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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

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That was me who commented on Burrell's poor hitting mechanics. He also has poor strike zone judgement, witness his strikeout lookings. I also hate that stupid "jump back move where he shoots his hips out" when he tries to convince the ump the pitch was inside. Typically the pitch is right over the middle of the plate. That being said, when he guesses right, he can hit the ball very far and very hard. I am curious how moving the fences back will impact his HR totals. I am sure someone has already did an analysis here. I agree he is a good RBI guy and an important right handed power hitter on this team -- but not worthy of his outrageous long term, no trade contract.

Well done, Billy, and good addition with his strike zone. Horrible strike zone. And I would agree his contract is too long and expensive, though I sort of stated otherwise.

Billy and Jason,

I may be imagining things, but wasn't the consensus that Pat's strikezone judgement got better as the season went on and that there were definite signs of improvement by the end of the season?

My observation with Burrell is that his stats look far more impressive than he actually was last year. I watched at least three-quarters of the games, and I generally did not want to see Burrell come up in big situations, despite the impressive RBI total. He is meat for pitchers who know what they are doing. He can be an unbelievably easy strikeout. When he first came up, and through 2002, he struck me as a big-time clutch hitter, as evidenced by his game-winning homers and success with the bases loaded. Since the contract, he strikes me as a different player. He doesn't have the same confidence and you can predict often that he will have a weak at-bat when there is a key run sitting out there to be driven in. I feel he's caught looking so much not necessarily because he has weak strike zone knowledge (remember, he almost walked 100 times) but because he's reluctant to swing and miss with two strikes. It seemed that he began following Abreu's penchant for trying to work a walk with men on base rather than be the one to deliver himself. I could be off, I'm not in the guy's head. But that's the way it looks to me.

Though he's a decent player overall, he's not a leader, and to me, not a guy to build your team or hopes around. Like Abreu, he can put up pretty stats while not really creating the impact that translates into winning more ballgames. I think it spoke volumes that there was next to no interest in him from other teams in baseball. The hopes of the team for this year and beyond are with Utley, Rollins, and Howard. While I want to see them do well, and though perhaps they will function more effectively with some of the limelight off of them going into this season, Abreu and Burrell represent an ineffectual, uninspired old guard in my eyes.

Oisin:
I didn't anything that would indicate a better handle on the strike zone. The increase in called strikes were kind of new this season, but so were the walks, so it's give or take. I think it can be seen as both a bad handle on the strikezone and bad approach when he's down in the count.

Schu:
That's an outstanding take on Burrell. I couldn't have done it better. Just outstanding.

If I can incorporate an addendum, in preemptive response to those who will say you don't drive in 119 runs by accident: I would like to know, if such a statistic existed, what Burrell's ratio of success in RBI opportunities was last year; in other words, how many runners did he strand or fail to advance or drive in in proprtion to those he did drive in? And how many of those RBIs were accumulated in non-essential situations? These would be interesting stats, and ones that would do well to balance out often misleading, one-dimensional figures like a flat "119". It was my perception that Burrell failed frequently in late-inning, close-game clutch situations in 2005, as in the previous two seasons.

Amen to RickSchuBlues. If Burrell wants to imitate Abreu he should start by trying to learn the strike zone as well as Bobby knew it until the second half of last season. (Abreu's poor knowledge of the strike zone for the second half had nothing to do with his leg miseries.) I have rarely seen an experienced major league batter look more lost at the plate than Pat can on numerous occasions. It is truly pitiful.

Another thing we need to keep in mind with Burrell is that he has a fragile ego. On the rare occasions when he does communicate with the media he invariably has something negative to say generally and particularly with regard to the local fans. Two miserable seasons will do that to all parties involved, but one party (the fans) didn't sign a $50 million contract in the meantime!!!

Ah, yes, that jump back move. Really fools the umps, doesn't it?

Still, some of those rbi's have to have come in clutch situations though I think it would be most illuminating to learn just how many. I, too, have a vague recollection of a lot of rbi's when they didn't matter and a lot more strikeouts when they did.

From USA Today, stats for players when the bases are empty (EMP) or runners are on base (ROB). Pat's #s are much better when runners are on base.

BA SLG OBP AB H TB 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO

Burrell
EMP .270 .478 .371 270 73 129 12 1 14 14 43 81
Burrell
ROB .291 .527 .404 292 85 154 15 0 18 103 56 79

Abreu
EMP .267 .446 .383 303 81 135 22 1 10 10 54 74
Abreu
ROB .305 .505 .426 285 87 144 15 0 14 92 63 60

Howard
EMP .311 .584 .358 161 50 94 4 2 12 12 11 47
Howard
ROB .265 .550 .354 151 40 83 13 0 10 51 22 53

Utley
EMP .286 .547 .384 276 79 151 23 2 15 15 38 62
Utley
ROB .296 .532 .367 267 79 142 16 4 13 90 31 47

Here are also USA Today's numbers for the same players under "late inning pressure."

BA SLG OBP AB H TB 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO

Burrell
.278 .417 .376 72 20 30 2 1 2 10 11 26

Abreu
.284 .514 .424 74 21 38 5 0 4 8 16 20

Howard
.321 .717 .429 53 17 38 1 1 6 17 10 18

Utley
.324 .606 .442 71 23 43 5 0 5 15 14 14

I'm still happy that Pat turned things around last year, although, if you'll recall he started to turn things around in 2004, but he lost 30+ games to the wrist injury. I think there is one variable to explain this: Ronnie James Dio's Holy Diver.

RickSchu - I think you're spot on with your description, and now that I think of it, when I was looking at Burrell at the plate, there did seem to be a period around late august/early september where abreu and burrell had similar sphinx-like approaches to being down in the count. Or perhaps rabbit in the headlights is more appropriate. I was sure at the time that abreu was working to a plan, but his whole second half and wiser heads have suggested otherwise. Certainly I got the sense that I wasn't confident when Pat's bat stayed didn't move. Which I think I commented on either here or at BS&S. Several other people argued convincingly otherwise, hence my original comment.

excuse the typos. Mildly pisshed.

2006: The Downward Spiral towards becoming Dave Kingman 2k6 continues. Pat the Bat = Dk2k6

I will also add the Burrell numbers from ESPN's "Close and Late" split, using the same breakdown as above. Close and Late is defined as "results in the 7th inning or later with the batting team either ahead by one run, tied or with the potential tying run at least on deck."

.272 .444 .381 81 22 51 3 1 3 11 14 26

So it's average.

Essential is totally subjective, but not impossible to determine. Do you count his RBI double in the first inning in the 11-10 Cincinnati game last year? Without him continuing the rally in the first, the game would be tied at 10. We might still be playing it, after all! Some are clear-cut cases either way and some are debatable. I think you can neatly fit all his RBI into those three categories.

Also, isn't every at-bat an RBI opportunity, because he can put it in the petunias in left? Or do you mean just with other men on base?

I'm just trying to get a better read on where you are coming from, "Rick." These are numbers that can probably be measured and figured out.

i think the one thing we can say from simply watching burrell is that there is some evidence to support the notion that he is pedro cerrano who can't hit a curve ball, not the pedro cerrano who shakes off joe-boo to launch a ball in the late innings. that is to say, abreu and burrell and not manny and ortiz (or even utley and howard) in their approach to hitting. they are not hitters who come to the plate in the late innings and dictate an at-bat; they are much more passive in their approach. while they will produce some good numbers, some of them even in the clutch in the middle innings, they aren't the kind of hitters who *put* pressure on pitchers to beat them at crunch time. they seem more like hitters who *feel* pressure to deliver. entirely based on subjective observations, but that's the crux of the anti-burrell arguements. thanks to rickschublues for the blog plus in his assessment of burrell - that's who we had in mind when we started out.

It's true that, as with April games technically meaning the same as September games, an RBI double in the first inning is technically as important as one in the ninth of a tie game. Only there is more than a mere perception that delineates a deeper meaning to the deeper parts of the games and the seasons. Responding to a more intensified pressure is what really makes or breaks a player, or a team. The Phillies have been defined over the last few seasons by players who have mostly shrunken in the more magnified situations. I can't give you any statistics to bear witness to what I saw from Abreu and Burrell in the September series with Houston, but my eyes told me it was pure shrinkage, it was a deficit of character from which the entire team took its lead.

I'm not saying, obviously, that Burrell never had a big hit for the Phillies last year, of course he had several that were meaningful. But whereas people will claim that we tend to always remember the instances of failure and not the instances of achievement, I don't have that perception of Chase Utley, or Jimmy Rollins. When the game is on the line, I want to see these guys up there. They want it. They're aggressive, and they're cocky about their ability to come through. Pat Burrell at one time inspired that confidence in me and he no longer does. I would say that he fell victim to vastly heightened expectations, imposed from all directions, after he signed his large contract and was assumed a central role in getting his team to the playoffs. He mentally is not of the same calibre he demonstrated as a young player. Philadelphia has had that effect on numerous players (look no further, for instance, than David Bell and his big contract, after previously having been considered a clutch performer). Its fans define and respond to players and teams based on their ability to perform when situations are tight. The Phillies have had the talent to win each of the past three seasons and have not done so due partly to inadequate pitching but mostly, in my estimation, to a deficit of character when it's needed most - and a large part of that comes from the lack of example and leadership from core veteran position players like Burrell and Abreu. Again, this is why it was so encouraging to watch a new and younger core emerge last season. I am hoping that their efforts will continue to displace the inadequacies of the remnants of the Bowa-Wade core and possibly that the latter, in less of a focul setting, can even start taking their lead from them so that the lineup can come together as a more confident, productive unit and help the Phillies lead the league in something more than runners left on base.

gr - I know this is in part a continuation of the endless bobby debate, but the second half of last season aside, I've always felt that bobby does go to the plate with a plan for a pitcher, and as a consequence generally is not so passive/reactive. When his strike zone judgement went to pot (or whatever the hell it was last season), it seems to me he lost his key weapon against pitchers, and so became similar to pat in his approach. Anyone have any numbers on how many pitches bobby fouls off? Or could there be some crude formula along the lines of ((pitches fouled off)+(balls))/(total pitches seen) which might give some clue to an aggressiveness at the plate index? (by aggressive, I mean rather going to the plate determined to deal with the pitcher and get a result, rather than hacking at everything)

That's a good post, Rick Schu. I appreciate that.

I also see where you were coming from. If you were GM, you would rebuild the 1993 Phillies year after year, with all the walks, on base percentage, tobacco juice, and attitude to go along with it. I agree - they were an awesome team who scared the crap out of everyone except the defending world champs. That team is the one team in the last 30 years that really reflected the pride of the city of Philadelphia.

Unfortunately, I can't think of 25 guys in all of major league baseball who have the same stats and grit as the Dude, Krukker, "Head" Hollins, Danny Jackson, and Wild Thing. Can you? Maybe "Pigpen" Utley... and we have him!

Aaron Rowand could be a start back in that direction. Pratt *was* still here from '93, but so much for that...I think what Philly wants are guys like Utley who step up. They don't have to have rebel images or tobacco wads, they just have to come through and show some, uh, testicular fortitude.

Thanks for the nice feedback, all...y'know, I got practically chased off the Philles Nation site for posting just as I do here, no one wanted to hear my less than positive takes on certain people like Abreu and Burrell. I'm thankful I found a site with far more enlightened contributors.

oisin - without treading with both feet into the bobby debate, i think yes he is the phils' best hitter, is probably unfairly criticized as much as he is, and generally does have a plan at the plate, but no, it is not an aggressive late-inning type of plan to "get it done". does bobby seem to you like the kind of player who will do ANYTHING to make his atbat a success. he is patient, disciplined, a fantastic clinical hitter, but he really isn't a gamebreaker type which can generally be compared to Utley's two most defining atbats of the year: (1) the game winning grand slam and (2) the hustle to beat out a groundball and turn an out into a single. take these examples for their symbolism, not the actual event. no one is loginally asking that abreu start winning games with homers in the 9th. they can, however, rightfully critique the guy for being tremendously steady yet not particulay inspiring.

of course, part of the problem is, bobby is a #2 hitter with #3 power, so batting him 3rd, 4th, or 5th kind of undermines his most useful capacity, which is to simply get on base. i have been wondering the last few months if bobby will truly breakout in the next 3 years -- despite his age -- if he shuns his power numbers and concentrates on being tony gwynn. currently, his career OBP is 25 points higher than gwynn's, thanks to his high walk totals. but minus power, is he or could he not be the same type of offensive player? probably a pipe dream, tho.

bobby is much better disciplined than burrell, but together, neither seem to inspire fear or even hesitancy in quality opposing pitchers. honestly, and i hate to bring this up again, but isn't the one-two punch of manny-ortiz what you want out of your sluggers? bobby-pat just don't compare to that benchmark.

by the way, look at gwynn's numbers. what a monster.

I agree with Oisin, and stated it last year, that the image I have of Burrell is that he doesn't have a plan for what he wants to do with each at-bat. That's why he often gave the impression (to me, anyway) that he was 'fooled' by pitches that were right down the middle of the plate (often for strike three!!). I would then ask myself: What happened? Did he think that pitch was a ball? Was he not ready at the plate? Was he determined to take the next pitch no matter what it was? Or was he completely surprised that the pitcher threw a fastball right down the pipe?
I concluded he lived pitch-to-pitch, and didn't consider an At-Bat as one event consisting of several parts. For him, each pitch was it's own event. So on every pitch his thought process started over from scratch, forgetting what had gone on before.
How many of Burrell's K's were looking? How many were on pitches that he looked like he was fooled? And how many times was he simply overpowered by a great pitch? My guess is the latter was very low compared to the other two.
I would also guess that most of the great power hitters who have struck out a lot have done so because they swung from the heels, their minds made up to swing before the pitch even came. They didn't get called out that often, and didn't really get fooled and suddenly half-swing at a bad pitch.

Color me unenlightened.


Seriously, though Rick [and others], you make some good points, but I think that while Burrell will probably never be the player we thought he would be after 2003, he is still a helluva presence in a lineup.


Sure, he has holes and weaknesses, or has some down weeks, but name ten batters in baseball that don't.


Good points, I just think we are nitpicking a bit.

The problem with the phillies is they constantly try to put guys in spots where they frankly arent capable of producing. Pat is really an excellent 5 hitter and just a so-so 4 hitter...then again quality 4's dont grow on trees. Lets hope RyHo can be groomed into one, but realistically he wil bat 5th or 6th this year to avoide the lfty,lefty,lefty matchup.

My lineup for the coming season would have Burrell batting fourth even though I don't like him in that spot. But you cannot have three straight left-handers at 2,3,4.

Rollins, Utley, Abreu, Burrell, Howard, Bell, Rowand, Lieberthal, pitcher.

Rowand is batting seventh to break up the Black Hole.

Shoot, why not break up the black hole by putting the pitcher between them? Sorry, couldn't resist.
And Tom G is right, it's a tough crowd when you drive in 119 runs and people complain that they weren't meaningful enough. If he drove in only 70 and they were all meaningful, we'd then complain that he wasn't driving in enough runs. So I for one will cut Pat some slack (although he making the big $$ makes it hard to resist nit-picking)

Oisin:

To respond to your comment if Burrell's increasing walk total is evidence of better strike zone judgment, I would respond no.

If you compare Abreu to Burrell, Abreu rarely swings at pitches outside the strike zone -- even though there are times when often that's all he gets from opposing pitchers. He shows amazing plate discipline. Some would argue he should be more aggressive. Burrell on the other hand is very random. He lunges at balls, he takes hittable strikes. I would equate his increased walk total to taking more pitches this year and being less aggressive, but I don't see any evidence where his "batting eye" has improved. We are being a tad hard on Burrell and I think he is a valuable member of the lineup, but it tells you something when a 29 player with his 2005 numbers commands almost no trade interest.

For a long time I was baffled by the fact the Pat Burrell could not seem to catch up with fastballs that appeared straight done the middle of the plate. I came to the conclusion that Pat Burrell could not hit a major league fastball consistently. While watching a game last year Keith Hernandez the ex-met turned commentator put it all into perspective. He pointed out the pitchers had discovered a flaw in Pat's swing. He stated that Pat Burrell swing was almost robotic. That is to say he would swing at fastballs down the middle the same way and at the same level everytime. He would not adjust to the pitch if it was inches higher. The pitchers pinpointed the spot and consequently Pat would pop up fastball after fastball. What he meant was that they would throw the fastball inches above his robotic swing and he could not make solid contact because he contined to drop his back shoulder consistantly. He woud not raise his arms to meet the ball. His swing was at the same level everytime. The same problem can be attributed to Mike Lieberthal's swing. It has been robotic for the last two seasons with the exception of the month of Septmeber when he somehow loosens up mentally and starts going with the pitch.

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