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Phillies Post-All-Star Break Trends

The All-Star game's over, and the so-called second half of the season is about to begin.  Can the Phils' All-Star representatives keep up their levels of performance for the rest of the year?  The Phillies' second-half performance hinges in large part on how Bobby Abreu, Billy Wagner, and Jimmy Rollins perform after the All-Star break.  While among those three only Abreu and Wagner had All-Star-caliber first-halves of the season that helped the Phillies stay above the .500 mark (Jimmy Rollins clearly did not), the Phils as a whole stand to do even worse if the performance levels of any one of Abreu, Wagner, or Rollins drops over the next three months.

With this in mind, I've looked at the pre- and post-All-Star performances of the Phillies' All-Stars over the last ten years to see if there is any trend.  While this exercise also reminded me of forgotten All-Star-worthy seasons of certain Phillies of yesteryear (e.g., given his performance of late it's easy to have had slip from memory Mike Lieberthal's awesome first halves in 1999 (.952 OPS) and 2000 (.899 OPS) and I'm not ashamed to say that I completely forgot that Heathcliff Slocumb was a Phillie and an All-Star in 1995 (no kiddin'!)), the ultimate conclusion from the data I collected is that those Phils who were All-Stars in the past ten years tended to perform worse during the second half of the year than they did during the first half.  The decline in performance is more drastic for pitchers than for hitters, but overall the trend is enough to raise serious concerns about what we should expect from Abreu, Wagner, and Rollins for the rest of the season.

In the ten seasons used in this study, from 1995-2004, the Phillies have had 19 representatives in the All-Star game.  Here is the list of those players, broken down alphabetically by hitters and pitchers:

Hitters:  Bobby Abreu (2004); Darren Daulton (1995); Lenny Dykstra (1995); Mike Lieberthal (1999, 2000); Micky Morandini (1995); Scott Rolen (2002); Jimmy Rollins (2001, 2002); Jim Thome (2004)

Pitchers:  Ricky Botallico (1996); Paul Byrd (1999); Tyler Green (1995); Vicente Padilla (2002); Curt Schilling (1997, 1998, 1999); Heathcliff Slocumb (1995); Randy Wolf (2003)

Let's first examine the hitters.  There are 8 Phillies hitters on this list with 10 All-Star seasons.  Collectively, these All-Stars had the following stats before and after the break:

                 AVG     OBP     SLG
Pre-            .277    .358    .479
Post-           .270    .357    .452

The difference before and after the break can hardly be considered substantial, but the hitters' rate stats did decrease across the board -- a slight decrease in batting average (7 points), an insignificant decrease in on-base percentage (1 point), and a more noticeable drop-off in slugging percentage (25 points).  The decrease in slugging percentage is most attributable to the players' decline in home run rates: before the break, this group hit a home run once every 24 at-bats; after the break, the rate dropped to once every 28 at-bats.

Now that we've looked at the group of hitters as a whole, let's examine the individual seasons of each Phillie by using OPS as a quick capsule of performance.  Of the 10 seasons' worth of data, there were 5 seasons of improvement after the All-Star game and 5 seasons of decline.  What's interesting to note is that 3 of the seasons of improvement (60% of them) came from the three 1995 hitting All-Stars, and except Jimmy Rollins in 2001, all of the current Phillies who were All-Stars suffered significant declines after the break in their All-Star year(s):

Player          Year             Pre-   Post-   Diff
Abreu           2004            1.009    .929   .080
Thome           2004            1.059    .868   .191
Rollins         2002             .731    .629   .102
Lieberthal      2000             .899    .602   .297
Lieberthal      1999             .952    .869   .083

If Abreu and Rollins, or any of the team's former All-Stars, continue this trend after the All-Star break this year, the Phillies' hitting is in trouble.

Turning to the pitchers, the seven pitchers that appear on this list have a combined 9 All-Star seasons.  Over this time period, the Phils' All-Star pitchers had the following stats before and after the break:

                 ERA            K/9             BB/9            HR/9
Pre-            3.23            8.1              2.8             0.8
Post-           4.43            7.8              2.8             1.2

The declines from pre-All-Star break to post-All-Star break are more substantial for the pitchers than the differences for the hitters.  After the break, the Phils' All-Star pitchers had a substantially worse ERA (by 1.20), struck out slightly fewer per nine innings (0.3), walked batters at the same rate, and gave up more home runs per nine innings (0.4).

Looking at the list's individual pitcher seasons, we find that only 2 pitchers--Schilling in 1997 and Bottalico in 1996--pitched better (based on ERA) after the break.  During the other 7 seasons, each pitcher had a worse ERA after the break than before it, some substantially so (Wolf had an ERA 2.29 higher in 2003; Green had an ERA 7.87 higher in 1995).  Using these numbers as a reference, it appears that for the 2005 Phillies to remain in contention, Billy Wagner must break from the past and avoid a post-All-Star break slump.

Overall, the results of this study are not that surprising (and it would be interesting to see if they hold up for a larger sample size).  The decline in performance of All-Stars after the break should be expected as a form of regression to the mean.  These players were, for the most part, the best in baseball for the first three months, so it's not unexpected that they'd fall off from their great paces in the second three months.  In fact, I find it quite surprising that the drop-off for the Phillies' hitters wasn't more drastic.  Also, on the whole, All-Star selections tend to be players who avoided injury or huge slumps in the first half, so it's unrealistic to expect that all of these players would be able to avoid injuries or slumps during the second half.

However, regardless of whether these results are surprising, let us all, as Phillies phans, hope that Abreu, Wagner, and Rollins buck the recent trend and at least maintain their first-half performance levels.  Or, in the case of Rollins, drastically improve upon it.