitcher has made a total of eight starts against the Phillies in his career. Seven of them have been quality starts. He’s gone more than 18 innings against the Phils without surrendering a home run and has an ERA of 2.30 and a WHIP of 1.14.

Who is this pitcher?

Randy Johnson? Jake Peavy? Brandon Webb? John Smoltz? Carlos Zambrano?

No, no, no, no, and no.

.

.

.

It’s Tim Redding. Tim freakin’ Redding. And he’s scheduled to face Jamie Moyer tonight in about an hour and ten minutes. Never have I wanted to intentionally use the Gambler’s Fallacy more in my life. Come on, Redding is due for a clunker, right? Phils are going to score, like, eight runs off of him tonight. Two Ryan Howard grand slams: one hits the right field foul pole, the other hits the left field foul pole. Book it.

The Phillies are currently -135 favorites and the Nationals are +125 underdogs. Is Vegas aware that Cy Redding is pitching?

BDD: Teixeira; Here: Rumors

At Baseball Digest Daily, I determine the market for Atlanta Braves first baseman Mark Teixeira. Surprising results.

6:15 PM EST UPDATE, Jayson Stark:

Braves deal Teixeira to Angels for Kotchman:

Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com‘s Jayson Stark on Tuesday that Atlanta Braves first baseman Mark Teixeira is headed to the Los Angeles Angels for Casey Kotchman and minor league pitcher Steven Marek.

Rumors

Stark:

Left-handed reliever Ron Mahay could be on the verge of heading to the Phillies.

According to clubs that have been speaking with the Royals, they’ve been having extensive conversations with the Phillies about a trade that would send Mahay to Philadelphia for shortstop prospect Jason Donald, a member of the U.S. Olympic baseball team.

[…] in Donald, the Phillies have a commodity Kansas City has been searching for aggressively. So the fit appears better with the Phillies than with any of the other teams on the Royals’ list.

UPDATE, Stark:

A source with knowledge of the Phillies’ trading discussions now says they’re “not close” to any deal for left-handed reliever Ron Mahay. They plan to continue to explore all their left-handed relief options.

Stark:

The Orioles continue to tell teams they would have to be “overwhelmed” to trade George Sherrill before the deadline. But if they do trade him, there are two interested teams that have the young shortstop the Orioles are targeting as the centerpiece of any deal — the Angels and Phillies.

[…]

And Baltimore has scouted Philly’s Double-A shortstop, Jason Donald, who is bound for the Olympic team. But neither the Angels nor Phillies seem compelled to “overwhelm” the Orioles or anybody else in the next few days. So most teams that have checked in on Sherrill have come away believing the Orioles won’t make any serious attempt to move him until the offseason.

New York Times:

While the Phillies were mentioned as a possible landing spot for [Manny] Ramírez because of his strong relationship with Manager Charlie Manuel, General Manager Pat Gillick harpooned the idea Monday.

“At this point, there’s no interest on our part,” Gillick said in a phone interview. “We have no place to play the guy. Burrell has to play left field, and I don’t think Ramírez has played right field in seven or eight years.”

Todd Zolecki:

[…] J.A. Happ, whom the Phillies had pulled from Sunday’s start after just 22/3 innings.

Yes, Happ is healthy.

“We pulled him as a precaution,” assistant general manager Mike Arbuckle said. “We really don’t know what’s going to happen at the trade deadline, and we didn’t know if we were going to need him in the big leagues or weren’t or whatever. We just wanted to keep all our options open, and we thought the best way to do that was limit his outing just so that he might be ready in case we needed him or there was a trade. A lot of different things could happen over the next couple days.”

In other news:

MTV will finally show the episode of Cribs that visits the Gloucester County house of Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins. (I wrote about it four months ago when the show turned up on On Demand, but the network pulled it quickly for unknown reasons.)

At 1:30 p.m. Sunday – yes, it conflicts with the start of the Phillies-Braves game – J Roll will lead the eight-minute video tour of his house, where he seems proudest of his vibrating king-size bed. “That’s a great place to make the magic happen,” he tells the camera. He also shows his dining room and his kitchen, which he says “actually gets used.” Also in the spot are his girlfriend, Johari Smith; his Akitas, Kato and Kenja; teammate Ryan Howard; his spa and pool; and his rides, a Mercedes CLS 55 Carlsson and a Bentley Continental Flying Spur. The episode was shot last year.

Who’s Unluckier: Hamels or Santana?

Last night, the Phillies outsmarted the Mets and scored six runs in the top of the ninth inning against the New York Mets bullpen, which squandered an eight-inning, two-run performance from Johan Santana.

Phillies fans know what that looks like. Twice this season, the Phillies were shut out despite Cole Hamels pitching at least seven innings and giving up two earned runs or less: April 2 against the Washington Nationals, and July 8 against the St. Louis Cardinals.

That got me to thinking: Who is more unlucky, Cole Hamels or Johan Santana?

There are a few metrics which help to measure how lucky a pitcher is. I rooted through both players’ game logs and counted their losses and no decisions (QSL and QSND) in which they had a quality start (6+ IP, 3 or less ER). I looked at their run support (RS), their Fielding Independent Pitching minus Earned Run Average (FIP-ERA), their current Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP), and their Expected BABIP (XBABIP), which is LD% plus .120.

Then, I logged on to Baseball Prospectus for a look at their luck-oriented statistics. First, I logged their Current Wins and Losses (CW and CL), and then looked up BP’s Expected Wins and Losses (EW and EL). They actually have a blatant luck statistic (LUCK) and they also log Bullpen Support (BPS). I made a table in Excel and here’s what it looks like:

 

Luck

According to BP, both pitchers have been unlucky, but Santana more so, mostly because of a lack of bullpen support. Considering that the Phillies have the best bullpen in the National League, it’s no surprise that Hamels has been aided by them.

The expected wins and losses see Hamels with one more win and another loss if you round up. Santana stays at eight wins but has one less loss.

Santana trails Hamels in quality start no-decisions, but trumps him in quality start losses. Hamels gets more than a half-run more on average and both pitchers’ defenses hurt their ERA about equally. Hamels, though, has a huge disparity between his current BABIP and expected BABIP (.086), while Santana does but it’s not nearly as much (.041).

It seems like it’s all in agreement that Santana is the unluckier pitcher, but it’s a close one. My methodology is very rough since the quality start sets arbitrary criteria like the save rule, but it gives a good idea of where the pitchers stand when it comes to luck.

BDD: About That Holliday Trade

At Baseball Digest Daily, I offer advice to teams that have payroll issues and/or thin Minor League depth and may be second fiddle in the sweepstakes for Colorado Rockies left fielder Matt Holliday.

A bit of news: I will be writing a weekly column for Flushing University. No, I’m not changing allegiances, they just want me to write about the Phillies-Mets rivalry from the other perspective. I’ll still be blogging regularly here and at Baseball Digest Daily. I believe my first column will be published there on Monday, so stay tuned for that.

Anger Management, Phillies Style

After another loss to the Florida Marlins courtesy a Jorge Cantu walk-off bases loaded single, three Phillies expressed emotions, all of it anger.

Charlie Manuel:

Sitting behind a desk in the visiting manager’s office at Dolphin Stadium, Manuel flicked a few jabs at his team’s offense, then delivered a haymaker.

“Our situational hitting is absolutely terrible,” he said. “Absolutely off the chart, really.”

[…]

“It’s going to be hard for us to win” if situational hitting does not improve, Manuel said. “[On Saturday], we hit all those balls down to third base in one inning – absolutely bad hitting. I’m not trying to hurt anybody’s feelings, but if I do, if I’m talking about you, that’s good. I mean to be talking about you.

“We hit enough. We talk enough [about situational hitting]. We’ve got to get it done. A lot of it is me. It’s up to me to make us try to get it done.

“Accountability is fine, but if you don’t execute, something’s wrong.”

Manuel said a few things but I’d like to point this out in particular because I just read a bit of research here on that exact subject. The research showed that the Phillies have the best sOPS+ in the National League with runners in scoring position; the Phillies rank 7th out of 16 with RISP and two outs, first out of 16 with men on base, and third out of 16 “Late and Close” (7th or later with the batting team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run at least on deck).

Overall, the Phillies are not poor with situational hitting.

His general point, though — that the Phillies’ offense isn’t living up to expectations despite ranking 2nd in the National League in runs per game — is cogent. As the above article explains:

The Phils have scored 20 runs in a game twice, most recently on June 13 at St. Louis. In the 30 games since then, however, they have scored four or fewer runs 20 times and two or fewer 11 times. They are 12-18 in those 30 games, but have managed to hang on to a share of first place.

Pat Burrell:

Pat Burrell was not happy with manager Charlie Manuel’s decision to remove him late in yesterday’s 11-inning loss to the Florida Marlins.

“I’m upset, absolutely,” Burrell said. “I’m upset, and I have been for a long time. It’s not personal. I don’t want to ever come out of close games.”

[…]

“In that situation, we’re trying to put more speed out there, so I can’t question what the manager is trying to do. He’s got confidence in all his guys,” Burrell said. “But I can’t lie and say I’m not frustrated by it, especially when it’s close like that in a low-scoring game. He knows that. We’ve discussed it.

“Do I wish it was different? Absolutely. I don’t know any other way to say that. A lot of games I’ve come out, it’s never an issue, but when it does come back to bite us, it becomes more of a focus.”

Burrell realizes he is not a fleet runner, and there are times when he has no qualms about coming out of a game.

“If it’s a tie game and I get on base and you run for me, I think that’s a good time,” he said.

This has been a pet peeve of mine, watching Manuel unnecessarily substitute Burrell late in the game. Manuel’s mind is in the right place but there’s really not a whole lot of difference between Burrell and Eric Bruntlett or So Taguchi defensively. Both are definitely faster, but it doesn’t make a difference considering how little ground Burrell is required to cover in left field.

While it’d be a time-consuming endeavor to pore through the game logs to find out exactly when Burrell was lifted, who replaced him, and if the move had any effect, this thread at Back She Goes should suffice, incomplete as it may be.

Last one.

Cole Hamels:

Hamels said precise location of his fastball was vital yesterday because the pitch lacked its usual zip. He blamed that on the extended rest he got over the all-star break.

“The time off hurt me,” he said. “My body felt tight and I couldn’t push it. If I had pushed it, I’d probably have ended up on the disabled list.”

Hamels is referencing the fact that they pushed his start back to Sunday even though he would have been on his normal five days’ rest on Friday. Had they chosen to start Hamels on Friday, he would have been scheduled to pitch the series finale in New York against the Mets as well, which probably would have been the most strategically sound maneuver.

While it’s a good sign to see the Phillies concerned with preserving the arm of their young superstar pitcher, there’s a balance for protecting such an arm. And if the Phillies were really concerned with the mileage on Hamels’ arm, he wouldn’t rank sixth in Pitcher Abuse Points. Hamels has made 21 starts this season, in 14 of them (67%) he has thrown 100 or more pitches, and in 18 of them (86%) he has pitched 7 innings or more.

What we can draw from these complaints is that A) Charlie Manuel is wrong with his analysis of his team’s offense and B) Manuel might not be as good with the players as we thought. We finally have some tangible criticism from his players. Everyone knew he wasn’t the game’s brightest tactician, considering he didn’t even know about the double switch until the second half of his first season with the Phillies. Now there’s a bit of proof that he may not be so great in the clubhouse, either.

Just Make the Deal Already

Ken Rosenthal:

The Phillies were working multiple fronts before acquiring right-hander Joe Blanton from the A’s. Among the possibilities that reached a standstill: A blockbuster for Rockies left fielder Matt Holliday and closer Brian Fuentes.

The talks probably will not revive, major-league sources said, even though the teams continue to scout each other and the Phillies used different players to obtain Blanton than they would need for Holliday and Fuentes.

Rosenthal says that a Holliday-Fuentes package would have required the Phillies to give up Shane Victorino, J.A. Happ, and a couple of prized prospects in pitcher Carlos Carrasco and catcher Lou Marson.

The snag in the deal revolves around the payroll. As Rosenthal explains:

Holliday and Fuentes are owed almost $6 million combined for the rest of the season, Victorino only about $190,000. The addition of Blanton already has added about $1.5 million.

I have not a clue what it takes to operate a Major League payroll, but it would seem extremely profitable for the Phillies to spend a little extra now. The acquisition of Holliday and Fuentes would make the Phillies far and away favorites in the NL East and destined to meet up with the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS, so there’d be some extra revenue coming in from the Phillies making the playoffs for the second season in a row. Holliday is also a star player like Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Jimmy Rollins, so there’d be a bump in merchandise if they chose to quickly get some Holliday Phillies jerseys on the racks. And, of course, ticket sales would jump, especially early on from the excitement of seeing Holliday in right field as a Phillie for the first time.

If there’s any team the Phillies can learn from in this regard, it’s the Eagles. They had no Super Bowl victories but made the playoffs for six straight seasons between 2000-05. Every now and then they’d make a splash and add someone noteworthy (though the T.O. deal didn’t work out so well), and the franchise prospered despite chronic playoff failure. The Phillies don’t have to actually win a World Series to make money and earn a healthy reputation with the hometown fans. This trade would be a great step towards prosperity, even if it does cost the Phillies’ two best Minor League prospects.