Five questions: Philadelphia Phillies

1. Was 2009 a fluke season for Cole Hamels?

Yes, mostly due to their batting averages on balls in play (BABIP). Pitchers have very little control over their BABIP, so it normally hovers around .300. In 2008, when Cole Hamels was brilliant, his BABIP was .270. Last year, it was .325. An increase of .055 is a lot!

There were 581 balls put in play against Hamels in ’09. If hitters batted .300 instead of .325, they get 174 hits instead of 189. 64.5 percent of the hits Hamels allowed were singles, 21.5 percent were doubles, 2.5 percent were triples, and 11.5 percent were home runs. If we assume the same distribution of hits, then Hamels would have given up nine fewer singles, three fewer doubles, one fewer triple, and two fewer home runs. In other words, opposing hitters’ SLG would drop from .440 to .406 and their OBP would drop from .315 to .296.

Overall, Hamels was the same pitcher last year as he was in 2008. His FIP was 3.72 in both years; xFIP only had him 0.06 worse in ’09; tRA thought he was .014 better last year.

His strikeouts and walks stayed at the same level.

image

So did his batted ball splits.
image

Hitters approached him about the same.

image

And, finally, Hamels was actually more consistent with his release points.

image

If I was a betting man, I would bet that Hamels has a bounce-back 2010 season.

Why didn’t GM Ruben Amaro keep Cliff Lee?

Fans salivated at the thought of having Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Hamels in the same starting rotation. Opposing managers cringed at the thought of facing all three consecutively in the playoffs. Yes, it would have been nice to have all three wearing a Phillies uniform in 2010.
However, take a look at how the Phillies got to where they are.

{exp:list_maker}Jimmy Rollins: Drafted in the 2nd round in 1996
Ryan Madson: Drafted in the 9th round in 1998
Chase Utley: Drafted 15th overall in 2000
Ryan Howard: Drafted in the 5th round in 2001
Cole Hamels: Drafted 17th overall in 2002
J.A. Happ: Drafted in the 3rd round in 2004 {/exp:list_maker}

The Phillies organization has drafted remarkably well and built around a core of home-grown players. Partially resulting from the Cliff Lee trade last year, and partially due to having lower draft picks due to their recent success, the Phillies’ minor league system has fallen into the bottom-third of the league according to most rankings. Emptying what’s left in the farm for one year of Lee would have been devastating to the Phillies beyond 2012.

Essentially swapping Lee for Halladay allowed the Phillies to keep some prospects that will be able to fill in as the current group of Phillies dwindles while also signing one of the best pitchers in baseball to a multi-year contract extension.

Phillies fans will curse Amaro if the Phillies fail to win the World Series in 2010, but they will be thanking him by 2013. His job is not just to put a competitive team on the field this year, but to ensure that he will be able to do the same in ’11, and ’12, and ’13, and so on.

How good has the running game been, and will it continue to improve?

With first base coach Davey Lopes, the Phillies’ base runners have been historically great. In 2007, Lopes’ first year on the job, the Phillies stole bases at an 88 percent success rate, setting an all-time Major League record. In ’08 and ’09, their success rates were 84 percent and 81 percent, respectively. From 2007-09, the Phillies were the most efficient baseball team in terms of stealing bases.

image

The team has also become more aggressive under Lopes. In the three years prior to his hiring, 2004-06, the Phillies were just in the top half to top one-third in the majors in terms of base-stealing aggressiveness (attempts to steal). With Lopes, from ’07-09, the Phillies have been in the top one-fourth to one-sixth.

image

While it is obvious that Lopes has made his runners attempt to steal second more often, he has also done the same at third base. Phillies runners have become more aggressive trying to steal third base.

image

It isn’t just blind aggression, either. From 2007-09, the Phillies successfully stole third base 85 percent, 89 percent, and 72 percent respectively, well above the 75 percent break-even point in two out of the three years.

In 2010, the same group of runners — Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, and Jayson Werth — will be back and they have replaced a poor base runner in Pedro Feliz with a good base runner in Placido Polanco. Expect them to once again be the best in the game at swiping bags with efficiency.

Will the Phillies be able to keep Jayson Werth away from free agency?

A lot depends on what happens with Carl Crawford, as he is the only other soon-to-be free agent outfielder in Werth’s stratosphere. The four-year, $66 million contract Jason Bay received from the New York Mets will also help determine how much Werth will make in free agency.

According to FanGraphs, Crawford has been worth 11.3 WAR over the past three seasons. Bay is tallied at 6.4 WAR over the same period of time, while Werth comes in at 13.6. It stands to reason that Werth could ask for more than Bay got from the Mets.

As for the Phillies’ ability to retain him, it seems unlikely. The team already has nearly $133 million committed to 17 players in 2011 with the arbitration cases of Kyle Kendrick, Ben Francisco, and Greg Dobbs (who likely will not receive an offer) to handle. The Phillies front office imposed a $140 million payroll cap this season and it is unlikely that the Phillies will raise it up to the $160-170 million range that would be necessary to afford Werth.

If Werth truly wants to continue his career in Philadelphia, he could agree to backload his contract. For instance, a three-year deal worth $50 million could pay him $12 million in the first year and $19 million in the final two years.

I have suggested (here and here) that the Phillies should trade Ryan Howard in an effort to clear payroll, which would give them the ability to re-sign Werth. However, this is unlikely to occur given Howard’s star power, his popularity in Philadelphia, and a rather small market for expensive, power-hitting, one-dimensional first basemen.

Did the Phillies upgrade at third base by signing Placido Polanco?

Comparing Polanco to Pedro Feliz, the answer is simple: yes. Feliz compiled 2.7 WAR in 2008 and ’09 in Philadelphia, while Polanco accrued 6.1 WAR in the same period of time.

However, there is concern because Polanco will be playing at third base, a position he hasn’t played regularly since 2002 and hasn’t played at all since ’05. At second base, he was one of the best defensive players in baseball. Chase Utley was the only second baseman to outrank Polanco in UZR/150 last year, 11.3 to 11.0.

Polanco has been working with the Phillies coaching staff and logging significant innings during spring training in an effort to re-learn the position. However, if he simply provides league-average offense and defense at third base, he will have earned his $5.2 million salary, part of the below-market, three-year $18 million contract the Phillies awarded him in December.

While it is certainly true that Amaro could have slightly loosened his grip on his wallet and signed Chone Figgins, he felt that Polanco was a perfect fit in the lineup in the No. 2 spot behind Jimmy Rollins. Polanco rarely walks just as he rarely strikes out, but Charlie Manuel likes his propensity for contact combined with Rollins’ speed. Most sabermetrics-using Phillies fans prefer Shane Victorino to lead off rather than Rollins, but that is neither here nor there.

BONUS: Should Victorino lead-off instead of Rollins?

We’ll simply use the lineup analysis tool from Baseball Musings. I plugged in the PECOTA projections for each of the Phillies, first using the lineup that will be used in 2010 and then using the one most of us stat-nerd Phillies fans want.
Note: for pitchers, I simply used last year’s aggregate OBP/SLG by Phillies pitchers.

Real Lineup
{exp:list_maker}Rollins-Polanco-Utley-Howard-Werth-Ibanez-Victorino-Ruiz-Pitcher
4.940 runs per game
800.3 runs per 162 games {/exp:list_maker}

Proposed lineup
{exp:list_maker}Victorino-Polanco-Utley-Howard-Werth-Ibanez-Victorino-Ruiz-Pitcher
4.971 runs per game
805.3 runs per 162 games {/exp:list_maker}

Optimal Lineup
{exp:list_maker}Utley-Werth-Polanco-Howard-Victorino-Rollins-Ibanez-Pitcher-Ruiz
5.185 runs per game
840 runs per 162 games {/exp:list_maker}

The difference between the two lineups is about five runs over a 162-game season, or roughly about half a win. The difference between the optimal lineup is 35-40 runs, or roughly 3.5-4 wins. Of course, the “optimal lineup” will never be used by anyone other than Tony LaRussa, and only if he’s found his flask.

Print Friendly
« Previous: Upcoming managerial milestones in 2010
Next: Five questions: Colorado Rockies »

Comments

  1. drbindy said...

    Doesn’t this statement:
    “Phillies fans will curse Amaro if the Phillies fail to win the World Series in 2010, but they will be thanking him by 2013. His job is not just to put a competitive team on the field this year, but to ensure that he will be able to do the same in ‘11, and ‘12, and ‘13, and so on.”

    necessarily require that the actual prospects received in the Lee trade do something to benefit the team by 2013?  Because if they don’t, then the remainder of the system is just as thin as it would have been with Lee – not even counting the picks which would have been arriving after Lee’s eventual free agent departure.

  2. Bill Baer said...

    Absolutely, drbindy. I would say, though, there’s a good chance of at least one of the three panning out. Phillippe Aumont is rated by most as a high-B prospect with a couple of filthy pitches:

    Fastball: http://twitpic.com/tpaby
    Curve: http://twitpic.com/tpaew

    Tyson Gillies is raw, but was very impressive in spring training, drawing comparisons to Shane Victorino. (“The best-laid plans of mice and men,” right?)

    And more to my main point, the trade allowed the Phillies to lock up an ace pitcher for 3-4 years, as opposed to keeping Lee and watching him walk and getting two picks (one first round, one sandwich), which are as much a gamble as anything.

    So, yes, final judgment will be passed as the prospects pan out. But given the information we have at present, Amaro has set the Phillies up well beyond 2010 and 2011.

  3. Patrick said...

    Bill!

    BABIP is Batting Average Balls in PLAY.  It doesn’t include home runs!  They’re not in play – They got whacked over the fences.

    So you CANNOT correct home runs with BABIP data.  Doesn’t make any sense.

  4. wsk said...

    does anyone have a grip?
    you want to trade werth to any drunk gm that could turn over two grade a prospects, and a hoper grade b lefthander.
    werth, really nice player, a freak couple of years—great for him; he might be good for a while, but shoot.
    make the trade.
    30 homers, horriffic right fielding.
    replaceable.
    a bad moving white 6-5 guy, with a bad back; celtics bench.

  5. Faithdies said...

    Werth is a horrific right fielder? A bad moving 6-5 white guy? He stole 20 bags and played above average defense. Where did these conclusions of yours come from? NOT watching or reading about baseball? I don’t think I’ve read an opinion so wrong in my entire life.

    Maybe I misunderstood the post. At least let’s hope that’s the case.

  6. HeyHey said...

    Hey Bill, I know your busy, but can you write a column about why batting the pitcher 8th ends up being the optimal line up?  I can’t think any reason why letting the pitcher get more at bats ends up being optimal… I would have thought it would have created more outs.  Very stumped and could use some help thinking it over.
    Thanks,

  7. bake said...

    How does it come out if you do the “optimal” lineup, but switch pitcher/catcher back into their traditional spots?  Can’t make that much difference, I’m thinking.

  8. Bill Baer said...

    @Patrick

    I actually fixed that like two weeks ago… I must have sent in an old version of this article. Did not see that coming. I added in HR out of habit and came to the same conclusion you did and removed it.

    @HeyHey

    I couldn’t find it with a light Google search, but the reason the optimal lineup has the pitcher hitting eighth is because it is the best spreading of the hitters most likely to make outs. You actually want your two worst hitters (mostly in terms of OBP) to hit third and eighth.

    Tango, Lichtman, and Dolphin explain this in The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball, I believe.

    @bake

    Yeah, not a whole lot. 5.022 runs per game, 814 runs per 162 games, 26 run difference.

  9. schmenkman said...

    Your proposed lineup has Victorino instead of Rollins in the 7 slot.

    Using an optimal lineup that veers from the typical makeup might be the next “inefficiency” that some brave team will be willing to exploit.  I agree, the 2010 Phillies will not be that pioneering team.

  10. Table said...

    “And more to my main point, the trade allowed the Phillies to lock up an ace pitcher for 3-4 years, as opposed to keeping Lee and watching him walk and getting two picks (one first round, one sandwich), which are as much a gamble as anything.”

    Do you hear what you are saying? The trade of Cliff Lee is separate from the Halladay trade in that they could have still locked Halladay up if they had kept Lee. Also you talk about how well Philly has built their team internally through the draft and then go on to say that 1st round picks are risky and less valuable.

    You may have been trying to rationalize Amaro’s thinking, and I know you are hardly the first to write about it, but this was certainly a failed attempt.

  11. Bill Baer said...

    The trade of Cliff Lee is separate from the Halladay trade in that they could have still locked Halladay up if they had kept Lee.

    Amaro wouldn’t have traded for Halladay if Lee was still on the roster. The trade and extending of Halladay was contingent on the Lee trade.

    then go on to say that 1st round picks are risky and less valuable.

    Known quantities (like Aumont and Gillies) are better than unknown quantities (draft picks).

    You’re conflating my arguments, sir.

  12. bake said...

    Thanks.  Actually, that’s surprisingly more than I would have expected.  But we all know Charlie would never bat the catcher 9th.  Haha.

  13. Table said...

    Look, I know you are a smart guy and run one of the better Philly blogs (I’m a Doger fan). However you didn’t give any logical support for your two points.

    What is Amaro’s reasoning for not wanting to trade for Halladay if he still had Lee? That he would have a depleted farm system? Because that is not sound reasoning in itself.

    All you say to prove that draft picks are inferior is that they are unknowns while the players received for Lee are known to an extent, but is it really that simple? The draft picks might be unknown to you or me, but I would hope that the Phill’s scouting department knows a thing or two about them. Nobody knows how good these prospects will be or how good the picks they would have had will be, however it seems to me that the package they got for Lee is pretty unimpressive. If they had waited until the deadline to trade him I figure they could have done just as well, but probably better.

    I am not impressed.

  14. raboo said...

    From what I remember of LaRussa’s strategy, batting the pitcher 8th means that the 1, 2 & 3 hitters (especially 3rd in Pujols case) have a better chance to come up to bat after the first inning with a runner on base. So, those hitters have a better chance at an RBI.

  15. schmenkman said...

    Ryan, I am in agreement, well put.  However unfortunately there will be a small vocal minority who will only shut up about the Lee trade if the Phillies win it all in 2010.  Anything short of that, and we are going to be hearing about it for several years, regardless of what Aumont/Gillies/Ramirez end up accomplishing.

  16. Bill Baer said...

    What is Amaro’s reasoning for not wanting to trade for Halladay if he still had Lee? That he would have a depleted farm system? Because that is not sound reasoning in itself.

    Why would Amaro have traded Lee then? If it didn’t make sense to keep the farm system stocked, then Lee would still be a Phillie.

    All you say to prove that draft picks are inferior is that they are unknowns while the players received for Lee are known to an extent, but is it really that simple?

    Yes.

  17. Table said...

    When it comes down to it, you all would take Gillies, Aumont, etc over one year of Lee and the draft picks. After weighting the values we simply prefered different strategies. However neither way is clearly superior, after all, had Amaro kept Lee I don’t suppose you would be complaining. I am sure there would have been other ways to find a Victorino replacement and a hard thrower.

  18. schmenkman said...

    Table, you’re right that most of us would be psyched about a full year with 2 (2.5?) aces, bud I’d like to think that I’d be a little more worried about the team’s future.  And then what if injuries or aging (including among the aces) meant that the Phillies don’t even make it to the postseason?  I think if that were to happen, I would be pretty upset that Amaro put all his eggs in the 2010 basket.

  19. Ryan said...

    @Table

    It’s only stupid if you are shortsighted.  A one year run is not what Amaro, or any competent GM, should be working for.  The farm system is every bit as important as your MLB roster because it is going to dictate your MLB roster every year.  Cost effective young players allow you to spend big at other positions. 

    The reason QUANTITY is important is because every big league prospect, no matter how highly touted at draft time, is a risky proposition.  You need as many high ceiling players, or as many players with mlb potential as possible, because the chances are most of them aren’t going to make it.

    What Rube did was add 3 players, at advanced levels, that add to the Phillies stock of players that could make it.  As Baer said, it’s not about all 3 being sure things, it’s about any of them giving the team an option at the big league minimum to free up cash to be spent on the stars.  Guys like Aumont, Gillies, and Ramirez could be the difference between keeping Cole Hamels in 3 years, and not having the payroll to extend him.

    Because you don’t like the prospects (I’m assuming you’ve seen them, are a scout, and can make a credible assessment) – you have decided it was stupid.  However, the Phillies see these players as capable of filling roles.  If Gillies can give you 80% of what Victorino does, at 400k (instead of 8 million) then you have accomplished what you set out to do – obtained a controllable, big league player, and freed up 7.5 million to either keep your guys or improve the club in other areas.

    This is sound, fundamental long term baseball philosophy and it’s the difference between teams that suffer down swings and extended rebuilding periods, and teams that continue to compete year and and year out for championships.

  20. Ryan said...

    They have done well, in part, because of luck.  They aren’t routinely turning 1st rounders into super stars – they are drafting well deep into drafts and coming up with some solid players.

    Here are the phillies first rounders, or top picks recently – Kelly Dugan, Anthony Hewitt, Joe Savery, Kyle Drabek, Mike Costanzo, Greg Golson, Tim Moss.

    Those are the top picks from our last SEVEN drafts.  Of those seven, as it looks right now, ONE of those guys is a big leaguer.  Thats a 1 for 7 run in the last 7 years. 

    I’ve seen the 50% stat – and the issue with that stat is that most of the 50% of the first rounders that make it are coming out of the top 15 picks.  Those are the upper level prep arms, the top college bats – the guys that you can move through your system in 2-3 years and that you are more sure that they will make an impact. 

    However, if Lee goes to the Red Sox/Yankees/Angels, you are looking at closer to the 25-30 range and the 40-45 range for the comp pick.  At that point, there are VERY FEW sure things on the board – except maybe a guy like Porcello who is way above slot (something the Phillies HAVENT done in the early rounds).

    In the end – my point remains the same.  The phillies have built internally, but not in the early rounds.  In the past 7 years their track record with their top pick is horrendous.  So to ASSUME that those guys in that range are going to even get to AA is ambitious, much less get there with the track record that guys like Ramirez, Gillies, and Aumont have.

    And as to the overrating of Gillies and Aumont, its not me – both guys have been rated in the top 100 prospects in the game by various sources, and all 3 have been included in the top 10-15 prospects with Aumont being as high as no. 2 in the system right now.  That isn’t me overrating, thats baseball america (check the prospect handbook) and fangraphs.. here’s the fangraphs link

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/philadelphia-phillies-top-10-prospects

    Now – again – the comparison is simple – 2 draft picks toward the end of the first and comp round that are AT BEST 50/50 shots – or 3 guys who are at the AA level who are already rated in the top 10 in your org.  One is rebuilding – one is an excuse to hold on to a pitcher for a 1 year run.

  21. Table said...

    OMG you all are way too high on Gillies and Aumont and way too low on 1st round draft picks.

    From 96 through 04 seven of the Phillies eight first rounders turned into very good major league players. That’s Eaton, Drew, Burrell, Myers, Utley, Floyd, and Hamels with the 04 pick of Greg Golson resulting in a AAAA player. In 03, 05, and 09 the Philles did not have a first rounder, and while it is a bit too early to judge the team’s first round picks from 06-08, one of those guys was Kyle Drabeck.

    Also note the success of second rounders, that’s Rollins, Rolen, Wolf, and Bourn.

    So when y’all say “They also equate the 1st rounder (maybe) and sandwich pick as organizational depth, only, the chances of those guys being top 10 players in a year or 2 are pretty much 0” you sound kind of oblivious.

    The first rounds of the MLB draft may not be like the NBA or NFL, but it still produces a ton of stars.

  22. Bill Baer said...

    That’s not entirely true, Table. First and second round draft picks make the Major Leagues at a 50% rate. This information is via Matt Swartz of Baseball Prospectus, who also found:

    Of the 2052 players in the study, 1041 of them made the majors. Of those, only 109 players were traded and then debuted with a different team than the one that had drafted them. Of that group of 109, only 19 accumulated a WARP3 of 10.0 in their careers. As it turns out, for all the fans who scream at GMs for trading away the farm system, rarely do the GMs trade away impact prospects.

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=9013

    Additionally, the Phillies’ success in the draft is not universal. They have had great scouts.

    An example of that is the 2000 draft:

    http://crashburnalley.com/2010/03/04/finding-an-utley-in-a-haystack/

    Utley has compiled more WAR in his career than the #2, 3, and 4 players (Gonzalez, Wainwright, Baldelli) combined.

  23. Table said...

    I never said 1st rounders are universal. That’s my point. The rate should be much better under a strong scouting and draft system like the Phillies. You illustrated that when you a showed how the Phillies have done so well building internally.

  24. Table said...

    Ryan- Dude, what are you smoking? I just explained this. 3 of those years the Phillies lacked a first rounder and how can you judge the major league prospects of guys with two years of professional ball under their belts? Of the rest you have Drabeck, D’arnaud, and Savery who all look like big leaguers.

    You can try to bend the info to make some sort of meaningless ratio, just as I can, however it is obvious that draft picks should be considered one of the most important resources of a major league team. People talk about building internally, well there is NO other way to do that other than with draft picks and international signings.

    Also I don’t get it when you say keeping Lee would be putting all the Phillies eggs in one basket, what the heck does that even mean? The only eggs would be Aumont, Gillies, and Ramirez of whom y’all have said only one or two will make the bigs. So how exactly is the entire Phillies franchise hinging on whether you have those guys for the future instead of Lee and draft picks that have the POTENTIAL to surpass them?

    I enjoy talking baseball, but this is getting silly. Why do you folks feel the need to defend your GM? Just because he helped get you to two world series doesn’t make him a hero. As a Dodger fan I am quite accustomed to criticizing my teams frequent idiocy. You guys need to get with the program.

  25. Jason said...

    This may be nitpicking, but a decrease in BABIP shouldn’t affect HRs, should it? Those aren’t “IP”, so you’re overstating the impact of a drop in BABIP.

    viz, instead of:

    “If we assume the same distribution of hits, then Hamels would have given up nine fewer singles, three fewer doubles, one fewer triple, and two fewer home runs. In other words, opposing hitters’ SLG would drop from .440 to .406 and their OBP would drop from .315 to .296.”

    it should read:

    “If we assume the same distribution of hits, then Hamels would have given up 10.23 fewer singles, 3.38 fewer doubles, .38 fewer triple, and THE SAME NUMBER OF home runs. In other words, opposing hitters’ SLG would drop from .440 to .416 and their OBP would drop from .315 to .297.”

    You have OPS going from 755 to 702. Should be from 755 to 713. Not a huge difference, maybe. The average batter against is going from AJ Pierzynski to Ryan Theriot, not Elvis Andrus.

  26. Ryan said...

    @schmenkman – thats the point that the “pro Lee” camp forgets.  As much as he would have helped our chances at a championship, nothing is guaranteed.  If we run into a season with injuries as the Mets did last year, where your no. 1 goes down – your leadoff hitter goes down, your 3 and 4 hole hitters go down – etc.. etc..  Then you risked it all for one year.

    They also equate the 1st rounder (maybe) and sandwich pick as organizational depth, only, the chances of those guys being top 10 players in a year or 2 are pretty much 0 – where, you could already argue that Aumont and Gillies are top 10 in our organization NOW.

    As you said – the idea here is clear, instead of loading up for 1 year, you load up for 5 or 6 or 10 years (if we are lucky).  That way a snake bitten season doesn’t slam the window shut – or in this case – potentially hinge the future on 2 picks that could come at say 30 and 45 (if Lee would sign with a Yankees/Red Sox type org).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current day month ye@r *