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MattS' 2009 Phillies Projections

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In 2007 and 2008, I projected the statistics of the Phillies major league players as well as a handful of other players.  My projections do not use any kind of direct algorithm other than a weighted average of past performance, slight adjustments for age and other factors, and a build up performance projections using peripheral statistics.  I use my own knowledge from watching the games, and unsurprisingly, I generally do better projecting Phillies players than other players.  In fact, this past season I projected the performance of 13 hitters (Ruiz, Howard, Utley, Feliz, Rollins, Burrell, Victorino, Werth, Coste, Bruntlett, Dobbs, and Jenkins) and 11 pitchers (Hamels, Myers, Kendrick, Eaton, Lidge, Gordon, Madson, Durbin, Romero, and Condrey).  Using the sum of square errors between actual and projected OPS and ERA (so low numbers are good), here is how I faired on these hitters and pitchers compared to the other major projection systems out there:

 

HITTERS

 

Marcel: .0573

Chone: .0610

MattS: .0658

PECOTA: .0676

ZIPS: .0808

Ron Shandler: .0857

Bill James: .0938

 

PITCHERS

 

Ron Shandler: 15.51

Chone: 15.86

PECOTA: 16.07

MattS: 16.51

Bill James: 19.69

Marcel: 19.74

ZIPS: 21.89

 

At least in 2008, I did a pretty good job projecting the Phillies players.  This is not a large sample, and I did worse for players who did not play for the Phillies last year.  It could be noise, or it could be that I have a decent methodology for doing things and a comparative advantage in watching the games.  Regardless, here are my 2009 projections, along with analysis of my previous projections.  Please feel free to add let me know where you think I’ve gone wrong, or any other comments you have on these projections.

CARLOS RUIZ:

2007 projection: .266/.333/.445

2007 performance: .259/.340/.396

2008 projection: .265/.331/.423

2008 performance: .219/.320/.300

2009 projection: .251/.336/.349, 4 HR, 2.9 VORP in 340 PA

Analysis: I have overestimated Ruiz’s power for two straight years, based mostly on a strong SLG in AAA in 2006.  This year, as that data gets older, I have not put much weight on it, and I am admitting that Ruiz does not have the power that I thought he did.  While I did a good job estimating his AVG and OBP in 2007, I severely overestimated his BABIP in 2008.  I expected .290 and he hit .237.  I am guessing that this will revert back towards the mean and land at about .266 this year.  The reason that his BABIP was so low this year—and why his power was so poor this year—was his spike in groundball rate: up to 54.3% from 46.2% in 2007 and 46.8% during his short stint in the majors in 2006.  Despite swinging at fewer pitches in the strike zone (down to 14.81% from 17.22% in 2007), he made contact with 75% of those pitches in 2008, unlike 2007 in which he only made contact with 60.5%.  I suspect that he swung at a lot of low pitches, chopped them into the ground, and with his low BABIP on groundballs (.199, below league average of around .237), he declined.  I’m projecting his groundball rate to stay pretty high at 51% and his BABIP on groundballs to go back up to about .210 (he hit .220 hit 2007 on groundballs).  I suspect his 16.8% line-drive rate will go up a little bit as well, leading the .266 number I mentioned before.  I’m only projected 4 homeruns, but I think he’ll get a couple more extra base hits than this year, though not the 37 that he had in 2007.  The end result: a below average, but not below replacement level catcher.

 

 

RYAN HOWARD

2007 projection: .309/.416/.618

2007 performance: .268/.392/.584

2008 projection: .281/.394/.587

2008 performance: .251/.339/.543

2009 projection: .266/.368/.572, 49 HR, 50.5 VORP, 685 PA

 

Ryan Howard is another player that I overestimated the past two years.  I’m projecting him to fall somewhere in between his 2007 and 2008, as I believe that his 2006 performance was above his true ability level.  The 39.5% HR/FB rate of 2006 has fallen down to 31.5% and 31.8% the past couple years.  I’m guessing that stays about the same in 2008.  His K/AB% was 31.2 in 2006, 37.6 in 2007, and 32.6 in 2008.  His contact rate went from 67.5% to 64.7% to 66.5% in the last three years, which clearly follows his K rate.  Despite that apparent increase, the reason is not that he made much more contact—only an increase from 39.2% to 40.9% on balls out of the strike zone and an increase from 76.5% to 77.1%.  However, he saw more pitches in the strike zone—46.3% in 2006, down to 44.4% in 2007 as pitchers became more fearful, and up to 46.7% as they became brave again.  He has not been chasing much more—swinging at 26.7% of pitches out of the strike zone this year, compared to 25.8% in 2007 and 25.6% in 2006.  However, he simply swung at more pitches in general and actually swung at more strikes in 2008: 73.6% as opposed to 70.0% and 70.1% in 2007 and 2006, respectively.  Many have noted his walk rate has plummeted from 16.8% in 2007 down to 11.7% in 2006—but this is actually a result of being pitched to more.  He was intentionally walked less than half as much in 2008 than in 2007 (17 and 35 IBB in 2008 and 2007)—and saw more pitches in the strike zone when he did came up.  His unintentional walk rate only fell a little: 10.8% to 11.8% to 9.4%.  It was definitely down, but seemingly as a result of pitchers being less afraid of him.  Before determining what happened to his BB and K rates, the question of why pitchers were so much less afraid of him needed to be asked.  And the answer is obvious—his very low batting average.  This was primarily a result of a low BABIP: down to .285 from .336 in 2007 and .363 in 2006.  I think the .363 is a thing of the past—while his 2005 and minor league BABIP numbers did seem to be that high, the shift that defenses started putting in place in mid-2006 clearly ended this reign of BABIP terror.  His BABIP on groundballs fell from .250 to .187 to .163.  I’ve pointed out on here before that his BABIP with runners on base—especially runners on second base—has remained high, indicating further that it is likely a result of the shift (which cannot be as easily employed with runners on, and especially with runners on second).  This year, his BABIP on line drives was just .722, below league average after being above league average the previous two years.  I expected this will go back up a bit.  I also think his batting average on non-homerun flyballs will remain high, since he does not hit many infield flyballs.  I project a .308 BABIP, leading to pitchers throwing him fewer strikes, walking him a little more than last year and striking him out a bit more than last year, but I think his days of flirting with .400 OBP and .300 AVG are over.  Putting together my projection of 26 IBB in 685 PA, a 10.1% UBB rate, a 33.3% K rate, 31.8% HR/FB, and a .308 BABIP, and tossing in his historical tendencies towards doubles and triples, and I arrive at the projection above.

 

 

CHASE UTLEY

2007 projection: .290/.362/.511

2007 performance: .332/.410/.566

2008 projection: .311/.385/.552

2008 performance: .292/.380/.535

2009 projection: .309/.396/.542, 24 HR, 59.0 VORP in 580 PA

 

I have adjusted Utley’s playing time downward to take into account that he may miss the beginning of the 2009 season recovering from hip surgery.  His numbers do not seem to have been affected much by the sore hip that he played through this season, except perhaps in that his infield hit rate dropped substantially this year.  I imagine that he will be able to bring this back up next year.  Utley’s peripheral statistics have been remarkably consistent: making contact with 83.4% of pitches in 2006, 84.8% in 2007, and 84.4% in 2008.  However, he was thrown fewer pitches in the strike zone and was intentionally walked more in 2008 than in years before.  I expect that with Howard likely hitting better this year, Utley will be intentionally walked a little bit less than last year, but not much more so as Utley has clearly established himself as a threat.  I expected Utley’s walk rate to actually continue increasing as he gets older, reaching around 9.5% this year as his UBB% goes back up towards where it was in 2006 and 2007, and he gets more intentional walks than he did then, but less than he did in 2008.  Utley hit far more line drives this past year than years before: up from 19.5% and 19.6% in 2006 and 2007 to 24.3% in 2008.  However, his BABIP on line drives fell enough that his BABIP actually fell this year.  His BABIP on groundballs which used to be very high fell to below normal this year as well—something that now makes sense in light of his injury.  I expect these to end up higher in 2009.  Similarly, I expect his BABIP on flyballs to bounce back a little too.  Overall, I think his trajectory of overall BABIP in 2006-08 over .346, .368, and .301 will probably indicate a trend towards about .320.  As he will probably continue to crowd the plate and refuse to move as inside pitches come his way, I think another high HBP performance is likely, contributing to a very solid OBP.  Utley’s HR/FB% went from 14% to 11.6% to 15.3% over the last three years.  His HR/FB% was impossibly high in April and early May of 2008, but then fell over the year as his hip was allegedly injured.  I think he’ll probably end up nearly at 14% again, not quite managing the 15.3% of last year.  All in all, another year of being the most valuable Phillie without getting any first place votes in the MVP race, assuming he stays healthy enough to at least get close to 600 PA this year.

 

 

PEDRO FELIZ

2007 projection: .247/.285/.416

2007 performance: .253/.290/.418

2008 projection: .257/.294/.438

2008 performance: .249/.302/.402

2009 projection: .260/.308/.413, 12 HR, 3.5 VORP in 400 PA

 

Pedro Feliz shocked us all by raising his UBB% from 4.5% and 4.6% in 2006 and 2007 up to 6.5% in 2008.  The question is why.  Some might say that Pedro Feliz was more patient—that seems to be the case.  He did swing at 47.7% of pitches in 2008 instead of 49.7% and 52.0% in 2006 and 2007.  However, this must mostly a result of seeing fewer pitches in the strike zone: 52.3%, 51.8%, and 50.2% from 2006-08.  In fact, he swung at 30.0% of pitches out of the strike zone, squarely between his numbers in 2006 and 2007, but actually swung at far fewer pitches in the strike zone: 65.2% this year, down from 70.5% in 2007.  He may have swung at fewer pitches, but he was mostly just swinging at fewer strikes.  Pedro Feliz exemplifies a long held belief of mine—batting eye is actually about vision and reflexes and not patience.  You can train an “impatient” hitter who does not walk a lot to swing at fewer pitches, but you cannot improve his strike zone judgment.  As a result, Feliz’s slugging numbers fell this year despite moving to a better hitter’s park (which did play neutrally this year, in all fairness, but I doubt that trend sticks).  I do expect Feliz to continue to swing at fewer pitches and see fewer pitches in the strike zone, leading to a slightly lower walk rate, but a K rate that goes up (it was stable from 2007 to 2008, which does not seem to match up with him swinging at fewer strikes).  His groundball rate went up, indicating that he probably is not hitting the ball as hard at his age, and I expect his groundball rate to stay high, meaning that his power will probably stay low.  I do expect his BABIP to revert back up to the mean a little bit, landing at about .272 but with poor power at age 33, I am not expecting much.  With his defensive numbers falling, I would guess that his skills are eroding overall and he probably will see fewer and fewer at-bats as I expect Dobbs to start picking up more at bats in his place.

 

 

JIMMY ROLLINS

2007 projection: .291/.343/.442

2007 performance: .296/.344/.531

2008 projection: .290/.344/.499

2008 performance: .277/.349/.437

2009 projection: .289/.352/.477, 19 HR, 43/6 SB/CS, 55.8 VORP in 700 PA

 

Rollins power went down this year, but he appeared to master the strike zone like never before, raising his BB% from 6.4% to 9.4% and his K% down from 11.9% to 9.9% since his MVP season.  His peripherals seem to strengthen this case—his Swing% went down from 42.9% to 39.7% while his Contact% when up from 86.9% to 90.8%.  However, this is mostly a higher (78.0%) contact rate on balls out of the strike zone, almost 10% more than the previous year, which was probably the cause of the .290 BABIP, lower than the previous years’ .303.  I expect a little bit of reversion on all counts: a .298 BABIP, an 8.4 UBB%, 11 K%.  I expect him to recover some of 2006-07 power, as some of his power drop this year was probably healing from his soar ankle, but at age 30, I don’t know if it’s reasonable to expect a middle infielder to turn back into a 25-30 HR hitter.  Instead, I’m expecting 19 HR among 68 XBH, sending his SLG back up to where it was 2006 but not where it was in 2007.  I’ve consistently projected Rollins to be a .290 hitter, with his decent BABIP skills, modest power, and low K rate, and despite hitting .277 in two of the last three years, I’m keeping his AVG projection high at .289 combining with a residual of his newfound walking tendency (which does tend to be consistent with him aging a little) to a solid .352 OBP.

 

 

SHANE VICTORINO

2007 projection: .281/.342/.424

2007 performance: .281/.347/.423

2008 projection: .285/.349/.439

2008 performance: .293/.352/.447

2009 projection: .293/.355/.439, 13 HR, 35/10 SB/CS, 32.4 VORP in 600 PA

 

Clearly, I have been pretty good at projecting Victorino’s performance the past couple of years.  He clearly is what he is.  As he plateaus in the middle of his prime, I don’t expect much change in his performance this year at all.  His peripherals have remained pretty constant, with very little change in his contact rate or swing rate, leading to a slightly lower walk rate, and a slightly lower strikeout rate as pitchers threw him more pitches in the strike zone.  I suspect this was mostly a result of being moved down in the batting order, which I project will mostly continue.  His slugging also slightly improved, and I expect that mostly to be sustained as well.  All in all, there is nothing terribly surprising about Victorino’s performance.  I suspect he will probably get challenged a little bit more, leading to a slightly higher strikeout rate and fewer extra base hits, but I think it’s pretty clear at this point what Victorino is.

 

 

JAYSON WERTH

2007 projection: .245/.335/.425

2007 performance: .298/.404/.459

2008 projection: .272/.379/.442

2008 performance: .273/.363/.498

2009 projection: .276/.375/.498, 27 HR, 15/3 SB/CS, 37.7 VORP in 600 PA

 

Werth’s strike zone judgment seemed to take a step back this year, with his percentage of swings at pitches in the strike zone going down from 57.6% to 55.2% and his percentage of swings at pitches out of the strike zone going up from 19.4% to 22.2%.  His contact rate went up, especially at pitches out of the strike zone, which lowered his BABIP from its impossibly high .389 level in 2007 to a respectable .324 in 2008.  He has been steadily improving against right handed pitching, so even though he will probably face a larger number of righties, I expect his strikeout rate to stay steady and his walk rate to improve slightly.  I think his BABIP actually should improve to .334 as his line drive rate is consistently high (27.3% and 22.7% in 2007 and 2008), but I think his 21.1 HR/FB% was very high, and probably will drop to around 19.0%.  All in all, I think his numbers should look similar but with a few more walks as he will continue to walk against righties and swing a little bit less against lefties, like he used to in 2007.

 

 

GEOFF JENKINS

2007 projection: n/a

2007 performance: .255/.319/.471

2008 projection: .277/.343/.494

2008 performance: .246/.301/.392

2009 projection: .250/.307/.387, 7 HR, -2.8 VORP in 280 PA

 

I mistakenly thought Jenkins would rebound in 2008 after a slight decline in 2007.  He simply did not.  His strike zone judgment has deteriorated in 2007-08 after being quite good in 2006, swinging at around 80% of strikes and 30% of balls in the last couple years after just 76% of strikes and 23% of balls in 2006.  He has swung at more pitches despite seeing fewer in the strike zone, though his contact rate has actually gone back up above where it was in 2006 after dropping in 2007.  After putting up an unintentional walk rate of 10.8% in 117 PA in 2006, this has fallen to 4.4% and 4.0% in 71 PA and 25 PA in 2007 and 2008.  His overall walk rate has fallen as well.  While his strikeout rate did go down in 2008, thanks to his higher contact rate, what he did when he made contact was much worse.  His HR/FB% went from 18.3% in 2007 down to 11.1% in 2008, despite playing in an often hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park.  His BABIP fell to .286 after being at .304 in 2007 and even .337 in 2008.  This was true against righties and lefties.  It seems that he has probably just established a new level of performance as all of these numbers all seem to indicate a pattern of decline you might expect from a 34-year old.  I expect more of the same this year, with a slight rebound on BABIP and a stable but low 11% HR/FB.  His walk and strikeout rates will probably increase a little as I don’t expect his contact rate to stay high.  Jenkins, bid on by few teams when he hit free agency, was probably a classic example of the winner’s curse, where the winning bidder only won the auction because he overvalued the good.  Still, that 6th inning Game 5 double was probably worth most of the $13MM he signed for.  The numbers I have projected for him above assume 280 PA.  I hope he will get considerably less, as I hope the Phillies sign Burrell or another real LF next year.  If he does, I expect the at-bats that Jenkins does get will be against pitchers he has a comparative advantage against, as Manuel seems to have a very good beat on which hitters will do well against which pitchers as exemplified by his logic for pinch-hitting Jenkins against Balfour for that famous double.  As a result, if Jenkins gets 100 PA, I would expect him to have somewhat of a reverse “Jeremy Giambi effect” where he might actually have a better OPS than the one listed above, conditional on playing less.

 

 

GREG DOBBS

2007 projection: n/a

2007 performance: .272/.330/.451

2008 projection: .273/.329/.432

2008 performance: .301/.333/.491

2009 projection: .292/.340/.473. 9 HR, 10.1 VORP in 300 PA

 

I did not expect Dobbs to put up the kind of season he did this year.  His contact and swing rate remained the same against pitches in the strike zone, but his contact and swing rate both went up at pitches out of the strike zone.  Inexplicably, his BABIP went up, however, which seems to be going against some of the trends in the data I have observed.  His unintentional walk rate dropped strongly this year—down to 4.2% from 7.1% and his K-rate dropped only slightly from 20.7% to 17.7%.  I expect that both of these numbers will end up somewhere in between this year, while his line drive rate will also fall between his abnormally low 16.3% in 2007 and his abnormally high 24.6% in 2008.  I also think his .860 BABIP on line drives is simply not sustainable—my initial estimates of persistence on this statistic are pretty low, and I expect Dobbs’ linedrive BABIP to fall back to a relatively normal .745 level.  As a result, I expect his overall BABIP to land at about .314—certainly respectable.  I do think his 10.7% HR/FB is pretty much reasonable and expect him to nearly match that in 2009.  An .813 OPS seems a bit high for him to me, but I think I would like to avoid under-projecting him as much as I did this year.

 

 

CHRIS COSTE

2007 projection: .275/.322/.414

2007 performance: .279/.311/.419

2008 projection: .278/.313/.432

2008 performance: .263/.325/.423

2009 projection: .283/.326/.427, 9 HR, 10.1 VORP in 300 PA

 

Coste swung at fewer pitches this year—much fewer.  He swung at 47.6% of pitches in 2008, after swinging at 54.1% in 2007 and 52.7% in 2006.  He actually saw about the same number of pitches in the strike zone, too, so the key was that he was just swinging less.  The result was that he more than doubled his unintentional walk rate (from 2.2% to 5.1%) and actually lowered his strikeout rate (18.6% to 17.0%).  He also increased his line-drive rate from 16.5% to 22.8%.  Noticing this, I was curious why his batting average went down.  Apparently, the answer lies in the .638 batting average on line-drives he had this year.  This is very low.  I thought that perhaps he was actually having a lot of line-drives be called flyballs, but in fact his groundball rate went down by nearly 5% this year.  I’m forced to conclude it was a little bit of bad luck, and I’m projecting a solid .283 average, but a decrease in his walk rate to keep his OBP in the same range.  I also think his power will probably fall off just a little bit.

 

 

ERIC BRUNTLETT

2007 projection: n/a

2007 performance: .246/.346/.283 (and .278/.365/.370 in AAA)

2008 projection: .252/.341/.342

2008 performance: .217/.297/.297

2009 projection: .237/.315/.311, 1 HR, -3.2 VORP in 200 PA

 

Bruntlett hit very poorly on balls in play this year—just .251, mostly due to a .051 BABIP on flyballs.  Of course, much of this was a result of his large spike in infield flyball percentage.  However, he still only hit .064 on outfield flyballs which goes completely against any sense of what’s normal, so I’m projecting his average to go back up a little bit based on that.  Other than that, I’m projecting similar BB and K rates.  He did hit two homeruns and a third in the playoffs this year, but I’m only projecting one for next year.  I tentatively have him 200 at-bats, giving Amaro the benefit of the doubt that he will find a replacement level second basemen if Utley goes down and misses significant time.

 

MATT STAIRS

2007 projection: n/a

2007 performance: .289/.368/.549

2008 projection: n/a

2008 performance: .252/.341/.409

2009 projection: .249/.335/.422, 6 HR, 4.6 VORP in 200 PA

 

Stairs saw similar pitches to 2007 and swung about as frequently.  The most obvious difference was that he missed 25% of the time instead of 22% resulting in an increased K rate (26.7% from 18.5%).  In 2007, he had lowered his K rate by swinging at more pitches, without even lowering his BB rate.  However, his groundball rate went back up this year as his flyball rate and homerun/flyball fell.  I expect a similar year to last year for the most part, with a little increase in slugging from switching leagues despite aging another year.  Stairs is a decent pinch hitter still, and used properly, he can still be valuable.

 

PAT BURRELL (if re-signed):

2007 projection: .256/.381/.492

2007 performance: .256/.400/.502

2008 projection: .263/.395/.498

2008 performance: .250/.367/.507

2009 projection: .258/.389/.501, 30 HR, 37.9 VORP in 620 PA

 

Pat the Bat is a free agent this year, and it remains to be seen whether he will re-sign with the Phillies.  If he does, I expect something similar to the past three years for 2009.  I say that every year, and around the all-star break, I start thinking I was way off and then he ends up about where I projected him.  What was concerning about his aggregate numbers this year was the decrease in walk rate (down to 16.0% from 19.5% in 2007 and 17.5 in 2006).  This stemmed from swinging at 20.1% of pitches out of the strike zone in 2008 after doing so only 14.6% of the time in 2007 and 15.4% in 2006.  He actually had a very low rate of out of strike zone swinging as of mid-August, but in his attempts to get out of his slump, he swung at a lot of bad pitches, worsening his slump.  I’m doubtful that this represents a poorer ability to judge balls and strikes, as he swung at many more pitches in the strike zone as well.  I am guessing he swings at fewer pitches next year and that his walk rate goes back up.  As he is a little older and his groundball rate is slightly starting to increase, I think his power may fall off a tiny bit, but I still am projecting 30 homeruns for him.  I also think his .271 BABIP is an anomaly, especially since it was based on a relatively low batting average on line-drives in play (which, as I mentioned a little earlier, seems to have lower persistence than BABIP on flyballs and groundballs), and I’m projecting his overall BABIP finds its way back to about .285 next year.  As a result, I think another season a little under .900 OPS sounds about right.

 

 

COLE HAMELS

2007 projection: 185.0 IP, 3.89 ERA, 3.10 BB/9, 9.0 K/9, 1.23 HR/9, 39.3 VORP

2007 performance: 183.3 IP, 3.39 ERA, 2.11 BB/9, 8.69 K/9, 1.23 HR/9, 48.8 VORP

2008 projection: 196.0 IP, 3.49 ERA, 2.11 BB/9, 8.22 K/9, 1.19 HR/9, 52.1 VORP

2008 performance: 227.3 IP, 3.09 ERA, 2.10 BB/9, 7.74 K/9, 1.11 HR/9, 56.3 VORP

2009 projection: 206 IP, 3.45 ERA, 2.05 BB/9, 8.04 K/9, 1.22 HR/9, 50.3 VORP

 

I have assumed Cole will miss a couple starts in 2009.  Obviously, he may miss none or he may miss several, but I’m approximating this by assuming he misses a couple.  Even still, with his increased efficiency in retiring batters in fewer pitches as he gets older, I still think he should throw over 200 innings.  Within that, he clearly seems to have established a walk rate around two batters per nine innings, which is even more impressive considering a decent number of those are intentional.  He did not strike out as many batters in 2008, a decline partly exaggerated by his K/9 numbers since his BABIP was so low.  With a career BABIP now at .275, I think that Cole probably has some ability to actually defy the DIPS theory on BABIP, as the probability (p-stat) for his BABIP being equal to the league average of about .300 creeps below 5%.  Why is this?  I am not sure.  I think Hamels probably pitches in a small park, which has some effect since it’s easier for a defense to cover more ground in a small park, and Cole pounds the strike zone—throwing more than 2/3 of pitches for strikes—thereby getting ahead in the count, which is when BABIP is lowest.  I think Cole’s K rate will likely inch back up a little this year, as his rate was much higher in 2006 and 2007.  I also think his homerun numbers will go up, as his flyball rate was the same in 2007 and 2008, but as CBP played more neutrally this year, his HR/FB% fell from 12.5 and 12.8 in 2006 and 2007 down to 11.2 in 2008.  I don’t think the causes for CBP’s neutrality are all that likely to persist (assuming it was just weather…I have no idea how to project the weather or anything that people find out 24 hours later whether you were right), so I’m guessing his HR/FB goes back up to 12.5%.  As a result of these peripherals, I think his ERA goes back up to a more reasonable 3.45 ERA, which is still probably better than I would project nearly every other pitcher in the league.  If the Phillies are careful managing his health, there is nothing in these numbers indicating that Cole Hamels can be stopped.

 

 

BRETT MYERS

2007 projection: 215 IP, 3.85 ERA, 2.8 BB/9, 8.4 K/9, 1.28 HR/9, 45.3 VORP

2007 performance: 68.7 IP, 4.33 ERA, 3.5 BB/9, 10.9 K/9, 1.18 HR/9, 12.2 VORP

2008 projection: 190 IP, 3.84 ERA, 3.7 BB/9, 9.6 K/9, 1.04 HR/9, 40.7 VORP

2008 performance: 190 IP, 4.55 ERA, 3.1 BB/9, 7.7 K/9, 1.30 HR/9, 19.3 VORP

2009 projection: 190.7 IP, 4.11 ERA, 3.0 BB/9, 8.1 K/9, 1.13 HR/9, 35.1 VORP

 

I have been notoriously bullish on Brett Myers.  I am projecting him somewhere in between where I have been projecting him and where he has been performing this year.  His movement back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen has made projecting him rather difficult.  Last year when he was about to be sent to the minors, I wrote a long piece explaining what was going wrong.  The main issues were his struggles with homeruns, particularly on the road and in the first inning.  He was able to strongly control his homeruns when he returned from the minors, both in that his groundball rate was higher afterwards and his HR/FB rate went way down.  Myers’ peripherals—his groundball rate, his strikeout rate, and his walk rate—indicate he is a clear number two starter, if not a weak ace.  Instead, he has not performed at that level in the last couple years (though in 2005-2006, he did perform approximately at this level).  I am assuming that his BABIP lands at about .300, and I’m predicting that his K rate goes up slightly towards his level in recent years, and his BB rate stays around league average.  I do think he will give up fewer flyballs, simply because I do not think pitchers have that much of an effect on HR/FB in the long run.  I think that there is a reason pitchers go through spells where their BABIP and HR/FB numbers do deviate from normal, and I do think the pitchers are often doing things that cause this.  However, I think the kinds of causes for this are things that pitching coaches can always help them remedy.  A pitching coach can teach a pitcher to stop throwing the same pitch in the same count, or to start pitching to a certain location more often.  However, a pitching coach can’t teach any pitcher to throw a pitch that misses bats or hits their bats at an angle and speed that causes groundballs.  So, with this weakened version of DIPS that I have in mind, I’m assuming that he keeps a steady BABIP and a CBP-adjusted normal HR/FB, and that results in an ERA above league average and a decent reliable yearlong performance, even if he’s a bit streaky throughout the year.

 

JOE BLANTON

2007 projection: n/a

2007 performance: 230 IP, 3.95 ERA, 1.6 BB/9, 5.5 K/9, 0.63 HR/9, 46.3 VORP

2008 projection: 211 IP, 4.69 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 5.4 K/9, 1.32 HR/9, 23.7 VORP

2008 performance: 197.7 IP, 4.69 ERA, 3.0 BB/9, 5.0 K/9, 1.00 HR/9, 16.2 VORP

2009 projection: 197.3 IP, 4.83 ERA, 2.8 BB/9, 5.7 K/9, 1.32 HR/9, 19.6 VORP

 

I boldly project a decrease in World Series homerun total for Joe Blanton next year.  I should note that the numbers that I had projected in 2007 for Joe Blanton were conditional on if he were traded to the Phillies, so it’s probably not a big deal that I hit the ERA head on as I was expecting him to do better than he did when you adjust for park and league effects.  I obviously have a soft spot for Joe Blanton after his World Series performance, but I still do not think a contact pitcher is best suited for CBP, especially one with middling groundball rates.  Blanton actually had poorer groundball rates with the Phillies than he did with the A’s, and I’m willing to believe that his arm soreness in the last couple months of the season might have been the cause of this.  He certainly had trouble finding the strike zone more in Philadelphia than in Oakland.  I’m predicting league-adjusted similar peripherals to the ones he had with the A’s, expecting another year of low walk and strikeout rates, with some homerun difficulties leading to a slightly below average league ERA.  However, that still is valuable, just maybe not good enough for a third starter on a contender.

 

 

JAMIE MOYER (if re-signed)

2007 projection: 185 IP, 4.86 ERA, 2.5 BB/9, 4.5 K/9, 1.48 HR/9, 15.3 VORP

2007 performance: 199 IP, 5.01 ERA, 3.0 BB/9, 5.7 K/9, 1.55 HR/9, 15.5 VORP

2008 projection: 192 IP, 4.97 ERA, 2.6 BB/9, 4.9 K/9, 1.55 HR/9, 15.0 VORP

2008 performance: 196.3 IP, 3.71 ERA, 2.8 BB/9, 5.5 K/9, 1.15 HR/9, 40.3 VORP

2009 projection: 200.3 IP, 5.08 ERA, 3.0 BB/9, 5.4 K/9, 1.39 HR/9, 7.9 VORP

 

Moyer did slightly improve his groundball rate this year from 39.4% to 43.9%, which is a statistically significant difference from his career groundball rate.  This does not seem to be noise at all, as Moyer used his cutter much more this year than last and threw his changeup and curveball distinctly less.  I am not sure exactly what kind of spins these pitches have or how likely they are to cause groundballs, but whatever he is doing differently, it seems to be having an effect.  For that reason, I’m inclined to think his groundball rate should stay pretty low, and I’m guessing 42%.  However, the biggest reason that Moyer managed to defy age this year putting up his 3.71 ERA was 9.05% HR/FB.  This number should have been much higher, accounting for about 6 or 7 more homeruns if CBP had played like it usually did and he had been less lucky, which would have lead to about 10 more runs and an ERA about a half run higher.  He also did far better with runners on base than with bases empty—which is not a tendency he has in recent years at all, which probably also decreased his ERA a little further.  Perhaps even more significantly, he gave up 17 fewer doubles this year than last on about the same number of balls in play.  I do not know much about pitcher persistence in giving up doubles, but given that BABIP fluctuates a lot, I do not know that it’s reasonable to expect him to continue this.  Still, with a lower groundball rate, it does seem possible he could limit his doubles a little bit.  All in all, Jamie Moyer is still going to be 46, and while I keep begin wrong thinking that he is finished, I am projecting an ERA around 5 for him.  I still think that could be somewhat valuable, but it’s probably not the end of the world if he does not re-sign, and it’s probably not wise to give type A free agent pitcher a year removed from a 5.01 ERA a two-year deal.  I think it’s highly likely that he does come back next year, however, and so I am projecting him as a Phillie for these numbers to see how that might go.

 

 

J.A. HAPP: (if kept on MLB roster all year)

2007 projection: n/a

2007 performance: 4 IP, 11.3 ERA in MLB, 118.3 IP, 5.02 ERA in AAA

2008 projection: n/a

2008 performance: 31.7 IP, 3.69 ERA, 26/14 K/BB in MLB, 135 IP, 3.60 ERA, 151/48 K/BB in AAA

2009 projection: 171.3 IP, 4.83 ERA, 3.9 BB/9, 7.4 K/9, 1.52 HR/9, 16.2 VORP

 

Without being very knowledgeable about minor league equivalents, it is hard for me to project J.A. Happ.  So this projection is best done by someone who knows minor leaguers or MLEs better, but I figured I should try it, as he is likely to get some starts next year, if not be the opening roster 5th man in the rotation.  Happ does seem to strike out a lot of batters.  It seems like 10 K/9 in AAA correlated more or less with 7-8 K/9 in MLB, and given that Happ did put up a 10.1 K/9 in AAA and a 7.4. K/9 in MLB, I think that repeating about 7.4 K/9 as growing with age and regression towards the mean probably cancel out, and given his walk tendencies, I think about 3.9 BB/9 would be reasonable.  I’m projecting a .290 BABIP for him, with a high homerun total, since he has some flyball tendencies in a small park that does not favor lefthanded pitchers very well.  Mixing together a 35% GB rate to approximate these numbers (it was about 31% this year in his brief major league stint), that seems to correspond to an ERA about 4.83.  That can definitely be valuable for league minimum and I think it makes Happ a decent way to round out the rotation next year.

 

 

KYLE KENDRICK: (if kept on MLB roster all year)

2007 projection: n/a

2007 performance: 121 IP, 3.87 ERA, 1.9 BB/9, 3.6 K/9, 1.19 HR/9, 27.1 VORP

2008 projection: 183 IP, 4.37 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 4.0 K/9, 1.18 HR/9, 26.4 VORP

2008 performance: 155.7 IP, 5.49 ERA, 3.3 BB/9, 3.9 K/9, 1.33 HR/9, -2.9 VORP

2009 projection: 180 IP, 5.60 ERA, 3.0 BB/9, 3.8 K/9, 1.25 HR/9, -1.0 VORP

 

Kyle Kendrick taught me a valuable lesson about pitcher projection—I need rely more on other measures of expected runs other than historical tendencies.  For Kendrick, I pretty much assumed that his BB and K rates would move towards the mean a little, and that his groundball rate would stay about where it was.  Then I adjusted his ERA based on that and moved that towards the mean as well.  This is clearly a poor way to do pitcher projection, as evidenced by my non-horrible guesses at peripheral values matching with my horrible ERA guess which lowered my overall numbers at projecting pitchers considerably compared to computer systems like PECOTA and ZIPS which were very bearish on him.  This year, I am using a runs created formula as well as FIP and QERA more to guess ERA’s and so I hope to match up his ERA a good deal better.  I actually would prefer he not pitch for the Phillies at all this year, as he clearly showed this year that he does not have major league stuff—something his peripherals showed beforehand.  Striking out less than 1 out of every 10 hitters you face is simply not useful against teams that hit the ball hard when they make contact.  It does not help you much against any major league teams, and especially leaves you vulnerable against elite teams.  One of the reasons that I suspect pitching K-rate to be strongly correlated with overall playoff success for a team is precisely that—missing bats is a pitcher and hitter skill, hitting them well once you do make contact is mostly a hitter skill.  There is no reason to think that a pitcher who now has demonstrated that he cannot avoid walks is magically going to turn into elite pitcher if he cannot strike people out or serve up pitches that turn into groundballs most of the time.  Kendrick threw only 61.2% of his pitches for strikes this year, certainly worse than the 63.6% from 2007, but this lead to nearly twice the walk rate as hitters learned how to approach Kendrick better.  Kendrick may have a shot to reclaim his rotation spot in Spring Training but short of a little BABIP luck with runners on (as he had in 2007), he probably won’t get it or keep it for long.

 

 

BRAD LIDGE

2007 projection: 3.10 ERA

2007 performance: 67 IP, 3.36 ERA, 4.0 BB/9, 11.8 K/9, 1.21 HR/9, 15.0 VORP

2008 projection: 70 IP, 3.60 ERA, 3.9 BB/9, 11.4 K/9, 1.29 HR/9, 15.7 VORP

2008 performance: 69.3 IP, 1.95 ERA, 4.5 BB/9, 12.0 K/9, 0.21 HR/9, 26.7 VORP

2009 projection: 67.7 IP, 3.19 ERA, 4.4 BB/9, 12.1 K/9, 0.93 HR/9, 18.1 VORP

 

It is pretty clear that Lidge performed better this year, and most of this was luck.  He struck out and walked about the same number of people that he did before, further demonstrated by his similar ratio of strikes to balls.  He also did about the same on balls in play as well (.298 in 2007 and .300 in 2008).  What was different?  His HR/FB (13.2% in 2007 and 3.9% in 2008) and his groundball rate (42.4% in 2007 and 46.2% in 2008).  Lidge says that he was tipping his pitches beforehand, but 3.9% HR/FB is abnormal and unlikely to be maintained.  Initially, I thought his groundball rate was a bit of a fluke too—3.8% difference is not large with so few balls in play—but Lidge clearly changed his pitch selection in 2008, throwing 58% fastballs, 36% sliders, 5% Changeups in 2007 and then adjusting that to about 43% fastballs and 56% sliders in 2008.  As he was ahead in the count no more often in 2008 than in 2007, it seems like Lidge throwing more sliders led to a higher groundball rate and perhaps was the cause for his slightly higher walk and strikeout totals—more swings and misses means deeper counts.  I expect him to walk and strikeout just about the same number of batters this coming year, but with more homeruns.  Still, I do not expect his homerun total to climb back to where it was in 2007 and certainly not in 2006, so his ERA should settle in the low 3’s.  I don’t project saves and blown saves, but I do project that if Lidge blows a save this year after a perfect 0 blown save season, I will forgive him, but not as much as I should. 

 

 

RYAN MADSON

2007 projection: 88 IP, 4.70 ERA, 3.0 BB/9, 6.8 K/9, 1.20 HR/9, 9.7 VORP

2007 performance: 56 IP, 3.05 ERA, 3.7 BB/9, 6.9 K/9, 0.80 HR/9, 17.7 VORP

2008 projection: 60 IP, 4.25 ERA, 3.4 BB/9, 7.2 K/9, 1.09 HR/9, 13.1 VORP

2008 performance: 82.7 IP, 3.05 ERA, 2.5 BB/9, 7.3 K/9, 0.65 HR/9, 23.3 VORP

2009 projection: 80.3 IP, 4.26 ERA, 2.9 BB/9, 7.5 K/9, 1.12 HR/9, 13.6 VORP

 

Ryan Madson has twice over-performed my projection for him by a full run after disappointing my expectations for him as a starter in 2006.  This year, I still am projecting a good season out of him, but I think that he will probably give up a fewer more hits on balls in play.  He gives up a lot of groundballs, which is good for avoiding homeruns, but makes it harder to maintain a solid BABIP.  I think that should regress this year and then his homerun totals should go back up as 8.2% HR/FB is just not reliable.  As that goes back up and his hits on balls in play go back up, I think his ERA should rise above 4…but I say that every year.

 

 

J.C. ROMERO

2007 projection: n/a

2007 performance: 56.7 IP, 1.91 ERA, 6.4 BB/9, 6.7 K/9, 0.48 HR/9, 25.5 VORP

2008 projection: 70 IP, 4.19 ERA, 6.0 BB/9, 6.7 K/9, 0.84 HR/9, 9.8 VORP

2008 performance: 59 IP, 2.75 ERA, 5.8 BB/9, 7.9 K/9, 0.76 HR/9, 19.3 VORP

2009 projection: 59.7 IP, 3.62 ERA, 5.4 BB/9, 7.2 K/9, 0.60 HR/9, 14.8 VORP

 

Romero has put up a couple of solid seasons for the Phillies.  However, his performances were exaggerated by his ERA as he frequently entered innings with outs already recorded, lowering his chances of giving up earned runs.  This is a good way to use Romero, who has a very high walk rate and a very groundball rate.  It contributes to high OBP—a larger problem earlier in the innings, and low SLG—a larger benefit late in innings.  The result is a pitcher who, if used effectively, can be of definite value.  This year, I do expect his ERA to come back up, but he still should have the opportunity to strike out a lot of left handed hitters.  I don’t think he will strike out as many batters as he did this past year, but he should still strike out a good number.  I also think his walk rate may decline a little towards the mean as well.  With his consistently high groundball rate, homeruns should be kept to a minimum, resulting in a decent ERA again.

 

 

CHAD DURBIN

2007 projection: n/a

2007 performance: 127.7 IP, 4.72 ERA, 3.4 BB/9, 4.6 K/9, 1.48 HR/9, 13.5 VORP

2008 projection: 136 IP, 5.10 ERA, 3.4 BB/9, 4.9 K/9, 1.52 HR/9, 6.7 VORP

2008 performance: 87.7 IP, 2.87 ERA, 3.6 BB/9, 6.5 K/9, 0.51 HR/9, 22.5 VORP

2009 projection: 74.7 IP, 4.70 ERA, 3.6 BB/9, 5.8 K/9, 1.21 HR/9, 8.8 VORP

 

Chad Durbin definitely had a better year this year than last.  However, I do not expect him to maintain that performance.  While he certainly elevated his K and BB rates, mostly owing to the fact that he used his slider more than twice as much in 2008 as in 2007, he was also aided by an unmaintainably low 5.88% HR/FB, which is likely to rise this year.  I do have him projected to continue striking out (and walking, as a result of the more swings and misses, and more deep counts) more hitters in 2009 than he used to, but with some regression back towards where he was before 2008.  Durbin had a streak of dominance in the beginning and middle of the year, where I believe hitters were adjusting to him, but as they noticed that when he threw fewer fastballs, he also threw fewer strikes (down from 61.6% strikes in 2007 to 59.6% in 2008) and laid off the sliders a little more, he lost a bit of his success. 

 

 

SCOTT EYRE

2007 projection: n/a

2007 performance: 52.3 IP, 4.13 ERA, 6.0 BB/9, 7.7 K/9, 0.52 HR/9, 8.7 VORP

2008 projection: n/a

2008 performance: 25.7 IP, 4.21 ERA, 2.4 BB/9, 11.2 K/9, 0.70 HR/9, 4.1 VORP

2009 projection: 58 IP, 3.72 ERA, 3.6 BB/9, 9.6 K/9, 1.09 HR/9, 9.7 VORP

 

Eyre has always had a pretty large platoon split, striking out many lefthanded hitters, walking few, and failing to do the same against righties.  This year, I suspect he will see mostly lefthanded hitters, and so I think his numbers should look pretty good.  It is difficult to gauge exactly where he is right now.  He is 37 years old, and threw barely 25 innings last year between Philadelphia and Chicago.  However, I think the performance I have projected above seems in line with his skill level.  I do not think he will strike out quite as many hitters this year as last, but he should still strike out many.  He also walked far fewer hitters than usual this year, and I am projecting that to return to normal as well.  However, as many of the runs he gave up this year seemed to draw from some bad luck in Chicago, I think it’s not unreasonable to project declining peripherals with an improved ERA.

 

 

CLAY CONDREY

2007 projection: 60 IP, 4.35 ERA, 2.8 BB/9, 4.6 K/9, 0.95 HR/9, 7.0 VORP

2007 performance: 50 IP, 5.04 ERA, 2.9 BB/9, 4.9 K/9, 1.08 HR/9

2008 projection: 60.7 IP, 4.30 ERA, 2.9 BB/9, 5.0 K/9, 1.04 HR/9, 2.9 VORP

2008 performance: 56 IP, 3.26 ERA, 2.5 BB/9, 4.4 K/9, 0.78 HR/9, 17.5 VORP

2009 projection: 70 IP, 4.89 ERA, 2.4 BB/9, 4.1 K/9, 1.29 HR/9, 3.3 VORP

 

Condrey significantly improved his performance this year by cutting down on the walks.  He threw 64% of pitches for strikes, way up from 61.4% in 2007.  He was able to strike out about as many batters too.  Condrey had some bad luck with balls in play, but seemed to avoid major problems just enough (in addition to entering enough innings with outs already recorded) that his ERA belied his performance.  Fortunately, this seemed obvious enough to Charlie Manuel who did not use him in high leverage situations despite his misleadingly low ERA.  I think he will continue to keep his walk totals down, but as hitters start to adjust, his K rate will fall further.  His HR/FB rate should also rise as well, like many Phillies’ relievers who seemed to benefit from a bit of good luck and a bit of temporary hitter/pitcher neutrality in CBP.  He won’t be ineffective altogether, but I don’t see much more than innings eating out of Condrey in 2009.

 

 

All in all, the World Series Champions seem to be in a good position to compete again.  The offense, if they re-sign Burrell seems like it could score over 900 runs and without him, should score about 865-870.  The pitching, while obviously unlikely to succeed as much next year, should still be in a position to allow around 785-790 runs, and maybe 775-780 if they re-sign Moyer.  Without re-signing anybody, this team should still be good enough to win about 88 or 89 games, and if they add on Moyer and Burrell, or at least spend the same amount of money on comparable free agents, they will probably be good enough to even win 92 games again.  Don’t take that lightly—I projected 88.7 wins in 2007 (they won 89), and 92.9 wins in 2008 (they won 92).  I can’t project playoff performance, but at least the Phillies do seem to be in a very good position to take a shot at their third straight division…something I never would have predicted.