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Statistical Analysis

Halladay’s Future

Posted by Eric Seidman, Mon, April 15, 2013 08:14 AM Comments: 22

Roy Halladay pitched relatively well on Sunday, scattering five hits and a single run over eight innings of work. He worked quickly, needing just 87 pitches over those eight frames, and threw twice as many strikes as balls. Doc also kept the ball on the ground, generating nearly 50 percent grounders on a day when he managed just two strikeouts.

Two schools of thought were formed after he exited the game. Some fans instantly wrote his performance off as being a byproduct of facing the punchless Marlins. Other fans took this as a big step in getting back on track.

As per usual, we’re looking at a little from Column A and a little from Column B.

Halladay no doubt threw better on Sunday but he still made several mistakes that an actual major league offense — you know, one that doesn’t include Placido Polanco and Greg Dobbs as the bread in a Giancarlo Stanton sandwich — would have exploited. Though the results didn’t bear this out, he struggled with both command and control during the first few frames, and if he makes some of those same mistakes against the Cardinals this coming weekend, we’re again looking at a potential 4 IP, 9 H, 6 ER outing.

Perhaps that is part of his current growing pains in adjusting to his lesser ‘stuff’ but it’s something he will need to figure out quickly. He adjusted on the fly, incorporated his curveball far more, and by the latter stages of the game had seemingly settled into a nice rhythm. He pitched well, but if you remove the end results and focus on the process this game wasn’t really that far off of his last start against the Mets.

However, maybe all he needed was a solid results-based outing to get some of his mojo back.

As fans in Column B were quick to point out, Halladay has repeatedly said that he feels fine, physically, and that he’s struggling with the mental side of things right now. I’m no psychologist but perhaps throwing eight effective innings of one-run ball was enough to prove to himself that he could still get batters out and go deep into games. With that reinforced knowledge perhaps his confidence grows.

We can’t simply discount this start because of who he faced but we also can’t assume he is anywhere near back yet. This may have been a step in the right direction but we’re dealing with a pretty big staircase. Getting Halladay right is a Chrysler Key to the Season and Sunday’s outing moved the needle in the positive direction.

However, during each of his three starts this season I have ruminated on his future. I’m trying to focus on his present and what he can do to get back on track but what happens to Halladay after this season has the potential to represent one of the most compelling free agent situations in recent history. Simply put, he is a big unknown this season and that carries material financial implications heading into next season.

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Lee Continues To Cement His Awesomeness

Posted by Eric Seidman, Wed, April 10, 2013 09:15 AM Comments: 15

I’ll never forget Cliff Lee‘s first start with the Phillies.

He was just acquired from the Indians amidst a flurry of rumors that had the Phillies close to getting Roy Halladay. While his arrival carried excitement, many fans couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed for missing out on Doc. I was one of those fans, having only seen Lee from afar, and having considered him more of a good pitcher with a great season rather than a great pitcher.

His July 31, 2009 start against the Giants quieted all nerves. Lee ran out to the mound in his own patented fashion, did that bizarre fake pitch to the outfield that we learned was part of his routine, and prepared to face leadoff man Randy Winn.

First pitch was right over for a called strike. Winn then swung and missed at Lee’s second offering. In what felt like rapid fire succession, Lee then caught Winn looking with a fastball perfectly placed on the inside corner. It wasn’t a debatable pitch or one an ump usually calls a ball on an 0-2 count. It was just a flat out perfect pitch. My friend and I turned to each other with wide eyes. We had never seen anything like this before.

Lee rules so hard.

Sure, Cole Hamels was the World Series MVP the year before, but his ace-ness seemed built more on finesse. Lee was aggressive, worked quickly, and after three pitches had me convinced he was going to be the best pitcher I ever watched on a routine basis. Keep in mind I wasn’t alive when Steve Carlton pitched and I was too young to appreciate Curt Schilling during his heyday here.

Lee tossed a complete game that night and even settled for a double after coming close to a home run. He was dominant then, he remains dominant today, and over the last five seasons he has proven himself to be one of the very best pitchers in baseball. Watching him over these first two starts of 2013 has reminded me of what it was like watching him in his first outing with the Phils.

Yet, even with a Cy Young award and a lucrative contract under his belt, I can’t help but feel that Lee is underrated, even in this city. To help shake that feeling, let’s take a look at his brilliant time with the Phillies to put things in perspective.

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What to Expect From Howard in 2013

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Mon, February 18, 2013 12:00 PM Comments: 91

Ryan Howard seen here in happier times. Photo by Ian Riccaboni

Let us pause for a second for a moment of self-acknowledgement: in 2011, I joined Phillies Nation after years of running a lightly traffic’ed blog about the Phillies and music, while posting pictures of Greek Yogurt and other healthy foods I was convinced I was going to try to incorporate into my daily diet. After a few months analyzing the performance of the likes of Michael Schwimer and writing fluffy pieces about John Bowker, I wrote a speculative-but-factually-grounded piece that prompted much discussion : “What If” The Platoon Works at First Base?

For those who don’t remember, the piece functioned around the idea that a combination of John Mayberry, Laynce Nix, Jim Thome, and Ty Wigginton could not only match Howard’s 2011 production but outperform his production. The piece drew up a lot of good discussion and was based on the assumption that a true platoon, which Charlie Manuel was unlikely to put together, could put together a line close to .280/.380/.550.

To say quite a few things happened last year would be an understatement. Let’s reflect.

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Should the Phils Call Lohse?

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Sat, February 16, 2013 09:19 AM Comments: 24

How likely are the Phillies to recreate this photo in 2007? Not very.

Flashback to 2007: the Phils, on the outskirts of the playoff race, trade one of their Top 10 prospects, Matt Maloney, to Cincinnati to acquire right handed starter Kyle Lohse. Lohse goes 3-0 with a 4.72 ERA in 13 games, 11 starts, en route to making one of the most improbably comebacks of all-time and capturing the NL East outright on the final day of the season. Lohse is last seen as a Phillie coming in against the Rockies in the 2007 NLDS inexplicably as a reliever despite likely being among their most consistent starters to finish the season.

Fast foward to 2013: the Phils, likely on the outskirts of the playoff race, sit behind the Nationals and Braves on paper for the upcoming season. Lohse, coming off a career year, is now 34 and very available as Spring Training starts. The Phillies are relying on Kyle Kendrick to replicate his strong 2012 second half and John Lannan to pitch as well as he does against everyone not named the Phillies. Neither are huge stretches but neither are slam dunks either in a year where the Phillies seem to have everything but certainty. The question that nobody is asking is: with Lohse still available, should the Phillies pick up the phone and call?

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Phils Add Unprecedented Futility?

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Tue, January 29, 2013 08:44 PM Comments: 44

http://media.philly.com/images/121812-michael-young-600.jpg

The addition of the Youngs, Betancourt, and Mather put the Phillies in unprecedented company of acquiring futility. They can hide Betancourt and Mather in Lehigh Valley, but the Youngs... Photo: AP

Some of the Phillies additions this off season have been no doubt puzzling – while much has been written lately about Delmon Young, it seems to have been forgotten that Michael Young posted the lowest fWAR (as defined here) among player eligible for the batting title last year (-1.4). Delmon Young was twice as valuable (-0.7) as Michael but his triple-slash of .267/.296/.411 with a 3.3% BB-rate leaves a lot to be desired.

There is no good way to sort this out other than by hand so I capped my research at the previous ten years: the 2013 Phillies will be the only team in the last ten years to have either signed or traded for two players who finished the previous season qualified for the batting title and contributed negative value, in this case, WAR, to their previous team.

And there is reason for optimism at Citizen’s Bank Park. Or not.

Whatever the case, it does feel particularly weird to be relieved that the Phillies’ projected starting right fielder may not be ready for Opening Day. And trying to do the math to convert what Michael Young’s WAR would be with 2012′s triple-slash at third base instead of the first base he played last season make me feel like I’m a casino junkie looking to scrounge up change for that one last bet that will finally put me in the win column.

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Steer Completely Clear of Vernon Wells

Posted by Eric Seidman, Wed, December 26, 2012 03:30 PM Comments: 37

The Phillies filled their centerfield void by acquiring Ben Revere, bolstered the bullpen with Mike Adams and shored up the rotation with the cost-effective and underrated John Lannan. While these moves likely represent the bulk of their offseason activity, the Phillies have been linked to a wide array of corner outfielders given the obvious uncertainties in those posts.

They went hard after Cody Ross but balked at his lofty demands. They supposedly offered Josh Hamilton a short-term deal with a high average annual value. They have previously been linked to either Jason Kubel or Gerardo Parra, and that link will only grow stronger with the Snakes’ recent signing of Ross. There were reportedly discussions between the Phils and Cubs regarding Alfonso Soriano earlier in the offseason as well.

Some of these players make more sense than others, but the available corner outfielder the Phillies should stay completely away from is Vernon Wells. Unfortunately, the Phillies have expressed interest in the former Blue Jays all-star, though the extent of their interest remains unknown. Let’s hope it is nothing more than executives tossing a name around while brainstorming, because Wells has been one of the worst players in the league over the last two seasons and is signed to the very worst contract in the sport.

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Does Kubel Fit the Phillies?

Posted by Eric Seidman, Tue, December 25, 2012 10:05 AM Comments: 33

The Diamondbacks signed Cody Ross to a three-year, $26 million deal over the weekend, giving them five starting outfielders for just three spots. With Adam Eaton set to start in centerfield and both Kubel and Ross signed to free agent deals, the Diamondbacks are more likely to trade one of their outfielders than use expensive platoons. Gerardo Parra‘s name was frequently mentioned as a possible trade target last year, when the Diamondbacks similarly signed Kubel to an outfield already including Parra, Chris Young and Justin Upton, but now it seems even more likely they make a move.

While Kevin Towers hasn’t officially put Kubel on the block, he noted that his phone didn’t stop ringing with requests for his outfielders after news of the Ross signing broke.

The Phillies were strong suitors for Ross but sources suggest they never really wanted to go beyond one or two years on a deal. If the Phils were seeking Ross’s level of productivity on a short-term and less lucrative contract, they could potentially find that in the form of the now expendable Kubel, whose numbers are quite similar over the last two seasons.

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Effectively Using Young, Galvis & Howard

Posted by Eric Seidman, Thu, December 20, 2012 11:56 AM Comments: 51

Last week, Bill Baer wrote up a terrific idea he had at Crashburn Alley: the Phillies should play Freddy Galvis at third base whenever John Lannan starts. The thought makes perfect sense and represents the type of minor adjustment that could benefit the team and maximize the utilities of different rostered players.

As Baer outlined, about 78% Lannan’s batters faced put the ball in play, 53% of those balls in play are grounders, and over half of those grounders are pulled. Having shaky defense at shortstop and third base would hurt the Phillies run prevention with Lannan on the mound. Jimmy Rollins remains an elite defensive shortstop but the Phils are set to start Michael Young at the hot corner. Young hasn’t played third base regularly since 2010 and was a poor defender even then.

Young’s acquisition also leaves Galvis without a clear role. The Phillies could insert him at second base to give Chase Utley a rest and play him alongside Ryan Howard. They could also move Utley to first and play both he and Galvis on the right side of the infield. Rollins might need a day off every now and then as well. Where Galvis could really help the team in a more consistent manner is, as Baer suggested, by playing third base whenever Lannan starts.

I want to take that idea one step further. Not only should Galvis start at third base whenever Lannan pitches, but when Lannan is opposed by a fellow southpaw starter, the Phillies should sit Ryan Howard and play Young at first base. This alignment improves the offense by using Young against the lefties he crushes instead of Howard, who is quite poor against same-handed pitching, and clearly improves the infield defense.

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John Lannan Minimizes Risk

Posted by Eric Seidman, Wed, December 19, 2012 09:00 AM Comments: 47

The Phillies opened up a spot in their rotation when they traded Vance Worley for Ben Revere. They were looking to fill that spot with a low-risk free agent instead of relying on farmhands Tyler Cloyd and Jonathan Pettibone.

Definitions of risk vary but it seemed that the Phillies were looking for cheap and durable starters, valuing those attributes over pure talent and upside.

While several pitchers were available on reasonable short-term deals — Brandon McCarthy (pre-signing), Shaun Marcum, Kevin Millwood and Carlos Villanueva, to name a few — the Phillies signed Nationals castoff John Lannan to a one-year, $2.5 million contract. The deal could be worth upwards of $5 million through incentives. However, the deal is designed in a way that Lannan would most likely be worth $5+ million if those incentives were triggered.

The move was met with mixed reviews. Some gravitated towards the idea of having a durable pitcher with a stellar groundball rate at a minimal commitment. Others trashed it because they felt Lannan’s numbers were bad, occasionally conflating his numbers against the Phillies with his overall stats. Some were against it because they wanted the Phillies to spend more money and bring in a Marcum or McCarthy. And, of course, many people still couldn’t get past his propensity for beaning Phillies players.

I fell into the first group — those in favor of the deal.

What the Phillies did with Lannan was minimize risk at the back-end of the starting rotation. He isn’t flashy but he has been eerily consistent over the last several seasons. He is very much a known commodity and, from an expected value standpoint, there is far greater certainty in what he will provide than there is with Marcum or McCarthy.

Both of those pitchers have the potential to outperform Lannan but they are also big injury risks. They are question marks for a team that needs no more.

When judging the Phillies move along those lines, too many fans are comparing Lannan to the best case scenario of Marcum. Hearkening back to expected value, there is far more uncertainty as to what Marcum would provide, and that wasn’t worth a potential $4-$6 million premium for a team looking to minimize risk.

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Phillies Offseason Plan – Eric’s Version

Posted by Eric Seidman, Tue, November 13, 2012 12:50 PM Comments: 37

The Phillies are in an interesting spot heading into 2013, as there are legitimate holes to fill and a number of solid players they could pursue. The outfield has garnered plenty of attention, as the roster currently features five players either unproven, or who’ve proven that they are best utilized in a part-time role. Third base is a position of interest, with questionable internal options and an ugly free agent class. Bullpens are also always scrutinized and the Phils’ relief corps — which had the second worst eighth inning ERA in baseball last season — is no different

Ryan Madson would be a low-risk, high-reward signing. (PHOTO: NJ.com)

When discussing moves, however, it’s important to remember that everything is connected. Signing B.J. Upton means that another player is released, non-tendered or demoted. It would also mean that the team has less money to spend in other areas. A trade for Peter Bourjos might include one or two players currently on the major-league roster. Moves are often discussed in the abstract, without regard for the trickle-down effects on the rest of the roster.

It’s best to discuss an offseason plan holistically to ensure that all bases are covered, that funds aren’t over- or under-allocated to certain areas, and on a more basic level, to make sure that the roster doesn’t have more than 25 players.

To that end, Pat, Corey and I decided to put together our own offseason plans, playing Fantasy GM and building a 2013 roster based on our opinions on the specific needs of the team and which players are the best investments for those needs.

We tried to build our teams irrespective of current rumors or players to which the Phils have been connected (i.e. Josh Hamilton on Monday). The goal isn’t to predict what the Phillies will do, but rather to suggest what moves we would pursue if, to borrow a phrase from Amaro himself, we had our druthers.

Payroll was a major consideration. We were cognizant of the luxury tax calculable payroll, which is the average annual value of long-term contracts and not the specific salary for the 2013 season.

With the introductions and disclaimers out of the way, here is my offseason plan.

Bullpen: Sign Ryan Madson for 1 yr/$5 mil
I speculated earlier in the year that Madson could likely be had on a one-year, $2-$3 million contract. He injured his elbow, underwent reconstructive surgery, is set to return sometime towards the end of April or beginning of May 2013 and will probably have trouble finding a closing gig, regardless of his desires.

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