Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Another Ruin Tomorrow Moment, Trade Chips

First, I'd like to wish everyone a belated Happy Memorial Day, especially to the men and women in uniform & particularly the fallen. I get to enjoy playing my clarinet & saxophone, weather forecasting, computer & web programming, and sports watching & analysis because of your sacrifice. Thank you!

By now, you have heard what Amaro said yesterday about Philly fans in regards to wanting the organization to be aggressive with its prospects, particularly at AA & especially Nola. Here's the quote:

“They don’t understand the game,” Amaro said. "They don’t understand the process. There’s a process. And then they bitch and complain because we don’t have a plan. There’s a plan in place and we’re sticking with the plan. We can’t do what’s best for the fan. We have to do what’s best for the organization so the fan can reap the benefit of it later on. That’s the truth.”

That first sentence is incredibly insulting to fans. It is bad business to insult the paying customer, as Brian Michael of PhilliesNation.com said earlier today. I also agree with Brian's proposal for Rube to explain what he the organization/ front office plans to do to get us to contention by 2017. Perhaps he wants to see if Nola is resilient at AA (much like he wanted for Giles last year). Perhaps he will wait until a team bites on Cole or promoting Nola and either Efflin or Biddle, although promoting Nola now, with injuries to Buchannan & Billingsley, will more quickly create some starting pitching depth.

We don't know but would very much love for Rube or Gillick or SOMEONE to tell us. If that is not the case, then the front office has absolutely no business insulting us. During today's edition of Philly Sports Talk, Rube acknowledged that he "probably" misspoke, used a poor choice of words in his Monday interview with Jim Salisbury. Rube also acknowledged that they should have begun the transition years ago. Jim Salisbury said that Rube is sincere in his apology, bringing up a quote saying that fan support led them to want to contend over the past few years.

After a long internal debate, I accept Ruben Amaro, Jr.'s apology but I cannot yet forgive him. Most of his tenure has been negative. I don't think he's calling the shots on any of the major moves, which is a good thing, but he needs to go. I think I will be able to forgive him if he either says that he'll leave after a one-year extension... or better yet, resign immediately or at least as soon as game 162 is in the books.

UPDATE - Poll Available here until the trade deadline. I hope for tons of responses.

Rube is reluctant to promote our top prospects. When would you promote one of our top 20 prospects?
After a full-yr in any level
4 months
2-3 months
6-8 weeks
3-5 weeks
  Show results
Votes so far: 0
Days left to vote: 16

Now, in that same interview, Rube talked about how the veterans are doing. So, let's talk numbers:
  • Cole Hamels, in his last seven starts (48.1 IP) is 5-1 with a 2.23 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 9.17 K/9, and a K:BB ratio above 3:1, and is 4-0 with a 1.53 ERA in his last 4 games.
  • Aaron Harang is 4-4 overall (10 starts, 65.1 IP) with a 2.87 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 6.3 K/9, and a near-3:1-K:BB-ratio.
  • Pap, Giles, & Garcia each have an ERA less than 4.0, with Pap & Giles with a 1.5-1.9 ERA. Unfortunately, after the Nats series, De Fratus' ERA jumped to 4.3 from 3.4 - I blame Ryne for poor decisions - and Diekman has an ERA over 7.0. The good news: the bullpen, overall, has been a strength of the team.
  • As I've been posting on Twitter, Howard & Utley have been valuable to the Phillies lately. Howard, since hitting his first homer of the season on 4/21, has a .999 OPS - didn't think that would happen when I predicted a bounce back year for him. Utley, in his last 15 games, has a .904 OPS. Both have full no-trade rights.
  • 3B Maikel Franco has brought his hot bat from AAA to the majors. He is 10-for-43 at the plate w/ a 2B, a 3B, 2 HRs, 7 RBIs, 3 BB, 5 Ks, and a .724 OPS.
  • SS Freddy Galvis has cooled off as of late, hitting .189 in his last 9 games but is still hitting .314 on the season.
  • C Carlos Ruiz is not perfoming well offensively, costing the Phillies about five runs at the plate, but he still controls the dish defensively and is one of those players who turns on the bat in the second half. Should be a nice addition to a trade.
  • As I mentioned before, most of the minor leaguers are doing well: Asche (LF @ AAA), Brown (RF @ AAA), Efflin & Nola (AA), and Crawford (Clearwater) are among those performing well.
Hope everyone has a great week! Enjoy the games!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Phillies Won Six-Straight... Wait, what?!

That six-game winning streak was AWESOME!!! Man, what a ride! When I said to be optimistic, I never expected the Phillies to put together a winning streak like this. Maybe a few three- and four-game streaks en-route to ~75 wins. Man, what a ride! The Phillies have been stellar. First, I focus on the offense.

The Phillies, in the past 7 days have the best batting avg. in the NL (.300) and this is nothing new... their .264 May AVG is tied for 4th-best in NL in that span. I won't delve into more rankings but they've improved in most of the offensive categories I've discussed in my last entry. I feel bad for Ryne: He said that it'll be tough taking a hot bat out of the line-up and now, almost everyone is hot. Here's what the team has done the past week:

OK, I don't need to feel bad as that is a good problem to have. Plus, the clubhouse is full of good vibe (per Phillies.com) as a result. With communication difficulties from last year and Ryne's promise to keep hot-hitters in, it still could create a bit of tension. However, as long as their winning, I don't see tension being a major problem. This won't push them into contention this year, but most of the young guys are hot and the veterans are slowly increasing their trade value. For the front office, it bodes somewhat well for them as the team's future looks bright here & in the minors (AA).

Now, let's talk pitching. The team's 2.47 ERA in past 7 G is the best ERA in the NL in that span... and they have the 11th-lowest May ERA in the majors (tied with the Mariners at 3.78). And here are the individual stats showing stellar performances by everyone the past week, except (unfortunately) for Giles, De Fratus, & Diekman (they've been played a lot though):

So far, everyone has improved. Most of these players aren't usually good in April, as we have come to experience over the past decade (yes, I said decade). So, this wasn't completely unexpected. I will conclude with the following fact: The Phillies won 17 out of the 41 games they played, putting them on-pace for 67 wins. Given what has just transpired and their 9-9 record in May, I think 75-or-more wins is still on the table. Enjoy the games!


Stats courtesy FanGraphs.com

Friday, May 1, 2015

Breaking Down the Phillies' April Stats

The Phillies were aweful in April... no denying it, but why? What went wrong? Well, I take a look through the stats and see what was good (yes, there was one good aspect), bad, ugly, and improvement-bound.

Pitching/ Fielding

WHIP: 1.49 (T highest)
K/9: 7.29 (18th highest)
ERA: 4.28 (10th highest)
Fldg. Pctg: .978 (5th lowest)
UZR: 1.6 (13th)
Pitching FIP: 4.47 (5th highest)
Pitching HR/9: 0.95 (middle of pack)
Pitching xFIP: 4.53 (5th highest)

We need to improve our pitching and our defense, although more so the former since we've improved greatly in fielding since that home Marlins' series. We have the highest WHIP (Walks & Hits per Inning Pitched) & are getting toward the bottom third in strikeouts per 9 IP and that has led to both high ERA and FIP (Fielding-Independent Pitching). Our bad defense is not a function of bad range (measured via the UZR - ultimate zone rating - stat), but making routine plays, which led to a lot of problems, but the pitchers did allow a lot of base-runners. We did ok in terms of limiting the long ball, especially after the first week, so xFIP (FIP plus HR taken into account) remains about the same ranking as FIP. April was ugly for pitching as a whole, but expect continued improvement, especially in FIP. Next, I see who's most to blame for our lack of success: starters (besides Harang) or relievers.

Pitching Splits


WHIP: 1.42 (8th highest)
K/9: 6.78 (18th best/ 12th worst)
HR/9: 1.19 (8th highest)
FIP: 4.71 (5th highest)
xFIP: 4.49 (7th highest)
ERA: 4.97 (7th highest)


WHIP: 1.61 (highest)
K/9: 8.20 (middle)
HR/9: 0.50 (9th lowest)
FIP:  4.03 (13th highest)
xFIP: 4.59 (3rd highest)
ERA: 3.03 (8th lowest)

These splits could change easily every five days, with some changing daily. However, I see that the bullpen still allows a god share of base-runners, but has been better at limiting the damage through better K/9 and lower HR/9. The conclusion: our rotation needs to improve the most. Once again, the bullpen is the strength of this team.


Plate Discipline

P/PA: 3.6 (T lowest but low spread amongst MLB teams)
K-rate: 18.3% (7th best)
BB-rate: 6.7% (7th lowest)
BABIP: .261 (2nd lowest)
wOBA: .270 (last)

There is not a lot of spread in the P/PA data: most teams are seeing about the same # of pitches per pate appearance... between 3.6 & 4.05. The Phillies, though are doing well with limiting strikeouts but they don't walk as much as they should (10% or better is the goal) and they're very unlucky - as Batting Avg. on Balls in Play (BABIP) shows. Given they're still last in weighted on-base avg. (wOBA), to help combat their low, soon-to-improve BABIP, the Phils need to walk more and continue striking out less.


SB: 10 (T-19th)
3B: 7 (T-2nd best)

Their stolen base rank seems more a function of getting on base and low no. of attempts (not shown) than their rate (not shown). Proving my point is the high no. of triples the Phillies have as I am a firm believer that 3Bs are more a function of speed than power compared to 2Bs. Look for them to steal more as their OBP improves, but I've noticed a decline in the Phillies in terms of the stolen base category: I firmly believe that's the result of another Rube blunder - not giving David Lopes the raise he deserved. Can the Phillies start stealing more bases as we get younger in the next few years? Possibly. But for now, look for their stolen base numbers to improve a bit as our OBP improves.

Power & Scoring

HR: 13 (T-2nd lowest)
ISO (isol'd power): .106 (2nd lowest)
wRC+: 68 (100 is avg) = last
Runs: 63 (lowest)

According to Sandberg earlier this spring, "The Phillies are not going to hit a lot of home runs this year." So far, the Phillies are proving that to be true. To compensate, the Phillies rank up there in bunts & bunt attempts (not shown). There's been some growing pains there, but I've seen much better from the team (especially from pitchers) over the past week-plus. Look for the offense, overall, to improve as the bats heat up (Howard, Utley, Ruiz, Asche, Ruf, "Frenchy", etc.), the on-base guys (Herrera, Revere; perhaps Galvis, Utley (again) & Ruiz (again); etc.) continue to get on and steal, and perhaps the team embraces & executes small ball well.

April was a rough month. Typical for a team full of Mr. Not-Aprils (Revere, Ruiz, Howard, Hamels). The Phillies are 8-15, on-pace for 56 wins (110 losses), which some expected. However, given the evidence above - Mr. Not-Aprils, low BABIP, improving Fdg. Pctg., great bullpen, etc.; I think the Phillies can squeeze out another win or two per month, putting a 63-99-or-better record within reach. We shall see what happens. Don't forget, we have a few prospects (Nola, Franco), DL players (Billingsley), and a recently-optioned Domonic Brown coming up within the next 1-2 months; and games are not won or lost on paper. On the flip side, Howard, Ruiz, Pap and Hamels are on the trading block, so expect some more losses if all of them are traded... although that could be offset by more wins in the case of a Howard trade.

Good luck, Phils! Looking forward to watching you guys improve!