This past October before the World Series, I wrote an article on the Phillies and Rays' players, and looked through their splits to introduce everyone to the detailed skills of the two teams facing each other. It was a sort of advanced scouting by statistics experiment, and people seemed to get a lot of use out of it. That article was far more detailed than I can afford to be for this series, but I would like to give a brief run through of the Braves and Phillies' players. I will re-print my analysis of the Phillies' players (so I apologize for anything I said that was belied by the series, and I'll just go ahead and leave in statements like "Jamie Moyer is the oldest player in the Series", because that still applies even if Series should be lower-case now). I'll do some additional preparations for new guys like Ibanez after I write about the Braves' players. If people enjoy this and find it helpful, I will try and do it as frequently as I can for future series. It should be easy enough to reprint with minor changes when we play teams from our division over and over again. If you are interested in the detailed splits I did before the World Series, check out this link:
2B Kelly Johnson (L): Most projection systems see him at around .280/.360/.450, certainly a reasonable leadoff threat. He does have major homerun power, but he keeps a high SLG by getting a decent amount of doubles. He is a minor basestealing threat, stealing 11 in 17 attempts last season. He is a reverse platoon split in AVG, but that is mostly due to an unsustainable .368 career BABIP against LHP. His OBP and SLG are definitely better against RHP, and he has hit 32 of his 37 career HR off of righties. He makes decent contact, but he is prone to strikeout, as he struck out in just over 20% of his at-bats last year. He swung a little bit more often last year, though still maintained his good eye, resulting in fewer walks. He does better against finesse pitchers than power pitchers.
SS Yunel Escobar (R): Most projection systems see him at around .290/.350/.410 this year. He is a strong groundball hitter, with 57.4% of his balls in play hit on the ground in his career (league average is around 40-42%). He is fast, but not much of a stolen base threat, going 2 for 7 last year in steals. Most of his success is derived from his high BABIP (about .330 career), which naturally comes from hitting a lot of balls on the ground. This is not due to an abnormally high infield hit rate, but mostly due to the fact that he rarely pops out, and decent number of his groundballs do make it through the infield. He is not impossible to strike out, though he does make good contact (12.7% K/AB career), and he has a good eye and can draw walks (9.4 BB/PA career). He is not a power risk at all.
3B Chipper Jones (S): Most projection systems see him at around .310/.420/.540, but my own research on BABIP makes me think that might even be pessimistic as I project him to have one of the highest BABIPs in the league, and most projection systems do not specifically model BABIP itself. Chipper is one of the very best hitters in the league if healthy, and certainly a challenge for the Phillies pitchers this week. There is nothing out of the ordinary about his GB/FB/LD numbers, but he rarely pops out, makes good contact, and has a lot of power, all of which I have shown to be strong indicators of high BABIP. He also hits his groundballs through the hole frequently as well. Chipper is a little better from the left side, mostly in the power department-- his career SLG is .561 batting lefty, and .512 batting righty. He also has a larger than normal home/road split, and this is consistent for both contact skills, eye, and power. He sprays the ball all around the diamond, but hits a lot of balls back up the middle. Looking through his splits, it is very hard to find a weakness other than injuries. He walks more than he strikes out, but he does occassionally strike out, though certainly less often than other power hitters.
C Brian McCann (L): Most projection systems see him at around .295/.360/.505. He has good contact skills, and a reasonable eye that is imporving. McCann had a career high in walks last year, but he still walks about as often as the average major leaguer. Most of his success derives from not striking out very frequently, and hitting a lot of extra base hits. He's not a huge power hitter, though he does get a lot of doubles. He has a somewhat large platoon split, mostly deriving from K/BB numbers (2.1 vs LHP, and 1.2 vs RHP). He's a strong pull hitter, and as a result, he hits better with men on base than with bases empty. He has virtually on home/road split at all. His contact skills lead him to be a good two-strike hitter.
RF Jeff Francoeur (R): Most projection systems see him at around .270/.320/.430, but I think that's too high. Most of these systems see him with a high BABIP than I do. He is not as prone to infield flies as he used to be, but he still is somewhat vulnerable, especially for a guy who is slightly more a groundball hitter than a flyball hitter. Francoeur's real problem is his eye. Most people refer to this as a lack of patience, but I think with Francoeur, this is misleading. He tried to swing slightly less frequently the past two years, dropping his swing rate from 61.6% to 57.4% down to 56.0%. However, this has mostly been him laying off strikes, not balls, as his swing rate as balls out of the strike zone has only gone from 36.7% to 36.7% to 36.3%. At pitches in the strike zone, he is down from 85.8% to 80.4% to 76.1%. He strikes out slightly more often than most major leaguers, due to his low contact rate, even though he does swing often. He is especially poor against RHP in his strike zone judgment as his K/BB vs RHP is 4.4, though it is still 2.6 against LHP. He also has a noticeable problem with strike zone judgment on the road, putting up a 4.4 K/BB on the road compared with a 3.2 K/BB at home. He also hits for more power and for a high BABIP at home, too. He struggles mightily against power pitchers, putting up a 5.6 K/BB against them. Look for Brett Myers to have success against him, as he is a power-righty at home (who has strong home/road splits as well). In fact, he has only a .542 career OPS against Myers in 32 PA. Myers has struck him out 7 times and only walked him once, but Francoeur did manage a homerun once against Myers in a save situation in late 2007, when Myers had a slightly different reportoire (one that was actually less homerun prone).
LF Garrett Anderson (L): Most projection systems see him at around .280/.320/.430. Anderson has lost a good deal of his power in the twilight of his career. Anderson does not have a good eye at all, though his contact skills are good enough that even though he very rarely walks, he does reasonably low strikeout numbers as well. Most of Anderson's success derives from a pretty high BABIP of .318 for his career (and for 2008 as well). His BABIP on groundballs is pretty high, and this is likely the primary reason. He also seems to hit a decent number of line drives. Anderson struggles mightily against LHP, with a 5.2 K/BB against them. When he does make contact, he does about as well for lefties and righties, but it's a matter of making contact that causes the large splits. I believe Anderson will not play much against LHP this year, as the Braves do have Matt Diaz. Anderson's home/road splits are virtually non-existent, so changing teams might not have much of an effect on him.
1B Casey Kotchman (L): Most projection systems see him at around .280/.345/.430. For a first baseman, Kotchman has very little power, but he does have excellent contact hitter skill, and a pretty good eye as well. Kotchman hits a lot of groundballs-- 53.1% for his career-- but his BABIP is actually not all that high for a groundball hitter with good contact skill. This is a mixture of relatively low BABIP on groundballs and a relatively high infield fly rate, especially for a groundball hitter. Kotchman has somewhat of a reverse platoon split, oweing mostly to a poor BABIP against RHP. That is probably just luck, and I would guess he does not have much of a platoon split either way. He's somewhat of a pull hitter, and does a little better with men on as a result. The rest of his splits do not indicate much difference by situation, though he does hit finesse pitches relatively better than power pitchers. However, this is probably not a statistically significant amount.
CF Jordan Shafer (L): Schafer makes his major league debut this week against the Phils, so there is not much data on him compared to other players. A few projection systems did project him, and they all had him at about .250/.310/.400. His career minor league numbers are .270/.339/.447. He has a very high strikeout rate in the minor leagues, peaking at 30% in AA last year. He finally started walking last year, but most systems do not see him maintaining that against major league pitchers who will challenge him and his low power numbers. Schafer should not see any lefties, as he managed only a .605 OPS vs LHP in AA last year. Most of his minor league success last year hitting .269/.378/.471 came from a .350 BABIP. This is unlikely to hold up at the major league level.
C Clint Sammons (R): With David Ross on the DL to start the year, Clint Sammons is backup catcher. He may get a chance to play Wednesday afternoon, though with Blanton the righty pitching, the Braves may opt to go with McCann all three games this weekend. Sammons is not a great hitter at all, managing just a .608 OPS in AAA last year. That was primarily because of a .568 OPS vs RHP. He was marginally better against LHP. I suppose they may start him Tuesday night against Moyer, and have McCann go Wednesday against Blanton. Systems are projecting him around .240/.290/.350.
IF Martin Prado (R): Most projection systems see Prado at about .300/.350/.405. He has good contact skill and a poor eye, leading to a solid 42/29 K/BB in 365 career PA. He shows a weak plattoon split, oweing to unsustainable .393 BABIP against RHP in his career. In fact his 11/11 K/BB against LHP last year is better than his 18/10 K/BB against RHP. Prado is hardly a homerun threat at all, but his good contact skill should carry him through. There is not all that much data on him at the major league level yet, so it is tough to determine much about his splits. Chances are he will get a chance to pinch hit against a LHP at some point this series.
OF Greg Norton (S): Most projection systems see him around .260/.360/.410 this year. Despite being a switch hitter, he has far better numbers in his career against RHP than LHP, making the Braves even more vulnerable against LHP this season, particularly in the outfield. He is definitely prone to strike out, particulary against LHP. He has a pretty good eye, though. Norton does have some pop in his bat, with 89 career HR in 2334 career AB.
3B/OF Omar Infante (R): Most projection systems see him at a .280/.330/.400 in a part time role. Infante does not have a particularly good eye, but is somewhat of a patient hitter. His contact skills are okay, though he does strike out 18% of his AB, only walks occassionally. In addition to reasonably poor strike zone judgment, Infante also sees a lot of strikes as pitchers challenge him frequently. His success last year, hitting .293, derived from a lucky 30% linedrive rate, that will probably not repeat itself. He is somewhat of a flyball hitter, and does a little better against groundball pitchers. He has very little difference in his statistics against LHP/RHP as well.
OF Matt Diaz (R): Most projection systems see Diaz coming in at around .300/.335/.435. Unlike the rest of the Braves (except for Francoeur), Diaz is far better against LHP. He strikes out less frequently against them, and hits for a lot more power against them as well. He struggles mightily against power pitchers putting up a 65 tOPS+ against them in his career with an ugly 71/9 K/BB ratio. I imagine that he will play against Moyer who he has some success against in limited experienced (4/12 with 3 BB, 1 K, and 1 2B), but look for him to be pinch hit if he has to face Brad Lidge (though he does have a homerun and a strikeout in two career AB against him). Diaz very rarely walks, and does not have particularly good contact skill either. He does swing a lot, and as a result, does not strike out all that much. He is definitely a groundball hitter, but he can give the ball a decent ride if he gets under it. Diaz saw a big dropoff from 2007 to 2008. His average dropped from .338 to .244, as his K/BB numbers soared out of control. Pitchers started him with fewer pitches in the zone, and he actually swung at pitches out of the zone more often-- 40.4%, even higher than Francoeur himself.
Derek Lowe (R): Most projection systems see the 35-year old at about a 3.60 ERA this year. Lowe's success is as a groundball pitcher, as hitter consistently hit groundballs 60% of the time against him. That number fell a little bit last year, but still stayed over 60%. Last year, he through a slider 31% of the time and fangraphs says he threw a fastball 61% of the time (though I believe this includes sinkers). He does not strike out all that many hitters, though he does have nearly league average strikeout totals. However, he has excellent control and walked fewer than 2 BB/9 last year. Most systems see him coming in at around 2.5 BB/9 and 5.9 K/9 this year. He is distinctly better against RHB, putting up a 3.6 K/BB against them, compared to a 1.6 K/BB against LHB.
Jair Jurrjens (R): Most projection systems see him at about a 4.00 ERA for his sophomore season. He was right at league average in K/9 and BB/9 numbers last year (6.6 and 3.3, respectively), but he gave him very few homeruns. This is primarily due to his 51.5% GB. He also limited hitters to a 7.1% HR/FB. I doubt this is sustainable, so I have him at a slightly higher ERA in my projections. He does not have much of a platoon split, but his K/BB numbers indicate that he probably is reasonably better at RHB. Since his secondary pitch is a changeup, it's likely that he isn't especially strong vs LHB or RHB. He was fortunate to surrender 8 of his 11 HR last year with bases empty, and this is probably a bit of luck as well. He is still a solid slightly above average major league pitcher, despite the regression I suspect we will see this year. The 23 year-old only has a short career so far, and so it's tough to tell much from his splits data.
Javier Vazquez (R): Vazquez is notoriously for pitching behind his peripherals. His peripheral skills perennially see him as an elite starting pitcher, but he has been unable to match his solid projections. Projection systems vary wildly on him, with CHONE projecting him for a 3.26 ERA and Marcel putting him down for a 4.19 ERA. In spite of this, his career ERA is 4.32. The main problem with Vazquez is pitching with men on. While his BABIP is high at .310, the .785 OPS with men on, comapred with just .706 with bases empty explains why he has failed to match what his peripherals indicate he should be able to do. His career K/BB is 3.3 with 8.0 K/9 and just 2.4 BB/9. He is not particularly prone to grounders or flyballs, and he mostly throws fastballs and sliders, mixing in a changeup and a curveball. It should be interesting to see if he can fulfill his potential at 32 years old with the Braves this season. If he does, the Braves will be much better.
Kenshin Kawakami (R): We won't see Kawakami this week, but he is the 4th starter for the Braves. He has not played in the majors before, so there is not much projection or split data on him. He seems to be likely to be a control pitcher with average strikeout numbers in the MLB, and should be a solid 4th starter for the Braves.
Tom Glavine (L): Most people see Glavine as the 5th starter, though he will not be needed until 4/19. Glavine is clearly in the twilight of his career and has struggled to stay healthy after a career of spectacular health and endurance. Most systems see him scattered around 5.00 ERA. He no longer has the control he used to, and his strikeout numbers have plummeted. Glavine is still a groundball pitcher, and should have the ability to keep hitters in the yard somewhat, but with such low strikeout totals, he won't necessarily be as good at that anymore either. Glavine never had strong platoon splits, and probably will not now either. Therefore, he will not be much of a threat to dominate the Phillies lefty heavy lineup when he does get a chance to pitch against us (which will not be this weekend).
CL Mike Gonzalez (L): The one lefty in the Braves' bullpen that could be used to dominate the Phillies lefty hitters is not going to be used as a LOOGY at all, but seems to have edged out Rafael Soriano for closing responsibilities. Gonzalez has struggled to stay healthy recently, though when he has been healthy, he has been good. He should strike out more than a hitter per inning, and his control is not terrible, but is below average. Most systems see him around 9-10 K/9 and about 4 BB/9 this year. He mostly mixes a fastball and a slider. Gonzalez does not have a large difference in his numbers against LHB/RHB, but that is mostly because managers shy away from letting their LHB face him. His K/BB numbers do indicate a decent advantage against LHB. However, he does very well against both. He used to be more a groundball pitcher, but that skill has eroded in recent years and he's about average at inducing grounders.
Rafael Soriano (R): The other power pitcher in the Braves' bullpen has health concerns as well. He does seem like he might be healthy now, but he has had many trips to the DL in recent years. Most systems see him with K/9 and BB/9 of about 9 and 3, respectively this year. He is definitely flyball prone, and naturally surrenders a decent number of homeruns as a result. However, since hitters do pop up against him a lot, this is not as bad as one might think. He throws mostly fastballs and some sliders. Soriano dominates RHB, which will not be that much of a necessity against the Phillies RHB, but he is still pretty good at retiring righties as well.
Blaine Boyer (R): Boyer is 27, though he is only thrown a little over 130 MLB innings. His ERA was 5.88 last year, though most projection systems see him in the mid-4's this year. He is a little bit better against RHP. He can miss some bats, but has control problems at times. Last year's high ERA was the result of a .354 BABIP with men on base, which is unlikely to be sustained.
Jeff Bennett (R): Bennett managed a 3.70 ERA last year, though most systems see him over 4 this year. He is K numbers are below average for a relievers, and his BB numbers are a bit high. He does induce a decent number of groundballs, however. Bennett struggles mightily against LHB, but does okay against RHB (2.3 K/BB vs RHB and 1.1 K/BB vs LHB, with OPS againsts of .684 and .847 vs RHB and LHB, respectively in his career).
Peter Moylan (R): Moylan is 30 years old, but bounces back and forth between the majors and minors. Most systems see him at about a 4.0 ERA this year, with about 7 K/9 and about 4 BB/9. He is definitely a groundball pitcher, which should be useful at keeping the Phillies in the park. His limited career numbers do indicate a decent ability to retire RHB, and some struggles against LHB, but he does seem to retire them pretty well too. His career ERA is 2.20 but that is due to a .256 career BABIP against. Look for him to be about average overall, with some ability to pitch out of jams due to his high groundball numbers.
Eric O'Flaherty (L): The young 24 year old is the only lefty in the Braves' bullpen other than the closer Mike Gonzalez. He has very little major league experience, but has pitched a bit for the Mariners the past few years. He has had some success against LHB, but only a 22/12 K/BB ratio in 149 PA against him. He mixes a fastball and slider mostly.
Buddy Carlyle (R): Most projection systems see carlyle at around a 4.0 ERA with 8 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 or so. He is not particularly a flyball or groundball pitcher. He throws almost exclusively fastballs, with occassional cutters mixed in last year. He has fared better against RHB, but his K/BB numbers don't indicate much of a skill difference. His BABIP difference is mostly causing the split.
Jorge Campillo (R): Campillo probably should be the 5th starter, but he will be in the bullpen as Glavine will that role. Campillo does not strike out many hitters, but he does walk many either. He throws primarily fastball/slider/changeup, with some curveballs mixed in as well. He seems better against RHB than LHB, but his splits show the opposites. His K/BB numbers are about 3.9 against RHB and 1.9 against LHB, though his OPS against go in the opposite direction, with .831 and .699 vs RHB and LHB respectively. This largely due to homerun problems against righties, which may be a matter of manager choices.
SS Rollins (S): .277/.349/.437 (2008 numbers listed next to Phillies)
Rollins SLG was higher in 2006 and 2007. Most of this is attributed to his ankle injury earlier in the season. He has hit a couple of homeruns in the playoffs, indicating he may be understated by his 2008 SLG of .437. Rollins makes contact with 90.76% of pitches he swings at. Despite common perception that he is a hacker, he only swings at 39.65% of pitches—less than Burrell, Utley, and Howard, and barely more than even Jayson Werth. The reason that Rollins has such a low BB rate (9.4% this year, which was high for him), is his contact rate, which keeps his pitchers per plate appearance down at 3.83, despite the low swing%. He simply hits the ball in play too frequently when he does swing. His K rate is very low—only 9.9%. Rollins has historically hit lefties better than righties—with a career OPS of .767 and .794 against RHP or LHP, respectively. His K/BB ratio in his career is 1.75 against righties and 1.28 against lefties. He does better with men on base, and better against finesse pitchers. He’s very flashy in the field and has a strong arm, but defensive numbers are mixed on whether he is average or above average. Rollins stole 47 bases in 50 attempts this year, consistent with his recent success.
CF Victorino (S): .293/.352/.447
Victorino’s SLG took a significant stride forward this year, especially against lefties, leading to a .751/.832 OPS split against RHP/LHP. He also hits markedly better at home. Despite an OPS home/away of .781/.746—which does not seem like much of a difference—his K/BB ratios at home and away are respectively 1.32 and 2.56, almost entirely due to a far better BB rate at home. Perhaps he sees the ball better with the familiar batting eye at CBP. He also gets hit by more pitches on the road—which the average hitter does not do—possibly indicating this stronger ability to see the ball at home and dodge it. He has trouble telling balls from strikes in general, swinging at strikes only 2.08 times more often. He hits a little better with bases empty. He fields very well, with a great arm and great range, though he does take peculiar routes to flyballs. He stole 36 bases in 47 tries this year, a bit less successfully than last year.
2B Utley (L): .292/.380/.535
Utley started this season on fire, and finished weakly. Many have blamed an early hip injury for his mild finish. He still hits better that most second basemen anyway. He does have a small platoon split: .918 career against RHP and .861 against LHP. His fielding is good, and he will steal an occasional base as well.
1B Howard (L): .251/.339/.543
Howard had a very low BABIP (.285) compared to the rest of his career (.328). Some of this is due to the shift, evidenced by the fact that his BABIP with men on base was .347 and with bases empty was .218. The difference is likely due to the fact that defenses cannot play position players anywhere they want with runners on base. Given his .420 BABIP with runners on second (37/88 on balls in play), this is very likely the case. Howard’s RBI totals seem to be lucky to be many people who analyze baseball statistics, and frequently it is attributed to the lineup he bats in. Undoubtedly, that’s true, but he clearly has a natural “clutch” built in simply due to his relative strength with runners on. It’s not mental fortitude—just limited ability for the defense to shift. Howard’s swing rate is quite high—48.65%—combined with his very low 66.49% contact rate, leads to a very high 32.6% K rate. His walk rate is not high this year—11.7%. In his career, his walk rate has been higher, but this is largely due to intentional walks he did not receive as much this year. Howard has a huge platoon split. In his career, he has an OPS of 1.065 against RHP and .786 against LHP. His K/BB ratio against righties and lefties is pronounced too: 1.60 and 3.65 respectively. He does not have an especially large home/away split, indicating he probably can hit balls out anyway. Howard’s value derived from his homerun hitting ability. He doesn’t hit many doubles or triples, and he strikes out too frequently to put up a high average. His strike zone judgment is nothing special, which means he only reaches bases frequently if he’s being pitched around. He’s far better ahead in the count, owing mostly to his low contact rate. He hits finesse pitchers distinctly better, and hits better against flyball pitchers as well. His fielding is terrible—he cannot throw the ball much more accurately than, well, anyone, and he also struggles with balls hit to his right.
LF Ibanez (L): .293/.358/.479
The Phillies picked up Ibanez this year to replace Pat Burrell in left. What has been lost in the discussion of how many people (myself included) disagree with this move is that Ibanez is in fact a distinctly above average baseball player. He walks and strikeouts about as often as the average major league hitters, but he has above average power that has been partially masked by playing in Safeco, and an ability to put up an above average BABIP as well. He has always hit a lot of extra-base hits, which is the basis for his success. Despite the fact that splits indicate that he hit lefties well last year, his career numbers belie this theory. To understand splits data well, you need to look at career numbers and Ibanez has managed only a .733 OPS in his career against LHP. He spreads the ball around the field well, though he does hit better with runners on base like many power hitting lefties do. I do not believe teams employ the shift on him, as he does hit to left field quite often, but he probably does manage to hook a few balls in the hole with runners on first as he has a similar ISO with men on and bases empty, but far more singles. Separating Ibanez in our minds from Burrell will help us appreciate what he is-- another above average hitter in our lineup to rake righties. Hopefully he holds onto his level of performance for the next three years.
RF Werth (R): .273/.363/.498
Werth’s career has been trending up in the past couple years, increasing his hitting skill as he gets further from the wrist injury that caused the Dodgers to non-tender him. Werth has a very deep platoon split: .755 against RHP and .920 against LHP, but seems to have decent enough plate discipline against RHP to make up for some of that, with a K/BB ratio of 2.37 against RHP and 2.00 against LHP. He swings very infrequently—only at 39% of pitches, and because his strike zone judgment isn’t great (he only swings at strike 2.49 times more often than balls), he strikes out 28.5% of the time. He still walks frequently due to his low swing rate: 12% BB rate. Werth does tend to hit better ahead in the count. He does better against finesse pitchers as well. His defense is very good in RF, and he stole 20 bases in 21 attempts this year.
3B Feliz (R): .249/.302/.402
Feliz cannot tell a ball from a strike, swinging at strikes only 2.18 more often than at balls. He also swings a lot: 48% of the time. As a result, Feliz has a low BB rate of 7.2%, but avoids striking out much (12.7%) as he swings early in the count. He puts a lot of balls on the ground, and hits into a lot of doubeplays. His OPS is worse against RHP than LHP (.704 vs. 758 career, with K/BB ratios of 3.44 and 2.23). He’s better ahead in the count, perhaps getting tricked less frequently. His fielding has historically been fabulous, though his FRAA is low this year.
C Ruiz (R): .219/.320/.300
Ruiz had an un-repeatable low BABIP of .237 this year. He’s not a good hitter by any means, though he’s not a .219 hitter. Few people who strike out 11.9% of the time are. Despite the belief that he has bad strike zone judgment, he actually has very good judgment, swinging at strikes 3.85 more times than balls—that’s better than anyone else on the Phillies by far. His high contact rate—90.79%—highest on the team as well, explains his excellent BB/K rates of 12.1/11.9%. He swings only 37.4% of the time, less than anyone on the team but still only sees 3.85 pitches per plate appearance. Despite his ability to choose pitches in the strike zone well and hit them, he seems to hit them poorly. His groundball rate spiked to 54.3% this year, higher than last year’s 46.2% by a long shot. This seems to come from higher contact with the pitches out of the strike zone that he does swing at. He’s still seeing the same number of pitches in the strike zone, so it’s likely something that he is doing differently. Ruiz has a reverse platoon split: .700/.650 vs. RHP/LHP, despite K/BB ratios of 1.26/0.50. Seemingly, he doesn’t swing at miss at pitches from lefties but probably hits them right into the ground. He hits power hitters better and flyball pitchers better. In fact, Ruiz can hardly hit groundball pitchers better than they can hit themselves—in 2008 his OPS against groundball pitchers was .580.
3B Dobbs (L): .301/.333/.491
Dobbs swing rate is the highest on the team—55%. As a result of that and his modest contact rate of 80.29%, his BB rate is only 4.6 and his K rate is only 17.7. He also has trouble telling a ball from a strike, swinging at 2.11 more strikes than balls. He only hit 30.5% groundballs this year. He has a massive platoon split: .766/.579 vs. RHP/LHP, respectively, and K/BB ratios of 2.66/8.33. Think about that: he strikes out more than eight times more than he walks against lefties. Meanwhile, some of the so-called analysts are claiming he will DH against LHP. No way! And if Charlie Manuel does do that, he should be tested for dyslexia. His poor strike zone judgment leads him to hit relatively better ahead in the count (again, more so than other hitters). He hits groundball pitchers better, perhaps due to the fact that their trick doesn’t work on him. Dobbs is heralded for hitting .355/.388/.532 as pinch hitter, but that owes almost entirely to an unrepeatable .417 BABIP in that case. His 13 Ks and 3 BBs in that situation indicate he’s not all that much better as a PH than overall. Chances are that he may actually be deployed well—perhaps Manuel uses him against RHP groundball/power pitchers. But there’s probably a bit of luck to those numbers.
Stairs (L): .252/.341/.409
Stairs power looked like it had dropped off finally at 40 years old, but then he just a hit a homerun in Los Angeles last week that only just landed and crashed through my window in Philadelphia yesterday. That’s a small sample size, but it sure showed he can still hit the ball if he gets a hold of it. As it turns out, it’s not all that surprising that it was on a 3-1 pitch. In fact, he has a career AVG/OBP/SLG on 3-1 pitches of .413/.727/.831, with 21 homeruns in 189 AB. He’s got a mild split: .861/.748 against RHP/LHP, indicating he could be a DH choice against Kazmir. He hits power pitchers worse than finesse pitchers though.
Bruntlett (R): .217/.297/.297
Bruntlett’s abnormally low BABIP is to blame here. Much of that is due to a very high number of infield pop-ups, though, so it may be more likely to persist than just bad luck. In his career, he cannot hit righties: just .596 against them, compared to .754 against righties, with K/BB ratio of 2.47 vs. RHP and 1.27 vs. LHP. He also has a much worse tendency to hit on the road, compared to at home: with K/BB ratios of 1.26 at home and 2.75 on the road, leading to OPS of .700 and .625 at home and on the road, respectively. He is relatively weak ahead in the count, compared to other hitters. He hits better with men on, much better against finesse pitchers, and much better against groundball pitchers, presumably because he’s less likely to pop the ball up against them.
Coste (R): .265/.325/.423
He swings at a lot of pitches, with poor strike zone judgment, leading to a 5.5% BB rate and a 18.6% K rate. He does have a fairly high line drive rate. He hits lefties better than righties: .861 vs. 748, but his K/BB ratios are just 3.27 against lefties and 3.47 against righties, so that may overestimate his ability to his lefties. He's also way better at home: .880 in his career compared to just .698 on the road. His K/BB ratios match this extreme: 2.41 at home and 4.69 on the road. He's not especially good ahead in the count, but he's better with men on. He hits finesse pitchers better, and is far better at hitting groundball pitchers.
Cairo (R): .249/.310/.330
Cairo is certainly a relatively useless player for the Phillies, and I am skeptical he stays with team very long. He hits for virtually no power, and pitchers challenge him regularly and successfully. He does have decent enough strike zone judgment to walk occassionally despite how infrequently pitchers want to walk him, and he is able to play many different positions. Cairo started the Spring pretty strong but fell apart quickly. However, he seemed to make the team for lack of a better alternative. On the upside, he does have a career .290 AVG against LHP and a .735 OPS against them as well. This is primarily because he strikes out rarely against LHP. He could be useful when the Phillies need a pinch-hitter against a lefty to just put his bat on the ball, even though it won't go very far.
Hamels (L): 3.09 ERA, 2.1 BB/9, 7.8 K/9, 1.1 HR/9, 39.5 GB%
His FIP was 3.79 and his QERA was 3.59. This owes largely to his .262 BABIP this year. Hamels struck out people more often in 2006 and 2007, but he did better on balls in play this year. Historically, pitchers have not had much control over balls in play, and Hamels probably is not much different. Still, he clearly is the best pitcher in the World Series, and given his playoff success, the Rays need to prepare for him. Though the Rays do not hit lefties well, Hamels is actually does worse against lefties: .742 vs. 671 against RHB. However, this is probably due to opposing managers removing all but their best lefties against him. His K/BB ratio is about even both ways, and the difference is primarily explained by a .023 difference in BABIP. Hamels does about as well at home as on the road, slightly better at home, but not by much. The key with him is keeping the ball in the park. He doesn’t walk many and allows few hits, so his dominance derives from avoiding the long ball.
Myers (R): 4.55 ERA, 3.1 BB/9, 7.7 K/9, 1.4 HR/9, 47.1 GB%
Myers had an amazing second half and an atrocious first half. I posted a longer post on him earlier this year, but it’s clear that he has been much better at home than on the road. Of course, he’ll face the Rays twice on the road. He’s also much better against righties than lefties: 3.15 K/BB ratio against RHB and 1.91 K/BB ratio against LHB, so he does not profile as someone who is going to succeed in the playoffs. As he will be facing Shields twice, this is a bit part of the Rays chance to win the series. If Myers can succeed, it will be tough to beat the Phillies. His problem this year was a high homerun/flyball rate but that plummeted while his groundball rate rose during the second half of the season. Myers is far better when ahead in the count, and struggles mightily against leadoff hitters. His first innings have been a problem all year. Clearly, Myers vs. Iwamura to start games 2 and 6 in Tampa Bay will be key matchups if Myers hopes to get off on the right foot.
Moyer (L): 3.71 ERA, 2.8 BB/9, 5.6 K/9, 0.9 HR/9, 43.9 GB%
His FIP was 4.39 and his QERA was 4.71. Moyer is the oldest pitcher in the series, but he had a good year. His first two playoff starts have been very bad. His contact pitcher tendencies do not tend to play well in the playoffs, but he can hope to have more success against the Rays who struggle against lefties. Of course, Moyer does not have much of a platoon split. Moyer was lucky on flyballs this year, just 9.0% homeruns/flyball, which is very low for someone who pitches half his games at CBP, even considering CBP’s surprisingly neutral park factors this year.
Blanton (R): 4.69 ERA, 3.0 BB/9, 5.0 K/9, 1.0 HR/9, 44.3 GB%
His FIP was 4.59 and his QERA was 5.03. Blanton is another contact pitcher who does not tend to succeed in the playoffs, like Sonnanstine who he will face in game 4. He’s a little better against lefties, also probably for the same selection reason as the other pitchers mentioned above, but he’s unlikely to have a pronounced disadvantage against the Tampa Bay lefty leaning lineup. He has had more career success at home than on the road, but given his similar K/BB ratios at home and away, it was probably just playing in Oakland that led to that effect. He struggles against leadoff hitters.
Park (R): 3.40 ERA, 3.6 BB/9, 7.3 K/9, 1.1 HR/9, 50.9 GB%
Park had an excellent Spring, as I wrote about recently, putting up a 25/2 K/BB ratio, earning him the 5th spot in the rotation. Spring numbers should generally be taken lightly, but I showed he did have a statistically significant improvement in performance on these two fronts. Park was an excellent starter early in his career, but struggled mightily after signing a large contract. He found himself again as a reliever last year, but his numbers were somewhat suspicious. While he had seemingly found a way to induce more groundballs, his K and BB numbers were merely average for a reliever, and his 3.40 ERA was mostly born out of luck. Park has faired far better against RHB in his career and lefties have had much more success against him. He reports that Jamie Moyer helped him work on his changeup, which could potentially explain some of the improvement this Spring. For a 5th starter, he sure seems like an improvement over Adam Eaton.
Lidge (R): 1.95 ERA, 4.5 BB/9, 11.9 K/9, 0.3 HR/9, 46.2 GB%
Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus has repeatedly reported on Lidge’s homerun/flyball rate: just 3.9% this year. Certainly, that’s quite lucky, though Lidge has put the ball on the ground far more than in the past. He’s throwing his slider more as well, possibly leading to the latter result if not the former. The result is that he has continued to dominate righties: to the tune of a .593/.692 OPS and 3.54/2.79 K/BB ratios versus RHB and LHB. Lidge struck out nearly 1/3 of all batters he faced this year, limiting the number of flyballs that can be hit. Once Lidge gets two strikes, he’s very good.
Madson (R): 3.05 ERA, 2.5 BB/9, 7.3 K/9, 0.7 HR/9, 51.0 GB%
Madson has been great in the playoffs, throwing much faster than he has historically. He’s been throwing faster the entire second half of the season as well, hitting as high as 97 on his fastball at times. He’s been far better against righties: 3.60 K/BB vs. RHB and 1.77 K/BB vs. LHB. His homerun/flyball rate was low this year, at 8.2%, so he’s probably not as good as his 3.05 ERA suggests, but even his QERA was 3.61, which should adjust for luck on homerun/flyball.
Durbin (R): 2.87 ERA, 3.6 BB/9, 6.5 K/9, 0.5 HR/9, 45.6 GB%
Durbin’s QERA is 4.41, indicating that we should look at his homerun/flyball rate—it’s 5.9%. Clearly, Durbin is lucky. Durbin has been a mediocre pitcher his whole career. Early in the season, he started using his slider way more, and as a result his K numbers temporarily spiked. Since then, hitters seem to have caught up, and his ERA has steadily risen. I called fluke on him earlier this year, and almost rescinded that accusation as his K rate rose and rose, but clearly I’m being vindicated now. If the Phillies starters go deep in games, red hot Ryan Madson should get the nod, and Durbin is unlikely to pitch in more than two or three of the playoff games.
Eyre (L): 4.21 ERA, 2.5 BB/9, 11.2 K/9, 0.7 HR/9, 35.4 GB%
Eyre is going to be used as a LOOGY. Against lefties, his OPS against is .723 in his career and his K/BB ratio is 1.89. He’s still wild, but he gets outs. Against RHB, he allows a dangerous .815 OPS against with a weak 1.50 K/BB ratio. Eyre should not face righties at this stage in his career. Eyre also does well against he first hitter he faces, but presumably because of the tendency for his managers to deploy him against a southpaw opponent first.
Condrey (R): 3.26 ERA, 2.5 BB/9, 4.4 K/9, 0.8 HR/9, 54.3 GB%
Condrey’s FIP was 4.26 and his QERA was 4.37. His homerun/flyball rate was just 9.1% this year, and his BABIP was .330. His low ERA seems to come from success with men on base. He does have a career tendency to do better with guys on base, but it is tough to say whether this is luck, skill, or managers electing to use him in good matchups mid-inning with guys on base. Condrey is terrible against LHB: .841 OPS with a 1.19 K/BB ratio. His RHB numbers are .770 OPS and 2.06 K/BB ratio. Interestingly, Condrey is far more successful at home. In his career, hitters hit an OPS of .709 against him when he’s at home and .903 against him when he’s on the road. Therefore, I recommend he be used exclusively against righties in games three-five. Then again, maybe he shouldn’t used.
Happ (L): 3.69 ERA, 4.0 BB/9, 7.4 K/9, 0.9 HR/9, 30.9 GB%
Happ led AAA in strikeouts for much of the year, and came up to the Phillies and had some success. He did demonstrate a noticeable platoon split, allowing a .774 OPS against RHB and .693 against LHB, with even more pronounced K/BB ratios of 1.67 and 2.75. He probably won’t be used much either.
Taschner (L): 4.88 ERA, 4.5 BB/9, 7.3 K/9, 0.9 HR/9, 38.7 GB%
Taschner will be used primarily to retire lefties for the Phillies. Despite an unconvincing OPS split, Taschner does in fact do better with LHB than RHB. However, the LHB that managers let face him are generally good hitter, and the hitters he saw most frequently in the NL West were Brad Hawpe and Adrian Gonzalez. His K/BB numbers are markedly better against LHB, however. He should be good for about 4 BB/9 and 8 K/9 this year, with average groundball skills, and will probably put up an FIP in the low 4's. However, as he will frequently enter games mid-inning with outs already recorded, he should benefit from the same ERA boost that JC Romero gets from entering games mid-inning.