Analyzing the Phillies’ Latest Trade Dream

Rumors have it that the Phillies are pursuing Colorado Rockies left fielder Matt Holliday with vigor. Per CNNSI:

Any teams interested in acquiring Holliday understand that they will be getting him for only one year. Several teams have shown interest, including the A’s, Mets and Rays, but so far it appears the Phillies may have the best chance among those teams.

Just think about the headlines should a trade be completed… “Phillies trade Adam Eaton to Rockies for Holliday” … “Phils Acquire Holliday, Send Geoff Jenkins Packing” … “Phillies’ bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer sent to Colorado for Holliday” …

Just kidding — that’d be awful. Billmeyer is awesome.

That’d be nice, though, wouldn’t it? Of course, the Rockies aren’t stupid and would get their money’s worth in trading one of the game’s best hitters. CNNSI suggests the Rockies would want Shane Victorino back along with some youngsters, namely Lou Marson, Jason Donald, or Carlos Carrasco.

Would the trade be worthwhile? Holliday would simply be a one-year rental unless new GM Ruben Amaro plans on locking him up long-term, but he has to deal with the ballooning salaries of a number of arbitration-eligible players including Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels. In other words, Holliday would be a Phillie for one year and one year only.

It wouldn’t be worth it if the Phillies gave up one of their starting outfielders (Jayson Werth, Victorino) to acquire Holliday, an outfielder himself. It’s particularly useless in giving up Victorino because he plays the premium outfield position, has great speed, and above-average defense with a great throwing arm. Victorino was only slightly less valuable than Holliday in 2008, all things considered (not that we should expect Victorino to string together a bunch of ’08 seasons in a row). Additionally, the Flyin’ Hawaiian is going to be cheap at least for the next couple seasons as he enters arbitration: he made just under a half-mil in ’08; Holliday is due $13.5 million in ’09.

In terms of prospects, Jason Donald would be the easiest to relinquish since he’s roadblocked at shortstop by Jimmy Rollins, and probably wouldn’t translate well at another position, defensively speaking. The Phillies would have nowhere to play him anyway; the infield is set with Howard, Utley, Rollins, and Feliz/Dobbs/Bruntlett.

The Phillies’ Minor League system isn’t deep at the top (at the AAA and AA levels) and Carrasco is both the system’s best pitcher and the closest to being Major League-ready, unless you count J.A. Happ. If the Phillies go into ’09 with a rotation of Hamels-Myers-Blanton-Moyer-Happ (with Kyle Kendrick picking up mop-up duty in the bullpen, or working on his stuff in AAA), they have to hope that no one struggles or gets injured as there would be very little from which to choose from as a replacement — just Kendrick and Adam Eaton.

If you recall back to late-July, the Phillies were inquiring about several players including Holliday, but almost every team wanted catching prospect Lou Marson. Correctly, the Phillies declined every request for Marson. Let’s be honest: despite his amazing World Series performance, Carlos Ruiz should not be an everyday starting catcher, and Chris Coste isn’t much better and won’t be around forever. Good catchers are hard to come by, and the Phillies have a legitimately good catcher in Marson — Amaro should put a big, red “not for sale” sign on him.

Assuming a trade does get worked out — and this is why the off-season is awesome: very few of the trade rumors pan out — how much value would Holliday bring to the Phillies? Baseball Prospectus put him at 9.5 Wins Above Replacement Player last season. Their replacement level is very low, so he’s not actually worth 9.5 WARP in today’s game. Pat Burrell was worth 6 WARP. In-house replacements — some combination of Geoff Jenkins, Greg Golson, and Greg Dobbs — would likely significantly under-perform both totals.

Unlike Burrell, Holliday has some range in left field. Even playing in one of the most spacious outfields among all Major League ballparks, Holliday posted the third-best RZR among qualified LF in the Majors, behind only Carl Crawford and Fred Lewis; Burrell ranked dead last on that list.

Holliday’s most surprising statistics of 2008 weren’t his OPS and RZR; it was his stolen base total and success percentage: 28 and 93.3%, respectively. He’s a big guy — 6’4″, 235 according to his B-R page — so it’s impressive that he not only steals that many bases, but does so at such a high success rate (70-75% is considered to be around the break-even point where stealing bases becomes a worthwhile endeavor).

We haven’t even talked about the offense yet, and already I’m starting to salivate — are you? In his five seasons in the Majors, his OBP has increased every single season and his SLG did until last season, but it was still impressive.

Matt Holliday OBP and SLG, 2004-08

There is a concern: Holliday, over his career, has been much better at Coors Field — a very hitter-friendly ballpark — than on the road: a 1.068 OPS at home to .803 on the road. There is good news: Citizens Bank Park is also hitter-friendly, and less spacious, so the Phillies would essentially be getting the Matt Holliday we all know and love.

Food for thought: Holliday’s overall offensive numbers might be suppressed a bit since he plays in the most pitching-heavy division in baseball: the NL West, with such names as Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, Jake Peavy, Chris Young, Derek Lowe, Tim Lincecum, and Matt Cain. He’d move to the NL East, where you really only have to worry about Johan Santana, who is left-handed (Holliday has an .892 OPS against lefties in his career). The only non-Phillie, non-Santana starting pitchers in the NL East to post an ERA under 4.00 in 2008 were Ricky Nolasco, Jair Jurrjens, Mike Pelfrey, and John Lannan.

A trade for Holliday makes sense if we assume that the Phillies’ starting rotation is fine, and it is as long as Moyer re-signs. The Phillies, otherwise, are one twisted ankle or index finger blister away from having to send Kendrick or Eaton to the bump — that alone should be enough to scare GM Amaro into pleading with Derek Lowe to come to Philadelphia. As I mentioned in this entry, the Phillies realistically will only have about $20 million with which to address the 25% of their roster that is still questionable.

Matt HollidayIf Moyer cheaply re-signs — something like $8 or 9 million for one season — with the Phillies, that would leave them with enough salary flexibility to afford Holliday, and the other pieces (5th OF, middle relief) are fixable with cheap players that will be laying around in February and March, or in the system. And the most realistic best-case scenario is that the Rockies take a deal like Happ-Carrasco-Golson, or — even better — they take on Geoff Jenkins as well to offset about $7 million in salary. Worst case scenario is Amaro sending Marson and Ryan Madson and/or Victorino to the airport, Colorado-bound.

It’s highly likely Matt Holliday won’t be wearing a Phillies uniform when spring training rolls around, but it’s fun to dream about. While we’re dreaming, can you imagine what the Phillies’ SB numbers would look like with Holliday?

No Need for Retroactive Ed Wade Praise

It wasn’t long ago when the phrase “Fire Ed Wade” was a regular part of the Philadelphia lexicon. In fact, a website under that exact title was created and laid out in great detail the extreme failure in his eight years as general manager of the Phillies. He was one of the most reviled people in Philadelphia for many reasons, but mostly for completely botching the trades of Curt Schilling (to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Travis Lee, Omar Daal, Vicente Padilla, and Nelson Figueroa) and Scott Rolen (with Doug Nickle to the St. Louis Cardinals for Placido Polanco, Mike Timlin, and Bud Smith).

On a semi-related note, I wonder if the 1998 Phillies featured the worst 6-4-3 combination in baseball history: Desi Relaford (65 OPS+), Mark Lewis (73 OPS+), and Rico Brogna (97 OPS+). 1999 was excruciatingly bad as well, featuring Alex Arias (93 OPS+), Marlon Anderson (61 OPS+) and Brogna (94 OPS+).

Given the Phillies’ recent success that involves a lot of players drafted under Ed Wade (did Wade analyze them himself, or was he just the guy who either gave a thumbs up or thumbs down?), and Pat Gillick’s classy move to give him credit, the hate has dissipated. That the Phillies just won a World Series doesn’t make Wade’s eight-year tenure any better. It may make you hate him less, but he was still that incompetent.

Wade’s biggest flaw was his inability to put together a decent bullpen. In only three out of his eight years did a Phillies reliever log 25 or more saves (Jose Mesa, 2001-02; Billy Wagner, 2005). Oftentimes, Wade opted for experience over tangible skill, which explains why pitchers like Tim Worrell, Roberto Hernandez, and Mike Williams found homes in the Phillies’ bullpen. But above all, Wade’s bullpens were just awful. And just think that in 2001-02 and 2004-05, Wade had a competent closer (Mesa and Wagner, respectively).

Philadelphia Phillies Bullpen ERA under Ed Wade, 1998-2005

It didn’t end there. He wasn’t just bad at making trades and putting together a bullpen, he was too happy to sign old, declining players to large contracts:

  • Mike Lieberthal: 3 years, $23.5 million (2003-05, ages 31-33)
  • David Bell: 4 years, $17 million (2003-06, ages 30-33)
  • Jim Thome: 6 years, $85 million (2003-08, ages 32-37; the Phillies paid the White Sox $22 million over the length of the remaining contract after trading him before the 2006 season)
  • Jon Lieber: 3 years, $21 million (2005-07, ages 35-37)

If it hadn’t been for the free-spending New York Yankees, the Phillies would have been saddled with another expensive contract of Wade’s: the five-year, $64 million contract given to Bobby Abreu in 2003 with a club option for 2008. But because of how expensive Abreu was, GM Pat Gillick couldn’t get much in return for Abreu and Cory Lidle, settling for Matt Smith, C.J. Henry, Jesus Sanchez, and Carlos Monasterios. Only Smith has contributed at the Major League level.

Another aspect of Wade’s teams was the Mets-like ability to choke it all away in September (my inspiration for the name of this blog — the Phillies’ tended to crash and burn in September until recently):

  • 2001: Finished 86-76, 2nd in NL East, 2 GB Atlanta; 7 GB Wild Card-leading Houston; 15-13 in September and October
  • 2003: Finished 86-76, 3rd in NL East, 5 GB Wild Card-leading Florida; 26-29 in August and September including losing 7 of their last 8 games (three against Florida)
  • 2005: Finished 88-74, 2nd in NL East, 1 GB Wild Card-leading Houston (swept by Houston Sept. 5-7 including this soul-crushing loss)

If there’s one thing that those Phillies teams and the New York Mets of the past two years have in common (besides Billy Wagner), it’s an unreliable bullpen. In today’s state of baseball, nothing will help you choke away a division or Wild Card lead faster than a shoddy relief corps. And for the Phillies’ late-season choking, we can blame Ed Wade.

Yeah, it’s cool that Wade gave the thumbs-up on drafting Pat Burrell, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Ryan Madson, etc. but when you consider everything he was responsible for, it’s hard to find anything for which to praise him. A World Series trophy earned three years after his firing doesn’t change that.

Four Months of Business for the Phillies

As content as everyone must feel seeing the 2008 World Series flag flapping in the wind at Citizens Bank Park, the focus is still directly ahead and no one is going to rest on his laurels. The Phillies have plenty of work to do if they want to continue to play at an elite level in 2009. Already, they’ve declined the options of Tom Gordon and So Taguchi.

The following players are arbitration-eligible (2008 salary in parentheses):

  • Joe Blanton ($3.7 million)
  • Eric Bruntlett ($0.6 million)
  • Clay Condrey ($0.42 million)
  • Greg Dobbs ($0.44 million)
  • Cole Hamels ($0.5 million)
  • Ryan Howard ($10 million)
  • Ryan Madson ($1.4 million)
  • Shane Victorino ($0.48 million)
  • Jayson Werth ($1.4 million)

That’s a total of about $19 million. Using JFLNYC’s payroll estimates for 2009, we could see that total jump up to about $33 million. Most notably, Howard is likely to jump up to $15 million and Hamels to $5 million.

On the books are:

  • Adam Eaton: $8.5 million
  • Pedro Feliz: $5 million
  • Geoff Jenkins: $6.75 million
  • Brad Lidge: $11.5 million
  • Brett Myers: $12 million
  • Jimmy Rollins: $7.5 million
  • J.C. Romero: $4 million
  • Matt Stairs: $1 million
  • Chase Utley: $11 million

That’s a total of over $67 million.

The Phillies also control Carlos Ruiz, Chris Coste, Kyle Kendrick, J.A. Happ and all of the other prospects you saw, mostly at the end of the season. Those four and the others are likely to make around a half-million each.

Add that all up and you come to about $90 million.

Phillies free agents include: Pat Burrell, Jamie Moyer, Scott Eyre, Tadahito Iguchi, Chad Durbin, and Rudy Seanez.

This leaves holes in left field, two starting rotation spots, a back-up infielding spot, and three bullpen slots including a LOOGY. In other words…

C: Carlos Ruiz
1B: Ryan Howard
2B: Chase Utley
3B: Pedro Feliz
SS: Jimmy Rollins
LF: ?
CF: Shane Victorino
RF: Jayson Werth

Bench: Eric Bruntlett, Chris Coste, Greg Dobbs, Geoff Jenkins, Matt Stairs, ?, ? (if Amaro chooses to fill in the hole in LF by either just plugging in Dobbs and/or Jenkins, or to shift LF and RF around, there could be another need for a back-up outfielder, potentially Greg Golson)

Starting Pitching: Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Joe Blanton, ?, ? (could be filled by one or two of Happ, Kendrick, and Eaton)

Relief Pitching: Condrey, Lidge, Madson, Romero, ?, ?, ? (could be filled by all or one or two of Happ, Kendrick, and Eaton)

The Phillies’ payroll was over $98 million on Opening Day 2008, but we can expect an increase, between $105 and $110 reasonably speaking. So, that gives the Phillies around $20 million with which to fill the hole in left field and the holes in the rotation and in the bullpen. Given the lack of salary room, we can cut out a few free agents, especially now that Pat Burrell declined the Phillies’ offer of two years and a total of $22 million (which, on average, would be a pay cut).

On the list of free agent outfielders whom the Phillies should have interest, we can cut out Adam Dunn, Raul Ibanez, and Manny Ramirez. Factoring in that the Phillies are looking for a solid right-handed bat to replace Burrell’s, that would naturally exclude all but Ramirez anyway.

Realistically speaking, if the Phillies don’t re-sign Burrell, they’re going to have to fill in the hole in left field either via trade or from within the organization (Jenkins, Dobbs, Golson).

As for starting pitching, there are some attractive options, such as C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Ryan Dempster, Derek Lowe, Mike Mussina, Oliver Perez, Andy Pettitte, and Ben Sheets. Almost all of these pitchers are going to earn salaries in the double-digit millions. If the Phillies can’t re-sign Jamie Moyer, the Phillies should either take a big gulp and dump close to all of their available salary room on one of those starters (probably Derek Lowe, given his ground ball tendencies that would mesh well in a fly ball-friendly hitter’s ballpark), or accept a rotation that includes Kyle Kendrick and J.A. Happ (and sending Adam Eaton to the pacific ocean in a deep-sea diving bell).

As for the bullpen, the Phillies have all of their main pieces intact, so it’s just a matter of finding some cheap, quality arms if they can’t re-sign Chad Durbin or Scott Eyre. Dave Cameron of FanGraphs noted that Jeremy Affeldt would be a bargain, and he should definitely be on the Phillies’ radar. Other free agent relievers the Phillies should be interested in are: Joe Beimel, LaTroy Hawkins, Will Ohman, Darren Oliver, and Dave Weathers.

The Phillies have to focus on about 25% of their roster for 2009, and if they can do that adequately, they should have a great shot at defending their World Series championship. One thing’s for sure: we won’t be hearing the New York Mets or their fans saying anything at all about the Phillies, will we, Carlos Beltran?

World Fuckin’ Champions!

Chase Utley is already super-cool, but he wasn’t just satisfied being the serious, extremely productive second baseman on the Phillies. Referencing his “Boo? Fuck you!” outburst when he was booed in New York during the All-Star Game this season, Utley came to the microphone in Citizens Bank Park after the parade, and before a packed house, uttered, “World Champions… World Fuckin’ Champions!”

Here’s proof (let’s hope it stays up on YouTube):

Can You Believe It? A Championship in Philly!

The storylines that surrounded the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies going into and advancing further in the playoffs were numerous and unique. If you had no allegiances to any of the other teams or to a Phillies rival, I would think it’d be hard not to pull for the Phillies. Unlike a lot of other teams, all of the players are extremely likable — I’ll pause to let you struggle to come up with an unlikable Phillies player — and there are no bad eggs in the bunch. When you look back and realize that the biggest offender was Jimmy Rollins for getting stuck in traffic, you know you were watching a team and not a group of individuals, as cliche as that sounds.

Going into the season, there was the specter that it was GM Pat Gillick’s last season, and left fielder Pat Burrell would be a free agent after the season. Furthermore, there was plenty of irrational doubt surrounding Brad Lidge as a result of his post-season failures with the Houston Astros. And you had New York Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran mouthing off:

To Jimmy Rollins: We are the team to beat.

Rollins, unrelated to Beltran’s words, had another prediction one season after correctly branding the Phillies “the team to beat.”

We’ll win probably 100 games[...]

Granted, he was talking about the regular season, but with their World Series clincher last night, that brought their overall total (regular season + playoffs) to 103.

During the season, you had Utley’s candidacy for NL MVP in the first half — an attempt to make it an MVP trifecta after Ryan Howard won it in 2006 and Rollins won it in ’07. Cole Hamels pitched worthy of Cy Young consideration but because of some bad luck and some amazing pitching from Tim Lincecum and Johan Santana, he got overshadowed. Jamie Moyer, 46 years old, theoretically had the biological clock ticking, counting down to the end of his baseball career. Brett Myers struggled as a starter after being used as a closer in ’07, was sent down to the Minor Leagues voluntarily, and came up and gave the Phillies additional firepower to blast into the playoffs. The rival New York Mets once again required the Heimlich maneuver in September to the glee of the Phillies and their fans.

During the playoffs, Shane Victorino and Charlie Manuel experienced some unfortunate circumstances involving deaths in their respective families, yet never lost sight of the goal nor lost their focus. Victorino did nothing but get important, timely hits (the grand slam off of C.C. Sabathia, the two-run home run in the Phillies’ comeback against the Dodgers’ bullpen in Game 4 of the NLCS, and the two-run single in Game 5 of the World Series). Manuel continued to correctly pull all the right levers and press all the right buttons and rarely had a decision backfire.

That the Phillies sealed the deal at home means so much. All season long, their celebrations were somewhat muted whether it was clinching a playoff berth, winning the division, the NLDS, or the NLCS. As soon as they won the World Series, they deserved to completely pop the cork on their bottled-up emotions. It would have been somewhat sour if they had clinched in front of a Tampa Bay crowd that only recently decided to come out and watch baseball.

The Phillies were one of the best teams when they played at home: 48-33. That record was only beaten by two other teams: the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers, and tied with the New York Mets. Furthermore, the Phillies never lost a home game in the playoffs: they took seven out of seven at Citizens Bank Park.

Leading up to the World Series, Comcast Sportsnet ran a lot of retrospectives on the 1980 World Series-winning Phillies team, and I continue to wonder what the 2008 retrospective video will look and sound like (narrated by Harry Kalas, of course — make it happen!).

Personally, the Phillies’ World Series championship didn’t completely sink in until I just now looked at their franchise encyclopedia on Baseball Reference. I’m always on BBRef, and I know that something is for real when it shows up on that website. For instance, Ryan Howard didn’t really hit a home run until I see the updates on his player page (Irrational? Absolutely!). Similarly, the Phillies didn’t really win the World Series until I saw the “WS” as you can see here:

Philadelphia Phillies on BaseballReference.com

It’s true — they won. They really did it. And you have to feel absolutely thrilled for everyone involved, especially Harry Kalas, who never had the privelege of broadcasting a Phillies World Series clincher in his life (he was not allowed in 1980 because of some awful policies that were very quickly changed thereafter) until last night. If you want to see and hear the Kalas call (as well as see fellow broadcaster Chris Wheeler go nuts), click here for a YouTube video.

Now we have the off-season to look forward to, but it’s going to be a while before the euphoria of the Phillies’ World Series championship wears off. The economy can continue to tank and I know I’ll still be feeling good as long as I can watch World Series clips on a never-ending loop — kind of like this, but only good.

Ahh…

That’s a sigh of relief. We kind of need it after 25 years, you know?

I’ll be writing more on this soon, I just wanted to get a post up and allow anyone who wants to discuss it to do so here in the comments.

This was an amazing baseball season and I want to thank all of my fellow bloggers, readers, and friends in the media for making it fun to watch and discuss. Now, we look forward to the offseason, and I’ll not only be covering the Phillies here, but I’m hoping to do some general MLB off-season coverage for Baseball Digest Daily. John Brattain and I will likely be teaming up once more for a “Why the Phillies Won It All” article at The Hardball Times.

Crashburn Alley is now ironic: the Phillies certainly didn’t crash and burn this season.

Yahoo! Sports: Phillies World Series photo gallery.

MLB, Umpires Make Mockery of World Series

Tampa Bay Rays @ Philadelphia Phillies, World Series Game 5The decision to keep the game going until the bottom of the sixth in the nagging cold and biting rain has to rank highly on MLB’s list of blunders. There was the 2002 All-Star Game that Commissioner Bud Selig chose to end in a tie, of course, but tonight’s baffler might even top that.

Unlike football, which is a game that can be played during the apocalypse, baseball requires precision down to the millimeter. Non-baseball fans often don’t understand why games aren’t played in inclement weather and it’s because it cheapens the game significantly.

Maybe anti-Phillies fans got some cheap schadenfreude laughs out of watching Jimmy Rollins go back a few feet, then race in 15 feet to attempt to catch a fly ball hit by Rocco Baldelli. Overall, it’s a mockery of the way baseball is meant to be played.

Obviously, I’m a Phillies fan and there’s no question that the umpires’ moronic decision to move the game forward only benefited the Rays, but I’d say the same thing if the Phillies were the beneficiaries. After Cole Hamels got two quick outs in the top of the sixth, B.J. Upton hit a grounder to Rollins, who booted it due to the poor playing surface and the wetness of the baseball. Upton then stole second in part because Hamels did a poor job of holding him on but also because it was incredibly tough on catcher Carlos Ruiz to get a handle on the baseball and make a strong, accurate throw 127 feet away. And Upton was knocked in on a single to left field by Carlos Pena.

Then the game was halted. (Insert me giving a very sarcastic thumbs-up)

In truth, the game should have been halted before it became an official game. I don’t care how many days you have to wait to get the full nine innings in, you want the fairest conditions in which both teams can play the sport’s most important game.

This is not just Philadelphia bittnerness; this is overall baseball fan bitterness.

As usual, I am gracious to FanGraphs for the use of their excellent charts. (Insert me giving a very non-sarcastic thumbs-up)

UPDATE: The game has been officially suspended to be resumed tomorrow at 8 PM EST. Again, the Phillies get shafted because their best pitcher and NLCS MVP is done at least for a couple days (more likely done for four days, as Cole Hamels doesn’t pitch on short rest), while the Rays have the option of either resuming with ALCS MVP Matt Garza or James Shields, who won Game 2 of the World Series. The Phillies get to use Brett Myers, who’s been more impressive with his bat than with his pitching, and then Jamie Moyer, who’s been hit or miss in the post-season.

I’ve been reading some point/counter-points and there’s really no argument that the delay benefits the Rays exponentially. Mitch Williams made a great point on Comcast SportsNet that Hamels pitched in the sixth inning — when he gave up the tying run — on a sloppy mound. When play resumes, the Rays’ pitcher will have a freshly-manicured mound.

Sleeping Giant

Tampa Bay Rays @ Philadelphia Phillies, World Series Game 4You knew it was going to happen some time: Ryan Howard was going to hit. Someone was going to hang a breaking ball, or feed him a fastball, and he was going to pay for it. It took twelve post-season games in 2008 for Howard to finally break out.

In the third inning, Howard lined an Andy Sonnanstine fastball right over the plate to right field for a single. In the fourth, he lifted a low and outside Sonnanstine curve ball over the left field fence for a three-run home run. And in the eighth inning, he launched a Trever Miller fastball over the plate way over the right field fence for a two-run home run.

Remember when the Rays chose to intentionally walk Chase Utley to get to Ryan Howard in Game 1? That’s not going to happen again. Howard was intentionally walked by Edwin Jackson in the sixth inning to get to Pat Burrell (who’s still not hitting). Given his 3-for-4, 2 HR, 5 RBI night, you can expect that the Rays will either pitch around him or revert back to their previous pattern of giving him nothing but breaking balls.

Joe Blanton was very effective and when he was hit, the damage was limited. The only runs he allowed were on solo home runs by Carl Crawford in the fourth and Eric Hinske in the fifth. Oh yeah, and he also hit a home run himself in the fifth. Yeah, he’s a pitcher. No, he’s not named Brett Myers.

The Phillies overall had 12 hits, half of which went for extra bases: four home runs, two doubles. The Rays had 5 hits: two dingers and three singles (one of which was from the pitcher).

Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria, the Rays’ #3 and 4 hitters, remained hitless for the World Series with 0-for-3 and 0-for-4 nights respectively. The only Rays who are hitting anything consistently are Crawford and Dioner Navarro. Stay cold for one more game. That’s not asking too much, right?

None of the Rays’ speedsters reached base (Crawford’s only time on base was to round the bases on a home run): B.J. Upton and Jason Bartlett both went 0-for-4.

Once again, once the starter was lifted, the Phillies’ bullpen went into lockdown mode. Chad Durbin, Scott Eyre, Ryan Madson, and J.C. Romero combined for three innings of one-hit, no-walk, five-strikeout pitching, moving the Phillies just one win away from a parade down Broad Street.

Cole Hamels is scheduled to take the bump tomorrow. Now, you don’t want to assume anything in life, but… the address to send the rings to is 1 Citizens Bank Way Philadelphia PA 19148. Make sure to apply the correct postage.

Game graph courtesy FanGraphs.

The Audacity of Dope

Tampa Bay Rays @ Philadelphia Phillies, World Series Game 3If the Phillies were going to write a book about the first two games of the World Series thus far, “The Audacity of Dope” would be an apt title (my apologies for the lame pun). With runners in scoring position, they couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a friggin’ boat.

Saturday night was a bad night, especially if you live near Philadelphia and your cable provider is Comcast. Not only was it cold and rainy for most of the day, but throughout the broadcast, from start to finish, both the audio and video feeds would hesitate or freeze altogether. Before Jamie Moyer got out of the fourth inning (around 11:45ish), my cable froze. I went out for about a half hour and listened to the broadcast on my car radio. The cable feed still hadn’t unfrozen when I returned, so I missed the Utley and Howard home runs, as well as the controversial call at first base by umpire Tom Hallion. Thanks, Comcast!

Yes, Hallion’s incorrect call directly led to two runs for the Rays, and indirectly to another. To start off the seventh inning, up 4-1, Jamie Moyer got Carl Crawford to hit a weak chopper down the first base line. Moyer made an extraordinary play and flipped to Howard. Replays showed that the flip was indeed in time, but Hallion called Crawford safe. Dioner Navarro promptly hit a double to put runners on second and third with no outs. As has been the case with the Rays all series long, they knocked in those runs with ground outs.

Now, I’m not one to toot my own horn, but I want to take this opportunity to direct my readers to my outrageously good forecasting (please ignore the fact that before the season, I picked the Cleveland Indians and Colorado Rockies to appear in the World Series). On a FanGraphs blog, I left the following comment:

I think the key to the series is speed. The Phillies’ catchers, contrary to popular opinion, haven’t been good defensively. Bartlett, Crawford, and Upton can all steal bases with abandon. On the other hand, Dioner Navarro was the best at throwing out base stealers in the AL, so the running game of Rollins, Victorino, and Werth may be shut down[...]

It was 4-3 going into the eighth inning with Ryan Madson on the hill when B.J. Upton stole the show. With a big hole up the middle, Upton hit a chopper — you guessed it, up the middle — that Rollins had to range to his left to get, and Upton barely crossed the first base bag in time. Considering Upton’s speed, it’s a wonder Rollins ever made it a close play.

After Carlos Pena struck out and Evan Longoria came to the plate, Upton put his legs to work. He stole second base easily, and didn’t waste too much time attempting to steal third. Carlos Ruiz tried to throw him out but his throw was low, hit the dirt, and skidded away from third baseman Pedro Feliz into foul territory, allowing Upton to score the tying run.

In the Phillies’ half of the eighth, Jayson Werth worked a lead-off walk to bring up Chase Utley. Werth stole second base, but Utley couldn’t drive him in, instead choosing to chase a 3-2 low and outside curveball to strike out. With one out and presumably trying to put the go-ahead run on third base for a fly ball-happy Ryan Howard, Werth was taking aggressive leads off of second base. The Rays noticed this, and had pitcher J.P. Howell keep an eye on him. After Howard fouled off the first pitch, Howell threw over to second base to keep Werth close. Werth didn’t shorten his lead and instead became even more aggressive. Howell threw over again and Werth was nailed for the first out. Howard eventually struck out to end the inning.

J.C. Romero pitched a perfect ninth to give the Phillies the final at-bat before extra innings. Eric Bruntlett got hit by a 2-1 fastball from Howell, bringing up Shane Victorino to face new pitcher Grant Balfour. Victorino took a strike after showing bunt. He became more aggressive in his bunt attempt on the second pitch, but it was inside — too far inside. Catcher Navarro missed it, and it hit the bricks behind home plate, a favorable carom for the Rays. Bruntlett raced towards second. Navarro spun and threw to second base, but it was wide and bounced into center field, allowing Bruntlett to motor to third base, putting the winning run 90 feet away.

Manager Joe Maddon ordered Balfour to intentionally walk Victorino, then Greg Dobbs (who pinch-hit for Feliz) to bring up Carlos Ruiz. To add to the strategy, he ordered right fielder Ben Zobrist to come in to the infield to increase the probability of making a play at home on a ground ball.

With the pitcher’s spot on deck and Matt Stairs inevitably due up, Balfour attacked Ruiz with 94-96 MPH fastballs. Ruiz fouled off two and took two balls, forcing Balfour to throw pitches. On the sixth pitch, Ruiz hit a chopper down the third base line. Longoria made a good effort but there’s almost no way he could have gotten Bruntlett for the force out at home plate, so the Phillies won in epic fashion despite more offensive futility.

To illustrate how much the fate of the game hung in the balance, here’s a recap of the biggest swings in Win Expectancy, courtesy FanGraphs:

  • Carlos Ruiz solo home run in the second inning to put the Phillies ahead 2-1. (WE: +10.9% for the Phillies)
  • Chase Utley solo home run in the sixth inning to increase the Phillies’ lead to 3-1. (WE: +10.4% for the Phillies)
  • Dioner Navarro double in the seventh inning to put runners on second and third with no outs. (WE: -11.9% for the Phillies)
  • B.J. Upton steals third base and scores on Ruiz’s throwing error. (WE: -14.9% for the Phillies)
  • Jayson Werth gets picked off of second base in the eighth inning. (WE: -12.7% for the Phillies)
  • Eric Bruntlett advances to second base, then to third base on the wild pitch by Grant Balfour and the throwing error by Navarro. (WE: +21.9% for the Phillies)

The Phillies find themselves up two games to one with four games left, two at home with Cole Hamels scheduled for Game 5. Despite the inefficient offense, you’ve got to feel good about their chances to win two out of the next four games. The audacity of hope, right?