Suggestion Box: Triaging Analytics Projects for the Phillies

If you help me keep my job, don't worry, I won't give you any credit. - David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies are years behind everyone else in MLB in using analytics. They cannot catch up overnight. What 3 projects would you implement right away to help the team get better immediately? Consider this an analytics triage exercise.

We've spent about 1,000 comments and millions of person hours kvetching about how the Freedman hiring may or may not be the greatest thing since Cole Hamels' ravishing good looks.  Throw all that onto the fire and do something useful for a change, you inveterate whiners.

Suggest some projects that the Phillies can implement right away, using analytics, to improve results quickly and efficiently.  Freedman revealed in his email interview that he had a "laundry list" of things he was working on.  Some of you may, uh, be skeptical that he's focusing on the right stuff.  So why don't you help him sort his laundry?

Ideas such as the following are not particularly helpful:

  • Selling the team
  • Trading Amaro to the Alaska Goldpanners
  • Sending John Mayberry, Jr., to Guantanamo Bay
  • Getting the team to use greenies
  • Getting the team to use the cream and the clear
  • Going back to stealing other teams' signs
  • Snorting coke like the 80's Mets

Please use bullet points in your post to highlight the three items.  Or don't.  Post at least a modest explanation for each bullet point.  Or don't.  Feel free to cheat using your neighbors' papers and then take credit for their work.

We can do a follow-up post in the form of a poll later after we crowdsource some ideas.  After we get done triaging the crisis issues, it might be fun to look in later posts at other projects the team could undertake as intermediate term projects and blue sky projects.

Do it for the children, folks.  The children! /clutches pearls

In the spirit of the thing, here are my three suggestions:

  • Develop a game procedure for implementing a defensive shift. The Phillies shifted less than anyone else in baseball. Bill James wrote this, so it must be true. From the linked article, the Phillies could very realistically pick up between 5 - 10 runs without costing themselves any additional salary and do so using existing talent. That's adding up to 1 WAR for NOTHING.  Spring training would be a great time to trial this.  There is NO REASON not to do this immediately.  Except stupidity and stubbornness. Except that makes two reasons, so "no 'reason'" would technically be correct.
  • Optimize the lineup rather than setting it using a traditional role-based batting order. I have not played with a batting order optimizer recently, but my recollection is that they could pick up maybe 15 runs (1.5 WAR) just by doing this.  They do not even need to get esoteric and hit the pitcher 8th or whatever.  Just put the good hitters at the top of the order and stop worrying about a "leadoff" hitter.  Worry about getting more at-bats by guys who don't make outs. Again, this costs nothing and requires no new talent and it would help reduce their run differential shortfall.
  • Platoon Ryan Howard. The Phillies have platoon parts to do this.  Even if it involves just sitting him against tough lefties for a "day off" and hitting for Howard at the end of the game when the inevitable LOOGY comes in to eat him alive.  I am guessing that if the Phillies can swap out Howard's wOBA versus lefties from 2013 of .238 for something approaching the career .333 wOBA that Ruf has [insert Ruf caveat here] for maybe 100 - 150 at bats on the year, they can pick up maybe 5 runs, which is kinda sorta .5 WAR, ignoring defense. Bill Baer covered this nicely over at Crashburn recently.  Give it a read.

All three of these things are doable right now using the existing roster without incurring any marginal payroll costs, and they could cause the team to perform maybe 2.0 - 2.5 WAR better immediately.  It'd be like adding Matt Garza with less injury risk and less face licking.  Furthermore, these steps could help serious stat fans realize that the team is taking analytics seriously.

What "triage" projects would you want to see?  I showed you mine.  Now show me yours.  Especially you, Lorecore.  Look into my eyes, Lorecore...

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