2014 Phillies Report Card: John Mayberry, Jr.

When Bill gave out the report card assignments, I was probably least excited about writing up John Mayberry, Jr. I don’t have anything against the guy, but he reminds me just a little too much of all those bad Phillies teams from the late 80s and early 90s. Specifically, he reminds me of Wes Chamberlain, who I actually loved as a kid. Well what do you know, Wes Chamberlain is #7 on John Mayberry’s similarity score list (Dom Brown is #8!) on baseball-reference dot com. I’m not thrilled about the Phillies being just as bad now as they were when I was in elementary school, which isn’t JMJ’s fault at all, but here we are.

So I was really happy with myself Thursday morning when I had an epiphany: have some fun with it, don’t just write a regular analysis, do something quirky … Rickroll ‘em.

I spent a LOT of time writing this report card in an acrostic format, with the last paragraph in the article using the “down” in “never gonna let you down” only to discover (thanks to Bill) that browser resolution issues would render the joke useless to many readers. After accepting that, I realized that Rickrolling isn’t actually that funny anymore, anyway. And with that, I give you my evaluation of Yayberry. Continue reading…

2014 Phillies Report Card: Antonio Bastardo

We’ve come to know him, at times affectionately and at times derisively, as Tony No-Dad. In my glory days living in South Philly, I called him Tony Fuggin’ Bastid. For the tail end of the Phillies’ dominant years, Antonio Bastardo established himself as Charlie Manuel‘s favorite lefthanded reliever. After four full years in the bullpen, however, Bastardo could be on his way out of town due to an addiction to walks, the emergence of Jake Diekman, an arbitration case pending (after a $2 million salary in 2014), and free agency after 2015.

Bastardo’s generosity with free passes is maddening to watch, and the problem isn’t getting better for the 29-year-old Dominican lefty. Since 2011, his walk rate (BB%) has been 11.6%, 11.6%, 11.7%, and 12.6%. That’s bad. With several other left-handed relievers on the team, it doesn’t make sense for the Phillies to pay Bastardo $30,000 per appearance to walk almost five batters per nine innings. But that’s none of my business.

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2014 Phillies Report Card: Domonic Brown

Allow me to pull back the curtain on these report cards just a bit – a couple weeks ago Bill assigned us all six players to grade at random. I traded with Adam so I could talk about Cameron Rupp, (who I like more than anyone should), and then I was on vacation and otherwise unavailable for the first three weeks. Thursday, when I sat down to get into writing mode, I still wasn’t sure with which of the six report cards I would begin. In my search for a good hook to get me going, I was perusing our schedule and realized that my time off had left me with 6 report cards to write in 22 days.

And since I was still unsure who to start with, and since I’m both a baseball nerd and I know how to use a calculator, I figured out that 6/22 comes out to .272. (Sure, I can teach any of you how I did that if you need me to). After I got .272, I went looking for a .272 amongst my players’ stats. As it so happens, Dom Brown hit .272 in his fine 2013 campaign, the season against which his career will be judged. And so my decision was made for me.

I guess Batting Average is good for something after all. Who knew? Continue reading…

Want to Gain An Edge? Defy Bullpen Orthodoxy

The book, and later the film, Moneyball famously championed Billy Beane‘s Oakland Athletics — a small-market team who managed to push out the big spenders by using statistics to identify market inefficiencies, like players with low batting averages but high on-base percentages. As Beane’s numbers-savvy approach contributed to the Athletics reaching the post-season four years in a row between 2000-03, other richer teams caught on and the Scott Hattebergs of the world weren’t available the way they once were, so the A’s had to adapt to continue to stay afloat.

Talent identification is a constantly-shifting landscape, but so too is talent usage. The game has changed enormously over the last five years, going from an offense-dominated league to one heavily influenced by pitching and defense. Run-scoring is at its lowest point since 1992. Come-from-behind home runs no longer cover up poor managerial decision-making at the rate they once did. Those decisions on the margins — giving up an out with a bunt, not using your closer in a tie game on the road — are more important now than they have been in over two decades.

The Phillies, who became the laughingstock of baseball in recent years due to the glacial pace at which they’ve modernized and their public contempt for analytics, would do well to watch how managerial orthodoxy has backfired big time for many participants in the playoffs this year. Ryne Sandberg would have made the same decisions Matt Williams or Mike Matheny would have made. That’s not a defense of orthodoxy; the Phillies should be looking for those edges as should every team. The Phillies should contemplate zigging when others zag.

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2014 Phillies Report Card: Jimmy Rollins

We’ve come full circle. My first article for this site was a look at Jimmy Rollins‘ early-season success. It’s fitting, then, that I was (randomly) tasked with evaluating the 14th season of the greatest shortstop in Phillies history. Because of his past performance for this team and a skill set that still plays very well at his position, I expect a lot of Jimmy Rollins, and I know many of you do as well. Overall, I love the way he plays. I love watching him play defense, which he does better than most shortstops in the league. But man, sometimes I hate watching his plate appearances.

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2014 Phillies Report Card: Chase Utley

The story of Chase Utley‘s 2014 season is the story of the fickle nature of our expectations. The instant we silly humans attain what we think we want, we suddenly find ourselves wanting more. Louis C.K. said it best in a bit, “Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy,” during which he describes an airplane passenger’s immediate sense of entitlement to a technology — in-flight wireless internet — he didn’t even know existed mere moments prior. Check out the clip below from 1:58-2:30. Continue reading…

The Phillies Should Keep An Eye on Michael Saunders

Mariners outfielder Michael Saunders finally had a breakout year offensively, posting a .346 weighted on-base average. Only one problem: he only took 263 trips to the plate. Saunders had one stint on the disabled list between June 11-27 due to inflammation of the A/C joint in his right shoulder. Then, on July 11, Saunders again went on the disabled list, this time for a strained left oblique. He didn’t return until September 8. Still, he finished out the season strong, putting up a .257/.409/.543 triple slash line in 44 plate appearances.

Saunders showed good plate discipline, drawing walks at a 10 percent rate. He hit for decent power, posting a .177 isolated power, which is nearly 40 points above the major league average for outfielders. Defensively, both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference rated him as slightly above average, which contributed to his WAR range between 2-2.5 — quite good for less than half of a full season.

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Phillies at a Fork in the Road with the Starting Rotation

The Phillies could head in one of a number of directions during the off-season, depending on whether or not A.J. Burnett decides to return (it seems likely given a recent report), if Kyle Kendrick isn’t brought back, and if GM Ruben Amaro finds an irresistible trade offer for Cole Hamels. Assuming Cliff Lee makes a full recovery from the left elbow injury that cut his 2014 season short, he and David Buchanan could be the anchors of the starting rotation in this circumstance.

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2014 Phillies Report Card: Cliff Lee

Cliff Lee, perhaps better than anyone, adroitly summarized the Phillies’ season after a loss to the Giants in his return from the disabled list on July 21. He farted.

Lee’s season wasn’t much better, as he made only 13 starts, due to two separate trips to the disabled list. The first, between May 19 and July 20, was due to a flexor pronator strain in his left arm. He returned, making three starts including the aforementioned outing against the Giants, before landing back on the shelf at the end of July with the same injury, ending his season.

When he was on the mound, he posted a 3.65 ERA with a 72/12 K/BB ratio in 81 1/3 innings. His strikeout rate fell a bit, but the ERA retrodictors were still fans of his work: FIP had him at 2.96 and his xFIP was only five points higher. The clear culprit for his inflated ERA was a .358 batting average on balls in play. Hard to blame him for that, particularly since his line drive rate wasn’t abnormally high. Lee continued to lose velocity on his fastball (down to 89.6 MPH on average from 90.7 in 2013 and 91.7 in 2012), but otherwise, he was the same old dominating lefty pitcher that we’ve come to know and love over the years.

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