No Worries about Myers-Manuel “Debate”

Including last night’s start against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Brett Myers has pitched extremely well for the Phillies since returning to the Majors. He’s made four starts and has only given up six earned runs in 25 and two-thirds innings (2.10 ERA). He’s given up five or fewer hits in each start and has gone at least six innings in three of the four starts. The only concern remains his low strikeout rate (4.6 per nine innings) and the lack of velocity: his fastball still only averaged about 91.5 MPH against the Pirates. While this is good news considering that he was throwing around 87-89 MPH back in June, most of us are waiting for the Brett Myers who threw 94-95 MPH last season.

Brett Myers Starts

With two outs in the top of the eighth inning last night, Charlie Manuel elected to remove Brett Myers from the game with a left-handed hitter, Doug Mientkiewicz, due up. In the previous two at-bats, Chris Gomez hit a ground-rule double and Luis Rivas lined out to shortstop. Myers wasn’t happy with Manuel’s decision to let left-hander J.C. Romero pitch to the left-handed hitter, and the two engaged in a heated argument with each other in the dugout and in the tunnel.

You can watch the video of the argument by clicking here. Based on the commentary of Phillies broadcaster Chris Wheeler, the arguing between Myers and Manuel is common and Myers has made it known that he doesn’t like to come out of games. There’s nothing to be alarmed about. There is no team chemistry issue, Myers isn’t a bad influence in the clubhouse, and the Phillies’ offense isn’t despicable presently because Myers has anger problems and uses swear words. These arguments occur between players on all thirty Major League Baseball teams, most of them you just don’t see publicly. Dayn Perry has an excellent column on this very subject.

Myers, if he had a problem with being taken out, should have kept his mouth shut and talked about it with his manager when there aren’t TV cameras pointed at them from various angles. Even so, he was wrong anyway because he’d been hit hard in the previous two at-bats, had thrown 93 pitches (not terribly high for almost eight innings of work, however), and a left-handed hitter was at the plate in a 4-1 (read: close) game.

Regardless, the Phillies won the game and that’s all that matters. There is no issue with Myers, especially if he’s pitching this well. The real issue is with the offense: prior to last night’s game, the Phillies had been shut out for 23 consecutive innings and have scored only 21 runs in their last 8 games (2.63 runs per game). If anything deserving of blame, it’s the Phillies’ recent BABIP: .230 over their last 8 games.

Debating K-Rod’s MVP Candidacy

Intelligent DogAuthor at I’m Writing Sports and friend of the blog Nick Underhill recently wrote a column supporting L.A. Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez for the AL MVP award. My dog (in the picture to your right) read it and also disagreed with it, and I’d like to explain why.

As usual, Nick makes a strong case, but there were some areas in which I felt he was incorrect.

Nick starts out by mentioning that K-Rod has 45 saves, which is 13 more saves than the Royals’ Joakim Soria in second place, but it’s out of 49 chances for a 92% success rate. Still good, but counting statistics are only meaningful if you know how large is the pie you’re drawing from. He does mention that Soria (94%), Joe Nathan (94%), and Mariano Rivera (100%) have better SV% than Rodriguez, and that’s just in the A.L. Brad Lidge (100%) and Brian Wilson (94%) are also better from the N.L.

His saves are legit, unlike many closers he actually pitches in close games, in large part because the Angels can’t score runs (they currently rank eighth in the AL). Fifteen of his saves have come in one-run games, and only 8 occurred in games the Angels have won by more than two runs. He’s also durable. 17 times he’s saved games on back-to-back days, which is the exact kind of thing that allows a team to go on a run and separate from the pack.

Closers, as a result of the criteria for a save, almost always pitch in close games (within three runs).

16 of Nathan’s 30 saves have come in one-run games, and only 5 of his saves have come in games the Twins have won by more than two runs.

Running those numbers for the other closers…

Soria: 15 of 32 saves in one-run games, 6 saves have come with the Royals winning by more than two runs.

Rivera: 13 of 26 saves in one-run games, 8 saves have come with the Yankees winning by more than two runs.

Lidge: 13 of 28 saves in one-run games, 4 saves have come with the Phillies winning by more than two runs.
Wilson: 16 of 31 saves in one-run games, 9 saves have come with the Giants winning by more than two runs.

A more accurate measure of this, though, is Win Probability Added which can be found at FanGraphs. A look at our group:

Name: Win Probability Added

Lidge: 4.07

Soria: 3.57

Nathan: 3.51

Rodriguez: 3.14

Rivera: 3.04

Wilson: 2.91

There isn’t any importance in pitching on back-to-back days. There are a lot of variables that come into play with that and none of them have to do with the closer. Furthermore, if you need to rely on your closer so often because your games are always close late in the game, then you’re not going to “go on a run and separate from the pack.” Your Expected W-L in those games will put you close to .500 (try it yourself).

Remember, it’s the most valuable player, not the most talented. If that were the case, Josh Hamilton, what with his stats and feel good story, would definitely be the front-runner, but as we all know, if you don’t get into the playoffs, then you don’t win the MVP. It’s that simple.

I’ve never understood this logic. If John Q. Awesomeplayer puts up a .375/.450/.650 slash line with 85 HR and 215 RBI, but his team goes 0-162, he wouldn’t win the MVP? You’d give it to Jason Z. Goodplayer who put up a slash line of .315/.385/.515 with 35 HR and 135 RBI because his team went 162-0? Egregious example, yes, but it shows the fallacy of the “an MVP has to come from a playoff team” claim.

According to VORP, K-Rod isn’t even the best pitcher on his team. Expectedly, he and his 14.8 VORP are behind three starters: Joe Saunders (34.2), Ervin Santana (33.6), and John Lackey (26.6). As the saying goes, “How can someone win the MVP if he’s not even the best player on his own team?”

There is also playing time to account for. K-Rod has pitched 48.7 innings this season and the Angels have had 1,008 total innings, which means K-Rod is only in 4.8% of the Angels’ innings. Meanwhile, you have offensive players who play nearly every inning of every game, like Torii Hunter, who has logged 854 innings (85%) in the field. Starters, too: Ervin Santana has pitched nearly 150 innings (15%). This is why many like to argue that closers shouldn’t win the MVP or Cy Young awards: they are on the field for an extremely small amount of innings compared to the other players.

Nick goes on to point out that K-Rod’s numbers aren’t all that great, and that’s true by his own standards. He has a 176 ERA+ which is great, but doesn’t come close to his 2004 and ’06 seasons where he put up a 247 and 264 ERA+ respectively. His rates are all down as we can see in this screenshot from FanGraphs (click to enlarge):

Table

His strikeout rate is significantly down and his walk rate is up. The two things you should notice are his BABIP, which is .252 (we should expect it to be around .325 with a 20.5% LD) and his FIP which is 3.76 in contrast to his 2.40 ERA. K-Rod has been really lucky on balls in play and his defense has shaved nearly a run and a half off of his ERA. After all, the Angels do have one of the best defenses in the American League (+13).

Look, the truth is, his resume is softer than Snuggles, but look around the American League, who else is there? What one player jumps out at you from Tampa Bay? Chicago? Boston? Minnesota?

Tampa Bay: Evan Longoria (31.5 VORP).

Chicago: Jermaine Dye (35.8), Carlos Quentin (36.8).

Boston: Kevin Youkilis (40.2).

Minnesota: Justin Morneau (41.1).

Also: Grady Sizemore (52.8), Alex Rodriguez (51.7), Ian Kinsler (47.4), Milton Bradley (46.6), Josh Hamilton (45.4), Aubrey Huff (40.6).

Remember: Francisco Rodriguez (14.8).

The only true headliner on a winning team, Manny Ramirez, has departed to the West Coast.

So, by default, it looks like Francisco Rodriguez is going to be your 2008 AL MVP. I don’t think that Rodriguez should win the MVP, but with the way voting is, along with a serious drought in star power among the contending teams, it looks like it’s going to happen.

There isn’t a “serious drought in star power among the contending teams.” We’re all familiar with Dye, Youkilis, Sizemore, A-Rod, Morneau, and Kinsler. The only surprises, really, are Longoria and Quentin. Bradley has always been a great hitter but has been sidelined by injuries and Hamilton showed us what he was capable of last season with the Reds.

Regardless, “star power” isn’t a criteria for the MVP award. If you’re Steve Nobody (where do I come up with these creative names?) and you put up the numbers that A-Rod put up last season, you deserve to win the award just as much.

I say all of this about K-Rod without even getting into the argument (which Nick correctly acknowledged) that the save rule is arbitrary and meaningless. That’s not K-Rod’s fault, of course, but it certainly would deduct even more points from his supposed MVP candidacy.

By the way, the last pitcher to win the NL MVP was Bob Gibson in 1968. The AL MVP award was won by closer Dennis Eckersley in 1992 and his numbers were vastly superior to K-Rod’s.

Don’t Fret If “Stand Pat” Stands Pat

With the heavy rumors of Manny Ramirez being traded to the division rival Florida Marlins, and with the Mets flying under the radar in search of a corner outfield and a relief pitcher, the Phillies may find themselves having made only one move — Joe Blanton — when August 1 rolls around. That’s fine, even if the Mets and Marlins make a move.

Before you fetch the strait jacket for me, let me explain why Pat Gillick has done some good work in August and beyond.

  • Ryan Franklin, August 7, 2006: Traded by the Philadelphia Phillies with cash to the Cincinnati Reds for a player to be named later. The Cincinnati Reds sent Zac Stott to the Philadelphia Phillies to complete the trade.
  • Jamie Moyer, August 19, 2006: Traded by the Seattle Mariners to the Philadelphia Phillies for Andrew Barb and Andy Baldwin.
  • Jose Hernandez, August 22, 2006: Purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
  • Jeff Conine, August 27, 2006: raded by the Baltimore Orioles to the Philadelphia Phillies Angel Chavez.
  • Randall Simon, September 1, 2006: Purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies from the Texas Rangers.

Franklin wasn’t anything special, and the Phillies got a warm body from the Cardinals for his services. Stott hasn’t been that bad for the Phillies in Clearwater, posting a 3.85 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 2.62 BB/9, and 5.31 K/9.

The Moyer acquisition was brilliant, and it’s still paying dividends as we speak, literally (as of this writing, he’s gone 6 innings and given up 3 runs to the Nationals — another quality start). He’s no Johan Santana, Dan Haren, or C.C. Sabathia, but he’s given the Phillies exactly what they needed in the middle of their rotation.

Since joining the Phillies, Moyer has averaged six innings per start each season and has been above-average for the most part. In eight starts in ’06, he put up a 116 ERA+, a 92 ERA+ in 33 starts last season, and excluding tonight’s start, he has a 119 ERA+ in 21 starts this season. Additionally, Moyer has been relatively cheap, earning $6 million last season and $3.5 million this season.

Andrew Baldwin has been terrible in AAA Tacoma and Andrew Barb hasn’t thrown a pitch this season at any level. I have no idea what happened to him but he presumably got injured or quit. Neither of the two were worth keeping around the Phillies got two and a half seasons of productive pitching out of Moyer.

When Gillick leaves, we may look back on his tenure and point to Moyer as his greatest acquisition.

Jose Hernandez was unproductive but he was only given 32 at-bats. Ditto Randall Simon, who was given only 21 at-bats.

Conine was given 100 at-bats and put up an 80 OPS+ which consisted of a .327 OBP/.390 SLG. Too many at-bats, but he was about as productive as Pedro Feliz has been this season (Conine played in the outfield, though).

  • Russell Branyan, August 9, 2007: Purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies from the Cleveland Indians.
  • Russell Branyan, August 31, 2007: Traded by the Philadelphia Phillies to the St. Louis Cardinals for PTBNL.
  • Pete LaForest, September 4, 2007: Selected off waivers by the Philadelphia Phillies from the San Diego Padres.

Branyan was given nine at-bats in a Phillies uniform but one of them left an indelible mark on the remarkable 2007 season. On August 14 in Washington, the Phillies were shut down by Nationals starter Shawn Hill and Luis Ayala. Hill allowed only one hit and gave up only one walk and struck out seven. Jon Rauch came in to pitch the eighth for the Nationals, and it appeared that the game was destined to end up in the loss column for the Phillies.

With one out, Jayson Werth reached on an error, and Carlos Ruiz drove him in with a single to make it 2-1. Branyan pinch-hit for Antonio Alfonseca, and on the second pitch from Rauch, he hit a mammoth home run to right field to give the Phillies a 3-2 lead and eventually a 3-2 win.

Branyan hit another home run on the 19th against the Pirates in Pittsburgh, and that pretty much sums up his stint with the Phillies. Nine at-bats, two homers, five RBI.

Gillick traded him to the St. Louis Cardinals for a player to be named later (I still have no clue who the PTBNL was), and Branyan was unproductive the rest of the way.

LaForest was very unproductive (hard to imagine, but his OPS+ was in the negatives at -13), but was only given 11 at-bats.

Of the players Gillick acquired past the July 31 trading deadline, two were very productive and the rest, while unproductive, weren’t given enough at-bats to really make a dent.

Even if the Phillies don’t get Manny Ramirez or Brian Fuentes, there are still moves to be made and we can count on Gillick, even if his time in Philly is running out.

Apropos Trivia?

Below, I will list the lines for starts made against the Phillies by a particular starting pitcher, see if you can name him.

Pitching lines

This pitcher has made a total of eight starts against the Phillies in his career. Seven of them have been quality starts. He’s gone more than 18 innings against the Phils without surrendering a home run and has an ERA of 2.30 and a WHIP of 1.14.

Who is this pitcher?

Randy Johnson? Jake Peavy? Brandon Webb? John Smoltz? Carlos Zambrano?

No, no, no, no, and no.

.

.

.

It’s Tim Redding. Tim freakin’ Redding. And he’s scheduled to face Jamie Moyer tonight in about an hour and ten minutes. Never have I wanted to intentionally use the Gambler’s Fallacy more in my life. Come on, Redding is due for a clunker, right? Phils are going to score, like, eight runs off of him tonight. Two Ryan Howard grand slams: one hits the right field foul pole, the other hits the left field foul pole. Book it.

The Phillies are currently -135 favorites and the Nationals are +125 underdogs. Is Vegas aware that Cy Redding is pitching?

BDD: Teixeira; Here: Rumors

At Baseball Digest Daily, I determine the market for Atlanta Braves first baseman Mark Teixeira. Surprising results.

6:15 PM EST UPDATE, Jayson Stark:

Braves deal Teixeira to Angels for Kotchman:

Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com‘s Jayson Stark on Tuesday that Atlanta Braves first baseman Mark Teixeira is headed to the Los Angeles Angels for Casey Kotchman and minor league pitcher Steven Marek.

Rumors

Stark:

Left-handed reliever Ron Mahay could be on the verge of heading to the Phillies.

According to clubs that have been speaking with the Royals, they’ve been having extensive conversations with the Phillies about a trade that would send Mahay to Philadelphia for shortstop prospect Jason Donald, a member of the U.S. Olympic baseball team.

[...] in Donald, the Phillies have a commodity Kansas City has been searching for aggressively. So the fit appears better with the Phillies than with any of the other teams on the Royals’ list.

UPDATE, Stark:

A source with knowledge of the Phillies’ trading discussions now says they’re “not close” to any deal for left-handed reliever Ron Mahay. They plan to continue to explore all their left-handed relief options.

Stark:

The Orioles continue to tell teams they would have to be “overwhelmed” to trade George Sherrill before the deadline. But if they do trade him, there are two interested teams that have the young shortstop the Orioles are targeting as the centerpiece of any deal — the Angels and Phillies.

[...]

And Baltimore has scouted Philly’s Double-A shortstop, Jason Donald, who is bound for the Olympic team. But neither the Angels nor Phillies seem compelled to “overwhelm” the Orioles or anybody else in the next few days. So most teams that have checked in on Sherrill have come away believing the Orioles won’t make any serious attempt to move him until the offseason.

New York Times:

While the Phillies were mentioned as a possible landing spot for [Manny] Ramírez because of his strong relationship with Manager Charlie Manuel, General Manager Pat Gillick harpooned the idea Monday.

“At this point, there’s no interest on our part,” Gillick said in a phone interview. “We have no place to play the guy. Burrell has to play left field, and I don’t think Ramírez has played right field in seven or eight years.”

Todd Zolecki:

[...] J.A. Happ, whom the Phillies had pulled from Sunday’s start after just 22/3 innings.

Yes, Happ is healthy.

“We pulled him as a precaution,” assistant general manager Mike Arbuckle said. “We really don’t know what’s going to happen at the trade deadline, and we didn’t know if we were going to need him in the big leagues or weren’t or whatever. We just wanted to keep all our options open, and we thought the best way to do that was limit his outing just so that he might be ready in case we needed him or there was a trade. A lot of different things could happen over the next couple days.”

In other news:

MTV will finally show the episode of Cribs that visits the Gloucester County house of Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins. (I wrote about it four months ago when the show turned up on On Demand, but the network pulled it quickly for unknown reasons.)

At 1:30 p.m. Sunday – yes, it conflicts with the start of the Phillies-Braves game – J Roll will lead the eight-minute video tour of his house, where he seems proudest of his vibrating king-size bed. “That’s a great place to make the magic happen,” he tells the camera. He also shows his dining room and his kitchen, which he says “actually gets used.” Also in the spot are his girlfriend, Johari Smith; his Akitas, Kato and Kenja; teammate Ryan Howard; his spa and pool; and his rides, a Mercedes CLS 55 Carlsson and a Bentley Continental Flying Spur. The episode was shot last year.