While the blog is not officially retired, it more or less is. I write a lot of stuff on Twitter these days (follow me @reclinergm) but simply don’t have the time to maintain the blog here full time for a variety of reasons.
HOWEVER… I do plan on occasionally posting longer stuff here that doesn’t really fit in 140 characters. This blog was originally created because I do stuff like this on my own all the time and thought others might find it interesting. I will continue to do that once a month or so. So sign up for the e-mail alerts if you have interest.
Recently, I’ve been trying to dissect the Phillies 2012 campaign and figure out what I think they should do in the off-season. To do that, we first have to establish what went wrong… Below is a simple chart that compares the 2011, 102-win-version to the 2012, 81-win-model. As is usually the case for me, I’m going to start with WAR. And if you are still skeptical of the value of WAR as a stat, take a look at the team total for 2011 vs. 2012. Phillies team WAR was 21.8 lower in 2012. Their actual win total was 21 less. Not a perfect stat but that’s not a coincidence.
Here is the comparison (it’s comprehensive, obviously. I accounted for every player). I will summarize the main points at the end.
For all the talk about what went wrong with the Phillies – it seems like there is really one thing that played, by far, the biggest part. Roy Halladay’s ongoing health issues and drop in performance was the single biggest problem for the team as he was worth almost 8 full wins less than 2011. 8 WAR is a huge number for a pitcher for a single-season, let alone a season-to-season drop. I wasn’t expecting him to duplicate 2011, but for him to turn into basically a replacement level pitcher might have been the difference between a .500 record and 90 wins.
The rest of the rotation declined, but not necessarily in surprising fashion. Both Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee had excellent seasons but dropped from 2011 and Vance Worley very predictably couldn’t duplicate his 2011 season. The 22.8 win drop in the Phillies pitching is as much an indication of just how historically good they were in 2011 as how underwhelming they were in 2012. But if you want a top-level idea of why the Phillies floundered in 2012, the answer is “they had the possibly best rotation in baseball history in 2011, and didn’t in 2012, and nothing filled in the gap.”
The bullpen was among the areas that didn’t fill in that gap. It wasn’t great in 2011, but was still over 4 wins worse in 2012. The only holdover was Papelbon filling in nicely for Madson’s great 2011. Bastardo’s strange year hurt.
The offense was actually better in 2012, but this was in large part due to the amazing season of Carlos Ruiz (+1.8 wins) and the unlikely bench contributions of Juan Pierre, Erik Kratz, Kevin Frandsen and others. Even single opening day regular besides Ruiz performed worse in 2012 with the biggest issues being a-still-hobbled Howard, Victorino and Pence.
The offensive bench saved this team. The ‘regular bench’ and ‘other hitters’ categories had a 6.3 win improvement over 2011. With 2011′s horrible bench, we are a 75-win team.
Don’t mistake the offense ‘improving’ over 2011 as a sign that it is OK. The offense wasn’t great in 2011 either. For a reference point, in our offensive hey-day (2006-2009), our offense WAR for the team averaged 26.2, more than 10 wins better than either of the last two seasons.
So how do we fix this?
Let’s start with some housekeeping items…
Decline the options on Ty Wigginton, Placido Polanco and Jose Contreras
Non-tender Nate Schierholtz and Michael Martinez
Do NOT trade Cliff Lee. Your bad contracts are Howard and Papelbon, NOT the guy who just pitched 440+ innings at a sub-3 ERA over the last two seasons for you. Cut it out.
Do NOT trade Jimmy Rollins. He’s still a top-5 SS and a consistant 2-3 win player. Freddy Galvis CANNOT hit. I repeat, Freddy Galvis CANNOT hit.
And some in-house improvements
Actually find out what is wrong with Roy Halladay and do everything you can to have him healthy for Spring Training. Maybe have him talk to his buddy Chris Carpenter who is on his 2nd or 3rd “back from the dead” routine.
Figure out whatever Utley did starting in April and have him start it in February. He was excellent once he got on the field.
Have Ryan Howard talk to David Ortiz and find out how he can be an effective player into his 30′s.
See if Darin Ruf can play a serviceable OF. He’s not the savior, but he might be a cheap starting option.
Getting Halladay right, having Utley for a full season, and turning Howard around could be 8-9 win swing on it’s own. But I have my doubts about all three.
And now… what would the ideal off-season look like?
First and foremost, RAJ not making a panic signing and overpaying greatly. We have no more room for bad contracts. As you will see below, there are plenty of options out there in our areas of need with the exception of 3B.
Second, more Gillick-y moves like the Juan Pierre pick-up last year. No, it’s not easy to do, but getting 2 WAR value from a 1-year small contract is INCREDIBLY valuable. Juan Pierre was just as valuable to the Phillies this year as Jonathan Papelbon.
Getting into specifics, there are 3 main areas the Phillies need to focus: 3B, OF and RP.
At 3B, a trade for Chase Headley is a pipe dream, but I’ll never rule anything out. The best FA option/fit is Kevin Youkilis. Could we get him on a shorter deal? Would he need 3 years? I’d love Scott Rolen on a 1-year stop-gap, but I think we’ve burned that bridge. After that, it’s really nothing, though. Could Frandsen be a 1-year stopgap with the hopes that Cody Asche can do it in 2014? Could they sign Eric Chavez and platoon?
OF has tons of options. Here they are as I see them…
Very expensive – Josh Hamilton Potenitally very expensive – Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher Not going anywhere, sorry – Torii Hunter, Ichiro (retirement?) Expensive? – BJ Upton, Shane Victorino Bargain Buys (Starters) – Angel Pagan, Melky Cabrera, Cody Ross Bargain Buys (Platoons) – Johnny Gomes, Ryan Ludwick, Scott Hariston, Reed Johnson, Andruw Jones, Luke Scott, Rick Ankiel No thank you – Carlos Lee, Delmon Young
I would be open to any depending on the price and length of deal. If you are looking for value, Angel Pagan or a something-to-prove Melky Cabrera on a 1 year deal look nice to me. Pagan is severely underrated and has a WAR over 4 in three of the last four seasons. He can play CF and would be similar to Victorino in terms of production. Melky might be primed for an Adrian Beltre with the Red Sox type deals. 1 year to prove he can play w/o PEDs (In Beltre’s case, it was health-related). If that’s on the table, I’m taking it.
Michael Bourn is the best player of this group, but I have no idea what his market value is. It all depends on the price for guys like him, Swisher and BJ Upton. There are enough good options here that you can be patient.
The A’s showed how valuable a good platoon can be if used correctly this year. All those guys in the platoon category should be options regardless of what happens with the others.
As for the relief options – Papelbon, Bastardo and Lindblom are the only locks for ‘pen. I think that between Horst, Diekman, Stutes, Aumont, Schwimer and De Fratus you can add 2-3 more. What they really need is an 8th inning guy with experience who will let the young guys fight it out for the 7th inning and beyond. Here’s how I would break down to FA options for relivers.
Too expensive, should have signed last year: Fernando Rodney Probably better than you think: Matt Belisle, Casey Janssen, Sean Burnett, Joel Peralta Reliable, not dominant: Jeremy Affeldt, Jamey Wright Injury comebacks: Mike Adams, Ryan Madson Too old?: Darren Oliver, Rafael Betancourt, Octavio Dotel, Jose Valverde Too fluky?: Jason Grilli Former closers with good 2012′s: Jonathan Broxton, Matt Lindstrom, Brandon Lyon, Brandon League
Again it comes down price. There are a lot of decent options here, and RAJ shouldn’t have to overpay. Unfortunetly, I don’t see a ton of no-risk, 8th inning guys. Rodney will be a closer somewhere. Janssen might as well. Adams and Madson make a lot of sense, but are both coming off injuries. The Phillies have flirted with Lyon in the past, he would also make some sense. I like Peralta too, as he has had a WHIP under 1.00 each of the last 3 years, but will be 37. Will be interesting to see where they go here.
If I was in charge…
Here’s what I would try to do…
At 3B – Float a 2-year deal to Kevin Youkilis. If he says no, try to sign Chavez as a LH platoon option with Frandsen.
At OF – Try to sneak in and grab Pagan at a good price. Or Cabrera on a 1-year show-me deal. Possibly wait around and sign back Victorino for dirt cheap as I don’t see him having a big market after his sub-par 2012.
At RP – Make a play for Casey Janssen or Mike Adams. Try to get Madson back on a 1-year deal.
I don’t see anyone out there worth breaking the bank for unless you can trade for Chase Headley. I think that the major improvement from this team in 2013 will have to come from within with Halladay, Howard and Utley. If we add 5-6 wins elsewhere, which my plan above would likely do, we could easily be back in 95-win range in 2013.
There are a whole lots of ‘if’s’ in there, but that’s what happens when you sign older guys to long deals, and trade away a lot of your farm system.
So what do you guys and gals think? Who are your targets for the Phils and how can we make sure 2013 is a lot more pleasant than 2012.