Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Case for Medium-Term Contracts

Hello folks. Hope everyone is enjoying the early fall and a World Series that will inevitably make history: the Indians have not won since the 40s and the Cubs haven't won it in over a century! Meanwhile, the Phillies are out of the playoffs, in the midst of a rebuild that began in Dec. of 2014. Over the last year, the Phillies starting rotation has jumped at least 10-15 ranking spots among all MLB teams in IP, WAR, & ERA (and lots of other categories, too). The bullpen, feeling less stress has been doing well, except for middle relief & lack of back-end depth (Neris literally pitched the equivalent of every other game!). The offense has taken a slight step back but the front office has indicated exploring free agency to help all aspects. There is a Catch-22 and I agree that one exists: a balance between veterans to alleviate stress on the young developing core and allowing players to move up to the big leagues.

So how do we balance those out? Writers at, my favorite blog to read, and Phillies Beat Reporter for MLB Todd Zolecki have essentially said one-year free-agency deals only. I vehemently disagree. There is one player we have now that deserves an extension - Jeremy Hellickson. The former Rookie of the Year rebounded nicely and helped contribute to a rotation that seemed to take steps back (poor performances and injuries) but in reality took a huge leap forward. I think Hellickson is worth extending at a high price ($18MM AAV over 2-3 years). He's a great candidate to take us to contention and the market is weak anyway. The Phillies have no commitments from the World Champions year (Oct. 29th, 2008 BTW!) and LOTS of money to spend.

Overall in free agency, if you limit your spending to 5-6 guys where all but 1-2 have one-yr deals and those one or two are only here for 2-3 years each... there will be PLENTY of space for guys to move up. We have a lot of young talent up here already (Galvis, Herrera, Franco, Nola, Eikhoff, Neris, Alfaro, Rupp, Joseph, Hernandez) and a good chunk of that (Cozens & Lively come to mind) will be added to the 40-Man within the next few weeks (we'll get rid of the pot. FAs & maybe Asche & Goedell and that opens up 5-10 spots to fill w/ the guys that need Rule 5 protection).

Lots of money to spend, most of your young future core already on the 40-man roster and a relatively weak free-agent market make a couple of 2- to 3-year deals worthwhile now.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Ryan Howard's Legacy

Good day. THe Phillies closed out the 2016 season with a win against the Mets for a final record of 71-91, an 8-game improvement over last year. Before that game, the spotlight was on Ryan Howard. It has not been explicitly stated but Klentak will almost certainly buyout his 2017 option at a cost of $10MM.

We all know about his decline. There were some subtle signs: showed up big in the 2009 NLCS but not the following [World] Series'; a slow decline in reg. season HR & especially RBI #s since signing the 5-YR/ $125MM extension. Then came the Achillies injury - the final out of the Phillies 2011 season (a 1-0 loss in NLDS Game 5 vs. the Cardinals). The injury and subsequent knee issues did two things: (1) really accelerated his decline when he returned and (2) allowed him to provide 0 wins above replacement (WAR) for two half-years during yrs 2 & 3 of his extension (more on #2 in a bit).

The injuries are only part of the tale. Had they not happened, he still would have declined but a few steps slower. Off the field and field-related issues plagued him: family sued him for wealth, Al Jazeera drug report and everyone constantly telling him he's a bum... just to name a few. I'd say he certainly got through the injuries and all the anti-Howard stuff with grace, publicly, but you cannot go through that without it affecting you mentally. That's too much for anyone to handle IMO. But handle it with grace he did. Sorry you had to go through that, Ryan.

There is one thing he needed to do though: come to the ballpark early at least twice a week (like Halladay & Utley have done practically everyday in their careers) and work on some stuff in the cage. Why was he always one of the last to the ballpark? I don't know but I'm sure he thought I'm earning this much so no need. Even so, I don't think he'd beat the odds and rebound big (~40 HRs we'll say - it was certainly a pitching-dominated era). But getting to 35 HRs was doable with some extra work.

His line from 2012-2016: 108 GM/YR, .226/.293/.426 line; 95 HR (19/YR), 327 RBI (65/YR), 169 BB (34/YR), 639 K (~1/GM).

Pretty bad, but only a 96 OPS+ BTW, so league avg. in terms of total offense (adjusted for league & ballpark). Back to the "providing 0 WAR for two half seasons": it could have been worst had he been putting up slightly better but still lousy numbers for all of 2011 and all of 2012 (his oWAR was also low, an avg. of -0.1 per year with a range of +0.8 to -0.7 per season). We also have strong memories from 2005 to 2011: without Ryan, we do not win five consecutive NL East titles nor two pennants/ one crown.

His line from 2004-2011: 128 GM/YR (153 using an 06-11 avg), .275/.368/.560 line (138 OPS+), 286 HRs (36/YR & 46-per-162 GMs), 864 RBIs (108/YR & 137-per-162), 540 BB (68/YR, 86-per-162), and a >1/GM K-rate. Looking at the top stats (.930 ± .084 OPS, 45 ± 10 HR, 135 ± 20 RBI per 162 games), I don't see how anyone can average that over 7 years being that consistent (in terms of st. deviations). One or two seasons, yes, but over SEVEN years? No way that'll ever happen again!

All he did for us from Sept. 2004 to the end of 2011 outweighs what little he took away from us in 2012-2016. Looking at advanced stats - his 100 OPS+ and avg of near-0.0 offensive Wins Above Replacement (WAR) - he didn't take away much for too long: 11 seasons - 7 successful and only 4 failures, the failures driven mostly by extenuating circumstances & poor management and still amongst the top 5 active, over-30-YO sluggers during that time. That's enough to call his ENTIRE Phillies career a huge success. However, he is still the best example of why we don't extend a guy two years before arbitration, despite winning an arb hearing.

Now the big question: Phillies Wall of Fame or not? I vote yes. However, he and Lidge should be the last two up there as individuals (behind J-Roll, Utley, Hamels, Madson, Ruiz, Victorino) but with an interruption: at some point, you need a year (I'd say 2017) in which you dedicate a plaque titled something along the lines of "The [10-15] Core Players from the 2007-2011 Years".

Thank you for the memories, Ryan, and mentoring of the youth the last few years! Best of luck

Notable: he is the Phillies nominee for the 2016 Roberto Clemente Award. He contributes to the Phillies' "version" of the MLB RBI program: The Phillies Urban Youth Academy (in conjunction with the Police Athletic League).