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Monday, January 18, 2010

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We're going to see the shift employed more and more against Utley moving forward. He's really becoming as much, or more, of a pull hitter than Howard. I'll be interested to see how he reacts.

Very interesting stats about seeing four pitches or more. Any info on what average performance or triple slash lines are in those situations?

It seemed Utley stopped hitting the ball the opposite way as did Rollins until the end of 2009. That may partly explain Utley's horrid BA after seeing so many pitches during an AB.

CJ: "We're going to see the shift employed more and more against Utley moving forward. He's really becoming as much, or more, of a pull hitter than Howard."

Utley's batting average has plunged 50 points in 3 years. Is it because, as CJ suggests, Utley has been pulling the ball more and more?

Pct. of balls put in play that Utley pulled:
2007: 32.8%
2008: 36.9%
2009: 33.6%

Utley pulled FEWER balls last season than in 2008 and he pulled less than 1% more than he did during his big season in 2007.

For Utley's career, he's pulled balls in play 34.2% of the time. So last season his pull rate was actually below his career norm.

Conclusion: CJ doesn't know what he's talking about.

clout: How are those percentages calculated? Is it based on a chart of the diamond with angles, or is it determined by plays made by the defense?

For example, Howard hits a ball into the shift, and the shortstop makes a play to the 2B side of the bag. Is that considered a pull hit since it was right of 2B or not, since the SS made the play?

If the umps called the strike, 6 inches off the plate against Utley, as much as they do against Howard, Uts might have to make an adjustment. Since they dont, he should keep doing what he's doing. It has made him a star.

mikes77 - If Utley flailed at low and away breaking balls like Howard does, the Umps probably would call it against him.

I said Chase Utley is becoming more of a pull hitter than Howard.

2007: Howard 34.4%, Utley 32.5%
2008: Howard 32.4%, Utley 36.7%
2009: Howard 32.4%, Utley 33.8%(check your math)

So, as I said, Utley is becoming more of a pull hitter than Howard.

Conclusion: clout's reading comprehension skills are still lacking... oh, and CJ does know what he's talking about.

krukker: It's determined by where the ball is hit, not by who fields it.

Utley flails at outside breaking balls, also. Pitchers dont throw them as much to Utley because they are never called strikes to Utley. This has been discussed before. Utley has made the pitcher and umpires adjust to him because of his style and approach.
Utley benefits because he does not flinch on the boarderline pitches. Howards has to load up to get his bat going in time get to pitches, so it looks like he does not know the strike zone. Utley does not have to load, so he does not flinch.

This Utley guy sounds terrible...let's trade him and sign Hudson!

Interesting stat lines there JW. Is it possible that as the AB goes on, Utley becomes a totally defensive hitter? Rather than try and drive the ball, could Utley be just trying to foul off pitches and work a walk?

CJ: LOL! Your first comment was that we'd see the shift being employed more and more against Utley because he's "really becoming as much, or more, of a pull hitter than Howard."

What do you think the word "becoming" means?

Are you now trying to say your point was that because Howard is pulling LESS, Utley is pulling as much as he is? That's pretty laughable given how you wrote it.

The fact is this: Utley is NOT pulling the ball more and thus there is no reason for teams to use the shift against him. He pulled the ball LESS last season than the year before.

clout: You're free to invent any implication you want. My words speak for themselves.

My point is that Ryan Howard faces the shift againt every opponent despite the fact that he pulls the ball less than Chase Utley who's only started to see the shift employed against him by a few select teams. I believe teams will recognize this and begin to shift against Utley more.

But, like I said before, reading comprehension has never been your strong suit.

I agree that it's interesting analysis, JW, and I'd like clout - and anyone else - to give theories as to why Utley's BA has dropped 50 pts. in 3 yrs. Fatigue due to injuries? Better pitching to him?

I have to say I really admire those hitter that are able to foul off pitch after pitch until they get one they like. Johnny Damon did a great job of that during the WS. Jayson Werth is a good 2-strike hitter. If I remember correctly, Youkalis (I give up on how to spell his name) is also a good 2-strike hitter.

Regardless of whether Utley is "becoming" a pull hitter, or already was one, CJ's point that he pulls the ball at the same level of Howard, and thus is likely to see more and more of a shift, remains valid.

Probably the most interesting development in Utley's game is his increasing selectivity. His first couple years in the league, he swung at around 50% of pitches. Last season? He swung at only 37% of pitches, the 7th most selective hitter in all of baseball.

***why Utley's BA has dropped 50 pts. in 3 yrs?***

2007 was a fluky season where everything fell in for him. Otherwise, he's always been a 280s-low 300s hitter.

His BABIP in 2007 was a ridiculous .368.

NEPP has it right. Utley's average only dropped 50 pts since 2007 because 2007 was a major outlier. Utley's true level is around a .280-.300 hitter.

Asking why his average dropped 50 points since 2007 is kind of an irrelevant question.

If you look at Utley over the course of his career, it's difficult to call him a 320-330 hitter. He managed an average over 300 just twice, compared to three full seasons of 280-290, and two partial seasons of sub 270 hitting. His career avg is 295, so basically it's not fair to look at his full season peak and full season nadir and suggest serious decline.

Looking at some of the underlying numbers, you can see that in 2007 when he hit 330, his babip was a rather unsustainable 370, compared to a career babip of 320. His babip has been below career average the last two seasons, and I'd guess that's partially a function of the shift some teams use against him.

I'm not sure the shift or the sub-career average babip are too concerning - these last two seasons Utley has still been an awesome offensive force: his OBP and SLG remain very strong.

Another interesting question: Why is Utley consistently better in the first half of the season than the second?

For his career:

1st half: .305/.385/.549
2nd half: .285/.372/.493

Most players don't show consistent splits like this. For example, Victorino, Ibanez, ad Werth all have very similar splits by first and second half.

Luckily for the Phillies, they have another player with an even more drastic split, who makes up for Utley's normal 2nd half decline: Ryan Howard.

1st half: .255/.342/.537
2nd half: .302/.407/.633

CJ: OK, let me get this straight. Utley has been pulling the ball at a 34.2% rate for his career, which is more than Howard has in the past two years (as his pull rate has declined). Furthermore, Utley pulled the ball LESS last season than the season before.

Yet teams are JUST NOW going to "recognize this and begin to shift against Utley more."

You have got to be kidding! Even silly Jack, in his desperate fevered attempt to disagree with whatever I post, won't leap on that flimsy bandwagon.

"hit by pitches 449 percent more than the average hitter last season"

449%!?!?!

Doesn't anyone think this is...miraculous? (Couldn't think of a better adjective during a crappy work day.)

If I had to guess what Utley's avg would be this year, I'd say .290 +/- 10 points. And I'd bet, I'd be right.

Jack, I always wonder what's up with that as well. One thing does seem to be fatigue, likely from playing so much and wearing so many pitches on his arms, shoulders, and back.

But I've also heard that Utley doesn't pump the iron during the season - something I believe many players avoid - and I wonder if this impacts his power numbers in particular. On the other hand, both of the last two postseasons have seen Utley mash some pitches, so perhaps it's just an R&R thing.

Remember how the Mets lost $50 million, then made $50 million on the Madoff Scandal???


Yeah, turns out they LOST $8 million in the end.

Here's the link:http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/mets_bigs_took_madoff_hit_6kD82eVYDUiTUiTuYUnG5H

Couple of thoughts on Utley:

- Last year Utley simply swung less and notably took more pitches. It lead to an a notable increase in his % BB (13.4%), % K (19.4%), #P/PA (4.14). Interesting to see if Utley is willing to take so many pitches and BB/K so much this year.

- When he does swing, he often makes contact especially at pitches in the zone (91.7%) last year.

- Utley just doesn't chase much stuff out of the zone (19.1%) of the time.

- If you get behind him in the count or groove him a first-pitch fastball (especially middle-in), you are asking for a world of trouble.

- Utley's most single interesting matchup against any pitcher has been Feliciano (only pitcher Utley has faced more has been Hudson in his career).

Both guys have seen a ton of each other over the past several years with mixed results. Here is Utley's line against Feliciano:

31 AB (36 PA) with a line of .258/.361/.548 with an OPS of .909 with 2 HRs.

Feliciano has often gotten the better of Utley (2006-08) while Utley finally managed to get the upper hand last year (2009). Contrast that to Howard who is absolutely owned by Feliciano.

One of the more interesting individual matchups between the Phils-Mets that I will continue to look forward to watching this year.

- Interested to see if Utley is willing to take so many pitches this year but potentially see his AVG continue to dip below .300 as well. If he does, I would be surprised if Utley hits better than .285.

Howard doesnt intimidate like he did a couple years ago...thus teams pitch around Utley a bit more than in the past. That comes into it.

clout: That Utley faced the shift more last season than he did the year before that tells me that he'll likely see the shift more this season than last.

Just because you completely mis-read my initial post is no reason to take such a strong stand on such a small limb. It's okay to admit you were wrong. We won't think any less of you.

Lauber writes about payroll today and guesses on arbitration results:

This seems like a good time to review the 2010 payroll:

The Philles have $117.2 million committed to 17 players — Ryan Howard ($19 million), Chase Utley ($15 million), Brad Lidge ($11.5 million), Raul Ibanez ($11.5 million), Roy Halladay ($9.75 million, plus $6 million from Toronto), Jimmy Rollins ($8 million), Jamie Moyer ($8 million), Jayson Werth ($7 million), Cole Hamels ($6.65 million), Placido Polanco ($5.5 million), Ryan Madson ($4.5 million), J.C. Romero ($4 million), Danys Baez ($2.5 million), Greg Dobbs ($1.35 million), Brian Schneider ($1.25 million), Ross Gload ($1 million), Juan Castro ($700,000).

We’ve got Blanton, Victorino, Ruiz and Durbin combining to make about $18 million. Kyle Kendrick, Ben Francisco, J.A. Happ and whichever internal reliever candidates make the team (Antonio Bastardo, Scott Mathieson, Sergio Escalona, etc.) will each make in the $400,000-500,000 range, bringing the total payroll to about $137 million. Plus, the Phillies still have buyout payments for Adam Eaton ($500,000), Pedro Feliz ($500,000) and Geoff Jenkins ($1.25 million) that brings the payroll to approximately $139.25 million.

So yeah, we're basically tapped out.

CJ: Anyone who read your first post read it as I did: That Utley is pulling the ball more now and thus teams are likely to do more shifting on him. Your problem is you didn't look up the stats before you posted. In trying to change your original point, you are making yourself look even stupider than usual.

What's the point in insulting someone on the internet? Clout?

http://www.thefightins.com/meechone/holy-crap-look-how-skinny-charlie-manuel-got/

Wow. Uncle Cholly certainly got skinny this offseason. This should definitely speed up Phils' games next year by at least 15-30 seconds as Cholly gets out to the mound faster.

it's refreshing to see such enlightened, civil conversation about an issue as important as how much Chase Utley does or does not pull the ball.

I know what the stats say, but it certainly seemed like Utley was pulling more balls this season. Maybe that's because this was the first season we saw a number of teams put the shift on against him.

Were I the opposition, I wild be shifting on Utley all the time.

And whether pulling the ball too much has lowered his average is sort of not the point. He clearly wears down as the season progresses and that's when his average drops. Ever since he became the full time starter at second, his late seasons have been tough to watch, with the exception of the season he broke his hand. Maybe that month of rest allowed him to stay stronger.

On the bizarro BLer, a topic is proposed by WJ, and then everyone proceeds to agree and compliment the previous poster on their knowledge of baseball and the Phillies.

Instead of ending every post with a sarcastic "Interesting", posters sign with XOXO.

Chase Utley is the best player on the Phillies, no doubt. Only on BLer can you find an argument over Utley's pull rate and the defensive alignment. You know, I heard Utley has a size 11 shoe...

XOXO

Utley stands on the inner plate and just wears down over the course of the season wears on. Just part of who he is.

Knock on wood but I am shocked that Utley hasn't been injured more considering that he is HBP about 25+ times/year.

Utley is also fortunate that he plays in this era and not even in the 80s because there is no way certain pitchers would have allowed him to essentially sit on top of the plate either. They would have sent him a warming message and then drilled him in the ribs/hip if he kept it up.

Utley and Howard BOTH need to bunt the ball down the 3rd base line once a week in '10. That will cut down on the shift and help their respective BA's.

Also, Lidge needs to learn to hold runners.

They are all talented enough to get this done.

You really think an occasional bunt will affect teams using the shift?


A-Train, Utley and Howard are effective at what they do precisely because they are the type of hitters that they are, not because they try something else.

Failure is part of baseball. The very, very best hitters fail 67% of the time.

If Utley and Howard try to become something they are not, their failure rate could increase.

I believe Utley & Howard are great hitters...2 of the best we'll ever see. Please don't think I'm finding fault. I tell my kids to enjoy them while they can b/c players like them don't come along very often.

I'm not saying Chase & Ryan should change their swings. I'm just saying, with the shift on, if Ryan Howard drops a bunt down the 3rd base line (and gets it past the pitcher) he could carry Joe Blanton to first while dragging a piano and STILL beat any throw. They are both great athletes. I'm quite sure they can do this without messing up what they do so well.

I remember the Reds used a similar shift vs. Richie Hebner (a big pull hitter for the younger readers) and I believe he had 3 or 4 bunt hits in one game. If I'm remembering correctly, one of them sat right on the line. As Pete Rose barked at it to go foul, Hebner was standing on 1st base. Richie Hebner was no Chase Utley or Ryan Howard.

I'd at least like to see them try it now and then.

Just guessing, but as hard as Utley works on every facet of his game, it would not surprise me if he is well aware of these trends and practicing/working out with a view toward filling in those weaknesses without changing the whole game plan that has made him so successful. He does not seem like the type to rest on his laurels nor to be comfortable with flaws in his game.

I always am concerned about him wearing down in the second half and am hoping Cholly can get him the rest he needs for optimal performance. He seemed really, really worn down in the last days of the season, was able to get a little rest, and managed to hit five dingers in the WS. Not sure how much that had to do with getting a bit of rest, but the guy is in great shape, I would think an odd game off here and there would do the trick.

I guess we'll see whether the Polanco signing will actually mean Utley gets more days off. And will a couple more days off during the season *really* make that much of a difference?

I'm also curious to see whether Utley attempts to adjust when the shift gets employed more often or if he'll continue with his current plan of attack.

Utley's biggest weakness isn't his pull-swing. He gets very good plate coverage and overall is an elite batter despite a 'low' BA. His weakness is his tendency to play the odds and almost exclusively sit on fastballs, which he can hit in any part of the zone due to his super quick batspeed.
This makes him vulnerable against offspeed stuff such that he's marginally below league average in that category. He pretty much said as much during one of this past year's World Series interviews; he always seems to be looking for a fastball to hit, and 2/3 of the time, he'll get it. He's like the left handed version of Jason Bay, who's also a pull hitter that has a reputation of not being able to hit offspeed stuff.

As for wearing down, I believe it. The considerable bulk he was sporting in the shoulder/neck area last spring wasn't noticeable during the WS. But it's not surprising as most athletes do that.

Utley's "Achilles Heal" is August. Most seasons he cruises through until August, then he hits a wall. He starts his rebound by September.

I wonder if it's not the weather. August is supposedly the hottest month in the US. Maybe its a hydration issue. We should all chip-in and get him a case of Brawndo. ;)

Shane - An Idiocracy reference? Now Beerleaguer has truly seen everything.

the thirst mutilator!

"Water is for toilets, Brawndo is for drinking."

From MLBTradeRumors: # Peter Gammons, in an appearance on NESN, said that the Red Sox and Jason Bay agreed to a four-year, $60MM pact in July, before an MRI raised concerns about both of his knees. As a result, Boston reduced their offer from four years to two years. Gammons suggested that this was an example of why an independent medical staff should be in place in the majors.

Two ways to read this:

1. Gammons is doing his typical rip the guy the RedSox didn't sign...he does that on occasion.

2. HAHAHAHA...good work Omar!!!

Nepp,

Do you mean to tell us the Mets may have given a bad contract worth a lot of money for a lot of years to a guy whose best years are behind him??? Hard to believe.

Not that there's anything wrong with that!!!

I, for one, am shocked.

Maybe he and Beltran can go to rehab together.

Durbin signed, avoiding arbritration. 1 year $2.125 Million

That's a tad higher than we were hoping....at least its not another multi-year deal I guess.

Yea, that Durbin agreement is a little higher then he most likely would have received in arbitration.

But it is ok that leaves about $16 mil to be spread around the remaining 3 arb. eligible guys. I would love to sign all 3 to multi year deals though. What do you think the odds of that are? Do you think Rube is just picking them off one at a time like last year?

****Yea, that Durbin agreement is a little higher then he most likely would have received in arbitration. ****

I doubt that...I would guess that he asked for $2.25M and we offered $2M and they split the difference again.

****What do you think the odds of that are? Do you think Rube is just picking them off one at a time like last year?
****

I think Ruiz might get a multi-year deal due to our complete lack of catching prospects near the majors.

Vic will probably come down to whether or not Rube thinks he can resign Werth longterm. If he gives Vic a multi-year deal, I think that means Werth is as good as gone.

Jimmy getting married this weekend and clout's man-crush Bobby Abreu is a groomsman.

http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/phillygossip/Phillies_off_to_Cayman_Islands_for_Jimmy_Rollins_Saturday_wedding.html

Brandon Duckworth signed to a minor league deal.

NEPP: Concerning the long term deals, I think all 3 of them sign one. But my method of thinking concerning Werth is this:

What if we portion out of the deals so that most the money gets paid in years 1 & 3. Year 2 of the deals are very light money wise. That was you are paying extra this year to bump the payroll up a bit, but next year your not paying nearly the amounts you could be. Therefore that leaves you the room to pay Werth. Then with Werth we give him something like a 5 yr/75-80 mil deal with Werth. But in year 2 of his deal pay him virtually nothing to compensate for the Year 3's of the other guys who you are paying alot in.

Basically, creative accounting can keep everyone in tack AND within their budget.

Yo, new thread

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