Archive for Phillies

Ranking April’s Most Dominant Pitching Performances to Date

It’s almost time to rip the first page from the regular-season calendar, and many players and moments have already left indelible marks that will live on in our memories. From Trevor Story to Kenta Maeda, from the Cubs and Nationals on the good end to the Twins and Astros on the bad, it’s been an exciting ride thus far.

There are a number of dominant pitching performances already in the books, with Jake Arrieta‘s second no-hitter in as many years an obvious highlight. Just a week before his vanquishing of the Reds, the Phils’ Vincent Velasquez and the Cards’ Jaime Garcia unfurled identical game scores of 97 in complete game victories over the Padres and Brewers, respectively. Since it’s still early in the season, and sample sizes remain quite small, let’s use batted-ball data in a more laid-back, fun manner, and attempt to split some hairs among these three gems, and crown one as April’s most impressive pitching performance.

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What’s Going On With Odubel Herrera

This year, Odubel Herrera is an everyday player, and only two players in baseball have drawn more walks. On its own, maybe that doesn’t convey its real significance, so consider that, last year, Odubel Herrera was an everyday player, and 193 players in baseball drew more walks. Herrera today has more than twice as many walks drawn as Joey Votto. Votto last year out-walked Herrera by literally 115. In the first 29 games after the All-Star break, Votto drew more walks than Herrera did in the entire season. This point actually captures two things — Herrera has been surprisingly good, and Votto has been surprisingly bad. Separate the last one, though, and you’re left with the fact that Herrera has been surprisingly good.

The Phillies presumably expected Herrera to be useful. He was just rather astonishingly a four-win player, and though there was plenty of room for him to come down, the talent was obvious and Herrera can defend his premium position. Yet I’m sure the Phillies weren’t looking for Herrera to boost his OBP damn near a hundred points. Herrera isn’t going to stay at .432 all season long, but this has been a glorious start. And Herrera is showing something he didn’t show as a rookie.

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The Phillies Are Curveballing Their Way Into the Future

A rebuild is the perfect time to experiment. The rebuilding club has nothing to lose and everything to gain. The rebuilding club can experiment with different players, giving as many a shot in the major leagues as possible to see what sticks, the endgame being to unearth some key pieces of the next winning team. This is one of the most commonly accepted principles of a rebuild — finding out what you’ve got. But just as a club can experiment with players during a rebuild, it can also experiment with ideas. Just as important as finding the pieces of its next winning team, an organization should also be looking to find the identity of its next winning team.

The rebuild of the Philadelphia Phillies is well underway. They cleared salary and replenished their farm system in a major way by trading longtime fan favorites Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, Jimmy Rollins and Jonathan Papelbon, as well as dominant reliever Ken Giles. The Hamels and Giles moves in particular appear to have netted the club substantial hauls based on early returns. Baseball America ranked their farm system among the league’s top 10, after having not cracked the top 20 in four years. The only guaranteed money on the books beginning in 2018 and beyond is a $2 million buyout for Matt Harrison. They cleaned house from the front office all the way down to the coaching staff. The youth movement has made its way to Citizens Bank Park. The future is bright in Philadelphia. Surprisingly so, given the state of the organization no more than a year ago.

It’s very possible we’re already seeing some of the key pieces of the next good Phillies team. If all goes according to plan, Maikel Franco will be one of them. Odubel Herrera could one day be a winner in Philadelphia. And then there’s the rotation, a 3:2 mix of unproven youngsters and stopgap veterans who have struck out more batters than any rotation in baseball this season. Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton may not be the future for Philadelphia, but Aaron Nola, Vincent Velasquez and Jerad Eickhoff sure look to be.

And so not only do the Phillies seemingly have 60% of their next contending rotation in place just 14 games into their first full-on rebuild season, but they’ve already got their identity, too. Their pitching philosophy, if you will. The Pirates have their own inside sinker. The Mets have their own slider. These Phillies? They have their own curveball.

Team Curveball Usage and Characteristics
Team Usage Velo H. Mov V. Mov Spin
Phillies 27.4% 77.9 7.2 -8.0 2611
Athletics 20.5% 76.5 -0.6 -6.8 2510
Mariners 19.9% 78.3 5.0 -6.5 2345
Marlins 19.4% 81.2 6.5 -0.5 2470
Brewers 16.7% 78.0 6.1 -7.9 2458
Dodgers 15.6% 77.4 2.9 -8.3 2309
Astros 15.2% 74.7 8.6 -8.5 2487
Royals 15.0% 80.6 4.5 -5.9 2677
Padres 14.9% 79.0 1.4 -9.3 2281
Cardinals 14.7% 78.0 6.9 -7.1 2429
Twins 12.8% 78.3 3.9 -4.1 2506
Indians 12.0% 81.9 8.6 -3.4 2594
Rangers 11.2% 79.2 1.3 -4.3 2319
Red Sox 11.0% 78.6 7.2 -5.5 2512
Cubs 10.6% 79.7 2.3 -5.1 2462
Tigers 10.2% 79.1 5.2 -4.1 2436
Mets 9.7% 79.5 1.6 -2.4 2351
Blue Jays 9.6% 79.7 5.7 -6.2 2550
White Sox 9.6% 76.9 -0.7 -3.2 2182
Nationals 9.2% 78.5 2.8 -5.9 2633
Orioles 8.1% 77.2 4.6 -4.1 2235
Rays 7.7% 78.6 7.3 -6.0 2472
Rockies 6.8% 75.6 4.0 -5.2 2436
Braves 6.4% 76.7 6.1 -3.6 2396
Pirates 6.4% 77.8 2.7 -6.4 2179
Giants 5.8% 78.2 -0.5 -3.5 2424
Reds 5.2% 78.0 3.4 -3.7 2349
Angels 5.1% 75.1 5.4 -4.1 2332
Dbacks 4.7% 79.0 6.7 -6.4 2266
Yankees 3.4% 79.9 4.7 -5.7 2501
SOURCE: PITCHf/x (usage, velo, movement), Statcast (spin rate)

Nobody’s starters are throwing the curveball like the Phillies starters are throwing the curveball. More than a quarter of all pitches thrown by the Philadelphia rotation have been curveballs. The single-season high by a team in the PITCHf/x era is 24%, by the 2012 Pirates. After that, it’s just 19%, by the 2010 Cardinals. This Phillies team might have the most curveball-heavy rotation since we started tracking such things. Phillies starters have thrown 431 curveballs this season. No other team’s rotation has thrown more than 300.

But it’s not just that the Phillies are throwing a ton of curveballs, it’s how they’re throwing them. The average Phillies curveball breaks seven inches to the glove side, drops eight inches, and spins more than 2,600 revolutions per minute. Only three teams average more drop on their curves than Philadelphia. Only two teams average more spins on their curve than Philadelphia. Spin rate and vertical drop are the two keys to getting whiffs on a curve. The Phillies have those in spades. The Phillies aren’t throwing a ton of curves just because. The Phillies are throwing a ton of curves because they’ve mastered them.

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Vincent Velasquez Has Almost Everything

There’s no point in lying about what the Phillies are. The fans know the Phillies aren’t going to be very good. The front office knows they aren’t going to be very good. I’m sure even the players understand on some level this team isn’t going to be very good. It’s not about competing in 2016. That’s abundantly clear, and that’s OK, because it’s kind of liberating. Some of the pressure comes off, and you play or watch baseball with development in mind. It’s all about the future, and it’s all about imagining which current players could be a part of a future Phillies contender.

Hello, Vincent Velasquez. It’s not like Velasquez has come out of nowhere or anything, since he was the key to the Ken Giles trade, but he’s been something of a wild card. Velasquez arrived with a lot of uncertainty, just another powerful arm with question marks. Then, Thursday, Velasquez delivered one of the better starts the Phillies organization has seen. By the numbers, that’s not even exaggerating. He was, granted, pitching against the Padres — a Padres lineup without its best hitter — but Velasquez was completely untouchable. Something is becoming clear here in the early going: Velasquez has almost everything working for him.

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Let’s Watch Vincent Velasquez Mess With Cory Spangenberg

Against an admittedly terrible Padres lineup, Vincent Velasquez just pitched the game of his life. No matter how high you are on Velasquez’s potential, you should agree he’ll probably never again finish with such a sparkling line: nine innings, no runs, three singles, no walks, 16 strikeouts. Velasquez was constantly around the zone, but the Padres couldn’t do a thing, and the Phillies allowed Velasquez to get the final out because he hadn’t yet thrown a single pitch under stress. Velasquez didn’t just pitch to that final line; he cruised to it.

It was an incredible, overpowering effort, and I’m going to write more about Velasquez tomorrow. I’ll write more about the game, and more about Velasquez in general. But my favorite part wasn’t how Velasquez worked, or finished. Rather, my favorite part was how he treated Cory Spangenberg. Now, I don’t know if it was by design. But Velasquez wound up facing Spangenberg four times, and he was awfully cruel.

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KATOH Projects: Philadelphia Phillies Prospects

Previous editions: ArizonaBaltimore / Boston / Chicago AL / Chicago NL / Cincinnati  / Cleveland / Colorado / Detroit / Houston / Kansas City / Los Angeles (AL) / Los Angeles (NL)Miami / Milwaukee / Minnesota / New York (AL) / New York (NL).

Yesterday, lead prospect analyst Dan Farnsworth published his excellently in-depth prospect list for the Philadelphia Phillies. In this companion piece, I look at that same Philly farm system through the lens of my recently refined KATOH projection system. The Phillies have the ninth-best farm system in baseball according to KATOH.

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Evaluating the 2016 Prospects: Philadelphia Phillies

Blue Jays
Red Sox
White Sox

Since having committed to a full-scale rebuild, the Phillies have prepared themselves nicely for a more sustainable future. Right to the top of their prospect ranks went trade acquisitions Nick Williams, Mark Appel and Jake Thompson. Additionally, a number of second-tier players have given the organization the depth and upside it desperately needed after a few stagnant years with aging veterans. The main weakness of the minor-league group is its lack of immediate help for the rotation, with questions surrounding both Appel’s and Thompson’s viability as starters preventing them from being sure things. After that, there’s a lack of options until you get to the lower levels, where exciting younger pitchers like Franklyn Kilome look to take a step forward and challenge for upper-minors rotation spots.

There shouldn’t be a ton of surprises on this list. It looks like I’m a half-grade higher or lower on few guys than the consensus, but most of the guys after the 50+ group are fairly interchangeable. Medium-upside players at the lower levels of the system are plentiful, making the relative grades more a preference than anything.

Mark Appel‘s ranking may stir some discussion, as I make the case here why I don’t think we have a Gerrit Cole-esque breakout to which we can to look forward. It’s not so dire that I don’t think he’s a major league starter, but his ceiling grade is lower here than most are ready to admit.

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The Most Sensible Maikel Franco Adjustment

Overreaction season is underway. Each year, it starts sometime around mid-March, and lasts until… anyone have the date? Last Monday of May? No, that’s Memorial Day. This is embarrassing; I’m drawing a blank here. If anyone has this year’s date for the end of Overreaction Season, let me know. It lasts well into the regular season — I know that much — and I know that it’s already begun.

As you may have heard, Maikel Franco has played in 11 Spring Training games, and Maikel Franco has hit six home runs. During last year’s Spring Training, Franco hit zero home runs, and then he went on to have an excellent rookie season, so we understand how little these things matter, but it’s hard to ignore Maikel Franco right now. If, say, Darin Ruf were the one doing this, it might be easier to cast aside as one of those weird Spring Training things, but it’s not Darin Ruf; rather, it’s a top prospect, one who either met or exceeded all expectations in his rookie year and is being looked to as one of very few bright spots on the 2016 Phillies, and he’s doing in the games that don’t matter exactly what everyone hopes he’ll do in the games that do. Don’t get me wrong — it’s definitely still just a weird Spring Training thing. But it’s the kind of weird Spring Training thing that feels worth looking into a bit.

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Ruben Amaro on Analytics (and Evaluation)

Ruben Amaro had a reputation in Philadelphia. To many, the only evaluation tools he trusted were his scouts’ eyes. Basically, he was an old-fashioned — if not backwards-thinking — general manager.

The extent to which that’s accurate is debatable. Amaro wasn’t necessarily cutting edge — Matt Klentak, who replaced him as Phillies general manager, is clearly more analytical — but the perception was skewed. Amaro attended Stanford and learned from Pat Gillick, so his intelligence and knowledge base are anything but slight.

That’s not to say he didn’t make errors in judgement over his tenure. He made several, which is part of the reason he was relieved of his duties last September. Amaro is now with the Red Sox, having made an atypical move from high-ranking front-office executive to first-base coach.

On Sunday, Amaro took a few minutes to shed some light on his days as a decision-maker. The role of analytics in the evaluation process formed the crux of our conversation.


Amaro on analytics: “You can’t ever deny the numbers. That’s true for every GM and every baseball person, regardless of whether you’re ‘old school’ or ‘new school.’ When a scout walks in, the first thing he does is pick up a stat sheet and look at what the player does and what he’s been doing. The numbers don’t lie.

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Cliff Lee Was Everything You Could’ve Wanted

The 2010 Mariners were a dreadful baseball team, and an unexpectedly dreadful baseball team at that. They were designed to be competitive — they should’ve been competitive — and from a fan’s perspective, I’m not sure I’ve witnessed a bigger letdown. It was a difficult season for countless different reasons, but what’s been most upsetting, both now and back at the time, is that the Mariners being terrible cost me the opportunity to watch more Cliff Lee on my favorite team. I knew he was awesome when he was first brought in, but I didn’t appreciate the extent until I got to watch him every five days.

I bring this up because Lee is in the news:

Lee hasn’t officially retired, and you never know when someone might have a change of heart. Yet it’s never been less likely that Lee will return, so I want to take this chance to offer a quick retrospective. Not everyone is deserving of the treatment, because not everyone is equally interesting, but Lee developed into the perfect pitcher. It took him some time, and he’s not going to end up in Cooperstown, but for a good six-year stretch, there was nothing else you could’ve wanted Cliff Lee to be.

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The Blue Jays and Phillies Try the One-Man Outfield

While it’s technically true that both the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies are Major League Baseball teams, their 2015 seasons were different in a number of non-superficial ways. Yes, they both employed Ben Revere last season, but it’s difficult to find other substantive similarities between the 93-69 AL East champion Blue Jays and the 63-99 cellar-dwelling Phillies.

The Blue Jays had a 117 wRC+, while the Phillies registered a meager 86. The Blue Jays had an average, or slightly better, pitching staff (93 ERA-, 100 FIP-) and the Phillies were among the worst (120 ERA-, 111 FIP-) in the league. On defense, the Blue Jays sported a +15 DRS and +1 UZR while the Phillies delivered a -92 DRS and -31.1 UZR. The Blue Jays were good and the Phillies were not. That comes as a surprise to no one, even as we pause to note that the Phillies took steps to put their franchise on the right track during the same period.

These two very dissimilar clubs, however, did have one pretty interesting similarity during the 2015 season. They both flanked excellent center fielders with horrible defenders in the corners.

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What Are the Chances the Phillies Outplay the Cubs?

Spring training is getting underway, which means while we aren’t yet into the regular season, we are into projection season. Depending on what you’ve been looking at, there’s been a lot of talk about the White Sox, and there’s been a lot of talk about the Royals. Those teams have received some somewhat controversial projections, but not everything is so up for debate. For example: it’s universally agreed the Cubs look really good, and it’s universally agreed the Phillies look really bad. These statements are practically givens.

The White Sox became a topic of conversation because of USA Today. The Royals are back in the spotlight because of Baseball Prospectus and PECOTA. This is FanGraphs, so let’s take a look at what’s being published on FanGraphs. Here’s our projected standings page, based on Steamer projections and the depth charts, and you see the Cubs projected for an MLB-best 94 wins, and the Phillies projected for an MLB-worst 66 wins. These projections won’t cause any arguments — the numbers agree with consensus opinion.

Projections, though, are midpoints, at least when you see them published. Ranges exist around them. Sometimes pretty big ranges. And both the Phillies and Cubs will employ major-league baseball players, who are elite talents when it comes to their craft. The Cubs will win a bunch of games, and the Phillies will win a bunch of games. What are the chances the Phillies win more games than the Cubs?

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MLB Farm Systems Ranked by Surplus WAR

You smell that? It’s baseball’s prospect-list season. The fresh top-100 lists — populated by new names as well as old ones — seem to be popping up each day. With the individual rankings coming out, some organization rankings are becoming available, as well. I have always regarded the organizational rankings as subjective — and, as a result, not 100% useful. Utilizing the methodology I introduced in my article on prospect evaluation from this year’s Hardball Times Annual, however, it’s possible to calculate a total value for every team’s farm system and remove the biases of subjectivity. In what follows, I’ve used that same process to rank all 30 of baseball’s farm systems by the surplus WAR they should generate.

I provide a detailed explanation of my methodology in the Annual article. To summarize it briefly, however, what I’ve done is to identify WAR equivalencies for the scouting grades produced by Baseball America in their annual Prospect Handbook. The grade-to-WAR conversion appears as follows.

Prospect Grade to WAR Conversion
Prospect Grade Total WAR Surplus WAR
80 25.0 18.5
75 18.0 13.0
70 11.0 9.0
65 8.5 6.0
60 4.7 3.0
55 2.5 1.5
50 1.1 0.5
45 0.4 0.0

To create the overall totals for this post, I used each team’s top-30 rankings per the most recent edition of Baseball America’ Prospect Handbook. Also accounting for those trades which have occurred since the BA rankings were locked down, I counted the number of 50 or higher-graded prospects (i.e. the sort which provide surplus value) in each system. The results follows.
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The Phillies Are Going to Be Fun

The Phillies aren’t projected to be a very good team this season. If you’re familiar with our internet pages, that certainly doesn’t come as breaking news. The Phillies rebuild has been a long time coming, and it’s good that they are finally committed to that process. And when I say committed, I mean committed. In a good way. The process is working, and working faster than many have anticipated. But while the process can be ghastly to the point where it isn’t really fun to watch, the Phillies don’t figure to be that kind of team. In fact, they should be fun.

Among the projected starting rotation and starting lineup, there will only be three players over 30 — Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz and Charlie Morton. Ruiz is a fan favorite, and Morton is a still interesting pitcher who doesn’t have the mileage on him a 32-year-old normally would. Watching Howard might not be pretty, but we’re suddenly in the last year of his contract (assuming Philly isn’t going to pick up his 2017 club option). Hopefully, the season can be spent celebrating all the good things he did in a Phillies uniform — like how he’s still just one of 24 players who has ever hit 40 or more home runs off of right-handed pitching in a single season. Or perhaps the three home runs he hit in the 2008 World Series, or his MVP performance in the 2009 NLCS. There were good times to be had. And hey, at least he got back to hitting righties at an above-average clip last year. That was nice.

Aside from those players, this is not a team that is going to be populated by retreads like last year’s version of the club. In addition to Howard and Ruiz, last year’s Phillies also gave run to 30s-aged players Jonathan Papelbon, Cole Hamels, Jeff Francoeur, Grady Sizemore, Chase Utley, Aaron Harang, Kevin Correia, Jerome Williams and Andres Blanco. Blanco — who oddly produced a 136 wRC+ campaign — is back, but the rest have been excised. The only other potentially prominent 30-something is Matt Harrison, if he can get healthy again. And if he does, his comeback will be a heartwarming story.

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The Most Surprising Hitter of the Season

There’s no perfect way to do this, because surprises are always relative to expectations, and I can’t speak to general, across-the-board expectations. You might personally expect more from Player X than the next guy, and I can’t quantify that. Given this caveat, it should be obvious the best thing to do is consider the preseason projections. Projections should always be around the center of the expectations, because we’re always projecting, even when we don’t think of it like that, and we all project in similar ways. We think about the track records, and we think about age. Your brain is but an endless series of spreadsheets.

To identify the most surprising hitter of the season, then, we compare actual numbers to forecasted numbers. Who beat the projections the most, basically. And now, try to think about this off the top of your head. The answer’s going to follow, of course, but what players are coming to mind? You’re thinking about Bryce Harper. Maybe, say, Kyle Schwarber, but mostly Harper. It’s not really surprising that Harper got to this level, but the suddenness of the transition was stunning. Harper made the leap, and I can tell you, yes, he’s near the top of the list. By this method he’s actually the runner-up. The winner? He’s so surprising that almost no one even noticed in the process.

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Projecting Mark Appel

Last week, I wrote a piece about Derek Fisher, who was supposedly part of the package going back to Philly in exchange for super-reliever Ken Giles. Now that the dust has finally settled on that trade, we’ve learned that Fisher wasn’t actually involved. So I basically wrote about Derek Fisher for no reason in particular. Instead, the Astros included former first-overall pick Mark Appel. A couple of guys named Arauz — Harold and Jonathan, going to Philly and Houston, respectively — were also included.

It hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing for Appel since he went first overall back in June of 2013. Between 2013 and 2014, he pitched to a 5.93 ERA and 3.86 FIP over 121 innings, with most of his work coming in A-Ball. His ERA and FIP converged last season, when he put up a 4.45 ERA and 4.30 FIP between Double-A and Triple-A. All told, Appel’s struck out 20% of opposing batters, and has walked 8% over the past two and a half years — roughly the same as an average minor leaguer.

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Astros Land Dominant Giles for Potentially Dominant Velasquez

It wouldn’t be fair to say the ALDS game against the Royals was representative of the Astros’ bullpen, because that would be mean and wrong, but there was a definite lingering sense of unreliability. The Astros bullpen finished among the very best in WAR, but it was in the bottom half by WPA, and feelings mirror WPA better than anything else. Nor is this exactly a new problem — the last five years combined, the Astros bullpen is last in baseball by WPA at -22. The Mets are second-worst at -9. The bullpen hasn’t been a real strength for some time, and now the Astros’ bullpen actually matters. They’re no longer positioned to just see what sticks.

What’s the quickest way to upgrade a bullpen? Add one of the league’s true elite relievers. If he’s young and cost-controlled, all the better. Jeff Luhnow has talked a few times about wanting to diversify his group of relievers, bringing in someone overpowering. Enter Ken Giles. The Astros were circling around Giles for seemingly weeks, and now he’s about to be theirs, coming from the Phillies in exchange for Vincent Velasquez, Derek Fisher, Brett Oberholtzer, and Thomas Eshelman. In large part, it comes down to Giles and Velasquez. Giles is the proven power arm, with years of control. Velasquez is the unproven power arm, with real potential to start.

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2016 ZiPS Projections – Philadelphia Phillies

After having typically appeared in the very hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have been released at FanGraphs the past couple years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Philadelphia Phillies. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Atlanta / Kansas City / Toronto.

Reason dictates that the 2016 season is unlikely to be a successful one for the Phillies in terms of “wins” on the “field” — nor do the forecasts produced by ZiPS contradict that notion. It’s rare, for example, for a starting position player to receive a negative WAR projection. This is precisely the case, however, for the club’s expected first-base platoon. After consecutive seasons and over 1,100 total plate appearances of below-average offensive production, Ryan Howard is projected once again to record a batting line roughly 10% worse than the league. Darin Ruf offers similar limitations from the right side of the plate.

The roster isn’t without some promise, however. Center fielder Odubel Herrera, a Rule 5 selection from just last year, is expected to continue converting batted balls into hits at an uncommon rate. That, along with above-average defense, conspires to render him a nearly three-win player. Maikel Franco, for his part, appears likely to compensate for his defensive limitations at third base by means of an advanced bat.

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Comparing the Cost of Zack Greinke to Cole Hamels

Zack Greinke is one of the best pitchers in major league baseball, and as a result, he had no shortage of suitors before ultimately signing a contract in excess of $200 million. In addition to money, the Diamondbacks also surrendered their first-round pick next year, the 13th overall selection. While it would not be quite true to say that Greinke cost “only money,” the Diamondbacks did not give up a single active player in order to acquire Greinke.

Cole Hamels, both the same age as Greinke and roughly as effective over the course of his career, was traded over the summer. Hamels’ cost was not “only money,” as the Texas Rangers gave up six players, including three high-end prospects (and Matt Harrison‘s contract), for Jake Diekman and the opportunity to pay Cole Hamels around $100 million over the next four years. While the costs come in different forms, we can compare the two to see how the trade market this past summer compared to this offseason’s free agent market for Greinke.

The Los Angeles Dodgers prioritized Cole Hamels at the trade deadline, but subsequently missed out by refusing to part with their best prospects. The team then prioritized bringing Greinke back, only to be outbid by division rival Arizona. The cost for both players was high, and it is difficult to say whether the Dodgers made a mistake passing on both players, but we should be able to compare the costs for both to see if the Dodgers could have kept a comparable pitcher for less than the amount Greinke received in free agency.

As far as comparisons go, Greinke did have a better year in 2015, but their cumulative WAR graphs (shown below) reveal two remarkably similar careers in terms of value.


In addition, both players are projected to do well next season. By Steamer, Greinke is set for a 4.2 WAR while Hamels comes in a bit behind at 3.6 WAR for the 2016 season. Using those projections as the baseline for future production, we can get an estimate for their value over the next few years. With deferrals, Greinke’s deal turns out to be $194.5 million over six seasons, per Ken Rosenthal. Given the consistency of both Greinke and Hamels, for the purposes of this analysis, we will assume the players will age well.

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The Demise of Peter Bourjos in St. Louis

If you are a frequent user of this website, you likely know that on our player pages, you can find the five most-recently cited articles about a player — a mix of FanGraphs and RotoGraphs articles. Generally, a regular player will be written about at least five times a year. But when I sat down to write this piece, when I went to Peter Bourjos‘ page, the fifth article was Dave Cameron’s piece from Nov. 22, 2013, reacting to the news that Bourjos had been traded from Anaheim to St. Louis along with Randal Grichuk, for David Freese. That in and of itself is a bad sign. While we once thought of Bourjos as one of the game’s premier defenders, Bourjos — who was claimed this week via waivers by the Phillies — is an after-thought.

In that 2013 piece, Dave noted how Bourjos had basically become the best defensive center fielder in the game:

Since 2010, here are the top 5 center fielders in UZR/150 among players who have spent at least 2,000 innings in center field.

Peter Bourjos, +20.2
Carlos Gomez, +18.2
Jacoby Ellsbury, +13.7
Michael Bourn, +9.9
Denard Span, +9.5

The deal seemed like a great one for the Cardinals — and thanks to Grichuk, it may still be — but Bourjos never really held up his end of the bargain. In his four seasons with the Angels, he played 405 games — effectively two and a half seasons — and piled up 9.2 WAR. Not bad, right? That’s something between three and four WAR over a full season. Full seasons were hard to come by for Bourjos, though, which is why the playing time was spread out over four seasons. Still, hope sprung eternal when he landed in St. Louis.

Of note, Bourjos set a goal of stealing 40 bases in his first season in St. Louis. (Hat tip to Scott Perdue for the reminder) This was always going to be a bit of a stretch, as Bourjos, to that point, had just 41 stolen bases over his four-year career, against 13 times caught stealing. Clearly he had the speed, and a knack for stealing bases, but when your career high is 22 steals, shooting for 40 is a lofty goal.

That’s not really the point. The point is that he was excited. And the Cardinals appeared excited, as well. Bourjos started on Opening Day, and eight of the first 10 games in center. And then… he stopped playing. After those 10 games, Bourjos was hitting just .207/.258/.310, and while it was just 31 plate appearances, manager Mike Matheny had seen enough to know that he didn’t want Bourjos to be his everyday center fielder. Bourjos would start just six of the next 17 games in center, with Jon Jay logging the other 11 starts. And then Grichuk was called up. He and Jay would start the next five games, and then Bourjos reclaimed the job, as the Cards optioned Grichuk back to Triple-A. If this seems like an odd playing time pattern, well, let’s just say it wasn’t an isolated incident for Matheny.

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