Archive for Uncategorized

Projection Leaderboard Fun Courtesy of ZiPS and Fans

Now that spring training is getting to the point where stats and injuries are beginning to add up, it’s a good time to peek in on some in-season expectations from ZiPS and the Fans. The “Projections” tab on our header is a great place to burn away time at the office. There are currently five projection systems located there and each has a couple surprises.

ZiPS went fully live about a week ago and we’re combining it with Steamer for the WAR projection on our Depth Charts page. The Fans projection is from our crowdsourcing project. The numbers tend to come out a tad optimistic, so keep that in mind. There’s no special reason to be looking at these two systems side by side, but both recently went live for the season and both interest me.

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A Quiet October For Fans of Offense

Last October, Jeff Sullivan wrote about how the 2012 postseason was almost historically low-scoring, calling it “Where Offense Went to Die,” because Jeff Sullivan is wonderful and perceptive. He noted the following stats at the time:

Hitters had a combined .227 batting average, a combined .290 OBP, a combined .349 slugging percentage.

If the 2012 postseason were a player, it would have basically been Justin Smoak, who had a slash line roughly in that range. Smoak was nowhere near the World Series or the playoffs, of course, largely because his Seattle team was terrible, but also because Smoak was hitting like, well, that all year.

With either one or two games remaining in the 2013 postseason, not likely enough to significantly move the needle, we’ve seen 74 playoff games, exactly the same as last year. And where are we this time around? .229/.289/.355, also known as “being within the margin of error of being completely identical”. That’s in the Starlin Castro or Mike Moustakas range of hitters this year, and again, that’s pretty poor, especially when MLB as a whole hit .253/.318/.396 this season. If you liked last year’s lack of hitting, well, you’re seeing the sequel right now, and suddenly last year’s near-historic offensive outage looks like it might not be so historic after all. Read the rest of this entry »


MGL’s New Blog

MGL (Mitchel Licthman), the man behind UZR and co-author of The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball, has a new spot where he’ll be sharing his baseball research and game strategy analysis.

Head over to baseballsolutions.org to read his playoff analysis and more!

From the site’s about page:

As the sole author of this site, I take full responsibility for everything in it . Feel free to comment, if comments be allowed; however, if I don’t like your comment for any reason, I will delete it. I am also quite grumpy, so if you don’t like surly, pettish, fractious, and sometimes downright churlish banter, this may not be the blog for you. However, if you like to read about occasionally interesting baseball analysis, this is definitely the site for you.


Chris Young Is Not A Minor League Pitcher

A victim of what amounts to one of the deeper stables of starting pitching, Chris Young opted out of his contract with the Washington Nationals with the hopes that he could find a major league role in another city. The Nationals could ostensibly retain Young’s services should he fail in that pursuit, but it’s plausible that there will be several organizations interested.

Young, 33, is not so young anymore. The hulking 6-foot-10 right hander has had two shoulder surgeries in the last four seasons, limiting his major league innings from 2009 through 2011 to just 120. His 2012 comeback was a mixed bag, as he posted a 4.50 FIP, a 16.2% strikeout rate, and the characteristic high fly ball rate, flirting with 60%. His fastball has been in steady decline since he broke into the league in 2004, averaging just 84.6 mph in 2012 and almost all reports out of Spring suggested he was sitting in the 80-82 mph range frequently.

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Change You Can Believe In

Back in High School, my pitching coach used to sit down all of the starting pitchers (all three of us) from the varsity squad to have a chat about pitching philosophy. Coach was a former minor league pitcher who flamed out after injury and ineffectiveness, but his love of pitching was obvious, if not a little obsessive. He used to preach about a lot of things, controlling your emotions, mechanics, pacing, etc. But it was always the video I looked forward to.

He’d roll out the rickety old metal stand with a crummy 18 inch TV and antiquated betamax player. Not only had we seen it before, but we would never really understand the usefulness of the demonstration. But it was still fun to watch.

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RE24 – insidethebook.com

This post originally appeared on insidethebook.com

One of my favorite stats is RE24, which goes by other names, like “value added” or “value added by the 24 base-out states”.

The basic idea is that you are interested in the 24 base-out states, and the outcome of the performance in each of the particular states. A HR with bases empty has a different impact than a HR with men on base. A strikeout with a runner on 3B with less than two outs is hugely impactful, while with no one on base, it is no different than any other out.

To the extent that you think a player should be recognized for that outcome in that context, then RE24 gives you exactly that.

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Baseball Info Solutions Job Openings

Baseball Info Solutions has two job openings.

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Want to be a MLB.com Stringer?

If you ever wanted to be a MLB.com stringer, now’s your chance to apply!


MLB.com, the Official Site of Major League Baseball, is seeking stats stringers in these markets for the 2010 season:

· Boston
· Cincinnati
· Cleveland
· Detroit
· Miami
· Milwaukee
· Texas

Stats stringers are responsible for digitally scoring games from one of the 30 MLB ballparks, which provides the data used in the live content applications on MLB.com, including Gameday and MLB.TV, real-time highlights and text alerts, and by our business partners. This is a perfect part-time job for a diligent, responsible employee who happens to be a big baseball fan.

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Breaking Down Burnett

A.J. Burnett, the veteran starter with the New York Yankees, has made three post-season starts in 2009. The right-hander has gone from quite good to OK to pretty bad in his three starts, which makes a person wonder just what to expect in Game Two of the World Series. With the Yankees having lost the opening game of the series, this is an important match-up for the top team in the American League. The squad needs to take at least one game at home before heading to Philadelphia for Games Three, Four and Five.

Let’s breakdown Burnett’s best post-season performance — against the Minnesota Twins on Oct. 9 (.205 WPA) — and his worst game — against the Angels on Oct. 22 (-.350 WPA). Hopefully, we can can a feel for what to expect from Burnett in Game Two of the World Series.

Oct. 9 – A.J. Burnett (vs Minnesota)

(Note: __/K means the pitch was a strike a foul ball or put in play; the absence of /K means it was a ball)

1st Inning:
Batter 1: FB/K | CB/K | FB/K (fly out)
Batter 2: FB/K | FB/K (ground out)
Batter 3: FB | FB/K | FB | CB | FB (walk)
Batter 4: CB | FB/K | FB/K | CB/K (strikeout swinging)
Pitches: 5 Balls | 9 Strikes (14 total)

Observations: Burnett had success when he was able to get ahead in the count. The heater was his preferred method of beginning an at-bats.

2nd Inning:
Batter 1: FB | FB/K | FB/K | FB/K (single)
Batter 2: CB/K | CB/K | CB/K (strikeout swinging)
Batter 3: FB/K | CB/K | FB | CB/K (ground out)
Batter 4: FB/K | CB | FB/K | CB/K (ground out)
Pitches: 3 Balls | 12 Strikes (15 total)

Observations: Burnett again went to the fastball to get ahead and utilized his curve as his out-pitch. He was showing enough curveball command to wipe out a fastball-hitter in Delmon Young on three straight curves. Burnett’s nearly unhittable when he’s commanding that curveball.

3rd Inning:
Batter 1: FB/K | FB | FB | FB | FB/K | FB (walk)
Batter 2: FB | FB/K (ground out)
Batter 3: FB/K (fly out)
Batter 4: FB/K | FB/K | CB/K (strikeout looking)
Pitches: 5 Balls | 7 Strikes (12 total)

Observations: Burnett loves the heater but the command of it escapes him at times, usually early in the half-inning after he’s been sitting.

4th Inning:
Batter 1: CB/K | CH/K | CB/K (strikeout swinging)
Batter 2: FB | FB/K (pop up)
Batter 3: CB | FB (hit batter)
Batter 4: CB/K | FB | FB (hit batter)
Batter 5: FB/K (single, runner thrown out at third)
Pitches: 5 Balls | 5 Strikes (10 total)

Observations: Burnett lacked command with the fastball in the fourth inning but instead of taking a couple pitches, the fifth batter swung at the first pitch after watching two players get plunked. He went first-pitch curves to a couple of fastball hitters.

5th Inning:
Batter 1: FB | FB | FB/K | FB/K | CB/K (strikeout looking)
Batter 2: CB/K | CB/K | CB | CB | FB/K (ground out)
Batter 3: FB | FB | FB/K | FB/K | FB | CB (walk)
Batter 4: CB | FB | FB | FB/K | FB (walk)
Batter 5: FB/K | FB | CB/K | CB/K (ground out)
Pitches: 13 Balls | 12 Strikes (25 total)

Observations: The fastball command got away from Burnett and he struggled with just two pitches. He continued to use his curveball against weak breaking ball hitters.

6th Inning:
Batter 1: CB/K (ground out)
Batter 2: CB/K | FB | CB/K | CB | CB | FB/K | FB (walk)
Batter 3: CB/K | FB/K | CB/K (strikeout swinging)
Batter 4: CB | FB/K | FB | CB | FB/K (triple)
Batter 5: FB/K | CB/K (ground out)
Pitches: 7 Balls | 11 Strikes (18 total)

Observations: Burnett still did not have his fastball command in the sixth inning so he relied heavily on the breaking ball by throwing seven of them during his first 11 pitches of the inning.

Overall, Burnett allowed just one run in six innings of work. He gave up three hits and five walks, while striking out six batters. Burnett allowed eight ground balls and three fly balls in the game. Once his ability to command the fastball disappeared, the night was over for the veteran hurler.

Oct. 22 – A.J. Burnett (vs Los Angeles)

1st Inning:
Batter 1: FB | FB | FB | FB/K | FB (Walk)
Batter 2: FB/K | FB/K (Hit)
Batter 3: CB/K (Hit)
Batter 4: FB/K (Hit)
Batter 5: SL(?) | CB | FB/K (Hit)
Batter 6: FB/K | CB | CB/K | CB | CB/K (Fly out)
Batter 7: FB/K | CB/K | CB | CB/K (Double play)
Pitches: 9 Balls | 12 Strikes (21 Total)

Observations: The two first-pitch hits suggest that the hitters were pretty comfortable with the scouting report and Burnett and had a good idea what was coming. Once he was able to get ahead in the count with batters six and seven, Burnett had success. He’s established that he’s trying to pitch off of the fastball and finish hitters off with the curve. The slider is a possibly a show-me pitch, or more likely a misdiagnosed curve.

2nd Inning:
Batter 1: FB | FB | FB/K | FB/K | FB/K (single)
Batter 2: FB/K (double play)
Batter 3: FB/K (fly out)
Pitches: 2 Balls | 5 Strikes (7 total)

Observations: This is a case of the Angels batters being too aggressive. Batter 1 had a nice approach and took some pitches but the second and third hitters both jumped at the first pitches in each at-bat, even though Burnett was on the ropes. The pitcher kept to his game plan and threw first pitch fastballs in all three at-bats.

3rd Inning:
Batter 1: FB | FB/K | CB/K | CB/K (strikeout swinging)
Batter 2: CB | CB | FB/K | CB | CB (walk)
Batter 3: FB/K | FB | FB/K | FB | CB | FB/K (fielder’s choice)
Batter 4: FB\K | FB | FB/K | CB/K | FB/K (fly out)
Pitches: 9 Balls | 11 Strikes (20 total)

Observations: Good things happen when you get ahead in the count. The Angels batters did a nice job of taking some pitches.

4th Inning:
Batter 1: FB/K | FB | CB/K (ground out)
Batter 2: CB/K (fly out)
Batter 3: FB/K | CB\K (double)
Batter 4: FB/K | FB/K | CB/K (ground out)
Pitches: 1 Ball | 8 strikeouts (9 total)

Observations: With all four batters, Burnett threw first-pitch strikes with positive results in three cases. He’s established his ability to throw strikes with two plus pitches. We have yet to see his third pitch. And again we see the pattern of fastballs early in the count and curve balls to close it out.

5th Inning:
Batter 1: FB/K | FB | CB/K | CB/K (strikeout swinging)
Batter 2: FB/K | CB | CB | FB | FB/K (ground out)
Batter 3: FB/K (single)
Batter 4: CB | FB/K (fly out)
Pitches: 5 Balls | 7 Strikes (12 total)

Observations: Burnett goes first-pitch heater with the first three until he gives up a hit. He then switches gears with the curveball.

6th Inning:
Batter 1: FB | CH(?) | FB | FB/K | FB\K | CB/K | FB/K | FB/K | CB/K (strikeout swinging)
Batter 2: FB\K (ground out)
Batter 3: CB/K (ground out)
Pitches: 3 Balls | 8 Strikes (11 total)

Observations: To have a pitcher throw nine pitches to the first batter and then get out of the inning with just 11 thrown is ridiculous. The Angels batters were far too aggressive again. We also see the first changeup from Burnett… perhaps a sign that he’s feeling fatigued? The heater was still touching 96 mph, although not quite as consistently as earlier in the game.

7th Inning:
Batter 1: FB | FB/K | FB/K (single)
Batter 2: FB/K | CB/K | CB | FB | CB | FB (walk)
Batter 3: Pitching change
Pitches: 5 Balls | 4 strikes (9 total)

Observations: First pitch fastballs again, but Burnett was then unable to put away the second batter after getting ahead 0-2.

Overall, Burnett allowed six runs on eight hits and three walks in six-plus innings of work. Two of the runs charged to him scored after he left the game in the seventh inning. He struck out three batters, while inducing 10 ground balls and five fly balls.

* * *

Here is what we know: Burnett is going to throw you either a fastball or a curveball. He’s going to try and get ahead with the fastball before finishing batters off with a curve. He tends to stick with the fastball until (a) he gets two strikes, or (b) the hitters start to make contact with the heater on foul balls. If he gives up a hit on the fastball, he tends to come back with a first-pitch curveball in the next at-bat. If Burnett is facing a batter that is a strong fastball hitter but with a weakness for off-speed pitches, then he’ll put the heater in his back pocket.

If Burnett is commanding both the fastball and the curveball, then it’s going to be a long night for the Phillies hitters. However, because he only throws two pitches, the loss of command on just one pitch can cause havoc for Burnett. If his command starts to falter, the hitters must show some patience against the right-hander, which the Angels club failed to do; as a result, they were unable to hammer the final nail in Burnett’s coffin and get into the bullpen. The lefty-heavy Phillies lineup is in tough considering the Yankees pitcher’s regular-season splits (.217/.310/.344 vs left-handed batters, .282/.366/.450 vs right-handed).


World Series Coverage: Phillies Look to Repeat

The 2008 World Champions are back in the World Series in ’09, but the club faces a huge challenge in the form of the New York Yankees, a club that boasts the largest payroll in Major League Baseball. Both clubs, though, have paid a hefty price for their success and both clubs have benefited from the free agent and trade markets.

In fact, neither Game 1 starter was with their respective teams one year ago. Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee was playing with Cleveland, while C.C. Sabathia signed with New York prior to the ’09 season as a free agent. He began ’08 with The Tribe, but was later traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. The two hurlers were teammates for six-and-a-half seasons, so you can bet each pitcher has given extensive scouting reports to their respective offense.

Both aces have been dominating throughout the season and in the post season:

Regular Season
Sabathia: 3.39 FIP, 7.71 K/9, .233 AVG, 6.0 WAR
Cliff Lee: 3.11 FIP, 7.03 K/9, .273 AVG, 6.6 WAR

Post Season
Sabathia: 2.44 FIP, 7.94 K/9, .210 AVG, 0.79 WPA
Cliff Lee: 1.82 FIP, 7.40 K/9, .169 AVG, 0.86 WPA

Sabathia has dominated opponents with a very good fastball-changeup combination, while mixing in some average sliders. Lee, on the other hand, relies heavily on a good fastball, while mixing an assortment of average pitches and maintaining excellent control. Who has the edge? My gut says New York, mainly because the hitters have, on average, seen a lot more of Lee than Philly has seen of Sabathia.

New York has yet to announce who will pitch in Games Two and Three, but Philly will follow Lee with veteran Pedro Martinez — who has seen a lot of the Yankees during his time in Boston — and the disappointing Cole Hamels. The Phillies club has also activated pitcher Brett Myers for the World Series. The free-agent-to-be was on the NLCS roster, but he was removed for the NLDS. Utility player Miguel Cairo was deleted from the active roster.

Through the nine-game post-season, the hottest hitters for the Phillies have been:
Shane Victorino (.361/.439/.722)
Jayson Werth (.281/.395/.813)
Ryan Howard (.355/.462/.742)
Carlos Ruiz (.346/.500/.500).

The biggest disappointments have been:
Jimmy Rollins (.244/.279/.317)
Pedro Feliz (.161/.212/.355).

In order to repeat as World Champions, Philadelphia will have to get to the Yankees’ top starters, including Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte. In the bullpen, both Mariano Rivera (eight appearances) and Joba Chamberlain (seven) have been overworked in the nine-game post-season. As well, outside of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, the offense has been inconsistent. But as any American League fan can tell you, New York’s offense is always one at-bat away from exploding.


NLCS Coverage: The World Series Returns to Philly

The Philadelphia Phillies are headed back to the World Series. On Wednesday night, the Phillies clinched the National League Championship Series (NLCS) title with a 10-4 drubbing of the National League West’s best club. The reigning world champions defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games.

The Dodgers pitching staff was unable to contain what is, arguably, the most potent offense in the National League, which was described in last night’s broadcast as an “American League offense playing in the National League.” On the flip side, Los Angeles struggled to score runs.

Offensive MVP: Ryan Howard
The National League Division Series MVP (according to Fangraphs) repeats as the NLCS champion. In the series, Howard posted WPAs of: .154, .156, .155, .098, and .025 with five runs scored and eight RBI.

Honorable Mention: Shane Victorino
Quiet for the first two games of the series, the Flyin’ Hawaiian posted WPAs of .040, .170, and .086 through the last three games. He scored four runs and drove in six during that three-game span.

Pitching MVP: Cliff Lee
The momentum in the series came dangerously close to shifting after Hamels struggled in Game 1 and then LA came through with a late-game win in Game 2. Lee, though, slammed the door on the LA club with eight shutout innings in Game 3. Other pitchers worth praising for their contributions in the series include Pedro Martinez, Chad Durbin and Brad Lidge.

Let’s break down the series a little more.

What Philly Did Poorly:
Cole Hamels, who is supposed to be Philly’s best pitcher, has looked very ordinary in the post-season. He’s not going to have much luck against New York (assuming that will be the match-up) by throwing 80% fastballs.

It’s nitpicking, but the bench didn’t get much work in the NLCS and they might be called on during some key moments in the World Series.

What LA Did Poorly:
Why did Ronnie Belliard get every start at second base during the playoffs? As Dave Cameron wrote weeks ago, Orlando Hudson is the far superior hitter and fielder – even when he’s not 100% healthy. The feeling was that Belliard has more pop in his bat, thanks to a small-sample size performance after coming to LA… But he failed to get an extra-base hit in the entire post-season. Ironically, Hudson hit a pinch-hit homer in Game 5. And why did Jim Thome only have two at-bats in the NLCS?

I questioned the decision to start Padilla in Game 5… and he looked terrible. In the first inning, 22 of his 23 pitches were fastballs, according to Gameday. Against the Phillies lineup?! The Hiroki Kuroda start was yet another gamble that Torre lost.

As a whole, LA’s veteran hitters were pretty well neutered in the series. Rafael Furcal hit .143, Casey Blake hit .105, Manny Ramirez hit .263 with one extra base hit.

What Philly Did Well:
The pitching staff was able to contain Manny Ramirez, who had his quietest post-season since 1999 with Cleveland. In eight games, Ramirez drove in just four runs and showed little fire (especially compared to the 2007 and 2008 post-seasons).

The offense scored 35 runs in five games. Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, and Carlos Ruiz were red-hot in the NLCS. Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Jayson Werth were not as consistent, but they all had key hits in the series.

Closer Brad Lidge put a bad regular season behind him and did not allow a run against LA in three games (2.2 innings). He’s 3-for-3 in save opportunities and he’s allowed just one hit in four innings throughout the playoffs.

Cliff Lee was the dominating starter that every team needs to roll through the playoffs. In 24.1 playoff innings (the first post-season of his career), Lee has allowed just 14 hits and three walks. It’s really difficult to give up a big inning if you don’t have men on base.

What LA Did Well:
On offense, Andre Ethier showed why he is one of the best young hitters in the National League – although he hit better in the NLDS than he did in the NLCS. James Loney also had a nice NLCS series.


NLCS Coverage: Can the Incumbents Clinch in Philly?

With a win in Game Five of the National League Championship Series (NLCS) on Wednesday, the defending World Champions have an opportunity to return to the Fall Classic. Up three games to one, the Phillies club will hand the ball to young lefty Cole Hamels. The southpaw was hit hard in his first start against LA in the series (8 hits, 5 line drives, 4 run in 5.1 innings), but he kept his team in the game and recorded the victory.

Los Angeles will counter with Vicente Padilla, who pitched 7.1 innings on Oct. 18 and allowed just one run. Padilla threw an economical 95 pitches (73% for strikes) and allowed just one run. As a result of the short rest for the right-hander, the Dodgers club may have to use the bullpen heavily on Wednesday. Manager Joe Torre has used four relievers in each of the past two games (over a three-day span). Regardless, everyone should be fresh and ready to go, with the possible exception of Chad Billingsley.

The key post-season performers (eight games) for Philadelphia have been:
Ryan Howard: 14 RBI, 379 AVG (1.18 WPA)
Jayson Werth: 6 BB, 3 HR, 7 R (0.10 WPA)
Carlos Ruiz: .391 AVG, 6 BB, 7 RBI (0.32 WPA)
Chase Utley: .472 OBA, 7 runs, 2 SB (0.42 WPA)
Shane Victorino: .344 AVG, .625 SLG, 7 R (-0.19 WPA)
Raul Ibanez: 8 RBI (0.20 WPA)

Unfortunately for Los Angeles, the only player who has consistently risen to the occasion in fall ball is outfielder Andre Ethier (0.49 WPA), who is currently hitting .333/.419/.741 in seven games and is leading the club in runs scored, RBI, and is tied for the lead in both doubles and homers. Veteran outfielder Manny Ramirez has been the team’s second best hitter, but his line is just .276/.300/.483. More importantly, he has just four RBI in seven games.

Unless the offense suddenly wakes up, Los Angeles will need another dominating performance out of Padilla, who has not pitched on short rest at all this season – and he’s gone seven innings or more in three straight games just once this season (in May).


NLCS Coverage: Phillies in the Driver’s Seat

If you missed the game last night, this pretty much says it all.

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The Philadelphia Phillies club took advantage of a Los Angeles starter who was clearly rusty after being activated off the disabled list prior to the start of the National League Championship Series (NLCS). Hiroki Kuroda allowed six runs on six hits in just 1.1 innings of work, for a WPA of -.334. Starter-turned-playoff-reliever Chad Billingsley offered some relief with 3.1 innings of work, but his recent inactivity (it was the first time he’d pitched since Sept. 29) eventually caught up with him.

On the flip side, Phillies starter Cliff Lee (.153 WPA) was magnificent yet again. He pitched eight shutout innings with just three hits allowed. He struck out 10 Dodgers hitters without allowing a walk. Lee also induced nine ground-ball outs (plus five fly balls and two line drives).

This is Mr. October, Cliff Lee:
Oct. 7 – 9.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0-5 BB-K, 37.0 GB%, .397 WPA
Oct. 12 – 7.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3-5 BB-K, 32.0 GB%, .307 WPA
Oct. 18 – 8.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0-10 BB-K, 56.0 GB%, .153 WPA

Last night, first baseman Ryan Howard was the Phillies best hitter… again. He drove in three runs and posted a WPA of .155. Outfielder Shane Victorino (.045 WPA) had a good night as well, with three RBI, two runs scored and two hits, including a homer. Catcher Carlos Ruiz (.028) continued his hot hitting with two base knocks. He also scored two runs and drove in one. Outfielder Jayson Werth posted the second highest WPA at .074 and drove in two runs.

Game Four is tonight in Philadelphia with the home team up 2-1 in the NLCS. The Phillies organization will look to take a stranglehold on the series with Joe Blanton on the hill against Randy Wolf. Blanton has made two appearances in the 2009 playoffs so far – and both came out of the bullpen. In 3.2 innings, he’s allowed two runs on four hits and has a 43% ground-ball rate. Blanton struggled with his fastball (-0.80 wFB/C) command during the regular season, but he’ll look to establish the heater well enough to set up his changeup (1.95 wCH/C) and slider (1.22 wSL/C).

Wolf will be looking to bounce back from a poor outing against St. Louis on Oct. 7, his only appearance in the series so far. The left-hander allowed two runs in 3.2 innings. He allowed six hits and five walks. Although it averages out at just 89 mph, Wolf has an effective fastball (1.47 wFB/C) that he backs up with a good curveball (1.66 wCB/C). He also mixes in a slider and changeup.


NLCS Coverage: Phillies Stuck in Park

The National League Championship Series (NLCS) Game Two starters put on a show on Friday night. Los Angeles’ Vicente Padilla allowed just one run on four hits and a walk in 7.1 innings (.258 WPA). Philadelphia’s Pedro Martinez (.500 WPA), who hadn’t pitched in a game since Sept. 30, pitched 7.0 innings and allowed just two hits (and no walks).

The most questionable move came when Martinez was pulled from the game with Philadelphia up 1-0 in the eighth. Manager Charlie Manuel chose to bring in reliever Chan Ho Park (-.296 WPA). Park had dominated his former team the night before, so it’s easy to understand the line of thinking.

However, the veteran had just been activated from the disabled list before Game One of the series. Park had not pitched since Sept. 16 due to the injury problem. Why would you sit a guy for a month and then ask him to pitch on back-to-back days? It was well publicized that Park was not at 100% at the start of the series.

On offense for the Phillies, only first baseman Ryan Howard and catcher Carlos Ruiz had positive WPAs at .141 and .058, respectively.

The rest of the offense will look to get rolling tonight against LA’s Hiroki Kuroda, who has historically had good success against Philadelphia. Kuroda was activated prior to the NLCS after missing time due to a neck injury. He has not pitched since Sept. 28. As a result, the bullpen will be on its toes.

Cliff Lee will head to the hill for Philly. The club has won both of Lee’s 2009 playoff starts. The game will begin in Philadephia shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern.


NLCS Coverage: Phillies Keep Mashing

The pitching was not pretty but the bats certainly picked up the slack for Philadelphia. The Phillies took Game One of the National League Championship Series on Thursday night with an 8-6 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

On offense, both left fielder Raul Ibanez and catcher Carlos Ruiz added nails to the Dodgers’ Game One coffin with three-run homers. Ruiz posted a WPA of .275, while Ibanez sat at .151. Ruiz added a single and walk to his performance on Thursday. Ibanez also had a single and scored a second run. For the third straight game, first baseman Ryan Howard made the most of one hit. He drove in two runs, scored once and walked twice. His WPA was .158.

Both left-handed starters, Cole Hamels for Philly (-.196 WPA) and Clayton Kershaw for LA (-.301), struggled. The pitcher of the game was Philadelphia reliever Chan Ho Park, who interestingly enough pitched for Los Angeles last year. He took to the mound in the seventh inning and posted a .240 WPA while striking out a batter and inducing two ground balls. Park missed the National League Division Series with injury woes and is not considered to be at full strength yet.

It’s not often that a team will walk away with a win in Los Angeles after allowing five Dodgers hitters to bang out two or more hits. Both James Loney (.193 WPA) and Andre Ethier (.176) had three hits. Manny Ramirez (-.042) was held to just one hit – but it was a two-run homer off of Hamels.

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Let’s take a closer look at Carlos Ruiz‘ season. He doesn’t get a lot of attention as a top catcher because he doesn’t hit for a high average or slug a lot of homers, but the Panama native is better than most people realize (at least in the catcher context). For the ’09 season, Ruiz finished tied for fourth with St. Louis’ Yadier Molina in wOBA (.337) amongst catchers in the National League (300+ at-bats).

His ISO of .171 was good for fifth in the league for backstops. Ruiz also had the third highest walk rate and the third lowest strikeout rate. His BABIP of just .266 helps to explain the low batting average. He had the fourth best WPA (0.37) behind Atlanta’s Brian McCann (1.57), Arizona’s Miguel Montero (0.80), and Cincinnati’s Ramon Hernandez (0.62).

Overall, Ruiz was worth about $10 million to the Phillies in 2009 (he’s actually making just $475,000, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts), or slightly more than two runs above replacement. With his post-season contributions to this point added in, Ruiz has been worth much more than that to the Phillies.


NLCS Coverage: Phillies Ready for Game One

Game One of the National League Championship Series (NLCS) begins in Los Angeles tonight. Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels will take to the mound against the Dodgers’ young lefty Clayton Kershaw.

Hamels will look to throw the ball better than he did in his one NLDS start against Colorado. In that game, Hamels took the loss after allowing four runs on seven hits in five innings of work. If confidence plays into his success at all, Hamels should be brimming with it when facing the Dodgers. He dominated the team a year ago in the ’08 NLCS.

The offense was pretty darn successful against Colorado in the National League Division Series. Entering the ’09 NLCS, the hot hitters include the big names like Shane Victorino, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Chase Utley, and Raul Ibanez. Even Carlos Ruiz got in on the act. The one player we have yet to see break out in post-season play is shortstop Jimmy Rollins. He scored just one run in the NLDS, and posted an on-base average of just .263. Rollins did not drive in any runs, either, although, to be fair, that is not his job.

The bench – Miguel Cairo, Greg Dobbs, Matt Stairs, and Ben Francisco – was also quiet. Collectively, the quartet went 0-for-8 with one walk. That lack of production from the veterans could very easily have a much larger impact in the NLCS than it did in the NLDS.

As mentioned, these two teams faced off in the ’08 NLCS… With few major subtractions on either team, let’s have a look at the key additions for each club from one year ago.

Key Additions for Philadelphia:
Chan Ho Park, RHP
Pedro Martinez, RHP
Cliff Lee, LHP
Raul Ibanez, LF

Key Additions for Los Angeles:
Ronald Belisario, RHP
Vicente Padilla, RHP
George Sherrill, LHP
Randy Wolf, LHP
Jeff Weaver, RHP
Ronnie Belliard, 2B
Orlando Hudson, 2B
Jim Thome, 1B

Los Angeles has certainly had the bigger of the two face-lifts. Overall, though, you have to like the value of Philadelphia’s four additions over the eight players that LA added, based on what they collectively provided during the regular season: 12.3 vs 9.2 WAR.

On paper, it’s hard to pick a favorite to win the NLCS. Both teams have good pitching and good hitting. For the fans, this could end up being a very entertaining series. I’m also willing to bet that the bullpens and benches will play much larger roles than they did in the two division series.


NLDS Coverage: Phillies Movin’ On

The Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Colorado Rockies by the score of 5-4 on Monday night to take the best-of-five National League Division Series (NLDS) in four games. It was certainly an exciting end to the series with Colorado storming back to take the lead by the score of 4-2 in the eighth inning, with a three-run explosion. Unfortunately, yet another veteran closer blew up as Huston Street gave up three runs to the Phillies in the ninth inning.

Both starters were solid: Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez went 7.0 innings and posted a WPA of .133. Philly’s Cliff Lee went 7.1 innings and posted a WPA of .276. Offensively, Jayson Werth and Ryan Howard led the way for Philadelphia. Werth drove in two runs, plated once and posted a WPA of .397. Howard, again, made the most of one hit in the game – a double – and he drove in two runs and scored once. His WPA was .320.


Offensive MVP: Ryan Howard
Howard led the team with six RBI in the NLDS, and he also scored three runs. He heated up throughout the series, posting WPAs each game of .007, .115, .208, and .320.

Pitching MVP: Cliff Lee
Lee pitched a total of 16.1 innings out of a possible 18.0 frames, saving the bullpen and giving the team a great opportunity to win both games, which it did. He posted WPAs of .397 and .276.

Honorable Mentions:
Colorado’s most consistent hitter, despite the overall losing effort in the series, was young outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. In 17 at-bats, he hit .588/.632/.882 with 10 hits in four games. He also stole two bases, walked twice and struck out just once. Gonzalez had at least two hits in each game.

Veteran catcher Yorvit Torrealba had a big impact on the series as well, posting WPAs of .021, .213, -.132 and .321. He also played solid defense and did a nice job with his game calling. Torrealba led Rockies hitters with five RBI in the series and was second to Gonzalez in total bases with 10.

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It’s now onto Los Angeles, where Philadelphia will face the Dodgers on Thursday night. The starters have not been announced yet, but lefty Cole Hamels is expected to get the ball in Game One of the National League Championship Series (NLCS). The two teams faced off in the 2008 NLCS, as well, with Philly coming out on top and eventually winning the World Series.


NLDS Coverage: Phillies in the Driver’s Seat

I think it’s safe to say that the Game 3 of the National League Division Series (NLDS) between Philadelphia and Colorado was not a pretty one… and it was a little painful to watch for those of us who hate the cold. Neither starter – Jason Hammel for Colorado and J.A. Happ for Philly – made it into the fifth inning. The Rockies pitchers appeared to have problems with the cold and issued eight walks in the game. Philly starters gave up four free passes, including two in one inning of work by Brad Lidge. He shut the door in the ninth inning, but Lidge kept fans – on both sides – on the edge of their seats through the entire ordeal.

With a WPA of .430, young outfielder Carlos Gonzalez attempted to win the game all by his lonesome. He has looked extremely impressive in this series, finally living up to the lofty reputation as a top prospect. On Philly’s side, second baseman Chase Utley had a solid game with a WPA of .274. He had three hits, including a solo homer. Utley also scored two runs. Although he had just one hit in four at-bats, first baseman Ryan Howard posted a WPA of .208 and drove in two runs. The bullpen took a potential hit when left-handed reliever Scott Eyre had to leave the game with a twisted ankle.

Game 4

It’s going to be another cold night on Monday evening as the Rockies host Game 4 of the NLDS. It will be a good pitching matchup with Ubaldo Jimenez going for the home side, and Cliff Lee taking the ball for Philly. Lee dominated Colorado in the first game of the series and pitched a complete game. That, of course, was in a more favorable pitching environment and with the home-field advantage.

The bullpens were used pretty heavily by both clubs last night: Colorado used six relievers, Philadelphia used five relievers. Eyre is likely unavailable for Philly. The Phillies still have Pedro Martinez in the ‘pen, who has yet to throw a pitch in the series.

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A couple quick observations from the other series this past week:
1. I have never seen a veteran closer look as nervous facing a lineup as Joe Nathan appeared on Friday. Horrible results followed his arrival on the mound. I couldn’t believe it when manager Ron Gardenhire brought Nathan out again on Sunday after watching him in the previous matchup. I knew the series was over when Nathan walked in.

2. Watching Scott Kazmir in the third inning of the Angels-Red Sox game on Sunday was an eye opener. I can see why he’s struggled at times this year. With runners on second base – first Jacoby Ellsbury and then Dustin Pedroia – Kazmir’s grips on the ball were clearly visible in his glove; I was able to call every pitch without having to try and decipher the catcher’s signal. Not surprisingly, both Pedroia and Victor Martinez swung like they knew exactly what type of pitch was coming.


NLDS Coverage: A Snow Day in Colorado

Update: Due to cold and snow in Colorado, Saturday’s game has been postponed until Sunday at 8:07 p.m. Game 4 has been moved to Monday. A special thanks to reader Edmund for the FYI.

The Philadelphia Phillies organization has announced that right-hander Pedro Martinez will start Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Colorado Rockies today (Saturday). The game begins at 9:37 p.m. (eastern). With Joe Blanton having been used in relief on Thursday (albeit for just one inning), it made sense to go with the veteran hurler who has more playoff experience. As well, Martinez was signed late in the year for this very situation: October baseball.

Although he made just nine starts this year, Martinez was relatively effective despite lacking his fastball of yesteryear. Given that he topped five innings just four times, though, the bullpen could come into play early on Saturday. Luckily, both Blanton and J.A. Happ – starters during the regular season – are available in the ‘pen. In his last start of the regular season (against Houston), Martinez lasted just four innings and he allowed three runs – including two homers. His fastball was hitting 92 mph in the first inning, but it touched 90 mph just twice in the second inning and beyond.

To have success on Saturday, Martinez will need to mix his four pitches (fastball, slider/cutter, curve, change) and also have his good control (1.61 BB/9). The cold weather in Colorado could very well hamper his command of the ball. The forecast is calling for freezing drizzle during the day, which will turn to a light snow this evening as the temperature dips below freezing(!). There could even be a threat of fog if the game is a long one.

The edge would certainly seem to favor the Rockies club, as the players have more experience playing in colder temperatures (mind you, Philly isn’t exactly balmy right now). However, Martinez is a smart veteran hurler, whose numbers clearly show that he still has something in the tank.


NLDS Coverage: Philly’s Role Reversal

Game 2 of the National League Division Series (NLDS) clearly did not go as well as Philadelphia had hoped it would. However, if one positive is to be taken away from the game it would be that the offense is getting on-base with a sprinkling of walks and 23 hits in two games.

The 28 runners left on base, though, is highly unacceptable. Leadoff hitter Jimmy Rollins has left five men on base, while No. 2 hitter Shane Victorino has stranded four. Rollins has yet to score a run and Victorino has plated once.

Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, and Raul Ibanez have been the hottest hitters through two games. Ibanez has driven in four runs, Werth has scored three runs, while Howard has two runs scored and two RBI. The big first base in hitting the ball well – and with authority. Of his six balls put into play in the series, four have gone for line drives. Interestingly, Ibanez has been succeeding in the series by hitting ground balls. The left-fielder has put eight balls in play and six of those have come on the ground. Werth has been a mixed bag.

If Philly is going to have success against the Rockies, the club needs to find away to get players like Rollins and Victorino into scoring position so the hot hitters (and those that are paid to drive in runs) can bring them home. Right now, Howard, Werth and Ibanez are getting on base, while Rollins and Victorino are being asked to bring them in.

Game 3

What we know: They’re expecting snow for Game 3 (seriously). What we don’t know: Who is pitching for the Phillies. Jason Hammel will be on the mound for Colorado. Philly will send either Joe Blanton or Pedro Martinez to the hill. Rookie starter J.A. Happ, who has been dealing with an injured shin, is expected to be available out of the bullpen. The third game of the NLDS is scheduled for 9:37 p.m. eastern time on Saturday. We’ll have more on Game 3 on Saturday morning.