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How The Braves Could Impact Amaro’s Future

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Tue, September 23, 2014 09:00 AM Comments: 11

On Monday, the Braves fired GM Frank Wren after being officially eliminated from the 2014 Postseason. Wren spent 15 years in the Braves organization, and was GM since 2007.

Similarly, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has been with the Phillies since 1998, and GM since 2008.

The Braves made the playoffs three times under Wren, and were up near 90 wins several times. Under Amaro, the Phillies also made the playoffs three times, and averaged 97 wins from 2009-2011 before the team fell off.

Wren gave out big contracts to Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton–both who have greatly underperformed. Amaro gave big contracts to Ryan Howard and Cliff Lee. Howard hasn’t performed anywhere close to as well as he should based on his contract, and Lee–who is injured right now–has done well, but his contract has hurt the Phillies in trade discussions and in money allocation for the rest of the team.

Amaro also handed out difficult contracts to guys like A.J. Burnett and Marlon Byrd, and has had several failed signings like Delmon Young and Jim Thome (still love ya, Jim), among others.

The point here is that the Braves firing Wren during a poor season, after a rather successful stretch of seasons, sends a message throughout Major League Baseball and fans alike. Especially fans of the Phillies. I think the pressure on Amaro and the Phillies has gotten that much more intense with the firing of Wren.

  • 11 Comments
 

Jonathan Papelbon Suspended Seven Games

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Mon, September 15, 2014 09:10 PM Comments: 33

After giving up a career high four runs while blowing a save on Sunday, Jonathan Papelbon appeared to grab his crotch while walking back to the dugout in response to fans booing him. Umpire Joe West thought the gesture was worthy of an ejection, and now we have learned that MLB thinks it was worthy of a seven game suspension. He will begin serving the suspension tonight, and will not appeal. He was also fined an undisclosed amount.

Video of the crotch grab didn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary, although it’s tough to really tell from just a video. Papelbon told reporters he was “adjusting himself”–which isn’t farfetched. But seven games, even if Papelbon was doing it in an intentionally rude manner, is an absurd amount. Pitchers who throw at hitter’s heads or players that get into brawls are often suspended for five games. On top of that, Joe West actually grabbed Papelbon by the jersey and, as of now, has not received any punishment. Contact with an umpire is usually a big deal. Not so when it’s the umpire initiating the contact, I guess. I think MLB got this one wrong.

  • 33 Comments
 

The Phillies Bullpen is Really Good

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Thu, September 11, 2014 10:00 AM Comments: 8

tabs-bullpenThe 2014 Phillies season is nearing its end, and barring a disastrous September, the Phils should end up with more wins than 2013. Part of the reason is due to the offense scoring slightly more runs per game–3.96 in 2014, 3.77 in 2013–but the pitching staff as a whole has done much better, as well. They are allowing 4.34 runs per game, compared to 4.62 in 2013, and their ERA is 48 points lower than last year (3.84 in 2014, 4.32 in 2013).

The starters, as a whole, have a lower ERA than 2013–3.96 to 4.41–but their other stats don’t much support that. They are walking more hitters and notching less strikeouts, both which support the fact that their FIP (Fielder Independent Pitching) is actually slightly higher than last year’s.

The bullpen, however, is a different story. They surrender less walks and strike out more batters, and both their ERA and FIP are lower than last year’s. Still, the bullpen’s ERA is only 11th in the NL, and their FIP is 7th. So what makes them good, exactly?

The answer is in their top four guys: Jonathan Papelbon, Ken Giles, Jake Diekman, and Justin De Fratus.

Giles and Papelbon are especially good. They both have outstanding ERA’s, and rarely allow baserunners. But they are also really good at avoiding the home run. They are the only two reliever teammates in NL history (min 39 IP each) to have an ERA below 1.61, a WHIP below 0.87, and a HR/9 below 0.30. And there are only 12 such player seasons that meet that criteria. The Phillies have two of them in the same season.

Giles has a 1.13 ERA with a 0.81 WHIP, and Papelbon has a 1.61 ERA with a 0.86 WHIP. If we bump those numbers up to a 3.74 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP, the Phillies would be tied for third in the NL with four such players.

The problem is that three out of seven players with at least 23 innings pitched for the Phillies in relief have ERA’s above four. And then there’s guys like Phillippe Aumont and Luis Garcia, who’ve thrown only a handful of innings, but have given up a bunch of earned runs.

The top six relievers in innings pitched for the Phillies (Diekman, Papelbon, Bastardo, De Fratus, Hollands, and Giles) have a combined 3.45 ERA. The rest? 6.46–a steep dropoff.

So while the team stats may lead you to believe that the bullpen is near the bottom of the NL, that isn’t the case. The top four guys in the ‘pen are right up there with the NL leaders, and the top two are having a historical season together. The 2015 bullpen is looking mighty strong.

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Phillies Striking Out More Than Ever

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Thu, September 04, 2014 11:00 AM Comments: 4

The Phillies offensive struggles this year don’t seem all that bad. They are near, but not at, the bottom in several categories. As a team, they are 8th in the NL in runs (548) and runs per game (3.94), 10th in average (.245), and 12th in OPS (.676). Their walk rate (7.4%) and strikeout rate (20.8%) are both 9th, and have an ISO (SLG minus AVG) of .125–11th in the NL. Those numbers just reek of mediocrity.

But nothing there really suggests that they are completely inept, offensively. At least in comparison to the other NL teams. In fact, they are 3rd in the NL in stolen bases–thanks in large part to 42 from Ben Revere and 28 from Jimmy Rollins–and hit line drives at a rate that is good for 5th in the NL.

Continue reading Phillies Striking Out More Than Ever

  • 4 Comments
 

Inside the Phillies Combined No-Hitter

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Tue, September 02, 2014 11:00 AM Comments: 6

Cole Hamels, Jake Diekman, Ken Giles, and Jonathan Papelbon combined to no-hit the Braves on Sunday, the first no-hitter since Roy Halladay, and 12th in franchise history. It was the first combined no-no in team history, and featured six innings from Hamels, and one each from Diekman, Giles, and Papelbon. Box scores: Baseball Reference, ESPN, Fangraphs, MLB. Here are some other notes from the historic game:

- Dating back to 1914, there have been 11 combined no-hitters in MLB, most recently being the Mariners with a 1-0 win over the Dodgers in 2012.

- The Phillies threw 147 pitches–108 by Hamels, 15 by Diekman, 15 by Giles, and nine by Papelbon. 147 is good for the 4th-highest total recorded. For comparison, Roy Halladay threw 115 pitches. The most thrown in a no-hitter was 151 by the Astros in 2003. Three former Phillies pitched in that game–Roy Oswalt (1.0 IP), Brad Lidge (2.0 IP), and Billy Wagner (1.0 IP).

- The four pitchers used is one of just five such games.

- Six baserunners were allowed by the Phillies, including four(!) stolen bases–making it the only such game in known history. There have been 32 no-hitters with six or more baserunners allowed, but just one with at least four stolen bases.

- Hamels has given up a hit just under every inning and a third this year (169.1 IP, 143 H), slightly above his career average (1766.0 IP, 1571 H). For comparison, in 2010, Roy Halladay went just over one inning for each hit (250.2 IP, 231 H). Sunday was the second time Hamels left a game without giving up a hit, the other time being in 2010 when he exited after two innings against the Braves.

- The Phillies have had a pitcher throw a hitless outing 194 times this year. Hamels, obviously, had the longest outing at 6 IP, but the 2nd-longest outing is a bit surprising. Jeff Manship (remember him?) threw four no-hit innings against the Mets on May 31. He pitched in innings 10-13 before being relieved by Antonio Bastardo–who then gave up a game winning single to David Wright.

- At 190 minutes, Sunday’s no-hitter was the longest ever recorded. Clayton Kershaw‘s no-no from June is now 3rd-longest.

- For the Braves, they were the first team in 2014 to fail to score a run with at least four stolen bases and six baserunners. The Yankees did it in 2013 and the Red Sox did it in 2012.

- The Phillies faced 33 batters–six over the minimum. There have been 22 no-hitters with at least 33 batters faced, including Tommy Greene‘s no hitter in 1991 against the Expos.

- The seven runs the Phillies scored is most by the team in a no-hitter since 1903 when they put up ten runs against the Cubs. It is the 2nd most runs in a combined no hitter.

- Carlos Ruiz has now been the catcher for three unique no-hitters. The only player with more is Jason Varitek.

- The Phillies join the Giants in having three no hitters in the last five seasons.

  • 6 Comments
 

Phillies Uniforms, and the Color Blue

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Mon, September 01, 2014 12:30 PM Comments: 11

Happy Labor Day, Nation! Here’s a little change-of-pace post on the Phillies uniforms.

I was browsing the Phillies hat selection on Lids.com and came across this. That hat was worn by the Phillies in the 2000′s as an “Interleague Hat”, as they wore it, as an alternate, for when they played teams from the American League. It got me thinking: what would the Phillies look like if they added more blue to the uniform?

In recent years, they have worn the new “Diamond Era” batting practice (BP) hat for a few games, both home and away. But it kind of looks out of place, since the rest of the uniform lacks any kind of blue, save for the blue stars that dot the i’s on the front logo.

So, my idea is to add more blue to the entire uniform. Let’s start with hat. I would change the normal red hat with a white “P” to something that resembles the current BP hat. Something like this.

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Now for the home pinstripes. I’d like to see blue outlining on the “Phillies” script on the front, and on the name and number on the back. It would look like this:

cliff lee

JonathanPapelbonCarlosRuiz

For the gray away uniform, I would make the same changes, and add a little blue to the stripe on the pants.

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Some History

The Phillies have had blue in their uniform in the past, as well. The current “day game” home alternate uniform is based off an old Phillies uniform from 1948. (H/t Uni Watch). Also, the classic throwback jerseys that you see around Philadelphia and at Citizens Bank Park are powder blue, and were worn for road games in the 70′s and 80′s. The Phils also had an away jersey prototype that featured “Philadelphia” across the chest (the norm for away jerseys in MLB), and a blue outline on the sleeve numbers. That is taken from this, by Bill Henderson (via Dan Fuller here).

What do you think? Do you want to see more blue in the Phillies uniforms? Or should they stick with the classic red look?

  • 11 Comments
 

John Mayberry Jr. Traded to Blue Jays

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Sun, August 31, 2014 09:09 PM Comments: 19

Outfielder John Mayberry Jr. was traded late Sunday night to the Blue Jays for third baseman Gustavo Pierre.

Mayberry had just arrived in New York earlier today and was set to be activated from the DL. He hasn’t played a game since July 20.

He hit .242/.304/.429 in 500 career games for the Phillies. He’s 30 years old now, and had no real future with the Phils, outside of being a bench player.

One thing he was good at was being a pinch-hitter. In 113 plate appearances as a PH, Mayberry hit .295/.345/.505 with six home runs and 20 RBIs.

Still, the fact that the Phillies were able to get anything at all in return for Mayberry is a surprise, although I’m not so sure that Pierre is the type of return that was worth it. The move will likely open up a spot for an extra September call-up.

Mayberry was drafted by the Rangers in 2005 and traded to the Phillies following the 2008 season for Greg Golson in Ruben Amaro Jr.’s first move as GM. Here’s a write up from Baseball America on the trade at the time.

His father, John Mayberry Sr., also played for the Blue Jays from 1978-1982.

  • 19 Comments
 

Ken Giles, And The Battle For Closer In 2015

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Fri, August 29, 2014 11:00 AM Comments: 7

PHOTO: (AP/Chris Szagola)

PHOTO: (AP/Chris Szagola)

Ken Giles has been good this year. Really good. The 23 year old, flamethrowing reliever was called up on June 8 after Mike Adams was placed on the disabled list with shoulder issues. Giles had a 1.88 ERA and 12 saves in the minors for Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley prior to the call up.

He was only expected to fill in for Adams and provide some spark in the late innings ahead of Jonathan Papelbon.

But he’s done so much more.

In 32 appearances and 33.2 innings, Giles has given up just six runs–five earned, good for an ERA of 1.34. He doesn’t give up many home runs (0.27 per 9), and doesn’t allow much contact–battersare making contact at a rate 67.4% against him, 4th in the NL. He has a 5.33 K/BB ratio, which is 8th in the NL (relievers, min 30 IP), and largely due to his absurd amount (48) of strikeouts. Among NL relievers with at least 30 innings pitched, both his K/9 (12.83) and his K% (38.1%) are in the top five. An interesting and unrelated note–Jake Diekman is right up there with Giles in both those categories.

Giles has an average velocity of 97.1 on his fastball, second in MLB to only cyborg Aroldis Chapman of the Reds. He also throws a nasty slider, and, according to PITCHf/x data, is the 16th most valuable in the league. 32 of his 48 strikeouts (two thirds) have come via the slider, and opponents are hitting just .137/.154/.157 against it. He’s given up just one extra base hit in 208 sliders thrown (0.48%).

The fastball-slider combo reminds me of another Phillies closer–Brad Lidge. His fastball velocity hovered around 95 MPH before he began to lose it (the average fell to about 89 MPH by 2011) and his slider was valued at 4th in all of baseball from 2007-2011. About 81.8% of his strikeouts came via his slider, and opponents hit just .190/.251/.301 against it. They’d only make contact on 54.8% of swings against it, and hit just 35 extra base hits in 2202 total pitches seen (1.6%).

PHOTO: (AP/Laurence Kesterson)

PHOTO: (AP/Laurence Kesterson)

The current closer for the Phillies–Jonathan Papelbon–has been as good as ever in 2014. He has an ERA of 1.60 (11th in NL), a K/BB ratio of 4.15 (21st in NL, and a fastball valued at 4th best in the NL. Many of his numbers this year are somewhere near his career bests, even though his fastball velocity is down. I should also mention that a few of his numbers are somewhere near his career lows as well. He gets a lot of flack for his comments to the media and his slow pace on the mound, but there’s no denying he’s been good this year.

But what about next year? The Phillies have been openly trying to trade Papelbon, or “Cinco Ocho”, as he likes to call himself–no no avail. In that article, Ken Rosenthal ponders that the lack of interest in Papelbon might be due to his falling velocity and his personality, but that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. doesn’t think so.

Regardless, the Phillies will have to make a decision on Papelbon for next year, because Giles seems ready to take over at closer and I don’t think it’s likely that Papelbon can continue to pitch at this level. If they want to go with Giles, they will have to get rid of Papelbon in some capacity, whether it be via trade or release, because Papelbon will not want to be a setup man, even though he’s really helped groom Giles this year.

I think Giles deserves it, and I think Papelbon will regress next year, and has rubbed Phillies fans the wrong way too often for the Phillies to sell him as the closer over Giles in 2015.

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Trouble in the Phillies Clubhouse?

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Wed, August 27, 2014 07:00 AM Comments: 34

You can’t ignore it now. Last night, after the Phillies third straight win to make is five of their last six, starter Cole Hamels made it clear (sort of) he was upset with manager Ryne Sandberg‘s decision to pull him in the eighth inning after Hamels allowed a lead off home run.

He dodged questions on whether he was upset with Sandberg.

Hamels is now the fourth player to appear to have an issue with some of Sandberg’s decisions. The other three were Kyle Kendrick, Dave Buchanan, and Domonic Brown.

Prior to Hamels, the players that were displeased weren’t super stars. They weren’t in the same class of player that Hamels is. Hamels led the team to a World Series title in 2008, and just got a big contract. And he’s one of the best left-handers in the game.

That’s why this cannot be ignored any longer. I know that it’s normal for players to want to stay in the game, get more playing time, etc. But it’s now a trend, and I don’t think it’s a good one.

There is apparent trouble in the locker room, and regardless of who you may think is at fault (I’m in no position to make a guess)–both Sandberg and the players need to address it with themselves and the media before it gets out of hand. The Phillies–and the fans–don’t want a Hall of Famer in his first year at manager to lose the team for any reason. That would just add on to the list of sub-optimal things that have happened in 2014 for the Phillies.

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Ryan Howard, Ben Revere, and RBIs

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Tue, August 26, 2014 11:00 AM Comments: 78

It’s a been argued over and over again, especially in Philadelphia, where Ryan Howard–one of the best RBI men in MLB over the years (2nd overall to only Miguel Cabrera since 2006) calls home.

And no, I’m not talking about whether to refer to multiple runs batted in as “RBI”, or “RBIs” (I’ll be using the latter in this post). I’m talking about the meaning of the stat.

“RBIs don’t matter!”, say many believers in advanced metrics and Sabermetrics.

Those that disagree tend to favor, from what I’ve seen, all the more traditional statistics, like batting average, pitcher wins, and things of that sort.

Continue reading Ryan Howard, Ben Revere, and RBIs

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