Sunday, July 29, 2012

2013 Phillies: What to expect

The Phillies have been one of the most successful and talked about teams of the last decade.  They've appeared in 2 World Series, winning 1.  They've won their division 5 consecutive years.  They've increased their win total for 5 consecutive seasons.  They've averaged 90 wins per season over the last 10 years and 95 wins per season over the last 5 years.  They've made huge waves on the free agent and trade markets.  The City of Brotherly Love has had ample reason to love their Phillies.

This year has been different.  

Last season ended unceremoniously with the Phillies losing in the NLDS to the Cardinals and Ryan Howard tearing his ACL while making the final out.   

This season picked up as poorly as the last left off.  Howard missed the first 3 months of the season.  Chase Utley missed the same.  Roy Halladay uncharacteristically spent time on the DL and hasn't been himself.  Cliff Lee is 1 - 6 with an ERA closer to 4 than to 2, or even 3.  They are 11 games under .500.  

In short: Disaster.

Many say that the Phillies are finished.  They are old and overpaid.  One of the worst teams in baseball nex year.  Are they right?

Let's break down the Phillies by position.

Position.  2012 Player.  2013 salary

Catcher: Carlos Ruiz.  $5 million team option that is almost certain to be picked up.
Ruiz has been a solid catcher for a good portion of Philly's run.  This year he's been the team MVP.  He's always posted solid OBP numbers, this year he's added about 50 points to his career OBP.  He's also turned into a slugger; 14 home runs and an additional 150 points of slugging percentage.  Ruiz is unlikely to continue at this pace, but he's an excellent player for the Phillies, especially at $5 million.

First base: Ryan Howard.  $20 million in year 2 of a terrible 5 year extension.  
Howard is one of the most overrated players in baseball; also one of the most over paid.  That doesn't make him a bad player.  The Phillies certainly missed his offense early in the season.  He's only played a few games since coming back but he looks like the same Ryan Howard that we've known.

2007-2011: .358/.539 (OBP/SLG) which was 29% better than the league average hitter.
16 2012 games: .344/.500 (OBP/SLG) which is 29% better than the league average hitter.

No reason to think that Howard's injury is causing any decrease in performance.  

Second Base: Chase Utley.  $15 million in the final year of his contract.  
Utley also missed most of 2012.  Unlike Howard, Utley's injuries do seem to be taking a toll on him.  Between 2005 and 2010 Utley was one of the best players in baseball.

2005-2010: .388/.523 (OBP/SLG) which was 38% better than the average hitter.
Then the injuries hit
2011: .344/.425 - 16% better than the average hitter

Thus far in 2012: .340/.481 - 18% better than the average hitter.

Utley is no longer one of the best players in all of baseball.  Now he's one of the best second basemen in baseball, when he's on the field.  How much he'll be on the field in 2013, is a big question.

Third Base: Placido Polanco.  $5.5 million mutual option.
Polanco's signing was met with skepticism by many but it's worked out well for Philadelphia.  Formerly a second baseman, he's played exceptional defense at 3rd.  His bat has been in decline though.  He was a well above hitter from 2003-2008.  In his time with the Phillies his offense has been close enough to average that his defense was able to make him a productive player.  This season, his defense looks to be slipping and his bat is useless at 31% worse than average.   I don't think that Philly will bring Polanco back for another season.  

Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins.  $11 million
The arrival of Rollins began the Phillies ascent to dynasty status.  He's put up 46 WAR in the 11+ seasons since becoming the Phillies' starting SS in 2001.  From 2004-2007 he average over 5 WAR per season.  He's fallen off from those numbers but he's still a solid player and is on pace for about 4 WAR this season.  

Reports of Rollins' demise appear to have been premature.

Left Field:  Juan Pierre.  Free Agent
Left field has been a position of weakness for Philadelphia.  It was manned by Raul Ibanez from 2009-2011.  Ibanez had a surprisingly productive 2009, a poor 2010 and a horrific 2011.  Prospect Domonic Brown was supposed to take over in 2012, but he's shown nothing in 270 major league plate appearances and has struggled in the minors as well.  Juan Pierre played himself into the position with a resurgent year of average offense and below average defense.  He's on pace for less than 2 WAR and Philly should be looking for an upgrade in 2013 as Pierre is unlikely to match this production again.  

Phillies' fans also had high hopes for John Mayberry Jr after a 2011 performance that saw him hit 33% better than the average hitter with a .341/.539 (OBP/SLG) line.  Predictably, he hasn't been able to maintain that pace and has only hit .271/.388 (OBP/SLG) this season, which is 25% worse than the average hitter.  

The Phillies will have opportunity to upgrade this position for 2013.  

Center field: Shane Victorinio.  Free Agent.
The Flyin' Hawaiian has been another core player for Philadelphia.  His .350/.440 (OBP/SLG) offense (12% better than average) and good defense has produced 24 WAR for Philadelphia from 2006 to 2011.  That's 4 WAR per season.  This year he's only hitting .320/.390, which is right at average production, but with league offense down he's still on pace for over 3 wins.  At 32, Philly should probably start to expect some decline and might be wise to look elsewhere for a center fielder for 2013.  

Right Field:  Hunter Pence.  Eligible for arbitration.
Pence came to Philadelphia last year and hit his way into the hearts of the Philly fans.  With Houston, Pence generally hit about 15% better than the league average hitter.  In the final 2 months of 2011, with the Phillies, he hit 58% better than the league.  He, predictably, hasn't been able to sustain that type of performance and is hitting 10% better than the league in 2012.  

Pence made $10.5 million this year and will likely make around $15 million next year.  The Phillies may elect to sign him long-term if they can agree to a good price.  

Philadelphia doesn't have too much in the way of position player prospects waiting in the minors.  Their two top position player prospects were outfielder Domonic Brown and infielder Freddy Galvis.  Brown has played himself out of that status and Galvis is currently serving a 50 game suspension for failing a drug test.  

What should we expect out of the Phillies' starting 8?
Catcher Carlos Ruiz: One of the top players at his position.  3.5 WAR
First baseman Ryan Howard: Should return to average production.  2 WAR
Second baseman Chase Utley: Will produce when he plays.  How much will he play?  1.5 WAR
Third baseman:  Who's on third???
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins: Still a solid contributor.  3 WAR
Leftfielder:  ???
Centerfielder: ???
Rightfielder Hunter Pence:  2.5 WAR

Even with the question marks the Phillies' starting 8 should provide about 13 WAR.  With replacement level being about 43 wins we get up to 56 wins before considering the Phillies' obvious strength, the pitching staff. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Trade Review: Hanley for Eovaldi

Not a lot of time to do this, this "real job" really gets in the way...

From Twitter generally, and Ken Rosenthal specifically
BREAKING: Sources tell me and to , Eovaldi and prospect to .
The Dodgers also receive reliever Randy Choate and give up minor-league reliever Scott Mcgough.

First, the easy part of the deal to comment on, Choate for Mcgough.  Choate is a LOOGY and an effective one.  For his career he's struck out 28% of left-handed batters while walking 7% and allowing batted balls that suggest he should give up 2.5 runs per 9 innings.  At the same time he's struck out just 11% of righties while walking 15% and should be giving up 5.5 runs per 9.   LA should rarely allow him to face a right-handed batter.  Choate will join Scott Elbert as lefties in the Dodger pen.

McGough came in 34th on this list of LA's top 200 prospects.  He has decent minor league numbers and the scouting reports are pretty good, but, as a minor league relief pitcher he just doesn't have much value.  There is every possibility that Choate will provide more value from here on out than Mcgough  will.

Now...Hanley.  Hanley used to be a top offensive performer.  Between 2006 and 2010 he was consistently hitting more than 30% better than a league average hitter.  That is excellent for a SS. His defense left a lot to be desired, but he was a very valuable player contributing at least 4.5 wins above replacement in each season.  Then came the last 2 seasons. His hitting has been roughly league average.    He's seen an uptick in strikeout rate and a downturn in power but the biggest problem has been a sever drop in BABIP.  In his prime seasons about 33% of his batted balls became hits.  The last two seasons that number is closer to 27%.  He's hitting the same number of line drives, ground balls and fly balls so I'm not sure why the change.  The internets also haven't come to a consensus on what happened to Hanley.

Regardless, he's still a marked improvement on what LA's been running out at the hot-corner this year.  Dodger 3Bmen are hitting just .306/.369 (OBP/SLG) while Hanely has managed .322/.428.  Hanley may also see time at SS where Dee Gordon and company have "hit" .285/.320.  Hanley is an offensive upgrade.  His defense has never been great, or good, or average, but it't hasn't been terrible either.  Hanley will be an upgrade over either Uribe or Gordon depending on where he plays.

Hanley is signed for about $15 million a season through 2014.  He's on pace for about 3 WAR this season.  1 WAR is generally considered to be worth about $5 million on the open market.  3 * $5 million = $15 million.  Hanley should be worth something like what he's getting paid.

Now, Eovaldi.  Eovaldi's stock has risen rather rapidly recently (alliteration for the win!).  He was most recently number 6 on the aforementioned top 200 list.  Just 22, he's thrown about 100 innings in the bigs and hasn't embarrassed himself; striking out about 15% of batters while walking 10% and pitching in a way that would be expected to give up about 4.5 runs per 9.  That's a decent #4 starter.  Plus he has room and time to improve.  He's not a star, but he's a quality major league pitcher.

My official take on this trade.  I like it.  LA has nothing in the pipeline in the infield so having Hanley at 3B for the next 2+ seasons works.  Gordon isn't a sure thing at SS so Hanley could end up there as well.  The Dodger offense, outside of Kemp, Ethier and the first half of AJ Ellis' season, is pretty poor so even an average bat is a significant upgrade.

Eovaldi is a useful pitcher, but not a star. LA a solid rotation in Kershaw, Billingsley, Capuano and Harang.  Ted Lily is on the DL but all signs point to Ryan Dempster donning blue for his next start and all of LA's top prospects are pitchers.  And Rubby de la Rosa should be in the mix in about a month or so.

For once Ned didn't get taken to the cleaners in a trade.  Now, we'll see what he gives up to get Dempster.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Debut Review: Martin Perez

Martin Perez' first start was pretty successful.

5 + innings giving up just 2 runs on 1 walk, 5 strike outs, a HR and 7 ground balls.  That effort translate into an expected runs allowed of 4.92 per 9 innings.

Martin has a history of walking a lot of batters in the minors (3.8 BB/9 in 2010 and 2011), so it was good (for those affiliated with the Rangers) to see him avoiding the walks.  He did give up a lot of line drives (the reason for the high expected runs allowed) which may have been the result of throwing some meatballs.

We can see a lot of pitches over the center of the plate, and not a lot on the corners.  Martin will probably have to locate his pitches better in the future to continue getting this type of favorable result.

For the game Martin threw 103 pitches, 59 for strikes.  League average strike% is about 63% so Martin was a bit below that.

According to Brooksbaseball, Martin threw 25 4-seam fastballs at about 93 MPH, 36 2-seam fastballs at 92 MPH, 28 changeups at 82 MPH, 13 curve balls at 75 MPH and 1 82 MPH pitch was labelled a slider.

His most impressive pitch looks to be his changeup.  Martin induced 5 swinging strikes on his changeups, that's an 18% swinging strike rate.  League average swinging strike rate is around 9%, so his changeup looks like a good pitch.  Unfortunately, Martin didn't get a swinging strike on any of his other pitches.

The Rangers indicated before the start that they were undecided if Perez would stay in the rotation.  While his results make him look like a major league pitcher, his process leads one to believe a bit more time in the minors might be necessary.