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2011 Phillies Offensive Preview, Part 1: Intro and First Base

Posted by Michael Baumann, Thu, March 24, 2011 02:18 PM | Comments: 26
2011 Spring Training, Analysis, Posts, Projections

What can we expect from the Phillies offense? That’s really the big question going into 2011, isn’t it? After all, great things are expected from the starting rotation, and while the bullpen isn’t 1996 Yankees-good, it’s certainly expected to be good enough, and is a known quantity.

The offense, however? That juggernaut? The rock upon which, for so many years, Pat Gillick and Ruben Amaro built their church? For the first time I can remember, Phillies fans seem to be sold on the team’s ability to prevent runs, scoring them might be an entirely different propostion.

The way I see it, there are only three sure things in the Phillies’ lineup: Carlos Ruiz, Shane Victorino, and Placido Polanco. Ruiz will play good defense, hit for a fairly high average and no power, but be on base a ton due to his tremendous plate discipline. Polanco will play good defense, hit for a very high average and no power, and never walk, so he won’t be on base much at all. Victorino will, in spite of being blessed with perhaps the best speed/throwing arm combination in the National League, play mediocre defense. He will also hit for a high average (though not as high as Polanco’s) walk (though not as much as Ruiz), hit for a little power and steal, conservatively, about 30 bases.

So that makes three positions where the Phillies can count on solid contributions from three good, but not great, players. There are, however, five other spots in the Phillies’ lineup, and anyone who says he knows for sure what the team will get, except in the most general terms, is lying. The answers to those questions will ultimately determine the course of the season.

What I want everyone to take away from this: whatever you think of what the Phillies offense was in 2010 and is in 2011, it’s at worst an above-average unit. And with this starting rotation, above-average is more than enough to win the World Series. So let’s step off the ledge and address each position case-by-case.

First Base: Ryan Howard, Opening Day Age: 31
2010:  620 PA, .276/.353/.505, 31 HR, 2.0 fWAR
2011 (Bill James-projected): 682 PA, .276/.368/.547, 43 HR

We’re probably looking at the tail end of Howard’s prime, which may come as a surprise, but not getting a full-time, full-season shot to start until age 26 hurt him in terms of longevity. Howard came into camp in 2010 slimmed down, and hit for a marginally higher average, but at the expense of full-season career lows in walk rate and just about every counting stat. Of course, the normally-durable Howard missed some time after an early-August trip to the DL, which didn’t help. Howard also adopted a more contact-based approach that didn’t help his one glaring weakness as a hitter: his inability to hit breaking balls, which he sees more of than any other player in baseball.

This year, Howard’s packed some muscle back on, and stands to revert to his 2009 form. I think the Bill James predictions are right on the money in this case: back to 40+ home runs, and an uptick in OBP and slugging percentage, with perhaps a slight dip in batting average. One note: with Jayson Werth no longer hitting behind him, Howard can’t be afraid to take a walk in 2010. While Howard is the face of the Phillies’ offense, the fact of the matter is he hasn’t even been one of the Phillies’ three best position players for years, and he can’t afford to force things to happen at the plate.

Avatar of Michael Baumann

About Michael Baumann

Michael Baumann has written 229 articles on Phillies Nation.

Michael is a graduate student at Temple University who lost his childlike innocence when, at the age of 6, his dad let him stay up for the end of Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. Unsettled by the Phillies' recent success, he has threatened over the years to leave the team he loves if they don't start losing again, but has so far been unable to follow through. Michael spent 4 years as an undercover agent in Braves territory at the University of South Carolina, where he covered football and soccer for The Daily Gamecock before moving back up north. He began writing for The Phrontiersman in June 2009 before moving to Phillies Nation in January 2010.

 
 
  • Posts: 0 Steve

    I don’t understand the last sentence of this post. Who were the three position players better than him over the last few years? If you want to argue Utley and Werth, ok (although I’d argue back). But Howard has clearly been better than Rollins for the last few years, Ibanez has put up half season numbers each of the last two years, Chooch, Shane and Polanco are, as you say, good not great, and that’s all the positions.

    So, who’s the third?

     
  • Posts: 0 jason

    To say Shane won’t play good defense is idiotic, he has won gold gloves the last 3 seasons. Do a little research, before you spew out false accusations

     
    • Posts: 312 Corey Seidman

      Avatar of Corey Seidman

      Jason – In actuality, Victorino is widely regarded as one of the less-productive defensive centerfielders. He has great skills (speed, throwing arm) but that does not automatically translate to effectiveness.

      The reason many misconceive Victorino to be great defensively is that he runs so hard after balls and makes routine plays look more difficult than they are. This is the polar opposite of why people view Carlos Beltran as a “lazy defender.” Beltran used to glide to balls with ease, and because his movements were so natural rather than “scrappy,” people perceived it as a lack of hustle.

      By all defensive metrics, Victorino is not among the elite CFs. And his Gold Gloves have nothing to do with anything. Gold Gloves are based moreso on hitting and popularity than actual defense.

      Lastly, please leave words like “idiotic” off of the site when used in relation to one of our best analytical minds. Mike Baumann, like every other Phillies Nation writer, does thorough research before posting anything, and just because you disagree doesn’t mean you should assume that the writer has not done his due diligence.

       
      • Posts: 498 Bruce

        Avatar of Bruce

        Sorry Cory but you’re giving us a lot of bulls*!% about Victorino. There is no objectivity in your assessment.

        I will use this part from MLB.com. on Victorino’s achievements for 2010:
        “Victorino is the first Phillies outfielder to win three consecutive Gold Gloves since Garry Maddox won eight consecutive from 1975-82. Victorino tied for the league lead in assists (11) and finished fifth out of 37 qualifying outfielders in fielding percentage (.995) and range factor per game (2.59).”
        The Phillies (as well most fans) are more than happy with Victorino’s defense which plays such an important role ‘up the middle’ and supporting his outfielders on either side of him.

         
      • Posts: 193 bfo_33

        Avatar of

        Bruce – documenting indicators that have little to do with performance is not very objective either. Eye test says Vic is an athletic, but not heady outfielder. Fangraphs,…, puts him in the middle of the pack for cf – most other sites agree.

        He’s a decent player signed to a good contract – just leave it at that.

         
      • Posts: 2920 Chuck A.

        Avatar of Chuck A.

        “Gold Gloves are based moreson on hitting and popularity than actual defense” ???

        Really??? This list indicates some good hitters and some popular players….but I wouldn’t say that that’s a totally accurate statement.

        http://www.baseball-reference.com/awards/gold_glove_nl.shtml

        For the AL note Mark Belanger. Not exactly what you would call an offensive giant…

        http://www.baseball-reference.com/awards/gold_glove_al.shtml

         
    • Avatar of Dropped Strike Three

      Derek Jeter has also won a Gold Glove the last few years. If that doesn’t say how meaningless the award is, then I don’t know what does…

       
      • Posts: 2920 Chuck A.

        Avatar of Chuck A.

        True. But to say that Gold Gloves have nothing to do with defense at all….and is solely based on just popularity….is a ridiculous statement.

         
  • Posts: 222 tavian

    Avatar of tavian

    I believe this is a solid analysis overall. However, being an optimist, I also believe that Howard will top 50 homers this year and bat about .280. I feel it in my bunyons, which are seldom wrong

     
  • Posts: 13 riccaboni

    Avatar of riccaboni

    Jason:

    Shane makes tremendous highlight-reel plays and has a cannon-arm. That being said, he has among the league’s lowest rang-factors for Center Field and has posted a negative UZR rating in two out of the last three seasons according to FanGraphs. I love Shane, but his advanced defensive metrics aren’t very pretty.

    I got my stats from here:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=1677&position=OF

    I watched all but 5 games last season, I caught all of the 2009 season, and missed about 10 in 2008. He looks and plays like a Gold Glove caliber CF but there are some head scratchers in his approach and there are some plays that he misreads that a man of his speed should get to. I agree that he’s a tremendous fielder, but the amazing part is, he could be even better.

     
  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Shane is ok, but makes some bonehead plays. Put it this way….he’s no Willie Mays.

     
  • Posts: 4133 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    Agree with almost everything except some parts of your analysis of Ryan Howard. I’d prefer the big man to be more aggressive at the plate than he was the last time I saw him bat in a meaningful game. I see it in my head over and over, and never want to see it again. He’ll learn to hit those outside corner breakers by moving closer to the plate, lord knows all he has to do is get a bat on the ball and it’s going for a ride. And he’ll turn on the inside ones and rake them all over the park too. Howard, like all our batters just have to recognize that they are going to pitch us backward and they’ll be fine, I heard Charlie talking about that today. Mike Schmidt had years like Ryan last year (I was going to call it a down year but that bothers some of the commenters here) and Schmitty played well into his 30′s before the “tail end” of his career.

    And as for protection, I agree with Chuck who posted on the previous article that Ben Fran, Gload, Mayberry or whoever Charlie trusts to bat behind him will surprise us and protect him just fine.

     
    • Posts: 93 Ted Bell

      Avatar of Ted Bell

      Read the post carefully. Michael simply said the “tail end of Howard’s prime”. He did not say the “tail end of Howard’s career.” There’s a big difference.

      I’m Ted Bell.

       
      • Posts: 4133 Lefty

        Avatar of Lefty

        I understood Ted. Howard is 31
        Schmidt’s tail end of prime- Ages 32-37

        http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/schmimi01.shtml

        I’m saying there is a high probability that we’ve got plenty of good years left

         
      • Posts: 93 Ted Bell

        Avatar of Ted Bell

        As far as career trajectories go, I don’t see the value in player comparisons in general, and especially with players of different body types.The Howard-Schmidt comparison doesn’t work well in that regard.

        If you were going to use Schmidt as a reference, you could have just as easily used Dale Murphy (who’s career fell off a cliff at age 32). Neither comparison means a thing.

        I think Mr. Baumann’s original post gives us an objective view of what Howard’s season will be. He’s still a very productive player. Hopefully, the players in front of him will be on base enough for Ryan to get those 150 RBIs that Beta predicts.

        I’m Ted Bell.

         
  • Posts: 838 betasigmadeltashag

    Avatar of betasigmadeltashag

    you listed 3 things that you were certin about the phillies offense. Shouldn’t there be four, Ryan is going to play average defense and hit 40-50 HRs hit around .260-.280 with 130-150 RBI. That is a pretty certin of a great hitter with 3 good but not great players

     
  • Posts: 220 The Dipsy

    Avatar of The Dipsy

    The 30′s are the time when players start to tail off..mainly due to the loss of quickness and speed and the accrual of injuries. Ryan relies on none of these. He plays first base and he has not been hampered by significant injury (knee). He has quickness of bat and when that leaves his career is over but I see him more like Willie Stargell than Willie Montanez as far as longevity and productivity. With the emergence of medicine, nutrution, and weight training, a players prime is pushed a few years nowadays. I’m not worried about Ryan.

    Victorino is not a good centerfielder and I believe he and the team are better served with him in right. He takes bad routes to balls. Sure he’s fast. In my view, he’s not a real good offensive player. I like his speed and that he can steal bases. He doesn’t get on base, can’t/won’t bunt, and can’t hit lefthanded.

    I love Ruiz and wonder if he shouldn’t bat fifth. Placido is the spanish Tommy Herr (when Herr was good) and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    The Dipsy

     
    • Posts: 193 bfo_33

      Avatar of

      Vic has the ugliest left handed swing I’ve ever seen, but until last year was pretty neutral. I’m not sure if it was a change in approach or something else. Willing to see what happens this year. Agree fully, he’s really a rf, but is currently the best option. would love to see one of the kids come up and move him over.

       
  • Posts: 93 Ted Bell

    Avatar of Ted Bell

    Lidge is opening the season on the DL, with an MRI scheduled next week in Philly. I guess it’s not surprising since he hasn’t broken 86 this spring.

    I’m Ted Bell.

     
  • Posts: 0 TheDispy

    What a complete and utter surprise.

    The Dipsy

     
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    Time to see if Ryan Madson can be the man from now on

     
  • Posts: 0 TheDispy

    The over/under on number of saves by Lidge for the rest of his career as a Phillie is 14 1/2 as set by ME. I’ll take the under and handle all action.

    The Dipsy

     
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    I’ll wager everything i’ve got on the OVER ….

     
  • Posts: 4133 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    Betting an over/under like that on an injured player is like betting pocket deuces. I’ll fold and wait for the next hand. Dipsy give me a number once he’s back and we’ll talk.

    This is the first injury report that doesn’t bother me that much. He’s gone at season’s end anyway, it’s time to find out who can replace him effectively.

     
  • Posts: 0 Phylan

    2 things:

    1) If Ryan Howard hits that Bill James projection I will be thrilled

    2) I always liked this quote about how gold gloves are voted on (by the managers) for a good reminder about why you shouldn’t pay them any mind:

    “Let’s just say I wasn’t impressed with the depth of knowledge of the coaches when it came to evaluating the candidates and coming to a conclusion. They’d pretty much blurt out the name of a guy that they remembered as making some good plays against them (often asking a fellow coach what he thought, and coming to a consensus opinion that way), or pick the player that had the reputation as being the best at his position, even if that reputation was no longer deserved. I’m pretty sure my team wasn’t the only one that operated this way, which explains how Rafael Palmeiro was voted Gold Glove first baseman in 1999 despite playing just 28 games at first base. Reputation and name recognition played a huge role in the voting, as I saw it first-hand.”

    Source: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/thehotstoneleague/2010236823_gold_gloves_baby_girls_and_oth.html

     
  • Posts: 2067 Brooks

    Avatar of Brooks

    That’s just it Lefty – I don’t think that Rube is going to replace him.
    So, that being said, what are the options? A very aging Contreras? The man who almost seems destined for this spot in the Phils rotation but time and time again has proven that he cannot handle it in Madson? Or perhaps one of the strongest throwing arms the Phils have in Bastardo?

    Ryan’s success depends heavily on how well the players (Jimmy) do in front of him. If our 1-2-3 can hit .290 and above (cumulative) we are looking at 140 (+) rbi, regardless of his HR production (which I still suspect will be between 40-50 this year).

    What is taking so long for this season to begin!?!

     
 
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