Graph of the Intermittent Time Period

(Tip of the hat to Steve Sommer of FanGraphs as well as Jeff Zimmerman and Sky Kalkman.)

This graph will display Charlie Manuel’s bullpen usage by Leverage Index, a stat found at FanGraphs. I have shrunk it down to fit on this page, but you can click it to view a much larger version to enhance readability.

Ryan Madson, the Phillies’ closer while Brad Lidge has been out, is marked by the large red circles. While he has been given the Phillies’ most heralded job in the bullpen, he typically has not been pitching in the most important spots in a game.

(Note: Madson pitched on April 24 in Arizona, but it is not marked on the graph because the LI was so high — 3.74 to be exact.)

Jose Contreras, meanwhile, has come in with an LI above 1 (neutral) in four of his seven appearances. Danys Baez has also pitched in LI > 1 situations in four out of his seven appearances.

Manuel has kept his younger hurlers out of crucial situations when possible. Antonio Bastardo and David Herndon have combined for only three appearances in LI > 1 situations. J.C. Romero, recently healed from off-season surgery, has not been called upon to get any important outs yet. Not long after joining the Phillies after being cut by the New York Mets, Nelson Figueroa was thrown into high-pressure situations in his first two appearances out of the bullpen.

Elsewhere, you can catch the pitching-half of my installment of Smoke and Mirrors at Baseball Daily Digest.

Howard Gets Extension Through 2016

EDIT: Check out what Matt Swartz has to say about the extension at Baseball Prospectus. He makes a lot of good points. Swartz specifically adjusts for inflation, something I was too lazy to do in the analysis below.

Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly has the scoop. Five years, $125 million extension for Ryan Howard and it kicks in after the 2011 season.

From 2005-09,  Howard has contributed 21.6 WAR, an average of 4.3 per season. In that span of time, he has been paid $26.6 million and provided an overall value (production minus salary) of $66.6 million. Seems like a great deal, right?

The going rate for a win in 2010 is about $5 million, which means that — assuming that figure stays static — in 2011 and ’12, Howard will be paid as a 4-win player. From 2013-16, he will be paid as a 5-win player. Using the ten-year forecast from Baseball Prospectus, Howard will be worth 3.3 wins (WARP3) in 2011 and decline gradually.

Over the length of the extension, Howard is projected to accrue 11.7 WARP3, an average of under 2 per season. Even if we make the extremely generous and unrealistic assumption that the value of a win is $5 million not just in 2010, but throughout the length of the contract (it won’t — it will rise most likely), Howard still provides an increasingly negative value to the Phillies. $84.5 million specifically from 2012-17. In chart form:

*Note: 2010-17 numbers are projected and assume a static $/win of $5 million (because it is impossible to know exactly what the going rate will be). Howard’s value is likely to be much worse than indicated above. Additionally, the 2017 season is a club option with a $10 million buy-out.

This extension pushes the Phillies’ guaranteed payroll in 2012 to about $87 million, tied up to just eight players including Howard: Roy Halladay ($20 million), Chase Utley ($15.3M), Joe Blanton ($10.5M), Shane Victorino ($9.4M), Placido Polanco ($6.4M), Carlos Ruiz ($3.7M), and Brad Lidge ($1.5M). There may be six arbitration-eligible players as well in Cole Hamels (fourth year), Kyle Kendrick (second), Ben Francisco (second), Scott Mathieson (second), J.A. Happ (first), and Mike Zagurski (first). In short, the Phillies will be paying a lot of money to just a few players, almost all of them past their prime. Furthermore, the team will have very little flexibility as few teams will want to take on such expensive contracts.

Thinking more short-term, Howard’s $20 million salary from 2011-13 may prevent the Phillies from having the financial flexibility to sign right fielder Jayson Werth to an extension, which means that he will most likely become a free agent after this season. You may recall that two months ago, I suggested the Phillies should think about trading Howard to give themselves the ability to extend Werth. Obviously, GM Ruben Amaro disagreed and apparently has tremendous faith in Domonic Brown to transition seamlessly to the Majors. The 2011 team will look a lot like this year’s team, only with Dom in right instead of Werth.

There are a couple positives with the deal. The first, obviously, is that the Phillies will not have to look for a first baseman for a long, long time — barring injury. It is unfortunate, though, that the Phillies have locked up such security at the least important position on the baseball diamond in the National League. Additionally, the Phillies may end up saving themselves several  million dollars every year theoretically as the post-2011 free agent market may include Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder and both may exceed Howard’s average annual value of $25 million per season. Both players are likely to be signed to extensions (in Fielder’s case, perhaps with a new team) beforehand.

Most Phillies fans will love the extension, as it keeps a fan favorite in town for a long time. Stat-savvy fans immediately dislike the deal. Most Phillies fans will come to loathe the deal in several years when the Phillies are hamstrung by Howard’s relatively large salary and declining production.

Already, Howard has shown signs of decline as his walk rate has declined every year since 2007 and sits at a paltry 3.6% thus far in 2010. His BABIP has been lower as more and more teams have employed an infield shift against him. Opposing teams have also been bringing in more left-handed relievers to face Howard and his production against them has swiftly dropped. His strikeout rate has declined gradually but so has his isolated power. Using FanGraphs’ pitch type linear weights, Howard’s production against the fastball has dropped every year since 2006. He has swung at more and more pitches outside of the strike zone every year since he came into the Majors. Finally, his whiff rate (swinging strike percentage) has increased every year since 2006.

This will be a fun ride for two, maybe even three more years, but it will quickly become tumultuous.

Graph of the Intermittent Time Period

I stopped by fellow SweetSpot blog Fungoes, which covers the St. Louis Cardinals, and had an “aha!” moment. The author, Pip, posted a graph that explains as much in one glance as an entire article of explanation. So, with all due credit to Pip, I’d like to adapt the idea for Phillies pitchers. I have made one minor adjustment: instead of using xFIP, I used SIERA. Additionally, I included each pitcher’s ERA.

K/9 BB/9 SIERA ERA
Halladay 7.6 0.8 2.7 0.82
Hamels 9.5 2.2 3.11 5.11
Moyer 5.5 2.0 4 5
Kendrick 4.3 4.3 4.88 7.71
Happ 4.4 7.0 6.5 0

K/9 BB/9 SIERA ERA
Contreras 17.5 0.0 -0.26 1.59
Madson 11.3 2.3 2.85 6.75
Herndon 3.5 2.4 3.64 7.04
Baez 5.1 5.1 3.94 6.43
Durbin 8.7 2.9 4.04 0.96
Figueroa 3.7 6.1 6.08 2.92
Bastardo 6.2 6.2 6.58 2.08

Yes, Jose Contreras does have a negative SIERA. He has pitched extremely well, striking out 11 of the 20 hitters he has faced and inducing five ground balls of the nine put in play.

I think this is a good snapshot of the Phillies’ pitching staff, giving one the ability to discern which pitchers are likely to improve and which are likely to hit the skids.

Cole, Don’t Change A Thing

(Well, there’s a couple things you could change…)

Another day, another poor start for Cole Hamels. Following what seemed to be a turn-around performance against the Florida Marlins last Sunday, Cole allowed six runs on four home runs in six innings, despite striking out seven batters and walking only one last night against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The first three innings went very smoothly. In the first inning, Cole retired the side in order on three ground ball outs. He then struck out the side in the second, allowing only a single. Cole retired the D-Backs 1-2-3 again in the third with one ground out, fly out, and strikeout apiece. In case you’re counting, that’s four ground outs, four strikeouts, and one fly out — a great distribution of outs.

Cole unraveled in the fourth inning, struggling with location. With a runner on first with one out and Mark Reynolds (a.k.a. the right-handed Adam Dunn) at the plate, Hamels threw a four-seam fastball that was letter-high right down the middle. Reynolds fouled it off. Hamels came right back to the same exact location with a cutter, which Reynolds promptly deposited well beyond the fence in left field.

Adam LaRoche then worked the count to 3-2 after six pitches and three foul balls. All six pitches were at least waist-high, and so was the seventh, a waist-high change-up right down the middle. It was not surprising to see LaRoche — who routinely hits Phillies pitching — hit a home run down the right field line.

Hamels allowed a single to Chris Young before striking out Cole Gillespie, bringing up the D-Backs’ #8 hitter in catcher Chris Snyder. Snyder only needed one pitch — a knee-high cutter right down the middle — to notch the Snakes’ third home run of the inning, capping a five-run fourth.

The batted balls in the fourth went: fly out, soft line drive single, fly ball home run, fly ball home run, line drive single, strikeout, home run, ground out. Two line drives, three fly balls, one ground out, and one strikeout.

Kelly Johnson led off the bottom of the fifth with a solo home run off of Hamels that increased the D-Backs’ lead to four runs at 6-2. It wasn’t really a bad pitch by Hamels and more so a good piece of hitting by Johnson.

The batted balls in the fifth went: fly ball home run, fly out, line drive single, fly out, fly out. Cole added another two strikeouts and a fly out in his sixth and final inning.

All told, Hamels allowed ten fly balls (including three line drives) and six ground outs (44% fly balls,  19% line drives, 38% ground balls) along with the seven strikeouts, giving him a SIERA of 2.74 for the game as opposed to the 9.00 ERA. Of the ten fly balls, four were home runs, giving him a HR/FB% of 40%. We know that pitchers can’t control how many home runs they allow other than by controlling their rate of fly balls. While Hamels clearly wasn’t at his best last night, it also will not be par for the course — he will not have a 40% HR/FB rate every game.

That said, Hamels’ pitch selection was peculiar, as the following graph will illustrate:

His fastball and curve use has increased and his change-up use has decreased in each start. In other words, between his first and most recent start, Hamels has decreased the use of his best pitch by over 26% in favor of lesser quality pitches. While he has utilized his cutter in his last three starts, he is doing so at the expense of his change-up and that is not a winning strategy.

Still, Hamels has been unlucky. His 5.11 ERA is much higher than his retrodicted 3.13 SIERA. While he has been more BABIP lucky (.275), his HR/FB% (30.4%) is about three times higher than it should be. Meanwhile, his strikeout and walk rates are great at 9.5 and 2.2 respectively — a better than four-to-one ratio.

If Cole wants to get back on the winning track, he doesn’t need to change much — he just needs to ride out yet another wave of bad luck, be a little more precise with his location, and to stop using his other pitches at the expense of his change-up. That’s really it. Based on events proven to be within a pitcher’s control — strikeouts, walks, and GB/FB rates — he has pitched very well. With a few minor tweaks, he can put himself in a better position where he won’t be resting his fate on rolls of the dice.

About This Roy Halladay Fellow

He is quite good.

Through four starts Halladay has four wins, accounting for nearly half of the team’s nine wins on the season. In those four starts, he has tossed a total of 33 innings and completed two games including last night’s shut-out of the Atlanta Braves. He has struck out 28 batters and walked only three. That’s right, his strikeout-to-walk ratio is nine-to-one.

While he has been a bit lucky…

  • 0.82 ERA
  • 2.00 FIP
  • 2.47 xFIP
  • 2.70 SIERA

…Halladay really could reach new heights with the Phillies in the National League as was hypothesized back in December:

The current fan projections at FanGraphs put Halladay at about a 2.80 ERA with a 7.67 K/9 and 1.33 BB/9. Those would significantly outpace his career average 3.43 ERA, 6.57 K/9 and 2.00 BB/9. However, given the softer competition and more efficient defense that will be behind him, Halladay — who turns 33 in May — may be poised to put up the best full season of his career in his inaugural season in Philadelphia.

The Phillies’ bullpen has pitched a grand total of three innings in games Halladay has started, just eight percent of the total innings. In case you’re wondering, here are the percentages for innings pitched by the bullpen in games started by the others:

  • Kendrick: 47%
  • Hamels: 31%
  • Happ: 43%
  • Moyer: 33%

Halladay has been able to pitch deep into games because he is economic with his pitches. He has averaged 12.5 pitches per inning so far. The others:

  • Moyer: 14.4
  • Kendrick: 15.7
  • Hamels: 16.8
  • Happ: 19.4

Halladay has been able to be economic with his pitches because has pitched to contact over the course of his career:

(Not depicted in the chart) Halladay gets into counts where the batter is ahead five percent less than the American League average in 2009. He also gets into two-strike counts three percent less. While Halladay certainly has the ability to rack up the strikeouts — and he does — his pitches are so good that he doesn’t need to notch three strikes on most batters since they very rarely make solid contact.

Halladay has pitched so well this year that the opposing teams’ pitchers have compiled in aggregate the second-highest OPS by lineup spot:

  • Batting first: .200 OBP/.200 SLG
  • Batting second: .133/.133
  • Batting third: .333/.533
  • Batting fourth: .133/.133
  • Batting fifth: .286/.462
  • Batting sixth: .308/.250
  • Batting seventh: .182/.273
  • Batting eighth: .250/.182
  • Batting ninth: .364/.455

Finally, one last nugget that involves Halladay’s ground ball prowess. 23 times this year Halladay has seen a runner on first base with less than two outs. Five of those 23 events (22%) ended with a ground ball double play. Now that’s impressive.

There has been some buzz that Roy Halladay could become the first pitcher to win 25 games in a season since Bob Welch in 1990.

Halladay plays for, arguably, the only truly dominant team in the National League, and probably the best offensive club in the NL. With apologies to Tim Lincecum, he’s probably the best pitcher in the game, which will become more apparent now that he’s left the AL East meat grinder and switched to the lighter-hitting Senior Circuit.

Both Welch and Halladay also understand that strikeouts are Fascist.  Welch earned a decision in an incredible 33 of his 35 starts in that 1990 season, which is only possible by consistently pitching deep into games.  To consistently reach the 8th inning against patient, modern-era lineups requires an efficient use of pitches.
While a pitcher’s W-L isn’t meaningful for analysis, it would be truly amazing if Halladay could rack up 25 wins in the era of pitch counts and La Russa bullpens. Fewer and fewer pitchers are pitching deep into games as J.C. Bradbury illustrates here.
Roy Halladay is simply an anomaly among the current batch of starting pitchers.

On Ryan Madson: Relax

Phillies fans on Twitter, Facebook, and Internet message boards were infuriated last night when Ryan Madson blew a three-run lead and as sure a victory as the Phillies are going to get this year. The disappointment was justified as the Phillies had a 98.7% chance of winning the game with two outs and a runner on first base in the ninth inning. Even when Troy Glaus hit the two-run home run, the Phils were 95.9% favorites.

Madson’s latest outing coupled with previous struggles in the ninth inning has led many to conclude that he is unfit psychologically to handle the responsibilities of closing out games. Really, it is no different than the criticisms of Cole Hamels being a sissy or mentally weak or what have you. It’s armchair psychoanalysis, as I like to call it.

And it’s bunk science based on small sample sizes, confirmation biases, and misinterpretation of data.

Here’s how it happened:

  • Ryan Madson quietly performed his job well last year, but prominently struggled in several notable games which stuck in the memories of many Phillies fans. Phillies fans suspect that Madson may be unfit to be a closer.
  • Madson succeeds as a closer several more times. Phillies fans don’t pay any mind because there are more interesting things to pay attention to and because most relievers, even bad ones, will convert saves every now and then.
  • Madson fails to convert a save opportunity. Coupled with Phillies fans’ previous view of Madson, this only reinforces their belief and serves as evidence.
  • Lather, rinse, repeat.

If you have been reading this blog with any regularity, you have heard me harp about small sample sizes over and over again. With a limited amount of data, we can draw almost zero conclusions with any confidence. If you’re trying to figure out if a coin may be rigged, you do not flip it twice and call it rigged if you get two heads or two tails. You flip it many times — 50  or 100 times if not more. The odds of getting peculiar results with a fair coin become much, much smaller with more trials.

The same thing applies to baseball statistics. In seven appearances, the odds of allowing two home runs with five fly balls is a lot higher than allowing 14 home runs in 35 fly balls in 49 appearances. Ryan Madson has, thus far in 2010, allowed two home runs with five induced fly balls. We know that pitchers do not have control over their home run rate aside from their ability to induce fly balls in general. A pitcher’s HR/FB% will normally hover around 10% so Madson’s 40% really sticks out.

Similarly, we know that pitchers have very little control over batted balls put in play. A pitcher’s BABIP will tend to hover around .300 and actually several points lower for relief pitchers. Ryan Madson’s current BABIP is .405. The odds of 40.5% of 22 batted balls falling in for hits is a lot higher than 40.5% of 220 batted balls.

The other statistical principle we know to be true is regression to the mean. Ryan Madson may have had 40% of his fly balls hit for home runs but that will not hold true for an entire season. Of the remaining 65-ish fly balls that Madson will likely allow over the rest of the season, 10% of them will likely be home runs.

With a little bit of logic and knowledge of statistics, we are able to write off Madson’s poor start to the 2010 season as aberrant. That should be enough for most rational people, but there will still be some out there who, upon reading this, will still claim that Madson doesn’t have the mental toughness to pitch in the ninth inning. Take a gander at Ryan Madson last year:

  • 8th inning: 48.1 IP, 47 K, 15 BB, 3.54 ERA (3.20 xFIP)
  • 9th inning: 23.1 IP, 27 K, 6 BB, 3.47 ERA (2.91 xFIP)

Ryan Madson is a relief pitcher who strikes out a lot of hitters, walks very few, and induces a lot of ground balls. I will take that pitcher every day and twice on Sunday. And so should you.

Phillies Bullpen Falters

Kyle Kendrick held a dangerous Atlanta Braves lineup in check through eight innings, but the Phillies’ bullpen could not successfully hold the Braves to two or fewer runs with three outs to go. Ryan Madson forked over three runs on a two-out, two-run home run by the seemingly-impotent Troy Glaus and a game-tying bomb to center field by Jason Heyward. Jose Contreras would make it a quick extra-innings affair by serving a game-winning home run to the also seemingly-impotent Nate McLouth.

The graph to your right says it all. Kendrick gave the Phillies a death grip on the game after eight innings. His sinker was effective all night, helping him escape the rare jam and otherwise ending innings very quickly compared to Braves’ starter Tommy Hanson.

Hanson left after four and two-thirds innings having thrown 102 pitches. Kendrick, meanwhile, threw 109 in eight innings of work. Of the 24 outs, 16 of them came via ground ball. He allowed only four hits and just one extra-base hit. Like Hamels on Sunday against the Florida Marlins, Kendrick certainly pitched well enough for a win but the bullpen did him no favors.

Ryan Madson started off the ninth inning in fine fashion, inducing a ground ball out from Martin Prado. However, he could not find the strike zone against Chipper Jones, who walked. Brian McCann flied out and it appeared to be a relatively easy inning. But Madson left a fastball over the plate to Troy Glaus, who entered the game with an AVG/OBP/SLG line of .195/.283/.268 and was 0-for-3 with a GIDP and 4 LOB. Glaus got a hold of it for his second home run of the season.

Phenom Jason Heyward tied the game with a well-hit home run to center field on a decent pitch from Madson — a sinker away.

Nate McLouth ended the game in the bottom of the tenth when he pulled a Jose Contreras curve over the right field fence. Contreras had worked him away the entire at-bat, going slider-curve for two quick strikes. McLouth refused to bite on two fastballs outside of the strike zone.

Both Heyward and McLouth are to be credited for their approaches at the plate as neither hit junk pitches.

In the aftermath of another shaky outing by the Phillies’ bullpen, the performance of Kyle Kendrick will be lost. His performance tonight likely earned him at least two more starts given that the status of J.A. Happ is unknown aside from his missing his next start, which was scheduled for tomorrow. Joe Blanton made a rehab start in Lakewood today — he pitched well — but isn’t expected back for another one to two weeks.

Roy Halladay will oppose Tim Hudson tomorrow as the Phillies look to get back on a winning path. They have lost four out of their last five games since rattling off five wins in a row against the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals. Three of the team’s eight wins have come on days Halladay has started.

Injury Updates

  • As mentioned above, J.A. Happ will miss his next start which was scheduled for tomorrow. He is dealing with a mild flexor pronator muscle strain in his left forearm. Todd Zolecki reports that both Brad Lidge and J.C. Romero had to have off-season surgery to deal with similar injuries. The Phillies tend to be conservative so it is very possible that Happ will miss more than one start. He will throw a bullpen session on Thursday to see where he stands.
  • Joe Blanton had an uplifting rehab start today in Lakewood. In two innings, Blanton threw 13 pitches (all fastballs), 11 for strikes, striking out two batters. He is dealing with a left oblique strain but has come along fine and should be activated either for the series in San Francisco against the Giants April 26-28 or at home against the Mets starting April 30.
  • Brad Lidge will make a rehab start in AAA Lehigh Valley tomorrow night. If all goes well, he could be activated to join the Phillies some time during the last half of the road trip, but it is more likely that he will join the Phillies at home against the Mets.
  • J.C. Romero struggled in his recent rehab outing with Lehigh Valley. In one inning, he threw 19 pitches, walked three batters, and uncorked a wild pitch. Still, it was reported that he had good movement on his pitches and did not experience any health set-backs despite rolling his ankle landing after throwing his first pitch. Romero is ahead of Lidge and Blanton and could join the Phillies during the last half of their road trip.

Game graph via FanGraphs.

Playing the Stock Market

Dented cans are half price; Microsoft went down 3 points. We gotta save some money.

Blog post title made explicitly to post that video clip? Guilty. Well, since you’re here, I figure we’ll look at the Phillies as if they were businesses into which you could sink your hard-earned money. Depending on how well-received this post is, this may be a recurring theme. Thus more excuses for me to post funny video clips.

Essentially, this is a short-term forecast of various players that may also help your fantasy baseball team(s). Feel free to post your thoughts or your own tips in the comments below.

Buy

  • Ryan Howard, 1B

Howard has slumped over the past week after starting the season on fire. The next three games will be against the Braves in Atlanta where he will face back-to-back-to-back right-handed starting pitchers in Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson, and Derek Lowe. Hanson has pitched well in his first two starts, but has struggled with control. Hudson has struggled to strike hitters out and his .190 BABIP will start climbing skyward. Lowe has struggled in two of his three starts. In his one good start, he walked seven batters in six innings against the San Francisco Giants. With the Phillies becoming one of the most patient teams in baseball, Howard should get plenty of opportunities with men on base in situations where the Braves will have to pitch to him.

Career vs. Hanson: 1-for-3, 1 HR, 1 RBI

Career vs. Hudson: 12-for-34, 5 HR, 10 RBI

Career vs. Lowe: 4-for-25, 1 2B, 4 RBI

  • Chase Utley, 2B

Pretty obvious. Utley won’t be 1.287 OPS good, but he appears primed for a much-deserved MVP run this season. His BABIP is about 45 points lower than his career average. While he won’t be hitting home runs at his current torrid pace, he should see some more singles and doubles especially in the cavernous outfield at Turner Field. Utley, like Howard, will also benefit from a Braves starting rotation heavy on right-handers.

Career vs. Hanson: 1-for-4, 1 3B, 1 RBI

Career vs. Hudson: 8-for-36, 5 RBI

Career vs. Lowe: 9-for-23, 3 3B, 2 HR, 3 RBI

  • David Herndon, RH RP

“But Bill,” you say, “Herndon was horrendous his last time out. He nearly blew a six-run lead for Roy Halladay!”

In that game on April 16 against the Florida Marlins, Herndon fell victim to plain ol’ bad luck. He faced six Marlin hitters and caused five of them to hit ground balls, only one of which was converted into an out by the Phillies’ infield. Herndon made one mistake which resulted in an RBI double for Gaby Sanchez.

Aside from that appearance, Herndon has been fantastic for the Phils. He had tossed four straight scoreless appearances which included zero walks. His sinker has been heavy in every outing so far and that .496 BABIP of his will sink like a rock as the season progresses.

Career vs. Braves: Never faced

  • Shane Victorino, CF

More BABIP. Victorino’s current BABIP is one hundred points lower than his career BABIP. You know what that means — regression to the mean. His .286 on-base percentage doesn’t look good, particularly since he’s filling in for Jimmy Rollins atop the Phillies’ lineup. However, that OBP will be lifted up significantly by the end of the month.

Victorino’s absence on the base paths is part of the reason why the Phillies have only attempted three stolen bases through the first 12 games, quite a turnaround from the aggressive-efficient runners we had come to know.

Career vs. Hanson: 1-for-2

Career vs. Hudson: 8-for-25, 1 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBI

Career vs. Lowe: 2-for-14

Sell

  • Kyle Kendrick, RH SP

A right-handed sinkerballer who can’t strike anybody out going against a lefty-heavy Braves lineup is a huge disadvantage. Kyle Kendrick will open up the series tomorrow in Atlanta, where he will be forced to hold the left-handed Brian McCann, Jason Heyward, Nate McLouth and the switch-hitting Chipper Jones and Melky Cabrera at bay.

Career vs. Braves: 38.1 IP, 3.29 ERA (5.61 FIP), 39 H, 5  HR, 14 BB, 13 K

  • J.A. Happ, LH SP

Picking up from last year, Happ has benefited from some extraordinary luck early on this season. He has yet to allow an earned run, but he has walked eight in just 10 and one-third innings. Somehow, Happ has stranded 94% of the runners that have reached base against him, mostly due to his BABIP resting in the .270’s.

Happ may miss his next start (Wednesday) due to left forearm soreness. The Phillies have yet to make an official decision. But Happ’s stock will likely fall with his due regression and this nagging injury. The Inquirer’s Matt Gelb reported that pitching coach Rich Dubee attributed Happ’s lack of control in his last start to a “dead arm”.

In the coming weeks, once Happ recovers, he should see his strikeouts and hits allowed increase while his walk rate will decrease.

Career vs. Braves: 32.1 IP, 2.23 ERA (5.76 FIP), 24 H, 5 HR, 12 BB, 18 K

  • Danys Baez, RH RP

Three out of every four pitches Baez has thrown so far has been a fastball. Major League hitters picked up on it during his sixth appearance of the season against the Washington Nationals. Adam Dunn launched a home run to right-center field and Ryan Zimmerman lined another round-tripper to right field back on Tax Day. Baez throws hard — averaging 95 MPH on his fastballs so far — but it’s straight and he doesn’t have much else in his arsenal, just a seldom-used curve ball.

With J.C. Romero due back within the week, Baez’s role in the bullpen will be reduced to the sixth and seventh innings. With the lack of deception, though, it doesn’t matter which innings he pitches — Major League hitters are going to crush that straight fastball all day.

Career vs. Braves: 6.0 IP, 0.00 ERA (3.33 FIP), 5 H, 0 HR, 1 BB, 2 K

Stocks to Watch

  • Placido Polanco, 2B

Polanco will certainly regress given that his BABIP is 60 points higher than his career average and his HR/FB percentage is double his career rate. However, he may compile his best offensive season to date at the age of 34. He has been hitting more line drives and more ground balls than normal, which may help offset some of that regression.

  • Nelson Figueroa, RH SP

Figgy has pitched well since he left the New York Mets. He has allowed only two runs in seven and one-third innings, but he has walked five. However, Figueroa may find himself in the rotation given the struggles of Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick as well as the sore left forearm of J.A. Happ. As the de facto swingman, Figueroa — chronically underrated — may help determine quite a large portion of the Phillies’ success early in the season.

  • Raul Ibanez, LF

Ibanez had an awful spring training and an awful start to the 2010 season. He will certainly regress upwards, but it is hard to tell how much of his struggles are due to bad luck (.212 BABIP) and how much is due to age — he’ll be 38 in June. The good news is that even while his bat has been ice cold, he has still been drawing walks.

BDD: Zero Tolerance for Vicente Padilla

At Baseball Daily Digest, I detail Vicente Padilla’s history of intentionally throwing at opposing hitters and call for Major League Baseball to step in and stop him.

In 2006, he led the American League in hit batters with 17. He hit two batters in five different outings, including one against the L.A. Angels that incited a benches-clearing brawl. In ‘07, he finished with the ninth-highest hit batters total with nine. In one start against the Oakland Athletics on September 16, he intentionally threw at Nick Swisher — the #2 hitter — in the bottom of the first inning. Swisher charged the mound and both players were ejected.

[…]

To date, Padilla has hit 85 different players. He has hit 15 of them (18%) multiple times, including Mark Teixeira thrice. Padilla and Teixiera were teammates in Texas, but their history dates back further to Padilla’s time in Philadelphia.