Tuesday, July 14, 2015

National League All Star Post

To check out my thoughts about the AL roster and the All Star game itself, take a look at this POST.  This post is just looking at the NL All Star team and some NL snubs.  So let’s jump right in and take a look at the NL squad.

National League Starters

C          Buster Posey              300/14 HR/57 RBI/44 R/1 SB

This one was pretty easy.  Posey leads in the Triple Crown categories.  He’s also 1st in R, OBP, slugging and OPS (on-base plus slugging).  This was the right call.

1B       Paul Goldschmidt      351/20 HR/68 RBI/59 R/16 SB

This was also an easy one.  Goldy is the leading hitter in the NL and is tied for the league lead in RBI.  He’s 2nd among NL first basemen in HR (tied for 4th in the league).  He is also a great defender and is 1st in SB among all major league first basemen.

2B       Dee Gordon                335/1 HR/21 RBI/43 R/29 SB

Gordon is also a great choice. He’s 1st among all second basemen in AVG (3rd in the league) and SB (2nd in the league).  He leads the league in hits and is 2nd at his position in R.   Unfortunately he got hurt and will miss the game.

SS        Jhonny Peralta          293/11 HR/42 RBI/37 R/1 SB

This one’s tricky.  Just like the AL, there is no clear leader.  There are 3 to consider.  Peralta has the 3rd best AVG, is 1st in HR and is 3rd in R.  He is lower in the runs scored category, only has 1 steal and is a butcher at short defensively.  He’s clearly top 3, but for me is 3rd and shouldn’t be starting, maybe not even on the team.

3B       Todd Frazier              281/25 HR/55 RBI/54 R/8 SB

I like this choice a lot.  It is also a bonus that the All Star game is in Cincinnati this year, so there is a hometown player in the starting lineup.  Frazier is hitting 281, 3rd among true third basemen.  He is 1st in HR, 2nd in RBI and 1st in R.  He’s also tied for 3rd in SB among third basemen and plays good defense.  He’s the number one guy for me this year.

OF       Giancarlo Stanton      265/27 HR/67 RBI/47 R/4 SB

This is another good choice.  Stanton got off to a slow start, but has gotten hotter and pulled his AVG up to a respectable 265.  He also leads the league in HR and all NL outfielders in RBI, despite only playing in 74 games.  He is a premier power hitter, has some speed and plays good defense in right.  An injury will keep him out of the game, but he was a good selection to start.

OF       Bryce Harper             343/25 HR/60 RBI/58 R/4 SB

Harper was another great choice.  He is tied for the league lead in AVG, is 2nd in HR and 4th in RBI.  He’s also tied for 1st in R and leads the league in OBP, slugging percentage and OPS.  At his position, he is no lower than second in any major category.  He might be having the best offensive season in the NL. 

OF       Matt Holliday             303/3 HR/26 RBI/20 R/2 SB

The fans got this one wrong.  I like Holliday, but he’s only played in 52 games.  He’s hurt right now, so he won’t even be able to pay in the game, which is good because he’s undeserving.  He has played well in his 52 games, but there were other, better, choices out there that have played more.

National League Reserves

C          Yadier Molina                        289/2 HR/28 RBI/22 R

Molina is getting into that territory that Derek Jeter and Cal Ripken Jr. got into at the end of their careers.  They are automatic additions to the All Star team, regardless of how well they have played.  He’s the best defensive catcher in baseball and has the 2nd best average among all NL catchers.  But AVG is often overrated.  I’d argue that Derek Norris is having a better season.  Norris has a rough AVG (233), but far more HR, RBI and R.  Molina is not a good choice this year. 

C          Yasmani Grandal       277/14 HR/36 RBI/32 R

Grandal is a great choice.  I think he’s having the second best season among catchers, even only having played in 69 games.  I think this year it goes Posey, Grandal, Norris and then Molina among NL catchers.  At least fans got Posey starting and Grandal on the bench. 

1B       Anthony Rizzo            293/16 HR/48 RBI/46 R/12 SB

This is a great choice.  Rizzo is 3rd among all true first basemen in AVG, 4th in HR, 6th in RBI, 4th in R and 2nd in SB.  He’s also 2nd in OBP and OPS and 3rd in slugging.  He plays excellent defense and appears no lower than 6th on any list of NL first basemen. 

1B       Adrian Gonzalez        291/16 HR/51 RBI/47 R

Gonzalez was the hottest hitter in baseball early this year and is a solid bench option for this team.  His AVG is 5th among all true NL first basemen and he’s 3rd in HR.  He’s also 3rd in RBI, 2nd in R and an excellent defender.

2B       D.J. LeMahieu             304/4 HR/34 RBI/42 R/10 SB

LeMaiheu isn’t a bad choice at second.  He is probably the third best second baseman in the league this year, and the two ahead of him are already on the team.  His big stat is AVG, where he is 2nd out of all NL second basemen.  He’s 3rd in R and 5th in SB.  That’s not bad, but there may have been others more deserving than LeMahieu, though not at his position.

2B       Joe Panik                    306/6 HR/30 RBI/43 R/3 SB

Panik is the other second basemen deserving of a nod after Dee Gordon.  He is 3rd in AVG, 1st in R and 2nd in hits among NL second basemen.  He has also shown more speed and power than people thought he had.

SS        Brandon Crawford    262/12 HR/60 RBI/39 R/4 SB

Crawford’s AVG isn’t great, but it’s in the top 5 among true NL shortstops.  He is 2nd in HR, 1st in RBI and 3rd in R.  He has swiped a couple bags and plays excellent defense.  I like him better than Peralta.  I’d have him start over Peralta, but maybe not over another player who I haven’t even mentioned yet.

3B       Nolan Arenado          279/24 HR/68 RBI/49 R

Arenado is having an excellent year.  He is 3rd among true NL third basemen in AVG, 2nd in HR (4th in the league) and 1st in the league and at his position in RBI.  He’s also 2nd in R and a defensive whiz at third.  He is a great choice to be on the team and clearly the number 2 third baseman in the league this year.

3B       Kris Bryant                275/12 HR/49 RBI/45 R

Bryant is a guy with a lot of excitement around him.  He is 3rd among true NL third basemen in HR and RBI.  He’s 4th in R, tied for 3rd in SB and appears in the top 10 in AVG.  Third base is deep with Frazier and Arenado at the top.  Yunel Escobar and Matt Duffy have had strong years too and Matt Carpenter is always good.  I may put Bryant at the head of that group, but clearly behind Frazier and Arenado.

OF       Andrew McCutchen  301/10 HR/52 RBI/45 R/5 SB

McCutchen is a solid selection among a deep group of NL outfielders.  He is 6th in AVG, 11th in HR, 4th in RBI and 6th in R.  He plays a solid defensive center field and has good speed.  I like him better to start than Holliday, but not more than other reserves on this list. 

OF       Joc Pederson              231/20 HR/39 RBI/45 R/2 SB

Pederson is a rookie who has made this list despite a low AVG and high K rate.  He is third among all NL outfielders in HR, 12th in RBI and 8th in R.  He is hitting bombs, playing good defense and getting on base.  He is an exciting player, but I think there are more deserving outfielders out there.

OF       A.J. Pollock                  301/10 HR/39 RBI/54 R/18 SB

Pollock has an argument to start.  He is 4th in AVG and SB among NL outfielders and 2nd in R.  He’s also very competitive in the HR and RBI stats (top 15) and is in the top 10 in OBP and OPS.  He plays a very good defensive center field and leads all NL outfielders in hits.  For me, he’s a top 3 outfielder who should be starting.

OF       Justin Upton              269/14 HR/46 RBI/44 R/16 SB

This is another guy I’d consider starting.  While his AVG isn’t elite, he is great everywhere else.  He is 5th in HR, 6th In RBI, 5th in SB and 11th in R among NL outfielders.  He’s a great defensive left fielder too.  I don’t have him beating out Stanton, Harper or Pollock to start, but I’d have him ahead of Holliday, Pederson and McCutchen. 

National League Pitchers

SP        Madison Bumgarner 8-5, 3.34 ERA, 114 Ks, 113.1 IP, 1.08 WHIP, 1 CG

Bumgarner is having a very solid year.  It’s not as good as previous years, but above average to good.  But there are a number of pitchers with better numbers than him who are more deserving.  But if you thought Bruce Bochy wouldn’t put his own ace in the game, you’d be crazy.  This pick reeks of rewarding Bumgarner for his great postseason run last year.

SP        A.J. Burnett                 7-3, 1.99 ERA, 94 Ks, 113 IP, 1.21 WHIP

Burnett was a good choice.  His numbers are obviously great.  He has the second best ERA in the NL, and 5th most IP.  The ERA alone is enough to get him in. 

SP        Gerritt Cole                12-3, 2.28 ERA, 113 Ks, 110.1 IP, 1.11 WHIP

Cole is another excellent choice.  He leads the NL in Wins, is 5th in ERA and is 9th in Ks.  He’s in the top 10 in IP and top 15 of WHIP and BAA.  The Wins give him a shot to start the game, but I like others better.

SP        Jacob deGrom                        9-6, 2.14 ERA, 112 Ks, 113.2 IP, 0.92 WHIP

deGrom is having a fantastic year and is a great choice for the All Star team.  Last year’s Rookie of the Year is 4th in ERA, 12th in Ks, 15th in IP and tied for 6th in Wins.  He’s also got the 4th best WHIP and 5th best BAA in the league.

SP        Zack Greinke              7-2. 1.48 ERA, 98 Ks, 115.1 IP, 0.89 WHIP, 1 CG

This one was a no-brainer.  He currently has the best ERA in the senior circuit.  He’s also tied for 10th in Wins, is 15th in Ks and is 2nd in IP.  He’s 2nd in both WHIP and BAA.  He would be my second choice to start the game and is having a great season.

SP        Shelby Miller             5-4, 2.08 ERA, 88 Ks, 108 IP, 1.10 WHIP, 2 CG, 2 SHO

This was a great choice for a few reasons.  One, the Braves had to have a representative.  Two, and more importantly, Miller is having a great year.  His ERA is 6th in the league.  He’s in the top 15 in IP and top 25 in Ks.  He’s 15th in WHIP and 10th in BAA.  Just like with Burnett, it’s the ERA that is the clincher.

SP        Max Scherzer             9-7, 2.12 ERA, 143 Ks, 123 IP, 0.80 WHIP, 3 CG, 2 SHO

This is the guy I think is having the best season in the NL right now.  He is 3rd in ERA, 2nd in Ks, 1st in IP and tied for 2nd in Wins.  He also leads the league in WHIP, BAA, CG and is tied for the league lead in shutouts.  He’s my pick to start the game for the senior circuit.  Unfortunately, after pitching Sunday, he will miss the game.

SP        Michael Wacha          10-3, 2.93 ERA, 86 Ks, 107.1 IP, 1.10 WHIP

Wacha is having a solid year, but I don’t like this choice.  His ERA is 13th and he’s tied for 25th in Ks.  He doesn’t appear in the top 25 in IP, is 11th in WHIP and 12th in BAA.  His only elite number is Wins, where he is tied for second.  But recent trends have taught us how unpredictable Wins are, and they should not be weighed with the same amount of scrutiny as other pitching stats.  For that reason, I don’t think he’s a good choice to be on the roster.

RP       Mark Melancon         28/29 Saves, 1.54 ERA, 29 K, 41 IP, 0.98 WHIP

Melancon was a good selection.  NL All Star Game manager Bruce Bochy, unlike his AL counterpart Ned Yost, only selected closers for his relief slots.  I think closers are a better choice than middle relievers for an All Star game, but I still think you only need 2, if any at all.  It’s hard not to pick Melancon.  He leads the NL in Saves and has an excellent 1.47 ERA, miniscule 0.95 WHIP and very strong 210 BAA.  While he leads the NL in Saves, I still think he’s my number 3 man, which means he wouldn’t be on my team.

RP       Jonathan Papelbon   14/14 Saves, 1.60 ERA, 35 K, 33.2 IP, 0.98 WHIP

Papelbon is having a good year.  Also, the Phillies had to have a representative and Papelbon was probably the best choice (over Hamels).  He’s played well with better than 1 K per inning and an excellent ERA and perfect Save record.  His WHIP and BAA are excellent.  He doesn’t get a lot of Save opportunities with a bad team.  Hard to blame him for that.  I think he’s a good choice, but I wouldn’t have picked him.

RP       Francisco Rodriguez  19/19 Saves, 1.41 ERA, 37 K, 32 IP, 0.88 WHIP

He’s another good choice.  He’s got a perfect Save record and has better than 1 K per inning.  He also has an excellent WHIP and miniscule BAA.  He’s another one of those guys, like Papelbon, having a good year, despite fewer Saves.  Solid pick again (if I liked relievers for the All Star roster).

RP       Trevor Rosenthal      25/26 Saves, 1.49 ERA, 43 K, 39.1 IP, 1.04 WHIP

Rosenthal was having the best season among closers, until one bad outing pulled his totals up.  I updated his ERA from 0.69 (where it was when he was selected) to what it is now.  His other totals have come up too.  He’s still got the third most Saves, a great ERA and WHIP and miniscule BAA.  I had him as my number 1 closer when he was selected, but now his numbers aren’t necessarily the best.  That being said, you can’t know what will happen in the future.  So he was one of the two I would have selected.  Though, in retrospect, Melancon would have been a better choice based strictly on the numbers.

RP       Aroldis Chapman      17/18 Saves, 1.73 ERA, 62 K, 36.1 IP, 1.18 WHIP

Chapman is also having a good year.  He is playing for a struggling team so that is hurting his Save total.  But he’s got more Ks than any other reliever in the NL and a solid ERA.  His WHIP is ok, but his BAA is phenomenal.  It also doesn’t hurt that he plays in Cincinnati where the All Star game is happening, though I try not to take that stuff into consideration.  The fact that he throws 106 MPH and leads all relievers in Ks makes him a good choice, even without having the most Saves.  I would have voted for him as one of my two closers.

NL Snubs

There are 3 types of snubs.  Guys who are on the team but should be starting, guys who should be on the team but aren’t and guys who should be starting, but aren’t even on the team.  I’ll go through each position and list anyone I think was snubbed.

C          Derek Norris

I’d put Norris in ahead of Yadier Molina, but this isn’t a huge snub.  I think Norris’ superiority in HR (second), RBI (third) and R (second) puts him ahead of Molina who is only ahead in AVG and plays better defense.  I wouldn’t have him start, but think he should be on the team ahead of Molina.

1B       Nobody

Joey Votto and Freddie Freeman are worthy of mention, but haven’t played well enough to dethrone any of the first basemen ahead of them.

2B       Nobody

Howie Kendrick has had a good year, but doesn’t necessarily belong on the list ahead of anyone else. 

SS        Troy Tulowitzki

This is one of the biggest snubs.  I know he’s missed some time, but he’s played in 69 games.  That’s enough to be worthy of a selection, especially when he leads all true NL shortstops in AVG, is tied for third in HR, is tied for first in R and is second in RBI.  I like him not only to be on the team, but also to start ahead of Peralta and Crawford.  I’d have Tulo start, Crawford back him up and then maybe not even carry Peralta and save his spot for Votto or an outfielder.

3B       Nobody

There are a lot of good third basemen this year.  But I think the top 3 are on the team.

OF       Charlie Blackmon, Ryan Braun, Starling Marte

Blackmon (291/11 HR/40 RBI/5 R/23 SB) is probably the biggest snub on the list.  He’s 8th in AVG, tied for 12th in HR and 13th in RBI.  But he’s 4th in R and 2nd in SB.  He’s also playing a good center field in the cavernous Coors outfield.  I like him ahead of Holliday, Pederson and McCutchen.

Braun won’t get a lot of votes anymore due to his PED suspensions, but he’s having a good year.  Braun (275/16 HR/56 RBI/51 R/12 SB) is 4th in HR, 3rd in RBI and 5th in R with a solid AVG and some speed.  I’d pick him ahead of Holliday and Pederson.

Starling Marte (279/13 HR/49 RBI/45 R/16 SB) is my last snub.  He’s 10th in AVG, tied for 7th in HR, 5th in RBI, 10th in R and 7th in SB.  He’s another guy I like more than Holliday and Pederson.  I think he’s right up there with McCutchen. 

There are lots of good outfielders in the NL this year.  I like Harper and Stanton, then probably A.J. Pollock to start.  But after them, I’d go with Justin Upton, Charlie Blackmon, Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Ryan Braun in that order.  Pederson and Holliday are further down the list and I think bad choices.

P          Clayton Kershaw, Carlos Martinez, Jake Arrieta

Well two of these guys are in the final vote.  And we already know both got in to the All Star game.  So let’s just look at Jake Arrieta.

Arrieta is continuing his strong second half with the Cubs last year.  He’s 8th in the league with a 2.66 ERA.  At 10-5, he’s tied for 2nd in wins.  His 123 Ks are 5th in the league.  He’s also 4th in IP.  I like him better than Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Madison Bumgarner and all the relievers.  He’s a major snub as far as I’m concerned. 

NL Final Vote

SP        Johnny Cueto             6-6, 2.73 ERA, 113 Ks, 118.2 IP, 0.90 WHIP, 1 CG
SP        Carlos Martinez         10-3, 2.52 ERA, 113 Ks, 107.1 IP, 1.22 WHIP
SS        Troy Tulowitzki         313/10 HR/49 RBI/44 R
SP        Clayton Kershaw       6-6, 2.85 ERA, 160 Ks, 123 IP, 1.02 WHIP, 1 CG
RP       Jeurys Familia            27/29 Save, 1.25 ERA, 43 K, 43.1 IP, 0.90 WHIP

To start, I’d eliminate Familia as he’s a reliever and I don’t think they have enough of an impact in a game to be All Stars.

Out of the starting pitchers, I think Cueto, though my favorite player out of the three, has the worst stats out of the group.  Even though he’s the local hero, I think Kershaw and Martinez are better options.

Out of those two, I like Kershaw better because he is so dominant and leads the league in Ks.  His ERA is good too, though not as good as Martinez’s.  His WHIP is better and he throws more innings. Martinez is good, but I give the edge to Kershaw.

So the question now is what is more impressive between Kershaw’s pitching stats and Tulo’s hitting stats.  An apples and oranges comparison.  I’ll give the edge to Kershaw because he’s been so dominant out there.  But it’s really close and I feel both players deserve to be All Stars.

Luckily both are.  Kershaw and Tulowitzki were named to the team as replacements.  Carlos Martinez won the final vote and is also in the game.  Honestly I think he won because Tulo and Kershaw made the team as replacements.  I think Arrieta would be a better option, but what can you do.

Okay, the All Star game is tonight.  I’m picking the NL to win, 8-5.  No science behind that.  Just seems like a good guess to me.  I can’t wait to watch it.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

American League All Star Post

The All Star rosters have been announced for both teams.  As always, there is much debate about who is on the team, who isn’t on the team and the voting process.  There was a lot of focus this year about the fans in Kansas City taking over the vote and putting every single Royals starter into the starting lineup for the AL All Star Team.  They came close, but clearer heads prevailed from around the country as voters did a nice job stopping the most egregious parties from winning starting spots. 

Here’s the issue with baseball’s All Star Game:  this game is an exhibition by its very nature.  It’s an opportunity for everyone across the U.S. to watch players they don’t usually see play each other.  But now we are saddled with this asinine idea that an exhibition game played between two teams of All Stars representing less than 10% of the players in the game (less than 1% of from any particular team) should decide which of the 2 best teams in the game should have the advantage of home field in the World Series.  The correlation is weak and nonsensical.  The teams potentially involved in the World Series have little to no say in what happens in the All Star Game. What if Washington sees Harper get hurt before Sunday and Scherzer pitch on the Sunday before the game?  Then they would have no one involved in a game that could be very important to them if they make it to the World Series, which is a real possibility.

What’s the big deal?  So the game counts for something.  Is that the worst thing in the world?  Not in and of itself.  But it creates complications.  The focus becomes on winning, instead of rewarding players who have had a great first half.  Most people agree that the rosters should be made up of the best position players, starting pitchers and perhaps some closers.  If it’s a celebration of the best baseball has to offer, it only makes sense that players with the most impact on the game should be the focus.  While relievers are valuable and underappreciated, the fact is that they mathematically have less impact than any other position in the game.

Ned Yost has 13 roster spots for pitchers.  He used 7 on relievers.  And 3 of those are full-time middle relievers.  The All Star Game should be about excitement and novelty.  It shouldn’t be about watching a middle reliever (albeit a good one) be brought in for one hitter, even though that is what generally happens in these games.  It should be about Clayton Keshaw facing Mike Trout in the 6th inning. 

In short, making this game count for something changes the way it is played and chosen.  And if it is really so important, then MLB has no business letting fans (who are largely uninformed and ruled by passion) choose the starters.  This game should be an exhibition.  It should be fun.  All the changes MLB has made to it now make it neither.

Ok, rant over.  Let’s take a look at the rosters, talk about who did get chosen and who should have been chosen.

American League Starters

C          Salvador Perez          262/13 HR/34 RBI/26 R/1 SB

Not a bad choice to be on the team, but the wrong choice to start.  Perez is second among qualified catchers in AVG and fourth in RBI and R.  He is tied for first in HR and hasn’t had a bad year.  But he rode the Royals wave into the starting lineup when he should have been the second or third choice.

1B       Miguel Cabrera         350/15 HR/54 RBI/43 R/1 SB

Anytime anyone is hitting 350, then it’s hard not to have them in the All Star game.  Cabrera leads all AL first basemen in AVG, as he is the leading hitter in baseball.  That being said, he’s only 5th in HR and R and 4th in RBI.  He also doesn’t have a special distinction about him to set him apart as his defense is subpar and he doesn’t steal bases.  But 350 is impressive.  However, with his injury he’ll miss the game and the start will go to someone as deserving, but having a completely different kind of year.

2B       Jose Altuve                 299/7 HR/36 RBI/43 R/24 SB      

He’s not a bad choice.  He leads the AL in stolen bases and is coming off a year in which he won the batting title.  His AVG is tied for third among AL second basemen and he’s fourth in R.  I like Altuve and think he is worthy of a spot on the roster.  But he shouldn’t be the starter.

SS        Alcides Escobar         282/2 HR/31 RBI/41 R/5 SB

Escobar is hitting 291, third among qualified leaders at short in the AL.  He doesn’t have a lot of power but is third in RBI and second in R.  This is just a weak position with only two players hitting double digit HRs (both of which have spent most of their time playing other positions), two with double digit stolen base totals and two hitting over 300. Escobar may have gotten in due to the Royals get out the vote campaign, but he’s not a bad choice to start and may even be the best choice.

3B       Josh Donaldson         300/21 HR/58 RBI/64 R/3 SB

This was the right choice.  Donaldson is hitting 302 at this point, tops among all true first basemen in baseball (Miguel Cabrera, Jose Iglesias and Xander Bogaerts aren’t real third basemen).  He also leads all third basemen in HR, RBI and R and has swiped 3 bags while playing great defense and getting on base at a 361 clip.  His HR total is 5th among all AL players, his RBI total is second and he leads the junior circuit in runs scored.  He is having a great season and definitely deserves to start the All Star game. 

OF       Lorenzo Cain              305/6 HR/36 RBI/48 R/16 SB

Cain rode the Royal wave into the game.  His AVG is third among AL outfielders and his stolen base total is second.  He doesn’t rank near the top in HR or RBI but appears 5th in R and 6th in OBP.  He also plays an excellent center field and can play right field as well.   Perhaps deserving of a roster spot, he shouldn’t be starting.

OF       Alex Gordon               280/11 HR/39 RBI/31 R/1 SB

This is the outfield selection I have an issue with.  Gordon has the 14th best AVG, he’s only gone 1 for 4 on the bases and he’s tied for 11th in HR and 14th in RBI.  He’s 29th in R.  The only important stat where he ranks in the top 10 is on-base percentage, where he’s second.  I like Gordon and think he may be the best defensive left fielder in the game.  But left field is one of the easiest positions to play defensively.  I have doubts as to whether Gordon should be on this team at all, much less starting.  However, this may be moot as a recent injury will keep him out of the game.

OF       Mike Trout                 302/22 HR/48 RBI/62 R/9 SB

Trout is the clear choice to start in the outfield.  If there were only room for one outfielder for some reason, it would be Mike Trout.  He is the best player in baseball. Trout ranks third among AL outfielders in AVG.  He’s tied for the lead in HR (now with 24) and is tied for fourth in RBI.  He’s 15th in SB and tied for second in the league in runs scored.  He also leads all AL outfielders in OBP and plays a Gold Glove caliber center field.  Everyone got this right. 

American League Reserves

C          Russell Martin           250/12 HR/39 RBI/48 R/4 SB

Marin is deserving of a nod.  His AVG is only fourth among qualified starters at catcher in the league.  But he’s second in HR among backstops, third in RBI and first in R and SB. He’s also may be having the best defensive season behind the plate this year.

C          Stephen Vogt             293/13 HR/54 RBI/40 R

Behold:  the man who should be starting the American League All Star game at catcher.  Vogt is the leading hitter among AL catchers, leads them in RBI, is tied for first in HR and is second in R.  Playing in Oakland can get you overlooked and that is unfortunately what happened in this case.  While many of these decisions can go any number of ways, I think this is one of the few times where there is a clear choice for who should start the game at a position, and the public missed it.

1B       Prince Fielder                        344/13 HR/50 RBI/41 R

Prince Fielder is second in the league and at his position with a 345 AVG.  Fielder is tied for 10th in HR and 7th in RBI in what has turned out to be a very strong group of AL first basemen.  His other totals don’t warrant this spot, but you understand Yost carrying four first basemen in an attempt to reward a guy hitting 345.  I may have selected a different player (though not necessarily a first baseman) but don’t think this is a bad choice.

1B       Albert Pujols              264/26 HR/56 RBI/51 R/1 SB

Pujols leads all AL first baseman in HR and R.  He’s second in RBI, but his AVG is not anywhere near as strong as others at the position as he ranks 9th out of the 19 qualified first basemen in the league.  Batting average is often overrated nowadays and Pujols has great value as a slugger and guy who can work a walk.  He’s also a better defender than Cabrera.  With the injury to Cabrera, Pujols will start and I think he is the right choice to take the job.   

1B       Mark Teixeira                        239/20 HR/59 RBI/39 R/1 SB

Mark Teixeira is having a comeback year.  Like Pujols, his AVG isn’t great (in fact it’s not good at all).  But he’s second in HR and first in RBI.  In fact, he leads the entire AL with his 59 RBI (61 now).  While I put less stock in RBI than others, I am impressed by his ability to drive in runs and his power is legit.  And his defense is excellent so that’s a bonus.  Not a bad choice, even if there are better ones. 

2B       Jason Kipnis               336/6 HR/36 RBI/56 R/10 SB

This is one of the bigger snubs in the AL.  He is on the team, which is good.  But he should be starting over Altuve.  He leads all AL second basemen in batting average (and is third in the AL in the batting race).  He is also second in R (ahead of Altuve), third in RBI (ahead of Altuve) and second in SB (behind Altuve).  He has one fewer HR, leads Altuve in AVG by 36 points and in OBP by 70 points.  Kipnis is having the best season at second base by far with only one other person coming close to dethroning him….and that person is not Jose Altuve.  Perhaps all three should be on the team.  But Kipnis is clearly the one who deserves to start.

SS        Jose Iglesias               319/1 HR/14 RBI/ 19 R/9 SB

Iglesias is leading all AL shortstops with a 324 batting average.  As I mentioned earlier, this is a weak group of hitters.  He’s tied for third in SB and has a good glove, but most shortstops do.  I guess having the top AVG (and 324 is good for any position…though a lot of people think he’s very lucky) is enough to get you a spot as a reserve with no better options.

3B       Manny Machado       302/18 HR/47 RBI/54 R/13 SB

Machado is second among true AL third basemen in AVG, behind only Josh Donaldson.  He is tied for second in HR and second in RBI (again, among true second basemen…Chris Davis and Miguel Cabrera don’t play third often).  He’s second in R and first in stolen bases.  And he’s an even better defender than Donaldson.  He’s a great player who deserves to be in the game.  He just has the unfortunate luck to be ranked behind one other player in almost every category, and that player (Donaldson) got the starting nod. 

UTIL    Brock Holt                  294/2 HR/21 RBI/30 R/5 SB

Brock Holt is an interesting case.  He has played very well hitting 294 and has enough RBI and R to rank in the top 20 of both third basemen and second basemen.  But Brock Holt doesn’t play any position exclusively.  So it’s hard to rank him among his positional peers.  He is having a good year, but has only played in 68 games.  I like him.  But think the game would be better served with another strong infielder like Brian Dozier or Luis Valbuena or Carlos Correa in the game. Yost elevated Holt to All Star status purely to have a backup sitting on his bench to play any position that he needs him for.  If this game was treated like the exhibition it should be, he wouldn’t be playing in this game.

OF       Jose Bautista              239/17 HR/58 RBI/54 R/3 SB

If it weren’t for his batting average, Jose Bautista would be starting this game.  He leads all AL outfielders in RBI, is third in runs scored and is fifth in HR.  He’s also third in OBP and plays a phenomenal right field with one of the best arms in the game.  He is the poster boy of why batting average is often overrated.  It’s a good starting point, but not the most important stat.  Bautista is one of the best outfielders in the game, even hitting under 240.  I love his selection on the team and would have him start over Gordon and Cain.

OF       Adam Jones                288/11 HR/ 40 RBI/40 R/3 SB

This was tough for me.  Adam Jones is an underrated player, even at this stage in his career, because he doesn’t excel at anything.  Instead, he’s really good at everything. The one thing that sets him apart is his defense, as many people think he may be the best defensive center fielder in the American League.  But so far, this isn’t his year.  He’s 11th in AVG and HR, 13th in RBI and 15th in R.  As much as I like Jones, I don’t support this pick.  There are a number of other players, some outfielders and some not, that I would put in his place.

OF       J.D. Martinez              289/24 HR/58 RBI/53 R/2 SB

Here is a player that I might have put in the starting lineup.  He’s 8th in AVG among AL outfielders.  He is tied with Mike Trout for the AL outfielder lead in HR (second in the league).  He is second among AL outfielders in RBI (4th in the league).  He’s tied for third in R and is second in both slugging percentage and OPS.  He also plays a very good defensive right field.  For me, I think Martinez and Jose Bautista should join Mike Trout in the starting AL outfield, certainly ahead of Gordon and marginally ahead of Lorenzo Cain.  At least he’s on the team, but he deserves a starting nod in my opinion.

American League Pitchers

SP        Chris Archer              9-6 2.74 ERA, 147 Ks, 121.2 IP, 1.02 WHIP

Great choice.  His ERA is 7th in the AL, he’s tied for second in Ks and is third in IP.  Both his WHIP and BAA are miniscule and he’s tied for third in Wins.

SP        Sonny Gray                9-3, 2.20 ERA, 102 Ks, 114.2 IP, 1.01 WHIP

Another great choice.  Gray has the second best ERA in the league.  He may only be 12th in Ks and 7th in IP, but he’s also got 9 Wins (tied for third), a phenomenal WHIP and the third best batting average against in the league. 

SP        Felix Hernandez        10-5, 3.02 ERA, 106 K, 110.1 IP, 1.07 WHIP, 2 CG, 2 SHO

This one is, surprisingly, not the best choice.  While he’s had a great career and is a big star, I just think there were better options.  Yost had to have a Mariner, though I would argue there was a better choice in Seattle who could have taken King Felix’s spot.  His numbers aren’t bad.  His ERA is 11th and he is tied for second in Wins.  He’s 11th in IP and 9th in Ks.  The only stats where he jumps off the page are WHIP (5th) and BAA (6th).  I like Hernandez a lot, but think there were better options for his roster spot this year.

SP        Dallas Keuchel           11-3, 2.14 ERA, 110 Ks, 130 IP, 0.99 WHIP, 3 CG, 2 SHO

This one was easy.  Keuchel may be having the best season among AL pitchers.  He leads the league in ERA, Wins and IP.  His WHIP and BAA are second best. And he’s 5th in Ks this year.  He was the obvious choice for me this year and I think he should get the nod to start the whole game.

SP        David Price                8-2, 2.54 ERA, 107 Ks, 117 IP, 1.13 WHIP, 3 CG, 1 SHO

Price is one of those tricky guys.  I think he’s played well enough to be an All Star.  But there are others more deserving than him that aren’t on the team.  However, I think he should still be on the team, perhaps in place of some of the middle relievers Yost selected.  Price is 5th in ERA and IP, 7th in Ks and tied for 9th in Wins.  His WHIP is better than average, but not elite.  His BAA is decidedly average.  I like him, but think there are others more deserving.

SP        Chris Sale                   7-4, 2.80 ERA, 147 Ks, 112.1 IP, 0.94 WHIP, 1 CG

Chris Sale is one of the guys I would consider to start the game.  Sale is 8th in ERA, despite having a fantastic one.  However he is second in Ks and leads the league in WHIP and BAA.  He’s only got 7 Wins, but he’s made 2 fewer starts due to injury and plays for a bad team.  He is filthy and has put himself into the conversation for best pitcher in baseball.  I think Keuchel is still my pick to start the game, but Sale is number 2.

RP       Darren O’Day                        2/4 Save, 1.10 ERA, 43 K, 32.2 IP, 0.80 WHIP, 7 HLD

Darren O’Day is a very good pitcher.  But he doesn’t belong in this game.  He’s a great middle reliever, but this game shouldn’t carry middle relievers.  He’s not a closer and doesn’t even rank near the top of the league in Holds.  He’s not more worthy than a couple of the starters that were left off this list.

RP       Glen Perkins              28/28 Saves, 1.24 ERA, 35 K, 36.1 IP, 0.85 WHIP

Perkins leads the AL in Saves.  If you have to carry a closer (and I’ll say you should), then he’s not a bad choice.  His ERA, WHIP and BAA are all excellent; he has a perfect Save record and a little better than one strikeout per inning.  He’s not elite, but in a weak group of AL closers has had the best season.  I’m okay with this selection.

RP       Dellin Betances          7/9 Saves, 1.61 ERA, 73 K, 44.2 IP, 0.83 WHIP, 12 HLD

Betances is downright filthy.  He started the year as a middle reliever and notched 12 Holds, tied for 8th in the league.  His WHIP, ERA and BAA are incredibly good.  He has more Ks among relievers than anyone. He is incredible and has become the closer.  He’s played well there (don’t let that 7 for 9 fool you…as a middle reliever you can blow a Save but don’t have opportunities to get one).  He is maybe the best middle reliever in baseball and now one of the better closers.  Because he is a closer now, I would give him the nod. 

RP       Brad Boxberger         20/22 Saves, 3.55 ERA, 45 K, 33 IP, 1.39 WHIP, 1 HLD

No.  Not even close.  This may be the most egregious of all of AL picks.  Boxberger has gotten himself 20 Saves thus far.  That’s impressive.  But his 3.55 ERA is monstrously high for a middle reliever, specifically a closer.  He has a good K rate, but his WHIP is terrible.  Those two numbers alone should disqualify him from being on the All Star team.  It makes no sense and is the worst pick I’ve seen yet.

RP       Zach Britton               23/24 Saves, 1.77 ERA, 41 K, 35.2 IP, 1.04 WHIP

Britton has had a good year.  Third in Saves.  Among closers, his ERA is good, but not great.  His WHIP is very good and his BAA is solid.  He has better than 1 K per inning..  But Perkins is having a better year in all but one category and Betances is far more dominant.  You don’t need more than 2 relievers.  Britton isn’t in the top 2.

RP       Wade Davis                9 /9 Saves, 0.24 ERA, 41 K, 37 IP, 0.84 WHIP, 11 HLD

This is the one problem with my system.  Wade Davis is probably the second most dominant reliever in the AL (right up there with Dellin Betances).  But he’s clearly a middle reliever.  He’s gotten Save opportunities with Greg Holland missing time and has been perfect in them.  Davis is tied for 12th in Holds, but has the best ERA in baseball.  He also has one of the best WHIPs and BAAs.  He is great, but, in my book, he is a middle reliever and has too little effect on the game to get an All Star spot.  His 9 Saves are actually more than Betances, but Betances is now the closer.  The fact that Betances is a closer and Davis is not even though Davis has more Saves than Betances is what makes this tricky.  Since he’s not a starter or closer, I normally would not consider him at all.  I’m okay with his selection, but don’t like the idea of giving middle relievers roster spots, even if they are the best ones in their league.

RP       Kelvin Hererra          0/2 Saves, 2.14 ERA, 36 K, 33.2 IP, 0.98 WHIP, 12 HLD

Hererra is having a great season as a set up man.  But his ERA is not as good as others, his K rate isn’t either and he’s only tied for 8th in Holds.  He’s good, but I think he is the second easiest to remove from this list.  Davis is incredible, even as a set up man with 9 Saves.  Betances is the most dominant reliever in the league.  Perkins is having a good year with the most Saves (though I now think that he’s third on my list).  I wouldn’t take Hererra, who is very good.  Middle relievers don’t have enough of an impact to be in this game.

AL Final Vote

3B       Mike Moustakas        301/7 HR/31 RBI/39 R/1 SB (Winner of Final Vote)
2B       Brian Dozier               260/18 HR/45 RBI/64 R/9 SB
OF       Yoenis Cespedes       291/12 HR/46 RBI/50 R/3 SB
OF       Brett Gardner                        298/9 HR/39 RBI/61 R/15 SB
SS        Xander Bgaerts         304/3 HR/41 RBI/38 R/4 SB

Brett Gardner has already been tabbed to replace the injured Alex Gordon.  That’s good because my vote was between him and another guy.  Also, while no injury is good, it does take Alex Gordon, the weakest All Star selection at outfield, off the roster. 

So with him in, I focused my vote on Brian Dozier. Dozier is easily in the top three second basemen in the AL this year.  Dozier’s 260 AVG is fine, but not All Star worthy ranking 8th out of AL second basemen.  But the rest of his numbers are excellent.  He leads all second basemen in HR, RBI and R.  He’s also third in SB.  So while his AVG isn’t great, looking beyond that we can see that every other counting stat from him is elite.  This is why batting average is overrated.  Dozier, despite his batting average (which is better than the MLB average btw), is one of the best second basemen in the AL this year, worthy of a roster spot and I’d say even more worthy than Altuve.

After Dozier and Gardner, the only other guy I’d consider would be Yoenis Cespedes.  Cespedes is tied for 8th in AVG, is 10th in HR, 6th in RBI and is tied for 5th in R.  He doesn’t scream snub to me, but he is more deserving than Alex Gordon and Adam Jones.

However this is now moot, as the winner of the final vote was Mike Moustakas, the man who would have been fourth on my list of the five in the final vote.  He’s having a good year, but is not the most deserving.

AL Snubs

There are several levels of snubs.  There are guys who are on the team who should be starting, but aren’t.  There are guys who should be on the team, but aren’t.  And then there are guys who should be starting, but aren’t even on the team.  We’ll roll through each position real fast and see what snubs, if any, should be brought to the public’s attention.

C          Stephen Vogt

He’s on the team, but clearly deserves to be starting.

1B       Nobody

There are 4 first basemen.  All have legitimate reasons to be there.  But if Prince Fielder wasn’t hitting 345, his argument would be weak as no other stat jumps off the page.

2B       Jason Kipnis, Brian Dozier

As we covered above, Kipnis is snubbed only in the fact that he is a reserve, when he should be starting.  I like Altuve, but Kipnis is his better in almost every statistical category so far this year.  Dozier is the bigger snub, as he’s not on the team at all. He should probably be the number 2 second baseman, above Altuve.  Altuve isn’t a bad option to be on the team, but in my book he’s the third best second baseman this season.

SS        Nobody

This is a weak group of shortstops.  It’s almost worth asking Manny Machado to play short and adding another third baseman to the mix.  It’s frustrating that Brian Dozier is not on the team when he is playing better than every AL shortstop. 

3B       Nobody

Mike Moustakas is having a good year.  But he’s not more deserving of the final vote than Gardner, Dozier or Cespedes.  Luis Valbuena and Brett Lawrie are also worthy of recognition, but aren’t snubs. 

OF       Billy Burns, Nelson Cruz

Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes are also having good years.  They are worthy of recognition but aren’t snubs. 

Nelson Cruz is really more of a DH, but he’s played some OF and that’s how I’m listing him in this post.  Cruz is hitting 300 (4th among AL OF) with 21 HR (3rd among AL OF) and 51 RBI (3rd among AL OF).  This is a clear snub, though perhaps due to the fact that he was frequently a DH.  I’d put him before Gordon, Jones and Cain. 

The other guy is someone most people haven’t heard of.  It’s because he’s a rookie with the Oakland A’s.  But Burns leads all AL OF in AVG and SB.  He’s hitting 318 with 17 SB.  His HR/RBI totals may not be overly impressive, but he’s a great defensive center fielder who has elite AVG and SB totals, gets on at a 354 clip and has scored 36 R in only 59 games.  He is the biggest AL snub this year and the fact that he was largely ignored despite his obvious worthiness for the team is a testament to the issues with the voting and selection process.  Yost had no business overlooking him.  Perhaps his hands were tied since Gordon and Cain were selected by the fans, but you’re naïve if you think he’d overlook his own guys for this rookie, who is more deserving than both.

Pitchers          Scott Kazmir, Yovani Gallardo, Hector Santiago

This is a case where Yost chose far too many relievers to win the game.  Winning the game shouldn’t matter.  It should be an exhibition with nothing tied to it.  Rather, we should just see the best players with the biggest impact.  In my opinion, there are 5 too many relievers on the team.  I’d put these starters ahead of any reliever and easily get all three on the team.

If I had to knock off other starters, I’d say these three are more deserving than Felix Hernandez and right up with David Price. 

Okay that’s it for snubs.  Alex Rodriguez has had a good year, but I don’t think he’s better than the other infield options.  Perhaps better than the shortstops, but he can’t play that position anymore.  So really, the big snubs are Dozier and Billy Burns.  Vogt and Kipnis should be starters instead of reserves.  And Kazmir, Gallardo and Santiago should be on the team ahead of a number of relievers and maybe a starter or two, but as long as this exhibition has home field attached to it, we will see decisions based more on winning than rewarding achievement, which is what an All Star game should be about.

NL roster breakdown and snubs coming soon.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Philadelphia Phillies 2015 Team Breakdown

Philadelphia Phillies

2014 Finish:              73-89 (Last in NL East)

Projected Batting Order

CF        Ben Revere
C          Carlos Ruiz
2B       Chase Utley
1B       Ryan Howard
LF        Domonic Brown
3B       Cody Asche/Mikel Franco
RF        Jeff Francouer/Darin Ruf
SS        Freddy Galvis

Projected Starting Rotation/Closer

LHP                 Cole Hamels
RHP                 Aaron Harang
RHP                 Chad Billingsley
RHP                 Jerome Williams
RHP                 Sean O’Sullivan
CLOSER          Jonathan Papelbon

The Phillies are in the midst of a re-build.  But the last person to realize that was apparently GM Ruben Amaro.  So they are probably two years behind where they need to be and still have a number of high priced players who should have been traded away in recent years including Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon.  Cliff Lee should also be gone, but continues to fight injury, hurting his value.  The Phillies had a window to trade him when he was healthy 2 years ago, but held on to him and have regretted it.  Philadelphia is a tough town for sports.  Philly fans are notoriously brutal and impatient and have earned their reputation for being the worst fans in sports.  But in this instance, their ire is warranted.  In the modern baseball landscape, you are either going for it or re-building.  The Phillies have tried to straddle the line for too long, locking themselves into a re-build that doesn’t look to have a quick turnaround time.


Last year the Phillies hit 242 as a team, ranking 10th out of 15 NL teams.  They were also 10th in hits and runs and 9th in HR.  That’s fairly consistent, but on the wrong end of the spectrum.  This team is pretty much the same as last year.  They parted ways with Marlon Byrd, a luxury they couldn’t afford or justify.  They also let Jimmy Rollins go via trade, a move that looks brilliant at this point in the year.  But they still have Ryan Howard and Chase Utley on the right side of the infield, making a lot of money and blocking youngsters from a chance to play in the big leagues.  Carlos Ruiz is still behind the plate.  And their outfield still features a number of guys with one or two skills, but generally not enough to be more than an average outfielder in the major leagues (and that’s probably too generous).  The Phillies will send the same squad out there this year, but Philly fans are hoping to see a much different team take the field by the end of the year as they are practically begging for the team to blow it all up and start over.

I think the Phillies best offensive piece is Ben Revere.  Revere tied with another NL East center fielder last year to lead the league in hits (Denard Span), was third in SB and 5th in batting average.  That’s very good.  But he has absolutely no power with only 22 extra base hits out of those 184.  So he is a very limited player.  He’s a career 291 hitter with a 325 OBP.  But you know what you are getting with him, and it’s singles and stolen bases.  I like him a lot this year and figured he’d be good for another year around 300 (305 in 2013, 306 in 2014) with 45+ SB (49 last year) but only about 75 R (nobody decent to drive him in).  While he isn’t great, he’s likely their best player on the offensive side of the ball.  He is a better player than Philly fans realize.

Frankly, the rest of the offense goes downhill from him.  Chase Utley can still be a good hitter, though not what he used to be.  Last year he hit 270 with 11 HR, 78 RBI and 10 SB.  The speed was a surprise.  The rest was where I thought it would be.  For a second baseman, that’s very good.  For Utley, it’s a clear decline, which is understandable since he’s 35 years old with a significant injury history.  I like Utley but think the Phillies had no business re-signing him.  It was not an unfair deal, but they shouldn’t be spending money on a veteran who won’t be around to help them win in the future.  The more confusing part is that Utley wanted to return to the Phillies.  I figured he’d be good for 265+ again with 10-12 HR, 65-70 RBI and maybe 5 SB.  But he’s played terribly to start the year and is currently on the DL.  He’ll need a very strong second half to reach those plateaus.

First baseman Ryan Howard is shockingly still around.  After winning the Rookie of the Year and MVP in back to back seasons, things looked bright for Howard.  But pitchers adjusted to him, realizing the big man had huge holes in his swing and Howard has not been able to adjust.  More importantly pitchers have kept him from going yard.  He’s been in a heavy decline since 2012, and a slight one since 2008.  That’s part of the reason almost everyone derided his 5 year $125 million deal in 2011.  His AVG fell off a cliff in 2012 and outside of half a season of 266 in 2013, Howard has not reached 220 in a season.  He stayed healthy for 153 games last year and reached 23 HR, the first time he surpassed 20 since 2011.  His 95 RBI last year was also his highest total since 2011.  He only hit 223, but a 23 HR/95 RBI guy has value.  The Phillies should have aggressively pursued a trade in the offseason or at the trading deadline last year when his value was the highest it’s been in 4 years.  They didn’t, and now his market value has returned to zero.  He really is just a guy who will run into 20 HR, hit for a terrible AVG, strike out a ton and can no longer work a walk.  Nobody wants him.  I thought he would struggle this year, to the tune of 200 with 15 HR and maybe 60 RBI.  He’s playing a little better, but not much.  And he will likely continue to eat away at the Phillies funds and play bad baseball for them for the remainder of his deal since he no longer has any trade value.  This was the biggest mistake Amaro ever made, and he continued to make mistakes with Howard again and again.

Carlos Ruiz is back behind the plate again.  Ruiz has had a decent career with 3 good years in 2010, 2011 and 2012, but a PED suspension in that time explaining away the numbers.  Outside of that, he’s been a guy who hits around 250 with 6-8 HR and a good defensive reputation.  Pitchers like throwing to him, which is why he’s stuck around so long.  But he’s 35 and doesn’t play like he used to.   He can work a walk, but is a below average offensive catcher at this point in his career.  I don’t think there’s a ton of interest in him and he doesn’t make a lot of money so a trade doesn’t help anyone very much.  I bet he’ll finish his career as a Phillie.  Preseason, I liked him for 240 with 5 HR and 35 RBI.  That seems to be a reasonable estimate at this point.

Domonic Brown is the only other name of note on this offense.  A long-time prospect, Brown never seemed to do anything with his chances in the big leagues.  But he slugged 27 HR and hit 272 in 2013.  But the second half of that season saw him struggle and last year he only hit 235 with 10 HR.  He doesn’t make adjustments well and that has crippled him in the big leagues.  I think another season of 240-245 is in the offing (career 246) with 12 HR and 65 RBI.  A little better than last year, but still not what the Philadelphia front office expects of him.  With injuries limiting him to 19 games thus far, those totals look like they may be out of reach.

Cody Asche is one of the few young Phillies on the starting roster.  He played in 121 games last year hitting 251 with 10 HR.  The year before it was 50 games with 5 HR and a 235 AVG.  He may be a serviceable big leaguer, but not someone to get excited about.  He had to fight Mikel Franco to win the starting job at third, but earned it to start the year.  However, with the recent struggles of the outfield, Asche has played a lot of left, letting Franco have time at third.  I liked him for another 250 season with 12 HR and 50 RBI.  But an injury has robbed him of some time.  The AVG looks to be on point, yet he will likely fall a little short of the HR/RBI total, but only because of missed games.

Mikel Franco has gotten a chance to play in the big leagues this year.  He’s started hot hitting 297 with 10 HR and 34 RBI in 48 games.  His bat kept him in the majors even after Asche got healthy.  Asche has been moved to left to keep both bats in the lineup.  He’s had some hype around him coming through the minors, but no one realized he’d be this good.  That being said, he’s still very young and will have to learn to make adjustments as pitchers adjust to him.  And that’s something that most young players struggle with greatly.

The outfield is a mess.  I originally saw Domonic Brown in left, Revere in center and Darin Ruf in right.  But Ruf has struggled greatly (227, 4 HR in 52 games).  Early on in the season, Revere played left (due to his defensive limitations in center) while Obdell Hererra played center.  Hererra has been passable in his 75 games (264/3 HR/22 RBI/8 for 12 on the base paths) and has earned playing time.  Grady Sizemore and Jeff Francouer have both played a lot of right field, more for their defensive presence than their bats.  Sizemore was eventually released and signed with Tampa Bay.  Francouer has played better than expected with 5 HR and a 259 AVG.  But in the end, this defense features what is likely 1 proven everyday outfielder (Revere), 1 possible everyday outfielder (Hererra), and lots of question marks, which is why Asche has moved from third base to be the everyday man in left field.

Freddy Galvis will man short, but I had little to no expectations from him.  His glove got him the job, but outside of occasional pop, he’s done little else at the plate over his career.  I didn’t even bother making predictions for him, thinking a young prospect may take his job away.  That being said, he has played better than I expected hitting 277 with 6 SB thus far.

That’s the offense.  There are lots of bats around on the bench in the forms of Brown, Ruf and whoever isn’t playing out of the Francouer/Revere/Hererra trio.  That’s a luxury, but none of those guys will help the Phillies much now, or in the future.  I think it’s telling that Cody Asche, a young third baseman who hits around 250 with 10 HR in a season, was moved out of position to get his bat in the lineup.  I can’t think of a more average stat line, but it was still good enough to warrant moving him from third base to left field to play everyday.  It sent Domonic Brown and Darin Ruf to the bench and ate into the playing time of the rest of the outfield as Francoeur, Revere and Hererra now share two positions.  This offense will struggle to score runs, and the near future doesn’t provide much relief.

The defense is also subpar in the city of brotherly love.  Howard is a butcher at first base defensively.  Utley has lost range at second.  Galvis is solid at short and Mikel Franco is below average at third.  He looks like a future first baseman, but can’t play there until Howard is out of the picture.  Carlos Ruiz still calls a good game and has a decent percentage on throwing out base runners, but doesn’t frame pitches or block the plate as well as he used to.  Cody Asche is the superior defensive third baseman, but also the better athlete between him and Franco so he was tabbed to learn left field.  He may be good there eventually, but not this year.  Ben Revere has great speed and that makes up for his deficiencies in the outfield.  He gets bad reads and takes terrible routes to the ball.  But his speed helps his range be average to better, despite terrible instincts and a limp arm.  He’s better in left field. Francoeur is a very solid right fielder, even if he’s lost a slight step.  He still has the best arm in baseball.  Obdell Hererra plays center and second fairly solidly.  He’d also be fine in left.  Domonic Brown was a bad defensive outfielder.  Darin Ruf was passable in either corner.  There are lots of outfield options, but really the best outfield defense of Revere in left, Hererra in center and Francoeur in right doesn’t happen often for offensive reasons.


While the Phillies offense struggled last year, the pitching was worse.  Their team ERA of 3.79 was 12th in the NL.  They were 11th in hits allowed, 14th in walks and 9th in Ks.  Last season, the Phils had 7 different pitchers make starts for them.  6 of them were veterans who were either Phillies already, or were past their prime.  Philadelphia did decide to save money in this area as they let A.J. Burnett, Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez walk in free agency.  They were planning to go with Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Jerome Williams, newly signed Aaron Harang and a mixture of David Buchannan and Sean O’Sullivan for the last spot.  But Lee is gone for the year and Williams has already had health issues.  So the Phillies have had to turn to their farm system to fill out some of the spots and the rest went to re-treads trying to come back from injury including Chad Billingsley, Kevin Correia and Dustin McGowan.  It hasn’t worked as Philly has already used 11 different starters. 

Needless to say, I didn’t make predictions for all 11 pitchers, as I didn’t know all would be starting.  I knew Cliff Lee was gone for the year, so I started with Cole Hamels.  Hamels is exceedingly talented and has the track record to prove it.  He’s reached 200 IP 6 of the last 7 seasons, reaching 193 IP the one season he was under 200.  He’s also had an ERA under 3.10 4 of the last 5 seasons with the other season in that span being 3.60.  But 2 of those 5 seasons saw ERAs under 2.80 with a career best 2.46 last season.  He’s struck out 200 hitters 3 of the last 5 years, with 190+ the other 2 years in that span.  He is consistent and experienced with a World Series MVP on his resume.  And yet all the talk about Hamels has been less on performance, and more on what it would take for Philly to trade him.  He has no business being on that team.  Ruben Amaro Jr. refuses to let him go for anything other than an insane haul of talent and salary relief.  But Amaro has a terrible reputation for over-valuing his players and for that reason no one wants to trade with him.  For the time being, Hamels is wasting away on the Phillies throwing incredible innings and not getting any wins or run support.  I thought he’d have another season of 200 IP, 180+ Ks and an ERA around 3.  He’s well on his way to those totals now.  But with those great totals, I was expecting a losing record and only about 8 Wins.  Hopefully he ends the season on another team.  Otherwise he will continue to see his Win total tank and Philly will overspend on an asset they can’t afford.

Aaron Harang was signed to give Philly the same kind of innings he gave Atlanta last year.  As a 36-year old, he gave Atlanta 204 IP, a 12-12 record and 3.57 ERA.  That was phenomenal output and was completely unexpected.  Harang used to be an excellent, underrated pitcher, but his best days are far behind him.  While he started hot for the Braves, his second half was not nearly as strong as his first half.  I thought he’d have a similar year in Philly, with perhaps 10 Wins, 12 losses and an ERA of 4 moving to the hitter’s park in Philly.  200 IP would make this signing a win.  Even 175 IP.  While he started on a strong note again, his last 8 starts have been a mess and he is now on the DL with plantar fasciitis.

With Harang going to the DL, the Phils were able to activate Chad Billingsley.  They were hoping for a bounce back for Billingsley, the talented starter who saw his Dodger career ruined by injuries.  He’s only made 2 starts in the last two years so this was a risky move for Philly.  But he came cheap and had 81 Wins and a career ERA under 3.70 coming into the season.  Like Harang, the goal was innings.  But he started the year on the DL.  I thought he’d come back sooner than he did and maybe make 25 starts and give Philly 150 IP.  My estimate was 8 Wins and an ERA of 4.25.  But his late return and a disastrous first 4 starts make those totals look unlikely.

Jerome Williams is a solid veteran arm who can fill in the back end of a rotation.  He played for 3 different teams last year, pitching out of the bullpen for Houston and starting for Texas and Philadelphia.  He went 5-3 in his 11 starts.  His ERA was 6.43 as a reliever in Houston and 9.90 in his 2 starts in Texas.  Luckily he was much better in his 9 starts in Philly, pitching to a 2.83 ERA.  Like Harang and Billingsley, I thought the goal for Williams was competitive innings.  I expected 5-8 Wins, 10 Losses and maybe a 4.50-4.75 ERA.  He has made 14 starts thus far and hasn’t even pitched well enough to reach those pedestrian numbers.  He’s currently on the DL.  Still, with the unsure situation at the back of the rotation, the loss of Cliff Lee and the hopeful trade of Cole Hamels, the Phillies just want him to throw a lot of innings and eat up starts, even if that means an ERA of 5, which would currently be an improvement on his numbers.

With all the injuries piling up, Philadelphia signed journeyman Kevin Correia to a deal and he has made 5 starts for team thus far.  He’s 0-3 with a 6.56 ERA, so he has not been great.  

Sean O’Sullivan beat out David Buchannan for the last spot in the rotation, but hasn’t played that well either.  I didn’t expect much from him, but 1-6 with a 5.76 ERA in 12 starts is worse than I imagined.

That’s the starting rotation. It’s not great.  It’ll get worse if Cole Hamels is traded, which he should be.  So David Buchannan may get called back up.  At least he’s young, even if he hasn’t pitched well to this point in his career. 

The bullpen features Jonathan Papelbon, another major trade chip.  He has no business on this team and there are good teams that could use his closing expertise.  He is the most likely piece to be moved.  He’s not as good as he used to be, but he’s reached 30 Saves in 2 of his 3 seasons in Philly, with the other year being a 29 Save season.  He keeps runners off base, works around hits and isn’t afraid to adapt and tinker with his approach to pitching.  And while he’s not an elite closer anymore, he still better than average and would be a useful piece to any number of contending teams, especially Houston and Toronto.  I think he will get traded, but Ruben Amaro will have to bring the asking price down. 

The rest of the bullpen includes a number of young arms including Justin De Fratus (who has made some starts for Philly), set up man Ken Giles (a future closer) and Jeanmar Gomez, a formerly highly touted prospect who hasn’t been successful starting at the big league level.  These arms aren’t proven, but at least most are young.  But there is little excitement about this group, even in comparison to other young bullpens.

The Phillies pitching staff wasn’t great last year.  It only looks to be worse this season, with a potential to lose their two best pitchers in Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon.  The hope is the Phils will also get a look at some of their young arms and see if any can be a meaningful part of their future, though contending in the future looks to be farther away than Phillies’ fans would like


The Phillies are a team in transition.  The problem is, they have been a bad team for years, but haven’t committed to re-building until seeing their team absolutely fall apart.  They are in the worst possible position:  they have a lot of old, highly paid veterans to go with underwhelming young players.  There is also very little in the high levels of the Phillies’ farm system, which means change is farther away than anyone in Philly wants to admit. 

A good season for Philadelphia would be trading away Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon for a busload of prospects.  A great year would be dumping Hamels, Papelbon and Ryan Howard.  Chase Utley could also be on the trading block, or at least he should be.  Maybe Amaro ties Ryan Howard to Cole Hamels, the way John Hart did with Craig Kimbrel and B.J. Upton.  The problem is, these guys have been on the block so long with no interested trade partners, that the Phillies may have reached a point of diminishing returns, and may have to eventually settle for far less than they want.  The other option is to continue paying these guys a bunch of money for subpar baseball (outside of Papelbon and Hamels).  That’s the worst possible option, so don’t be surprised to see some movement from Philadelphia at the trade deadline.

The future is not clear for Philly.  What is clear, is that the present will be bad.  It can look better, if the Phillies can dump some assets while they have value.  But even that will only help some, as they need to re-build from the minors up to the major league club.  This team has fallen on hard times and seems unlikely to improve soon. I’m thinking 60 Wins and a last place finish in the NL East.