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The Resilient Replacements

Posted by Corey Seidman, Wed, August 04, 2010 02:33 AM | Comments: 80
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In everyday language, the term “replacement player” refers to one who supplants another, taking his place.

In the world of 21st century baseball, however, the definition of “replacement-level player” goes a step further – it refers to the adequate fielding, poor hitting player who oftentimes serves as a stop-gap to a starter.

The only value a replacement player has is his physical ability to play the same position as the starter. He is organizational depth. He is Brian Bockock-ian.

In 2010, the Phillies have given 617 plate appearances to replacement players.

Know how many plate appearances they gave to replacement players last season? 618.

The Phillies have given almost an entire season’s worth of plate appearances to the adequate fielding, below average hitting, stop-gap 4-A replacement player…at multiple positions and in multiple slots in the batting order. And we still have 56 games to go.

The breakdown is as follows:

And the team is 58-48, two games behind the Atlanta Braves for first place in the NL East.

How many plate appearances have the Braves given to replacement players?

Well, it would be irresponsible of me to preclude Melky Cabrera from that category – he’s been worth 0.2 wins BELOW replacement this year in 355 plate appearances and 102 games of shaky outfield defense.

Aside from Cabrera, the Bravos haven’t given out too many at-bats to “that” level of player. Matt Diaz had a slow start, but he doesn’t come close to that category, nor does Yunel Escobar (bad fit), David Ross (105 OPS+ for a backup catcher), Gregor Blanco (defense, discipline), Omar Infante (positional value added to inflated batting average), or even Nate the Great McLouth.

(Take a second to click on McLouth.)

The Braves have been healthy, the Phillies haven’t. The Braves bench was and still is assembled to better make up for injuries than the Phillies’ second unit. And their bullpen is better. But that’s it. Through 106 games, that’s been it.

The Phillies have handed out 280 DL days to the ensemble cast of…

  • (April) – Joe Blanton, Brad Lidge, J.C. Romero, Jimmy Rollins, J.A. Happ
  • (May) – Ryan Madson, Brian Schneider, Jimmy Rollins
  • (June) – Antonio Bastardo, Carlos Ruiz, Chad Durbin, Chase Utley, Placido Polanco
  • (July) – Jamie Moyer, Shane Victorino
  • (August) – Ryan Howard

…and they’re two games out of first place.

And so here lie the Phillies – no Ryan Howard, no Chase Utley, no Shane Victorino, no Jamie Moyer. Poised to make a run at a developingly-human Braves team. Whether or not they take the NL East lead in time for the big guns to make it back, it’s remarkable that this band of stars, underachievers, and replacements has gotten this far.

How have they done it?

Cole Hamels’ filthy 2010 season is a close runner-up to these two, but the main reasons have been:

1) Roy Halladay

It took Roy Halladay 23 starts to make this HIS team. In 17 of those 23 starts, he allowed two runs or less. He is an otherworldly talent. He is one-third man, one-third lion, one-third pitching machine.

He has a 7.52-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, a ridiculous number overshadowed by only the dominance of Lee Who Shall Not Be Named, and a WHIP of damn-near 1.00.

This is Roy Halladay’s team right now. As he goes, so goes the team. Think about what an injury to Halladay would feel like. Did your earth just shatter? Do you want to get it out of your mind as soon as humanly possible right now?

THAT’S why it’s his team.

2) Ryan Howard

I debate with my colleagues and esteemed associates on Twitter on a weekly basis about Ryan Howard. One week it’s contract backlash. The next it’s ridicule of original contract backlash. The next it’s about strikeouts. The next it’s about singles. Then it’s about walk rates. Then isolated power. Then this. Then that. Then Angel Pagan (don’t ask…)

Bottom line, this right here…

For years we’ve asked for Ryan Howard to make more contact. We’ve asked him to strike out less and recognize situations that call for different approaches. And this year he has. Howard’s last three seasons:

  • 2010: .292/.356/.528 – (.884 OPS)
  • 2009: .279/.360/.571 – (.931 OPS)
  • 2008: .251/.339/.543 – (.881 OPS)

Some claim he is “declining.” That his power skills are eroding. That his eye is getting worse. They fail to of course recognize the 4% drop in his strikeouts, because that is my side’s evidence.

They also fail to notice that his slugging percentage – the most indicative number here – is only ONE point lower today than it was on this day last year, and 26 points HIGHER today than it was on this day two years ago.

In 2010, Howard has traded strikeouts, walks, and a few homers for a bunch of singles. And that approach, which led to a typical late-season Howard Power Surge, has helped a completely depleted, wounded, and bed-ridden team to 58 wins in 106 games.

And, finally, I don’t care who in the SABR community kills me for saying their dirty word, “RBI”, I’m mentioning that he has an NL-leading 81 RBI when ALL three hitters in front of him have missed significant time, both alone and simultaneously.

That’s value. That’s production. That’s performance. Talk to me about the higher wOBAs of Angel Pagan and Andres Torres. I’ll listen for 15 seconds and move on.

Any logical, rational, intuitive baseball mind recognizes and applauds Howard for compiling those 81 RBI. They don’t discount it because an eclectic, stiff-speaking assortment of their contemporaries want to prove a point.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Halladay’s healthy. He’s fine. He struck out nine Marlins over seven stellar innings without his best stuff on a humid night in South Florida. He sweat, he labored, he ran uncharacteristic deep counts, but he made every single pitch when he needed to en route to a 13th win.

Howard is not healthy. He went on the 15-day DL Tuesday and might not even be ready when that stint is up.

There is no prediction to make here, because nothing this season has gone as scripted. Cody Ransom and Wilson Valdez made up the right side of the infield last night. At one point a few months ago, Wilson Valdez and Juan Castro made up the left side.

Where do we go from here? You know as well as I do. This team will either make one final push before the stars return to guide them, or they’ll fall just a bit short, disappointing us but gaining our admiration all the while.

Crazy game, that baseball.

(Completely off-topic SeidNote™: if you can, watch highlights of the Mets dugout’s greeting to Jeff Francoeur after his dramatic 9th inning game-winning homer off Billy Wagner. Whether or not you hate the team and its players…there’s nothin’ better than that reaction.)

Avatar of Corey Seidman

About Corey Seidman

Corey Seidman has written 210 articles on Phillies Nation.

Corey is Analysis Editor for Phillies Nation and also writes for CSNPhilly.com.

 
 
  • Posts: 0 Kate

    My suggestion re: the closer problem is why not start switching some stuff up? Give Contreras a try at the ninth inning. See if Madson can pitch the eighth and then get us an out or two in the ninth, paving the way for Contreras or perhaps Romero and Lidge.

    If Lidge is truly in pain as well as nursing a head case problem, there’s nothing to say that he won’t aggravate any one of the issues causing him pain and then have to go back on the DL. We’ll be in the exact same spot, except for there being absolutely NO chance that Lidge will come in with a laser change-up, a filthy slider, and a one-two-three inning.

    To think there were people complaining about acquiring Polanco in the off-season. The man’s been a ROCK when rocks are sorely needed.

     
  • Posts: 0 repeat

    forget about any al players. no way any quailty al bp arms clear the entire al unless its an insanely high salary and the phils aren’t adding any significant amount to their payroll anyway. what the phillies should do is get a decent lefty bp pitcher of any kind with a decent arm. then make jose contr. their closer and leave brad lidge somewhere in the alaskan wilderness. as of today maybe and through the weekend the phillies get 1st dips on players placed on waivers because of their record.

     
  • Posts: 0 Brian Sr. of CO

    “Call him what you want” Greg Dobbs…How about HORRIBLE GET RID OF HIM Greg Dobbs?

     
  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    I didn’t get the complaining about the Polanco signing at all. He was the best option, considering the money, his experience and just how he plays.

    Thank God Beltre turned down the Phillies offer!

     
  • Posts: 0 MikeB.

    Five players mainly have led Atlanta to where they are at this point in the season, Troy Glaus and his torrid hitting in the first half of the season and Heyward, Prado, MCCann and Hudson. Hudson has almost been unbeatable this year. The Atlanta offense will be the key in determining whether or not they win the division or make the playoffs this season. Am looking for their offense to fizzle out during these last 2 months of crunch time.

     
  • Posts: 0 repeat

    yeah polanco has been the truth. no joke. shane/jimmy as well as valdez and brown need to learn from this guy. don’t mean to go negative. but i find it rather insulting that rollins chats with charlie all game and then goes out and has such terrible abs. then he goes right back in the dugout and the two of them pick up there chat as if nothing just happened.

     
  • Posts: 0 MikeB.

    Francoeur looked like he got a great deal of satisfaction beating his former team last night. Great, clutch HR and what was better yet was that it was off of Billy Wagner, in Atlanta in front of all the “tomahawk choppers” and helped the Phils gain ground on Atlanta.

     
  • Posts: 0 Brian Sr. of CO

    Not to mention with Prado out of the lineup on the 15 day DL for Atlanta, that could go along way to help us out. Makes you wonder what the season would be holding since we are only 2 games, and if we were as healthy as Atlanta. Hopefully we will be getting healthy at the right time of the season. Would be nice to have Howard, Vic and Utley back healthy again for late August and September. I just hope the HORRIBLE stretch we went through was it for the season.

     
  • Posts: 0 The Second John

    Why complain about Polanco? According to WAR, Pedro Feliz has been one of the most least valuable players in MLB so far.

     
  • Posts: 0 MikeB.

    You could tell that Polanco was really a special player when he was coming up thru the Cardinal’s organization. Really a special kind of hitter. Always was kind of hard to understand why the Cardinals let him get away and the Phillies too, the first time around.

     
  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    So what is J-Roll supposed to do??….go in and break a toe kicking a chair??

    I have no problem with Jimmy’s demeanor. If anything, he, as one of the leaders, is just trying to keep it light.

    Believe me….he cares.

     
  • Posts: 0 MikeB.

    Absolutely, Brian Sr. of CO, Prado being out for two weeks or possibly for longer will be a big blow to that Atlanta offense as he seems to be their catalyst in the way Jimmy Rollins is thought of to be for the Phils. These next 2 weeks or so for the Phillies will probably be the big key for the Phils so far as being able to hold it together and stay close in the division and wild card races until Howard, Victorino and Utley return.

     
  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    I’m done trying to defend Lidge… Even though 14 saves in 18 opportunities is good, my eyes tell me that he’s a trainwreck and I’m sorry to say that I was wrong. Charlie needs to limit the opportunities that Lidge gets down the stretch.

    I would be all for getting a closer but nothing worthwhile would clear waivers at this point… our best options are on our roster or in the minor leagues. We’re supposedly a farm system ripe with bullpen arms yet we can’t find one arm that we can trust… doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

    Adam Dunn was placed on Waivers… it will be interesting to see where he lands.

     
  • Posts: 0 MikeB.

    I have noticed too lately that Manual and Rollins have been conversing quite a bit in the dugout lately during the games. Manuel must see Rollins as one of the, if not the main leader, on this team and probably is trying to convey his continued confidence in him. Kind of tacky that the TV cameras are constantly showing their interactions.

     
  • Posts: 0 psujoe

    Guys It’s going to be Lidge. I know it and you know it.

    If the Phils are playing for now then Bastardo has to come up. It’d be nice to hold onto Herndon or not blow 3 million on Baez, but the best need to be on the 25 man roster. No margin for error with all the injuries.

     
  • Posts: 0 repeat

    that’s not what i meant chuck. i used to find the two of them talking throughtout the game very cool. but not so much anymore. i like the open communication part. but rollins is the team leader and for the most part rollins gets a free pass to play to the beat of his own drum. he plays how he wants and when he wants. One week he is the lead guy off the decade. and the next week he plays like valdez. he’s not the only one but he is one of the most significant players as the leadoff hitter. how does a guy with that talent get to chat/laugh it up with the manager all game when he’s not doing his job for stretches at a time. you dont see that around mlb. it is not a good example of leadership by rollins or charlie. hitting coach is a fading concept. the pitching coach is not and will never be. charlie is the true hitting coach. charlie/rollins should not be laughing up it so much. charlie needs to be more demanding of rollins and the other guys as well.

     
  • Posts: 0 Jake

    The Braves now, more than ever, are beginning to look behind them and seeing this injury depleted team coming up behind them and are really starting to get this in their heads thinking that later this month Ryan will be back, then next month Chase and Shane will be back and its making them really probably begin to worry and question themselves.. The Braves WILL fall apart, and soon..

     
  • Posts: 312 Corey Seidman

    Avatar of Corey Seidman

    Appreciate the comments, guys.

    In addressing the RBI comments, which a few commenters have disagreed with using Howard’s amount of opportunities with runners on, I’ll say this:

    Yes, Ryan Howard does have the 5th highest amount of plate appearances with runners on base in MLB this season, but take a moment to look at the Top 20 in that category and see how few of those players have turned opportunity into success…

    1) Prince Fielder leads all of MLB in plate appearances with runners on base, yet he’s not in the Top 40 in MLB in RBI.

    2) Billy Butler is 3rd, Michael Cuddyer is 8th, Matt Kemp is 12th, Jay Bruce is 17th, Michael Young is 18th, Justin Upton is 20th…and none of THOSE men is in the Top 40

    3) Evan Longoria is 6th, Carlos Pena is 10th, David Ortiz is 13th, Ryan Braun is 14th, James Loney is 16th, Kevin Youkilis is 19th…and none of THOSE men is within 10-15 RBI of Howard.

    The point is, Howard has had had the opportunities, but 35% of the Top 20 in the Opportunity Department don’t fall in the Top 40 in RBI, and 65% of the Top 20 aren’t within 10 RBI of Howard.

    I didn’t want to make this discussion into RBI, because I don’t value the stat too much, I just don’t HATE it like most of the SABR community does. I’m indifferent to it mostly, but notice it when it applies in a special way, like it does with Ryan Howard.

    He’s had the opportunities, but he’s delivered. Is this predictive or indicative? Does it tell us with better likelihood that he’ll continue driving in runs no matter the circumstances? Probably not.

    But it backs up the fact that he’s held up his end of the bargain and that it’s not just opportunity. Just ask Prince Fielder.

     
  • Posts: 312 Corey Seidman

    Avatar of Corey Seidman

    Appreciate the comments, guys

    In addressing the RBI comments, which a few commenters have disagreed with using Howard’s amount of opportunities with runners on, I’ll say this:

    Yes, Ryan Howard does have the 5th highest amount of plate appearances with runners on base in MLB this season, but take a moment to look at the Top 20 in that category and see how few of those players have turned opportunity into success…

    1) Prince Fielder leads all of MLB in plate appearances with runners on base, yet he’s not in the Top 40 in MLB in RBI.

    2) Billy Butler is 3rd, Michael Cuddyer is 8th, Matt Kemp is 12th, Jay Bruce is 17th, Michael Young is 18th, Justin Upton is 20th…and none of THOSE men is in the Top 40

    3) Evan Longoria is 6th, Carlos Pena is 10th, David Ortiz is 13th, Ryan Braun is 14th, James Loney is 16th, Kevin Youkilis is 19th…and none of THOSE men is within 10-15 RBI of Howard.

    The point is, Howard has had had the opportunities, but 35% of the Top 20 in the Opportunity Department don’t fall in the Top 40 in RBI, and 65% of the Top 20 aren’t within 10 RBI of Howard.

    I didn’t want to make this discussion into RBI, because I don’t value the stat too much, I just don’t HATE it like most of the SABR community does. I’m indifferent to it mostly, but notice it when it applies in a special way, like it does with Ryan Howard.

    He’s had the opportunities, but he’s delivered. Is this predictive or indicative? Does it tell us with better likelihood that he’ll continue driving in runs no matter the circumstances? Probably not.

    But it backs up the fact that he’s held up his end of the bargain and that it’s not just opportunity. Just ask Prince Fielder.

     
  • Posts: 312 Corey Seidman

    Avatar of Corey Seidman

    If my comment shows up multiple times, its because it wasn’t appearing when I originally posted it. Weird.

     
  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    I love Jimmy… batting average and hitting metrics are the smallest components of his true value to this team. His defense and his affect on the clubhouse are far more important than what he does at the plate. The Phillies are 28-19 with Jimmy Rollins in the lineup… that means, they are 30-29 without him. Not a coincidence in my mind… he might drive us nuts sometimes but I have a tough time criticizing him at this point in the season.

     
  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    How is that not an example of good leadership? And you know that Charlie’s style is to chat with his players. I have no problem with it. I actually think that the clubhouse needs to be kept loose…these guys need to have fun.

    And saying that “the next week he plays like Valdez” is just dumb. You can’t even compare the two players at all. Plus, Wilson Valdez has been a WELCOME surprise.

     
  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    The more opportunities you get, the more opportunities you have to fail… in a game where the best hitters in the game fail to get on base 60% of the time, the law of averages usually wins out and when the pressure is on, it is that much harder to produce. Some guys (Miguel Cabrera) have extraordinary seasons that seem to defy all reason but when you have a guy like Howard that has consistently produced (and is always near the top of the RBI leaderboard), that is an invaluable commodity.

     
  • Posts: 0 Corey Seidman

    Also, to the people who noted the absence of Ben Francisco and Ross Gload’s plate appearances, I consider neither a “replacement player” so those PAs don’t count. Each player is slightly above replacement-level.

    Francisco is a ~1 win player over the course of a season and Gload is slightly less than 1…maybe 0.6 or 0.7.

     
  • Posts: 0 Corey Seidman

    I completely agree, Chuck.

    The problem with a lot of counting stats, RBI being one of them, is that people equate unpredictability and small sample sizes with NO SKILL BEING INVOLVED. Just because something isn’t predictive doesn’t mean it is not valuable, and it damn sure doesn’t mean the production it displays is a mirage.

    Debates like these are good for those who support and those who don’t understand or care about sabermetrics. Everybody needs to open up their minds, use common sense, and recognize that arguments can be made for both sides. Too many hard-headed writers/analysts out there.

     
  • Posts: 0 repeat

    to take it a step furthe,r the phils have an unreal record when rollins scores a run. and that’s exactly my point. that 28-19 stat would be more like 35-12 if jimmy was more patient and consistent . longer abs, more walks, a couple of attempts at getting a bunt-single and better decision making on the base paths. like attempting to steal earlier in the count. (ie when on 1st with 2 outs to give the team another ab w/risp) is all i’m asking. its makes polanco mad every time rollins doesn’t do this. jroll used to make things happen (ie game vs rockies). its not all his fault. but the 1st pitch swings and unproductive outs via pop-ups has to stop. he’s not in a slump. this is the way he plays all the time.

     
  • Posts: 0 repeat

    the reference to valdez is not dumb. of course you want to keep it loose. there are tens of thousands of phillies fans who know baseball that will agree with me. not saying you don’t. i respect your opinion so dont call mine dumb. we had a similar conversation when i said the reds sweep was a fluke in many ways because the phils left so many risp against the best offense in the national league and the blown save by lidge along with their spotty overall play. we all love jimmy. but he could be so much better by making simple adjustments and sticking to it. his abs(and the rest of the team) at home seem to be a lot better than on the road. phils fans at the park are not going to tolerate his bs.

     
  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    I agree with Jimmy making more adjustments, etc. But having or not having fun in the dugout is a different issue. A player can and SHOULD try to have fun and stay loose, whether he’s in a slump or not. In fact, if he is struggling, staying loose will help him not to press so much.

    What I was saying about your Valdez example is that you said, “the next week he plays like Valdez.”

    As if Valdez is a Jimmy Rollins calibre player. He’s not. He’s a utility guy that has filled in admirably and this year. He came out of nowhere and has done a better-than-expected job.

    Didn’t mean to criticize you, but your reference and comparison didn’t make any sense to me. Just like saying that the Phils sweeping the Reds was a “fluke”….which it wasn’t.

     
  • Posts: 0 Kennedy

    I guess now we just need to release Raul Ibanez, right Corey?

     
  • Posts: 312 Corey Seidman

    Avatar of Corey Seidman

    Ibby is a hitting machine! Like I said at the time, I’ll be GLAD if I’m wrong, which it appears I was.

    Since June 6, the day I wrote the article, Ibanez is hitting .309/.383/.489 with 7 homers and 11 doubles. He’s raised his OPS from .700 to .786.

     
 
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