Jerome Williams Proving to be A Good Find for the Phillies

Starter Jerome Williams dominated the San Diego Padres last night, holding them to just one unearned run over 7 2/3 innings en route to a 1-0 loss. The right-hander surrendered just three hits and walked two while striking out six. Now with seven starts as a Phillie under his belt, Williams sports a 2.84 ERA over 44 1/3 innings.

It’s a surprising performance for Williams over the past month and a half, as he owns a career 4.43 ERA and posted a combined 6.71 ERA in 26 relief appearances with the Texas Rangers and two starts with the Houston Astros. How legitimate is his success and is he worth keeping around in 2015?

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Cole Hamels Continues Dominating

Cole Hamels was on point once again, limiting the Miami Marlins (though Giancarlo Stanton-less) to one run over seven innings last night. He allowed nine hits and walked one while striking out six. As usual, though, the Phillies gave him little run support and didn’t get the win until Cody Asche broke a 1-1 tie with a walk-off two-run home run in the bottom of the 10th inning.

Hamels has now gone at least five innings and allowed three or fewer runs in 20 consecutive starts, setting a modern Phillies record as Paul Boye pointed out on Twitter. The streak dates back to June 1. Hamels also now has the third-best ERA in the National League. If Hamels hadn’t missed four April starts — and if Clayton Kershaw didn’t exist — he would be a legitimate contender for the National League Cy Young award.

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Domonic Brown’s Improved Second Half

There is no doubt that the 2014 season is one Domonic Brown will want to forget. That said, much of his statistical struggles can be traced to a truly horrific May at the plate. His 40 OPS+ that month indicates that his offensive production was 60% worse than that of an average MLB player.

Split PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS sOPS+
April/March 105 8 24 3 0 1 10 9 18 .253 .314 .316 .630 80
May 95 7 13 3 1 3 17 6 18 .146 .200 .303 .503 40
June 106 11 25 5 0 1 11 7 19 .260 .302 .344 .646 86
July 75 8 19 4 0 2 12 4 15 .268 .307 .408 .715 103
August 61 4 15 6 0 1 8 4 12 .263 .311 .421 .733 110
Sept/Oct 22 5 3 0 0 1 1 2 1 .158 .273 .316 .589 67
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/10/2014.

After his disastrous May, Brown’s numbers have been on an upward trajectory. (*Warning: Arbitrary Endpoints Ahead*) His slash line since July 1st: .252/.304/.401. While a .705 OPS doesn’t represent a player tearing it up, it’s been good for a .313 wOBA and 98 wRC+, indicating that Brown has been producing runs at roughly a league average pace over the past couple months. Is league average production from Dom the answer for the Phillies going forward? Of course not, but it is a sign that he may still be a player with real value.

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What Got Into the Phillies’ Bullpen?

Ken Giles, obviously. But the Phillies’ bullpen overall, even excluding Giles, has been much improved following a rough start to the season. There has been a lot of turnover, as Jeff Manship, B.J. Rosenberg, and Phillippe Aumont have been eschewed. Meanwhile, Justin De Fratus has come on strong and Jake Diekman has been on the up-and-up while Giles has steadily been among the most dominating relievers in baseball.

On a month-by-month basis, here’s what the changes have looked like with the bullpen as a whole:

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The Race to the Bottom

The Phillies’ recent hot streak, in which they have won nine of 13 games, has them tenuously close to falling out of the bottom-ten in the overall standings. At 64-75, they have the ninth-worst record in baseball, just ahead of the 66-74 New York Mets and Cincinnati Reds. They’re on pace to finish 75-87.

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Jimmy Rollins Has Quietly Had A Good Season

A look at his meager .242 batting average, unexciting .324 on-base percentage, and a sub-.400 slugging percentage and it’s easy to conclude that Jimmy Rollins has had a mediocre season. Even by adjusted OPS, of which Rollins has an even 100, he’s simply average.

If we go a little deeper, though, and use a better stat — weighted on-base average — we see that Rollins’ .320 mark stacks up well against his competition at shortstop in the National League, even if we set the plate appearance minimum so low (375) as to include Troy Tulowitzki. Rollins ranked sixth in the league, just a smidge behind Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond and far ahead of number seven, Brandon Crawford of the San Francisco Giants at .297.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 112: Evaluating Ben Revere

Sorry for the service interruption–last week I was driving through Pennsyltucky en route to seeing the beloved Taney Dragons get their heads bashed in by a bunch of enormous blond kids from Nevada. Here’s what I wrote about the spectacle, in case you’re interested in reading. If not, you can just head down to the question part.

@tssmythe: “Revere is young & cheap, has skills (avg, speed) and flaws (OBP, SLG, Def). Is he a good fit as CF on rebuilding team?”

Long have I been fascinated by Ben Revere. He’s not exactly a unique player–once we get past the pre-K “everyone is a snowflake” nonsense, there’s probably not such a thing as a baseball player who is beyond comparison. But Revere is fairly special in terms of how he plays the game, and for that reason I’ve always found him interesting, and for that reason, conventional stats aren’t particularly good at painting the whole picture. (Note: I wrote this before Tuesday night’s games, so these numbers might have changed slightly between then and now.)

For instance, the way you framed the question is instructive: Revere has a high batting average and speed, but has a low OBP and SLG and is a bad defender. That’s not actually true, or at least isn’t the best way of stating it. Revere is hitting .311/.330/.364, against a National League average of .249/.312/.384. So OBP is actually an asset, and SLG isn’t actually that much of a drag–20 points isn’t trivial, but neither is it too low for him to hold down a major league job. If we’re using SLG alone as a measure of power, how come we still consider Ryan Howard to be a power hitter with a .379 SLG, while Revere’s .364 SLG represents a lack of power so severe it renders him unplayable? The same is true with OBP–Revere’s actually got an above-average OBP. What people mean by that is that he’s not walking. Personally, in this run environment and with this roster, I’m cool starting a really fast guy with a .330 OBP in the leadoff spot–he’s getting on base, and for all practical purposes, it doesn’t matter how he does it.

What Revere represents (and this is why I find him so interesting) is the limit of batting average as an evaluative tool. SLG and OBP are far better descriptors of a player’s offensive value than batting average, but the primary determinant of both stats is batting average. That’s why the triple slash line is so great as a shorthand–whether those numbers are high or low tells you how good the player’s been, and the difference between those three numbers actually gives you a good feel for what kind of hitter he is without using any math more advanced than division of three-digit numbers.

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Ryan Howard Could Have One of the Worst 100 RBI Seasons Ever

On Saturday night’s broadcast of the Cardinals-Phillies game, Mike Schmidt said (paraphrasing) that you can’t get to 100 RBI and have a bad season. In the eighth inning, as if the baseball gods wanted to put on a live demonstration of teammates’ effect on a hitter’s RBI total, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley hit consecutive singles to lead off the inning. They then reached second and third base on a double-steal. Howard was later hit by a Randy Choate pitch, but he was in a great position to knock in two runs with a bloop single (which Marlon Byrd then did immediately afterward).

According to Baseball Prospectus, Howard has taken 288 plate appearances with runners on base, representing 54.4 percent of his total plate appearances. Howard’s rate of driving in other runners, however, is 15.5 percent, the 68th-highest rate (min. 300 PA), sandwiched between James Loney and Aaron Hill.

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In A World Without Clayton Kershaw, Cole Hamels A Cy Young Candidate

It’s Clayton Kershaw‘s world; Cole Hamels is just living in it. The Los Angeles Dodgers’ lefty seems well on his way to a third career National League Cy Young award, leading the league with 15 wins, a 1.82 ERA, six complete games, a 0.83 WHIP, a 32 percent strikeout rate, a 195 adjusted ERA, an 8.76 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and a 1.84 FIP. Assuming Kershaw doesn’t completely fall apart, he will lead the league in ERA for the fourth consecutive season. He is the Pedro Martinez of our generation: a pitcher so obviously dominant and so far ahead of his peers, even at the top.

If we can engage in a thought experiment, though, let’s imagine the National League existed without Kershaw and was otherwise unchanged. In that world, Hamels is a contender for the Cy Young award.

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