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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Ken Giles Has Emerged As A Top-Shelf Reliever

Before Ken Giles‘ mid-June call up to the Major Leagues — after throwing all of 13 2/3 innings in his first taste of Triple-A competition — some space was devoted here to urging caution and patience with the talented right-hander. It was not misguided, as Giles was displaying control problems reminiscent of Phillippe Aumont. He walked 13 of 114 batters he faced prior to his promotion to the majors. The 11.4 percent walk rate would be the 33rd-highest out of 201 relievers with at least 25 innings pitched this season.

Additionally, with the Phillies in the midst of another lost season, it made little sense to rush a rough-around-the-edges reliever to the majors and start his service time clock earlier than necessary. There was reason to want to see more than 28 2/3 innings above Single-A from the right-hander. In short, there were a lot of reasons to keep Giles away from the major leagues.

The Phillies didn’t, and they got it right.

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Adding A Bit of Character into Analysis

For a while, most Sabermetric analysis was very cold and impersonal. Lots of column-sorting in Excel, tabbing through pages in the web browser, and querying databases. The evolution of Sabermetrics has made it simple for a casual fan, a die-hard, and your cadre of baseball writers to criticize and compare your favorite (or least favorite) players.

Somewhere along the line, having the ability to compare and contrast any players at any position in any era has, at times, left us without the perspective we once had in our prior ignorance: that baseball players are people, and as such, are fallible. I don’t level this criticism as an innocent bystander — one need only search the site for any article about Ryan Howard for evidence of my own hand in this.

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