BDD: Analyzing the Opener

At Baseball Daily Digest, I’ve analyzed in great detail the Opening Day — err, Night — game between the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies.

Slider, slider, slider. That was Derek Lowe’s mantra when he faced left-handers. Of the 53 pitches Lowe threw to left-handers, 22 of them were sliders (41.5%), 14 were sinkers (26.4%), 14 were fastballs (26.4%), 2 were curveballs (3.8%), and 1 was a change-up (2%).

[…]

Myers threw a curveball in 11 different at-bats and 18 total. Six were taken for balls, six were strikes (4 swinging, 2 called), four were fouled off, and two were hit but were ground outs. Perhaps if Myers had used his curveball as a proxy for a change-up, he might have enjoyed more success.

Phillies/Braves Opening Series Preview

With Cole Hamels tending to his inflamed left elbow, Brett Myers will get his third consecutive Opening Day start tomorrow night at 8 PM EST on ESPN2.

In ’07 against the Atlanta Braves, Myers went 7 and two-thirds innings, striking out nine and allowing only three runs. Last year, he went 5 innings, allowing four runs (three earned) against the Washington Nationals.

Myers will be opposed by Braves newcomer Derek Lowe. The Phillies certainly are familiar with Lowe given last year’s NLCS when he was with the L.A. Dodgers. In the ’08 NLCS, Lowe allowed four earned runs in 10 and one-third innings.

Here’s a look at how the hitters and pitchers stack up against the opposition…

Hitters vs. Opposing Starters, by OPS:

Pitchers’ Career vs. Opposing Team:

The Phillies dominated the Braves last year: in 18 games, the Phils won 14 of them (78%).

Phillies Release Geoff Jenkins; Park Wins #5 Spot

Per Todd Zolecki.

Jenkins is classy, though:

What’s there to be mad about? I picked a great year to be here. I wish it worked out better and I could be with them, but I don’t regret one minute. I wouldn’t change a thing being with these guys going through what we went through last year.

Thanks, Geoff.

The Phillies had two left-handed hitters — Jenkins and Matt Stairs — vying for a spot on the bench and with the left-handed Greg Dobbs guaranteed a spot, one of the two clearly wasn’t going to make it through spring training.

Due to Jenkins’ large salary ($6.75 million for ’09 and a $1.25 buy-out for ’10), he was essentially untradeable. Stairs is only owed $1 million through 2009 and will become a free agent after the season, thus he can be appealing to a team looking for a lefty masher at the trading deadline.

Gary Sheffield was also released by his team, the Detroit Tigers, as well and Zolecki thinks he fits in with the Phillies:

Sheffield is a right-handed, power-hitting corner outfielder.

The Phillies are looking for a right-handed, power-hitting corner outfielder.

[…]

the Phillies only would have to pay Sheffield $400,000. In essence, they would be paying Sheffield $8.4 million to get a right-handed bat for their bench compared to paying Jenkins $8 million.

Aside from Sheffield, there aren’t any other right-handed outfielders that the Phillies would be interested in, so the right-handed bat could be Miguel Cairo or John Mayberry. At this point, the chances of Mayberry getting that spot are slim. Although he impressed spectators with his power during spring training, he still needs a lot of polish (including better knowledge of the strike zone) before you can trust him with 150 at-bats.

Additionally, while Mayberry — offensively — would likely outperform Cairo, who has a career OPS+ of 75, he lacks versatility; he’s just an outfielder. Cairo can fit in at any infield or outfield spot, giving the Phillies plenty of versatility.

Back to Sheffield: whether you like it or not, his effect on the team’s chemistry will be a factor brought up with the Phillies’ brass. He’s been a troublemaker plenty of times throughout his career, and it may not be a wise move to import a player with such baggage. I’m not advocating this as a reason to keep him away; it’s just the elephant in the room.

Further, Sheffield is on the cusp of a career milestone and baseball history as he sits on 499 home runs. That certainly would be a reason that more fans would come out to the stadium, but with the Phillies, would that really have an effect? They just won the World Series and tickets have been selling like hotcakes. In other words, would Sheffield making history — which is dwarfed in importance by the Phillies’ World Series championship — give the organization a significant and worthwhile return on its $400,000 investment?

Elsewhere… Zolecki reports that Chan Ho Park has beat out J.A. Happ for the #5 spot in the starting rotation.

Happ’s fate with the team has not been decided, although Amaro said Happ, Gary Majewski, Jack Taschner and Bobby Mosebach are comepting for two bullpen jobs.

BDD: Phillies ’09 Preview and Ryan Howard

I have two articles up at Baseball Daily Digest today.

The first is a preview of the defending World Series champions. One of my bold predictions:

Don’t Be Surprised If…

A Phillie wins both the NL MVP and Cy Young awards.

Also, I have hopped back on the Ryan Howard bandwagon:

When it comes to Ryan Howard, we make a lot of assumptions based on not a whole lot of actual evidence. We pigeonhole the guy, calling him a one-dimensional out-of-shape tub o’ lard who is going to crash and burn in epic fashion.

The truth is that we really don’t have enough information — fancy that — to make a reasonable conclusion as to how best to project him. In other words, we are unable to reject the null hypothesis that Howard will be more like his 2005-07 self than his ’08 self. 

Phillies trade Paulino to Giants for Jack Taschner

Associated Press:

The Philadelphia Phillies acquired reliever Jack Taschner from the San Francisco Giants on Friday for catcher Ronny Paulino.

Taschner was 3-2 with a 4.88 ERA in 67 games last season. He gives the Phillies another left-hander in the bullpen to go with Scott Eyre. J.C. Romero was suspended the first 50 games for using a banned substance.

An initial glance at Taschner’s career statistics doesn’t give you any reason to get excited, and a look at his splits reveal no noticeable difference against left- and right-handed hitters.

Against Taschner over his career, lefties have a .345 BABIP as opposed to the .288 BABIP of right-handed hitters. Factor in that he is moving from a very spacious ballpark to a smaller park, and that he will have baseball’s best defense behind him, and that BABIP should regress quite a bit.

The Phillies definitely accomplished their goal of acquiring a lefty to take Romero’s place for the first 50 games of the regular season, and it didn’t cost them anything but an expendable catcher. It may have been wiser to simply sign free agent Will Ohman (who still doesn’t have a home) but GM Ruben Amaro repeatedly said that they didn’t have the funds available to do so.

UPDATE: The Giants turned right around and traded Paulino to the Florida Marlins. Per the San Francisco Chronicle:

[…] the Giants traded just-acquired catcher Ronny Paulino to the Florida Marlins for 21-year-old right-hander Hector Correa, Florida’s fourth-round draft choice in 2006.

Paulino must be having a lot of fun over the past few months. Pittsburgh to Philly to San Fran back to the East coast to Florida.

Phillies Sign Domingo Santana

Philly.com:

The Phils’ international scouting department signed 16-year-old Domingo Santana from the Dominican Republic. Santana, a 6-foot-5 outfielder with a strong throwing arm, received a $300,000 signing bonus. He had also been pursued by the Yankees.

A 6’5″ 16-year-old from the D.R.

Color me surprised, yet skeptical. Cross your fingers and hope he didn’t lie about his age, like everyone else seems to do.

Related links: Phuture Phillies

BDD: L.A. Dodgers 2009 Preview

At Baseball Daily Digest, you may find a preview of the Manny Ramirezes — err, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

PECOTA is high on the Dodgers despite losing a huge chunk of their league-best pitching staff over the off-season. Gone are Derek Lowe (Braves), Brad Penny (Red Sox), Greg Maddux (retired), Takashi Saito (Red Sox), Joe Beimel (Nationals), Chan Ho Park (Phillies), and Scott Proctor (Marlins). The only pitchers they’ve brought in are Randy Wolf, Guillermo Mota, Shawn Estes, and Claudio Vargas.

We have saved the best for last, however. On March 30, the 30th and final preview will be posted by yours truly, focusing on the WFC’s.