March 3, 2015

What Are the Phillies Getting In Polanco?

It’s not quite the return of Iverson, but the Phillies have signed Placido Polanco to a 3-year deal, pending a physical, to come back to Philly and play 3B and hit 2nd for the 2-time defending NL champs. The deal is reportedly worth $18 million.

As I wrote yesterday, Polanco is a definite upgrade to Feliz, and at only $500,000 more it is certainly a good deal. However, like with Jamie Moyer and Raul Ibanez, I think that Amaro went 1 year too long on an aging player in his declining years. Polanco will be 36 in the final year of his contract. Unlike Ibanez though, he is not a power hitter and is likely to decline less rapidly. This move will also look a lot better if we use the money we would have spent on a Beltre or a Figgins to improve our pitching.

So what kind of player is Placido Polanco these days? We know he’s a solid BA guy (.303 average since 2000), doesn’t strike out (2nd hardest in baseball), doesn’t walk (only 36 last year) and plays good defense (gold glove winner at 2B in 2009, and well above average career metrics at 3B). But in today’s age of ridiculous baseball stats, we can learn a lot more before he steps on the field.

FanGraphs provides amazing data on how players have performed against certain pitches and what kind of contact they make, among other things. Polanco’s full array of stats are available here, but here are the takeaways I found (from FanGraphs and other sources).

  • Polanco does most of his damage on fastballs, but isn’t particularly susceptible to breaking pitches. He is worst against change-ups, but not particularly bad or anything.
  • He is arguably the best contact hitter in all of baseball. Last year, 97.3% of strikes he swung at he made contact with. That was #1 in all of baseball. He made contact on 81.2% of the pitches out of the strike zone he swung at, good for 5th best in baseball, and his overall contact/swing % was 93.2%, 3rd in baseball, and 0.1% behind the leader (Marco Scutaro).
  • Polanco has a career 9.9 UZR/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating) at 3B in 322 games. That would have been good for 7th in baseball in 2009. Pedro Feliz’s UZR/150 in 2009 was 5.0.
  • His WAR (Wins Over Replacement) was 3.1. This is a complex stat that measures how many wins a player adds to a team over an average player. Many stat heads are using it as their main statistical measure of players these days. By comparison, Feliz’s WAR was 1.3 and the most comparable Phillie was Shane Victorino at 3.4.
  • Bill James’ (he’s smart) 2010 projection for Polanco is a .296 BA with a .343 OBP and .403 SLG%.
  • His BABIP in 2008 was below normal for him, which contributed to his “low” .285 average last year.
  • His baserunning was above average in 2009 with a 1.3 EqBRR (Equivalent Base Running Runs). This is a huge improvement over Feliz, whose EqBRR was -5.6, by far the worst on the team (2 runs below Ryan Howard) and one of the worst in all of baseball.

When I originally analyzed the 3B options for the Phillies, Polanco fell below Figgins, Beltre, DeRosa and Tejada. But, I’ve changed my stance a little and feel this is a positive signing. Here’s why…

  • I said many times during the playoffs that Jimmy and Shane could not continue to be our 1-2 hitters with their terrible OBP. Polanco will be a much better #2 hitter than Shane and allow Shane to move to a run producing role in the 7-hole.
  • I love defense and good baserunning, and Polanco brings both. Of the other options, only Figgins would have provided above average performance in these 2 areas.
  • As I said yesterday, he is a safe, cost-friendly pick-up. Only DeRosa would have gotten a similar contract and Beltre and Tejada are injury risks.
  • Adding to the “cost-friendly” aspect, this moves upgrades our 3B situation while leaving money open for pitching. If we use that money, it will only make this move look better.

All told, I’m happy to have Polanco back. Doesn’t have the upside some other moves might have had, but he is a professional hitter who in eager to contribute to a title contender. Welcome back, Placido.

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  1. stu says:


  2. Adam says:

    solid signing, the safest on the market in my opinion. what makes this deal even better is that the tigers did not offer him arbitration, which means the phils don’t have to give up a first round draft pick because he would have been a class A free agent. still would be nice to have a true lead off hitter though.
    so what will be the lineup for next year??
    I like this lineup. Considerable upgrade with Shane being the new 7th hitter. This will no doubt give shane and chooch more opourtunities for rbis. We’ll have to see how well he can play third base though, it’s been awhile. Happy Pete was stable over there

  3. Chris McC says:

    I am really interested to see what the team does about pitching now.  I’d like to see Eyre and Park back, but wouldn’t see Eyre shut it down.  Perez is leaving ATL, he’d be a nice piece to add to the bullpen.  Then maybe a fifth starter?

  4. John says:

    I cant think of an ATL pitcher named Perez. DO you mean Soriano or Gonzalez? I think those guys are type B FA and they prolly wont sign with the phillies unless they are given the closer role. By the way, I feel a little better about the deal. I still think Beltre is better tho.

  5. Chris McC says:

    I did mean Soriano.  My bad.  I’m fucking terrible with names.

  6. Pete says:

    Side note: Baseball America ranked the Phillies’ farm system as the 4th best in all of baseball…



  7. Jesse says:

    Found it funny to see an Ed Wade run team with the worst minor league system in baseball. I realize he hasn’t been there awhile but it looks like not much has changed.
    Granted he is responsible for the core of our talent now but I feel like when he was running our team we were always near the bottom in regards to farm system ratings….

  8. deepsixersuede says:

    Any chance Jimmy gets moved to the 7 hole? And does Polanco get some time at 2b?

  9. Sean says:

    Love the pickup.  Not the super-potential of what Beltre could’ve given you.  But a solid, consistent, steady pro who fits into the program and, by virtue of being such a good hitter, can potentially help the lineup get even better.
    If he hits .300 in front of Chase and Ryan, that would be huge.  If Jimmy can have a great year as well, this team just got really nasty.  Especially if they take the savings and upgrade the pitching.
    WS rematch?

  10. Ken Bland says:

    First a question.  The Bill James projections.  I assume that’s American League based.  I wonder, if its not how he does it for free agents, and if he revises if a player switches leagues.  I mean the leagues aren’t exactly the same.  And a home park on a new team would have some effect also.

    I’m good on this deal.  That’s above okay, and less than great.  It has quite honestly baffled me when I hear people like Jim Bowden, now XMing his way through his post GM career take a question on who the Phils should get to man 3rd, and he mentions Beltre as his fave, but also Polanco, and DeRosa.  And that’s what verybody thinks like.  Nobody thinks about trades.  Its all free agents, all the time.  I know trades aren’t what they used to be, and what are there, 170 free agents, or some ridiculous number?

    Anyway, I had mentioned Kevin Kouzanoff as a potential 3rd base replacement, and if the Phils at least considered trades, its all good.  Palonco brings some things to the table that Kouzanoff doesn’t, and the one big one, contact should be terrific.  Kouzanoff does strike out a good amount, but I expect him to improve as he approached 30.

    So now, its onto the pitching staff, and hopefully some fine tuning there.   

  11. Pete says:


    I would guess that the James’ projection is for the American League and Comerica (sp) Park. But I don’t know.

  12. Pete says:

    From Buster Olney

    “ As teams have been checking in on the availability of infielders, they have found that the asking price for Adrian Beltre is no less than $10 million a year, and forMark DeRosa, it’s a three-year deal for something in the range of $9 million a year.”

  13. Pete says:

    Funny Chris Coste tidbit (he is now a Met, in case you missed it)

    “Chris Coste is burning bridges with Mets fans before he even crossed them. The ex-Phillies catcher/first baseman signed with the Mets today, just three days after belittling his new team in an interview with a Philadelphia sports Web site. After telling that he “will always be a Phillie,” Coste said he had been hesitant to sign with Philadelphia’s arch-rival. “It was the Mets,” Coste said, according to the site. “It’s the last team I ever saw myself playing for. I knew I was going to accept [the contract], but had to think about it for a few days.””

  14. jkay says:

    conservative deal. safe. now get a sweet bullpen arm!

  15. Pete says:

    FYI – I updated the payroll analysis and organizational depth chart (located on the right side bar) to include Polanco and Castro

  16. Ken Bland says:

    <<the asking price for Adrian Beltre is no less than $10 million a year, and forMark DeRosa, it’s a three-year deal for something in the range of $9 million a year.”>>

    ever heard the old adage ask and ye shall receive?  Does not apply in this case.  I get the impression that Buster and Ken Rosenthal do good, credible work, but somebody has to be planting a seed with this to guage reaction.  That is a pay cut for Beltre, and there seems a lot of demand for de Rosa, but cmon.

  17. Ken Bland says:

    “It was the Mets,” Coste said, according to the site. “It’s the last team I ever saw myself playing for. I knew I was going to accept [the contract], but had to think about it for a few days.>>

    I think Chris will do well to ever actually be a Met.  He was guaranteed a spot on the 40, but that was it.  I’d love to see him keep going, I wanna say he still needs at least a full year to qualify for the pension, or a level of it, but it might be tough.


  1. [...] It’s harder to recap Polanco’s 2009 season since I didn’t see him play every day. This was my summary of the type of player he is when we signed him. Last year was really a disappointing [...]