An Unreasonably Early Preview of the 2013 Phillies

With the trades Tuesday of Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino to the Giants and Dodgers, respectively, two-thirds of the Phillies’ opening-day outfield is now plying its trade in California. For a team that found itself in last place at the deadline, the move wasn’t a particularly surprising one. However, the Phillies aren’t a typical sort of last-place team. They entered the season with the majors’ second-highest payroll, at about $175 million. Moreover, they’ll enter 2013 with a little under $130 million committed to just seven players: Cliff Lee ($25 million), Cole Hamels ($24 million), Roy Halladay ($20 million), Ryan Howard ($20 million), Chase Utley ($15 million), Jonathan Papelbon ($13 million), and Jimmy Rollins ($11 million).

With the absence of Pence and Victorino, manager Charlie Manuel was compelled on Tuesday night to deploy a lineup against the Nationals that included Juan Pierre (in left), John Mayberry (in center), and Laynce Nix (in right) — with Domonic Brown making an appearance as a pinch-hitter. The arrangement worked this once, with the aforementioned triumvirate going 6-for-14 with a walk (in a game started by Stephen Strasburg, no less) and the Phillies beating the East-leading Washingtonians by a score of 8-0 (box). That said, none from Pierre or Mayberry or Nix is likely the answer over the course of a full season — especially if the question is, “Who are some starting outfielders on your World Series-winning club?”

And yet, a World Series-winning club is still what it appears as though the Phillies intend to be in 2013. With the exception of the aforementioned deadline trades of Pence and Victorino, the moves made by general manager Ruben Amaro over the last couple years have been decidedly of the “win now” variety. The retention of Cliff Lee (whose name was invoked in trade rumors) at the deadline and the decision to sign Cole Hamels to a six-year, $144 million contract extension both suggest that Amaro has not abandoned the idea of a playoff-contending Phillies squad in 2013.

Because I’m curious (and because that maybe means at least one other person on the internet is, too), I’d like to consider here, in a very basic way, if the Phillies are in a position to contend for the playoffs in 2013 — and, if they’re not at the moment, how they might put themselves in such a position.

Before we answer that questions directly, let’s first consider this syllogism:

• With the new wild-card rules, “to contend” more or less means “to endeavor to win the division.”

• Over the last 10 years (2002-11), the average win total for the NL East champion has been 95.8.

• The present replacement-level win total for teams is about 44 — or about 50 fewer wins than what the NL East champion generally produces.

• To contend in 2013, the Phillies (or any other team that hopes to win the NL East, really) will have to field a roster that produces about 50 WAR.

Produce about 50 WAR is precisely what the 2011 version of the Phillies did. Here, for example, are all the field players on that team to produce 1.0 WAR or more. (Note: conveniently, the contributions of the players between 0.0 and 1.0 WAR appear to be cancelled out by the players who produced negative WAR.):


Player Pos WAR
Carlos Ruiz C 3.2
Ryan Howard 1B 1.6
Chase Utley 2B 3.9
Placido Polanco 3B 2.8
Jimmy Rollins SS 3.8
John Mayberry LF 2.5
Shane Victorino CF 5.9
Hunter Pence RF 2.6
TOTAL 26.3

And here are the contributions of the pitchers (again, those with more than 1.0 WAR produced, as the population with fewer than 0.0 WAR is, once again, mostly cancelled out by the negative-WAR group):


Name Pos WAR
Roy Halladay SP1 8.2
Cliff Lee SP2 6.7
Cole Hamels SP3 4.9
Roy Oswalt SP4 2.5
Vance Worley SP5 2.5
Ryan Madson CL 1.7
TOTAL 26.5

Now here, using ZiPS rest-of-season projections extrapolated to 150 games (and 120 games for catchers), are hypothetical WAR totals for the Phillies under team control for 2013:


Player Pos WAR
Carlos Ruiz C 3.8
Ryan Howard 1B 1.8
Chase Utley 2B 4.7
Placido Polanco 3B 2.0
Jimmy Rollins SS 3.7
Domonic Brown LF 3.2
John Mayberry CF 0.3
Nate Schierholtz RF 1.3
TOTAL 20.8

And here’s that same thing for pitchers, extrapolated to 32 starts (with WAR for starters calculated using the method presented here and for Papelbon using the author’s own mind):


Name Pos WAR
Roy Halladay SP1 5.0
Cliff Lee SP2 6.5
Cole Hamels SP3 4.0
Vance Worley SP4 3.0
Kyle Kendrick SP5 1.0
Jonathan Papelbon CL 2.0
TOTAL 21.5

The total of those two lists is somewhere around 42-43 WAR — or, about seven-to-eight wins below what the Phillies’ goal will and/or ought to be before entering the actual 2013 season. It’s clear from the above that there are some positions that could be upgraded quite easily: finding even a league-average right- and center-fielder would mean about a three-win improvement for the club. Furthermore, it’s unlikely that the team will enter the season with Kyle Kendrick in the rotation. A sensible maneuver there could net at least another win.

The task for Amaro et al. is not only to make those moves, but to find another three-to-four wins somewhere else — at which point, it’d be entirely reasonable to consider the Phillies legitimate contenders for the NL East title.



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Carson Cistulli has just published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.


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Rey22
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Rey22
3 years 10 months ago

I think penciling in Utley for an almost 5 WAR is a bit of a stretch at this point, no? Injuries have taken their toll pretty heavily on him. You could potentially argue the same for Halladay, who has looked quite human this year.

nik
Guest
nik
3 years 10 months ago

He’s still playing at that pace. The big question is whether his can hold up for a full year.

Cliff
Guest
Cliff
3 years 10 months ago

As a died hard Phils fan, I’m all for shutting halladay down for the ROS, and either doing the sane for utley or play him 2-3 times per week. They aren’t going anywhere this year

Will
Guest
Will
3 years 10 months ago

It’s not really a question anymore. He cannot hold up for a year. He hasn’t played more than 115 games for three seasons now. And his injuries are the kind that heal. His knees are chronically injured and degenerative, so it’s only going to get worse from here on out.

An optimistic projection is 120 games (much like a catcher), but a realistic expectation would probably be more like 100, which would take off about 1.6 WAR from the team calculations.

Will
Guest
Will
3 years 10 months ago

Sorry, that should read “his injuries are the kind that cannot heal.

They can only be treated, but they’re never going to improve.

vivalajeter
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vivalajeter
3 years 10 months ago

Hasn’t that question already been answered though? The last time he played over 115 games was 2009.

YanksFanInBeantown
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YanksFanInBeantown
3 years 10 months ago

On the other hand, penciling Hamels in for only 4 WAR is more than a little conservative.

Will
Guest
Will
3 years 10 months ago

No it’s not. He’s been worth 3.6, 3.7 and 4.9 WAR in the past three seasons. This year, he’s on pace to be worth 3.5 WAR.

It’s actually quite optimistic to assume 4.0 WAR from him.

DavidCEisen
Guest
DavidCEisen
3 years 10 months ago

Well he is also a player that has consistently out performed his FIP by about .03 runs.

DavidCEisen
Guest
DavidCEisen
3 years 10 months ago

too fast with the decimal: 0.3 runs

Andrew
Guest
Andrew
3 years 10 months ago

If the Phillies signed someone like Bourn to play CF, they could pair Mayberry and Schierholtz into what would appear to be a fairly effective and cheap LF platoon that takes advantage of both of their platoon splits. That would probably turn a 1.6 WAR estimate for those two positions into roughly 6 WAR (Bourn worth 4, LF worth 2).

(I’m assuming that they would play LF rather than RF, as I believe the plan is to have Brown play there; doesn’t change the thrust of the point either way.)

Pitnick
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Pitnick
3 years 10 months ago

For whatever it’s worth, Schierholtz hasn’t really shown a split in his MLB career so far. Much more power vs. RHP, but it’s canceled out by a 30 point batting average bump when he faces lefties.

PHLPVD
Guest
PHLPVD
3 years 10 months ago

Not that it’s a huge sample, but just looking at last season and this season to date he has a pretty gigantic split. That’s also the time period during which he has managed to be above-average offensively. No clue if it’s just fluky or those things are related, but worth noting.

otxis
Guest
otxis
3 years 10 months ago

that’s a mutual option with polanco, no?

CJ
Guest
CJ
3 years 10 months ago

Polanco has been bad, hasn’t he? If the Phillies pick that up, I imagine he accepts. How much is the option?

Robbie G.
Guest
Robbie G.
3 years 10 months ago

My guess is that yes, a Mayberry-Schierholtz platoon in either RF or CF is in the works, and that management splurges on a big name RF or CF in free agency. Possibilities:

Josh Hamilton
Michael Bourn
B.J. Upton
Melky Cabrera
Nick Swisher
Torii Hunter

I also expect the team to let Placido Polanco walk (there is a mutual option, as someone has pointed out) and pursue a big name 3B. Possibilities:

Chase Headley (via trade)
Kevin Youkilis
Scott Rolen

Another option would be to move Jimmy Rollins over to 3B and let Freddy Galvis be your every day SS, as Philly is unlikely to have the requisite assets to acquire Headley. Given the dearth of quality 3Bs in MLB these days, Rollins seemingly projects as a productive player at that position.

Presumably the team would have to think about promoting a starting pitcher from the AA or AAA level to take Kyle Kendrick’s #5 spot in the rotation, as Kendrick really has no business in any team’s rotation.

And, as others have pointed out, Chase Utley is an extremely poor bet to stay healthy for any reasonable period of time, so the Phillies are going to want to address this issue somehow, as well.

Since 3B (or SS, if Rollins is moved to 3B) and (when Utley is out) 2B are very likely to continue to be a problem areas for the Phillies in 2013, the Phillies may decide that their best bet is to make Josh Hamilton their #1 target in free agency, as Hamilton has the potential to put up MVP-caliber production, thus making up for inadequate production at 3B, 2B, and outfield spot #3 (the one occupied by Mayberry-Schierholtz). Also, Hamilton is a huge, huge name, and Philly want to keep selling out that stadium. Probably not the best course of action, from a financial standpoint, as Hamilton does not appear to be the best long term investment in the world, but if the best indicator of future performance is past performance, we can pretty much count on Ruben Amaro, Jr. to dig this organization into an even deeper financial hole. When the levee breaks, it’s going to be ugly!

.........
Guest
.........
3 years 10 months ago

They’re going to have a tough time fielding an entire team paying Hamilton over $20 million a year.

tyke
Guest
tyke
3 years 10 months ago

i must preface by saying that i hate the phillies and wish to see them fail miserably. but why in the world would they want to sign rolen? he is on the last leg of his career (granted, he has looked good recently). but he is old and oft-injured. if i were amaro i would rather have polanco than rolen. (but, by all means, please sign rolen for 3 years and expect 150 games out of him!)

KM
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KM
3 years 10 months ago

They’ve already strongly hinted (if not stated) that they’re ok with paying luxury tax next year, if the beat writers are to be believed, so there is that to consider. Also, Halladay’s 2014 option is not likely to vest now, given the time he’s missed this year.

Antonio Bananas
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Antonio Bananas
3 years 10 months ago

Rollins projects at 3.8 WAR? So what he had in 2011? I feel that is a tad high. I also feel you should do a weighted average based on injury likelihood. They’re a pretty old group you know.

Also, the Nationals are pretty scary. Just my opinion and I haven’t looked at any pojections, but I think you’re going to have to be around 100 wins to win the division.

Would the Phillies maybe be better off trading Lee for a few younger position players with upside and then use the money to sign two more solid players? Basically trading one 24M player for two 600,000s and two 8-10Ms. Don’t know who that’d be, it’s getting late. Just my thoughts. Then again, who is going to want a mid 30s pitcher getting 24M a year, even if it is Cliff Lee.

nik
Guest
nik
3 years 10 months ago

He’s on pace for 4+ WAR this season.

y
Guest
y
3 years 10 months ago

He’ll be 34 after this season. gotta start trending down at some point.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew
3 years 10 months ago

It does not make sense to project the Nationals — or anyone — for 100 wins in 2013.

Antonio bananas
Guest
Antonio bananas
3 years 10 months ago

I said around. Nso like 98. My point is that the NL east is pretty strong and projecting a bunch of old expensive players to have a nice smooth decline is very optimistic.

Bronnt
Member
Bronnt
3 years 10 months ago

As others have said, seems unrealistic to predict a near 5 WAR season from Utley. Plus it’s probably a stretch to project Dominic Brown to be a 3 WAR player as well-he’s a poor defender and a league average hitter in AAA this season. There is a bit of upside in that Halladay or Hamels could outperform their projections, but there’s plenty of downside when it comes to pitching as well-you can never be certain who’ll be healthy year to year. Projecting 5 starters to each make 32 starts, or even just the 4 who are above average, is quite a gamble.

The Phillies shouldn’t be aiming at 8 WAR this offseason, they should be aiming at 10 WAR if they truly want to contend. A big signing like Michael Bourn could boost them as much as 5-don’t project him for much higher than that since this will be his first season over 5 WAR. Then adding a league average right fielder only adds about 1 WAR to the projections, getting them up to 6.

They’re not going to look to upgrade at first base, so that leaves them very few options to get the remaining 4 wins. The worst route to adding value would be to look for middle relievers who can produce positive WAR. Those are cost inefficient and highly volatile. But Phillippe Aumont could debut in the bullpen next year and give them 1 WAR or so.

The next worse place is to look for an upgrade at third base-but since you’ve got a league average player there, and the position has been kind of a crapshoot in recent years, good luck. They don’t have any position players in their system prepared to explode onto the big league scene. So they’d really need to stick with him.

That leaves the 5th starter position. They’d need 3-5 WAR out of that spot at least to be a sufficient upgrade over Kendrick to make them really feel good. They lack any starting pitching prospect who is likely to displace Kendrick, so that means spending big on pitching AGAIN this offseason. And there’s very few targets who fit that criteria. I believe they’re unlikely to go in on the Greinke sweepstakes. They could take a chance on a guy like Shaun Marcum, who is very good but missed a lot of this year due to injuries. Another good target would be Anibal Sanchez.

So they might have a chance, but it likely means a team that has some huge contract on the books needs to hand another pair of very hefty contracts, competing to sign among a very small pool of players who could assist.

Robbie G.
Guest
Robbie G.
3 years 10 months ago

“The Phillies shouldn’t be aiming at 8 WAR this offseason, they should be aiming at 10 WAR if they truly want to contend.”

Exactly, which is why I think the Phillies will try to sign a big name, big money guy who can hopefully get them 7+ WAR all by himself. Here are the leaders in WAR, among position players, from 2010 to the present:

1 Joey Votto 19.0
2 Jose Bautista 18.4
3 Miguel Cabrera 17.7
4 Ryan Braun 17.6
5 Robinson Cano 16.9
6 Matt Holliday 16.3
7 Josh Hamilton 16.2
8 Adrian Beltre 15.7
9 Andrew McCutchen 15.1
10 Albert Pujols 15.0
11 Evan Longoria 14.6
12 Troy Tulowitzki 14.3
13 Carlos Gonzalez 13.9
14 Ben Zobrist 13.7
15 Ian Kinsler 13.6
16 Michael Bourn 13.6
17 Brandon Phillips 13.5
18 Adrian Gonzalez 13.5
19 Carlos Ruiz (!) 12.6
20 Dustin Pedroia 12.6

It appears to me that the only obtainable players on this list are Hamilton (a free agent), Bourn (also a free agent), and probably Tulowitzki. I suspect that a very bad Rockies team would consider dumping Tulowitzki if a team would be willing to take on pretty much his entire contract. I think Philly has to think about doing that, especially since he fills a need on the left side of the infield (he’d probably move over to 3B, due to what we’ll call The Derek Jeter Rule). Otherwise, they’re looking to sign either Hamilton or Bourn. Hamilton is the bigger name here, and the better player, plus, I think he’d be a bigger draw, which allows the team to continue to pack the stadium and maintain enthusiasm about the organization.

I honestly don’t know how else Philly can come up with the 10 or so WAR that they’re going to need to compete in this division. The alternative is to pay $140+ mil for an old, mediocre team that will just depress the hell out of the fan base.

Dr. Internet
Member
Dr. Internet
3 years 10 months ago

Carlus Ruiz doesn’t even play for the Phillles. Maybe you should check ur facts and actualy watch a game before printing this on the internet.

Drew
Guest
3 years 10 months ago

Hey Doc, I thought Ruiz was a pro wrassler, right? You might know him by his nickname, though: El Choochacabra.

Dr. Internet
Member
Dr. Internet
3 years 10 months ago

LOL. Shit.

Dr. Internet
Member
Dr. Internet
3 years 10 months ago

Ha ha. This article. RIFLMOA. Ha ha.

yaboynate
Member
yaboynate
3 years 10 months ago

…Dayn?

…MOM?!?!?!?

Jack Stephens
Guest
3 years 10 months ago

Dr. Internet: The uterus of your mother should be ashamed that it ever incubated you! GOLD FISH!

hk
Guest
hk
3 years 10 months ago

I may be missing something, but in the article, the author projects 42.3 WAR from 14 players and says they need a way to find 7 or 8 more WAR. However, it seems to me that the other 11+ players who will fill out the 25-man roster should generate 4 WAR or so before they even look at upgrading the roster shown above. For instance, this year, Brian Schneider + Eric Kratz have provided 0.7 WAR combined (in 65% of the season) as the back-up catchers, Bastardo + Contreras + Diekman + Horst + Schwimer + Valdes have provided 1.0 WAR combined so far despite relatively uninspiring results – caused in part by bullpen mismanagement – and the bench players like Nix + Thome + Pridie + others have also provided 1.0 WAR. Therefore, it would seem that 50 WAR would be attainable with the current roster, an equally or more productive bullpen and bench and upgrades at CF (Bourn?) and 5th SP (Anibal Sanchez or even Joe Blanton?).

Will
Guest
Will
3 years 10 months ago

“Here, for example, are all the field players on that team to produce 1.0 WAR or more. (Note: conveniently, the contributions of the players between 0.0 and 1.0 WAR appear to be cancelled out by the players who produced negative WAR.)”

“And here are the contributions of the pitchers (again, those with more than 1.0 WAR produced, as the population with fewer than 0.0 WAR is, once again, mostly cancelled out by the negative-WAR group)”

For every Schneider and Kratz you have a Michael Martinez and Ty Wigginton (who have been worth a combined -1.3 WAR), and Qualls, Savery, Sanches and Rosenberg (who’ve been worth a combined -1.3 WAR).

hk
Guest
hk
3 years 10 months ago

As I wrote, “I may be missing something”. Thanks for pointing out what I was missing.

nik
Guest
nik
3 years 10 months ago

I could see Victorino coming back on a team friendly deal if he proves he still has something left in LA. He’s either injured or in a serious decline.

KM
Guest
KM
3 years 10 months ago

The bullpen wont likely be as bad next year either. Early injuries to Contreras, Hearndon, Stutes & DeFratus forced guys like Savery, diekman, schwimmer, etc into roles they probably weren’t ready for. And the ill-considered Qualls signing didn’t help either. Does that equate to a contending team? No idea. But there is certainly plenty of room for improvement.

Jesse
Guest
Jesse
3 years 10 months ago

I just stumbled on this article, but let me nonetheless point out why its total hooey.

34, 33, 34, 37, 34, 25, 29, 29,
the respective ages of the guys you’ve pegged for their opening day field positions next year.
Their current WAR total might not end up exceeding 10, yet you expect it to double next year and reach 20.
Zips ros for what its worth, likes the nats and braves way more than it likes the phillies. thats a more reasonable way of using that information than just multiplying by 5 and saying look! 20 war!

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