An Annual Reminder about Spring Training Stats

Pitchers and catchers are set to report to Clearwater tomorrow, officially kicking off spring training for the Phillies. Soon thereafter, exhibition games will start and players will fight tooth and nail for a limited amount of roster spots. Players’ success or failure in February and March will be decided, in no small part, by their spring training stats.

While there are few more reliable methods to decide spring training winners and losers than by their stats, it is important to keep in mind their flaws and limitations.

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Once Again: The Phillies Should Platoon Ryan Howard

It seems like we say this every year, but it’s worth repeating frequently until the Phillies actually do it: Ryan Howard should be relegated to facing right-handed pitching only going forward. $75 million through 2016 (plus a $10 million buyout for 2017) is a lot of money to spend on a platoon player, but he is essentially a sunk cost now. Their priority should be extracting as much value out of Howard as they can before his time is up.

Here’s a look at how Howard has performed against pitchers by handedness since his first full season in 2006:

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The Phillies Should Consider Picking Up Emilio Bonifacio

In order to make room on the 40-man roster for starter Bruce Chen, the Royals designated utilityman Emilio Bonifacio for assignment earlier today. Bonifacio will turn 29 years old on April 23 and has experience playing every position on the diamond except for pitcher, catcher, and first base. Over his seven-year Major League career, Bonifacio has racked up 400 or more defensive innings at second base, third base, center field, shortstop, and left field. The Phillies already have a glut of players auditioning for possible roles with the 2014 squad, but they should consider trading with the Royals to acquire Bonifacio.

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Finding A Glimmer of Hope for the 2014 Phillies

The Phillies are old. It’s a narrative that both is true and has been repeated ad nauseam for the third straight year. The Phillies’ success in 2014 will depend largely on the health and performance of the five position players 34 years or older expected to accrue at least 400 plate appearances: Marlon Byrd (36), Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley (35), and Ryan Howard (34). If things start to trend positive for the first time in a while, the Phillies could improve on last year’s 73-89 record. If not, they’ll likely keep the Marlins company at the bottom of the NL East.

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Phillies Avoid Arbitration with John Mayberry

The Phillies avoided arbitration with outfielder John Mayberry prior to the deadline yesterday, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $1.587 million, per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. It’s just shy of Matt Swartz’s projection of $1.7 million. Mayberry was eligible for arbitration for the first time and can become a free agent after the 2016 season.

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Phillies Avoid Arbitration with Kyle Kendrick

The Phillies have avoided arbitration with Kyle Kendrick in his fourth and final year, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $7.675 million, per the Phillies official Twitter. The deal includes award bonuses. The two sides had previously agreed to a two-year deal worth a total of $7.5 million in February 2012. The latest deal represents a pay raise of more than $3 million over last season.

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Let’s Talk About the Phillies Lineup

At Beerleaguer, Mike Wisniewski goes over some lineup options for the Phillies, including putting Chase Utley in the lead-off spot. We found that to be the best option last season as well, when we did the same exercise. Also of note from last year’s post was that Revere ends up being used in the #9 spot behind the pitcher.

As this will be Ryne Sandberg‘s first full season at the helm, we don’t know his quirks yet, but he doesn’t have the same relationship with the players that Charlie Manuel did. That means he might actually move Jimmy Rollins out of the lead-off spot to lower in the order where he would be more useful. Rollins himself has stated in the past that he prefers batting lead-off, so he may campaign once more for the status quo if there is talk of moving him further down.

This is complete speculation, but a likely Phillies lineup could look like this:

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Are Bobby Abreu and Scott Rolen Hall of Famers?

At Baseball Nation, Grant Brisbee searched for the next Lou Whitaker — as he put it, “the player that seems like a no-doubt Hall of Famer to us nerds right now, but who will fade from the collective memory of voters during the five-year grace period, possibly dropping off the ballot in the first year.”

Brisbee cites several examples, two of which are former Phillies: third baseman Scott Rolen, and right fielder Bobby Abreu.

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