Sheffield in Philly?

Well, it didn’t take long for Gary Sheffield rumors to start flaring up. The Philadelphia Phillies just released outfielder Geoff Jenkins and GM Ruben Amaro confirmed that they have spoken to Sheffield’s agent. Sheffield has already said that his preference would be for an east coast contender, and the Phillies fit the profile on both marks. However, there’s one thing the Phillies can’t give Gary Sheffield – a DH spot.

Gary Sheffield played 47 innings in the outfield last year. He played 106 innings in the outfield in in 2007. He played 165 innings in the outfield in 2006. Over the last three years, he’s worn a glove for 318 innings, or about 25% of one season.

The idea that a 40-year-old Gary Sheffield is still capable of playing the outfield regularly without breaking down is pretty wacky. If the Phillies sign him, he’ll be listed as an outfielder on the roster, but in reality, he’d be a right-handed pinch hitter. Now, he’s not a bad right-handed pinch hitter, and in the National League, that’s a role that could have some value. But, given the construction of the Phillies roster, I have to wonder how this would all work.

As it stands, the Phillies have Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez filling the outfield, with Matt Stairs as the fourth outfielder. Maybe I should put quotes around that last word, because Stairs is 41 years old and not really capable of running after fly balls anymore. In the last three years, Stairs has amassed 515 innings in the outfield… and posted a -30.0 UZR/150. Negative Thirty. Given his age and body shape, we shouldn’t really be surprised that Stairs is a cover-your-eyes defender, but he’s not exactly anyone’s definition of a classic fourth outfielder.

Now, if you add Sheffield to the roster, you essentially are going with an outfield of Victorino, Werth, and three guys who belong at DH. You could put Ibanez, Stairs, and Sheffield side by side in left field and still have a below average defense out there. And Ibanez, at 37, is the spring chicken of the bunch. What do you do in late game situations when you have the lead – you won’t be using Stairs or Sheffield as a defensive replacement for Ibanez, that’s for sure.

Worse, what do you do if Werth or Victorino get banged up? Now you’re starting Ibanez and Stairs or Sheffield in the outfield corners. That’s… it’s hard to imagine a team chasing a World Series title would leave themselves with those kinds of options. And we’re not talking about long shot reserves who won’t see the light of day, here – Werth and Victorino aren’t exactly the new age Cal Ripken.

Given that Ibanez is starting in one outfield spot and the fourth OF spot is filled with a guy who shouldn’t ever wear a glove, it would seem to be that the Phillies are more in need of a legitimate defensive player than another pinch-hitter. Sheffield could still make sense for the Phillies, if he’d agree to a reduced role and they’d kick Miguel Cairo to the curb to make room for him, but if he’s actually going to fill the spot vacated by Jenkins and masquerade as an outfielder, I feel really bad for the Phillies pitching staff.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


52 Responses to “Sheffield in Philly?”

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  1. Mark R says:

    How about Sheffield as a caddy for Ryan Howard? Not that anybody’s ever going to admit that he needs one (*cough* .786 career OPS against lefties *cough*).

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    • Joe Soko says:

      .786 OPS against LHP is pretty decent. The average 1st bagger had an .819 OPS total. Platooning Howard might mess with his rhythm and would obviously make him unhappy. I just don’t see it.

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      • Mark R says:

        But all Howard has is his bat, and his production against lefties isn’t good enough. It’s not just the numbers either–scouts say he can’t hit a slider. I don’t know of any compelling evidence that we should be considering his “rhythm” here. Besides, couldn’t it be argued that having him go out and struggle against a couple times a week is bad for his rhythm too? If you can get a viable right-handed bat to add to an overly left-handed lineup, at league minimum, then why wouldn’t you?

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        I think Joe’s point is that .786 OPS isn’t that terrible. Especially when Gary Sheffield’s OPS against LHP last year was .754 and there is no reason to believe that Sheffield would be any better than Howard defensively. I actually think Howard probably has a better glove at first. Howard’s UZR the past three years have been: -.6, -.1, & 3. He isn’t that bad defensively, and Chase makes up for a lot of his shortcomings.

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      • Mark R says:

        It’s pretty bad for a first baseman. And though I don’t purport to know whether Sheffield has anything left (injuries make that too complicated), I do know that last year’s performance isn’t enough to go off of. He only had 109 PAs against lefties, after all. Are you really going to assume, based on that, that a .786 OPS is his true talent level now?

        All I’m saying is, if Phillies scouts think Sheffield can still hit, they should expect that he’ll do much better against lefties than Howard. I didn’t even mean to give the impression that I think his defense will be better.

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    • MattS says:

      http://www.thegoodphight.com/2009/3/20/805264/the-ryan-howard-can-t-hit

      I wrote this article a couple weeks ago, and I’m linking it to correct this common misunderstanding. Ryan Howard hits lefties as well as the average starting first basemen in the majors hits opposite handed pitching. That’s the average starting first basemen. And that doesn’t even take into account the number of at-bats against lefty specialists he faces as compared with other lefty first basemen. If Ryan Howard was a normal starting first basemen who hits for an .850 OPS against same handed pitching and an .786 OPS against opposite handed pitching, no one would say he needed to be platooned.

      As for the inevitable claims that he ends up facing more lefties in “clutch” situations, that’s mostly negated by clutch situations occurring more often when defenses can’t shift against him…causing his BABIP to balloon with runners on. Check this one out too:

      http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2009/1/29/741995/there-is-clutch-or-the-cas

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      • Mark R says:

        You kind of reinforce part of my point there. He has an enormous platoon split. Big enough that he hits same-handed pitching like average first basemen hit same-handed pitching. This is something other teams can–and do–exploit. It’s also something the Phillies could protect with a smarter roster. They need more right-handed power anyway, so why not kill two birds with one stone?

        Why would a first-division team want to give at-bats away at the easiest defensive position?

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      • Mark R says:

        To be clear: I know giving at-bats to a player with a .786 OPS isn’t flushing them down the toilet, but giving them to a first baseman hitting in the heart of order isn’t a good idea.

        Also, reading your comment over, Matt, I don’t really follow your argument. What has the scenario with the reverse platoon split got to do with anything? Just a mistake? I make lots of those. And as to the clutch thing, the platoon advantage overwhelms anything gained from the lack of shift.

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      • MattS says:

        Yeah that was an accident. I just meant a guy who has .850 against opposite handed and .786 against same handed.

        The point is that LHP who face him don’t face a guy who hits -.300 OPS points compared to what he can do against righties. They face a guy who can hit .786 against them, which is good enough to be a starter at 1B.

        Finding a 1B who can hit .886 against lefties for those 200 at-bats would we be worth about 3MM to the Phillies. Why on earth would anybody who can hit .886 against LHP take a part-time 3MM job? If the Phillies had somebody like that under contract, why wouldn’t they trade him to a team who can play him full time unless hit somehow hits .600 against RHP?

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      • cpebbles says:

        All that really indicates is that perhaps more teams should consider a platoon situation at first base too, especially those whose starters give back as many runs as Howard does when he’s not at the plate (And no, I don’t believe for a second that he is typically only a fraction of a run below average, much less a +3 last season). Howard isn’t quite to the threshold where his platoon splits can be considered reliable, but if the front office’s scouting reports gibe with what the numbers are saying, it isn’t exactly hard to find a 1B who can outperform a sub-.800 OPS with lousy defense and baserunning with the aid of a platoon split.

        Of course it isn’t that easy in practice because human egos are involved, but let’s not try to pretend that the Phillies couldn’t improve if they chose to.

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      • MattS says:

        There aren’t many hitters in the whole major leagues who could hit .786 against opposite-handed pitchers. The ones that could are above replacement level against same-handed pitchers too, and aren’t worth the money for a platoon gig.

        Howard’s defense is probably not above average, but he does make enough athletic plays now and then to make me think that the jury is still out on whether he is as much of a liability as he looks when he throws to second base.

        Who on earth would be worth the money to replace Howard for against LHP even if he were willing? Especially considering he probably hits much better than .786 against LHSP. He gets killed most by LOOGYs.

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      • Terminator X says:

        Wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait…

        WAIT!

        Mark – You’re worried about finding a platoon-mate for Howard when RAUL IBANEZ(!) is slated as the everyday LF, with only the equally inept Matt Stairs as his backup?

        Hah!

        Whatever you’re smoking, I want some. It sounds strong.

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      • Terminator X says:

        As a more thoughtful, considered response, I’ll add that, by your logic (1B with sub-.800 OPS vs same-handed pitching should be platooned), about half the teams in the league should be platooning their 1B. When you’re suggesting that only 10-15 1B in the league are capable of playing full-time, I think you’ve probably set your standard for platooning too high.

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      • Mark R says:

        Rael, Terminator, and Matt:

        I know it’s not going to happen and have acknowledged as much all along.

        Matt, you said:

        “Finding a 1B who can hit .886 against lefties for those 200 at-bats would we be worth about 3MM to the Phillies. Why on earth would anybody who can hit .886 against LHP take a part-time 3MM job?”

        Because this person could be a Quad-A type player who does nothing but hit lefties. It’s just not that hard or expensive to find people who can hit opposite-handed pitching while contributing little else.

        And as to:

        “There aren’t many hitters in the whole major leagues who could hit .786 against opposite-handed pitchers. The ones that could are above replacement level against same-handed pitchers too, and aren’t worth the money for a platoon gig.”

        I don’t even know where to begin with that. There aren’t many hitters in the major leagues who could hit .786 against opposite-handed pitchers? Really?

        Terminator, you said:

        “You’re worried about finding a platoon-mate for Howard when RAUL IBANEZ(!) is slated as the everyday LF, with only the equally inept Matt Stairs as his backup?”

        It’s exactly this kind of silly redundancy that necessitates another righty in the Phils’ lineup. But even if that weren’t the case, I was talking about Howard because it’s generally agreed that Sheffield can’t play in the outfield anymore. Dave’s post was discussing whether or not Sheff was a good fit for the Phillies, so I put forth a way in which he might be.

        “As a more thoughtful, considered response, I’ll add that, by your logic (1B with sub-.800 OPS vs same-handed pitching should be platooned), about half the teams in the league should be platooning their 1B.”

        Why not? If teams are willing to use a roster spot on a LOOGY (a role that’s not going to be worth a win even in a good year), then why is platooning for a position with a minimal defensive requirement such a silly idea?

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      • MattS says:

        Mark R:

        Read both of my sentences together. There aren’t many people who can hit .786 against opposite handed pitching. The ones that do are good enough against same handed pitching to get a full time starting job. This isn’t impossible to understand. Try naming one hitter that the Phillies could sign that would hit distinctly better than .786 against same handed pitching to warrant starts in the 50 games a year that the Phillies play LHSP. Seriously, try to name one. And then tell me who the Phillies should take off their roster as a result. Remember that finding an .800 OPS guy against LHP doesn’t count, because that’s not different enough to warrant giving up a roster spot.

        Looking through ESPN, there were 127 guys with over a .786 OPS against LHP last year in at least 100 PA. There were only 88 with over an .836 OPS against LHP in at least 100 PA. Look through the list. They are pretty much all starters or obvious flukes who could never be expected to repeat their performance. Ryan Howard has been among the top 3 hitters in the majors in HR vs LHP for each of his 3 full years in the majors.

        Name your platoon mate for Howard and who he replaces.

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      • Terminator X says:

        “It’s exactly this kind of silly redundancy that necessitates another righty in the Phils’ lineup. But even if that weren’t the case, I was talking about Howard because it’s generally agreed that Sheffield can’t play in the outfield anymore. Dave’s post was discussing whether or not Sheff was a good fit for the Phillies, so I put forth a way in which he might be.”

        Yeah, but the thing is he’s not really a good fit no matter how you spin it. Your point that he can’t play the outfield supports that. Compare Ibanez and Howard starting vs LHP. Ibanez will likely OPS between .650 and .700 vs LHP, and play -10 to -20 UZR/150 defense in the field (gotta be below replacement level), while Howard will post an OPS vs LHP of between .750 and .800, and play defense in the -5 to +5 UZR/150 range. Tell me, which one of those two needs a platoonmate more? If your answer is anything other than Ibanez, then this discussion is a lost cause.

        I’ll throw this out there in very simple logic, feel free to point out what premise(s) you disagree with:
        P1: Phillies likely only have 1 potentially available roster spot.
        P2: Ibanez is in greater need of a platoon than Howard.
        P3: The current roster contains an adequate platoonmate for neither.
        P4: Sheffield cannot platoon with Ibanez (cannot play OF).
        P5: Player X can easily be obtained to platoon with Ibanez
        P6: The benefits of a Player X/Ibanez platoon are greater than the benefits of a Sheffield/Howard platoon
        Therefore
        C: Sheffield is not a good fit.

        I think that’s a pretty logically airtight argument, so to show that Sheffield is a good fit, you have to disprove one of my 6 premises.
        My justifications for the premises:
        P1: Bruntlett/Dobbs (primary backup IFers) aren’t going anywhere, and the Phils seem commited to Cairo as super utility guy. Stairs seems expendable only in favor of an Ibanez platoonmate, and I don’t think the Phils have gone with an 11 man pitching staff in a while.
        P2: Already explained above, he’s below replacement level against LHP
        P3: Platooning either Howard or Ibanez with any of Stairs/Bruntlett/Cairo/Dobbs would make the team worse
        P4: You said it yourself, the man just can’t play the OF anymore.
        P5 & P6: Basically, Sheffield over Howard provides MAYBE a .050 gain in OPS and honestly Sheff’s probably worse defensively than Howard. ~200 AB of Howard’s line vs LHP (.240/.315/.470ish) would be worth about .5-1.5 wRAA, while ~200 AB of Sheff’s line vs LHP (.250/.350/.450ish) would be worth 3-4 wRAA. Given Sheff’s age and the fact that he’s played 59 innings in the infield since 1993 (2 @ 3B in 2004, and 57 @ 1B in 2006 – his only 57 at 1B in the majors ever), I can’t imagine he’s very good at defense either. At best I’ll give him equal to Howard, at worst, he’s 0 UZR/150 worse than Howard (maybe extreme, but the dude is OLD and he’s never really played the position).

        Best case scenario for Sheff, his 200 AB are worth 4 wRAA, and his defense is equal to Howards, while Howard (theoretically, had he been given the 200 AB) would only have put up .5 wRAA, a net difference of 3.5 runs. Worst case for him, he puts up 3 wRAA while Howard (theoretically) would have put up 1.5 wRAA, and plays defense at 10 UZR/150 worse than Howard, which, over ~500 innings, would make him worth 2.7 less than Howard, for a total of -1.2 runs.

        Best case: add 3.5 runs, I’ll be generous and round up to 4.
        Worst case: subracts 1 run, with a generous round to 1.

        In order to add 3.5 wins over Ibanez in 200 AB/500 Innings (let’s give him a .260/.320/.370, and a UZR/150 between -20 and -10, for total run contribution of between -5.5 and -10, composed of -2 to -3 wRAA and a UZR between -3.5 and -7), we either need to find an equally abysmal fielder with a mildly above average bat (in the .270/.330/.440 range), or an average defender with a batting line vs LHP slightly better than Ibanez’s, or a plus defender (10+ UZR/150) with a downright miserable bat, or something in between any of those. From the sounds of it, those seem like AAAA guys who should be laying around everywhere, though I don’t have the time to go looking for them myself right now. Off the top of my head though, Wlad Balentein of the M’s seems like a very good fit (in the -5 to -15 UZR/150 but sweet bat vs LHP mold) who could likely be had for a middling pitching prospect or two. Balentein/Ibanez platoon and full-time Howard is likely better than full-time Ibanez and a Sheff/Howard platoon for 2009, and definitely has more upside for the future.

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    • Rael says:

      You’re not going to bench the guy you just signed to a $54 million deal every third game just to squeeze out an extra win.

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      • Mark R says:

        Matt S:

        You keep switching around “opposite-handed” and “same-handed,” so I’m having a hard time following you.

        The Mariners got Chris Shelton for basically nothing and, though starting the year in AAA, he’s the sort of player that can mash lefties while Howard sits. Anybody could have picked up Nelson Cruz last year for peanuts to use in a platoon, and there are always players like him kicking around in the minors. Mike Hessman, Jamie D’Antona, et. al.

        The fact is that righties who can’t hit righties are not valued very highly.

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      • Mark R says:

        Oh, and this player would replace Miguel Cairo, obviously.

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      • MattS says:

        Mark R,

        Sorry if I say opposite and same handed backwards. If it’s not obvious from the context, ask me.

        Regardless, each and every one of those players hits worse against LHP than Howard does, and with most of them, it’s not even close. Are you telling me that when the average lefty is on the mound, he would rather see Ryan Howard come to the plate than Chris Shelton? Surely, you’re not missing that.

        Listen to me: Ryan Howard hits lefties better than all of the freely available part-time players in the major leagues. Naming random minor leaguers that I need to look up and then roll my eyes when I see that they hit .720 against LHP or maybe hit 1.000 in the minors with a .390 BABIP in barely any at-bats isn’t evidence.

        You take Chris Shelton against LHP this year. I’ll take Ryan Howard. We’ll come back next year and see who won. You can even have Shelton’s minor league numbers against lefties.

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      • Mark R says:

        Deal. :)

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        Chris Shelton hits RHP not LHP. Career OPS splits: vs RHP-.838, vs LHP-.735

        Nelson Cruz has a career OPS vs LHP of .731, last year it was something crazy like 1.2, aided largely by small sample size (31 ABs) and an insane BABIP (.545).

        With Mike Hessman you really struck a gold mine, as he has a Ruth-ian .671 OPS vs LHP.

        I’m sure replacing Howard with one of these guys would really make the Phillies more competitive.

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      • Mark R says:

        David: Did you ever consider sample size here? Or the fact that nobody actually runs a reverse platoon split over the long term?

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      • Mark R says:

        And you’re still missing the forest for the trees. Whether it’s Hessman or Shelton or D’Antona or whoever, right-handed platoon bats can be had for cheap.

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      • cpebbles says:

        http://www.minorleaguesplits.com/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?pl=430828

        Still an insufficient sample size, but only intended to counter the anomalous major league splits he’s posted to date.

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      • Mark R says:

        Thanks, cpebbles. I’m glad somebody doesn’t think I’m crazy.

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      • Mark R says:

        And here are Shelton’s career minor league splits:

        http://www.minorleaguesplits.com/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?pl=430828

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      • Terminator X says:

        “And you’re still missing the forest for the trees. Whether it’s Hessman or Shelton or D’Antona or whoever, right-handed platoon bats can be had for cheap.”
        The thing is, there can’t be a forest if there aren’t any trees to begin with. We’re looking for a RHB who can practically guarantee an .800+ OPS season vs LHP. Shelton’s ~270 AB of .735 OPS vs major league caliber LHP overrides his ~230 AB of .987 OPS vs minor league, and he’s only put up an OPS vs LHP better than Howard’s career average of .786 once – in 2006. Hessman has a career .837 OPS vs LHP in the minors, 425 AB. No way is he a sure-fire .800+ OPS bat in the majors, hell he’d probably be worse than Howard. I can’t even find this D’Antona guy you’re talking about.

        We’re not missing the forest for the trees. We’re saying those aren’t trees at all, and we’re scratching our head as to exactly where this forest you speak of is in the first place.

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      • cpebbles says:

        Uh, no. Splits which research tells you are very anomalous do not outweight splits which show exactly what the research tells you to expect just because they are from the major leagues. Shelton’s major league performance, combined with an expectation of a standard platoon advantage, indicates he would perform better than Howard would vs. LHP.

        And before you make this argument again, yes, if you do something as silly as signing Raul Ibanez, getting him a platoon partner would be an easier way to optimize your roster, but the lack of a legitimate fourth outfielder doesn’t excuse the Phillies from improving elsewhere. And no, giving a spot to someone like Shelton is not a poor use of your roster. Having an offensive player on your bench who is a little too limited for full-time duty is a good idea, just like having a legitimate fourth outfielder would be.

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      • cpebbles says:

        Er, I should say “…better than Howard HAS…” since I’m only assuming theoretically that Howard’s performance vs. lefties is representative of his true talent in case the Phillies’ scouting department indicates that it really is the case.

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      • Mark R says:

        “We’re looking for a RHB who can practically guarantee an .800+ OPS season vs LHP. Shelton’s ~270 AB of .735 OPS vs major league caliber LHP overrides his ~230 AB of .987 OPS vs minor league, and he’s only put up an OPS vs LHP better than Howard’s career average of .786 once – in 2006. Hessman has a career .837 OPS vs LHP in the minors, 425 AB. No way is he a sure-fire .800+ OPS bat in the majors, hell he’d probably be worse than Howard. I can’t even find this D’Antona guy you’re talking about.”

        When are there ever guarantees of anything? We can only discuss probabilities. That’s a central tenet of enlightened baseball analysis.

        I think it’s very likely that SOMEBODY (not necessarily the three players I listed) is available at or near league minimum who could hit lefties significantly better than Howard. A major league front office should be smart enough to find a good candidate for that role.

        By focusing on the players I chose as examples of right-handed, Quad-A sluggers, you don’t do anything to refute my larger point. These players are out there, and they’re cheap. Many of them could succeed at the major league in a limited role; some could do much better. Ryan Ludwick and Jayson Werth should be ample proof of that.

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        “Uh, no. Splits which research tells you are very anomalous do not outweight splits which show exactly what the research tells you to expect just because they are from the major leagues. Shelton’s major league performance, combined with an expectation of a standard platoon advantage, indicates he would perform better than Howard would vs. LHP.”

        Have you looked at Sheldon’s minor league secondaries? Against LHP he has a .339 BABIP combined with a 16.8 LD%. Seems a bit of luck involved to me.

        Nothing indicates that Shelton would be better than Howard against LHP.

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      • Terminator X says:

        “Uh, no. Splits which research tells you are very anomalous do not outweight splits which show exactly what the research tells you to expect just because they are from the major leagues. Shelton’s major league performance, combined with an expectation of a standard platoon advantage, indicates he would perform better than Howard would vs. LHP.”

        So if I follow you correctly, you’re choosing to base your opinion of how well he can hit major league caliber LHP not by his actual 300+ PA against actual major league caliber LHP, but by his smaller sample size of at-bats against inferior pitching? Hah. Dude, I’m not saying he’s going to continue to run a reverse platoon split. I’m saying that we don’t know if he’s been overperforming against ML RHP or underperforming against ML LHP. Probably both. The fact that his career OPS vs ML RHP is only .008 worse than his career OPS vs MiL RHP leads me to believe that he’s probably overperformed against ML RHP a decent bit. I’m not pretending to know how he’s going to perform, but if I had to take an even money over/under bet on a .800 OPS vs LHP, I’d take under.

        “And before you make this argument again, yes, if you do something as silly as signing Raul Ibanez, getting him a platoon partner would be an easier way to optimize your roster, but the lack of a legitimate fourth outfielder doesn’t excuse the Phillies from improving elsewhere.”
        It does if they only have one extra roster spot. You have to make smart decisions and maximize the value of your limited roster spots. Platooning Howard while not platooning Ibanez is not a smart decision, and does not maximize the value of your roster space. It’d be great if you could carry 50 players and have a platoon for everyone, but you can’t. You only have so many spots, and you have to use them wisely.

        “And no, giving a spot to someone like Shelton is not a poor use of your roster.” Roster spots are a valuable commodity, and it is definitely a waste of a spot if you’re platooning him with a guy who has proven he can OPS ~.780 against LHP, while you’re crossing your fingers and hoping Shelton matches the best season of his life and OPS’s .800, and while there’s a guy patrolling the outfield who is below replacement level against LHP, and when using that roster spot on a platoonmate for him would give you much greater returns. It’s honestly pretty even money as to who would be better against LHP this year, Howard or Shelton. So why would you use up 2 roster spots on your 1B slot when you could just use 1 and get approximately the same results, within a run or two? Especially when there are such obviously superior uses for that roster spot.

        “When are there ever guarantees of anything? We can only discuss probabilities. That’s a central tenet of enlightened baseball analysis.”
        Replace “virtual guarantee” with “high probability” and quit whining about semantics. Sheesh.

        “By focusing on the players I chose as examples of right-handed, Quad-A sluggers, you don’t do anything to refute my larger point. These players are out there, and they’re cheap.”
        Are you kidding me right now? Christ. Alright, check this convo:

        Person 1: I have lots of blue eggs in this sack. Like these three for example.
        Person 2: But two of those are orange, and I’m pretty sure that third one’s a rock! I don’t believe blue eggs exist. Show them to me.
        Person 1: By focusing on the eggs I chose as examples, you don’t do anything to refute my larger point that I have lots of blue eggs in this sack.

        See the problem? The burden of proof lies with you, you’re the one making the existential claim about these players. It’s not up to me to prove that they don’t exist – what am I supposed to do, go through every player not currently on an ML 25man and demonstrate why they won’t hit .800+? No. To try to put the burden of proof on me and tell me I have to disprove your theory is stupid. It’s up to you to prove that they exist, by providing examples of them.

        You’ve yet to do that. So let’s see it. Show me a cheaply or freely available player that has a very strong probability to OPS over .750 and a good probability to OPS between .800 and .850. Let’s see him. Burden of proof is with you, whether you like it or not.

        Then go sit in on a logic course at your local junior college or something.

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      • Mark R says:

        I don’t appreciate that ad hominem garbage, Terminator. Lord knows there’s enough of that going around on the internet.

        “No. To try to put the burden of proof on me and tell me I have to disprove your theory is stupid. It’s up to you to prove that they exist, by providing examples of them.”

        I did provide examples of players of the sort that I’m talking about, and you made less than compelling arguments that they aren’t viable options. So I responded by saying that even if they aren’t–and you haven’t convinced me–there are probably others who are. Every year brings a story of a busted prospect or career minor leaguer breaking through in the majors.

        I would say a righty who destroys AAA pitching is worth taking a shot on for league minimum (with scout approval, naturally). It’s never going to be a sure thing or even a highly probable thing, but it’s a smart risk. It’s an upside play that more teams would do well to take.

        To be absolutely clear: the player chosen for this role could very well fail, but that doesn’t mean the idea was bad.

        “Person 1: I have lots of blue eggs in this sack. Like these three for example.
        Person 2: But two of those are orange, and I’m pretty sure that third one’s a rock! I don’t believe blue eggs exist. Show them to me.
        Person 1: By focusing on the eggs I chose as examples, you don’t do anything to refute my larger point that I have lots of blue eggs in this sack.”

        That would work if it went something like this:

        Person 1: There are known deposits of Quad-Athrocite in this area, which is a blue rock. I therefore think it’s pretty likely that some of the rocks in that sack over there are blue. I’m on a first name basis with three of the rocks, so I’ll direct your attention to those three.

        Person 2: Those rocks are very far away, but from where I stand they don’t look blue.

        Person 1: They may very well not be, but my point stands that some of the others in the sack probably are.

        “No. To try to put the burden of proof on me and tell me I have to disprove your theory is stupid. It’s up to you to prove that they exist, by providing examples of them.”

        My theory, again, is that there are likely players available for free who could hit lefties significantly better than Ryan Howard. I’ve given you examples of the sorts of players that I would look at, and I’ve given you examples of players who’ve been acquired for free and hit very well at the major league level in the past. I can’t do any more than that.

        I didn’t say you have to “disprove (my) theory.” I just asked for a compelling reason to think that there isn’t a player available who might succeed in that role. I’m still waiting.

        Reiterating: I’m not a scout, nor am I a stats whiz. I can’t point you to one free player who “has a very strong probability to OPS over .750 and a good probability to OPS between .800 and .850.” I just don’t know enough to do that. But Jack Cust, Carlos Pena, and the aforementioned Ludwick and Werth should be proof that such players exist. And they were all of the same ilk before breaking out. Focus on that general class of player, and you’ll probably find a capable right-handed platoon bat.

        “Then go sit in on a logic course at your local junior college or something.”

        Thanks, because a person who thinks certain players in the minors probably don’t deserve to be there must live in a backwater and lack formal education.

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      • Terminator X says:

        “I did provide examples of players of the sort that I’m talking about, and you made less than compelling arguments that they aren’t viable options. So I responded by saying that even if they aren’t–and you haven’t convinced me–there are probably others who are. Every year brings a story of a busted prospect or career minor leaguer breaking through in the majors.”
        Again, burden of proof falls squarely on you. YOU have to prove that they are good bets to be better than Howard. You don’t just get to list names (and I quote “… there are always players like him kicking around in the minors. Mike Hessman, Jamie D’Antona, et. al”) without any justification or reasoning and expect me to have to sit here disproving them. Show why they have good odds of succeeding, and if I disagree, I’ll explain why. But the ball’s in your court on this one.

        “I would say a righty who destroys AAA pitching is worth taking a shot on for league minimum (with scout approval, naturally). It’s never going to be a sure thing or even a highly probable thing, but it’s a smart risk. It’s an upside play that more teams would do well to take.”
        It’s a smart risk when you’re the Mariners, and you’re rebuilding and have no real 1B anyways. It’s a dumb risk when you’re the Phillies, and are benching a guy who’s reliable for a .750-.850 OPS, and your divisional competition is so tight that you don’t have a couple hundred spare AB’s to waste on potential reclamation projects. Shelton is a low-risk/moderate-upside move for the M’s. If the M’s waste 100 AB’s on a guy who OPS’s sub-.700, no big loss. If he OPS’s .850 for 250 AB’s then great! Sign him for next year cause he’s one of the most productive bats on the team. But, he’s a moderate-risk/low-upside move for the Phillies. If they waste 100 AB’s on him and he OPS’s sub-.700, then that’s 100 AB’s of .750-.850 OPS they just threw away. If he OPS’s .850 for .250 AB’s, well, then he’s really only a small improvement over what they would have likely gotten anyways.

        “Person 1: There are known deposits of Quad-Athrocite in this area, which is a blue rock. I therefore think it’s pretty likely that some of the rocks in that sack over there are blue. I’m on a first name basis with three of the rocks, so I’ll direct your attention to those three.

        Person 2: Those rocks are very far away, but from where I stand they don’t look blue.

        Person 1: They may very well not be, but my point stands that some of the others in the sack probably are.”
        This is going down a road I imagine you have very little interest in, but the difference between your Quad-Athrocite scenario and the baseball players, is that the Quad-Athrocite deposits are observably verifiable on a very basic level, whereas the existence of the type of player we’re discussing is not. Not to mention you open the floodgates regarding the great many problems of induction there. But I doubt you’re here for a lecture on scientific philosophy, and this is becoming a rather tangential discussion anyways, so I won’t go into that unless you prod me further.

        “My theory, again, is that there are likely players available for free who could hit lefties significantly better than Ryan Howard. I’ve given you examples of the sorts of players that I would look at, and I’ve given you examples of players who’ve been acquired for free and hit very well at the major league level in the past. I can’t do any more than that.”
        Yet you concede earlier that there’s likely a high failure rate. Can the Phillies really afford to be taking gambles for such a marginal upgrade? Doubtful. It’s an unneccesary risk with extremely limited upside. We know what Howard will do. Absolute best case scenario is that this phantom platoonmate will give an additional 4 runs, maaaaaybe 5. The odds of 4 or 5 runs happening are small. That’s looking at a .850+ OPS. More likely the difference would be within +/- 2 runs. There are undoubtably better uses of that roster spot. Like, I don’t know… platooning someone with Ibanez?

        “I didn’t say you have to “disprove (my) theory.” I just asked for a compelling reason to think that there isn’t a player available who might succeed in that role. I’m still waiting.”
        Dude. Tell me you’re pulling my leg here. Please.

        Please.

        Your theory = There is a player available who might succeed in that role.
        What you’re asking me to do: Provide a compelling reason to think that your theory isn’t true.
        How is that not asking me to disprove your theory????

        On top of that, I’ll also note THAT I DON’T DISAGREE WITH THAT. There likely are players available for cheap who can outperform Howard vs LHP (though I don’t see the justification for Shelton, Hessman, or Sheffield being that player). My (largely ignored and dismissed) argument, from my very first post, is that Sheffield (since expanded to include Shelton, Hessman & Co.) would be a poor use of that roster spot, and (my more recently developed argument) that whatever incremental benefits could be gained from that platoon would likely not outweigh the risk even if roster limitations were not a factor (which they are, and a big one at that).

        *emphasis*
        The issue isn’t whether or not these players exist (which, to your credit, you did a good job distracted me into debating for a while), but whether giving one a roster spot would be the best allocation of said spot (it’s not) and whether the risk/reward is appropriate for a team in the Phillies situation (it’s not). Please address these if you wish to continue to argue that Shelton/Sheffield/Hessman/etc would be a worthy roster addition for the Phillies.
        */emphasis*

        “Thanks, because a person who thinks certain players in the minors probably don’t deserve to be there must live in a backwater and lack formal education.”
        Yeah, that’s what I meant. Well, either that or that people who have a tendancy to ignore logic and reason (for example, oh, i don’t know, not understanding why asking someone to provide “compelling reasons” as to why a certain class of thing does not exist is moronic) should probably go about educating themselves in the matter. One of those two. I don’t remember.

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      • Mark R says:

        I’m not ignoring logic or reason. I’m just unpersuaded by yours. Maybe rather than constantly attacking my intelligence, you could try to persuade me.

        I actually see a glimmer of agreement here buried under a lot of bloviating (by both of us). We seem to agree that there are minor league/fringe major league players worth taking a flyer on as righty platoon bats. You just think a contender shouldn’t waste its time (and a roster spot) doing such things unless there’s a high probability of reward. I think that if a contender can give a roster spot to Miguel Cairo, it can take such a chance.

        On paper, the Phillies are worse than the Mets, so making an upside play or two could very well win them the division.

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  2. Tyler says:

    “…cover-your-eyes defender.” Classic, havn’t heard that before.

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    • rwildernessr says:

      Not a USSM reader then eh? We in Seattle have had too much cause to use it in the last couple years with just one aging “CYE” defender in the outfield.

      I have to say that imagining two Ibanezes flopping around in the outfield for the defending champs IS a little amusing though.

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  3. Ryan says:

    The plan apparently is for E. Bruntlett to continue in the same role as last year, that of the LF defensive replacement. As is noted, the true problem arises if Victorino or Werth go down, as Stairs/Sheffield/Bruntlett are ill suited to play everyday for any length of time. All in all Amaro appears to have constructed an incredibly specialized bench, which may be useful if everyone stays healthy, but does not allow for a lot of flexibility.

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  4. Evan says:

    Of Ibanez, Stairs, and Sheffield, Stairs is the one I would most happily play in the field.

    At first base.

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  5. Hailmatty says:

    “You could put Ibanez, Stairs, and Sheffield side by side in left field and still have a below average defense out there.”

    Hilarious. And the fact that it comes from a Mariner fan with no bias makes it even sweeter.

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  6. cpebbles says:

    I saw Sheffield play exactly once this spring, and he looked very good. Still had well above average bat speed, was controlling the strike zone well, and drove everything. I was shocked today to see him released, and then shocked again to see how lousy his numbers were this spring. The power was there, but I don’t see how anyone who looked that good could be struggling to get his average to .200.

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    • Mark R says:

      Luck? Sample size? Maybe you saw him on a good day?

      It’s hard not to put stock in spring numbers, but someone’s stats would have to be pretty screwy (like Livan Hernandez recording a strikeout) for me to be “shocked” by them.

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  7. alskor says:

    Its strange… seems like only a few months ago people actually considered Ruben Amaro Jr. one of the best young baseball minds around the game.

    Its like he was frozen in 1995 and completely missed the Sabremetric revolution around MLB front offices.

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    • MattS says:

      Actually, he was supposed to be the village idiot if you listened to the media. Since the Burrell/Ibanez mistake, I don’t think he’s messed anything up yet. He milked the World Championship happy feelings into discount multi-year deals on his arbitration eligible players. He cut a few sunk costs (something new GMs do often, but less so when they were virtually running the show already). He turned a failed minor league catcher (Jamaraillo) into a struggling major league catcher (Paulino) into a serviceable but unspectacular LOOGY (Taschner). He got another LOOGY re-signed (Eyre) before the news of his primary LOOGY getting a 50-game suspension went public, and probably got a better deal as a result. And then his medical staff managed Utley’s return, Feliz’s return, and preserved Hamels’ health all very well. Color me impressed.

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  8. brian recca says:

    I just can’t understand why a team would go out and sign Gary Sheffield now when Barry Bonds is still available. It looks bad for baseball if someone signs Sheffield before Bonds and strengthens Bonds’ collusion theory.

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    • cpebbles says:

      I’m skeptical that Bonds is available for the league minimum.

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      • Terminator X says:

        While I won’t bother finding the evidence to support this (hey, at least I’m being up-front about it, right?), I believe Bonds has stated that he would work for pretty darn close to minimum, and that he just wants to play.

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  9. don says:

    This would be a bad signing. On the upside, it would only cost the league minimum so it would be easy to cut ties on the cheap.

    In theory, it makes sense to have a right handed power bat on the bench since the lineup is so lefty heavy, but you’re never going to pinch hit for Howard, Utley, or Ibanez anyway and he’s just too limited to play in the NL.

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    • B says:

      They need a righty off the bench, if they don’t pick one up it’ll be Miguel Cairo. So if they don’t allow Shef in the field often. He’s a giant upgrade.

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  10. jay-ha says:

    Signing Sheffield would be an indication that the phillies think John Mayberry is ready for the show, at least in small stretches. If Ibanez or Werth go down for an extended period, I think you would immediately see Mayberry called up. He was impressive defensively in spring training and showed that he can do some things offensively as well. Whether they keep Bruntlett on the bench and put Mayberry into the lineup or vice-versa, the Phillies would not be forced to use Sheffield or Stairs in the field unless Ibanez, Victorino and Werth were hurt at the same time.

    Even though he is somewhat maligned given his rough start at the plate while filling in for Rollins early last year, Bruntlett is really a key to the Phillies roster with the flexibility he provides defensively.

    Sheffield as a back-up first baseman/pinch-hitter/spot (inning at a time) outfielder is not a bad fit. Whether its a good fit from Sheffield’s perspective is probably the key issue.

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  11. Phylan says:

    At this point I’m hoping that if any of the outfielders go down for a significant amount of time, Amaro will call up Mayberry. As far as late innings outfield substitutions though, Bruntlett is the only one who can field competently. Sigh.

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