Dennys Reyes, Fat Jokes Likely Coming to Philadelphia

With Joe Blanton fat jokes going out of style, left-handed reliever Dennys Reyes will likely provide some comic relief for Phillies fans. ESPN’s Enrique Rojas reports that the hefty lefty is close to signing with the Phillies on a one-year deal with a club option for 2012.

Reyes, who will turn 34 in April, isn’t an inspiring pitcher by any means. In 2010, Reyes set a career-low in K/9 (5.9) and posted an obscenely high BB/9 (5.0). Essentially, he’s a heavier version of J.C. Romero.

If used strictly against lefties, Reyes can be effective. Since 2002, Reyes walked right-handed hitters on a much more frequent basis, averaging 5.3 per nine innings compared to 3.70 against lefties. In terms of xFIP, Reyes has been about a full run better against lefties. The following chart displays his xFIP by year against right- and left-handed batters.

Also of note is Reyes’ penchant for inducing ground balls. Since 2002, when batted ball data was recorded, nearly 56 percent of batted balls have been on the ground. However, that figure has been decreasing every year since 2006.

It’s a “meh” signing for the Phillies, but at least it gives us laypeople plenty of opportunity to show off our comedic chops.

Graph of the Intermittent Time Period

In his latest column, the great Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly mentions the plethora of right-handed bats the Phillies could target to platoon with some left-handed hitter in right field, be it Domonic Brown or Ross Gload. Three of those hitters are free agents (Matt Diaz, Jeff Francoeur, and Scott Hairston) while seven different options (Juan Rivera, Josh Willingham, Mike Morse, Aaron Rowand, Cody Ross, Delmon Young, and Michael Cuddyer) could be acquired in a trade.

Since the role of the right-handed hitter would be to perform well against southpaw pitchers, let’s take a look at just how good each hitter performs in that match-up going by weighted on-base average (wOBA), my preferred metric for analyzing offensive production.

Click the chart below to view a larger version.

An average wOBA is equal to the league average on-base percentage. Last year excepting, that OBP has been around .330 to .335. So all ten hitters are above-average when facing LHP, but only four have been elite hitters against them. Jeff Francoeur is the worst realistic option — no surprise there — while post-season pest Cody Ross and Phillie-killer Matt Diaz are among the best.

Going by only 2010 performance, we see that the two Nationals and two Twins — Morse, Willingham, Young, and Cuddyer — performed better than their career averages while Hairston and Rowand notably under-performed. Francoeur stayed right around his career average, which is nothing to write home about.

As mentioned in this article, the Phillies should be aiming to minimize variance. Players like Morse and Young both hit very well against lefties in 2010, but well above what they had traditionally hit against lefties over their careers. While they certainly could have made some adjustments at the plate, which would explain the better performance, it is still very likely that their production regresses to the mean. The Phillies would then be paying essentially for 2010-level production when they should be expecting something smaller.

Thus, it seems that among the ten candidates, Willingham is the best option with Ross a close runner-up. Both have had very consistent production against lefties over the last three years and that production has always been elite.

If GM Ruben Amaro decides that the price tags on those two outfielders are too hefty, he can fall back on a reliable in-house option by the name of Ben Francisco. He has a career .352 wOBA against lefties over his career and hit .384 against them last year. Francisco is arbitration eligible for the first time, meaning he’s cost controlled through 2013. If the Phillies give Francisco enough playing time between now and then, and he emerges into a productive player, they could potentially earn some draft pick compensation if and when he leaves for free agency whereas players like Francoeur and Rowand would not provide that benefit.

When it comes to filling this roster spot, Amaro needs to swing for the fences or go home. Go get Willingham or Ross, or be happy with a very affordable and familiar face in Francisco.

Searching for Jayson Werth’s Weaknesses

Over at the Baseball Analytics blog, I did some digging in an attempt to find Jayson Werth‘s flaws, but came up empty-handed.

Oh, but Werth gets scarier. He compiled a .319 wOBA in two-strike counts during the 2010 season. The average hitter posted a .247 wOBA. Even when the pitcher is fortunate enough to get ahead of Werth, he still has a veritable mountain to climb before he can claim success. Bad news for pitchers everywhere, but especially for those wearing Phillies red.

The Nationals may have overcommitted and overpaid Werth, but they did sign one heck of a hitter.

Guest Post: MLB Playoff Expansion

The guest posts continue, this time with an entry submitted by Ryan Sommers, author of the Phillies-themed blog Chasing Utley. He also happens to be one of my favorite tweeters — do yourself a favor and start following @Phylan.

Today, Ryan looks at the potential playoff expansion in Major League Baseball.

. . .

After receiving a heavy dose of press during the November general manager meetings, the tabled proposal for expanding the playoffs to ten teams now seems like a certainty. Bud Selig has been typically coy when asked about it, but it’s sure to find favor with the curious jumble of personnel he has assembled into the Special Committee for On-Field Matters, set to convene at the winter meetings in Orlando next week. Among the managers, general managers, owners, and team presidents that constitute the Committee, it’s difficult to imagine any opposition to the additional opportunity for contention and obvious financial incentives assured by the proposal. The change will likely have to wait for the negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement for the 2012 season, but that seems to be the only hurdle at this point.

The plan, as it’s been floated, involves adding one wild card slot to each league, and staging either a one or three game playoff between the two wildcards prior to the Division Series. Proponents point out that this adds additional incentive for winning one’s division, as the team that emerges from this wildcard round will start the Division Series with someone other than their number one starter on the mound. Selig, many of the general managers, and other proponents of the plan have hinted at “fairness” concerns, with some writers and fans going so far as to suggest that a ten team playoff will strengthen the contention of small market teams. Even if these notions had validity, they don’t override the problems that the proposal presents, but it’s also worth pointing out that fairness — be it an issue of stacked divisions or financial disadvantage — hardly enters the picture here.

The table below, spanning from 1995 (the first year with a wild card-era postseason) to 2010, shows the hypothetical 2nd wildcard winner in a 10 team playoff system, their record, and their payroll rank according to USA Today’s MLB payroll database.

Year NL Record Payroll AL Record Payroll
1995 Astros 76-68 14th Angels 78-67 18th
1996 Expos 88-74 28th Mariners 85-67 8th
1997 Mets/Dodgers 88-74 16th/11th Angels 84-78 22nd
1998 Giants 89-74 16th Blue Jays 88-74 11th
1999 Reds 96-67 20th Athletics 87-75 26th
2000 Dodgers 90-72 2nd Indians 86-76 8th
2001 Giants 90-72 16th Twins 85-77 30th
2002 Dodgers 92-70 5th Mariners/Red Sox 93-69 8th/2nd
2003 Astros 87-75 14th Mariners 93-68 7th
2004 Giants 91-71 10th Athletics 91-71 16th
2005 Phillies 88-74 5th Indians 93-69 26th
2006 Phillies 85-77 12th White Sox 90-72 4th
2007 Padres 89-74 24th Tigers 88-74 9th
2008 Mets 89-73 2nd Yankees 89-73 1st
2009 Giants 88-74 14th Rangers 87-75 22nd
2010 Padres 90-72 29th Red Sox 89-73 2nd

Your immediate reaction is probably “Hey! The Phillies would’ve made the playoffs for six straight years!” Hold that thought for the moment. The first thing to note is that these outcomes don’t support the notion that smaller market teams would benefit in some way from expanded playoffs. Only eight of these teams were ranked in the bottom third of league payroll, while twelve ranked in the middle third, and fourteen in the top third. Regardless of your position on the payroll advantage, it’s obvious that a ten team field does nothing to relieve it. In fact, it presents an additional significant obstacle for a small market team bidding for a World Series appearance from the wild card slot. The 1997 and 2003 World Champion Marlins would’ve had to jumble their pitching rotation in a must win series just to reach the Division Series — the former against either the Dodgers or Mets, both of whom finished four games behind them, and the latter against the Astros, also four games worse. Likewise for the 2002 Anaheim Angels and 2004 Boston Red Sox, who won their championships after reaching the postseason via the wildcard. Adding a second wildcard won’t increase the likelihood of bids like these for teams of any market size. It will dampen it, by handicapping both wild card teams at the outset of the playoffs.

Meanwhile, you’re letting worse teams reach the postseason. The overall winning percentages of the hypothetical second wildcard teams from 1995-2010 was .549 in the NL and .548 in the AL, compared to .563 and .582 for the actual wildcard teams in the respective leagues. On average, then, the second wildcard team is an 89-73 team, falling two games behind the average NL wildcard team and five behind the average AL wildcard team over that span. This may not sound too egregious, and if it was for another five or seven game series against the other wildcard contender, it might not be. But the logistical challenges of a playoff system that already reaches into early November constrains the discussion to either a one game playoff or a three game series. Hamstringing what are usually 90+ win teams with a dangerously short series against an inferior opponent doesn’t seem to serve the interest of “fairness” at all. As an alternative to adding a team, consider this suggestion: divisions are eliminated, and only the top four teams by record from each league advance to the postseason. This relieves one irksome feature of the current system: weak division winners that receive a higher seed than a superior wild card team, which can also result in another superior team being bounced from the playoffs altogether. Such was the case in nine of the sixteen seasons between 1995 and 2010. Seeding the playoffs by record and not divisional outcomes eliminates this effect, while avoiding the problems of a ten team system. This is not an option that Selig and others would ever consider pursuing, but it serves to illustrate that more “fairness” can be squeezed from sound alterations to the playoff structure than from the mere addition of competitors. Lengthening the Division Series from five to seven games is another such alteration, reducing the emphasis on strong front-end rotations in favor of a stronger overall roster, and softening the impact that randomness can have on the outcome of a short playoff series. Instead, Selig is considering the addition of an even shorter series.

As for the Phillies, it’s true that the second wild card would have meant trips to the playoffs in 2005 and 2006, but the 8 team record-seeded system would have also — in both years, inferior division winners advanced at their expense. How it impacts them going forward is contingent upon a lot of uncertain factors concerning their organizational philosophy. The Phillies won 97 games in 2010, and, with the exception of Jayson Werth, will look very much the same in 2011. But some key core talents are entering their decline phase, and at least two of their divisional opponents are taking serious steps toward greater competitiveness. Ruben Amaro hasn’t had to rebuild a team yet, but he will soon, and with his propensity for doling out large contracts to aging veterans, the process could create a team that is bi-polar in composition and tending towards mediocrity. Consequently, the Phillies may well find themselves in the 87-91 win range that would benefit from the second wild card. It’s unclear what the ten team playoff might do to the marginal economic value of each win, but it’s not unreasonable to assume that its peak — which Nate Silver calculated to be at about 91 wins — might be bumped down a bit by the increased ease of qualifying. If that were the case, given the booming attendance at Citizen’s Bank Park, ownership might be inclined to reel in the hefty payroll somewhat. This would make Ruben Amaro’s (questionable, in my opinion) asset allocation ability even more vital to a team re-engineering its personnel make-up. It’s speculative, yes, but the Phillies may be one of the teams most likely to feel the impact, positive or negative, of the added wildcard.

The potential financial gains from the expanded playoffs haven’t been quantified, but they’re sure to be substantial, and there is no question that they are what motivate Selig (Craig Calcaterra called it “nothing but a money grab”). This aspect probably deserves a bit more than bitter dismissal; we are all, after all, fans of baseball, and changes that swell the coffers and perhaps increase public interest ultimately have at least some value to us. Overriding that, though, is the undeniable damage dealt to the importance of regular season games, and the usefulness of the playoffs in rewarding the strongest teams. There is a healthy balance to be struck between baseball the business venture and baseball the competition, but a ten team playoff surely fails to achieve it. The MLB is far from the poorhouse, and, more importantly, is tangled in some issues that strike closer to the core of “fairness” than the exclusivity of the playoffs — the meagerness of instant replay, an insufficient Division Series, and the treatment of minor league players, to name a few. The expanded playoffs will probably be instituted without issue, and perhaps after a few years will be indifferently accepted by even the stodgiest of purists, but it will still represent a missed opportunity to alleviate some real problems that don’t turn Bud Selig’s profit-tuned nose.

. . .

Check out Ryan’s newly-renamed blog Chasing Utley for his thoughts on the Phillies throughout the winter and into the 2011 season.

If you wish to submit a Phillies-related guest post, send it to CrashburnAlley [at] Gmail [dot] com along with any questions or comments.

Mr. Werth Goes to Washington

In a surprising turn of events, former Phillies right fielder Jayson Werth agreed to a seven-year, $126 million deal with the Washington Nationals. The Boston Red Sox were believed to be the favorites to sign Werth, but the Nationals committed a lot of money over a long period of time for the free agent outfielder’s services.

Although the Phillies made repeated efforts to sign Werth, it seemed a foregone conclusion that the 2011 outfield in Philadelphia would include Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, Domonic Brown and a right-handed platoon partner while Werth took his services to a new address.

Werth has been among the most productive players in baseball since becoming a regular part of the Phillies’ lineup. Over the past three years, only Ryan Braun and Matt Holliday compiled a higher wOBA among NL outfielders. Along with elite offensive contributions Werth ran the bases extremely well, stealing 60 bases in 68 attempts (88%) and played a great outfield, racking up 30 outfield assists in four years as a Phillie. The Nationals are getting a multi-talented player, for sure.

The Phillies’ brass will continue to deliberate on what to do in right field. Throughout the off-season, GM Ruben Amaro hinted that the team was searching for a right-handed platoon partner to team with Domonic Brown. There is now a possibility that Brown starts the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley while a different platoon (perhaps Ben Francisco and Ross Gload) handles right field. However, Todd Zolecki notes that right-handed bats on the Phillies’ radar include Matt Diaz, Jeff Francoeur, Carlos Quentin, and Scott Hairston.

Matt Gelb pointed out that the Phillies will not receive a first round draft pick as compensation as expected because the Nationals’ first round pick is protected.

Werth averaged 5 WAR per season with regular playing time in the last three seasons. Matt Klaassen crunched the numbers and found that, assuming 10 percent inflation, the Nationals will be paying Werth as if he is a 4.5 WAR player in 2011 with a 0.5 WAR decline each year. Werth will turn 32 on May 20, so that presumption by the Nationals may be a bit too rosy. However, the signing may be just the thing Washington needs to attract fans and prepare to build a winning franchise. With a core that includes veteran Ryan Zimmerman and future hope in Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, the Nationals’ reign on fifth place in the NL East may come to an end.

Meanwhile, the Phillies will be banking on the emergence on the top prospect they repeatedly refused to trade in Dom Brown. Reports of his demise in the Dominican Winter League may be greatly exaggerated. Although Brown did struggle, he did only play in nine games — an extremely small sample size to say the least. Furthermore, pairing Brown with a platoon partner will greatly stunt his development. Since the Phillies made such valiant efforts to keep him in red pinstripes, it makes no sense to refuse to let him hit against left-handed pitching. How do you learn how to hit lefties other than by facing them in real game situations?

In the wake of the Werth news, the Phillies actually walk away looking good from a PR perspective. Some fans were upset that the organization wasn’t willing to break open the vault to keep the right fielder in town, but even the staunchest Werth fans will agree that a seven-year, $126 million deal for a soon-to-be 32-year-old is, at the very least, risky and short-sighted. The Phillies don’t need to do anything drastic to maintain credibility as Nationals fans embrace their new star player.

2011 is the year we see why Brown was a coveted asset, or why it was a mistake to plan around him.

The Phillies have to go all-in with Brown.

Guest Post: A Tour of AT&T Park

Justin Klugh of That Ball’s Outta Here was kind enough to write about his tour of AT&T Park, home to the world champion San Francisco Giants. As an eternal pessimist, I enjoyed reading about the tour from his viewpoint — a social outcast. Although the two cities are three thousand miles apart, it would be interesting if a rivalry developed between the Phillies and Giants.

. . .

It’s 11:30 am on a Wednesday and I am the only person in this cube farm.  Not even noon, and the senior editors have tossed the keys to the unpaid editorial intern.  I’d love to sit here and tell you it’s because my journalistic skills won’t be denied; that the head honchos at this magazine saw my potential and offered me a high-paying gig on the spot, simply because of my irrepressible skill and roguish charm.

Nope.

Today, my bosses have exited the building before lunch time to go gallivanting about the streets of San Francisco, cheering and whooping as the World Champion Giants are escorted through the city in what I can only imagine is some sort of lackluster, locally-sourced victory parade.

I glance around my cubicle like a prisoner in the hole, and try to convince myself that the cheers and screams coming from outside are because of a horrific traffic accident.  I briefly entertain the notion of eating all the lunches in the break room fridge.

“Aren’t you coming?” asks the assistant editor from down the hall.

Quietly wading in a pool of my own bitterness and pretty stupid revenge schemes, I hadn’t heard her approach, and flinch dramatically.  She wears a Giants hat.  Her shirt demands that I “Fear the Beard.”  I refused.

It seemed like a glacially paced nightmare as the Phillies and Giants slowly crept towards their eventual playoff meeting from September-October.  Then, as it became clearer and clearer that the Giants were there to outplay us, I found myself clawing at any available salvation while the metropolis around me exploded in a sea of cheers.  What were the odds that I would leave Philadelphia and then wind up in the city of the enemy for the NLCS?

One of the other editors approached my desk, ready to head out, and grinned knowingly toward my involuntary grimace.  “Oh, he’s not coming,” he said to his friend as he pulled a clearly-purchased-yesterday Giants hoodie over his head.  “He’s the Phillies fan.”

At the beginning of the San Francisco-based internship that would eventually leave me alone in the office during the World Series parade, I was asked to come up with some idea for a long-term article.  After a brief, uninteresting attempt to discover conspiracies in the local government, I gave up and decided to once more write about baseball.  My editor was pretty jazzed.

“I see you walking around on the field of AT&T Park,” he said, “… getting a real good look at the sustainable practices they’ve been putting in.”

Months later, the intriguing personal guided tour of the stadium had turned into something of a death march through an enemy encampment.  The woman showing me around asked where I was from originally.

“Philadelphia,” I said without thinking, after having rehearsed saying “Peoria, Illinois” all morning.  It wasn’t that I was ashamed, I just didn’t feel like dealing with the bullshit smiles and jokes that would undoubtedly follow the revelation.  Whoops.

“Ooooh, Philly,” she replied, as if I had just said the name of a murder victim.  “We’ll try not to hold that against you.”

While meeting the head groundskeeper, she of course brought up this aspect of my background.  “He’s from Philadelphia,” she said.  “But we’re trying not to hold that against him.”

“Oh, I will!” he replied.  “We still beat ‘um!”

“HA HA HA” I laughed loudly, trying to drown him out.

“Here, you’ll appreciate this,” said Jorge Costa, VP of Ballpark Operations for AT&T Park.  He reached into his pocket and pulled out a wilted wrist band that looked like it came from a carnival and had allowed him to ride all the rides.  “I guess I haven’t worn these pants since Game Six of the NLCS, because that’s when I got it.”

The wristlet was decorated with pink roller skates, and he went on to tell me how the Citizens Bank Park staff had given them out to the Giants employees at the game once the series had returned to Philadelphia.  They needed a form of identification to prove who they were to security (Which was beefed up that night, for some strange reason).

“They said, ‘We felt this was only appropriate.,” Jorge explained, and laughed.  “I thought, ‘Okay, but only because when we win, this will make you feel all the more ridiculous.”

“Ridiculous” was only one of the adjectives I felt leaving a bar in California on the last night of 2010 Phillies baseball.  Losing is one thing, losing gutwrenchingly is another; but doing so in a room full of 50 drunken people who are glad that it happened to you is another experience entirely.

The whole time I was touring the stadium, I hoped maybe somebody would slip… maybe some bit of corruption or greed would bleed through the inner workings of the facility.

The truth is, I would have loved it.  I would have gleefully recorded it if the San Francisco Giants were choking the horizon with gaseous billows of smog; if they were spewing barrel after barrel of toxic sludge into McCovey Cove, creating ghastly abominations throughout the local wildlife.

Because then I could shout “A-ha!” and point a finger, and become known as “Justin, the handsome young intern who brought the secretly world-destroying Giants to their knees.”

I can’t, though.

Not only are the Giants World Series champs, but the organization has greened their facilities way beyond the bare minimum; and honestly, all of their employees were incredibly hospitable and friendly.

The fan in me may be sickened by the success they’ve had in baseball this past season.  But the human being in me is grateful someone in a position of power isn’t letting the bias and petty grievances so clearly defined by people like me stop them from doing some good in an era when it’s needed most.

A few days later, I was on my bike and stopped at an intersection.  As I waited for the light to turn green, I noticed a flyer taped to the side of a sign post:  “LOST KEYS!” it announced.  “THREE KEYS WITH A GIANTS LANYARD!  PLEASE CALL IF FOUND.”

Without even thinking, I yanked out a pen and scrawled “GIANTS SUCK” next to the phone number.  It was three in the morning.  I was sort of drunk.

Oh, well.

We can’t all be heroes.

. . .

If you enjoyed reading Justin’s account of his guided tour, be sure to add That Ball’s Outta Here to your bookmarks — keep tabs on his thoughts on all things Phillies-related.

CSI One-Liners, Baseball Style

Things have been slow with the blog, but hopefully the pace picks up soon. Fantasy baseball columns have returned to Baseball Prospectus — you can look for my analysis of starting pitchers tomorrow and every Friday. And soon enough, you can read my articles about Roy Halladay and Ryan Madson in the Maple Street Press Phillies Annual 2011. As for the blog, there will be a guest post tomorrow, courtesy Justin Klugh of That Ball’s Outta Here.

In the meantime, I wanted to post something light-hearted. On Twitter, I entertained myself and a few others on Twitter with a mockery of the CSI one-liner meme. In case you’re not familiar, on CSI: Miami, the character Horatio (played by David Caruso) will learn of a situation, put his sunglasses on, and make a corny one-liner. For plenty of examples, watch this video:

The meat of the meme comes from the four-pane comics,  providing endless hilarity. I coined up a few in Photoshop. Feel free to come up with your own in the comments. If you’d like to make your own comics, use this template.








Viva la Internet.

Phillies Best Ever, by Position

MLB Network recently aired an episode (likely a re-run) of Prime 9 where they looked at the best players at each position during the 1980’s. The usual candidates were mentioned: Gary Carter at catcher, Don Mattingly at first base, Ryne Sandberg at second, Cal Ripken at shortstop, Mike Schmidt at third — just to name a few. Since I have been beating the “Utley is super duper awesome” drum so loudly for a while, I was interested to see where the present-day second baseman ranks among his peers in Phillies franchise history.

Rk Player WAR From To Age PA OPS
1 Chase Utley 38.7 2003 2010 24-31 4324 .894
2 Tony Taylor 11.9 1960 1976 24-40 6424 .668
3 Placido Polanco 11.5 2002 2010 26-34 2112 .772
4 Dave Cash 10.9 1974 1976 26-28 2238 .719
5 Juan Samuel 9.8 1983 1989 22-28 3780 .749
6 Otto Knabe 9.8 1907 1913 23-29 4057 .643
7 Manny Trillo 6.1 1979 1982 28-31 2022 .689
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/26/2010.

In chart form:

Utley, over the course of his career, has been three times as valuable to the Phillies as the franchise’s second-best second baseman, Tony Taylor.  He also has the five best single seasons (and six of the top-ten) by a Phillies second baseman.

Rk Player WAR/pos Year
1 Chase Utley 7.7 2009
2 Chase Utley 6.6 2008
3 Chase Utley 6.6 2007
4 Chase Utley 6.2 2005
5 Chase Utley 5.7 2006
6 Dave Cash 4.7 1974
7 Granny Hamner 4.4 1954
8 Dave Cash 4.3 1975
9 Chase Utley 4.2 2010
10 Tony Taylor 4.0 1963
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/26/2010.

Prorating WAR to 700 PA, Utley ranks sixth among all Major League second baseman dating back to 1901.

Rk Player WAR WAR
700 PA
1 Rogers Hornsby 127.8 9.4
2 Jackie Robinson 63.2 7.6
3 Eddie Collins 126.7 7.4
4 Nap Lajoie 84.4 7.2
5 Joe Morgan 103.5 6.4
6 Chase Utley 38.7 6.3
7 Joe Gordon 54.9 5.9
8 Bobby Grich 67.6 5.8
9 Charlie Gehringer 80.9 5.5

While the above is simply overkill on a dead horse that has been beaten thoroughly, it does lead to an interesting question: who are the Phillies’ best players all-time by position? I sped to Baseball Reference’s Play Index to find out.

Catcher

Darren Daulton: 21.9 WAR

Notables:

Range between 1st and 2nd place: 4.2 WAR

First Base

Ryan Howard: 20.9 WAR

Notables:

Range between 1st and 2nd place: 1.2 WAR

Third Base

Mike Schmidt: 108.3 WAR

Notables:

  • Dick Allen: 37.1 WAR (2nd)
  • Scott Rolen: 28.3 WAR (3rd)

Range between 1st and 2nd place: 71.2 WAR

Shortstop

Jimmy Rollins: 30.3 WAR

Notables:

Range between 1st and 2nd place: 13.2 WAR

Left Field

Sherry Magee: 47.6 WAR

Notables:

Range between 1st and 2nd place: 15.9 WAR

Center Field

Richie Ashburn: 52.3 WAR

Notables:

Range between 1st and 2nd place: 22.5

Right Field

Bobby Abreu: 46.6 WAR

Notables:

  • Johnny Callison: 35.0 WAR (2nd)
  • Chuck Klein: 30.9 WAR (3rd)
  • Jayson Werth: 15.4 WAR (6th, with between one-third and one-half the PA of other qualifiers; trails only Abreu on a per-700 PA basis)

Range between 1st and 2nd place: 11.6 WAR

Starting Pitching

  • Robin Roberts: 67.8 WAR
  • Steve Carlton: 63.5 WAR
  • Pete (Grover Cleveland) Alexander: 54.6 WAR
  • Chris Short: 36.0 WAR
  • Curt Schilling: 34.6 WAR

The big takeaway from this is that the Phillies’ best first baseman, second baseman, and shortstop since 1901 (about 110 years) played in the 2007-2010 “post-season era”. All three were home-grown, to boot.  Throw in Werth, arguably the franchise’s second-best right fielder, some historically-great base running, consistently-elite defense, and solid pitching, and you have a  tasty recipe for playoff success.

Chase Utley Gets No Respect

If you tuned in to MLB Network on Monday, you may have overheard some crazy talk coming from former Philadelphia Phillies closer Mitch Williams. Following a discussion of the National League MVP award, the panel discussed the possibility of someone other than Josh Hamilton taking home the American League hardware. Miguel Cabrera was mentioned, as was Robinson Cano.

After a quick review of some basic statistics, Williams proceeded to call Cano the best player in baseball. This, following a discussion that included Albert Pujols on the NL side of things. Now, to clarify, Williams did not qualify his statement with “…in a few years” or with any if-statements. Right now, Cano is the best player in Major League Baseball in Williams’ eyes.

The problem is that Cano isn’t even the best player at his own position. That honor belongs to Chase Utley.

Cano’s 2010 season is ostensibly his peak. .389 wOBA, -0.9 UZR/150, -1.3 EQBRR, 6.4 WAR. That’s about as good as it’s going to get for Robbie.

Now consider Utley’s career lows since becoming a regular in 2005: .373 wOBA (2010), 7.6 UZR/150 (’06), 0.5 EQBRR (’05), 5.2 WAR (’10). At his worst, Utley is still comparable to Cano.

What about Utley’s best? .420 wOBA (’07), 19.3 UZR/150 (’08), 8.8 EQBRR (’09), 8.1 WAR (’08). Utley grades out much better than Cano by comparison.

It could very well be true that Cano is a better player in aggregate going forward especially since he is four years younger, but as of right now, Utley is the best player at his position and arguably the most valuable player in all of baseball. He is still on the good side of 30 (32 to be exact) and will have plenty of time to recuperate from a thumb injury that sidelined him for two months and completely sapped his power when he returned from the disabled list.

Bill James projects a .380 wOBA for Utley and .371 for Cano in 2011 (note: James’ projections tend to be very optimistic). Utley has a strong track record for elite defense while one would be kind to call Cano an average fielder. Utley has always contributed positively on the base paths including double-digit stolen base totals (with an 88% success rate) in five of his six full seasons. In short, Utley is a multi-talented player with a well-padded resume while Cano is a one-dimensional player with one really good season and two good finishes to his name.

Even in an era with mainstream acceptance of Sabermetric principles, Utley still goes relatively unnoticed and unrewarded. Utley could very well go down as the franchise’s second-best player of all time, behind third baseman Mike Schmidt. He already ranks eighth all-time in WAR at 38.7, about 28 WAR behind the man currently in second place, Ed Delahanty. If he has 5+ WAR seasons for the next four years, he could mail it in during his late 30’s and finish in second — if the Phillies decide to extend him beyond 2013, that is.

With shock jocks like Mike Missanelli calling for the team to ship Utley to another city, it’s time for people to wake up and realize just how great of a player Utley really is. Utley should be to the Phillies what Derek Jeter is — and what Cano will be — to the Yankees.

Be sure to read this post if you’d like to contribute a guest article to Crashburn Alley.

Programming Note

Just a quick note regarding new posts here at Crashburn Alley: they will likely come out less frequently for the next couple weeks. Thanksgiving is coming up, of course, but I am also working on a couple other writing projects in the meantime. I will be authoring a couple articles for the Maple Street Press Phillies annual, which will be sold in most local supermarkets and drug stores. My weekly fantasy baseball articles will also return to Baseball Prospectus around the first week of December if all goes according to schedule.

To help fill in some space here on the blog, I’ll be accepting guest articles. If you’d like to have one of your articles published here, send them to CrashburnAlley [at] Gmail [dot] com. It’s a good way to get some free publicity for your blog, or just to see your name somewhere on the Internets. Be sure to include any pertinent details you’d like included with your post, i.e. your name, your blog name and URL, and anything else you deem relevant. The articles don’t have to be Sabermetrically-oriented, but should be original work and relevant to Phillies fans. Try your best to make sure your article is cleaned up for spelling and grammar, but I’ll do some editing prior to publishing if necessary.

I’d also like to experiment with a “mailbag” feature. Send, to the same e-mail address listed above with “mailbag” somewhere in the subject line, any questions you have regarding the Phillies and I’ll post my best attempts at answering those questions every week. If it goes well, I’d like to incorporate it going into the 2011 regular season.

As we enter the doldrums of baseball’s off-season, sit tight and wait for the free agents to start signing and for GM’s to start making trades. Soon enough, we’ll have spring training baseball on our hands.