Looking Forward to the 2016 Season

In what is now an annual tradition for baseball stat nerds, FanGraphs has projected the standings for the upcoming season. It should come as no surprise that the Phillies are expected to once again put up the worst record in baseball, though they are at least projected to improve by three wins over last year at 66-96. Silver linings, right?

The Phillies haven’t made any real improvements on the major league roster, but full seasons from Maikel Franco and Aaron Altherr plus the continued progression of Aaron Nola and Odubel Herrera should help make up for the loss of Ken Giles and the makeup of an uninspiring starting rotation. Though the on-field product doesn’t portend to be great, the 2016 season may be the most entertaining and exciting season for Phillies fans since 2011. Here’s why:

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Phillies Avoid Arbitration with Remaining Three Players

As Corinne noted on Monday, the Phillies had three outstanding arbitration cases ahead of Friday’s deadline. They’ve agreed to contracts with all three players.

Shortstop Freddy Galvis, in his first year of arbitration eligibility, settled for $2 million with the Phillies on Wednesday, per Jon Heyman. On Thursday night, reliever Jeanmar Gomez settled for $1.4 million in his second year of eligibility, per Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Finally, starter Jeremy Hellickson settled for $7 million in his third and final year of eligibility, according to CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury.

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Phillies Fans Aren’t The Only Ones Excited About Phillies Prospects

I don’t write often about the mental aspect of the game here at Crashburn and, contrary to dated stereotypes, it’s not because I don’t believe it has a real impact on the game. It’s a topic I avoid because analyzing “makeup” or “chemistry” is often a fruitless undertaking. It takes extreme conditions for anyone on the outside to accurately assess anything as abstract as the mental or emotional conditions of a situation.

It’s a bit like trying to understand someone else’s family dynamics. Chances are you can pick up on the extreme marital discord between Uncle Bobby and Auntie Sue almost immediately, but the more subtle family dynamics like cousin Jack’s relationship with his father would take years for you to unpack. I prefer to write what I know and I don’t know why Jack tenses up around his father or what goes on inside the head of athletes, but I know marital stress when I see Bobby and Sue and I know Ryne Sandberg lost the clubhouse… and I know something encouraging is happening in the Phillies organization right now.

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Who Are You: Peter Bourjos

This is part of an ongoing series profiling new members of the 2016 Phillies roster. Previous installments:

Jeremy Hellickson


Peter Bourjos (OF) – RHB
Born:
3/31/87, entering age 29 season
Height: 6’1″, Weight: 185 lb.
Contract Status: Final year of arbitration; will be a free agent after the 2016 season
2015 Stats: 225 PA, 8.4 BB%, 26.2 K%, .263 BABIP, .200/.290/.333, 70 wRC+, -0.5 fWAR, -0.8 rWAR
Career: 1655 PA, 6.2 BB%, 23.4 K%, .304 BABIP, .241/.302/.380, 90 wRC+, 10.3 fWAR, 9.0 rWAR

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New Catching Metrics at Baseball Prospectus

Yesterday, Baseball Prospectus unveiled new metrics for quantifying catcher defense. I highly recommend reading the introduction for yourself, but if you’ll allow me to crudely summarize, there are four key metrics presented:

  • Swipe Rate Above Average (SRAA)
  • Takeoff Rate Above Average (TRAA)
  • Errant Pitches Above Average (EPAA)
  • Called Strikes Above Average (CSAA)

The first two metrics measure a catcher’s impact on the running game through the rate at which they throw runners out (SRAA) and the rate at which runners attempt to run on them (TRAA). EPAA measures pitch blocking and CSAA measures framing.

Their findings echo previous studies on the subject in that framing has, by far, the greatest in-game impact of these defensive skills. By these metrics, a catcher can add or subtract a couple runs of value through controlling the running game and/or blocking ability, but great pitch framers can add 20 or more runs of value while awful framers can lose 20+ runs. The best framing season on record (framing data now goes back to 1988) was Jonathan Lucroy‘s 2011 season in which he added 49.7 (!) Framing Runs Above Average. For the sake of comparison, by BP’s measure Mike Trout was worth 62.1, 60.9, and 73.5 Batting Runs Above Average (a measurement of offensive production at the plate before factoring in baserunning which uses a theoretically comparable value for “runs”) in the past three seasons.

Let’s take a look at how the Phillies catchers measure up.

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Pending Arbitration Cases for the Phillies

The Phillies have three players in line to file for arbitration prior to tomorrow’s filing deadline: Jeremy Hellickson, Jeanmar Gomez, and Freddy Galvis. Unless they agree to contract terms this week, the three players will each exchange contract figures with the team on Friday. If they remain unable to agree to terms in the upcoming weeks, they will go to a hearing in February where an arbiter will choose either the salary figure submitted by the team or the one submitted by the player.

Arbitration essentially guarantees a raise to eligible players on their previous season’s salary and uses back of the baseball card statistics as a basis to determine how large the raise will be. (Note: As a result, this is one area of baseball in which stats like pitchers wins or RBI, which are often ridiculed around these parts, are very consequential.) Here are the projected 2016 salaries for the Phillies’ eligible players according to the arbitration projection model developed by Matt Swartz at MLB Trade Rumors:
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Would Justin Upton on a One-Year Deal Make Sense for Philadelphia?

Recently there have been whispers that teams are considering free agent Justin Upton on a one-year deal. While it’s not unprecedented for a free agent saddled with draft pick compensation to settle for a one-year deal — Nelson Cruz signed with the Orioles at 1/$8M just before spring training two offseasons ago after rejecting a qualifying offer for Texas — I find it extraordinarily difficult to buy that there’s much substance to these rumors. Cruz was 33, a one-dimensional player fresh off a PED suspension, and coming off three consecutive sub-2 fWAR seasons. Upton is 28, can still handle a corner outfield position, maintains an attractive power-speed combo at the plate, and is coming off three consecutive 3+ fWAR seasons. He’s not quite as attractive a free agent as Jason Heyward was, but he’s not far behind and he’s certainly no 2013-2014 offseason Nelson Cruz.

A mega-deal for Upton was a given when this offseason began and yet it’s January and Upton remains unsigned. Upton isn’t alone, fellow outfielder Yoenis Cespedes remains unsigned and Alex Gordon re-signed with the Royals just two days ago. Whatever the reasons for the lag in the position player free agent market, I find it hard to imagine that there’s been a seismic shift that prevents Upton (or Cespedes) from getting their expected paydays. But the whispers do raise a fascinating hypothetical: If Upton is available on a one-year deal, could the Phillies be a fit?

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Roy Halladay Doesn’t Want Bonds, Clemens in the Hall of Fame

Ahead of Wednesday’s Hall of Fame balloting results being announced, former Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay tweeted his thoughts on the controversy surrounding Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and their candidacy: he’s against both being allowed in.

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Who Are You: Jeremy Hellickson

This is the first post in a weekly series which will run each Thursday. Over the next several weeks, I’ll take a deep dive look at new members of the Phillies roster including guys like Peter Bourjos, Charlie Morton and, today’s subject, Jeremy Hellickson. We’re just a couple months away from settling down to watch these guys day-in and day-out for half a year, so let’s try to find out who they are and what to expect from them in 2016.


Jeremy Hellickson – RHP
Born:
4/8/87, entering age 29 season
Height: 6’1″, Weight: 190 lb.
2015 Stats: 9-12, 4.62 ERA, 146 IP, 19.0 K%, 6.8 BB%, 42.4 GB%, 36.5 FB%, 88 ERA+
Career: 49-48, 3.94 ERA, 786 IP, 17.6 K%, 7.6 BB%, 39.2 GB%, 40.5 FB%, 98 ERA+

History

A fourth round draft pick by Tampa Bay out of high school in 2005, Hellickson steadily rose to prospect stardom. Prior to his 2011 rookie season, he was ranked the #6 overall prospect by Baseball America, #9 overall by Baseball Prospectus, and #14 overall by Keith Law at ESPN. Scouts raved about his pin-point command, stellar changeup, solid fastball, and developing curveball.

He rode that prospect hype to an outstanding rookie campaign (189 IP, 2.95 ERA, 3.8 rWAR) which won him the AL Rookie of the Year award. His sophomore season was nearly as successful (177 IP, 3.10 ERA, 3.2 rWAR), but his initial success was riddled with red flags. The reason I used ERA to illustrate his success is that his peripheral stats told a remarkably different story. Including his 36.1 inning cup of coffee at the end of the 2010 season his 2010-2012 MLB stats were as follows:

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