Thursday, July 26, 2012

Reaction and analysis of Cole Hamels extension.

In case you were living under a rock, Cole Hamels signed a piece of paper saying he's going to play for the Philadelphia baseball team for at least 6 years all while being paid at least $144 million. Upon hearing the deal was thisclose before bed, I didn't really have an opinion yet either way. All I could muster was a "Cole Hamels couldn't wait until the season to end" joke.

Most Phillies fans are unison in extending Hamels, unlike the aftermath of the preceding reference circa 2009.     My hope in finding a multitude of asinine comments condemning the move isn't that of an Andy Dugresne(I had no idea it was spelled that way). Those comments right now are saved for the trade Lee, Victorino, Pence, Polanco, and even Halladay debate. Throw in some Kyle Kendrick and there's plenty of material for another day.


I'm a bit torn with the deal. On one hand, I realize that means sacrificing another part of the team(most likely Victorino) but on the other, Hamels is a terrific, under-30 pitcher on a team that can no longer afford to look back now. In my head, I can quick calculate the deal may be a slight overpay. But just as quickly, I can just attribute some of that overpaying comes with there being fewer 4.5-6.0 win pitchers.

Tom Tango over at The Book projects Hamels' contract as break-even value wise. However, there's a twist of negativity with the inherent higher risk of injury that comes with pitchers.
Year    Wins    $/W    Worth
2013     5.0      
$5.00      $25.0
2014     4.8      
$5.25      $25.2
2015     4.5      
$5.57      $25.0
2016     4.1      
$5.95      $24.4
2017     3.6      
$6.43      $23.2
2018     3.0      
$7.01      $21.0
I started at 5 wins, and dropped by 0.2, 0.3, 0.4, 0.5, 0.6 wins each year.
I started at 5MM$ per win, and increaseed it by 5%, 6%, 7%, 8%, 9% each year.
The total came in at 143.8MM$.
I’m not saying Cole Hamels WILL do all that.  I am saying this is what the Phillies are paying for.  If the cost per win is higher, and will accelerate faster, Hamels doesn’t have to do as much. 
Anyway, under these assumptions, Cole Hamels has to generate 25 wins.  He’s pitched in just about six full calendar years already, and in those six years, Fangraphs shows Hamels with 25.4 wins, while Baseball-Reference shows him with 25.7 wins.
In order for the Phillies to break-even here, Cole Hamels has to basically continue to pitch into his early 30s as he has pitched since his early 20s… and not get hurt.
Did I mention Cole Hamels is a pitcher?
Personally, I think the cost per win over the years will be closer to a flatter 7 to 8 percent average than what Tango did here. I am also curious on using my own WAR projections using estimated FIP decline given the aging curves for pitchers of Hamels' ilk. Something similar to the recent pitching aging curves post on Fanraphs. If I knew SQL better, it would be much easier.

Dave Cameron at FanGraphs looked at more from more of a market point of view, comparing it with other pitchers' deals. 
So, for this to be an overpay, you have to believe that Hamels is not actually a premium pitcher. And, really, the only way to come to that conclusion is if you still judge pitchers by wins and losses.
Furthermore,
In that situation, backtracking on the commitment to win with this group isn’t really an option. You can’t make that many win-now moves at the expense of your future, and then decide that you went too far and it’s time to pinch pennies. In the Phillies situation, only two decisions make sense – keep trying to win as many championships as possible until these guys can’t play anymore, or tear the whole thing down and start over. Letting Hamels go in the interest of fiscal prudence is trying to cross a bridge you already burned to the ground.

Sabermetric-friendly Phillies blog, Crashburn Alley was very positive of the deal.
This contract extension is arguably the best move of GM Ruben Amaro’s career and one that will be met with near-universal praise. Phillies fans should be thrilled that Hamels will continue to don red pinstripes through at least 2018, continuing his legacy, and the Phillies will be in a prime position to attempt to compete again as soon as 2013. In a time when the Phillies are sellers for the first time since 2006, today is a very good day for the Phillies and their fans. Cole Hamels will be around for a long, long time.
 Of course there isn't a whole lot of competition on the mantle for Ruben Amaro's best moves.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Domonic Brown on fire

Hopefully I won't put the jinx on him but since he's returned from injury he's been on a tear. Much of his injury-riddled season has been a disappointment but his play the past couple weeks may show those injuries and struggles are behind him. During his rehab stint in the Gulf Coast League he hit .579/.636/.947 in five games(sample size alert!). Seven of his eleven hits were doubles and hits walk-to-strikeout ratio was even.

Since returning to Lehigh Valley, he's continued impressing, going 8 for 19 with a homer and two doubles while keeping his strikeouts and walks even at two.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Flashback: Cole Hamels is a wuss, trade him!

It's amazing how many Phillies fans can do a complete 180 on a player in just two years. Currently there is a congregation of fans who want Cole Hamels traded, and there is certainly a valid argument that can be made for it. With the playoffs looking more and more bleak and no extension signed, it could behoove Ruben Amaro to get more for him now than the compensation they would receive if he signs elsewhere in the offsesaon. But two years ago, many fans wanted him gone for a different reason. Chances are some of those feeble-minded folks are among the ones loving him today.
If you are lucky enough to find one of them, they'll backpedal and say that was never the case- that they and Philadelphia always supported Hamels and believed in him. It must be a figment of your imagination, better suited for the Twilight Zone.
Unlike the previous Ryan Howard posting, it's more difficult going back that long to find definitive proof as Howard was and still is a much more polarizing figure in Phillies lore. There's a second-hand account of Angelo Cataldi(surprise!) believing Hamels is too soft. Fortunately, I found some others on Facebook.


Flashback: Facebook reactions to Ryan Howard deal

I wasn't actually looking for these in particular(was actually looking for Cole Hamels comments) but it was too hilarious to pass up.
The first set of comments is reaction to ESPN analyst Keith Law condemning the Ryan Howard extension.
 

And some more:




Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Thoughts on Fangraphs- "Carlos Ruiz: The Best Catcher in Baseball?"



Today, Fangraphs posted a piece debating whether Carlos Ruiz is the best catcher in baseball. There's no true answer to the argument either way. Everyone would agree he's among the best over the past few seasons and is currently having the best season at his position thus far in 2012. The problem as the author points out is basing judgement on results rather than true ability. With the bevy of advanced metrics available, certain results are much closer to their true ability than your average 5x5 fantasy stats that the common fan loves.


"Because of his surge, Ruiz actually ranks as one of the best catchers in recent history, too. He’s had a total of +12.4 wins since 2010, again making him as the game’s best catcher.So did you catch the flaw in my argument? Actually, I made a couple mistakes, which I hope you were quick enough to catch. I began by assuming that simply because a player has had the best results so far in the season, it therefore makes him The Best. I then cherry pickd a time frame that I knew would make Ruiz look favorable — only going back to 2010 since that’s when he had his best season. I constructed an argument that made a degree of sense, but I selectively picked my data to make a point and over-extended my argument.

It’d be more correct to say that Ruiz has been the best catcher in baseball so far this season, but it’s difficult to tell exactly how good we should expect him to be going forward. "


WAR totals from each of the big three systems for the candidates since 2010:

fWAR= Fangraphs

bWAR= baseball-reference

WARP= Baseball Prospectus


Carlos Ruiz:

fWAR: 12.4

fWAR/500 PA: 5.11

bWAR: 10.8

bWAR/500 PA: 4.45

WARP: 10.3

WARP/500 PA: 4.24

Average: 11.17/4.60


Brian McCann:

fWAR: 11.7

fWAR/500 PA: 4.22

bWAR: 7.3

bWAR/500 PA: 2.63

WARP: 8.5

WARP/500 PA: 3.06

Average: 9.16/3.30

Joe Mauer:

fWAR: 10.2

fWAR/500 PA: 4.01

bWAR: 9.3

bWAR/500 PA: 3.66

WARP: 8.3

WARP/500 PA: 3.26

Average: 9.27/3.64


Buster Posey:

fWAR: 8.6

fWAR/500 PA: 4.49

bWAR: 7.5

bWAR/500 PA: 3.92

WARP: 7.0

WARP/500 PA: 3.66

Average: 7.7/4.02

Matt Wieters:

fWAR: 9.9

fWAR/500 PA: 3.57

bWAR: 9.2

bWAR/500 PA: 3.31

WARP: 5.8

WARP/500 PA: 2.09

Average: 8.3/2.99

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Facepalm: "Smart Change" in the Dumbest Way

This may be the worst "article" I've ever read. There's nothing positive that can be drawn from it. The writer must be a baseball fan, or else he wouldn't be writing about the Phillies, but apparently has no knowledge whatsoever of player value. It's almost as if he's playing a franchise mode in MLB: The Show- and losing.

"The Philadelphia Phillies will almost certainly begin a roster revamping process in the very near future.
I believe that if the Phillies front office makes strategically smart moves through next season, the fans will embrace their new stars.

Yes, many people will initially respond to the departure of some old friends. As long as a repackaged red pinstriped machine begins to run well, tickets and other merchandise will continue to sell. However, those levels may not be as high as they were during the five-year playoff run.

The Phillies don't have to be World Series bound in 2013, but they will need to become strong playoff contenders by 2014 to keep their fan base satisfied."
So far all pretty simple stuff. All of it could be doable. This is also assuming RAJ knows how to build a team other than just throwing excess money and prospects at a wall hoping something sticks. 

"Let's review what realistic returns might be for current roster parts.

The following speculative estimations are not to be falsely interpreted as encouraging the trading, or retaining, of any of the players who will be cited. All options, no matter how seemingly outrageous, are included for sake of conjecture.

The term 'major league ready players' will be loosely used to reference current major leaguers, or those Triple-A players who are strongly considered to have big league potential."
I should have heeded his warning. But if you're already warning about possible outrageous deals that would never happen if proposed, then why include them in your opinion of "smart change." You can trade Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino for Mike Trout all you want in your head (looking at you Phillies Nation Facebook commenter, CJ Parker), but it's NEVER going to happen. There is zero chance the Angels would do it. Now is where it gets good......

"Pitching

Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels could both bring three, or four, major league ready players.

Cliff Lee could bring two, or three, major league ready players.

Joe Blanton could bring a major league middle reliever, or a few modest prospects.

There are no other current Phillies pitchers who will be traded, or have any worth. One exception is Jonathan Papelbon. Even though he's a luxury on this team, it's highly unlikely that he will be dealt.

Positional players

Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Howard are both highly unlikely to be traded.

Chase Utley's health situation means that he has minimal trade value.

Jimmy Rollins could bring a major league ready player and a minor league prospect.

Placido Polanco could bring a modest minor league prospect.

Hunter Pence could bring two major league ready players.

Shane Victorino could bring one major league ready player.

Juan Pierre could bring a modest major league ready player, or a modest minor league prospect.

Lehigh Valley Iron Pig outfielder Domonic Brown would likely take over for whichever of the three Phillies starting outfielders are dealt.

Bench players

Ty Wigginton and Mike Fontenot might bring a modest minor league prospect.

Every other bench player could be dealt, but would only bring a modest lower level minor league player in return."

Major league ready players. He does cite earlier his definition, but it is as if he has no idea of any player that fits that definition. And few teams would trade top, major league ready prospects(think Trevor Bauer) for any or most of the players listed. And I love the arbitrary Triple-A cutoff, cute. At least name somebody, anybody.
With his contract, only a couple, if any, team would take on Papelbon. If they do, don't expect many prospects. Even with his health problems, I'd wager Utley still has more value than Howard(thanks to Ruben Amaro). Wiggington and Fontenot have no trade value(PTBNL) and Pierre would never bring back a major league player with upside. Phillies bench players also have no value. Contending teams typically don't take last place teams backups for their pennant push.
Again, no effort or hint of knowledge was put into these assessments.

"Management

The majority of the entire coaching staff is very vulnerable to being replaced by the offseason at the latest. The term 'hearing fresh voices' will be heard if this does happen. These men are not responsible for the last place position that the Phillies are in.

Ryne Sandberg is obviously in line to become the Phillies new manager. If he is promoted to this job, the organization may feel that it is best that he retain some of the existing coaching staff to help ease his transitional period."
Unlike many, I believe any manager hired will make mistakes as any other manager. Maybe he'll make less than Charlie but who knows yet. Sandberg is no different- or else he wouldn't be hitting Pete Orr or Andres Blanco second.

"Logical conclusions

The Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves, New York Mets and Miami Marlins are all better than the Phillies this season. It is strongly likely that they will all finish above the Phillies in the National League Eastern division. As shocking as that statement would have seemed in the offseason, it's becoming an increasingly logical conclusion to reach as this summer moves forward.

Each year is different and the 2012 season doesn't necessarily indicate that a period of doom has fallen upon Philadelphia's baseball town.

The process of change is about to begin. Some of the early results of general manager Ruben Amaro Junior's forthcoming efforts will be visible within the next three weeks. Then, he will continue making major trades and acquiring notable free agents in the offseason."
<Insert broad statement reflecting on the past and future here>