Tag Archives: Chase Utley

Everything You Need to Know About the Last 11 Years of Phillies’ All-Stars

6 Jul

 

This year, the Phillies are sending four All-Stars to Arizona with a possibility of a fifth if Shane Victorino can win the final vote. Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Placido Polanco will all wear the red pinstripes next Tuesday and all are veterans of the Midsummer Classic; Hamels and Halladay have represented the Phillies once each, while both Lee and Polanco represented different teams in the American League after being traded, but before being reacquired, by the Phils. Four Phils All-Stars would be the most since they sent five in 2009 and Victorino’s inclusion would match that mark. It is only the 2nd time in the last 10 seasons that the Phillies will send four players to the All-Star game. If Victorino is voted in, it will match the record for Phillies All-Stars in a single game, matching efforts of 2009, 1995, 1981, 1979, and 1976.

Here’s what the last 10 years of Phillies’ All-Stars looked like (click to enlarge):

Not too many surprising names on that list. I had forgotten that Vicente Padilla and Tom Gordon were All-Stars as Phillies and thought Jim Thome made more than one in a Phillies uniform. The Phils have been well represented in the last 11 seasons; they average 2.63 players per game and have had no less than 3 All-Stars per game since 2005. While it may not be surprising to hear that the Phillies have had 29 unique appearances in the All-Star game since 2001, what may be surprising is that they have signed or traded for 29 All-Stars, which includes Cliff Lee twice, since 2001 as well including four in each of the last three seasons (click to enlarge):


Of the 29 former All-Stars acquired, only 7 made the All-Star team with the Phillies after being acquired while both Dave Hollins and Ricky Botalico had previously made the All-Star team with the Phillies and were later reacquired. Of the players acquired, only a few were reasonably expected to be All-Stars. The Phillies got as-advertised players with Halladay, Lee, Jim Thome, Brad Lidge, and Billy Wagner, while Tom Gordon was a bit of a pleasant surprise. While Jose Mesa did not make the All-Star team with the Phillies after being acquired, he pitched very well as the Phillies’ closer. Jose Contreras has exceeded expectations and has been excellent out of the bullpen and Jamie Moyer was a pivotal part of the Phillies’ transformation into a World Series club. Some of the players acquired, including but not limited to Ronnie Belliard, Luis Castillo, Mike Sweeney, and Jeff Conine were no-harm, no-foul acquisitions while others cost the Phillies players who would mature into top talent.

For instance, the acquisition of Freddy Garcia cost the Phillies two pitchers who have pitched well in the past few seasons: Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez. Gonzalez is headed to his first All-Star game this year after being incredibly effective for the Oakland Athletics. He is one of eight players that the Phillies have either traded or released from 2001-2011 that have made the All-Star game after departing the Phils (click to enlarge):

Of those players, the Phils have since reacquired Lee and only Michael Bourn and Gio Gonzalez appear to be long term assets that would help the Phillies in 2011 and beyond. Between 2001 and 2011, the Phillies have seen the departure of most of the All-Stars that they have acquired, but the positive take-away is that in recent years, they have been able to retain the All-Stars that have been the most productive from their own system. They haven’t traded away too many future All-Stars and the ones of value that they did, they either received an All-Star in return or the verdict is still out. Some trades have been better than others and their are two major clunkers that stick out that luckily did not sink the Phillies and were the right moves at that time: the 2006 trade of Bobby Abreu and the 2007 trade of Gio Gonzalez and Gavin Floyd for Freddy Gonzalez. The Thome for Rowand swap in 2006 filled a need and opened up a spot for Ryan Howard, while the Michael Bourn trade addressed the closer and utility roles that ultimately helped win them a championship.

Chase Utley’s Return = More Runs, Wins

17 Jun

Inspired by:

 

This may be one of the more obvious posts I have made on my blog. The return of five-time All-Star Chase Utley to the Phillies line-up has added a much needed spark. In 21 games, 20 starts, Utley has hit .275/.383/.500 with 3 HRs, 12 RBIs, 3 SBs, and 12 walks with excellent defense. But as hard as it may be to believe now, many commentators thought Utley was done upon his return. When comparing run trends on May 28, I found that the Phillies were scoring just under the league average in runs per game and speculated that it would get better once Utley and Dom Brown readjusted and adjusted, respectively, to Major Leauge pitching. That has happened: the Phillies have added .12 runs per game to their average in just 24 games since Utley’s return and have a .9 runs per game differential, .4 runs per game higher than the next closest team (Cincinnati). The Phillies now have the second highest runs per game total in the National League among division leaders and are now .1 runs per game above the league average instead of .02 below it.

Chase returned on Monday May 23, 2011 against the Cincinnati Reds, going 0-5 with a strikeout in a 10-3 Phils win. He followed it up with a 1-4 night, a day off, and a 1-5 night, putting him at 2-14 to start his season. But since his return, the Phils have caught fire, posting a 16-8 record including their active 7-game winning streak. Undoubtedly, the Phils have benefited from having the three top pitchers in the league in xFIP (Halladay, Hamels, and Lee), but Utley’s .8 WAR in just 21 games out-paces replacements Wilson Valdez at -0.7 and Michael Martinez at -0.3, adding somewhere between 2 and 2.4 wins immediately to the Phils if adjusted for playing time.

Below are some graphical illustrations of the Phillies’ offensive success since Utley’s return. They’ve won 16 of 24 since his return, 13 of 20 when Utley starts, have scored a full run more per game since his return, and score 1.2 more runs per game with Utley in the line-up. Click each graph to expand.


Update: Saw Dash’s Tweet at about 12:30 PM when I stepped away from lunch. Did not see that he had posted an article very similar to mine an hour before I did. Dash’s is a little less optimistic, and honestly, more responsible in his assessment that it is all not Utley. The Phils have had great pitching and Valdez and Martinez are obviously not MLB starting second basemen material, but Utley has definitely had an impact in a small sample size.

Phillies’ Pitches Per PAs Down from Likely and Unlikely Sources

13 Jun

It is advantageous at any level of baseball for a hitter to force a pitcher to throw more pitches to them during an at-bat. The advantages are plentiful: with more pitches, the hitter increases their odds of seeing a pitch in the strike zone, it increases the pitcher’s workload, and it increases the odds that a pitcher will make a mistake via either sheer numbers or fatigue.

A topic of concern for many Phillies’ fans has been their perceived lack of offense. When I explored this topic on May 28, I discovered that while the Phillies’ offensive numbers are trending down, their pitching numbers are trending in a positive direction that nearly doubles the decay the offense is facing. Jayson Werth‘s departure left many Phillies’ fans hoping Ruben Amaro Jr. would acquire a right-handed bat to help balance out the lefty-heavy lineup and ease lefty Domonic Brown into a role as an everyday Major League player. Ruben dashed those hopes last week by stating, “You will not see a major move.”

While Werth put up many impressive numbers as a Phillie, his most impressive may be his pitches seen per plate appearance. In 2008, Werth averaged 4.51 per plate appearance in the heavier half of a platoon with Geoff Jenkins that would have led the league had he had enough plate appearances to qualify. Werth led the league in 2009 and 2010 with 4.50 and 4.37 pitches per plate appearance seen respectively. Despite a declining triple slash line, Werth is 3rd in the NL in 2011 as of June 13, 2011 with 4.27 pitches per plate appearance seen.

Werth’s breakout season of 2009 saw the Phillies’ score the 2nd most runs per game out of their four playoff seasons. In 2007, the highest scoring for any Phillies’ playoff team for the last four years, the Phillies had Pat Burrell and Ryan Howard, respectively, at second and third in the NL in pitches seen, with Chase Utley ranking 22nd and Jimmy Rollins 32nd.

There is a direct value in seeing pitches per at-bat, too. At least it seems that way with this group of Phillies. The Phillies ratio of average pitches seen per plate appearances by regulars compared to their runs scored per game indicates that pitches seen per at-bat become significantly more valuable as your offense output decreases. The graph below illustrates that the Phillies have increased their runs per pitches seen per plate appearance in three out of the last four opportunities, season to season, implying that they have capitalized on pitch counts. Click on the thumbnail for a full-sized graph.

Through this, the Phillies have done more by seeing less over the last few seasons. The graph below illustrates the pitches seen per AB of each of the regulars from 2007-2011. Click on the thumbnail for a full-sized graph.

Admittedly, the graph assumes a lot. It gives Wes Helms the nod at 3rd base for the 2007 season because he had more PA’s there than Abraham Nunez. It assumes Shane Victorino was the every day right fielder for the 2007 Phillies despite them having a revolving door there for a large portion of the season. Werth gets the 2008 nod in RF because of him out PA’ing Jenkins in RF; same thing for Chooch and his back-ups in 2007 and 2008. The model is slightly statistically flawed, too; the averages are based on averages of an ideal line-up based on the players featured. You’d be surprised how hard it is to find team information on pitches seen per plate appearance, even just averages. It does not quite exist in its desired form and unfortunately, I don’t have the time to come through one thousand-plus game logs.

The team average for pitches seen rose each year, from 2007-2010, likely due to strong performances by Howard and Burrell, the emergence of Werth, and the development of Ruiz and Victorino. Werth’s departure created a .44 pitch per at-bat differential in RF for the Phillies; .50 if you consider 2010 Werth v. 2011 Brown. The difference in average per player is .09375 pitches; double the gap created by Werth when comparing his 2011 to Brown’s 2011. While Werth is easiest to explain away the drop-off, it still barely off-sets the gains made by Howard, Rollins, and Victorino this season. Carlos Ruiz is the other culprit in pitches seen per AB dropping, with his .44 pitches per at-bat decrease matching the 2011 gap between Werth and Brown. Ruiz’s supporting cast features drops by Raul Ibanez (.19) and Chase Utley (.06). If anyone has full season pitches per PA data available and/or would like to help me extrapolate numbers by multiplying them out and finding true averages, I would love to see them and would love the help. Werth’s departure and Ruiz’s regression in P/PA indicate the Phillies’ are scoring more runs on less pitches, but also indicate that if they were seeing more pitches, they would likely score more runs.

When Pete Orr plays, the Phillies win.

12 May

Phillies' Success When Playing Pete Orr

Or maybe not, actually. By winning tonight, the Phillies are 24-12 and likely would not have won without Pete Orr’s two key doubles. The stat that amazes me is that the Phillies are 9-11 when Pete Orr plays and just 15-1 when he doesn’t.  This is obviously due to a number of factors: game is already out of hand when Pete Orr enters the game, i.e. April 5, 2011 against the Mets, or even that Orr is brought in in a close game and the Phils just cannot muster a comeback despite Pete Orr getting a hit (I’m looking at you May 8, 2011 versus Atlanta). Being the Pete Orr super-fan I am, I hope to see more of number 5, but I have a feeling his time will decrease even more when number 26 returns. Particularly considering the stat Matt Gelb dropped today on Twitter:

That’s right: the Phillies currently have a .666 winning percentage, and the best record in the Majors, despite getting the lowest production in the league from second base and catcher. Ruiz and Utley cannot return soon enough.

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