Early last year I started a project here that I never got around to finishing -- trying to answer the question "what is Ruben Amaro Jr. good at?" The basic premise was that at this point in his tenure, we should be able to point to an affirmative reason to keep Amaro around. Rather than needing to find a reason to fire him, what does he do well that justifies keeping him as GM?
I started with the observation that he is now responsible for the entire Phillies roster. When I wrote about this last year, Chase Utley was the only player on the roster not signed by Amaro. Now, with Utley's extension signed last year, the entire roster is Amaro's.
With this being Amaro's team, what has he done for the franchise? Has he added value? Has he made the team a better team? Has he transitioned it smoothly from one era to another? Does he have an eye for hitters? Can he spot diamonds in the rough on the mound? Does he know his fielding and base running?
I never got around to answering all those questions, but let's give it a shot here. And I'm going to skip with most of the prose and base this almost entirely in the numbers. After all, if Amaro is doing well, after 5 years, we should see it in the team's results.
Here are a series of charts showing the evolution of the Phillies from 2008 through 2013. 2008 was, of course, the World Fucking Champions year, but it was also the last year under Pat Gillick before Amaro took the reins. It's included as a basis of comparison for the rest of the chart.
Each chart below shows the team's NL ranking in the category. For each category, 1 is best (even if it's a lower number, like ERA or hitter K%) and 16 is worst (until 2013 when 15 was worst because of the Astros' move).
Let's start with overall team hitting:
Not a pretty trend. How about base running?
There's some good news there, as the Phillies have remained somewhat competent on the basepaths. How about in the field?
Ouch. What about pitching?
2011 was glorious, wasn't it? But otherwise, not a good trend recently, not good at all. Maybe there's some good breaking up starters and relievers:
2011 again was amazing. Since? Not so much. The relievers maybe?
Definitely not. That's probably the ugliest line of them all. Overall performance?
Other than the base running chart, these charts pretty much all paint the same picture. Under Amaro, the Phillies have become a horrible team. To Amaro's credit, he was able to complement the core that Gillick (and Ed Wade) built with outstanding starting pitching to give us the amazing 2011 season. But, with Roy Halladay crapping out afterwards, the team fell apart, as Amaro has been unable to plan for the aging roster by bringing in pieces to address the frailties.
Some people may make excuses or try to be optimistic, but the reality of the situation is that Amaro's tenure as Phillies GM has seen the franchise take a complete nosedive. The hitting is horrible; the fielding is terrible; the starting pitching is bad (even with Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, imagine the numbers without them!); and the relief pitching is a mess.
So what's the answer to my original question? There was a time when I thought it was that he was good at signing top-notch starting pitching. But that era seems to have passed. He also seems to have a good team of base runners.
But beyond that? Based on the product he's responsible for putting on the field, it's hard to argue that he's any good at his job whatsoever.