Alex Cintron’s pinch-hit two-run homer is the difference in the Phils 2-0 loss to Arizona Saturday. Meanwhile, the Phils trade for outfielder Michael Tucker to add a spare bat off their razor-thin bench.
The 34-year-old Tucker, acquired from the Giants for 19-year-old pitcher Kelvin Pichardo, became available when he lost his starting job to rookie Todd Linden as the Giants are starting to go with a wholesale youth movement. Tucker’s roster spot will be filled by Triple-A outfielder Jason Ellison.
Tucker is in the final year of a two-year, $3.5 million contract. The Giants also sent $50,000 to the Phils in the deal.
Immediately after yesterday’s Giants game, Tucker got the news.
"I told him he could be in the World Series," manager Felipe Alou told the San Francisco Chronicle. "He's going to a good team."
Geez. That’s some praise.
The left-hand hitting veteran is batting .241 with 5 homers, 16 doubles and 33 RBIs in 103 games, going .357 (10 for 28) as a pinch hitter.
Tucker owns a career average of .257 with 124 homers and 519 RBI in 11 major league seasons with six teams. Last year, he hit .256 BA/ .353 OBP/ .412 SLG, including 13 homers and 21 doubles.
This isn’t a bad pickup for the Phils, addressing a need I’ve been talking about the last few weeks, but only slightly.
His homer totals are down from a year ago, but I like the doubles. Extra-base hits represent the team’s biggest need, especially off the bench, and Tucker should also benefit from moving out of homer-unfriendly SBC Park.
A lumbering stubby with power and no defense is what they really needed, but this is at least a small improvement. The little bit of left-handed pop already makes him a better option than Endy Chavez, who overstayed his welcome as pinch-hit option No. 1 yesterday with a weak ninth-inning strikeout.
Taking a look at the advanced numbers, 7 Win Shares puts Tucker 49th in the National League among outfielders, in the same boat with Preston Wilson, Jayson Werth and Ryan Church. Looking at it that way, the move seems like a good one considering the company he's in. For what they need him for, I’d put him a notch lower because of his low home run totals and lousy .235 GPA*, in the same range as a healthy Termell Sledge or Todd Hollandsworth (see my update below.)
He’s not the ideal starting corner outfielder because his defense and bat fall under what you would expect from the position. I like what Baseball Prospectus said about him in their annual: “The only difference between Tucker and 100 guys in Triple-A is Tucker’s been in the majors and thus makes GMs feel safer.”
To his defense, he’s been in situations (two seasons ago in Kansas City and this season in San Francisco) when the team had few options.
Perhaps what I like most is he can become a comfortable extra to give Pat Burrell an occasional day off against right-handers. I’d expect Tucker to see starting action once or twice before the season ends.
As for L’il Endy, there was talk around the trade deadline that the Yankees were interested in his services. With the Sept. 1 call-ups looming, it presents an interesting conundrum with hot-hitting, good fielding center fielder Shane Victorino almost certainly being added to the roster.
As for Pichardo, the player the Phils gave up, the Dominican was 3-2 with a 4.17 ERA in 10 games (nine starts) in the Gulf Coast League.
Back to game coverage
Yesterday is what I’d call “an unlucky shutout.” It’s like the Phillies bats were invisible. Literally. The Phils had pitches to hit all game but swung through all of them, especially against reliever Jose Valverde, whose fastballs popped in at 96-97 mph but were right down Broadway.
The team struggled as expected against sinker-baller Brandon Webb, who improved to 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA against the Phils.
The teams are back at it tonight at 8:05 EST in a prime time matchup on ESPN. Vicente Padilla takes the hill against Claudio Vargas.
(Update: Believe it or not, Tucker had the same number of Win Shares as Pat Burrell last year: 15. And to be fair to my man, Terrmel, Tucker isn't as good as he was last season. Sledge had 15 homers and a .269 BA and is on the shelf this season with a hamstring injury. Tucker has 5 homers and is hitting .241. If you think about it, having someone like Tucker at the beginning of this season would have made lots of sense as insurance or a potential platoon for a struggling Burrell.)
* Gross Production Average, a variation of OPS. The exact formula is (OBP*1.8+SLG)/4, adjusted for ballpark factor. The scale of GPA is similar to BA: .200 is lousy, .265 is around average and .300 is a star.