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Thursday, March 06, 2008

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Well, that's an easy argument to counter. How many 1-run games were lost because someone failed to move a runner into scoring position? How many because of one the worst bullpens in the NL? See my numerous earlier posts for the dreadful ranking of the pen in a variety of stats.

From last thread:
The Pierre debate is a classic statheads vs. scouts argument.

By the way, I fall closer to the stathead side (altho not so extreme that I accept the nonsense that's passed off here as the Gospel of fielding. Hell, even Bill James says the fielding metrics aren't remotely as good as the offense and pitching metrics) but since RSB left there's almost no one here taking the scouts' side of the debate.

From last thread MG wrote: "Lake Fred - You're nuts if you think two meaningless outings in spring training for Carrasco mean anything." after I wrote “MG, you sound like a true Phillies fan, completely pessimistic about Carrasco despite his good showing so far.”

I merely was observing that MG was a true Phillies fan, skeptical of anything that appears positive. MG, I'm the same way. I know it's only spring training and I did not suggest that he be inserted into the rotation or even that he head north with the big team. Please accept my apologies if you thought I was knocking you.

From the last thread:

Alby, I don't know that sportswriters write that coherently. Not that I'm saying it's hard to understand or surprising that their work makes no sense half the time. I think what newspapers must look for in sportswriters is an ability to (a) write so poorly that a 3rd grader can understand, because kids and Mets fans like sports and you wouldn't want to alienate half of the demographic, and (b) spout mindless conventional wisdom that flies in the face of numbers or even plain common sense, because most sports fans buy into said conventional wisdom and you wouldn't want to alienate your readers with crazy stat-based arguments. How else can you explain the success of a Stephen A. Smith? No offense to Jason, who's a real talent.

Phils in recent times haven't been great at manufacturing runs, despite having lots of speed in their lineup.
One can always blame the bullpen, but I remember countless times over the past few seasons where runners were in scoring position with no outs or on third with less than two outs and the Phils found a way to come out of those situations with nothing or less than they should have.
Point is, it wouldn't hurt these guys to be a bit more discerning and patient at the plate.

You gotta admit, it was pretty awesome when Bourn stole second, then third and finally made it home on an infield ground out last year. I guess the question is whether a guy like that is worth the bench spot?

How many games in 2007 did the Phillies score a majority of their runs (lets say 60%) in the one inning? I think this stat would do even more to expose their inability to move runners around the bases in tight games.

When you're talking about the negative effect of K's on the Phillies production, you also have to remember that strikeouts actually can do something to help. If a player strikes out, it means he at least got three pitches deep in the count, and most likely more. That's much more productive in terms of working the pitcher than, say, a first-pitch groundout. Baseball Prospectus says "From a quantitative perspective, however, there is little evidence to suggest that a strikeout is "worse" than a groundout, popout, or any other means of making an out, with respect to generating runs."

This entire article can be viewed at http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=2617.

It pains me to say it but I have to agree with Clout. The bullpen is WAY more to blame for the record in 1-run games than the offense is. I mean, we're talking about an offense that has led the NL in runs the last 2 years and was close 3 years ago. If they strike out some, well, that comes with the territory. Let me say that again: THE BEST OFFENSE IN THE NL the last 2 years.

I hate to sound like I'm beating a dead horse here, but runs are runs, whenever you get them. The Phillies get the most of them every year. The offense is not to blame here people. Look at who led the team in K's last year: Howard, Burrell, Rowand. Any of you guys complain about their offensive output last year? To argue that they should be more patient at the plate is the wrong argument. People strike out BECAUSE they are patient at the plate. It's not coincidence that Burrell and Howard also led the team in walks. This team has some real problems, but striking out a lot is far down the list.

Just because it is a one run game does not mean it had anything to do with not moving runners along. I took a quick look at the first one run loss last year, to Atlanta on April 4, and eleven inning game that the Phils should have won. They failed to move zero runners because of strike-outs. Every strike-out was inconseqential. They did lose one runner who would have scored because of a double-play, however. So a well-timed strike-out would have won the game. (Additionally, Vic getting caught stealing and Howard getting thrown out at home both proved critical.) (Although after reading a THT report on sending runners home, I have revised my assessment of Steve Smith - with two outs you have to send them; they stand a better chance of scoring than waiting for the next batter to get a hit.)

All that being said, if strike-outs were not better for the defense, we would not put such a positive emphasis on pitchers who miss bats. I just would worry about it as much with so many guys who get extra base hits. A double is as good as a walk and a grounder to the right side.

Now we know what Jack's problem is -

"Jack: I have to agree with Clout."

Joe, that Bourn memory from last year was awesome. I was lucky enough to see it on TV. It was a a performance that gave me goosebumps.

From last thread Tim wrote: "LF - Why is it a "fear" that the Mets will sign Lohse? Is he good enough to scare you as part of another team, really? He is mediocre at best, and he may be a nice insurance policy for this team at the right price, but if the Mets sign him, that doesn't scare me - at all."

My feeling on Lohse is this. I believe he pitches to the level of the team he's on. He'll be a loser on a losing team and a winner on a winning team. Eaton Crap is just a loser. I don't want Lohse adding to the depth of the Mets staff. Yes, I "fear" that. In a tight race, Lohse might be the difference of who wins the Eastern Division and who stays home.

As for the strikeouts, I don't know why they wouldn't stop us from leading the league in runs, and by extension, scoring runs when they're not "needed," but would somehow prevent us from getting runs when we need them. Of course, closers do tend to be strikeout pitchers so maybe, just maybe, a team that puts the ball in play more, all other things being equal, forces more blown saves... but other than that, I don't get how this argument works.

LF, Tim:
This is why I'm ambivalent about Lohse. On the one hand he is so much better than Eaton. OTOH, I would not exactly be shivering on any night that the Mets slated a RH SP, with occasional command issues, who tends to unravel at least one inning a game, in to face our line-up. And his (albeit small sample) ERA at Shea is 7.4ish.

We need him more than the Mets because Eaton is so bad. But I'm not sure that his 2008 will be better than Benson's.

Oy. "Stop clogging up them thar bases!"

Here's what people miss when it comes to strikeouts: It's not the total amount to K's, it's when they happen. Manny and Papi have high K rates during the regular season, but hardly ever seem to K during the playoffs. Check Utley and Howard's K's during the playoffs and tell me it didn't hurt the team?

Bill: just looked through the play by play for games 1 and 3 (since #2 was 10 - 5; if you want you can check it). Utley's and Howard's Ks made no difference at all in the number of runs scored - by which I mean, if they had made an out any other way in those exact spots - ground out, foul out, fly out to the track, whatever - the Phils would have scored exactly zero more runs. The strike-outs of Ryan and Chase in the Colorado series cost the Phils nothing relative to any other kind of out.

Of course if Ryan and Chase had knocked dingers every time they K'd in those two games, the Phils woulda won'em both. Even singles in the first game would have been enough.

I wouldn't completely dismiss the argument that the Phillies lineup might have more trouble in one run games.

There are certainly times when you need to be able to get one run through small ball, and it seems to reason that it's tough to do something you don't practice all too often and you strike out a lot.

However, that being said, the question shouldn't be "should this team strike out less?" That's sort of like asking if they "should get more hits." Obviously if all the other stats remained the same *and* those some of those Ks turned into hits, it would be great.

The more important question is whether you would take the tradeoff of fewer k's but also fewer walks and less power.

The answer to that is a simple "no." I'd rather the Phils struggle in one run game and win lots of 5 run games that the opposite.

Just to be thorough, I went back to check game two. Again, Utley/Howard Ks were no more consequential than if they had deep fly-outs to the most remote parts of CBP or slow roller, no play but to first grounders. Again, however, if they had hit homeruns every time they struck out the Phils would have won. Barely. Unless the bullpen gave it away.

kdon - how long are you going to be in Belgium? (And if it's substantially longer, are you going to keep putting "in Brussels" on an infinite number of times?)

The notion that the Phillies would be a better team if they put the ball in play more or played more "small ball" is ludicrous. It's not even an intellectually honest argument because: (1) it starts off with the assumption that "small ball" would have worked in a particular situation (which it very often doesn't); and (2) it conveniently ignores all the times when the guy scored from 2nd because Ryan Howard or Pat Burrell followed their normal hitting approach & delivered a hit -- rather than just trying to get their bat on the ball and make contact. It also ignores the times when Howard or Burrell DID make contact & it wound up leading to worse results than if they had struck out (i.e., grounding into a DP, or hitting a fly ball & having the base runner get thrown out trying to advance).

Since they led the league in runs scored last year, I would venture to guess that the Phillies scored more of their base runners than most, if not all, other NL teams -- even though those other NL teams did a better job of putting the ball in play.

For what its worth, the NL batting champ had more K's than the NL HR champ. The difference in PAs had to do with it but I just thought it was interesting given the OP.

b-a-p:
Add to your argument that the Phils play in conditions which make BIG ball better than small ball: 81 games in a high humidity band box. Just like it makes sense for the Pods to stock up on defensively gifted, high OBP guys with lots of speed (as in "speed, baby!"), because they play on a dried out, close to sea level, polo field.

Of course, it would certainly behoove guys like Jenkins & Burrell and, most of all, Howard to cut down on their strikeouts. It's not that ground outs & fly outs are more productive than strikeouts; it's that strikeouts are always outs, whereas balls put in play will often wind up as hits. Hence, the more balls you put in play, the more hits you will get. Ok . . . here come the Pedro Feliz jokes.

Ortiz strikes out more in the post season then he does in the regular season:

Regular Season: 21% of the time.
Post Season: 24% of the time

Interestingly though, his OBP is higher in the post season then in the regular. .384 in the regular season, .418 in the post season.

Manny also strikes out more in the post season though it is less dramatic: 21% versus 22%. His OBP though drops considerably.

A strikeout is very rarely a less productive out then any other kind. The few cases one puts a ball in play and sacrifices to advance the runner will quite likely be negated by the times it leads to a double play. Also there is real benefit to getting a long at bat and tiring a pitcher.

Of course the whole concept of a sacrifice (as opposed to a walk or a hit) is itself rarely a good thing. Here are the scoring percentages for runners on with various outs:
Man on 1b Man on 2b Man on 3b
0 out 43% 60% 70%
1 out 29% 45% 54%
2 out 14% 26% 32%

There is a very small advantage gained by sacrificing a runner over to 2b with zero outs. In the other two sacrifice situations, the chances of scoring decreases.

Stop worrying about Ks. Focus on OBP. While the Phillies had a very high OBP compared to most of the league, I have a feeling that there are a few real weak links in the lineup and a number of bonehead manager decisions that hurt much much more then the Ks.

From last thread-
In the spirit of past WSBGM's song parodies, I bring to you my rendition of Pearl Jam's Better Man inspired by the uninspiring competition for the 5th spot in the Phillies rotation.

Waiting, watching the game,
It’s the 4th inning, it’s got to stop,
Tell him, take no more, Manuel practices his speech
As he approaches the mound, he thinks it over.
Pretends to take the ball as he looks him over.
Manuel lies and says he’s alright with him,
Can’t find a better man.
Phans dream in color, Phans dreams in red,
Upset we can’t find a better man.
Can’t find a better man.
Ohh...

Talking to himself, there’s no one else who can pitch now,
He tells himself, oh...
Memories back when the rotation was bold and strong,
And waiting for the league to come along.
Swears he knew it was so, but now he swears it gone.
He lies and says he’s okay with him,
Can’t find a better man.
Phans curse in color, Phans are seeing red,
Pissed Gillick can’t find a better man.
Can’t find a better man!
Yeah...


We boo him, yeah...but he don’t want to leave this way.
We need him, yeah...that’s why he’ll be back again.
Can’t find a better man.
Eaton ain’t a better man,
Dos Durbins aren’t better men,
Blackley ain’t a better man,
Can’t find a better man,
Kris Benson is injured and,
We need a crafty veteran,
Or an equivalent to Johan Santana-an,
Kyle Lohse ain’t the answer man,
Where is a better man?!
Ugh...

Andy, started out it was only supposed to be a month, but I'm here for a year now.

Sorry about the name, it's locked in and I forgot about it. Probably pretty annoying.

Just to clarify my initial point: I'm not saying that I would like the Phils to play with a "small ball" emphasis.
However, I think that their propensity for the strikeout squashes a lot of opportunities where simply making contact would result in bringing home a run or moving a runner into better position to score.

"It's not that ground outs & fly outs are more productive than strikeouts; it's that strikeouts are always outs, whereas balls put in play will often wind up as hits."

The problem is it doesn't work this way, because the best way to cut down on strike outs is to swing early in the count.

But for Burrell, who derives so much of his value through walks and crushing 3-1 fastballs, it would hurt him tremendously if he cut down on k's.

Similarly, I imagine Howard (if not Burrell) probably has a lot of two strike extra-base hits, which would virtually disappear if he was worried about striking out and putting the ball in play.

PhillR: I've strongly disagreed with you in the recent past, but that was an excellent post. My only addition to your comments would be that, while there may be a very small advantage to sacrificing a man to 2nd with 0 outs, that advantage is a general one which obviously does not apply to all game situations. If there's a man on 1st & 0 outs & Pat Burrell is up, with Pedro Feliz on deck, I think that 43:45% ratio would be considerably different. That's just one of countless possible examples.

2007: 892 runs scored, second most wins in NL, most runs per game.

2006: 865 runs scored, most runs per game in NL.

I don't think putting the ball in play or K is an issues.
Pitching is.


Howard hits .189/.268/.393 with 2 strikes. Then again, no hitter is really a good hitter with two strikes.

I think Howard is in a different categeory than the other strikeout kings on the team. While he has the most prodigious power, he only makes contact on 64% of his swings, far less than everyone except Jenkins on the team. That might portend bad things for the future should his bat speed slow down a little.

It sounds like we need a little more nuance in determining how hurtful a strikeout can be in a one-run game. Would Fangraphs have some insight into in-game strikeout negative value?

I thought I remembered that in 2007, the Phils record was really awful in one run games in August (around the time of the Utley injury), but it had improved in the last six weeks of the season.

OT: My boss, a former sports editor, raised an interesting point. It's possible Allentown will feature an all-lefty rotation, which I supposed would be Outman, Happ, Youman, Castro, Mazone.

Allentown isn't going to loaded with prospects, but they're going to have a decent team all around.

Joe: Thank you. The most reasonable responsible to the tired strikeout argument.

JW wrote "OT: My boss, a former sports editor, raised an interesting point. It's possible Allentown will feature an all-lefty rotation, which I supposed would be Outman, Happ, Youman, Castro, Mazone."

I would expect there would be some minor league vets in the AAA rotation (Gary Knotts and Ron Chiavacci) who are both righties.

Andy: I am so glad to see you make that point about the stadium. Whenever I make that point I get all this nonsense from posters who claim that there's no advantage to having HR hitters in a HR park or speed & glove guys in a big park.

Clout: Where's their data for their argument? I'm not entirely surprised, but it seems like Baseball 101.

PhillR: Excellent post! This common sense wisdom was widely promoted by Earl Weaver in the 1960s and 1970s, long before sabremetrics. He hated bunts, which were 9and are) conventional wisdom. To him outs were the most precious commodity in baseball. He never, ever wanted to give away an out and even avoided players with a propensity to hit into DPs. His view was that the team that conserved the most outs won.

I think that Youman would probably be in the bullpen in AAA since that is the most likely role he would have on the big league club.

Great post, clout! I agree, not making outs is the most important thing on offense, just as conversely, making outs is the most important thing when playing defense.

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