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The PhilRockBacks, A Path to the Playoffs

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Phillies quick fix: Buy the Rockies and Diamondbacks, despite what Dave Cameron says

Jamming together a bunch of rosters makes it easy to field a good team
Jamming together a bunch of rosters makes it easy to field a good team
Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

As everyone who hasn't been in a three year hibernation knows, the Phillies are going to be very bad this season. They're fielding a potentially historically awful opening day outfield, and their pitching staff consists of Cole Hamels and prayers for four days of fire and brimstone. The only question is how bad will they be? They're going to have some stiff competition in the cellar sweepstakes, as there are some other truly very bad teams. The Braves are likely to be in the hunt, as are the Rockies and Diamondbacks.

Yesterday, in his weekly Fangraphs chat, Dave Cameron acknowledged as much, and said he didn't think the Phillies could make the playoffs even if they combined with the Rockies and Diamondbacks.

Cameron Chat Cap

Reading that I my initial reaction was, "Oh god why am I reading another Dave Cameron chat?" The reason, it turns out, is because I'm unhealthily attached to baseball. As are you, off-season reader of a blog dedicated to an awful team. Join the party. The second thing that ran through my head was, "That can't be right, can it‽"

While it might be fun to say something along the lines of, "Hah, Cameron's a turd floating in the baseball analytics punchbowl, let's all laugh at him!" it's not a particularly persuasive argument, nor is it a very nice thing to do, so I decided not do that and instead see if we can't get a rough estimate at how a hybrid Phillies/Diamondbacks/Rockies franchise (The Philrockbacks? DiamondPhilRocks?) might fare this season.

Methodology: The Average score for starting position players is the average of all publicly available fWAR projections on Fangraphs' site. The average score for pitchers is my somewhere between recent and career high and low rWAR, mostly because I prefer to use actual results for pitcher performance, rather than DIPS theoretical results as incorporated by fWAR. The Low estimates are based on recent season/career lows provided the player has played a majority of the season. High estimates are based on recent/career high numbers, or recent numbers extrapolated to a reasonable number of games. (For example, Tulo's 2014 pace extrapolated to 140 games would put him at 8.5 WAR; possible, but not likely attainable, as he's never posted more than 5.6 fWAR over any one season, so I say he's got a High potential of ~6 WAR). In other words, they're estimates based on what I consider to be realistic optimistic or pessimistic scenarios.

We'll start with the infield, and oh what an infield that would be:

Low

Average*

High

First Base (L)

Paul Goldschmidt

4.0

5.0

6.5

Second Base (L)

Chase Utley

3.5

3.0

4.5

Shortstop (R)

Troy Tulowitzki

4.0

5.2

6.0+

Third Base (R)

Nolan Arenado

2.5

3.7

5.0

Catcher (R)

Carlos Ruiz

1.5

2.5

3.5

15.5

19.4

25.5

The outfield ends up being a little less star studded than the infield, but it's nothing to shake a stick at. I've tried to make the OF good defensively, which is why I didn't slide CarGo into center and stick a poor defensive, moderate hitter in a corner.

Low

Average*

High

Left field (L)

Carlos Gonzalez

1.0

2.1

5.0

Center field (L)

Ender Inciarte

0.5

1.3

3.5

Right field (R)

AJ Pollock

2.0

3.1

4.5

3.5

6.5

13

At this point, before we even get to the bullpen, rotation and bench, the optimistic scenario gives us 38 wins above replacement, enough for an 86 win team, if everything else on the club were to be replacement level. Moving on.

The rotation is a bit of a mess, because these teams have Cole Hamels and then a lot of stinky major league pitchers (though a few intriguing minor league options do exist; we'll slot those fellas into the SP5 role. If you've got minor league options the BackPhilRocks are going to use ‘em).

Low

Average*

High

SP1

Cole Hamels

4.0

4.5

6.5

SP2

Jorge De La Rosa

1.0

2.0

4.0

SP3

Josh Collmenter

1.0

1.5

2.5

SP4

Tyler Matzek

0.5

1.5

2.5

SP5

Jon Gray/ Aaron Nola/ Archie Bradley/Eddie Butler

1.0

2.0

4.0

6.5

11.5

19.5

One of the real areas where a team like this can shine, aside from the infield, obviously, is depth areas of the bullpen and bench. With so many good players to choose from you can construct a really strong bench, something most teams cannot or do not do, either because it's too expensive or because good players just don't want to sign with teams that relegate them to the bench. Blackmon, for example, was an All Star last season. He's a bench player on this club.

Low

Average

High

C (R)

Wilin Rosario

0

0.5

1.0

IF  (R)

Chris Owings

0.5

1.0

2.0

LF/CF/RF (L)

Charlie Blackmon

0.5

1.0

1.5

LF/CF/RF (L)

Ben Revere

0

0.5

1.0

DH/LF/RF/1B

Howard/Trumbo/Tomas

0

0.5

1.5

1.0

3.5

7.0

Bullpen:

Low

Average

High

CP

Jonathan Papelbon (RHP)

.5

1.0

2.0

SU 1

Ken Giles (RHP)

0.5

1.0

1.5

SU 2

Rex Brothers (LHP)

0.0

0.5

1.0

RP 3

Adam Ottavino RHP)

0.0

0.5

1.0

RP 4

Addison Reed (RHP)

0.0

0.5

1.0

RP 5

Ziegler/Diekman

0.0

0.25

0.5

Long man

Harang/Kendrick

0.0

0.25

0.5

1.0

4

7.5

You can substitute here and there as you deem necessary, but overall this seems like as good a roster as any when putting together a team from all three franchises. You've got a ton of offense, a very speedy outfield that is quite good defensively, and a fast and, aside from Ben Revere, potent bench. There are a lot of established strong arms in the pen, and only the rotation is a mess, but even there, there's a lot of upside. Add up all the wins and you get this:

Low

Average

High

Starting RL Wins

47.7

47.7

47.7

IF

15.5

19.4

25.5

OF

3.5

6.5

13.0

SP

6.5

11.5

19.5

Bench

1.0

3.5

7.0

Bullpen

1.0

4.0

7.5

Total:

75.2

92.6

120.2(!)

This team, because of its peculiar composition of superstars with scary injury histories, has a wide range of possible outcomes. In reality, the team wouldn't be very likely to approach the low end, because if one player becomes injured or under-performs there's enough depth for this hybrid club to fill in that roster position with a player who won't be a huge downgrade. If, for example, CarGo grows another octopus in his hand someone like Blackmon will get more playing time, upping the average contribution from the starting LF position. That dynamic will work throughout the roster.

Similarly, the high end of 120 wins is not achievable, not only because the odds that Tulo, Cargo, Utley, Ruiz, etc. all stay completely healthy are miniscule, but also because if that does miraculously occur, bench players' maximum contributions will in turn be decreased. The same is true for the pitchers. The better the rotation performs, the less likely the bullpen is to contribute their high-end estimates.

So we're looking at a tighter range than 75 to 120 wins, but the average of 92.6 probably gives us a pretty good estimate of where you might expect this team to fall, +/- a few wins on either side, of course (though, with the depth this club has, I'm tempted to say they'd be more likely to equal or outperform than under perform drastically). The last 92-win team to miss the playoffs was the 2005 93-win Cleveland Indians. In the era of two wildcards I'm not sure we're likely to see a 92-win team miss the playoffs again. Thirteen-hundred words, five embedded charts, one screenshot and 24 hours later, we can now laugh at Cameron's hyperbolic throwaway statement with great confidence! Ha, Cameron, what were you thinking with such a scorching #hottake! And now we know how the Phillies can make the playoffs this year: Just buy the Rockies and Diamondbacks!

The cost for this juggernaut? Well, technically it would be the combined payroll of those the three teams, or something like $333,000,000. But if you just want to pay the starting 25, you get a much more reasonable number. Before considering that last corner OF/1B/DH bench spot, we're near a combined $147,000,000 for everyone, including all players listed in any one positional slot (Harang and Kendrick, for example, cost ~$10 M together, the rookie SP5 jamboree costs ~$2 M, combined). Add in that last DH spot, and that $147 M jumps to $180 M, mostly because of you know who. That's actually not too bad for a team with this many all-star caliber players on it, and one that's nearly guaranteed to make the playoffs.