Thoughts on the Phils’ Run

After his Milwaukee Brewers got swept by the Phillies in a four-game series at Citizens Bank Park, Ned Yost was relieved of his managerial duties. Many fans of the Brew Crew will tell you that it was a long time coming — Yost should have been canned a long, long time ago. I’m not going to discuss that here, though. It is interesting to note, however, that this is the third person to lose his job after playing the Phillies: starter Matt Morris, then of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Willie Randolph (technically it wasn’t directly “after” playing the Phillies, though it was a bit of punishment for last year’s epic collapse), and now Yost.

Want to play rough tomorrow, Bobby Cox? Bring it — I’m sure Frank Wren won’t have a problem with canning you.

Friend of the blog MattS (whom I quoted in my appearance on the Live from Gotham podcast) noted that CoolStandings.com had the Phillies at 69.1% to make the playoffs yesterday, up from 39.6% on Saturday. That’s significant. The Phils picked up all four games they trailed the Brewers by going into the four-game series, and also picked up three games on the New York Mets, including their loss tonight at the hands of the Washington Nationals (meaning the Phillies are now only 0.5 games behind in the NL East).

There are still a lot who doubt the Phillies, taking into account their recent offensive ineptitude and the somewhat unsurprising struggles the various members of the bullpen have had. Still, though, between the Phillies, Mets, and Brewers, the red pinstripes have the best average run differential (+0.72 per game). And even compared to the Brewers, the Phillies can feel good about their starting pitching with Cole Hamels and the resurgent Brett Myers, whose second-half performance is topped only by C.C. Sabathia.

After a bit of a grace period, the Mets’ bullpen appears to be back to hemorrhaging leads. Both of their recent losses to the Atlanta Braves were bullpen-authored. Since September 9, the bullpen has thrown nearly 17 innings (nearly an average of 3 innings per game) and put up an ERA of 8.10 and a WHIP of 1.80. Equally as unimpressive are the BB, K, and HR rates: 5.4, 5.4, and 2.2 respectively. The walk and HR rates are really, really high, and the K-rate is way too low, especially for relievers.

To what can we attribute the Phillies’ recent success (7-3 over their last 10)? The easy answer is starting pitching, as the only bad starts have come from Kyle Kendrick and Joe Blanton (Sept. 8). However, the offense has hit at least one home run in eleven straight games, their longest streak since July 22-August 6 (the Phils went 9-2). The Phillies’ offense is more dependent on power hitting than most other offenses, so if they’re not hitting home runs, they’re not going to score many runs any other way.

Additionally, the Phillies have an average .304 BABIP over those last ten games, a huge step up from the .269 BABIP they had in August and the average .231 BABIP they had going into the series with the Florida Marlins.

Let’s have an updated look at the teams’ remaining schedules…

PHILLIES

9/16-18: @ ATL

9/19-21: @ FLA

9/22-24: vs. ATL

9/25: OFF

9/26-28: vs. WAS

METS

9/16-18: @ WAS

9/19-21: @ ATL

9/22-25: vs. CHC

9/26-28: vs. FLA

BREWERS

9/16-18: @ CHC

9/19-21: @ CIN

9/22: OFF

9/23-25: vs. PIT

9/26-28: vs. CHC

The Phillies easily have the easiest remaining schedule. On the season, they’re 10-2 against the Braves, 6-9 against the Marlins, and 9-6 against the Nationals.

The Mets have the unfortunate circumstance of having to play the Cubs in a four-game series, but there is a silver lining for the ‘politans: the Cubs will probably clinch the division before the series starts, so they will probably not be facing the Cubs at full strength. On the season, the Mets are 10-4 against the Nationals, 6-9 against the Braves, 0-2 against the Cubs, and 9-6 against the Marlins.

The Brewers have it bad — real bad. Six whole games against the Cubs and at least three of them will be against the “try hard” or “pre-clinch” Cubs. On the season, the Brewers are 4-6 against the Cubs, 7-8 against the Reds, and 11-1 against the Pirates.

Should the division and/or Wild Card leads come down to the final series of the season and it’s within a game or two, the Phillies have only the Nationals to slay while the Mets have to fend off the pesky Marlins and the Brewers have to deal with the Cubs.

Last season, of course, the Phils went 2-1 in the last series of the season against the Nats, with Brett Myers closing out Game #162 which saw the Phillies clinch their first post-season berth since 1993. The Phillies also closed out the season against the Nationals in 2005, sweeping the three-game series.

If the Phillies win the Wild Card, they’ll face the Cubs in the Division Series with the likely match-ups being Hamels/Zambrano, Myers/Harden, and Moyer/Lilly.

If the Phillies win the East, they’ll probably face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS though I’m not sure how the Dodgers will order the rotation. I’d assume they’d open with Chad Billingsley but manager Joe Torre might prefer veteran starter Derek Lowe in the opener (Lowe, of course, won the clinching game each of the ALDS, ALCS, and World Series in 2004 for the Boston Red Sox).

However, all of this talk of the post-season is much too hasty. There are still 12 games to be played. And if Kyle Kendrick gets one more start with the way he’s been pitching, it may hamper the Phils’ post-season chances. Since the start of July, he has a 6.58 ERA and a 1.9 WHIP to complement a lousy 3.9 K/9, 4.2 BB/9, and 1.4 HR/9. Shortening the rotation to four starters, or replacing Kendrick with J.A. Happ is a necessary use of strategy at this point.  It will leave a sour taste in my mouth if the Phillies lose either the division and/or the Wild Card by two games or less having allowed Kendrick to make two or more starts.

But I didn’t mean to dampen all that optimism with a bit of reality. The Phillies will steamroll their way through the playoffs, just like they did last year, right? Oops, there goes that self-defense mechanism. Just too used to getting shafted (read: Phillies, Wild Card circa 2003 vs. Marlins; circa 2005 vs. Astros).

What Are the Secrets to Jamie Moyer’s Success?

Jamie MoyerI originally posted this on the Flushing University forums, but I figured it was extensive, informative, and interesting enough to repost here. I was asked how Moyer, nearly at the age of 46 and throwing a fastball that barely tops 82 MPH, was able to find so much success this season.

I’ll just copy-paste my response:

. . .

He’s had a 5% increase in ground balls as compared to last year and his 44.2 GB% is the highest it’s been since at least 2001 (FanGraphs only tracks batted ball percentages as far back as 2002, though we can manually calculate them using Baseball Reference’s Hit Trajectory splits). As a result of throwing less fly balls in a stadium that helps push a lot of fly balls a lot further than they justifiably should have flown (Ed.: This is mostly due to the winds, not the dimensions of the ballpark), Moyer’s home run percentages have gone down as well. His HR/FB is at 9.2%, which is the lowest it’s been since 2005, when his home stadium was Yellowstone… excuse me, Safeco Field.

Moyer’s also been a little bit lucky on balls in play. With a 20.8 LD% and considering the 5% increase in ground balls, we’d expect a BABIP in the .325-.335 area, but it’s only at .295. He’s faced 739 hitters, so we’d expect the following amounts of hits…

.295 BABIP: 218 hits
.325 BABIP: 240 hits
.335 BABIP: 248 hits

So, he’s saved between 22-30 hits on the season because of his lower-than-normal BABIP.

Looking at FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), which looks only at events that the pitcher can directly control, we’d expect his ERA to be around 4.30. Compare that to his current 3.64 ERA and we see that the Phillies’ defense has saved Moyer about two-thirds of a run per game. That’s 19 runs over his 29 starts.

Lastly, Moyer has been throwing a lot more fastballs, believe it or not. According to FanGraphs, Moyer has had a 5.2% increase in the use of his four-seam fastball from ’07 to ’08 and a 5.7% increase in the use of his cutter. It looks like he ditched his slider, and he’s thrown his curve ball 2.0% less and his change-up 7.6% less.

So, based upon my research, I conclude the following have been factors in Moyer’s success:

  • More groundballs, less HR
  • Fortunate BABIP
  • Good defense behind him
  • Modified pitch selection

There’s a good chance that Moyer will be returning to the Phillies in ’09, so it will be interesting to see if these numbers hold, considering that the Phillies will generally be fielding the same defensive team. Burrell will probably be back, but if he isn’t, it only makes the defense better.

. . .

I’d like to add to that by pointing out that Moyer has given up significantly fewer extra-base hits. Moyer is on pace to allow 201 total hits: 138 singles, 39 doubles, 5 triples, and 20 home runs (.408 SLG). Last season, he allowed 222 hits: 131 singles, 57 doubles, 4 triples, and 30 home runs (.483 SLG).

And going back to the Hit Trajectory splits, I think it’s interesting to note the difference between 2007 and ’08.

Fly Balls, 2007: 39.4% .855 OPS
Fly Balls, 2008: 35.1% .731 OPS

Ground balls, 2007: 39.4% .492 OPS
Ground balls, 2008: 44.2% .459 OPS

Line Drives, 2007: 21.2% 1.765 OPS
Line Drives, 2008: 20.8% 1.644 OPS

The OPS is down across the board this season. The difference is at its highest on fly balls, most of which is due to the decreased home run rate, but as mentioned, hitters aren’t getting too many extra-base hits off of him. Surely the plus-arms of Pat Burrell, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, and Geoff Jenkins help in the prevention of singles being stretched into doubles and doubles stretched into triples, but overall, hitters just aren’t hitting Moyer very hard, as evidenced by the 16.8% infield fly balls (IFFB) he’s induced, a 4.3% increase from last season and about 3% above his career average.

While it is surprising to see a 46-year-old up among the league leaders in ERA (16th in NL), Moyer’s success isn’t fluky. Considering that he’ll have essentially the same defense behind him in ’09 (assuming he doesn’t retire and returns to the Phillies), there’s very little that would cause Moyer to have a clunker of a season, considering that he doesn’t rely on much more than location and intellect when he’s on the mound.

. . .

I was just notified of an interesting and useful website: FirstDibz.com is a place where season ticket-holders sell and put “dibz” on post-season face value tickets for their particular team. Here’s the Phillies section.

Carlos Ruiz at Third Base?

Charlie Manuel just put Carlos Ruiz at third base in the ninth inning of tonight’s game against the New York Mets. Like, defensively.

Box score, a.k.a. proof that it actually happened.

I just have to ask Charlie Manuel, “Uh, what?”

Eric Bruntlett, a utility infielder, hasn’t been used yet. 4-5-6 hitters due up in the ninth, Brad Lidge/pinch-hitter (Bruntlett) is in the 7-hole. Charlie’s hoping for some baserunners, although maybe it’s not such a bad idea to have your reliever hit. After all, Clay Condrey did hit a double earlier in the game and scored on a Jimmy Rollins two-run home run.

Luckily, Ruiz didn’t have to do any fielding. Lidge got Carlos Beltran to ground out to Rollins and struck out Carlos Delgado and Fernando Tatis.

Let’s hope Manuel played his cards right.

UPDATE: Mets reliever Luis Ayala got the first two outs but Jayson Werth saved Manuel from criticism by getting a single to bring up Bruntlett.

Bruntlett tied the game with an RBI double. Charlie is a genius? (Intentional question mark.) Carlos Ruiz is robbed of a hit by Jose Reyes to bring the game to extra innings.

Speaking of updates, once this game is final, the BABIP and LI spreadsheets will be updated. Oh yeah, and I have an article up at Baseball Digest Daily on the Phillies possibly transferring their offensive ineptitude to the L.A. Dodgers.

UPDATE #2: This game is pretty freakin’ entertaining. Cole Hamels is pinch-hitting since the Phillies have no more bench players available. Runners on first and second with one out.

Hamels struck out looking.

UPDATE #3: Not going to update again until the game goes final but it’s in the 13th inning now, making this the longest game of the year for the Phillies. They’d played four twelve-inning games (04/10, 07/06, 07/11, and 08/08) previously. Still 7-7.

An interesting note, looking over the FanGraphs play log: only two line drives have been hit in the game. Carlos Delgado hit one in the fourth inning and Brian Schneider just hit one in the thirteenth inning; the Phillies have hit none. With 78 outs in 26 half-innings, that’s a LD% of 2.5%.

UPDATE #4: The game is close to ending. Shane Victorino led off the bottom of the thirteenth with a triple, so the Mets intentionally walked the next two hitters (Werth and Bruntlett) to get to pinch-hitter Brett Myers. Bases loaded, no outs for Myers.

He worked the count to 3-2 then struck out looking — a smart move not to swing, considering how high the probability of a double play was.

Coste wins it with a line drive over Carlos Beltran’s head (he was playing in, obviously). 8-7.Now we can sleep. BABIP and LI spreadsheets updated. The following chart comes courtesy FanGraphs:

Mets-Phillies 08/26/08

Oddly enough, there were only five events in the game that had a Leverage Index (LI) higher than 5.00. Three came in the eighth inning, one came in the eleventh, and obviously Coste’s hit in the 13th. All of them were while the Phillies were hitting.

Radio Appearance Today!

MetsToday.com, host of the radio program Live from Mickey Mantle’s, invited me to appear on their program as a guest this evening. As expected, we’ll be talking Phillies-Mets. If you’d like to listen in, click here. The show starts at 6 PM EST I believe, and I’ll be coming on at around 6:30.

You may recall that I was on a podcast earlier this year after being invited by the Toronto Blue Jays blog Drunk Jays Fans. Hopefully I’ll improve on that appearance.

UPDATE: Just got done talking with the guys on Live from Mickey Mantle’s and I have to say it was a pleasure to take questions from them. I had a lot of fun and I made it a point to throw in some jabs at the Mets. Hopefully I didn’t completely bomb on there and I provided some good insight. Click here if you’d like to listen to it. The clip is “MLB Rundown (Part I – NL).”

Top Phillies Moments of 2008

I got around to reminiscing about the Phillies’ offense — it’s been so long — and I started wondering what the top ten Phillies moments of 2008 were. Luckily, FanGraphs exists and has a statistic known as Leverage Index. You can read about it here, but the gist of it is:

A measure of how important a particular situation is in a baseball game depending on the inning, score, outs, and number of players on base, created by Tom Tango.

I went through each game log and logged each event with an LI of 5.00 or higher (there’s no significance to 5.00, it’s just a clean cutoff point). If you’d like to look at the box scores, you can click here; if you’d like to peruse the LI and other stats, click here; if you’d like to toy around with my Excel spreadsheet, click here (since I’m linking, I also have a spreadsheet of the Phillies’ BABIP by game, I’ll try to update them weekly).

Without any further ado, the top ten (actually thirteen) Phillies moments of 2008, according to LI.

  1. August 3 at STL: Brad Lidge strikes out Joe Mather with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning to save a 5-4 game. (LI: 10.86)
  2. August 3 at STL: Brad Lidge strikes out Nick Stavinoha with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth inning of a 5-4 game(LI: 8.78).
  3. July 6 vs NYM: Aaron Heilman gets Pedro Feliz to ground out with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth inning of a 1-0 game (LI: 7.80).
  4. April 22 at COL: Pat Burrell hits a three-run double off of Manny Corpas with one out in the ninth inning to put the Phillies ahead 8-6 (LI: 7.48).
  5. May 24 at HOU: Doug Brocail gets Shane Victorino to fly out to left field with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth inning of a 4-3 game. Pedro Feliz is thrown out attempting to score from third base by left fielder Darin Erstad (LI: 7.48).
  6. May 20 at WAS: Brad Lidge gets Felipe Lopez to ground out to Chase Utley with runners on the corners and to outs in the ninth inning to save a 1-0 game (LI: 7.30).
  7. August 3 at STL: With runners on the corners and one out in the ninth inning of a 5-4 game, Brad Lidge hits Cesar Izturis (LI: 7.19).
  8. April 3 vs WAS: With the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning of a 7-7 game, Tom Gordon gets Willie Harris to ground out to first baseman Ryan Howard (LI: 6.88).
  9. April 21 at COL: Carlos Ruiz hits a two-run double off of Brian Fuentes with the bases loaded and 2 outs in the eighth inning of a 6-5 game (LI: 6.88).
  10. June 11 at FLA: Kevin Gregg gets Jayson Werth to ground out to first base with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning of a 2-2 game (LI: 6.88).
  11. June 15 at STL: With the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning of a 6-6 game, Ryan Franklin gets Chase Utley to fly out to left field (LI: 6.88).
  12. June 15 at STL: With the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth inning of a 6-6 game, Russ Springer walks Pat Burrell to force in a run (LI: 6.88).
  13. August 8 vs PIT: Brad Lidge gets Jason Michaels to fly out to the catcher in the tenth inning with two outs and the bases loaded in a 0-0 game (LI: 6.88).

Only four of the thirteen events involve a positive event for a hitter (two doubles, a walk, and a HBP). Five are negative events for the Phillies (four by hitters). Brad Lidge is involved in four of them (three positive), including the top two, which have, by far, the highest LI, and this is a big reason why Lidge is the MLB leader in WPA for relievers.

Campaign Cheer

We Should Be GM’s and Hugging Harold Reynolds have created a flier that they are going to pass out during Tuesday’s Phillies game:

Campaign Cheer

Crashburn Alley is a proud supporter of the cause, of course. A revised version of the flier pictured above will be sent out later tonight showing CA’s support.

Fliers will be passed out at Citizens Bank Park for Tuesday’s game against the Washington Nationals with the pertinent information. If you plan to go to Tuesday night’s game, show your support by making snarky signs and showing “blind positivity so strong that it reverberates throughout CBP.”

STFU, Jimmy Rollins

You may recall that I have told athletes to STFU in the past, and that I am not Jimmy Rollins’ biggest supporter. I called him overrated as recently as July (by the way, that statement on a Phillies forum spawned about a 10-page debate). However, I feel justified for telling Rollins to sit down and shut his mouth, considering what he said in his appearance on The Best Damn Sports Show Period, and the lack of justification thereof.

Before I get into it, I’d just like to make perfectly clear that this is not really an issue. I, along with plenty of others, are making a bigger deal out of what Rollins said than it really is. However, there’s somewhat of a point to be made, and it’s that Rollins may be the defending NL MVP, but his 2008 season has given him absolutely no leverage to be critical of boo birds.

You can watch the clip at The Fightins.

Here’s what he said on Best Damn (keep an eye on how Chris Rose tries to keep Rollins from tripping over his own words):

Rose: It’s not that bad, is it?

Ryan Howard: In Philly?

Rose: Yeah.

Howard: Um…

Jimmy Rollins: It can be. (Howard assents)  I mean, there are times, you know, like, one of those cities, they, you know, you might catch some flack for this, but you know, they’re front-runners. You know, when you’re doing good, they’re on your side. When you’re doing bad, they’re completely against you.

Rose: But that’s a lot of cities [that are like that].

Rollins: (After some cross-talk) I’m with you, but I mean, for example, Ryan’s from St. Louis. You know, St. Louis, it seems like they support their team. They’re out there, and they’re encouraging. And in Philly, you can’t be no punk.

Rose: Wait a second — where are you from?

Rollins: I’m from Oakland.

Rose: Okay.

Rollins: And they just don’t show up.

Not only does he bash Phillies fans, he bashes Athletics fans as well. Rollins has no justification for saying this, especially since he was given nothing but wholehearted support last season en route to a 20×4 (20 2B, 3B, HR, and SB) season and an (undeserved) NL MVP award. This season, he’s en route to finish with his worst rate statistics (OBP, SLG, ISO, RC/27; ignore counting statistics since he missed about 20 games, which skews the data) since 2005. He’s a big reason why the Phillies’ offense is so mundane.

He has no right to criticize Phillies fans, especially when he’s failed to give 100% on two notable occasions.

  • June 5, 2008: Manager Charlie Manuel benched Rollins for failing to run out a fly ball that was misplayed by Cincinnati Reds shortstop Paul Janish. He would have been on second base easily with effort, but Rollins dogged it and only got one base on the error.
  • July 24, 2008: Rollins showed up late to Shea Stadium for the series finale (and rubber match) against the New York Mets, the Phillies’ division rival and biggest obstacle between them and the playoffs. He was benched again by Manuel, only this time, he took it upon himself to publicly contradict his manager, saying “We’re going to disagree on this one.”

After receiving deserved criticism about his comments, he told us what he really meant. Scott Lauber has the transcript.

Rollins doesn’t really back-track or apologize. Essentially, he uses rhetoric to dance his way out of the issue and does a poor job of it. Consider his opener:

“The way, I guess, what front-runner means and the way I think about it is completely different from what they’re using it.”

Ignoring the complete assassination of the English language, he says that the real definition of “front-runner” differs from how he uses it. So, it’s the culture’s fault for defining a word differently than what Rollins would like it to mean.

Wikipedia defines a front-runner as:

[…] a type of sports fan who likes only the team that is winning. Also known as a fairweather fan, the person will quickly,and repeatedly change allegiance with athletes and teams as teams and players become “good” or “bad” based on records.

That’s pretty much how Rollins defined it during his appearance on Best Damn, even though he wasn’t insinuating that Phillies fans become Mets or Marlins or Twins fans when the Phillies are struggling. In fact, he did clarify it further:

“Front-runners is like people who only show up when you’re winning.

Of course, he then goes on to contradict himself by mentioning the Phillies’ strong attendance figures.

Rollins slips up elsewhere in his clarification as well:

But, as passionate as they are about us going out there and winning and playing well, that’s the same passion I feel about them giving us support. Don’t get on us when we’re down this time of the year, come out and support us.

Support is not a right; it is earned. Rollins, my friend (this is the part where you imagine I am having a conversation with him), you have not earned any kind of support whatsoever. Not even pity. You and most of your teammates are millionaires, play a kid’s game for a living, are famous and wildly popular — you have nothing to complain about. This is part of your job. If you can’t handle some fans’ negativity, then go ahead and play in St. Louis, which former Phillie Scott Rolen formerly dubbed “heaven” (until Tony LaRussa, the devil, disagreed with him one too many times). They don’t boo you in “heaven.” In fact, they care so little about baseball that they give a utility outfielder with a career .718 OPS a standing ovation. That sounds like the perfect place for a shortstop with a career .772 OPS.

Criticism is part of the territory, James. Supermarket clerks, waiters and waitresses, and technical support operators have to deal with it from unsatisfied customers. The only difference between them and you, Mr. Shortstop, is that they are forced to work that job due to whatever financial situation or career path they have chosen or have found themselves in. And they don’t have the platform to whine about it. If you don’t like the criticism, stop playing baseball. Curl up in a fetal position and don’t leave your house. Or join a support group where the goal is to keep your self-esteem artificially inflated.

Moving on…

The whole thing was, look, here we are in the playoffs, we’re at home, we’re in first place. There’s really nothing to boo about.

The playoffs were last season, and ended quite abruptly. Yeah, there was kind of a sweep in the NLDS at the hands of the now 54-68 Colorado Rockies. And the Phillies aren’t in first place anymore, either, after a four-game sweep in Los Angeles. The Phillies haven’t hit well since May. There’s plenty of reasons to boo, and Rollins is a big part of it.

When [struggling catcher] Carlos Ruiz comes up to the plate, don’t boo him because you want [backup Chris] Coste in the game. This man has a job to do today. Encourage him to do his job to the best of his abilities.

While it’s not in the clip linked above, it is in the transcript and I wanted to respond to it.  The fans have every right to boo a catcher with a .606 OPS and a SLG lower than his OBP (which is really hard to do, by the way). Chris Coste isn’t a great option but in comparison to Ruiz, he’s much better with his .782 OPS.

The fans paid for a good portion of the new stadium with their tax dollars, and continue to pay the players’ salaries with the money spent on tickets, concessions, merchandise, and by driving up ratings on TV and radio. If I’m spending $70 every time I watch a game at Citizens Bank Park, I have every right to demand that I see a lineup used to its fullest potential. It’s mind-boggling that Ruiz hasn’t been given a demotion or at least a significant cut in playing time. 25-year-old Jason Jaramillo is in AAA with a .709 OPS and 22-year-old Lou Marson is in AA with an .857 OPS. Even Ivan Rodriguez aside, a catcher could have been had at the trading deadline.

And when Ruiz is booed, they’re not booing Ruiz himself. I’m sure all of the fans would love to see him put up Mike Piazza numbers. They’re booing the ineptitude of the Phillies’ upper management for not realizing that Ruiz isn’t Major League-caliber and bringing up someone else who could give the Phillies a better chance to win. If the Phillies’ front office had their wits about them, they’d have DFA’ed Geoff Jenkins and So Taguchi at least a month and a half ago and sent Ruiz down or thrown him in a trade. It sounds like fan-speak, but I’m a fan and that’s what most of us (presumably) are booing when Carlos Ruiz comes to the plate.

From everything I’ve read and heard, Ruiz is a great person and extremely generous with fans, and that shouldn’t go unrewarded, but he’s not giving the Phillies a good chance to win with his presence in the lineup. His defense isn’t even that great, either — his CS% is near the bottom at 19.7%. Mike Piazza, chastised for his poor defense, had a 17.1 CS% in 2004. That’s how bad Ruiz has been defensively.

Finally, I’d just like to point out another contradiction:

“But there are a lot of times where it makes it harder to play at home when they’re against you — or it feels like they’re against you.” 

“If they want to boo me, that’s fine. That’s fine. It’s not going to effect me from doing my job.”

Rollins needs to STFU and focus on raising that OPS of his, not crying about the boo birds in the stands at Citizens Bank Park. He’s deserved most of the criticism he’s received and has done nothing to change that. You silence the Negative Nancies by playing well, not by whining about it. Let your bat do the talking.

I’ve spent more time and written much more on the subject than I intended to on, in reality, a non-issue. I apologize for wasting your time if you’ve read this far.

Brett is Back!

Despite the Phillies losing four straight to the Los Angeles Dodgers, there is a diamond — albeit a small one — hidden in all that coal: Brett Myers is officially back. He turned in his fourth straight quality start in five starts since coming back to the Majors after his demotion after his start in Texas against the Rangers on June 27.

As we can see in the following chart, there’s a clear improvement just about everywhere for Myers. Aside from WHIP, they are all per-nine rates.

Brett Myers Before and After Demotion

The only item that is concerning is the loss of more than two strikeouts per nine innings. However, it is a small sample size and given the information that will follow, it shouldn’t be a recurring problem.

It appears that Myers has his fastball back. Here’s a graph (click to enlarge) showing both his average and fastest speeds on his fastball in all of his starts this season. Keep in mind that he did not pitch from June 28 to July 22. Additionally, the X axis goes by intervals of seven days, so they don’t correspond with days he actually made a start.

Brett Myers Fastball

Myers’ fastball was very inconsistent early in the season and barely broke 90 MPH on average. Recently, the average velocity has been rising essentially on a consistent basis, is averaging nearly 92 MPH, and has gone as high as 95 MPH.

Even though the Phillies are only 3-2 in Myers’ starts since returning, it’s not his fault. They’ve only given him 15 runs of support, an average of three runs per game. The offense, with a .238 BABIP in August, has been a big problem for the Phillies. Before the series finale against the Dodgers, they had a .713 OPS in August, their lowest OPS in any month this season (though it’s very close to the .715 OPS of June). It will go down to .687 after their 2-hit performance against the Dodgers in the finale.