Organizational Rankings: #14

One quick note before we get to the next report – due to the Nationals inexplicable decision to release Shawn Hill yesterday, they’ve been dropped a spot on the list. They now rank #31, and we’ve promoted the North Carolina Tar Heels to the #30 spot. At least they have a few quality big league players and aren’t run by consulting the magic 8 ball.

Today, we keep looking at some teams that have legitimate hope, so it gets harder from here on out. And, for those of you who haven’t seen the previous parts (which are linked below), keep in mind that this is a forward looking exercise – we are evaluating clubs on their overall ability to contend for a World Series title in the future. We are not evaluating how they have performed historically. This is about the health of each organization going forward.

Rankings So Far

#30: Washington Nationals
#29: Florida Marlins
#28: Houston Astros
#27: Kansas City Royals
#26: Pittsburgh Pirates
#25: San Diego Padres
#24: Cincinnati Reds
#23: Colorado Rockies
#22: Detroit Tigers
#21: St. Louis Cardinals
#20: Toronto Blue Jays
#19: San Francisco Giants
#18: Minnesota Twins
#17: Chicago White Sox
#16: Baltimore Orioles
#15: Seattle Mariners

#14: Philadelphia Phillies

Ownership: A

The Phillies ownership group is most notable for their absence. When a Philadelphia magazine did a story on the investors in the group, they actually hired a private investigator to help them obtain photos, since none existed in the public domain. It doesn’t get much more silent partner than this group, who have stayed in the background, funded the team, and basically kept to themselves. With a new stadium and coming off a World Series title, the ownership agreed to be one of the few MLB teams to increase the budget for the ’09 season, and they’ve continually been in the top level of payroll for the last five years. Well capitalized, no interference from upper management, a new ballpark, a big market… tough to ask for much more.

Front Office: C

While Pat Gillick was no fan of the movement towards statistical analysis in baseball, in a lot of ways, he valued the same things they do but just used a different path to get there. He consistently paid for quality defense, patient hitters, and premium up the middle talent. So, while he eschewed modern advances in analytics, he also put together good teams that could win in the short term. Ruben Amaro, however, looks to be a combination of most of the bad and not that much of the good. He shares Gillick’s distrust of modern baseball analysis, but lacks the good qualities that allowed Gillick to succeed. In addition, the promotion of Amaro drove talented scout Mike Arbuckle from the organization, which is a significant blow to the team’s brain trust.

Major League Talent: B+

I can hear the screams now – the defending World Champs get a B+? The horror. Unfortunately for Phillies fans, their championship run was fueled by performances that we simply can’t expect to be repeated. I like Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino as much as the next guy, but you’re not getting +9.5 wins from those two again. Pat Burrell‘s been replaced by the inferior Raul Ibanez. Jimmy Rollins UZR was higher last year than in the previous two seasons put together. Brad Lidge isn’t perfect. Chase Utley is headed for his decline phase and battling hip problems. There’s just a lot of places on this team to expect regression, and while they should still be a contender for 2009, they have some issues that didn’t get addressed this winter.

Minor League Talent: B-

This is an interesting collection of talent. Carlos Carrasco is a good arm with a plus change-up, but inconsistent results and some health questions. Dominic Brown is an extremely athletic, high upside outfielder, but there are questions about his power and whether he can stick in CF. Michael Taylor is a beast of a man who can hit the tar out of a baseball, but his approach isn’t good and his defense is worse, and that skillset has huge bust potential. Kyle Drabek had a good arm before TJ surgery. Lou Marson and Jason Donald are more nifty depth than potential starters. There’s not a sure thing in the bunch, but lots of intriguing upside and very happy best case scenarios.

Overall: B-

Pat Gillick has a long history of leaving franchises in ruins when he walks away. He didn’t destroy the Phillies in the same way that he did the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Mariners, but he left enough holes to patch that Ruben Amaro is going to have to be an extremely quick learner in order to keep the team a perennial contender. He has the funds to compete, but I’m skeptical that he’s going to know which players are worth spending money on. If the farm system doesn’t produce a couple of high quality players in the next year or two, the Phillies age will catch up them very quickly.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Matt B.
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Matt B.
7 years 4 months ago

Well, atleast the Mariners are finally ranked. We don’t have to hear why every team ranked should be ahead of them….

Terry
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Terry
7 years 4 months ago

Personally I think the low ranking of the Ms (only 15th!?!) is primarily due to the author’s bias against the Ms.

Jeff Nye
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7 years 4 months ago

OMG YOU ONLY PUT THE DEFENDING WORLD CHAMPS ONE SPOT ABOVE THE MARINERS HOW DARE YOU?!

Just getting that out of the way early.

Brock
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Brock
7 years 4 months ago

If you couldn’t think of one positive thing to say about Ruben Amaro, how does he manage to get a C?

Fresh Hops
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Fresh Hops
7 years 4 months ago

C is average and knowing little else about him than that he’s a GM, assume average? Well, given that no one ever gets a C for being average (average is almost always B-/C+), C looks like it’s about right, right?

mattymatty
Guest
7 years 4 months ago

I think we know almost as much about Amaro as we do about the M’s GM (who’s name I won’t attempt to mangle). The signing of Ibanez was awful on multiple levels, and the continued lack of attempts to improve the starting pitching staff is depressing. I’d say “D+”, but then I ain’t Dave (lucky for all of you).

Richie Abernathy
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7 years 4 months ago

I think that Cole Hamels guy is worth mentioning in an evaluation of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies.

math_geek
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math_geek
7 years 4 months ago

There is not much negative to say about Cole Hamels.

Aaron/YYZ
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Aaron/YYZ
7 years 4 months ago

Well the massive injury risk… he had a pretty significant injury history in the minors iirc.

DavidCEisen
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DavidCEisen
7 years 4 months ago

Massive injury risk is a bit of an overstatement.

Matt H.
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Matt H.
7 years 4 months ago

No it is not, he has had one healthy pro season

Teej
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Teej
7 years 4 months ago

It’s not an evaluation of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. It’s an evaluation of the 2009-and-beyond Philadelphia Phillies.

ThundaPC
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ThundaPC
7 years 4 months ago

One thing’s for sure. Signing Raul Ibanez before the market collapsed can’t be seen as the best of starts for a new tenure. Going to be interesting to see how Ruben Amaro maintains this team.

JI
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JI
7 years 4 months ago

Economy be damned, I sure as hell wouldn’t trade my first pick for Ibanez.

vivaelpujols
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vivaelpujols
7 years 4 months ago

Your biased

DavidCEisen
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DavidCEisen
7 years 4 months ago

I’m confused how an ownership group with an A rating in a major market combined with B+ major league talent (a bit underrated, I think) equals a B-. They have Utley, Howard, Rollins, and Hamels for the next couple of years surrounded by largely solid players. I’m not sure what you are basing Utley’s decline on, either. He is 30.

Amaro doesn’t have to make any creative moves or find hidden talents, he just needs to keep plugging in role players over the next few years and the Phillies will be title contenders. As much as the Ibanez move was dumb, overpaying him won’t hurt them as much as it would hurt a smaller market team.

JH
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JH
7 years 4 months ago

Players decline after 30, and injuries don’t do them any favors in staving off their decline phase. Utley is 30 and battling a pretty major hip injury. Also, though he’s only been in the league a few years, Howard is 29. If he recovers fully from the injury Utley’s decline should at least be graceful, since he’s athletic and he’s got a very high level to begin declining from, but Howard’s decline is the one that would worry me. He has classic old player skills, zero defensive versatility, and huge holes in his swing that figure to get worse. He screams Mo Vaughn to me. He’s also coming off the worst season of his career.

Personally, as far as currently successful teams with aging cores go, I’d probably rank the Angels below the Phillies, but I see the argument.

Evan
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Evan
7 years 4 months ago

Clearly the Front Office, whose grade you completely ignored, pulls them down.

Double06
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Double06
7 years 4 months ago

He’s not basing a B- on those two criteria, and he’s not basing it on the other two criteria in the article you’ve failed to address. Howard is only an above average player in decline getting paid like a star, and the article clearly points to Utley’s hip problem being a factor of decline; other factors being that second basemen typically decline quickly and all players typically peak at age 27. Utley has been defying statistical expectations for several years now even considering he’s not your typical second baseman.

And if Amaro doesn’t find hidden resources while other teams do, the Phillies are going to pay. This ability is going to become more important in the near future before it becomes less important because it’s only a matter of time before teams in the NL East become better at this, and it’s a huge reason that Gillick turned the Phillies around so quickly — and even still, they never were able to dispatch the Mets until September. The Phillies NEED this ability because trying to outspend the Mets and Braves is a piss-poor strategy. The Ibanez move can be absorbed by a big market team, but resources are still finite and could have easily been spent with much more reward.

DavidCEisen
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DavidCEisen
7 years 4 months ago

Howard is an above average player? Last year he was worth 3.5 wins. I think that his numbers are going to rebound this year, I can’t guarantee that of course but the projections back me up. An article published here in January believes that Howard suffered bad luck last year: http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/index.php/unlucky-r-ho

Utley’s hip was such a problem that last year he was worth 8 wins and played amazing defense. Unless you think his hip is going to be worse this year? As far as defying statistical expectations, I was under the impression that the various projections used on this site were based on statistical expectations…

DavidCEisen
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DavidCEisen
7 years 4 months ago

Also the age 27 peak is a myth. OPS peaks at around 30.

John
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John
7 years 4 months ago

Evidence of that?

JH
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JH
7 years 4 months ago

Yeah, no it isn’t. The last studies I saw on peak performance were done by BP about 3 years ago, and they affirmed the age-27 peak over a sample size of thousands of hitters.

DavidCEisen
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DavidCEisen
7 years 4 months ago

The problem with that is that it includes players that aren’t good enough to play beyond the age of 27 or 28. For example say a player has the wOBA of .275 at 25, .277 at 26, & .282 at 27. After he is 28, the team figures out he sucks and is cut. He still peaked, though, at 27 though. A good player, such as Utley, gets to continue to play longer. There is too many problems with sample populations.

Jeff Nye
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7 years 4 months ago

Cool. Where’s the link to the study that you’ve done where you found that the real peak for OPS is age 30?

Jason T
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Jason T
7 years 4 months ago

I’m confused how an ownership group with an A rating in a major market combined with B+ major league talent (a bit underrated, I think) equals a B-.

I’m confused about how every thread somebody makes a comment about the grades.

R.J. Anderson
Member
7 years 4 months ago

People don’t believe Dave when he says it’s not an average.

Teej
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Teej
7 years 4 months ago

If there’s anyone who doesn’t understand math, it’s definitely Dave.

DavidCEisen
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DavidCEisen
7 years 4 months ago

I never said I thought it was an average, did I? Obviously it shouldn’t be.
But how can a large market team with great ownership combine with great major league talent, slightly above average minor league talent, who is coming off winning the World Series be given a B-? There are 13 teams more likely to win the WS next year?

Double06
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Double06
7 years 4 months ago

Organizational health is the other qualifier that Dave copies and pastes into every article. “Going forward” isn’t necessarily contained by a few months.

Basil Ganglia
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Basil Ganglia
7 years 4 months ago

“There are 13 teams more likely to win the WS next year?”

This is not a ranking of which teams are most likely to win the World Seriies. It’s Dave’s assessment of the capabilities of each team to attain and maintain World Series competitiveness on a continuing basis.

The grade reflects that while the Dodgers have some significant advantages, they really have not shown a capability to consistently leverage those advantages. Overall that drags the Dodgers down to the middle of the pack in overall, sustained competitiveness. It seems to me that’s about right for the Dodgers.

Basil Ganglia
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Basil Ganglia
7 years 4 months ago

Ignore my comment above. I had tabs open to two pages and commented in the wrong tab.

Teej
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Teej
7 years 4 months ago

It’s also worth mentioning that the Phillies don’t get to start drafting players until around spot No. 80 this year, thanks to the Ibanez signing and not offering Burrell arbitration

Brian
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Brian
7 years 4 months ago

It’s also worth mentioning that if the Phillies hadn’t won the World Series they’d be drafting a lot higher as well. When you already have a talent level capable of winning the World Series, getting draftees that can make it to the majors ASAP isn’t as much of a priority as it is for other teams.

And offering Burrell arbitration would have a) messed up the Phillies’ plans for the year, and b) cost them millions more than Ibanez (see a), because Pat would have said yes and taken the 1 year deal. How much of a pay cut from $13 million (or so) were the Phillies going to get after Pat’s 33 homerun, .250/.367/.507 line in 08?

Teej
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Teej
7 years 4 months ago

I was just mentioning it as an aside to Dave’s paragraph about the minor league system, but since we’re on the topic . . .

“When you already have a talent level capable of winning the World Series, getting draftees that can make it to the majors ASAP isn’t as much of a priority as it is for other teams.

That is true. You don’t need talent ASAP. But you’ll need it in the coming years when your currently peaking players start to collapse. Even more reason to draft a player who might be years away but has a ton of potential. It doesn’t matter how good your team on the field is — drafting high-ceiling talent is important, and the Phillies are at a disadvantage in this draft because of the Ibanez signing.

Not offering Burrell arbitration, fine. But signing a Type A player who is worse to replace him is harmful to the future. To what degree, who knows, but giving up a first-rounder to downgrade looks like a pretty bad move right now.

The Phillies obviously have a good team. But that’s irrelevant to the fact that they hurt their future for no immediate benefit.

DavidCEisen
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DavidCEisen
7 years 4 months ago

“Even more reason to draft a player who might be years away but has a ton of potential.”

Isn’t that exactly what the Phillies did last year?
Anthony Hewitt, Zach Collier, Anthony Gose, Trevor May, et al are all huge upside players that are long term projects.

Teej
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Teej
7 years 4 months ago

Again, it was just a fact I wanted to throw out there as an addendum to Dave’s paragraph on the farm system: The Phillies don’t pick until late in the second round, and that’s because of the two moves they made this offseason. That’s a fact. My opinion is that the offseason as a whole was a bad one. They’re a good team, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to make dumb moves. I think signing Ibanez was a dumb move.

I’m not arguing anything about the current state of the Phillies’ farm system. I don’t pretend to be any sort of expert on prospects.

DavidCEisen
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DavidCEisen
7 years 4 months ago

I’m just saying that last year the Phillies drafted a lot of high ceiling players that won’t be ready for 4-5 years, or roughly exactly when they would be needed.

Longgandhi
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Longgandhi
7 years 4 months ago

Shawn Hill hasn’t pitched more than 110 innngs in a season since 2003 and he’s been nothing but a starter that whole time; zero relief appearances. So to insist that a franchise was somehow incompetent for releasing a 28-year old pitcher who goes on the DL every time he raises his arm lacks credibility.

It also seems that you completely dismiss the impact of coaching in your team appraisals. The Nats brought in Marquis Grissom, Cesar Cedeno and Jose Cardenal to instruct the outfielders how to play better defense. It remains to be seen if they will have a significant impact but at least it shows they understand the problem and are addressing it. Bad organizations either don’t know they have a problem or don’t address them.

And if you grade pitching coaches by how well their charges perform under them versus elsewhere, Randy St. Claire ranks with the best pitching coaches in baseball. So even a raw talent like Daniel Cabrera has at least a chance to pull off a Loaiza-like transformation. I’m not saying the probability is high, but it’s a chance worth taking for a team that is supposedly so poorly run and so destitute of hope. Your potshots are grossly misplaced.

Milendriel
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Milendriel
7 years 4 months ago

“Bad organizations either don’t know they have a problem or don’t address them.”

Or: they know they have a problem but don’t know how to address it (yet they think they do know) and end up making it worse. Kind of like the Phillies thinking Ibanez is a defensive upgrade over Burrell.

Brian
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Brian
7 years 4 months ago

Phillies didn’t bring in Ibanez to replace Pat Burrell’s “defense”, so if Ibanez is somehow worse in this respect I don’t think the front office will be wondering how it all went wrong. They’re not so worried about left field D that it was a priority in their search for a new left fielder. I don’t think they ignored it, but given the choices available, they weren’t going to get a good bat and good D in the same package. And 2008 proved that the team is good enough to win a World Series even with a defensive donkey in left field. As long as Ibanez can hit, they’re getting what they hoped for.

Brian
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Brian
7 years 4 months ago

While the Phillies ownership’s ‘Yeah, just mail us the check’ attitude has its undeniably good points, the locals have been bitching for years that they refuse to take advantage of the heavyweight caliber media market they enjoy, and have preferred instead to stay on the conservative side when it comes to team payroll and other expenses. This year is obviously a welcome change, though, and a strange, ‘I… can’t say anything bad about the job ownership has done this offseason’ affliction has hit local sports talk radio. Long may it last.

And I will maintain, until the day the stats say otherwise oc, that Ibanez is an upgrade over Burrell, and that he fits the organization’s needs much better. The Phils just need him to produce for two years, and then hope that one of their young toolsy prospects pans out well enough to take his place, while he settles into the ‘older character guy playing a part time role’ that Jenkins currently holds. Ibanez fit that 3 year arc better than Burrell. Plus, the stat head love for Pat isn’t unwarranted, but it is exaggerated.

Also, no reason why Victorino and Werth can’t put up the same numbers again this year. And last year *was* regression for a number of key hitters on the team (Utley and Rollins, in particular, were hampered by injuries), so I don’t know why ‘more regression’ is a more likely outcome than ‘bounce back to the mean’. Analysis doesn’t support the idea that the Phillies were fueled by career years from their key hitters. That said, the area of the team that isn’t likely to be repeated is the crazy good pitching from last year, particularly from the bullpen. Durbin was shockingly good at holding the 6-7 inning role, and if he can do it again I’ll be amazed.

Jeff Nye
Guest
7 years 4 months ago

The stats already say otherwise. Ibanez is a downgrade from Burrell. Slightly better offense (.368 wOBA for Ibanez, .355 for Burrell using each one’s 2009 CHONE projections) and significantly worse defense (-10.4 vs. -7.4 2008 UZR/150), plus Ibanez is further into his decline phase. It was an entirely indefensible move by the Phillies, but as a Mariners fan, all I have to say is THANK YOU.

As far as Werth and Victorino go; Victorino was a pretty stable 2.5 win player up until last year, when he put up a 4.3. Similar situation with Werth, who has more past variability around his likely 2 win true talent level, but still went from a 3.4 to a 5.2.

They’re probably both realistically more like 2.5-3 win players, and while it’s not impossible that they’ve figured something out and are suddenly better than that, there’s nothing in their prior history to suggest that is the case.

More regression is exactly what you should expect from Utley and Howard, especially within the context of Utley’s injury.

DavidCEisen
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DavidCEisen
7 years 4 months ago

How can you expect regression from a player who played half of last season with a serious hip injury? Even assuming that he isn’t 100% this season due to the surgery, you have go to expect him to feel better than he did last year.

This whole notion that Utley is due for a regression is ungrounded. Jeff Kent, Joe Morgan, Roberto Alomar, and Ryan Sandberg all peaked at or after their age 30 season, and Utley is better than any of them.

Brian
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Brian
7 years 4 months ago

Well, anyone in Philly can understand the relief at getting rid of a butcher in the field. No one here ever wants Abreu to return, and we don’t care if he still hits. But c’mon, the stats have nothing to say ‘already’ about Pat and Raul because they haven’t played one game this season. Whatever the miniscule difference is between terrible defense and completely terrible defense, it wasn’t worth paying Pat more to stay in Philly. The deal may look crazy to people outside the bubble, but it makes plenty of sense when you know what the Phillies wanted and what was available. Ibanez isn’t ideal, but the 100% perfect fit is rarely out there at the right price.

As for Werth, I think people are selling him short. He has battled injuries his whole career, but after he joined the Phillies he avoided major injuries and played so well that he pushed Jenkins to the ‘overpriced benchwarmer role’ that, ironically, Jenkins was trying to avoid in Milwaukee. So I don’t know why Werth’s ‘injured’ value from a few years ago rates as his ‘true talent’ level, unless people think he’s going to go back to being injured every year, a la Milton Bradley or Cliff Floyd.

In addition, it took time for Werth to supplant Jenkins in right last year, so he put up his numbers in only 482 PA, because he wasn’t playing every day until two months or so into the season. If he’s going to get even more PAs this season, as seems likely barring injury, I don’t know why we expect Werth to be worth significantly (25%+) fewer wins. Logic, and the fact that my eyes see him tagging the ball in ST, make me bullish.

Teej
Guest
Teej
7 years 4 months ago

And I will maintain, until the day the stats say otherwise oc, that Ibanez is an upgrade over Burrell, and that he fits the organization’s needs much better.

Not to sound like a smartass, but what stats are you looking at? Burrell is a better hitter, he’s projected to be a better hitter going forward, he’s younger, and they’re probably equally terrible in the outfield. He gets on base more and he slugs more.

And that’s before we even get into the fact that getting Ibanez required a three-year contract for a guy who’s about to turn 37 and they had to give up a first-round draft pick.

If the organization’s needs include soul patches and even more left-handed hitting, then sure. But when it comes to improving the team on the field, I think the stats show pretty clearly that they replaced Burrell with an inferior player.

CH
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CH
7 years 4 months ago

+1

DavidCEisen
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DavidCEisen
7 years 4 months ago

One argument that can be made is that Ibanez is more consistent over the course of a season, whereas Burrell is prone to wild swings in productivity. He is capable of being as hot as any player in the league and then going 2 for 40.

Teej
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Teej
7 years 4 months ago

This is purely anecdotal, but having watched the Mariners play for years, I’ve seen Ibanez go through some pretty big swings as well. Not as many, I’m sure, but for the past two years Ibanez has been far worse in the first half than he was in the second.

I’m aware that Burrell frustrates fans (the K’s don’t help), but you have to take the cold streaks with the hot. When Ryan Howard was hitting .172/.297/.343 in April, it was nice to have Burrell’s .326/.452/.674 to go along with it, helping Utley and others to keep the team afloat until Howard woke up.

I’m not a huge Burrell fan, but I think he gets too much crap for the streakiness. I’d rather have him for a year than Ibanez for three.

Brian
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Brian
7 years 4 months ago

A clearer way to say it was ‘I believe Ibanez will outperform Burrell this year — and will continue to believe that he is going to have a better year — until his stats at the end of 2009 say otherwise.’

I know what the projections say. I just think they’re going to be wrong.

Jeff Nye
Guest
7 years 4 months ago

Well, okay, but I don’t think you’ll get much support for a viewpoint that refuses to acknowledge the predictive value of the right stats on this site.

DavidCEisen
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DavidCEisen
7 years 4 months ago

While the Phillies were lucky that Pat was killing the ball in April when Howard couldn’t do anything meaningful with the bat, it isn’t something that is reliable.

If the main purpose of signing Ibanez was to have a reasonably consistent player (I haven’t seen many games with Ibanez, but his splits are more consistent than Burrell’s) batting behind Howard, then they accomplished that goal. I don’t necessarily think it was the right decision, but it could end up being the correct one.

One last argument is that the Phillies have a better line up than the Mariners. The talent around Pat meant that he needed to be pitched to, whereas teams could afford to pitch around Ibanez. It’s hard to compare the numbers of a player in the 3rd best offense in the NL with the numbers of a player in the 2nd worst offense in the AL.

DavidCEisen
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DavidCEisen
7 years 4 months ago

@ Jeff

Then why are you ignoring the projections of Utley and Howard? If you are going to say they are due for regression, while the projections say otherwise, why can’t Brian ignore them to support his argument?

Jeff Nye
Guest
7 years 4 months ago

Every projection system but ZiPS expects regression for Utley this upcoming year (well, okay, CHONE expects him to stay the same), so I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Howard, the case for regression is less clear (most systems expect a mild bump upwards for him) but he has classic old-player skills that are notorious for suddenly falling off a cliff, so it’s not impossible that he could hit that cliff this year.

It’s not that any of the players being mentioned are BAD players, or will be next year; but there was a LOT of overachievement on the Phillies roster last year, and regression to the mean is likely to hit them like a freight train this year.

DavidCEisen
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DavidCEisen
7 years 4 months ago

The Bill James project also has Utley preforming at basically the same level. So that is 3/5 predicting the same or increased performance.

Jeff Nye
Guest
7 years 4 months ago

Actually, it’s 4 of 5 saying he’ll be the same or worse.

It’s fun skewing facts to fit your own agenda!

Conballs
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Conballs
7 years 4 months ago

I think the reason Phillies are only 14th is not just because Amaro is a C (and probably deserving of a lower grade), but because Arbuckle is gone (the guy who should be calling the shots right now.) However, Ibanez isn’t as bad as people think. The org can absorb the salary, and at the time of the signing, nobody knew what the economy would do. If he was the player they wanted, and another team was going to sign him, then you can’t just compare it to signings that happened weeks and months later – as much as I despise Amaro, it’s a little unfair. The thing is, Burrell was so inconsistent. So when Howard was hitting, and Burrell was hitting, the Phils would dominate teams. But when Burrell wasn’t hitting, they could pitch around Howard and Phils offense was terrible and the team survived off over-performing pitching. Ibanez is the guy that will knock runs in, Burrell isn’t.

I don’t understand the argument for Howard’s and Utley’s regression either. Utley played hurt all year, while Howard was unlucky, and for the record is much more athletic than Mo Vaughn ever was.

As far as Werth goes, the guy has never been able to play back-to-back full seasons until this past year. We can’t go off his prior performance as much. In fact, he has figured things out. His hitting against right-handed pitchers got better as the season progressed. Victorino maybe played a bit over his head.

Tom Au
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Tom Au
7 years 4 months ago

If the Phillies are “only” number 14 (barely above average) how did they win the World Series last year.

I must confess to have been taken aback by it, but they might have been another “sleeper” organization–a successful one.

Brian
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Brian
7 years 4 months ago

BP’s current annual says the Phillies ‘stumbled’ into a World Series last year, and not one of ESPN’s baseball writers/columnists/analysts picked the Phillies to win at the start of the playoffs last year. Purely anecdotal, but it suggests that most people aren’t on the bandwagon. It is what it is.

DavidCEisen
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DavidCEisen
7 years 4 months ago

‘Stumbled’ is a code word for, we didn’t see this coming, so we’re going to pretend we couldn’t have.

Brian
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Brian
7 years 4 months ago

Actually, I think it’s code for ‘The Phillies don’t do things the ‘right way’, so we’re going to assume that they can’t find real success doing what they’re doing unless a series of unfortunate events intervenes.’

But that sounds whiny. What happens on the field is more important than what people expect to happen.

Bill
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Bill
7 years 4 months ago

The real question is, I guess, what does “ability to contend for a World Series in the future” exactly mean?

The Phillies certainly are not 14th in 2009, probably not 2010. Clearly there’s some drop off after that, but they certainly have to be in the top 10 at least for the next two years.

DavidCEisen
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DavidCEisen
7 years 4 months ago

Good point. If “in the future” means anything beyond three years, then these lists are meaningless. There is no way to project out that far.

ThundaPC
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ThundaPC
7 years 4 months ago

In the Phillies case, it might be the ability to build a team that doesn’t depend on the Mets falling apart late every year. Perhaps also having to deal with the Braves getting better.

Poopypants
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7 years 4 months ago

The Mets blew it in 2007, no question. But the Phillies success didn’t depend on the Mets falling apart in 2008. To say so is just lazy.

The Phillies were in first place for 79 days last season. The Mets were in first for 35 days.

From September 11th (1st game of the Brewers series) until the last game of the World Series, the Phillies went 24-6.

The Mets didnt’ blow anything last season. The Phillies were the best team in baseball in September and October, and outperformed the Mets most of the season.

Pops
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Pops
7 years 4 months ago

As a Philies fan, a brutal read in regards to the future of the franchise. Are the opinions of Ruben Amaro that harsh among baseball insiders? He deserves credit for avoiding arbitration with some of the key names from the championship team. Hopefully the window to win another one will stay open for a couple more years. The prospects in our system are all or nothing types, but that’s what has made our franchise successful in the past.

MattS
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7 years 4 months ago

Dave, I usually like your analysis, but this is an incredibly phoned in analysis of the Phillies. It is full of weak research on the various issues. I understand all the logic behind “likely to win again does not equal who won last year”, and I’m an incredibly critical Phillies fan, but this is the only team in baseball other than the Yankees and Red Sox who has won 80 games every year this decade. That’s by design, and the design is very clear. I’ll comment and respond to each.

OWNERSHIP:
A? This is the part that is overrated. Based on what? Payroll and absence? The Phillies’ payroll is about right given their market size and has been below that by a long shot for a long time. The absence of information on your part does not warrant an A. There are questionable decisions that have been made.

FRONT OFFICE:
This makes no sense. You basically are saying that you have no information to go on but the poor move of dropping from Burrell to Ibanez, but that is really not that huge a drop, certainly less than a win, maybe not even half a win. Amaro is very good with contracts, and has demonstrated this by doing very good contracts throughout the GIllick era. Amaro practically ran the team for the past two years. He values all the same things Gillick does, which are the same things we do, even if he doesn’t believe in statistics alone (though some quotes certainly indicates he knows what they are and just evaluates them in conjunction with his observations). Gillick reaches the same conclusions with observations that we do with statistics, and the whole reason to use statistics is to make up for what observation can’t provide. When observation provides enough information, that’s not an issue as long as the right things are valued. Amaro follows in Gillick’s footsteps in a lot of ways. The absence of information shouldn’t warrant a C.

Also, Arbuckle didn’t leave as a vote of no confidence on Amaro. The consensus reason that he left is that he wanted to be the GM. There were two internal options at GM that had been vying for the job for years, and when he found out he wasn’t the one selected, he left. He wants to be a GM, and he’ll be a damned good one.

MAJOR LEAGUE TALENT:
This was the absolute most phoned-in section of all. It is almost entirely based on one fact:

UZR is either overrating the Phillies defensive performance or they were unlucky in being near batted balls and can expect to catch as many next year. This year the Phillies were 10th in DER. If they were lucky enough to overperform defensively, they sure must have been unlucky in pitchers allowing catchable balls because the combination of high UZR and medium DER indicates that they caught about the same numbers of balls as other teams, but there were just fewer catchable balls. Regression is bound to lead into the same number of outs.

As far as a player by player basis, you really need to really research these players before talking about them. Victorino is coming into his prime and out OPS’d his passed two years by a wopping 30 points. That hardly constitutes and explosively overperforming his skill level (excluding the UZR issue). Regression isn’t going to cost the team much. And Werth managed the same OPS as last year despite playing against more RHP. Werth’s huge “overperformance” that you seem to think is due to regress is actually only over his career norms on playing time– not performance (excluding the UZR issue). Considering he’s got a full-time job in April unlike a year ago when he was the short half of a platoon at this time, he’s very likely to get more playing time and not less. Burrell and Ibanez are similar players. Yes, Ibanez was more expensive but the difference in talent is small and this was the major league talent section. Utley’s “battiling hip problems” are last year’s story. His drop in performance was playing with a hurt hip. His overperformance was largely based on his defensive play, which as Dewan noted at THT, is based on positioning, not luck that is due to regress. Utley’s batting performance was very strong early on, and he was due to regress, but than he did. Again, this is bringing him down due to the UZR/DER issue you’re having when you look at the WAR numbers. Rollins’ defense likely improved due to positioning as well– unless you think Utley’s great positioning is his own idea, you have to assume that when both middle IF see spikes in their UZR, it is likely that the team is better positioning its infielders. Lidge, I’ll give you. He’s not Mariano Rivera, just a good decent closer. Also, not mentioning Cole Hamels is criminal. Cole Hamels is a superstar, and is only 25. The major league talent is all in their primes. They are almost all signed for the next 3 years. The team has a very good chance at maintaining a 90-win squad in a division with 3 real teams, leaving them a very likely candidate to be in the thick of things for at least 3 years.

Ultimately, this just doesn’t really seem to fit right. I don’t see how the Mets and their 4 good players, 2 declining closers, and 19 guys who are average or below average have a better shot either. The Texas Rangers are above them too? The Phillies have a 3-year window with incredibly strong core talent locked in at all the right positions, and the 13 teams you have above them almost entirely don’t have that. I’m incredibly critical of the Phillies, but this makes no sense. The Phillies odds of being the best team in baseball is not high. It hasn’t been for the last 8 years either. What they have done is built a team that has about a 50/50 shot at making the playoffs every year for a decade and when you do that, you win about 1 World Series a decade. They have a decent shot at doing it again in a weak division in a weak league with strong up the middle talent all locked in. Who else has that?

MG
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MG
7 years 4 months ago

It is funny to read that the Front Office got an ‘A’ from Dave. Hard point is that when you don’t follow a team for a long-time you don’t know the dynamics.

Couple of points:

1. “With a new stadium and coming off a World Series title, the ownership agreed to be one of the few MLB teams to increase the budget for the ‘09 season”,

Yeah the Phils did surprise everyone around when they agreed to boost their payroll to $130M+ but Amaro has made several comments this offseason suggesting the Phils may not maintain this level of spending in the near future unless they strong attendance (e.g., deep playoff runs).

2. “and they’ve continually been in the top level of payroll for the last five years.”

Opening Day payroll (Source: USA Today)/ Average Ticket Price (Source: TMR)

Phils 2008 – 12th/(11th)
Phils 2007 – 13th/(7th)
Phils 2006 – 12th/(5th)
Phils 2005 – 5th/(4th)
Phils 2004 – 6th/(3rd)

I wouldn’t exactly say the Phils have been big spenders the past few years. They did dramatically increase their payroll when CBP opened in 2004, but prior to this offseason the payroll had largely been stagnant or slightly declined since then.

Let’s also not forget that the Phils also have had one of the more expensive tickets in MLB too since CBP opened in 2004. With most tickets in the CBP increasing at least 10-20% this offseason, I am willing to bet the Phils will have one of the more expensive AVG ticket prices in MLB again when TMR finishes their calculations for 2009.

The Phils’ fans are notoriously tough at times but passing along a 10-20% bump to your fanbase in this economy without bumping up your payroll would have been a slap in the face. Too bad the Eagles’ didn’t get the same memo.

Overall: The Phils ownership (Monty and Co.) certainly spend more money than they than did the infamous “small-market” quote uttered by Bill Giles in the late 1990s but this ownership still hasn’t shown they are willing to invest large dollars in overseas player development or in the FA market.

Brian
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Brian
7 years 4 months ago

Just to add to this, the local criticism of ownership’s past spending habits isn’t based on some clueless expectation that everyone should spend like the Yankees. It’s based on the knowledge that Philly is one of the largest media markets in the country, and is an unexploited cash cow for ownership that could always make the Phillies one of the highest spending teams in the league if ownership had enough ambition and creativity to make it happen. There’s no need (or intelligence) in constraining payroll when you can generate the revenues to comfortably spend much more.

B
Guest
B
7 years 4 months ago

I can’t help but laugh about these ratings. Seriously this is honestly one of the worst organizational write ups I’ve seen, and you’ve proven you have no clue about what has gone on with the Phillies.

If Pat Gillick was still the GM all this mass hysteria over the Ibanez signing would barely be questioned and surely wouldn’t put him as a C. And guess who was behind the Phillies being after Ibanez from the start. . . . ding ding ding oh yeah Pat Gillick.

Also you’re so far off base on Arbuckle, he left because he wants to be a GM somewhere else. He interviewed for multiple vacancies over the past couple years and left Philly because he knows he won’t have another shot at a GM job for years here.

I love that every Phillies player is heading for regression now that they’re 29/30, because obviously they’re all going to tank once they hit that magic # of 30!

As for your Minor league write up, since when is Michael Taylor terrible in the field? By all accounts his defense is fine, and just needs more seasoning.

Like I said before, this is an embarrassingly poor assessment of the Phillies.

Also how do you come up with these rankings from the letter grades.

Because #9 = C, B, B, C; but #14 = A, C, B+, B-
That makes no sense. . . And the Dodgers major league talent is better than the Phillies? Seriously?

MH
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MH
7 years 4 months ago

Wait, did the Phillies trade Cole Hamels without anyone knowing? No wonder the Front Office gets a C.

Bill
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Bill
7 years 3 months ago

Regardless of how generally good you think the Phillies’ starters are talent-wise, you’re base argument that “… their championship run was fueled by performances that we simply can’t expect to be repeated…” is simply wrong. What’s worse, it’s actually quite the opposite of what happened in 2008. With the notable exception of Brad Lidge’s perfect season (point conceded, he will blow saves in 2009 and regress) not a single Phillie had a “career year” as the team marched to the title. Rather than being carried by some freak year, nearly every Phillie starter stands a good chance to replicate or outdo their 2008. Lets go through one at a time:

Jimmy Rollins, hampered by the April ankle injury, saw his power numbers decline steeply; though it would foolish to think he could replicate his MVP 2007 stats, he certainly stands to put up equal or better numbers in 2009 as he did in 2008.

Chase Utley, off to a torrid start until slowed by injury, put up his consistently good numbers, but it was hardly a “performance that we simply can expect to be repeated.”

Ryan Howard was hitting below the Mendoza line in mid summer. Hardly a career year, no?

Jayson Werth hit 24 home runs with nearly a .500 SLG, but it this so outrageous from a first round draft pick whose career never took off due to broken bones?

Shane Victorino. Again, I’m just confused because you categorically declare that he cannot replicate his performance but offer little evidence. His numbers are not outrageous outliers from his career averages.

Pat Burrell v. Ibanez. Now I know that you SABR guys who have never seen Pat Burrell play loooooove to talk about his OBP and ability to take a walk. But here’s the thing: Pat was the streakiest hitter in the world (.215, .313, .413 in second half). He could not play 9 innings in the field. He could not hit with RISP. He clogged the basepaths. His body, though a few years younger, is in bad shape. His career low single season strikeout total is higher than Ibanez’s career high. And to be honest (I know this is going to boil some stat head blood), when it comes to a slow corner outfielder hitting in the 5, 6, or 7 spots, I’d rather have a guy like Ibanez to put a ball in play than Pat the Bat to take a walk or strikeout.

Brett Myers was useless for half a season.

And though Cole Hamels’ BABIP certainly suggests he got a bit lucky, I think few people are projecting him to fall back much.

My point, Mr. Cameron, is that despite career-average performances from most of the key components of the 2008 Phillies, the team as a whole was deep enough and was able to win the division and the Series. The assertion that they rode to the WS on individual career or freakish years is, very objectively, wrong. It’s disappointing that someone espousing to be an authority on the sport could offer such a skin deep analysis of the reigning champions.

Brian
Guest
Brian
7 years 3 months ago

Why did the Phils go for Ibanez over Burrell?

Simple…look at the RISP numbers. When you have someone like Howard hitting in the 4 spot (regularly hitting with men on and striking out), it’s kind of nice to have a 5 hitter that can put the ball in play.

They knew what they wanted and grabbed him (unfortunately, they overpaid since the market tanked after picking him up – but in the end, definitely an upgrade).

neuter_your_dogma
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neuter_your_dogma
6 years 9 months ago

Looking back at your analysis with the advantage of time you weren’t that far off. No one could have predicted Ibanez’ production and “adequate” fielding, Burrell’s curious collapse, and the emergence of Werth. I think your opinion of Amaro though was based on too small a sample.

joser
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joser
6 years 9 months ago

I like Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino as much as the next guy, but you’re not getting +9.5 wins from those two again.

And you didn’t.
Jayson Werth: 4.7
Shane Victorino: 3.4
Total: 8.1 WAR

WY
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WY
6 years 9 months ago

They were pretty close, though. I’d be the volatility of UZR has much to do with the difference.

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