Friday, February 17, 2006

Player Highlight: David Bell

For the next several weeks, I am going to highlight players who will be critical to the Phillies success this year. While every player counts, some may have a bigger impact on the playoff hunt this year than is generally thought. First player: David Bell.

I know, I know. How can David Bell possibly be considered a big part of anything? He's error prone, and was a complete black hole in the lineup. Bear with me.

First of all, David Bell is highly underrated in the Philadelphia Market as a defensive third baseman, considered to be the 8th best in baseball by some measures. That will likely be consistent in '06. Don't discount the importance of saved runs. And no one in baseball starts the 5-4-3 DP faster than Bell, IMHO. This defensive measure probably reflects that.

Second, it is true that Bell was a black hole in '05 in the lineup. And due to his age, he's not likely to be a whole lot better in '06. But not likely isn't a certainty. His Baseball Prospetus Forecast shows his 50% projection to be an anemic .311 .361 OBP and SLG. That's below replacement level, and is about what he did in '05.

However, his 90% level is .353 .427 OBP and SLG. While this isn't great, it beats the heck out of '05, and would be worth some 3 wins more than his '05 level.

The point I'm trying to make is Abreu will probably not outperform his '05 level. Nor is it likely that Utley, or Burrell, or Rollins. Nor will Rowand outdo the '05 platoon of Lofton and Michaels. Where can the Phillies improve offensively? If the worst '05 performers raise their level to even slightly above replacement level, the offense will be significantly better.

Another point is made by Jason Weitzel. David Bell is one of the best hitters we have against lefties. Given the fact that most of the rest of the team hits from the south side, his continued production will be absolutely necessary in 2006.

Considering the Phillies really don't have any better options for third, Bell's 2006 performance will be critical to our win total. If Bell can outperform expectations, the Phillies will be picking up some real production from a spot we're not really anticipating it. His 90% projection is certainly attainable. If he manages it, it will go a long way towards a playoff berth.


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