Sunday, August 17, 2014

Prospect News

On Aug. 7th, the Phillies sent Roberto Hernandez to the Dodgers for two players (A-level prospect) to be named later in a waiver trade. The Dodgers gave the Phillies a list of players to scout and the Phillies chose their first of two prospects: IF Jesmuel Valenti. He was (at the time of his selection) the Dodgers' 13th-best prospect. He plays primarily 2B but also SS and will report to Clearwater (the Phillies high-A affiliate). Amaro indicated that Valenti will play primarily 2B, but I think he should be made into a utility guy (1B, 2B, SS, 3B, OF) given that he may be blocked at 2B by Utley's contract potentially vesting thru 2017.

Amaro also indicated that more waiver deals are possible.

Other prospect news:
  • Biddle returned to AA mound Sat. but exits with strained quad... final line: L, 3.2 IP, 2 R...
  • Phillies release IronPigs P Jo-Jo Reyes (1-3, 10.45 ERA).
  • Dugan & Franco tearing up minors lately, may earn Sept. call-up.
Giants' series results: lost series 2-1.
  1. 5-3 comeback win in 10 innings
  2. Errors, ineffective pitching lead to Giants' come-from-behind, 6-5 victory
  3. Phillies score first, but Buchannan can't hold lead. Score: 5-2 Giants.
Phillies go 1-4 on CA trip; face Mariners at CBP. Pitching Match-ups:
  1. 7 PM 8/18: Elias vs. Williams
  2. 7 PM 8/19: Iwakuma vs. Burnett
  3. 1 PM 8/20: Paxton vs. Hamels

Friday, August 15, 2014

Low Team Slugging Pctg Not Entirely Players' Fault

I've been playing around with the offensive stats from this and years past. I had a thought one day that this year's cool temps were a factor in the team's low slugging percentage and looked back as far as 2008 for context. The Phillies' offense has declined over the years, evidenced by scoring less & less runs and going shallower into the postseason each year since the Championship Parade despite good pitching. However, as a meteorologist, I knew the cool weather is affecting most of the nation, so I looked at team slugging stats. Here are the highest team slugging percentages per season since 2008, ranked from lowest to highest:
  1. 2014 (.441)
  2. 2013 (.446)
  3. 2012 (.453)
  4. 2010 (.454)
  5. 2011 (.461)
  6. 2008 (.462)
  7. 2009 (.478)

2014 is the lowest over the past 7 years. This summer has been cool. I won't get too deep into the meteorological aspects, but take this "stat": Philadelphia has only had about seven days with highs at or above 90°, well below avg. Now, we know that pitching has been stellar over the past years, so you cannot blame just cool weather, but many hitting experts & managers (Charlie Manuel was one) call the summer months "hitting season," which is made true by the fact that air density is inversely proportional to temperature, so as temp. incr., air density decreases and balls fly further as a result. So, with lower temps this summer, the air density hasn't decreased much over the past few months, which is not much help to hitters trying to get those doubles & homers.


As for the Phillies' batting woes, it's hard to blame the weather & good pitching. Given the low slugging pctgs. league-wide, it's not a big problem that the team can't score runs via homers & doubles. The major issue is the lack of hitting w/ runners in scoring position (RISP). Their .243 batting average w/ RISP is 20th in the majors & 9th in the NL. I looked at IBBs, K-rate & BABIP (Batting Avg. on Balls In Play), to gauge whether this is due to lack of skill or bad luck. The team's .285 BABIP w/ RISP is a little low (usually the league avg. each year is .290-.300) but not excessive. The team's 21.6% K-rate  w/ RISP is 3rd-highest in the NL, and that's why this team is not driving in runs. They lack the skill to put balls in play.

Here's something interesting. The team (in RISP situations) is ranked 4th w/ 34 batters walked intentionally, with Chase Utley's (3rd in the batting order) 9 IBB ranked 10th in MLB. Ryan Howard's (batting 4th in the order) 28.8% K-rate w/ RISP is the 8th highest rate in MLB. So, this strategy of walking Utley to face Howard is working well for teams. It didn't pay off for the Astros, but it has worked well before that. It's clear that Howard, unless he's on a tear/ roll, should be placed further down in the lineups from now on.

That's all for now. Tonight, the Phillies take on the Giants at 10:15 PM ET (7:15 PM PT) with Hamels (6-6, 2.37 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 8.99 K/9) facing Bumgarner (12-9, 3.22 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 8.78 K/9).

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Phillies Trade News

The Phillies did nothing in late July despite clearly being sellers & having pretty much every player on the active roster up for grabs. The Phillies had opportunities but lucrative contracts with vesting options & limited no-trade clauses (NTC), five-and-ten-rights, and a high asking price that Amaro (RAJ) would not lower; precluded deals from happening. He blamed other teams but need only look in a mirror to see who to blame.

Why do I say that? Why is he to blame? Well, with rumors this specific, opportunity certainly knocked, but RAJ did not bite:

  • The Reds had interest in both Byrd & Bastardo. The only thing blocking a trade is money-to-include vs. prospects (Byrd owed $11MM not including option and Bastardo was set to make up to $5MM thru 2015 (last year of arbitration)). This package could have net the Phillies two prospects, one of which could’ve been in AA. Amaro didn’t bite, probably because he wouldn’t send over enough cash.
  • Hernandez, Pap, Burnett & Kendrick drew interest but Amaro asked for one major-league-ready prospect. That price was too high for these players: Hernandez & KK are half-year rentals; Pap is overpriced at $13MM/yr; and Burnett is a ? next year with that sliding player option. Even if RAJ agreed to pay the whole contract, he still would only net an A-level prospect for each. At least he redeemed himself with Thursday’s Hernandez-to-Dodgers trade for two low-level prospects.
  • Player performances and injuries played a role in RAJ trying to shop these next guys: Revere, Brown, Lee, & Howard. Revere & Brown are cheap & weren’t as actively shopped as many others but Rube was willing to listen to the initial offer. There was hardly any interest from teams because Brown was struggling offensively & Revere is, at best, a two-tool OF (singles & diving catches). Howard’s $60MM ($25MM in 2015-6 & $10MM buyout for 2017) was unmovable given his post 2009 struggles. And Lee was the Phillies’ best trade chip until the elbow injury (he won’t return this season as of the Aug. 6 update).
  • And finally came Cole Hamels. He drew interest from the Dodgers & Red Sox in July and was claimed by the Cubs this week before being pulled back due to no trade agreement. The asking price was three top prospects. While it is a high price for a $100MM-in-the-2nd-half-of-his-prime ace southpaw, especially mid-season, I do think RAJ was in the right to ask for top prospects… perhaps maybe not a team’s top guys, but maybe the top lefty starting pitching prospect and 2nd-best IF & OF prospects. I personally would like to see the team rebuild around Hamels & Utley (he & Rollins also drew interest but weren’t willing to waive their 10-&-5 rights): The Bridge to the Next Era of Phillies Baseball.

So, Amaro squandered trade opportunities because he was set on getting major-league-ready players for aging veterans & rental players. Sounds like the Phillies need a new GM.