I Met Chelsea Clinton!

I usually try to stray from the personal blogs, but I just had a really interesting day on Thursday, so I thought I’d share it. I’ll start from the top.

I went with a friend to Delaware County Community College to see poet Sonia Sanchez. To any Delco-based readers, if you ever have a chance to go to one of her presentations, I highly recommend it. Her poetry is not only amazing, but it’s not based on just the words; the way she recited it added just as much as word selection. I found one of the poems she read on YouTube, called “Peace.” She’s highly liberal, so that’s a warning to any of my conservative readers.

Anyway, after that, we went to Wawa for something to eat, and we killed some time before we headed up to West Chester University to see Chelsea Clinton take a two-hour Q & A from the audience. She had fairly lengthy, detailed responses to each of the questions, so I stood there for a good 45 minutes to an hour before my question was taken. The previous questions were cookie-cutters like “What does your mother plan to do about the receding economy?” or “What is Hilary’s stance on stem-cell research?”

Chelsea ClintonI would have none of it. Donning my red Phillies hat and gray Phillies sweatshirt, I held my arm up and waved it around frantically, begging for her attention. It worked, and I had the floor for the next question for the daughter of one of the top two Democratic Presidential nominees. With TV cameras and dozens of college kids’ cameras and cell phones pointed at me, I summoned my stately voice and calmly asked her, “Since you’re in this area of Pennsylvania, how well do you think the Phillies are going to do this year?”

I got a mixed response: half laughter, half “this guy’s a jackass.” To Chelsea’s credit, she took it in stride and simply said (to paraphrase), “I’m from New York so I’m not going to go there.”

After the Q & A was over, about 75 or so people hung around and moved up front to meet, get autographs from, and take pictures with Ms. Clinton. I and my four comrades took this opportunity and waited our turn. When I got to the front of the line, I was given the unfortunate task of having to take someone else’s picture. And in case you’re asking, no, I did not screw up the picture. I was anxious to meet Ms. Clinton though. After the camera flash, I swiftly walked up to her and asked her, “Hey, did you like my Phillies question?”

“Oh, that was you?” she replied.

“Yeah, I like to keep people on their toes like that. Hi, I’m Bill Baer — nice to meet you.”

“My pleasure,” said the daughter of former President Bill and former First Lady and hopeful President Hilary Clinton.  “My boyfriend’s from Philly, so he’d be on your side with that question.”

My days are usually monotonous, so this was quite a welcome bit of excitement for me, and oddly enough, not one second of my day was sports-related (besides my clothing and my questioning). I ignored my NCAA bracket (still got 3 of the 4 games today) and spring training baseball. It was worth it.

Still not going to vote for Hilary, though. Or anyone for that matter.

Opening Day… Technically

Despite the countdown at the top right of Crashburn Alley, the Major League Baseball season officially started at 6 A.M. when the Oakland Athletics and the Boston Red Sox duked it out in front of nearly 45,000 fans at the Tokyo Dome.

If you were sleeping or working and couldn’t catch the game, you missed a doozy. Before I begin my recap of the game, I just have to vent and say that I just have a strong disliking of ESPN’s broadcasters. I’m sure some of it is irrational, but it was so annoying to watch the game this morning because at the end of every inning that Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched, Gary Thorne and Steve Phillips would comment on how many pitches he’s thrown and that it’s unlikely that he’d be back for another inning. This started in the third inning and Matsuzaka went five.

Anyway, Mark Ellis started the scoring with a first inning solo home run to left field, and Bobby Crosby, later in the inning, knocked Daric Barton in with a grounder to pitcher Matsuzaka. Both pitchers looked good, as it was 2-0 until the top of the sixth inning, when Joe Blanton began to tire. Dustin Pedroia led off with a well-struck double to right-center field, and Kevin Youkilis followed with a four-pitch walk. Blanton got David Ortiz to a full count and forced him to foul out on the sixth pitch, but Manny Ramirez backed him up by ripping a first-pitch double to left field, scoring both runners. Later in the inning, eventual hero Brandon Moss — a last-minute substitute for the back-troubled J.D. Drew — singled to right field to score Ramirez, bumping the score to 3-2.

In the bottom half of the sixth, right-hander Kyle Snyder relieved Matsuzaka in a most unimpressive fashion. He allowed a lead-off single to Bobby Crosby and a meatball two-run homerun to Jack Hannahan, immediately blowing the lead the Red Sox were holding. To Snyder’s credit, he cut the Athletics off there and quickly got three outs to end the inning.

Fast-forward to the top of the ninth, where Athletics closer Huston Street was attempting to nail down a 4-3 victory. He retired lead-off hitter Mike Lowell, but Moss nailed Street’s fifth pitch of the at-bat — down and inside — into the right field stands for a game-tying solo home run. That wouldn’t be the end of Street’s night.

Athletics manager Bob Geren decided to leave Street in for the top of the tenth inning. In retrospect, that wasn’t exactly a wise decision, but it’s always easier to second guess when you know the results. Street got Julio Lugo to ground out to third base, but it was hit too deep and combined with his speed, he was safe at first. Pedroia promptly bunted him over to put the go-ahead run in scoring position. Street appeared to rebound by striking out Kevin Youkilis on a high fastball, but after intentionally walking David Ortiz with first base open, he had to get by Manny Ramirez, who already had a two-run double to his credit. He’d make it two. On a 1-2 count, Ramirez drove a high fastball to deep center field, and based on his reaction — he stood at home plate admiring his hit for a good three seconds — he thought it was a home run. Instead, it was a two-run double that brought the Red Sox ahead 6-4.

Cue Jonathan Papelbon, celebrated dancer and closer. Normally lights out, Papelbon was wild enough to allow this game to continue to be captivating. He walked Daric Barton, who gave him a tough at-bat. Jack Cust worked the count to 1-2, then chased a high fastball to strike out for the fourth time in the game (he’s on pace for 648!). Emil Brown, formerly of the K.C. Royals, had a chance to be a hero, and turned into a goat with some extremely poor base running. He took a first-pitch fastball — high, as had been Papelbon’s style throughout his inning of work — and drove it to deep right-center. Barton scored easily, but Brown got greedy and tried to take third base on the throw in to home plate, but it was cut off and he was forced into a run-down and easily tagged out after a couple back-and-forth throws. Instead of it being a one-run deficit with a runner in scoring position and one out, it was a one-run deficit with no runners on base and two outs. To pour salt on Brown’s wound, both of the hitters immediately following him — Bobby Crosby and Jack Hannahan — both singled, so he would have definitely scored if he had been on second base (of course, we’ll never know if either would have singled had that been the case, but it’s fun to assume). The game was wrapped up when Kurt Suzuki grounded out to first base, giving Papelbon a very hard-fought save, and Hideki Okajima — the other Red Sox player from Japan — the win.

If you had been up early enough to catch the game, it was well worth it. I think Major League Baseball is starting a new trend: instead of afternoon and evening baseball, we can have morning baseball; instead of hot dogs, popcorn, and beer, we can have scrambled eggs, French toast, and coffee with our game. I like it!

In other news…

John Patterson

In case you hadn’t heard, the Nationals released Patterson, author of a 130 ERA+ and 1.195 WHIP in 2005. Since then, though, he’s been ineffective and injury-prone. Still, you have to wonder why the Phillies didn’t extend a helping hand his way. The team is in desperate need of a #5 starter not named Adam Eaton, and none of the other contenders are doing much to earn that spot. If Kris Benson, who is more injury-prone and ineffective, is worth the flier, why not Patterson?

I am left befuddled by some of the non-moves by the Phillies’ front office. Apparently, Kyle Lohse isn’t good enough for them, but Kris Benson, J.D. Durbin, and Travis Blackley are.

Cleveland Indians

The Indians have — and had — a few arms who could and should interest the Phillies.

First off, the Tribe released left-handed reliever Aaron Fultz, a former Phillie. Fultz has been a great reliever in two out of his last three years: in ’05, he put up a 196 ERA+ and a 0.968 WHIP for the Phils, and last season, he put up a 158 ERA and a 1.324 WHIP for the Indians. Even in ’06, bad by Fultz’s standards, was above league-average: a 103 ERA+. The Phillies are in need of another left-handed reliever to complement J.C. Romero, and Mike Zagurski may need “Tommy John” surgery.

From David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News:

The Indians released former Phillies reliever Aaron Fultz yesterday, but don’t expect him land in Philadelphia. Ruben Amaro said the team has no interest in bringing back the lefthander, who pitched for the Phillies in 2005 and 2006.

Unless the Indians have a really good reason for cutting Fultz, the Phillies ought to look long and hard at themselves if they pass up on Fultz.

To continue on the theme of the Indians, I cite Nick Cafardo of Boston.com:

The Phillies are in the market for both a lefty reliever (someone to go with J.C. Romero) and a starter. Looks like rehab project Kris Benson may take the No. 5 spot since Adam Eaton has been horrible, but the Phillies are concerned about their pitching and Cole Hamels’s poor start.

Colorado pitcher Brian Fuentes remains a target of a few teams, the Tigers, Yankees, and Phillies in particular.

The Indians have an interesting scenario that could result in a trade. Cliff Lee is taking the No. 5 job with a very good camp, but the Tribe also has Jeremy Sowers and Aaron Laffey in the hunt. There are plenty of teams out there – including the Cardinals, Phillies, Astros – eyeing the lefties.

That article is from more than a week ago, but it’s still relevant. The Indians officially named Lee as their #5 starter, which makes Sowers and Laffey available. Neither has been particularly impressive, but both are around league-average, which is all the Phillies need. Laffey pitched 49 and one-third innings last season, his only season of Major League experience, and put up a 101 ERA+ and a 1.338 WHIP. Sowers has two seasons of Major League experience, and he averages about a 95 ERA+ and a 1.349 WHIP. His ’06 season was much more impressive than his ’07 season, however, so he remains a bit of a question mark.

The article also mentions Brian Fuentes of the Colorado Rockies, another left-hander, but he’s much more pricey, and the Phillies don’t need to overpay for a second left-handed reliever. The price they’d pay for Fuentes would be worth it if they desperately needed a set-up man or closer, but they have four pitchers who can pitch in those roles interchangeably: Brad Lidge (recovering from surgery and will start the season on the DL), Tom Gordon (the team’s de facto closer in Lidge’s absence), Ryan Madson, and Romero.

Questionably, Cafardo states that the Phillies are in the market for a left-handed starter as well, but I can’t see that as being accurate. The Phillies already have Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer, both left-handers, in the rotation. There’s no reason to need a third. If you have three, great, you have three. You just don’t go hunting for a #5 starter who is specifically left-handed — you take what you can get.

Options

Should the Phillies add one or more relievers from the outside, they would risk losing Francisco Rosario (who is on the disabled list), J.D. Durbin, Travis Blackley, and Clay Condrey because they are all out of options and can’t be sent back to the Minor Leagues unless they clear waivers, where the other 29 teams have a chance to claim them. Granted, they are nothing special, but given the dearth of reliable arms in the Phillies’ system, these guys are really the best they have.

A Look at the Phils by the Numbers

Michael Salfino contributed to ComcastSportsNet.com with a Sabermetric look at the 2008 Phillies. It’s very well-done — check it out.

We’re using three different projection systems. The father of the sabermetric movement, Bill James, is represented as published in “The Bill James Handbook.”

Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections come courtesy of BaseballThinkFactory.com, which consistently lives up to its name. ZiPS looks at similar skills more than players in calculating projections. Because I don’t want this piece to turn into a wall of numbers, let’s focus primarily on OPS (on-base plus slugging pecentage).

We’ll work our way down the Phillies’ projected lineup, starting at the top with the reigning MVP.

Joey Gathright — Holy Smokes!

You have got to be kidding me. Joey Gathright has already jumped over a car, but in an actual game, he jumped over a pitcher attempting to tag him!

Crashburn Alley 2008 MLB Predictions

In my ever-increasing genius, I have the great idea of not only making predictions, but recording them on a medium where others can check back later and ridicule me. If you haven’t seen them yet, I put my NCAA bracket up for public view here (note: I did make a couple changes to it a couple hours before the first game; I went 14-for-16 yesterday). Now I’m going to put up my 2008 MLB prognostications.

Let’s start with the awards.

Most Valuable Player

AL: Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees

A-Rod’s an easy pick.

NL: Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies

Utley completes the MVP trifecta in Philly.

Cy Young

AL: Roy Halladay, Toronto Blue Jays

His ERA+ has gone down every season since ’05, but he did pitch 225 innings with a 1.24 WHIP last season. That 120 ERA+ is bad by his standards, but great by others’. All of the projections expect some degree of improvement.

NL: Aaron Harang, Cincinnati Reds

This is a sleeper pick of sorts, but he’s a legitimate contender for the Cy Young award. He’ll give you 230+ innings, walk very few, and strike out a lot (more than 8 K’s per 9 inning the last two seasons). Johan Santana is the sexy pick and you can’t go wrong with him, either.

Rookie of the Year

AL: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays

Too obvious not to follow the pack on this one.

NL: Cameron Maybin, Florida Marlins

While the Marlins are odds-on favorites to finish 5th in the division, Maybin will be a rare bright spot.

Manager of the Year

AL: Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays

I wanted to go with Eric Wedge of the Cleveland Indians, but managers tend not to defend their titles here. Bobby Cox (’04 & ’05) is the only manager to have done so since the award was created in 1983.

NL: Clint Hurdle, Colorado Rockies

The NL has a load of viable choices, but I think that leading the Rockies to their first division title in franchise history will seal the deal.

Comeback Player of the Year

AL: Kenny Rogers, Detroit Tigers

Kenny Rogers will successfully rebound from an injury-shortened ’07 season to be one of the few Tigers pitchers who end up helping out (along with Justin Verlander, obviously).

NL: Mike Hampton, Atlanta Braves

As long as he doesn’t completely blow up, average production should earn him enough sympathy points (he hasn’t pitched since ’05) to grab the award.

Home Run Leaders

AL: Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees, 51

NL: Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies, 54

Most Overrated

AL: Erik Bedard, Seattle Mariners

The trade from Baltimore not only gave Bedard a new home, but lots of unnecessary praise as well. 2007 was really the only great season of Bedard’s career, even though he’d started 24+ games in each season since ’04. His strikeout rate jumped from 7.9-ish from ’04 to ’06, to nearly 11 last season. I call aberration.

NL: Aaron Rowand, San Francisco Giants

Recipient of a five-year, $60 million deal from the Giants, Rowand goes into ’08 with some high expectations. The fact is that he is only a slightly better-than-average player. His ’04 and ’07 season are similar in that they were both good (130 and 123 OPS+ respectively), but his ’05 and ’06 seasons are also similar in that they were both bad (93 and 86 OPS+ respectively). His defense is even overrated: he ranked 15th out of 17 qualified MLB CF in RZR last season).

Most Underrated

AL: Brian Bannister, Kansas City Royals

Granted, this is a tiny bit of a biased pick, since there was an article written by Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports that revealed his appreciation for Sabermetrics. But in 165 innings last season, he allowed an average of only 1.2 baserunners per inning, and averaged less than two-and-a-half walks per 9 innings. Add to that his small allowance of home runs and you have a pitcher that a lot of people will be overlooking simply because he plays on a down-and-out team in Kansas City.

NL: Brad Lidge, Philadelphia Phillies

Call it a homer pick, but I’ve been reading all off-season about his mental issues that have stemmed from that home run he gave up to Albert Pujols in Game 5 of the 2005 NLCS. To quote myself:

After that game against the Phillies on April 23 until the end of the season, Lidge pitched 60 and two-thirds innings, struck out 81, and put up a 2.82 ERA. He finished the season with a 131 ERA+ and a 1.254 WHIP, impressive statistics for a closer deemed mentally anguished.

He seems to have recovered fine from his second knee surgery of the off-season as well:

Lidge pitched in a minor league intrasquad game Thursday at Clearwater, Fla., retiring four of the five batters he faced with three strikeouts and a walk. The right-hander, who had arthroscopic knee surgery last month, looked sharp enough that he just might be available for the NL East champions on opening day.

“I felt great with everything from warming up to throwing in the game,” Lidge said. “There is nothing better than facing hitters and that was a lot of fun.”

Breakout Player

AL: Jeremy Guthrie, Baltimore Orioles

With Bedard gone, Guthrie may be the de facto ace in the rotation. He’s game for it. Last season, in more than 175 innings, he put up a decent K-rate and a good walk rate, and allowed just over 1.2 baserunners per 9 innings.

NL: Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers

Ethier has had a lot of hype, but hasn’t done anything spectacular in his 843 Major League at-bats. This is the year for him, and he’ll be a major player in bringing the Dodgers from a league-average offense to a top-five offense (that’s right, you heard it here first).

Surprise Team

AL: Tampa Bay Rays

Too easy.

NL: Atlanta Braves

A lot of people are picking the Reds in a very winnable division, but more people are overlooking the Atlanta Braves in favor of the Mets and Phillies.

Disappointing Team

AL: Toronto Blue Jays

I have the Cy Young coming from the Jays, but otherwise, they’re still going to disappoint. Mediocre offense and questionable pitching, as a lot of those who had success last year were young and you just can’t expect everyone to repeat. I expect a significant drop-off in pitching (you heard it here first, and now you know why I don’t get paid to make these predictions).

NL: Milwaukee Brewers

They will have an above-average offense, but that’s about it. Their starting rotation is scary bad, and their bullpen is relatively the same. Eric Gagne should be great for them so long as he stays healthy.

All right, let’s get to the Over/Unders.

Per Batter’s Box, here are the Vegas lines, followed by my predictions. A + next to my prediction means I’m taking the over, and a means I’m taking the under.

Arizona     	86.5
Atlanta        	84.5
Baltimore   	65.5
Boston        	93.5
Chicago(NL)    	87.5
Chicago(AL)    	79.5
Cincinnati    	79.5
Cleveland    	88.5
Colorado    	82.5
Detroit        	93.5
Florida        	68.5
Houston        	72.5
Kansas City    	71.5
Los Angeles(AL)	91.5
Los Angeles(NL)	87.5
Milwaukee    	84.5
Minnesota    	72.5
New York(NL)    93.5
New York(AL)    93.5
Oakland        	73.5
Philadelphia    87.5
Pittsburgh    	68.5
San Diego    	84.5
San Francisco   71.5
Seattle        	86.5
St Louis	78.5
Tampa Bay    	73.5
Texas        	74.5
Toronto        	85.5
Washington    	70.5

NL East

NYM: 94-68 +
PHI: 90-72 +
ATL: 84-78 –
WAS: 74-88 +
FLA: 71-91 +

NL Central

CHC: 87-75 –
MIL: 80-82 –
CIN: 75-87 –
HOU: 74-88 +
STL: 71-91 –
PIT: 66-96 –

NL West

COL: 91-71 +
ARI: 89-73 +
LAD: 87-75 –
SDP: 80-82 –
SFG: 68-94 –

——-

AL East

BOS: 92-70 –
NYY: 87-75 –
TOR: 80-82 –
TBR: 79-83 +
BAL: 67-95 +

AL Central

CLE: 94-68 +
DET: 92-70 –
MIN: 78-84 +
CHW: 75-87 –
KCR: 74-88 +

AL West

LAA: 90-72 –
SEA: 84-78 –
TEX: 81-81 +
OAK: 73-89 –

I’m almost 100% sure my win-loss totals add up to 2,430-2,430, but if you take the time to check it out, let me know if it doesn’t add up.

Now let’s move on to the playoffs.

American League

East: Boston Red Sox

Central: Cleveland Indians

West: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Wild Card: Detroit Tigers

National League

East: New York Mets

Central: Chicago Cubs

West: Colorado Rockies

Wild Card: Philadelphia Phillies

Division Series

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim @ Cleveland Indians: Cleveland advances in 4 games

Detroit Tigers @ Boston Red Sox: Boston advances in 3 games

New York Mets @ Chicago Cubs: New York advances in 5 games

Philadelphia Phillies @ Colorado Rockies: Colorado advances in 4 games

Championship Series

Boston Red Sox @ Cleveland Indians: Cleveland advances in 6 games

Colorado Rockies @ New York Mets: Colorado advances in 5 games

World Series

Colorado Rockies @ Cleveland Indians: Cleveland wins in 6 games

That’s it. Feel free to tell me why I’m wrong and post your own predictions.

Free-Floating Thoughts and Links

Recently, I responded to some feisty comments from Robert Quinlan Costas. The fun hasn’t ended, folks! I urge my seven loyal readers (Hi, grandma!) to check out John Brattain’s takes on those comments:

Speaking of Mr. Brattain, he corresponded with me regarding some questions the Phillies face going into the ’08 regular season, so check that out at The Hardball Times.

Spring Training Doom and Gloom

Per the Philadelphia Daily News, Brett Myers thinks that the team’s dismal spring training performances are meaningless. Manager Charlie Manuel disagrees. Spring training numbers don’t correlate with regular season numbers… yada, yada, yada… this is one rare point in which I believe the numbers aren’t necessary here.

Of course Brett Myers thinks spring training games are meaningless: he has nothing to fight for in the spring. Maybe that’s why he’s been performing so well, too. However, the pitchers who are really stinking it up — Adam Eaton, Travis Blackley, J.D. Durbin, Kyle Kendrick — have little job security to fall back on. To them, spring training games should be just as meaningful as regular season games because they may not even see Major League regular season games, especially at the rate they’re going.

If Eaton and The Gang can’t put it together with a metaphorical gun to the heads of their Major League jobs, why am I to believe that they’ll somehow “flip a switch” once March 31 rolls around?

Kyle Lohse

Lohse, client of super-agent Scott Boras, rolled the dice this off-season searching for a deal in the ballpark of what Carlos Silva got: 4 years, $48 million. No one bit, but the Phillies did offer him a 3-year, $21 million contract, which was declined. Lohse went jobless all off-season, and it was eerie, since league-average pitchers like him are usually snapped up quickly and suited in cash. The Cardinals gave him a one-year deal worth $4.25 million.

Prescription weight losing drugs i.e. levitra and cialis aren’t made for people who only wish to lose some pounds for cosmetic reasons and use drugs an alternate to plastic surgery. These and other drugs such as viagra are usually reserved for folks who are not capable of achieving or maintaining health and weight via diet in addition to exercise, and often have health issues as a result.

As recently as two weeks ago, Phillies assistant GM Mike Arbuckle (who, along with Ruben Amaro Jr., is a top candidate to take over for Pat Gillick when he departs after this season) said in regards to Lohse, “I know we’re not interested” even when Lohse said he’d take a one-year deal worth between $4 and $10 million. Why no interest?

The only plausible reasoning I can think of is Scott Boras. He and the Phillies have a bitter past (think J.D. Drew on draft day), and the two sides may have just been unwilling to negotiate with each other. If this explanation is actually true, then this is a colossal failure to do right by the people who keep the team in business. The front office owes it to the fans and to the players to put together the best team they can to attempt to win a World Series. Lohse, a league-average pitcher who would slot in at #5 in the Phillies rotation, gives the team a noticeably better chance at accomplishing that goal. Teams kill for a league-average pitcher at the back of the rotation, and Lohse was asking for well below market value!

Instead, the Phillies will allow the wound that is the back of the starting rotation to have the bacteria that are Eaton, Blackley, and Durbin fester. Kris Benson won’t be ready to attempt to help the Phillies until May at the earliest.

There is just no logical explanation I can think of as to why the Phillies had no interest in Lohse. There has to be something about him that not even the media knows about. Or maybe the Phillies’ front office is just incompetent.

Brackets

Just so everyone can see just what an idiot I am, I have taken screenshots of my bracket on ESPN (I have no idea if I can just send you a link to it; if so, I couldn’t find it). Remember to check back when the tournament is all done and tell me what an idiot I am. Or you can do it now, too.

East | Midwest | South | West | Final Four

Speaking of predictions, I’ll have my MLB predictions put up a day or two before the start of the regular season March 25.

The Greatest Steeplechase Fall Ever

From the San Marcos Daily Record, Tyler Mayforth recalls the most embarrassing moment of his life, and it’s plastered on YouTube.

Why Eva Longoria and I Will Elope to WARP-3 Island

Eva LongoriaLet’s play a guessing game. In the last five years, how many mainstream baseball journalists have linked to anything on Baseball Prospectus? I’m going to go ahead and guess “three.”

Today, Todd Zolecki makes it four with an article titled “Phillies show striking out not all that bad.” I believe every dead baseball purist just rolled over in his grave. But there are a few people who are interested in hearing more: me, the other mother’s basement-dwelling nerds, and Eva Longoria (pictured to the right with the caption, “It’s so sexy when a man rattles off statistics”).

Zolecki links to two BP articles:

Just Another Out?

Baseball Prospectus looked at the relationship between teams’ strikeout rates and run production from 1950 to 2002. It found there was no correlation between the two. It also found that a hitter’s strikeout rate correlates positively to power, slugging percentage, and walk rate.

Whiff or Whiff-Out You.

After another look at strikeouts by Baseball Prospectus in 2005, analyst James Click wrote, “On a very rough scale, a strikeout costs a team about three one-hundredths of a run. Looking at team totals from 2004, Reds batters led the league in strikeouts with 1,335. . . . All those failures at the plate cost the Reds an estimated 13.6 runs over the course of the season, or just over one win.”

Most interesting in Zolecki’s article isn’t the plethora of statistics that show strikeouts as rather meaningless for a hitter, but the feelings of Ryan Howard regarding the use of K’s to judge a hitter’s worth:

Ryan Howard struck out 199 times last season, the most strikeouts in a season in baseball history. He’d rather talk about anything else.

“I feel like I’m back in double A,” he said. “That’s all people used to talk about were strikeouts. You don’t hear anybody say, ‘That guy led the league in ground outs last year.’ “

Howard could benefit from reducing his strikeouts, but they are part of his game. He is one of the most feared hitters in baseball. He has hit 100 home runs faster than any other player in baseball history.

“You ground out. You fly out. You strike out. An out is an out,” Howard said. “People want to glorify what they want to glorify. If hitting into double plays were a big thing, then people would make them a big thing.”

Howard’s logical reaction is a breath of fresh air, especially when you consider some of the bigger names in baseball have become all hot and bothered with the advent of in-depth statistical analysis. Derek Jeter, when he was told that “clutch” hitting doesn’t exist, said, “You can take those stat guys and throw them out the window.”

It’s not just the players that have balked at the notion that you can better understand the game of baseball with Microsoft Excel; fans (especially the better-educated sportswriters) have been just as unresponsive to the science of baseball. We, of course, remember Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News, but there’s also Jon Heyman, Bruce Miles, Joe Morgan, and a plethora of other guys out there scowling at the calculations.

For Zolecki to not only link to, but quote a Baseball Prospectus article and to write a non-traditional article like “hitters striking out means nada” — bravo.

Congratulations aside to an honorable Philadelphia sports journalist (one of very few), I do take issue with just one thing he wrote towards the end of his article:

Howard is a career .291 hitter. He has struck out 493 times in 1,461 career at-bats, which means he hits .439 when he puts the ball in play. If he could have cut his strikeouts from 199 to 175 last season, his average would have jumped from .268 to .289. He might have hit 50 homers instead of 47.

First of all, Howard’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is .353, not .439.

Zolecki states that if Howard cut down on his K’s, his production would increase as a result of putting the ball in play more often. However, there’s no way to know this, even if we know his BABIP. The theory hinges on all of the variables staying exactly the same except for strikeouts, as if none of them are related to each other. Howard’s power production is, in fact, related to his propensity to strike out.

Look at the kings of not striking out. They are overwhelmingly players with puny to mediocre slugging percentages, like Juan Pierre and Jason Kendall. You don’t see 20+ HR player on the page until you hit Albert Pujols. The defense against a swinging strikeout is a shorter swing. Shortening the swing results in more bat control but less power.

If we learned one thing from Zolecki’s article, it’s that we shouldn’t go into cardiac arrest every time we hear “strike three.” But if we learned another, more important thing — say, from Dan Shaughnessy — it’s that Zolecki and his calculator are “living at home, in the basement, rent free.”

P.S. Sorry, Tony Parker, you just weren’t nerdy enough for her. You didn’t even cry when Gary Gygax died.

Tired of the Lidge-Jumping

Even before the new Phillies closer had his second knee surgery of the off-season, there was plenty of doubt cast on Brad Lidge and it had nothing to do with that right knee of his. Ever since that Game 5 three-run home run served up to Albert Pujols in the 2005 NLCS, it seems Lidge hit a mental wall, or at least that’s what those affirming the consequent — fans and media alike — would like you to think.

Lidge, obviously, is one of the few people who has a truly educated opinion on the matter of how the Pujols home run affected him in 2006. In late January, Ken Mandel explained:

He called those 2006 struggles a “mechanical issue,” though he admits he developed a cut fastball for 2007 because he lost confidence in his devastating fastball and hard-biting slider.

By April of last season, Lidge had lost his closer job. During an April game against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, he had runners on second and third with no outs. Houston catcher Brad Ausmus implored him to use his fastball and slider, and “see what happens,” according to Lidge.

He struck out the next three hitters.

“I felt as good as ever after that and went through the best stretch of my career after that,” Lidge said. “Earning my job back felt better than if it was handed to me when I wasn’t throwing well. I needed to earn it back.”

So, it wasn’t that he was mentally wrecked after Pujols hit a three-run home run in the 2005 NLCS; it was that he got away from his fastball and slider.

After that game against the Phillies on April 23 until the end of the season, Lidge pitched 60 and two-thirds innings, struck out 81, and put up a 2.82 ERA. He finished the season with a 131 ERA+ and a 1.254 WHIP, impressive statistics for a closer deemed mentally anguished.

Concerns about Lidge now that he’s had a second knee surgery certainly are legitimate, but the latest, a partial medial menisectomy, was a success:

“It really was the best-case scenario that it was the only thing going on,” Phillies athletic trainer Scott Sheridan said of Lidge’s knee. “His other side of the knee that he had repaired was fine. It was pretty simple for us.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Todd Zolecki also reported that there’s a possibility that Lidge could be back in time for Opening Day on March 31.

Not too much to worry about with the new Phillies closer, really. The projections seem to agree. Only Marcel puts him above a 4.00 ERA (4.23 to be exact). Bill James, CHONE, and ZiPS put him at 3.44, 3.42, and 3.88 respectively. CHONE and ZiPS both have him pitching over 70 innings as well.

Jon Heyman Needs Attention

It’s the end of February and exhibition games are hours away. A new baseball season is on the horizon, full of new wonders for our great sportswriters to opine about. Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman instead wants to focus on last year’s NL MVP award and attack people who use Sabermetrics.

Things must be lonely around the office because Heyman is clearly angling to get linked to and talked about on the Internets. Being the generous person I am, I’m going to give him just that. Fire Joe Morgan already dissected it with humor, but I’m going to dissect it with a fine-tooth comb and really give him the type of editing he deserves, and clearly lacks at Sports Illustrated.

As always, his words are in bold, my comments will follow in regular typeface.

Let’s start off with the header.

Sorry VORPies, Rollins was the right choice

Seriously. This is a grown man working for a worldwide-renowned sports publication… insulting proponents of an ideology that differs from his. Further, he chooses to do this in February, more than four months removed from the end of the World Series, and right on the cusp of a brand new baseball season.

Rollins acknowledged that his brash “team to beat” prediction probably helped him win the MVP. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he hit 30 home runs, scored 139 runs and slugged .534 while batting leadoff and playing a superb shortstop for a division champion.

No, it didn’t hurt that his counting statistics were inflated by a record number of plate appearances (and, subsequently, at-bats).

Jon, did you notice where Rollins was in the Phillies’ batting order? He was a lead-off hitter. What is the job of a lead-off hitter? You are correct: to get on base.

Isn’t a shame that Rollins not only had a below-average on-base percentage (.344 to the league average .349), but he etched his name in pseudo-history when he tied for 18th place in total outs made in a single season (527)?

That’s the problem with counting statistics: you’ve got to keep plate appearances and at-bats in mind, otherwise, you don’t have a scale off of which to base your perception. Rollins’ 30 HR are impressive, but his rate is about one HR every 24 AB, which is mediocre.

The Rockies’ great slugger, Matt Holliday, finished second, but even a Rockies person told me in the playoffs last October that Rollins deserved the MVP […]

“A Rockies person”? Who could this be? The clubhouse janitor? Clint Hurdle? The guy selling hot dogs at the concession stand behind home plate at Coors Field? Garrett Atkins?

Even if “a Rockies person” is someone whose opinion we should value, it doesn’t somehow add credence to the claim that Rollins deserved the MVP. For every “Rockies person” backing Rollins, there is a “Phillies person” backing David Wright and a “Mets person” backing Matt Holliday.

That person believed that great offense combined with stellar shortstop play should have been enough to take the awards, not a bad thought at all.

What about great offense combined with stellar third base play?

Rollins isn’t “stellar” at shortstop defensively anyway. He ranked 9th out of 14 qualified NL SS in RZR. David Wright ranked 5th out of 12 qualified NL 3B in RZR.

Add to that Wright’s offensive prowess over Rollins, and it’s not even close between the two.

Seriously, Wright has better power, gets on base at a much, much better clip, has comparable speed (34-of-39 stolen bases), knows how to draw a walk, and fields his position at an above-average level.

The only reason it’s a debate between Rollins and Wright is because so many people don’t understand the concept of rates. Heyman is one of them.

Even so, I wasn’t shocked that stats people have taken issue with Rollins winning the MVP award.

This tells me that he knows something has been statistically proven to be true, yet he will still believe something else because he wants to regardless of what the facts say.

There are numbers crunchers out there — including a firejoemorgan.com author who wrote a guest piece in Sports Illustrated last week — who believe baseball writers rank somewhere between morons and idiots for voting Rollins as MVP over David Wright, who had a higher VORP.

Not just VORP. There are a plethora of statistics out there that show Wright as a better candidate than Rollins. Almost all defensive metrics will put Wright over Rollins. Offensively, the meat-and-potatoes of baseball — OBP and SLG — easily make the case with Wright.

Really the only thing Rollins has over Wright is the ability to hit triples.

The stat people seem to believe VORP — a Baseball Prospectus statistic that stands for Value Over Replacement Player — defines a player, but why haven’t many of them championed last year’s VORP leader (Hanley Ramirez) as MVP instead?

Before I took a look at defensive metrics, I thought Hanley Ramirez was the NL MVP as well. He is horrendous defensively, however: -8 fielding runs above average.

Secondly, Heyman makes a strawman argument by saying that those who use Sabermetrics think that VORP “defines a player.” One statistic does not and can not define a player and you will not find any educated user of Sabermetrics advocating this.

And thirdly, VORP isn’t just a Baseball Prospectus statistic. Certainly it’s the most widely regarded because of BP’s popularity, but others have it as well. To quote a commenter on Baseball Think Factory, “that’s like saying that batting average is a TSN statistic.”

I assume the stats guys favor Wright because he played for a contending team. I guess the rule is this: Highest VORP wins unless the VORP champion is playing for a loser.

Uh… no. “The stats guys” favor Wright because he was the best when you factor in both offense and defense. Rollins, really, doesn’t come close.

There is no universal agreement among those who use Sabermetrics that a candidate’s team’s contention should have any factor. Personally, I don’t think it should. You shouldn’t punish a player for having a bad supporting cast.

If Wright’s offensive stats were slightly better than Rollins’, and I will accept that they were, especially considering the respective ballparks they play in (VORP accounts for ballparks), shouldn’t Rollins get points for playing a superb shortstop compared to Wright’s slightly-above average third base?

1. Wright’s statistics weren’t “slightly better” than Rollins’. It’s a landslide in Wright’s favor.

2. Rollins doesn’t play a superb shortstop, as proven above.

And shouldn’t Rollins get credit for showing extraordinary initiative and leadership?

If you have the privilege of voting for the MVP award, you can use whatever criteria you wish. If you want to account for intangibles, go right ahead.

Personally, I don’t think any MVP candidate should have intangibles taken into account. They’re highly subjective and thus highly prone to human biases and flawed perceptions. The analysis, I believe, is more accurate when you don’t account for intangibles.

For helping his team barrel into the playoffs from seven games back with 17 to go, as opposed to Wright’s team, which perpetrated a historic choke?

It’s not Wright’s fault his team couldn’t win a game at the end of September.

And if we’re going to take September performance into account…

Wright: 38-125 (.304), 6 HR, 20 RBI, 4 SB, .432 OBP, .602 SLG (1.034 OPS)

Rollins: 39-138 (.282), 6 HR, 18 RBI, 14 SB, .333 OBP, .542 SLG (.875 OPS)

Though the Mets’ collapse was no fault of Wright’s, for the MVP to come off the all-time choke team, he’d better have a greater advantage in stats […]

To the stat guys, walking is more thrilling and much more valuable than actually winning the pennant.

Heyman really has an obsession with the success or failure of the candidates’ teams. For what it’s worth, the Phillies did nothing in the post-season — they were promptly swept in three games by the Colorado Rockies. It’s as if they never even made the post-season.

There you go Jon: Not only did I read and respond to your article, I even linked to it as well. You got the attention that you wanted.

Freddy Garcia Redux?

You didn’t hear it here, but… Pat Gillick is good at acquiring damaged goods. Before last season, Gillick traded for Freddy Garcia and sent failed project Gavin Floyd and prized left-hander and strikeout artist Gio Gonzalez to the White Sox. Garcia’s tenure with the Phillies was most unimpressive: 11 starts, 58 innings, 5.90 ERA, and a 1.6 WHIP. His season was shut down on June 8 after a chronic shoulder problem could be hidden no longer.

It’s not Garcia’s fault, though. He had good intentions in hiding his shoulder problems. The real problem lies with the Phillies’ upper management:

General manager Pat Gillick insisted Garcia wasn’t “damaged goods” when the team acquired him. Even though some reports said Garcia’s velocity was down toward the end of last season, the Phillies didn’t make the trade contingent upon him passing a physical.

“We didn’t think a physical was necessary,” Gillick said. “Our doctors spoke to their doctors and our training staff spoke to theirs and we were satisfied his health was good. Our scouts saw him pitch in September. They thought he was healthy.”

Breathe easy — the Phillies did, in fact, require Lidge to pass a physical before completing the trade with the Houston Astros and new GM Ed Wade.

The flame-throwing right-hander threw one pitch on Saturday and ended up re-injuring his right knee. Lidge had surgery on the knee in October and the Phillies required him to have surgery once again, a partial medial menisectomy. It was successful:

“The other side of the knee is fine,” Phillies trainer Scott Sheridan told ESPN.com‘s Jayson Stark on Monday. Sheridan called Lidge’s injury and the subsequent successful surgery “the best-case scenario” for the Phillies.

[…]

“Right now, if we had to do this during the season, then obviously you’re missing a big chunk of the season,” Lidge said. “I definitely need a few bullpen sessions, but I feel like my arm is ahead of schedule so after a week I should be able to throw again.”

Tom Gordon will take over as closer in the meantime, and Brett Myers will not be returning to the bullpen.

The Lidge injury has to make you wonder about Gillick, though. He’s acquired a few who have had some kind of injury risk come to fruition. Adam Eaton and Tom Gordon are a couple that come to mind besides Garcia and Lidge.

Elsewhere…

Kyle Lohse

Kyle Lohse continues to roam around Arizona looking for a Major League job. According to the Phillies article:

Lohse said he would still welcome a return to Philadelphia, but the Phillies didn’t like his salary demands after they were shunned in what was believed to have been an offer in the three-year, $20-million range. Of course, that could change if Brad Lidge’s right knee is serious, and Brett Myers shifts back to the bullpen.

I never thought I’d say this about any league-average starting pitcher, but the Phillies need Kyle Lohse. He would bump the injury-prone and highly unimpressive Adam Eaton from the rotation and give the Phillies league-average production from the #5 spot, an offering most teams would love to have (which makes Lohse’s continued unemployment all the more perplexing).

The Phillies are correct in being offended at Lohse’s high demands, but three years, $20 million is also insulting to Lohse based on the current market.

It would be insulting to me, as a Phillies fan, if I was to find out that Gillick or Amaro have stopped talking to Lohse after he rejected that three-year offer. The Phillies need a reliable starting rotation like a diabetic needs insulin [insert laugh track].

Scott Rolen

Oh boy.

Scott Rolen would have waived his no-trade clause to return to Philadelphia had the chance presented itself this winter.

I will let the numbers speak for themselves.

Scott Rolen avg. WARP with Cardinals (2003-07): 7.86 (excludes ’02 when he was traded from the Phillies and includes his injury-plagued ’05 season).

Pedro Feliz avg. WARP with Giants since getting regular playing time: 4.10.

Of course, their contracts have to be taken into account as well (information per Cot’s Contracts).

Rolen: $11 million in each of ’08, ’09, and ’10 with an extra $4 million bonus due in ’10; full no-trade clause.

Feliz: $3 million in ’08, $5 million in ’09, and a $5 million club option in ’10 with a $500,000 buyout.

If the Phillies had acquired Rolen instead of Feliz, they’d be paying an extra $8 million this season and $6 million in ’09 for about three and a half extra wins. And the Phillies would have had to have sent something of value to the Jays.

The problem with Rolen, of course, is his injury propensity. After getting 400+ AB in every season from 1997-2004, he failed to cross that plateau in 2005 (196 AB) and ’07 (392 AB). Feliz has no nagging injury problems.

As for the poor relationship between the Phillies’ front office and Rolen:

“We felt if he came in and played well, all that other stuff would be water under the bridge,” [Phillies Assistant GM Mike] Arbuckle said. “But if we guessed wrong on the shoulder, we didn’t think we’d be in a position to absorb another injury that would limit our flexibility to fill other needs.”

Rolen definitely would’ve been a better acquisition, but given his salary, it may have hindered the ability for the Phillies to sign anyone else, like Kyle Lohse. Of course, if the Phillies fail to pick up another pitcher, it will all be moot…

Aaron Rowand

Have fun in last place.

There’s a lot of Rowand to quote from that article, so I won’t do it here, but to paraphrase, he’s offended that Pat Gillick considered him an injury risk and that the Phillies didn’t see him as part of their “core.”

“I’ve been on the DL twice in my life, not just in my professional career. That includes college, high school. And it was both in ’06. [Gillick] saw me play for 2 years and I was on the DL twice. But, knock on wood, I’ve been lucky. I’d be lying to you if I said that didn’t bother me.”

Rowand took a five-year, $60 million deal from a last place team. Obviously, money is his #1 priority, especially since he’s already won a World Series and he has a mainstream following. Giving $12 million a year to a player who puts his own safety at risk (link — go to May 11) and his teammates’ as well, is not smart. Add to that he’s a slightly better than average center fielder both offensively and defensively, and it’s just not smart to lock him up long-term, especially at an average of $12 million per season.

One can’t fault Rowand, however, for chasing the bigger contract. Just don’t feel sorry for him when the Giants hit 70 wins two weeks away from the end of September, while the Phillies are in the thick of a race for the NL East crown.

Super Baseballers Brawl

Sorry for the lame pun of the video game, but it’s true, the Phillies and the Mets are looking forward to a possible brawl during the season.

Rollins doesn’t have much to be angry about. He’s the reigning National League MVP and seems to have a lot of fun with this stuff. But according to a report by ESPN’s Jayson Stark, a few of Rollins’ Philly teammates have been privately fuming about Beltran’s comments and even suggested to Stark that “there will be a brawl this year.”

Brawls, of course, are awesome because you get to watch around 75 grown men pretend they know how to fight. Most times, these brawls just result in a little pushing and shoving with no punches thrown. However, a couple one-on-one match-ups would be interesting:

  • Pat Burrell vs. Billy Wagner: Their verbal sparring boiling over into a physical confrontation would almost be too entertaining for cable TV. Burrell, of course, called Wagner a “rat” after he left the Phillies for the Mets. In 2007, Burrell victimized Billy Wagner twice:
    • June 7: Burrell ties the game up at 3 apiece with a solo home run to left-center.
    • August 30: Burrell hits a solo home run to left field to bring the Phillies one run behind the Mets at 10-9. The next inning, Jayson Werth singled and stole both second and third base (Wagner is awful at holding runners). He was promptly driven in by Tadahito Iguchi to tie the game at 10 apiece.
  • Jimmy Rollins vs. Carlos Beltran: Obviously, this is interesting because of Beltran’s comments mimicking Rollins. Rollins called Beltran a plagiarist.
  • Brett Myers vs. Anna Benson: It’s unlikely these two would come to blows, even though Anna is a woman and Brett loves hitting women. Should there be a bench-clearing brawl, it is highly likely Mrs. Benson has sequestered a young lad in the pits of Citizens Bank Park for, I don’t know, a talk?
  • Shane Victorino vs. Jose Reyes: This duel would not be settled via fisticuffs; rather, the two would engage in a footrace to settle the question, “Who is the fastest player in Major League Baseball?”

Which two would you like to see duke it out?

2008 MLB Optimism and Pessimism

WHAT I’M NOT LOOKING FORWARD TO IN THE 2008 BASEBALL SEASON

1. Jon Miller and Joe Morgan on ESPN baseball broadcasts; Joe Buck and Tim McCarver on FOX baseball broadcasts.

2. Chris Berman and Back, Back, Back… Gone!, Albert ‘Winnie the’ Pujols, and the plethora of other Bermanisms that will exit his mouth while broadcasting the Home Run Derby.

3. Citations of motivation or de-motivation. For instance:

  • When the Mets get on a hot streak, people will say they were motivated by Beltran’s pre-season comments about the Mets now being the “team to beat.”
  • When Andy Pettitte struggles, people will say he’s mentally distraught over the whole HGH thing.
  • If the Mets start slowly, people will say that the team hasn’t gelled with Johan Santana yet.

4. The Yankees and Red Sox taking up 40% of the American League All-Star roster spots.

5. Whining about an East-coast bias when the Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox are getting a lot of face time on ESPN.

6. Sportswriters and fans alike chastising Alex Rodriguez when he throws up MVP-caliber numbers, insisting that he’s still not a great player because he just can’t get it done in the post-season.

7. This.

8. Arrogant sportswriters conveniently forgetting their pre-season predictions and acting like they knew all along that the Pittsburgh Pirates were going to win 102 games and that the Red Sox would win only 68.

9. Price gouging at the ballpark.

10. Awkward moments in baseball broadcasts where the cameraman zooms in on young pre-teen girls in the stands (not surprisingly, this is what Chris Hansen will be looking forward to the most).

If you go on summer cruises and travel towards Cuba, you’ll see that there are only a few ATMs in Cuba. Even if you locate an ATM, there is not necessary that it will have adequate funds. Similarly there are very few car rental stations. A number of good hotels can be seen here and there, but destinations close to cheap flights are not good enough if you intend to stay for a whole month.

WHAT I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO IN THE 2008 BASEBALL SEASON

1. Hearing the voice of Harry Kalas again.

2. Pitchers hitting home runs, speedsters legging out inside-the-park home runs, home runs that hit the foul pole and, obviously, the Home Run Derby (sans Chris Berman, of course).

3. Hilarious errors, especially the ones that involve multiple throwing errors.

4. Bench-clearing brawls, and the head-hunting that precedes them.

5. Fans who make Web Gem-quality catches.

6. Perfect games and no-hitters that get broken up in the ninth inning. Mmm… schadenfreude.

7. That one broadcaster who says something completely offensive on the air. Seems like there’s at least one every year. Who will it be this year? Come on, Joe Buck, say something that’ll get you canned.

8. Dollar Dog Nights at Citizens Bank Park.

9. Phillies commercials. Last year’s were pretty good and this year’s are way out-of-left-field.

10. Lou Piniella blowing up in front of an umpire.

Did Someone Take A Schmidt?

Pardon the awful title…

The rest have joined pitchers and catchers for some spring training fun in the sun, and you know what that means: it’s time for Mike Schmidt to open his mouth again!

Last year, Mike Schmidt called Pat Burrell (and Adam Dunn) “mediocre.”

If these guys cut their strikeouts down to 75 or 80, they put the ball in play 85 or 90 more times a year. That’s at least 15 more home runs and at least 35 more RBIs. If only they had choked up with two strikes, spread their stances out. What they are doing now is not great, it is mediocrity.

Let’s just say that Schmidt has changed his stance on Burrell. On Comcast SportsNet, he thinks Burrell will be the next Phillies MVP. And given that this is Burrell’s last season before free agency, we can safely assume he’s talking about 2008. What sparked the change of heart for Schmidt?

Could it have been the 10 less strikeouts in 10 more at-bats? The increase of one home run and two RBI? 16 more walks and two more doubles?

His 2006 season was pretty similar to his ’07 season. It’s very odd that Schmidt had such a dramatic change in opinion… unless… Schmidt has been using Sabermetrics! Nah, probably not, especially given this:

Schmidt Excited About Phils’ New Third Baseman Feliz

That’s not a typo. Mike Schmidt, the best third baseman in baseball history, is excited about Pedro Feliz, who is about as mediocre as mediocre gets. It’s almost too ironic, even for blogs.

He’s an impressive young man. Tremendously impressive hands, good arm, good batting stroke. I think he’s going to be a big key for the club this year.

[…]

I know since I left [after the 1989 season], [third base] has been a little bit of a sore point in Philadelphia. David Bell was pretty good for a while, and of course, Scott Rolen was really good for a while. But the last several years, third base has been one of those platoon positions that a lot of really good teams don’t platoon at.

Just watching [Feliz] on TV, he caught my eye. I can see a good, solid fundamental hitter. I don’t know what his best year has been. I just know him as a mid-20s home run, 80-RBI guy. I don’t know if he’s ever gotten to 30 home runs or 100 RBIs, but he has that potential, without a doubt.

It’s always amazing when you realize that some of the greatest players have such a hazy idea of what made them great. Schmidt, of course, is correct in noticing his exceptional fielding skills (it’s almost universally agreed upon that Feliz is the best-fielding third baseman in baseball) and in saying that he has 30 HR, 100 RBI potential (his career highs are 22 HR and 98 RBI). Given that he’s going from a very pitcher-friendly ballpark to a very hitter-friendly ballpark, it wouldn’t be outrageous to expect such a season from him.

However, none of the projection systems listed on FanGraphs has him having a great season in those offensive categories:

Bill James: 18 HR, 57 RBI

CHONE: 20 HR, 64 RBI

Marcel: 17 HR, 62 RBI

Schmidt errs in describing Feliz as having a “good batting stroke” and being “a good, solid fundamental hitter.”

There are just so many metrics that show Feliz as being just completely awful offensively…

Year: Feliz OBP/SLG — League Average OBP/SLG

2004: .305/.485 .343/.439

2005: .295/.422 .340/.430

2006: .281/.428 .343/.442

2007: .290/.418 .342/.436

2004-07 Batting and Fielding Runs Above Average (BRAA and FRAA)

2004: 2 BRAA; 0 FRAA

2005: -10 BRAA; -1 FRAA

2006: -16 BRAA; 9 FRAA

2007: -14 BRAA; 14 FRAA

Total: -38 BRAA; 22 FRAA

As for what you’d use to define a “good, solid fundamental hitter,” let’s use Old Traditional: batting average and strikeouts.

Since he started playing regularly (2004), Feliz has had 2,232 at-bats. In those at-bats, he’s logged 569 hits (.255 AVG) and 369 strikeouts (16.5% of AB’s are K’s). I wouldn’t exactly call Feliz a “good, solid fundamental hitter.”

And just for kicks, Schmidt said that David Bell “was pretty good for a while.” If, by “for a while,” he means “in 2004,” then he’s correct. Bell’s OPS+ during his tenure in Philly…

2003: 57 OPS+ in 297 AB

2004: 107 OPS+ in 533 AB

2005: 72 OPS+ in 557 AB

2006: 87 OPS+ in 324 AB before being traded to Milwaukee.

Schmitdty, you brought a lot of smiles to our hearts when you were leading the Phillies to six playoff appearances (1976-78, ’80-81, ’83), two World Series (’80 and ’83), and one championship (’80), simultaneously bronzing your own name in baseball history as the greatest third baseman of all time… but stay away from wayward sports journalists. Wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea, like “Feliz is actually a good offensive player.”