Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Phillies not a terrible offensive team

Judging by the reactions of the Phillies fanbase, one would think the team is a complete albatross at the plate. They can't make contact, they can't walk, they have no power, and can't hit with runners on. However, most of it doesn't hold water. There's no denying the team is not close to the offensive team as years ago but neither is the league as a whole. But you don't judge teams based on past years performances, you judge them now and in relation to the league as it stands currently.

Currently the Phillies' 208 runs is pretty much middle of the pack. Even though they're tied for 6th, less than 10 runs separate 5th through 10th. Getting more advanced, their weighted runs created(which is adjusted for park factors) sits tied for 6th at 95. Aside from the Cardinals and Dodgers who are clearly one and two, the Braves aren't far ahead in third at 98. If Howard and Utley were playing, it's very reasonable to assume the Phillies would be right there with the Braves.

Of criticisms that are deserved, the team does not walk at a high rate or have much power. Their walk-rate is second lowest in the league at 6.7%. Only the abysmal Pirates are worse. Even though the Phillies are middle of the pack in homers, their .127 isolated slugging percentage is fourth-worst in the league thanks to a plethora of singles hitters. Adding to the walk-rate frustrations, the Phillies also see the fourth-lowest percentage of pitches in the zone(Pitch F/X).

Where they make up for the walks and power is by putting the ball in play. Contrary to what many people think, they're currently best in strikeout-rate at just 16.8%.

Looking at the splits with runners on, the team has actually performed much better. Their 105 wRC+ is an improvement and tied for third in the league. With runners in scoring position, the number is much lower but so is the sample size.

While it's not the offensive juggernaut it once was, this offense is still capable of advancing in the crapshoot that is the playoffs.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Phillies struggling on the basepaths

I was going to post about the Phillies struggles with runners in scoring position or the absurd rumblings(aka WIP callers) about trading trading Roy Halladay, but while looking up some stats, I couldn't help but notice the Phillies struggles on the bases.

Their struggles on the bases are not a new phenomenon. However, having one of, if not the, worst baserunner in the league play first-base everyday certainly contributed to the Phillies' negative run totals. With Howard out and Juan Pierre in, I expected much more. However, the team is still one of the worst in the league.

While the team remains judicious swiping bags(league-leading 83% success rate), they are making more outs on the bases and taking less extra bases. In 2011, the Phills were middle of the pack in taking extra bases. With the league average of taking an extra base at 41%, the team barely edged out that average at 42%. This year, with the league average at 42%, the Phillies are dead last at 37%.

Exacerbating the problem, the Phillies are making many more outs on the bases(not including the any caught steals, pickoffs, and force plays). Last year, they were second in the league by making only 45 outs on base. This year, they are almost halfway to that number(20), despite being just over a quarter of the way through the season.

As a team struggling scoring runs, they cannot afford to give up free outs(also looking at you, sacrifice bunts). And with an even slower Howard coming back eventually, it'll only make it worse.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Not the time to bring up Domonic Brown

With the Phillies offense struggling, many fans are pining for Domonic Brown. I'd wager many of them are also the same ones that have condemned him in the past. Unfortunately many of them haven't been paying attention to his season thus far. Hampered by more hand issues in the spring followed recently by a nagging hamstring injury, Brown has struggled.

Aside from his well-known struggles in the field, he's now regressing at the plate. In his 100 plate appearances with Lehigh Valley this year, he's demonstrated no power (.108 ISO) and much worse plate control (6.0% walk-rate, 21.0% strikeout-rate). As a Brown supporter, it's frustrating to see all the strides with his plate control he made at the major league level disappear.

With his struggles and injuries thus far, now is not the time to jerk him around yet again and further hamper his development just as Phillies' management has for the past two seasons.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Regression unkind to Kyle Kendrick

Unlike the past few years, and especially with men on base, where Lady BABIP has been overly faithful to Kendrick, she's been a Jezebel this year. Making up for lost time, this may be the season where regression really kicks in for Kendrick. In just under 20 innings, his .394 BABIP is 17th highest in baseball(minimum 10 innings).
Typically when you hear a high BABIP cited, it often involves defending an otherwise good pitcher who is going through some bad luck. But the rub here is that even if you take away that high number, he's still been awful, just not 7.32 ERA type awful.
Adding to the many more balls landing for hits, his walk-rate is at a career high(9.3%) while his groundball-rate has plummeted to 35.6%(45.2% career). While he's actually been getting more swinging strikes, it hasn't been enough to offset those huge increases. Even that higher BABIP could be explained by a 26% line drive-rate than just pure luck.
With those increases, he's seen his defensive-independent pitching metrics all rise significantly higher en route to a -0.2 fWAR.
Not a good start to the first of a ridiculous two-year deal. Still, there's lot of Kendrick apologists out there. I don't know why really, but there are. It is not as if no other replacement-level player in baseball would sacrifice moving back and forth from the pen and in the rotation just for the opportunity to be in the show. Many would even do it at the minimum, rather than guaranteed millions a year.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Early Causes for Concern over Papelbon's Contract

This past week, Phillies Nation posted a brief review of the free agent closers from this past off-season. Like they do with each of their posts, upon putting it on Facebook, almost every commenter proclaimed how great of a deal it was. Obviously 11 innings is a large enough sample size for many. They see a 0.82 ERA and get all gooey inside.

Prefacing the warning signs, you should read Fangraphs' latest piece on starter and reliever aging curves. It doesn't exactly create a good picture for the 31-year-old Papelbon.

Even though Papelbon's ERA is a minuscule 0.82, his xFIP, FIP, and SIERA are 3.14, 2.96, and 2.61, respectively. This is thanks to a significanltly lower strikeout-rate. After striking out over 34% of batters this year, it's back down to his 2008-2010 levels at 27.5%. In addition, his walks have risen from last year. While they are not quite at his 2009-2010 seasons, it's almost doubled to 7.5%.

Hitters are making contact(80.8%) against Papelbon at a higher rate than at any point of his career(career 74.4%) and the amount of swinging strikes he's gotten as subsequently plummeted from 16.8% to 9.7%.

The reason? Most likely an early drop in velocity. His fastball has been about 1.5 MPH lower than his average fastball last year while his split finger has dropped 1.0 MPH. As the Fangpraphs piece I linked earlier pointed out, a drop in velocity effects a reliever's strikeout rate more than a starter.

Of course the main problem in any analysis right now involves that 11 inning sample size. May is an important month for Papelbon to build that velocity back up like last year. If he doesn't it's only a matter of time before the ERA climbs and fans begin flip-flopping more than Mitt Romney.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Rollins will be just fine

Further proving you don't actually need to know a sport to talk or write about it, WIP's Angelo Cataldi recently wrote a scathing piece on Jimmy Rollins' struggles this season. The excellent site/blog, TheGoodPhight already posted about it, so I'll save you my Fire Joe Morgan-style analysis. What was said on there pretty much sums it up.

As of right now, the main culprits for Rollin's struggles are sample size and strikeouts. Rollins has almost doubled his strikeout rate from last year but his swinging-strike and contact percentages are fairly close to his normal levels. Last year he swung and missed 10.9 percent of the time(Statcorner). This year it's 12.6 percent. It's certainly an uptick, but not enough of one to merit striking out almost twice as much. As the season goes on, his strikeout-rate will inevitably drop.

Also hurting Rollins' effectiveness and strikeout increase has been getting behind more often. For as much unwarranted ridicule Rollins gets for swinging at the first pitch, when you begin to see a lot more first-pitch strikes, you should adjust accordingly. This year, Rollins has begun 0-1 in the count over 60 percent of the time compared to 52 percent last year. The difference between the two is huge. When Rollins fell behind 0-1 last year his OPS was a Valdez-esque .634 compared to a .833 OPS when he was ahead.

Unfortunately, Cataldi's article didn't get enough viewers for some humorous, asinine comments from his many blind sheep out there. It would have provided some good entertainment.