Archive for August, 2009

Rollins Having a Legendary Season With the Glove

Posted by Corey Seidman, Mon, August 31, 2009 08:07 PM Comments: 39

I’m not a fan of hyperbole, or outlandish headlines that lack substance. Maybe this is why I have a problem with the Skip Baylesses and Tony Kornheisers of the world, journalists who may have dedicated years of their lives to their craft, but care most about making a sensational splash. Unfortunately, since the internet gives almost anyone the chance to voice their opinions, many writers resort to these tactics in order to gain readership or attention. I vow never to do that because I personally dislike it so much.

With that said, Jimmy Rollins is on pace to have, arguably, the best defensive season ever by a shortstop. And if we can all get past the blockbuster move the Phillies made today by purchasing the contract of John Ennis, I’ll tell you why.

Rollins has played 123 games this season, and racked up 1089 innings at shortstop. In those 1089 innings, he has had 483 total chances in the field, and made three errors. THREE ERRORS! These three, measly errors are the fewest among all major league shortstops, and contribute to his ML-leading .994 fielding percentage.

Before we continue, let’s first discuss the relevancy of fielding percentage, a very imperfect stat. The reason fielding percentage cannot be used as the sole defensive statistic is because it is based on errors, a stat decided by the official scorer at a major league game, who happens to be an imperfect human being.

As Garret Anderson proved last night, the term “error” is broad and can sometimes be used in an unjust fashion. Had Anderson not caught up to the ball hit by Carlos Ruiz last night and gotten leather on it, there would not have been a question as to whether it was a double or error. It would have been a double, but since it fell in and out of the leftfielder’s glove, the official scorer originally ruled it an E-7.

This displays the problem with errors. A player who has great range, a player like Rollins or Pedro Feliz, gets to a great amount of balls and increases their total chances. The more total chances a player has, the more opportunities the player has to make an error. So, in this sense, some errors are GOOD, because it is always better to get to a ball and make an attempt than let it pass you.

The best example of this is Derek Jeter, a great offensive shortstop who is, quantifiably, one of the worst defenders at his position every year (despite us seeing a highlight on SportsCenter every time he makes a jump-throw.) Jeter’s fielding percentage never signifies his lack of defensive prowess, because he covers less ground than a guy like Jimmy Rollins. So a ball that passes between the hole at short and third for Jeter will always be a hit rather than an error, whereas if Jimmy were to get to it and muff it, it will be an error.

Do you see the problem?

This is where stats such as Zone Rating, Ultimate Zone Rating, and Error Runs Above Average come into play, and become extremely useful.

Zone Rating, as found on ESPN.com, measures the amount of balls fielded in a specific player’s zone. Rollins is second in the major leagues in ZR, behind only Edgar Renteria.

Ultimate Zone Rating, or UZR, is a stat found at Fangraphs.com, that takes Zone Rating into account, as well as amount of errors, the range a player has on double plays, and the strength of their arm. Rollins ranks fourth among NL shortstops this season, and was first among NL shortstops last season. Year in and year out, Rollins ranks among the top five in baseball in zone rating.

Error Runs Above Average is a stat that indicates how many runs a player has saved his team on defense, above an “average” defender. Rollins has saved 3.7 runs above average thus far in 2009, second in the NL only to Troy Tulowitzki, who has also had 52 more total chances than Rollins, which helps Tulo’s cause. Last season, Rollins was also second in the NL.

All of these stats signify the great range and consistency Jimmy Rollins has at the diamond’s toughest position. More weight is placed upon every defensive statistic at the shortstop position because of how much ground a shortstop has to cover, along with their great amount of chances, and role as captain of the infield, a position Rollins flourishes in.

The best defensive season for a shortstop, in terms of fielding percentage, belongs to Cal Ripken Jr., who committed only three erros in 680 chances in 1990. This may flabbergast you, or it may not, based on how meaningless the award has become, but Ripken DID NOT win a Gold Glove award that season. Ripken’s zone rating and range factor were almost identical to the numbers Rollins has posted this season.

Our beloved shortstop likely won’t match Ripken’s 680 chances – Rollins is 197 behind with only 34 games remaining. Even if he played nine innings in all 34 remaining games, Rollins would still fall nine innings short of Ripken’s 1406 in the field.

But if he doesn’t commit an error the rest of the way, Rollins’ remarkable season with the glove will be right in line with Ripken’s unbelievable 1990 season. When you factor in the increased speed of players in 2009 to 1990, along with the fact Ripken had that season for a 76-96, fifth place Orioles team compared to Rollins, who has been unbelievable during a pressure-packed, first-place season following a World Series victory, it can be argued that Rollins feat is even more impressive.

And boy, does he make it look pretty.


The Big Piece Takes Home NL Honors

Posted by Amanda Orr, Mon, August 31, 2009 05:02 PM Comments: 14

Ryan Howard is a large reason for the Phillies current success. He takes home National League honors, being named the NL Player of the Week.  “That’s why I call him the ‘Big Piece’,” Charlie Manuel said of Howard, who clobbered two home runs in a game against the Mets.

In August and September, Howard takes hitting to a new level.  His late season surge has begun.  This week, he batted .393 (11-for-28) with 12 runs batted in and five home runs. He had two multi-home run games.

Howard has 37 home runs and 111 RBI this season, tying Chuck Klein with four consecutive 30-100 seasons. This marks the fifth time Howard was credited with the award, with the latest being the week of June 1.


Phillies Purchase Ennis’ Contract

Posted by Amanda Orr, Mon, August 31, 2009 04:41 PM Comments: 2

The Philadelphia Phillies purchased John Ennis’ contract from Lehigh Valley. However, Ennis was immediately placed on the 15-day disabled list because he is recovering from April Tommy John surgery. To make room on the 40-man roster, Brad Harman was designated for assignment.

Having a player on the 40-man roster who is on the disabled list allows a non-roster player to be added to the postseason roster.  A player must be in the organization on August 31 to be added to the playoff roster.


Moyer Foundation Raffle Winners and DC Group Outing

Posted by Brian Michael, Mon, August 31, 2009 10:38 AM Comments: 4

A big congratulations goes out to Christine, Adam, and Nicola who were selected as winners in our raffle to benefit the Moyer Foundation. They get to ask Jamie Moyer an interview question and Christine and Adam win either a Raul Ibanez autographed baseball or a Jamie Moyer signed ticket stub from his 250th victory. A big thanks goes out to everyone who donated over the past few weeks. We raised over $500 which is enough to send a child to a Camp Erin bereavement camp.  If you haven’t done so yet, please consider making a donation to help support this worth cause.

Also, for any readers in the Washington, DC area, we are considering organizing a group night at Nationals Park for the Phillies game on Thursday, September 10. I figure we can get a bunch of cheap tickets and meet up with the thousands of other Phillies fans in attendance – we may just throw a tailgate party too. If you’re interested in hanging out, please leave a comment or send us an email.


Chooch Comes Up Clutch

Posted by Amanda Orr, Mon, August 31, 2009 12:18 AM Comments: 102

Hits with runners in scoring position and 1-2-3 saves have not been the Phillies specialty as of late.  The Phillies got both in their 3-2 win over the Atlanta Braves.

Martin Prado killed the Phillies in a previous series in Atlanta.  He continued the beating with a first inning solo home run against Joe Blanton.  That was all Blanton allowed in seven innings.  He gave up three hits, walked four, and struck out seven.

In the fourth, Chase Utley tied the game with his 29th homer of the season.  Over 46% of the Phillies runs have come via long ball.

The Phillies had a golden opportunity in the fifth inning with the bases loaded and nobody out.  Blanton didn’t follow the “don’t swing” policy and lined into a double play.  Jimmy Rollins grounded out to end the threat.  Luckily, an error and a timely hit put the Phillies ahead.

Raul Ibanez walked and Pedro Feliz successfully laid down a sacrifice bunt.  However, Chipper Jones made a throwing error and everybody was safe.  Carlos Ruiz’s two-run double gave the Phillies the lead.

Ryan Madson has been struggling, giving up three earned runs, seven hits, and a walk in his last four innings.  Matt Diaz was drilled and Prado singled to start the eighth inning.  Chipper Jones’ RBI single drove in a run, making it 3-2  with two on and nobody out.  Jayson Werth made a strong throw to the plate, but it was a tad wide for Ruiz to make the tag.  Charlie Manuel made the call to the bullpen to escape the jam.

Scott Eyre, who hadn’t pitched since August 16, was called upon.  Eyre got Brian McCann to ground into the unconventional 4-6-5 double play.  Chase Utley made a fantastic pick, and flipped to Rollins.  Heads up, Rollins fired to third.  Feliz and Prado got into a pickle, which Feliz won.  A triple play was almost turned after McCann was a little too far away from the first base bag. 

Garrett Anderson grounded out, and Eyre left the mound with a nice first pump.  Brad Lidge would do the same.  After two quick fly outs, Greg Norton went around on Lidge’s nasty slider to end the game.

The Phillies took the rubber match game of the series and extend their divisional lead to eight games.  Their magic number decreases to 26.


Drabek Shut Down

Posted by Amanda Orr, Sun, August 30, 2009 11:18 PM Comments: 16

The Philadelphia Phillies shut down Kyle Drabek for the remainder of the season.  Drabek, the Phillies top prospect, has been placed on the inactive list.

Drabek is not injured, but the Phillies decided to shut him down since he pitched 158 innings this season, the most in his professional career.  In both Clearwater and Reading, he was 12-3 with a 3.19 ERA.  Drabek will not pitch in the Arizona Fall League or Florida Industrial League.

Opinion: The Phillies made a great decision.  Drabek, who recovered from 2007 Tommy John Surgery, had himself a terrific year, but he was starting to tire out.  He had a 5.05 ERA in five August starts.  This will benefit Drabek’s future, and protect him from injury risk.


Gameday: Braves (68-61) At Phillies (74-53)

Posted by Amanda Orr, Sun, August 30, 2009 07:15 PM Comments: 166

Atlanta Braves (68-61) at Philadelphia Phillies (74-53)

Jair Jurrjens (10-8, 2.91 ERA) vs. Joe Blanton (8-6, 3.88 ERA)

Time: 8:05 p.m at Citizens Bank Park
Weather: Cloudy, 76
Twitter: Phillies Nation

Last night, the Braves slugged their way to a victory against Cliff Lee and the Phillies.  The Phillies offense  needs to step it up in the rubber match game of the series.

The Curacao native has had himself a fine year with a 2.91 ERA and 1.26 WHIP.  Against the Phillies this season, Jurrjens allowed only two earned runs in 19.2 innings.  In his career against Philly, he is 3-2 with a 2.31 ERA.  The Phillies cumulative lineup is batting .188 against him.  It will not be easy for the offense to get back on track with Jurrjens on the mound.

Joe Blanton will get the start for the Phillies tonight.  After a slow start, Blanton has been dominant since mid-May.  Blanton was hurt by the long ball in his last start. He has given up 24 home runs this season.  Blanton has struggled against the Braves.  In 26 innings, he is 0-1 with a 6.58 ERA.  The Braves lineup is collectively batting .313 against him.

If Blanton pitches the way he has of late and the offense can get back on track, manufacturing runs via small ball with runners in scoring position, the Phillies should be in good shape under the national spotlight.




Introducing the Real Raul Ibanez

Posted by Corey Seidman, Sun, August 30, 2009 10:30 AM Comments: 45

The old saying goes, “first impressions are lasting impressions.” So naturally, falling out of love with a player who had such an immediate impact as Raul Ibanez is extremely difficult, since he excelled instantly after becoming a Phillie.

But, all fondness and “homerism” aside, the time has come to realize that Ibanez is neither “Pujols-ian” nor “Bruntlett-ish,” but somewhere in between.

On June 13, after playing sixty games as a Phillie, Ibanez was hitting .322/.380/.678, with a 1.058 OPS, 22 homers, 59 RBI, and 51 runs scored. As of that same date, Albert Pujols had the same amount of home runs, two fewer RBI, one less run scored, two fewer doubles, a .329 batting average, and a slugging percentage only 21 points above Ibanez. With 40% of the season complete, the two had nearly identical numbers, and were the frontrunners in the race for NL MVP.

I picked the date of June 13 because it was the very last day Ibanez was being somewhat productive, and playing with a healthy left groin. However, he began regressing to his true talent level ten days earlier, in the final game of a series in San Diego, before the Phils traveled to Dodger Stadium. Sure, Ibanez hit safely in every game from June 3-June 13, but he had one hit in each game, allowing him to ride a meaningless hit streak. From that date until he went on the DL, Ibanez went 11-for-53, a .208 batting average, and raked only six extra-base hits in twelve games.

The point of my inclusion of this period? To show you that it wasn’t merely a trip to the DL that derailed Ibanez’ terrific 2009 season. The real Raul Ibanez had showed up two weeks earlier.

The next question would naturally be, “Who is the Raul Ibanez?” Well, that would be a .286/.346/.479 hitter, not a .322/.380/.678 hitter. A guy, who, according to Dave Cameron of the extremely popular Seattle blog, USS Mariner, can look incredible one month and dreadful the next. Like most of you, I found this hard to believe when I was informed of it, but the stats don’t lie.

Sure, certain elements made Ibanez a much better hitter during the first four-tenths of the season. He had a positive change of scenery – went from a pitcher’s park to a hitter’s park, and was batting in the middle of a powerful, multifaceted lineup. But it would have been unrealistic to expect a player who hit one homer every 25 at-bats to turn into a guy who hits one every 11 at-bats, and be able to SUSTAIN it.

Since the all-important date of June 13, Ibanez has been, well, pitiful.

  • 60 games ending June 13: .322/.380/.678/1.058, 22 HR, 59 RBI, 51 R, 44 K in 242 AB.
  • 41 games since: .216/.294/.399/.693, 5 HR, 20 RBI, 20 R, 47 K in 153 AB.

He has been dropped from fifth in the order to sixth, and has been given numerous days off to keep him fresh, in hopes of allowing the left-handed power bat to reemerge.

The reason that many of you will disagree with this assessment of Ibanez is highlighted in the first sentence of the article. Call it love at first sight, call it a lasting impression Ibanez made on all of us, or call it the “Brad Lidge Effect.” Like Ibanez, the Brad Lidge we fell in love with last season was an apparition – a player performing at a gaudy, unsustainable, unreal rate.

While the decreased line-drives and increased GIDP’s have been an area of concern, neither stat is as alarming as Raul’s strikeout rate, which has climbed consistently as the year has gone on. His current K-rate is 23%, a career high, well above the previous mark of 16.9%. In August, that rate has gone into red-alert territory, at around 31%. The plate discipline that made us all deem him a “professional hitter” during the inaugural months is gone. He is swinging at many pitches out of the zone, and not making contact. In fact, the percentage of balls he makes contact on is a whopping 8% lower this year than it was during his time in Seattle.

Tom McCarthy and Chris Wheeler have noted lately that Ibanez has been “looking his age.” But maybe he’s not just looking like a 37-year old player in the dog days of August. Maybe he’s looking like the real Raul Ibanez.


Weekly Wrap: Missed Opportunities

Posted by Jason Bintliff, Sun, August 30, 2009 09:42 AM Comments: 11

Throughout the course of the year the Phillies have seen some bad stretches. This past week wasn’t their worst. It certainly wasn’t their best stretch, either.

The Phillies carried the momentum from a three game winning streak into Pittsburgh on Tuesday, hoping to improve upon that streak. Although the Pirates started and ended the series in last place in the N.L. Central, each member of their roster is playing for their 2010 big-league lives.

On Tuesday, trailing 3-2 heading into the ninth, the Phillies provided some late inning heroics as Shane Victorino tripled in Ben Francisico, the Phillies go-ahead run after the Phillies had fought to tie the game. Pitcher Matt Capps had blown his second save against the Phils this season. Strange how baseball has a way of evening things out.

In the bottom half of the frame, closer Brad Lidge faced three batters. All three touched him up for extra-base hits, capped off by game-winning two- run home run by the Pirates Andrew Mc Cutchen. Lidge had blown his ninth save of the season and left the Delaware Valley with many questions, such as, “Now what?”

Wednesday was reliever Ryan Madson’s turn to blow a game, as he allowed a ninth-inning, solo shot, allowing Pittsburgh to tie the game at one. Fortunately for the pinstripes, Ryan Howard is hitting his late season stride. Howard gave the Phillies a tenth-inning lead on a three-run bomb, and the Phillies would never look back. Although Madson got the blown save, he also recorded the win as he came back out to finish the bottom half of the inning.

On Thursday J.A. Happ pitched a solid 7.2 innings. It was the last 0.1 inning that will get you every time. After giving up a lead-off homer to McCutchen, Happ cruised through the next six innings. He looked shaky at times, but worked himself out of many jams, via the double-play. In the eight, however, with one on and two down, Happ gave up the second homer of the game for the Pirates, and the Phillies fell 3-2.

The Phillies starters looked good throughout the series, despite the late-inning homerun given up by Happ. It was the Phillies bats that went silent through the series and the Phillies struggles continued in the city of three rivers. Since it’s opening, the Phillies are now 9-13 at PNC Park.

After dropping two of three to the Pirates, the Phillies came home to take on the second-place Braves. Starting the series, the Fightin’s had a seven game lead on both the Braves and the Marlins.

Friday night in a rain soaked affair, the Phillies took the series opener, 4-2. Backed by a strong relief outing from Jamie Moyer and Ryan Howard’s two homeruns, the Phil’s extended their division lead to a season high eight games. The bats were again anemic, but the bullpen was good, giving up only two runs in eight innings of relief.

Saturday fans in Philadelphia got to witness a monumental event, Cliff Lee’s undoing. Lee gave up three Atlanta bombs and gave up six runs in five innings of work. The bullpen was equally sour as they surrendered three runs of their own in a 9-1 shellacking at the hands of the Braves. The bats were again quiet with the lone bright spot coming in the first inning off of a Chase Utley long-ball.

A recurring theme over the last three seasons has been the Phillies inability to hit with runners in scoring position. The Fightin’s tend to go through stretches, long stretches, where they lack situational hitting.

Too many times we saw runners at second and third with less than two outs and time and time again the Phillies failed to put runs across the plate. Raul Ibanez has perhaps been the biggest culprit, and has been awful at the plate since July 1st.

The two blown saves in Pittsburgh this past week prevented what should have been a sweep of the downtrodden Pirates.

The bigger problem in that series wasn’t the bullpen, so much as it was the fact that the offense managed only 10 runs throughout the series, with three of those runs coming in extra-innings.

Sure, the back end of the bullpen needs to improve, and it needs to do so quickly. However, the line-up need to stop relying on the long-ball to get things done.

The Phillies will hope to get the series win tonight, in front of a national audience. The showdown gets underway at 8pm.


Lee Has Worst Start Since Joining Phillies

Posted by Amanda Orr, Sat, August 29, 2009 11:53 PM Comments: 21

It turns out that Cliff Lee is human after all.  Since joining the Phillies, Lee has dominated by going deep into games and not allowing any more than two runs in each start.  When he is handed the ball, a win is expected as he fills fans with confidence.  Saturday was a different story.

The start of the game was delayed about 25 minutes due to rain.  Once the game got underway, Chase Utley smacked his 28th home run of the year to put the Phillies on the board.

Entering the game, Lee hadn’t allowed a home run as a Phillie.  His ERA was a minuscule 0.68.  Those numbers quickly changed.  Garrett Anderson’s three-run home run in the fourth inning put the Braves ahead.  It was the first home run Lee allowed since July 21.  Matt Diaz and Yunel Escobar also homered, adding to the lead.  It was the first time since 2007 that Lee gave up multiple home runs in a game, let alone three. 

In his shortest outing as a Phillie, Lee was finished after five innings.  All six runs he allowed were earned.  He gave up ten hits and struck out five.  His ERA dramatically increased to 1.80 with Philadelphia, and 2.83 on the season.

If it was any indication, Lee gave up an unusual lead-off single to Diaz to open the game.  Lee gets into trouble when he surrenders too many hits; that was the case tonight.  The Braves did an excellent job of slowing down the quick worker by stepping out of the box and taking pitches.

Other than Utley’s homer, the Phillies offense was silenced by Lowe.  Improving to 6-1 lifetime against the Phillies, the sinker-baller continues to have success against them.  As a home run hitting team, the offense generally does not have success against most sinker ball pitchers.

The offense had many chances, but went 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position.  In addition, they left 12 men on base.  Even when they were trailing 9-1, they had a perfect opportunity with the bases loaded any nobody out.  Whatever the case may be, this team can not produce runs when runners are past first base.  They’re heavily relying on the long ball.

The Braves added a few more runs off the bullpen, but the rain came down in buckets during the eighth inning to force another delay.  As a swimming pool formed in the outfield, the decision was finally made to call the game.  The 9-1 loss puts the Braves seven games behind the Phillies in the National League East.

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