Thursday, June 30, 2005

It's time for Madson to step up...

Here's some stats, because I just love them. Look carefully at the difference between Madson and Padilla. Some key stats:

Runs against average:
Pad - 6.42
Mad - 3.54

Fielding Independent (FIP):
Pad - 7.45
Mad - 3.26

Over the second half of the year, a starter will accumulate approximately 100 innings, while a reliever will accumulate maybe 35. That's 65 innings. Using FIP, we can expect Madson to use those inning a little more effectively than Padilla. Madson would give up approximately 23.5 runs in those innings (65/9X3.26). Padilla, 53.8 (65/9X7.45). That's a difference of 30 runs, or about 3 games in the pythag model.

If Madson doesn't switch to the starter role right now, and the Phils miss the playoffs by 2 games, we'll know why.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A modest proposal for baseball rule changes

As I am tired of pointing out that Bobby Abreau is the best player on the team by far this year, and I am tired of those who really can't say anything bad about him, so they harp on:
1) Their perception of his effort in the outfield, and
2) his lack of perceived performance in "the clutch,"

I am proposing the following adjustments to the rules of Major League Baseball:

1) The "Effort Rule" By this rule, fielding will no longer be judged by something so mundane as actual catches and throws, but rather by the amount of "hustle" a player demonstrates while getting to the ball.

a) Running into the wall in an automatic out, even if the ball cleared the fence.
b)Diving for the ball will never be penalized, so those who dive for the ball and miss it, resulting in a triple rather than a single, can require the runner to return to first.
c) Any catch which results in the fielder making a bad initial read, adjusting, and running down an otherwise routine fly ball with a last second jump, bobble and/or catch will result in two outs instead of the regular one (also know as the "Web Gems" rule).

2) The "Clutch Rule" By this rule, hits will no longer be judged in absolute terms of singles, doubles, runs, etc., but rather by the overall perception of the "clutchiness" of the hit.

a) Any hit in the first 6 innings will not be counted for a player's official stats, as those inning clearly do not contribute to a team's winning or losing the game.
b) Hits in the later innings will be awarded extra value for the situation. A single with a runner on and two outs, home team down by one in the seventh inning will be counted automatically as two "clutch points," which will be compared at the end of the game with the other team's "clutch points." The team with the most "clutch points" will automatically win the game.
c) Any player who is perceived to be "un-clutch" will be excused from hitting in later innings. Thus, if Bobby Abreau is coming up to bat, the manager may substitute him for a player the fans feel has more of a flair for the dramatic. Players such as Kirk Gibson will be available for any team for such occasions, without taking up roster space.

I think we can all agree that these rules will result in better play, more recognition of "clutch" performances, and an overall improved attitude of hustle all around.

Would someone please explain to me...

Why the Phillies pitching staff has the best OPS against in the NL when on the road? Does this mean we have an underrated pitching staff? Why is no one asking these questions? Is Brett Myers the ace he is on the road or the average pitcher he is at home? That goes double for Cory Lidle.

What's the ideal pitcher for the Cit? We all thought (as did Wade) that a groundball pitcher would have success. However, that hasn't really proved to be the case, has it? At least, all of our groundball pitchers are doing considerably better on the road than at home. Why? And what can be done about it?

No matter what anybody says about Abreau, he isn't the problem. Pitching is, especially at home. How can this be solved?

This is the sort of thing I read for fun...

And if you like heavy math with regards to baseball, you'll like it, too.

Baseball fans come in many different stripes and colors, and none of them is wrong for loving the game. As has been pointed out in another site, some people just aren't numbers guys. Does this mean they love baseball less? Absolutely not. Me, I love numbers, and it greatly adds to my enjoyment of a game. Does this mean I love baseball less than Joe Morgan? Well, maybe he loves it more than I do, because he's made millions of dollars doing it. Or maybe I love it more than he does, because I have a passion depsite the fact I've never made a dime from baseball.

At any rate, baseball is a great game that calls to many different people. Despite the popularity of Football, Basketball, etc., I am confident that baseball is the sport which will endure the longest. It has been outshone by other various sports over the past 100+ years, and will be outshone again, but in another 100+ years it will still be around, and people will be arguing over whether Bonds, Ruth, or some new player born in 2058 is the best player ever. Baseball calls out to many people, many generations, many cultures, and over the years.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005



Backstage passes to Live 8 available for any Philly blogger willing to blog about it. Here's the link for more information. Respond ASAP!!!

Some preliminary examination of park effects

Ok, calm, deep breath. Repeat after me "Citizens Bank Park is not a homerdome." Say it again and again until you believe it.

It's easy to understand why people think it is. After all, the Phillies hit a lot better at home (#2 in OPS at home) than they do on the road (third from last in road OPS). The team has the second worst OPS against at home. The team has (brace yourself) the BEST OPS AGAINST on the road. The ball hopping aroung like a pinball at home. Peter Gammons saying the Cit Park designer is an idiot. It's a confusing time for those with a weak grasp of statistics. Heck, it is a confusing time for all of us.

So, here's a few thoughts.

1) Citizaens Bank Park ranks #12 in the Majors in park effect for runs (I've used 2004 numbers so small sample sizes won't skew things).

2) The Braves, Marlins, Mets, and Nationals all play in pitcher's parks.

3) The Mariners play in an EXTEME pitcher's park, and the A's play in a more or less neutral park (our two most recent road opponents).

In other words, people, most of the Phillies road games have been played in moderate to extreme pitcher's parks. This accentuates the home/road split we see. Does this mean that the man who designed Cit was an idiot? I kind of doubt it. It's a moderate hitter's park with great hitters and mediocre pitchers, emphasized by every other park in the division being a pitcher's park.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Busy week at work

I am thinking about what's the matter with the Phillies, and what we can expect in the second half of the year. I will publish my thoughts, along with some data mining to justify my unbridled optimism, as soon as I have time.

My initial impression: The phillies will score runs. The pitching cannot continue to languish or we are doomed.

I will blog on if these impressions are true or not, as well as suggestions to improve the team, in the coming days.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Finding time to blog has been difficult lately...

So here's just a few rapid fire observations:

1) The Phillies lead the league in OBP. This means that when we score, we score a lot of runs, and when we don't we leave a lot of men on base. Get used to it.

2) Brett Myers is a true ace, third in the league in VORP. This is important, because come playoff time, it's good to have an ace.

3) Ryan Madsen should be starting, which means that in a year or two, our starting pitching will look like this (current age):
Meyers (24)
Madsen (24)
Tejeta (23)

Does anyone else remember the last time the Phyllis had three such promising youngsters? Does anyone else see the huge advantage to the Phyllis this will be in the next 5 years?

4) Hardball's Game in Review is a really cool feature which helps anyone to understand what the whole "high leverage" concept is about.

As some smart-alec commentators have pointed out, blogging in a hurry leads to errors. Darn it. Actually, this stuff is a result of hastily spell checking. Can you believe my blog spell check doesn't have the word "blog" in it?

Friday, June 17, 2005

For what it's worth...

Bobby Abreau is the second best player in baseball in 2005.

Yesterday, I listened to Howard Eskin...

so you don't have to!

Howard was his usual know-it-all self. He disparaged the Phillies offense, saying they were too dependent on home runs. He said that strategy won't work in parks that aren't run-friendly. He also claimed that they "don't make productive outs," such as moving the runner from second to third. Thus, he concluded, they would never make the playoffs.

I have a question. Can I have some of what he's smoking?

1) The Phillies are #3 in runs scored in the NL. I'm thinking that even if they aren't moving runners along, they must be doing something right, because they're only 6th in HRs, indicating that they either only hit HRs with runners on, or maybe drive them home in other ways.

2) Before he goes on about the park being the reason for the runs, please read this.

3) "Productive outs" are almost always unproductive. Generally, moving the runners up at the cost of an out is a losing strategy. It's almost always better to let your team hit than to get them to try to sacrifice or hit to the right side or anything like that. The only two general exceptions are a) in close games when you sacrifice an out to score the runner from third, and b) in games where you're in late innings in either a tie game or a one run game, a sacrifice can be helpful. That's pretty much the only time a regular hitter should be thinking about anything other than hitting the ball as hard as he can.

4) The Phillies lead the league in OBP and are second in OPS (charging hard there). Does this sound like any other team in the recent past?

Look, I'll take my shots at Howard, and although he knows a lot about sports, he deserves it. He bangs the drum on negativity, and refuses to appreciate the changes in the game of baseball over the past 10 years.

A single or a three run homer?

I was thinking about this game from last week. Remember that until 2 were out in the 8th, the Phillies only had a 1 run lead. With a man on first and second, Thome singled home Lofton. Utley then homered, and the Phils went on to win.

Which was the more important hit? Thome's single or Utley's homer? Put aside for the moment that if Thome doesn't get on base, Utley never gets the chance to hit that inning. Which made more of a difference to the Phils winning?

Well, starting with up by 1, bottom of the 8th, and men on 1st and second, the home team has a 90.9% chance of winning (wow!) Thome increased that to 93.8%. Call it a 3% increase. Utley they homered, increasing the Phillies win odds to 100%, about a 6% increase.

Now I would have assumed that Thome's single was more critical to winning than Utley's homer, simply because I thought the difference between a one run game and a two run game was greater than a two run game and a five run game. I was wrong. In fact, the difference between a two run game and a three run game is the critical juncture (at least with 2 out in the 8th). At 3 runs, the game becomes a 100% home team win. The third run is twice as valuable as the second, in that situation.

What does it all mean? Well, number geeks like me just enjoy knowing these things for their own sakes, I guess.

Friday posts

Why should I bother today? Tom has a better wrapup than I could do.

Marcus Hayes finds the gloomy lining to the silver cloud in last night's game. Hey, I don't fault the guy for pointing out what may have been a mistake, but when your bullpen looks like it's finally going to start carrying its weight, isn't that supposed to be a good thing?

The bad news: The Phillies only scored 3 runs in 13 innings.

The good news: The Phillies continue to get on base relentlessly. Last night, they were on base 16 times (by my count). This is good. When you consider that the Mariners play in a field that suppresses runs (especially doubles), and the jet lag, etc., it's not too troubling that they only scored 5 runs over the series. Moneyballers know that getting on base in the most valuable thing you can do as a hitter, because it's the only thing that doesn't lead to an out. As long as the Phillies continue to do that, their offense will be fine.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Aaron Fultz watch

Fultz faced one batter last night, and retired him on a fly ball. Fultz continues to have a season surpassing all expectation and notice. He pitches very little, but extremely effectively so far. In fact, he has arguably been one of the top relievers on the team.

This blog will follow Fultz's season as long as nobody else is. I am starting a pool for how long it will take before there is a feature article on Fultz in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

One thing to note about last night's game: The Phils are still getting on base. If you subscribe (as I do) to the idea that there is not such thing as a clutch hitter, you are encouraged by this fact, instead of being constantly focusing on the inevitable times when you don't get hits with RISP. The odds always even out, boys. Let not your heart be troubled.

Link of the day

No one seems interested in blogging about baseball today, but I found a blurb from The Hardball Times by Studes, which indicates what we're seeing the the NL East is without precedent.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The solution to the Phillies' rotation: Be crazy as a Wolf...

Much ink (err, electrons) has been spilt over the past few days over what the Phillies should do with Wolf going down on the DL for the next year and a half. Most of the speculation has been on for whom the Phillies should trade, and when, and with whom they should part. Some consideration has been given to whether we should get a lefty or a righty (to prevent an all-righty rotation).

Here's my thought: Go to a four man rotation.

As outlined a few years ago in Baseball Prospectus, the five man rotation has been a failure. Does it make pitchers more effective? No. Does it keep them healthier? No.

Does it give innings to worse pitchers at the expense of better ones? YES! Does it use up a valuable bench slot which could be occupied by a healthy young player itching to get his shot (even as a bench player). YES! Does it cause GMs to trade away too much to get a player who will probably only play a total of 110 innings in 2005? YES!

For every 5 innings we get out of Tejeda, that's one less we could get out of this guy. Over the rest of the season, that amounts to 22 innings where we could have had an ace pitching rather than a rookie. That's 22 innings where we could have our number 2 guy pitch. And our number 3 guy. That adds up to a whole lot of quality innings we're leaving out on the field.

Interesting new stat on Hardball Times...

Which compares players OPS with their projected OPS, based on their line drive %, BABIP, etc. The predictive value of this stat is not yet determined, but it may turn out to be a good predictor of future performance. The idea is to discover how much of a players OPS is derived from luck vs. skill.

Anyway, the interesting thing is that while THT projects big declines for Burrell and Lofton (no surprise, I think) and improvement for Rollins, Lieberthal and Thome (also no surprises), Bobby Abreau is performing with little help from lady luck. He's not only in the top of the league in OPS, he's among the best at projected OPS.

Did I mention I think this kid can play a little?

Wade Boggs interviews The Streak

Dont miss it!

Washington Nationals news

While analyzing the Brewers, Baseball Prospectus alludes to the fact that the Nationals were clear losers in their recent trade with Milwalkee.

Whither Howard?

And from whence will our FLHSTBNL come? (that's Future Left Handed Starter To Be Named Later). These questions are pondered by Jason W. at Beerleaguer.

Wednesday update

Mike continues to offer premium analysis of the Phillies for free, this time with the infield defense.

Over at Balls, Sticks and Stuff (the only Philly blog to be featured in The Hardball Times), Tom gives his first impressions on the impact of losing Wolf for the season. "But one question I'd like an answer to: How important is it to have a lefty in the rotation? How important is it to throw a different look out there each day?"

I think that's a good question, worthy of in depth analysis.

At the Inquirer, Todd Zolecki wraps up last night's loss to the Mariners. I wonder why the fact that the Mariners play in a pitcher's park isn't mentioned. Ah, well. That's why we have blogs.

Tom Goodman congratulates Ichiro! on his 1,000th hit.

Wade Boggs discusses the latest Union Construction Project in Philly.

The Hardball Times has updated their cool graphs and stats through the 15th. Note how much better the Phils are at OBP than the rest of the league, and are rising with their ISO.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Playoff Odds Report

I like this stat, even though I know this early in the year it isn't terribly meaningful. I wish they would modify it, showing not just wins and losses, but standard deviation. Wouldn't it be cool to see how many wins are theoretically possible for the Phils to have?

Anyway, I bring it up only because this is the first time I remember all season where the Phils are the favorites to win the division (29.8%).

Baseball Prospectus' Hit List

is out. I like BP's because they use the Pythagorean system to determine the best teams in baseball. Washington, which has outscored their opponents by a paltry 5 runs (as of Sunday, they've been outscored for the season including last night) is ranked much lower here than elsewhere. What I don't like about it is there is no consideration to momentum, injury, etc. In other words, the Phils stunk up the joint for a month, and are the best team in baseball over the last month, and we're ranked 10th. Hey, I'll take it.

Look at the comments, too. For Philly:"while the Placido Polanco for Ugueth Urbina trade may generate some headscratching, the Philly bullpen has a 5.60 ERA and ranks 14th in the NL in Expected Wins Above Replacement Level (WXRL), with a mere 0.23."

Head of nail, meet hammer.

FWIW, our next 2 opponents are ranked 24th and 26th by BP Hit List.

The esquire posts about defense

Over at A Citizen's Blog, Mike, one of the most analytical bloggers in the area, discusses team defense.

It's ranting time...

OK, I just need to get these things off my chest. Part of the fun of having a blog is you get to rant. I'm going to rant at the lack of love the Phillies have received from the media despite the best homestand in the history of the club.

Here's a perfect example: Although the Phils are ranked #6 in the CBS Powerrankings, all the print is given to... The Pirates! And the Nationals! Ok, I understand the Nats, but the Pirates? They're approaching .500, and they get all the ink. Ummmm, excuse me, Mr. Mack, but does having the best homestand in 120 years mean anything to anybody?

Next thing, down by the ranking, there's a blurb about the team. Here's what is written about the Phils: "The Phillies hit .309 (133-for-431) with 21 homers, 86 RBI and scored 89 runs during their own 12-1 homestand. That is one cozy hitter's park to call home."

Let me repeat for those who don't know: Citizens Bank Park is not the run-happy field people like to think it is. Citizen's is only 10th in runs as a park. It is only 9th in HR factor, and suppresses overall hits and doubles like a fiend. The park is smallish, and has hard walls, which limits the doubles, which allows the outfield to play rather shallow, which limits the hits. It also has generous foul ground, which also limits hitting.

So, why the snarky "That is one cozy hitter's park to call home?" Why did the Phils only allow 60 runs, if it's just the park, including 5 games where we allowed 2 or fewer runs? No, it's easier to say it's just the park.

The fact is, the Phillies hit a lot and scored a lot of runs because.... They're really awesome hitters on that team! Bobby Abreau and Pat Burrell lead ALL outfielders in ALL the MAJOR LEAGUES in VORP, which adjusts for park effects. If you combine Lofton's VORP and Michael's VORP, you would have the second best centerfielder in baseball, too. Combine Ultey with Palanco, and the Phillies are second in VORP in all the Major Leagues at that position, too. Add in Thome and solid contributions by Bell, Liberthal, and Rollins, and you have what you have seen in the "cozy hitter's park," a relentless offense which is perfectly capable of scoring 8 runs on any given night.

Welcome to my blog

After annoying several area bloggers with my inane Phillies rants, I decided to start my own blog. Without any further ado, here's some of what's happening in the Philadelphia market.

The Harball Times today points out an interesting fact about Bobby Abreau: He's on pace to (possibly) be the fourth member of the 40-40 club, and is a shoo-in to have his seventh consecutive 20-20 year.

Balls, Sticks, and Stuff talks about J Rolls new contract, and compares them to other starting shortstops.

Beerleaguer examines the Phillies pitching situation since Wolf has gone down, and includes the "line of the week" in another post: "There's no formula to predict that a team that totally stunk for a month and a half would drop a 12-win megaton bomb squarely on the head of Howard Eskin. "

The Philadelphia Inquirer still shown no sign of writing an article on the Phillies unknown ace reliever, Aaron Fultz.

ESPN has a some information on the upcoming Seattle series.

The Phillies continue to lead the league in OBP, and OPS.