Radio Appearance Today!, 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.

No Worries about Myers-Manuel “Debate”

Including last night’s start against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Brett Myers has pitched extremely well for the Phillies since returning to the Majors. He’s made four starts and has only given up six earned runs in 25 and two-thirds innings (2.10 ERA). He’s given up five or fewer hits in each start and has gone at least six innings in three of the four starts. The only concern remains his low strikeout rate (4.6 per nine innings) and the lack of velocity: his fastball still only averaged about 91.5 MPH against the Pirates. While this is good news considering that he was throwing around 87-89 MPH back in June, most of us are waiting for the Brett Myers who threw 94-95 MPH last season.

Brett Myers Starts

With two outs in the top of the eighth inning last night, Charlie Manuel elected to remove Brett Myers from the game with a left-handed hitter, Doug Mientkiewicz, due up. In the previous two at-bats, Chris Gomez hit a ground-rule double and Luis Rivas lined out to shortstop. Myers wasn’t happy with Manuel’s decision to let left-hander J.C. Romero pitch to the left-handed hitter, and the two engaged in a heated argument with each other in the dugout and in the tunnel.

You can watch the video of the argument by clicking here. Based on the commentary of Phillies broadcaster Chris Wheeler, the arguing between Myers and Manuel is common and Myers has made it known that he doesn’t like to come out of games. There’s nothing to be alarmed about. There is no team chemistry issue, Myers isn’t a bad influence in the clubhouse, and the Phillies’ offense isn’t despicable presently because Myers has anger problems and uses swear words. These arguments occur between players on all thirty Major League Baseball teams, most of them you just don’t see publicly. Dayn Perry has an excellent column on this very subject.

Myers, if he had a problem with being taken out, should have kept his mouth shut and talked about it with his manager when there aren’t TV cameras pointed at them from various angles. Even so, he was wrong anyway because he’d been hit hard in the previous two at-bats, had thrown 93 pitches (not terribly high for almost eight innings of work, however), and a left-handed hitter was at the plate in a 4-1 (read: close) game.

Regardless, the Phillies won the game and that’s all that matters. There is no issue with Myers, especially if he’s pitching this well. The real issue is with the offense: prior to last night’s game, the Phillies had been shut out for 23 consecutive innings and have scored only 21 runs in their last 8 games (2.63 runs per game). If anything deserving of blame, it’s the Phillies’ recent BABIP: .230 over their last 8 games.