Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pat Burrell retires, a look back at the legend

Long time Phillie Pat Burrell has officially retired. For his career, he was an alright player(21.9 fWAR, 18.7 brWAR) but not a great player, which unfortunately caused some fans to resent him. Compared to other long time Phillies, those numbers are in the same vicinity as Larry Bowa and Mike Lieberthal. While a good offensive player(career 117 wRC+) his defense and slowness on the base paths hurt his value. Still, he'll always be remembered and appreciated as a member of the 2008 World Series Championship team.

However, much of Pat Burrell's legacy derive from the stories off the field bookended by a picture near the beginning of his career and a popular video at the end.

The Machine at Barry Zito's

"Mind if I take care of business?"

""Your _______ is jealous!"

"Drink her" and more

Dio- "Holy Diver"

Don Henley- "Dirty Laundry"

Friday, January 27, 2012

Phillies sign Juan Pierre to a minor league deal

Salisbury confirms Phillies sign Juan Pierre

Ruben Amaro added another candidate in his search for a fifth outfielder. Instead of signing a another Laynce Nix type player to a multi-year, guaranteed contract, he opted for a wiser, cheaper flyer on Juan Pierre.

While he doesn't have elite speed anymore, he'd still be the fastest bench player on the team while providing decent defense in left field(just don't put him in center!). He's never been outstanding offensively(career-high 109 wRC+ in 2004), he's still not far off from his normal career numbers. Last year's 78 wRC+ was down from the year before, but still remains fairly close to the tail end of his prime when he hovered between 84 and 88.

Settling for a minor league deal, it's obvious teams consider him more of the -0.4 fWAR player last year than the 2.9 fWAR player the year before, but chances are he's somewhere in between and should provide value to the team when/if given the opportunity.

Defying Conventional Wisdom: Championship teams do not finish the season stronger than normal

I was initially going to post some dumb comments regarding the Prince Fielder signing and how the Howard contract "doesn't look as bad now," but I'll save that for a later date. Instead, after a recent discussion on another site, the question of how well a team that finishes strong at the end of the regular season does in the playoffs.

Come playoff team every year, you'll hear analysts cite finishing the season strong as a key to postseason success. And certainly when a hot team continues their success in the postseason (2007 Rockies and 2011 Rangers come to recent mind), you'll often hear about it as proof they were right. However, when the opposite happens, it'll have a tendency to get swept under the mat. You won't see many "experts" pick a team who has lost the majority of their games in the final month.

From reading Baseball Between the Numbers I already remembered that how well a team finishes had no effect on their success in the postseason. When reading the particular chapter again today, my memory was actually a bit off. In their study of postseason teams from 1972-1995, there was actually a slight negative correlation in a team's final month record and postseason success.

Curious to see if anything has changed since 1995, I wanted to look at more recent times and see if anything changed. My method was more simplistic and quicker. Instead of using regression analysis(which I don't have available at the moment anyway) on an arbitrary postseason rewarding system(Playoff Success Points as described in the book), I simply looked at each league's champions records in the last month of the season and that of before the last month of the season.

Time for the results. From 1996 through 2011, the National League and American League champions collectively had a 525-377 record(.581 winning percentage). Their record before the final month of the season? 2516-1761(.588 winning percentage). For just World Series winners, their winning percentages were almost identical at .587 and .586 respectively.

That data shows league champions, on average, actually performed slightly worse in the last month of the season compared to the rest of the season. If conventional wisdom were correct, that last month winning percentage should be significantly higher as the "hot" teams would perform better in the postseason.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

RIP "Grounded into a Valdez"

Phillies trade Valdez to Reds

The GIDP waiting to happen Wilson Valdez got traded much to the chagrin of many casual fans. Supplied by jokes of a pitching win in a marathon game last year and nonsensical team MVP blathering, he had an almost cult following. However, to the more enlightened, he was just your ordinary replacement-level bench player.

His 1.6 career fWAR is a testament to that. His offense consisted of no power, few walks, and tons of ground balls(61.0 percent for his career). While he played multiple positions, he was only good defensively at shortstop(career +9.2 UZR/150). But it wasn't enough to make up for being roughly 36 percent worse offensively than a league average player(career 64 wRC+).

While his likely replacement, Michael Martinez, was even worse than Valdez last year, his extremely low .220 BABIP suggests a rebound this year to Valdez-esque level offense. In addition he's younger, cheaper, and can play outfield as well.

If it's not Martinez, Freddy Galvis probably will have a shot at earning the bench spot in spring training but I have a feeling Amaro would prefer to give him action in more positions in the minors before elevating him to major league utility status.

The Phillies apparently don't want to give up on Martinez just yet and are limited financially and with roster positions. Having two very similar players who can both be easily replaced doesn't make much sense, especially when one of them is due for almost a million dollars that can be used in more important ways(trade deadline deal or staying under the luxury tax in resigning Hamels).

Some reactions on Facebook(there's some gems in there):

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Facepalming articles: Domonic Brown another Jeff Stone and possibly not intelligent?

Phillies’ Brown Might Be Reflecting Jeff Stone’s Perceived Potential: Fan Opinion

With that title, I was expecting a biting, in-depth comparison between the former Phillies' outfielder, Jeff Stone, and current player, Domnonic Brown. However, all we get is the height and weight of each player along with a summary stats you'd see on each player's baseball card minus one key component- plate appearances. However, it appeared he failed adding plate appearances to maintain the illusion of their stats showing how close they are as players.

However, the worst comes later when the author insinuates Domonic Brown hasn't been successful because he is not an intelligent person. Sadly it's not the first time Phillies fans have attempted to place intangible, psychological analysis on Domonic Brown. One cannot make such judgment without knowing the player personally or seeing him on an everyday basis as his teammates or coaches.

Ironhide does not approve.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

OMG Phillies signed Hamels to a one-year deal

Upon waking up this morning I read on Facebook that the Phillies and Cole Hamels avoided arbitration this year by agreeing to a one-year, $15 million deal. The following reaction by the majority of "fans" is precisely why I started this blog. The simplest way to put it was utter euphoria.

I'm not sure where they got the inclination that Hamels wouldn't be back this upcoming season without agreeing to a deal. The lack of understanding of basic baseball workings is a sure sign of a fan since 2008. I'm not saying there's anything totally wrong with it. If you want to remain a carefree fan who doesn't want to follow baseball intricacies and just hope the team does well as a whole then fine. But when these types of fans crossover in player evaluation, what Amaro should do, or play arm chair psychologist, that's where I have a huge problem.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Phillies Sign Kyle Kendrick Joel Pineiro to minor league deal

Just two days after spending over $3.5 million on Kyle Kendrick, Amaro added veteran Joel Pineiro to a minor league deal. I find it quite ironic as Pineiro and Kendrick have an extremely similar skillset with Pineiro being the slightly better pitcher at a fraction of the price. Both pitchers cannot miss bats, do not walk many batters, get their share of ground balls, and are not hard throwers. You can see just that in looking at their peripherals.

Over the last two seasons:
Player Pineiro Kendrick
K% 12.2% 11.5%
BB% 5.7% 6.3%
GB% 51.5% 44.8%
Contact%92.8% 93.1%

However those small difference's add up. In the same time frame, Pineiro's 4.05 xFIP and 4.26 SIERA tops Kendrick's 4.54 and 4.70, leading to 2.8 more wins above replacement(FanGraphs). The ERA hasn't matched those numbers thanks to Kendrick's fairly lucky .275 batting average of ballys in play versus .304 for Pineiro. The difference is even more pronounced when men were on base where Kendrick featured an unsustainable .239 BABIP compared to Pineiro's .316.

One has to wonder if this move is simply filling out the Lehigh Valley roster, providing yet another starting arm (their 7th or 8th in line depending on Dontrelle Willis) or if Amaro somehow could find a sucker buying into Kendrick's ERA last year.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Phillies and Kendrick agree to 1-year to avoid arbitration

"Kendrick, Phils agree to deal, avoid arbitration"

The first thing that comes to mind is "ugh." While the majority of Phillies fans realize Kendrick isn't that good, there's still a few of them who look at his 3.22 ERA last season and assume he's about as good as that number. That cannot be further from the truth.

While many of his peripherals even suggested a career year, they didn't beat his previous marks by that much, especially when you consider the league wide downward trend in offense. His strikeout-to-walk ratio, strikeout rate, and home run rate all exceeding his previous career highs, leading to a career best, but still unimpressive, 4.42 xFIP and 4.45 SIERA. For reference, his career xFIP and SIERA are 4.65 and 4.85, respectively. However, when taking into account the drop in league-wide offense, his xFIP is right in line with his past three full seasons. His xFIP last year was 15% worse than league average, which is exactly the same as 2010 and just 1 percentage point better than 2008.

While he managed 114.2 innings pitched last year, he achieved just 0.2 fWAR. Baseball-reference's WAR had him even worse at 0.1. Assuming $5 million per win, the Phillies are giving Kendrick $3.5 million for only $500,000 to $1 million worth of value. I have little doubt spot-starting Dontrelle Willis or even Austin Hyatt would produce the same results while saving a few million.

Papelbon/Madson Saga: Amaro fails to accurately judge the market once again.

It really shouldn't come as a surprise. With previous precedents in splashing money around without caution and much too early (see: Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez), Amaro did it again with signing Papelbon. Many of knowledgeable writers criticized Rube for paying that much for a closer, especially before anyone else signed.

With an abundance of closers available and limited amount of teams that could afford to pay top dollar for one, the more prudent move was to wait it out and see what develops. Unfortunately Amaro couldn't even wait until the new CBA came out(which would have saved the Phillies a first round pick). As other teams waited, the prices dropped. Heath Bell signs a three-year deal, which was also too much money for him. The Red Sox traded for Andrew Bailey. Joe Nathan, Frank Francisco, Jonathan Broxton, and Matt Capps all got gobbled up.

Even as Madson signed with the Reds, Francisco Cordero and Francisco Rodriguez remain on the market with a plethora of other former closers. When supply outweighs demand, with teams realize the mistake of overpaying and giving multi-year deals to relievers, the price inevitably drops.