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June 9, 2009

Prospectus Today

Phillies at Mets

by Joe Sheehan

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Weather permitting—and she doesn't look permissive—I'll be out at Shea... er, CitiField tonight for the first time, watching Johan Santana try to put a dent in the Phillies' three-game lead in the NL East. This has become one of the more entertaining active rivalries in baseball, with the Phillies supplanting the Braves in the crosshairs of Mets fans, both for stealing the division late in consecutive seasons and the way in which they acted while doing so.

It's the Phillies, however, who have the springtime lead this time around. They took advantage of back-to-back series with the Nationals and Padres to rip off a seven-game winning streak and move into first place. Were it not for blown saves by Brad Lidge on Friday and Saturday in Los Angeles, they might be coming into New York having won ten in a row and with an even bigger lead on struggling Mets and Braves squads.

Everyone knows about Raul Ibanez's ridiculous start, with the much-criticized free agent currently leading MLB in slugging and extra-base hits this season thanks to a spike in HR/FB percentage and an improvement in his approach at the plate. What has flown under the radar is how many of Ibanez's lineup mates are also playing above their heads. I mentioned Chase Utley yesterday, of the .438 OBP, nearly 60 points above expectations. That's a lot of extra OBP, even if the rest of his line is what was expected, enough to make significant difference in the offense. Carlos Ruiz is hitting .309/.435/.511, an off year for Mike Piazza. Pedro Feliz has completely changed his approach and is at .306/.361/.425 with 18 walks and just 24 strikeouts in 208 plate appearances. Only Jimmy Rollins, a disaster at .222/.261/.322, has been disappointing. He is, in fact, the only Phillie regular who has been a below-average hitter this season.

Put it all together, and the Phillies are on pace to score 889 runs this year, or 70 more than I expected them to. That's the difference between leading a race and falling off the pace. Because so much of the gap is due to improvements by established veterans—Ibanez, Ruiz, and Feliz are crushing even optimistic projections—it's not clear to me that this could have been expected, and it's less clear that it can be sustained. It takes a season, even more, to determine if changes in a statistical profile, or the observable changes in approach that create that profile, are short-term or long-term in nature. For now, we can probably say that the Phillies will land at around 855 runs scored, splitting the difference between their pace and projection.

The Phillies have needed every inch of those 302 runs they've scored so far, because their pitching staff hasn't been good. The starters are 15th in the NL with a 3.5 SNLVAR, a full win behind the Marlins at 14th. Their second-best starter, Brett Myers, is out until at least the tail end of the season following hip surgery, leaving the team without one means of improving that performance. Cole Hamels' overall line is inflated by some early problems, but he's a legitimate front-end starter in a rotation. Behind him, however, you have Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton, two inning-munching types having bad years trying to keep the ball in the park. Rookies J.A. Happ—tonight's starter—and Antonio Bastardo have put in good work twice through the rotation. Neither has upside, though Happ, Kevin Goldstein's eighth-best prospect in the organization, is likely a back-of-the-rotation guy in the mold of Moyer.

The bullpen, an enormous part of last year's success, has become a middle-of-the-pack outfit, 11th in the NL in WXRL. Lidge, perfect in save opportunities in 2008, has blown six saves while running up a 7.27 ERA. The long ball, his career-long nemesis prior to last season, has returned with a vengeance, as he's allowed seven in 26 innings, after just two all last season in 69 frames. Think of player performance as a bell curve—Lidge was far to the left last year, and he's far to the right this year. Same guy, same basic skills, but this is the range of performance that's possible for a reliever of his ilk.

The other Phillie who's well off his game is Rollins, and as Marc Normandin wrote last week, the problem seems to be in his approach, which has become pull-happy from both sides of the plate and is showing the signs of impatience that he'd left behind in the past few years. One of the smartest, best percentage players in the game, you would expect him to correct this and return to his established level. This would have been the conclusion a month ago, and a week ago, and we haven't seen Rollins change yet. It will, and his performance will help the Phillies compensate, if not entirely, from the regressions you can expect from his teammates.

The Phillies are going to score runs, if not quite as many as they have to date. If they're to win a third straight NL East title, however, the pitching has to improve. Once he returns from the DL, Lidge has to regain at least his 2007 form, if not that of 2008. J.C. Romero has to pitch well in his return from a steroids suspension. Blanton and Moyer have to keep the team in more games, and someone—Happ, Bastardo, Carlos Carrasco, or a trade target—has to provide above-average innings in the rotation besides. The Phillies don't necessarily have to go all-out for a repeat, as their core is in place for a few more seasons. Given the price of starting pitching and a thin though improving system, holding on to their top prospects is a better idea than cashing in for a run. They can get to 85 or 86 wins with this team in a transition year, and that might be enough for the NL Wild Card.

It seems like all the Mets' storylines for two and a half years now have been controversial, and about the players as people rather than as baseball players. They're chokers, they have a history, the manager has to go because he's not a leader, this guy isn't a winning player, that guy isn't hustling. It has to be exhausting for the players; as someone who regards baseball players as highly-accomplished professionals, I know the nonsense that surrounds a high-profile team gets tiring for me. Being in the middle of it has to be frustrating.

The story is actually much simpler than this. One of the oldest stories in baseball is that the best players get blamed for a team's failings. So it was that David Wright was the locus of blame in April, and even now is not getting full credit for the fantastic season he's having. So it is that Jose Reyes' sore legs have become the biggest story in town, and now push the player to the DL for at least two weeks. So it was that Carlos Beltran, an under-appreciated player throughout his career who does everything on a baseball field and singlehandedly pushed the 2005 Astros to the World Series, became the target of a Steve Phillips jeremiad. All that's left is to blame Johan Santana for not winning games 0 to -1, becoming the first pitcher to win despite zero run support by so dominating his opponents that the official scorer docks the other guys a run on general principle.

As long as the Mets run up a .360 OBP as a team, though, they're going to be dangerous. The perception that they have offensive woes is entirely tied to how CitiField has played. They have a terrific offense, seventh in the league in runs while playing home games in a park that doesn't allow homers. Gary Sheffield has shut up those of us who felt he had nothing left by hitting .259/.394/.455, and if that line for a player with his defense and speed isn't exciting, it's a lot better than what, say, Daniel Murphy (.247/.330/.370) has provided. Murphy might be one of the few outfielders in baseball worse than Sheffield, too. In addition to their great core of talent, the Mets have the benefit of their best bench in years, with Sheffield, Alex Cora, Jeremy Reed, and Fernando Tatis to call on.

Like the Phillies, the Mets' rotation has one stud lefty and a lot of question marks. All of the Mets starters after Santana have pitched better after brutal starts, and Livan Hernandez has quietly been a legitimate mid-rotation starter, to the surprise of everyone who watched him make a run at the hits-allowed record a year ago. John Maine and Mike Pelfrey have ERAs a bit lower than how well they've pitched, however, and there's very little sense that this is a strong rotation. The $36 million version of Oliver Perez would help, but he's weeks away from contributing following a flare-up of patellar tendonitis while on rehab. There is increasing pressure to get into the pitching market, even to trade stud Fernando Martinez, who has been getting a look of late. Omar Minaya has to avoid that temptation—the Mets don't need to cash in their chips for 2009, although there's a chance that Minaya does. The potential is real for a Grady Sizemore-level mistake, without the caveat that the franchise was at least notionally in danger of being eliminated and therefore had no need for prospects.

Rather than the rotation or lineup, Minaya should continue to work on his bullpen. Bobby Parnell and Pedro Feliciano are making more appearances at Citi than jet exhaust, and the pressure on them will increase in the absence of J.J. Putz. This was always going to be a staff, with its collection of six-inning starters behind Santana, that needed lots of bullpen innings to succeed. Relievers are the easiest things to find, year in and year out, and the cheapest additions at the trade deadline. The Mets will need another power arm to help out in the seventh and eighth, and picking one up would back up an overworked pen. The alternative is to return to the way 2007 and 2008 ended, an outcome that would almost certainly mean changes in Queens.

The neat thing about this rivalry is that it features two clearly flawed teams who have such similar structures. Any list of "best core talent" will include both of them. The rotations are similar, down to the presence of Hamels and Santana, respectively, as well as the collection of relative no-names that follow each. The Phillies had a better bullpen in '08, and the Mets have had the better one in '09. Both teams can steal bases at a high percentage. Both play good defense, with Gold Glove-caliber defenders at a couple of spots, and with other good ones elsewhere. Even Ryan Howard, for the Phillies, has shown improvement this year, becoming more comfortable on throws. The two teams are evenly matched, a fact hidden well by the two home parks and the success the veteran Phillies have had so far.

In 2007, the Mets went 6-12 against the Phillies, If they'd gone 7-11, they would have won the division. Last year, they went 11-7 and it wasn't enough, as they finished in second by three games. The head-to-head matchups between division rivals aren't everything, but they do help, and the ones between these two have provided some of the best games of recent seasons. Here's hoping for another one tonight.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

Related Content:  The Who,  Phillies,  Rookies Of The Year,  J.A. Happ

47 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

antoine6

The 3rd-best record, and 4th-best run differential in baseball, and you're generously predicting 85 or 86 wins for the Phillies? They might have been lucky to get some production so far, but that production counts. I would bet anything on the over of 86 wins.

Jun 09, 2009 16:06 PM
rating: 5
 
Mountainhawk

This is a losing battle on this site. I've been calling out Joe's NY bias for 3 years, but you'll just end up getting -20 ratings for daring to imply the Mets might be an inferior team to the Phillies.

Jun 09, 2009 16:26 PM
rating: 0
 
Bob

Joe's a Yankees fan, not a Mets fan.

Jun 10, 2009 09:54 AM
rating: 0
 
antoine6

I don't think it's a willful bias, just his tendency to give the Mets the benefit of the doubt on toss-up calls as opposed to the Phillies. Seems to me he does this mostly as an overcompensation for the mainstream media's labeling of the Mets as chokers. In order to combat this perception, he goes to the other side and fails to give the Phillies their credit for being the better team.

Jun 09, 2009 16:36 PM
rating: 4
 
jkaplow21

Hey, no shot at Ryan Howard here. I consider this an improvement!

Jun 09, 2009 17:05 PM
rating: 3
 
jkaplow21

I am betting Sheehan was in the bathroom on that homer off of Santana.

Jun 09, 2009 17:19 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

Nope. Bomb. Not sure the last one I saw like that.

Jun 09, 2009 21:23 PM
 
dsc250

The tenor of the article -- that everything good about the Phillies is because they're playing above their heads, after all they're just an 85, maybe 86 win team, and everything good about the Mets is because they're just really awesome -- is the complete opposite of the penultimate paragraph. Go figure.

Jun 09, 2009 17:20 PM
rating: 2
 
Farber

...except that the record may show otherwise. The Mets are three games out, and they have two of the biggest bats out--Reyes and Delgado--as well as Ollie and now Putz. Putz' injury is kind of canceled out by Lidge--both pitchers struggled heavily befre being Dl'd. Philly has no other major injuries, and several guys playing well over their heads, as Joe noted--Ibanez, Utley, Ruiz. Only Rollins is playing significantly worse than expected. The Mets really have only one player--Beltran--playing well above expectations (Sheff also, although in limited duty).

Add it all up, and notice that the Mets are only three games out, and I think it's reasonable to say that the Mets are, on paper, the better team.

Jun 09, 2009 17:25 PM
rating: 0
 
jkaplow21

Are you kidding me?

Beltran's career line: .283 .359 .498 .857
Beltran this year: .344 .436 .569 1.005

Wright's career line: .312 .393 .531 .923
Wright this year: .351 .452 .525 .977

Sheehan has made at least two references of Utley playing over his head but has made no comment about Beltran who hasn't put up an OPS over .900 in 2 years but wait, he carried the 2005 ASTROS to the playoffs (did I mention I one the state football championship throwing 5 TDs in high school?) and that Wright's OBP is JUST as much over his career level as Utley's.

Don't cry about injuries at all. That is part of the whole package for a player. Delgado is old and to expect him to not break down is silly.

Joe's criticism is always extremely biased. It's not that it is always wrong (though sometimes it is very stretched). It's that he uses a complete different set of tools to analyze players that he likes versus ones he dislikes or is indifferent about. Someone really has to remind him that he is supposed to show no bias.

Jun 09, 2009 17:36 PM
rating: 1
 
Farber

Fair point about Wright. I missed him.

You're also right that injuries are part of the package. So? That doesn't detract from the fact that the Mets are playing Alex Cora at SS and Sucky McSuckysuck at 1B, while the Philies by and large have their starters in.

I'm not saying that the Mets, for sure, are the better team, and that the Phillies are worse than the Cleveland Spiders. Far from it--in fact, I think, if anything, Philly is slightly better than the Mets. I'm just saying that it's close, and that Joe's making a reasonable argument.

I also think that fans of teams tend to think their teams are the greatest, and Philly fans in particular are pretty good at this sort of thing. Is it possible that, while Joe may be slightly biased, you are as well, and the answer is somewhere in between?

Jun 09, 2009 18:08 PM
rating: 0
 
jkaplow21

Did I say that the Phils were better than the Mets? I will point out all the things I certainly see wrong with the Phillies. I am more critical of them than I am about most teams. I just like honest analysis. Ic alled Sheehan out before for getting on Howard as a platoon player when he has hit lefties better than Berkman or Gonzales over the last 3 years. He has done the same thing regarding Utley.

I think the Phillies have played over their heads in some areas and worse in others. I just want the bias taken out as much as possible or at least warn us that this is how you feel that is talking and not what you think.

Jun 09, 2009 18:15 PM
rating: -1
 
Mountainhawk

The Phillies are also missing a major part of the rotation.

If you want to say there's not that much that separates the two teams, I suppose that is fair, although, the results on the field of play over the last 2 seasons would seem to separate them in some way to me.

Jun 09, 2009 19:21 PM
rating: 2
 
thehotcorner

Yeah, the Mets are 21-20 against the Phils since the start of 2007 (15-8 since start of 2008). So I guess that means the Mets are better than the Phils, but the Phils are better against everyone else.

Jun 10, 2009 05:51 AM
rating: 0
 
Farber

Fans always want to believe that analysts are biased against their teams, so I tend to not put too much stock in Joe's supposed anti-Philly bias. If Howard were wearing any other uniform, it wouldn't change his numbers at all (actually, if anything, they'd probably be worse overall, since he wouldn't benefit from Citizens Bank Park). I tend to think that it also wouldn't change Joe's analysis of him at all, and the same I believe goes for Utley, Ibanez, Werth, etc.

Look, pretty much every team except maybe the Yankees and Boston has some leeway to make the "nobody respects us" argument. And you might not be wrong. But that's why I don't really put that much faith in media biases. Everybody's biased against everybody. Deal with it. Moving on.

Jun 09, 2009 18:51 PM
rating: 2
 
jkaplow21
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

Fan comment, huh? Nice strawman. Pretty lame response.

Jun 09, 2009 19:03 PM
rating: -9
 
Mountainhawk

Citizens Bank Park has had the 13th-15th highest "runs" park factor since 2007. It's not the reason that the Phillies offense scores as much as it does. For the 100 games 2008 and 2009, it's barely over the average for home runs as well.

Sure, when it was first built, it was a very offensive park, but moving the wall back some and putting up the glass on the top of the fence has helped make it a more fair park by quite a bit.

Jun 09, 2009 19:24 PM
rating: 2
 
smitty

"If Howard were wearing any other uniform, it wouldn't change his numbers at all (actually, if anything, they'd probably be worse overall, since he wouldn't benefit from Citizens Bank Park)."

Lifetime, Howard has very similar home and road OPSs (.972 home/.960 away. Further, he has hit more home runs and many more double on the road. This season, he has 6 home runs in CBP and 12 away from the friendly confines. His OPS is .991 on the road and .834 at home this year as well.

I don't know if Sheehan is biased or not -- nor do I care. I like his articles because he writes well and he inspires me to look stuff up and think about baseball and the Phillies in particular. But this type of lazy analysis is what the complaints are about -- I don't think it's an over reaction by Phillies' fans -- I'm sure of it in my case. It literally took me less than 5 minutes to look this stuff up -- isn't baseball-reference.com grand?

Sheehan writes about Utley playing over his head when his stats are nearly perfectly in line with his career norms (except 55 OBP points highwer than career)and ignores Beltran being well over his head and Wright sporting an OBP 56 points above his career average.

It's all good though in my view. I love this rivalry. And Joe is contributing to it in a big way. He gets a big reaction and that's the point really. Good stuff all around really.

Jun 10, 2009 12:57 PM
rating: 0
 
antoine6

Wait, so Utley had a .410 OBP in 2007 and a .380 OBP in 2008, but .438 is way over his head? I guess I could buy that.

But then how are Wright and Beltran not over their heads too?. Wright in 2007 and 2008 OBP: .416 and .390. In 2009? .446. Those are almost the exact same relative numbers as Utley. Beltran? .353 and .376 in 2007 and 2008. In 2009? He has a .436 OBP. He's getting on base WAY MORE than Utley compared to his baseline.

And yet somehow Utley is the only one playing above his head? I just don't get how that can be the analysis. That's just willfully telling one side of the story. You have to be consciously trying to tell a certain story and then fitting the facts to that story, to come up with Utley playing over his head, but not Wright and Beltran. I simply don't get it.

Jun 09, 2009 20:03 PM
rating: 3
 
SoxOsPhils

Not only did Utley put up very good numbers in 2007 and 2008, but in both seasons he was on an MVP-type pace until injury (hand and hip) slowed him considerably. You can say all you want about Ibanez, Ruiz, and so forth playing over their head, but if you say that about Utley you just look silly.

If anything Utley's doubles and AVG are down this year. The OBP is higher because he is walking more in addition to all the HBPs, but I certainly would not call it over his head. Besides, this is nothing less than what should be expected of the player Bill James called on 60 Minutes one of the most underrated players in baseball.

Jun 09, 2009 21:14 PM
rating: 4
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

He's about a .380 OBP guy. Pretty well established. He's at .438.

Good points about Beltran and Wright being over their heads as well.

Jun 09, 2009 21:25 PM
 
antoine6

Joe- As a related note, wouldn't it be a really interesting story to look at Utley as one of the few players to whom getting HBP is a skill? I mean, he probably gains 10 points of OBP a year on consistently being the most hit batter. Is there anyone else who is like this? I can think of Craig Biggio, but that's about it.

Jun 10, 2009 06:25 AM
rating: 0
 
sbnirish77

Rickie Weeks

Jun 10, 2009 20:15 PM
rating: 0
 
jefferickson

Carlos Quentin.

Jun 11, 2009 10:52 AM
rating: 0
 
Mountainhawk

Chase Utley seems to have taken Joe saying he was 'over his head' personally.

Jun 10, 2009 19:48 PM
rating: 2
 
PeterBNYC

Look dude. Compare apples to apples, OK? Those are full season numbers 2007-2008 vs. ytd 2009.

I'm not liking this debate- does someone want to score debate points enough to juke the numbers?

Jun 10, 2009 12:38 PM
rating: 0
 
Bakestar

"...the way in which they acted while doing so."

What exactly does this mean?

Jun 09, 2009 20:05 PM
rating: 1
 
antoine6

Good question. I don't get that at all.

Jun 09, 2009 20:21 PM
rating: 0
 
Farber

Only thing I can think of is Rollins' comments before the season in '07, which wasn't really that bad, anyway. Not sure what else Joe may be referring to.

Jun 09, 2009 20:38 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

Hamels' comments after last season.

To be clear, I don't have a problem with any of it. It has, however, been part of making this an intense rivalry.

And catching the general tone...I've said it before and I'll say it again: the accusation of "bias" is too easy. I've done this for a decade online, a decade prior to that in books and on r.s.b. If I'm wrong, I guarantee you it's more likely that I've missed something in the analysis than that I came in with bias.

Apply that sentence to anyone you read.

Jun 09, 2009 21:34 PM
 
antoine6

Fair enough.

Jun 10, 2009 06:23 AM
rating: 0
 
eighteen

Well, Joe, if the accusation of bias is too easy, that's the writer's fault, not the reader's.

I don't believe you intentionally slant (non-Yankee-related) articles; but bias doesn't have to be conscious or intentional to be a factor. Your subscribers are doing you a favor here. Don't just dismiss them.

Jun 10, 2009 11:00 AM
rating: 0
 
LindInMoskva

When discussing players playing above or below their head, small sample size is always discussed. Utley's extra 60 points is considered "luck". But maybe Utley has just faced a bunch of pitchers that he historically has hit well against.

In this day of ready access to information, couldn't BP put together an application that would measure a players aggregate recent performance against his historical aggregate record for the same pitchers to see if a player has truly adjusted to the competition or is merely performing at their historical rate against a specific group of pitchers? Isn't is more logical to believe either that Utley has learned a new skill or is facing a set of pitchers that he has always hit well against instead of thinking that Utley is just "lucky"?

Jun 10, 2009 04:47 AM
rating: 1
 
jkaplow21

What was Hamels supposed to say? He was asked point blank by your New York talk show hosts if he thought the Mets choked. "Well, I think they played extremely well down the stretch..." That's like me asking you if I am fat, you saying yes, when I obviously am and then me getting upset that you are acting improperly.

Taking your word you are not biased is too easy. I like your work and you are one of the easiest guys to read on here in terms of content, but the analysis is akin to a mother calling her son beautiful and the neighbor's son ugly. Does she think she is being biased? No. She just holds certain people to a different standard. Just because you are a 10 year cagey vet doesn't mean you aren't subconsiously showing a bias (and a pretty extreme one).

Give me the mea culpa article where you compare Howard to the other 1st basemen in the league and use the same microscope on all of them. That is all that I ask. Keep the methodology constant.

Jun 10, 2009 05:40 AM
rating: 2
 
thehotcorner

What you'll probably find is that he wasn't the second most valuable 1st basemen in the league, and definitely not the second most valuable player.

When you're in the public eye as much (compared to players like berkman and gonzalez) and receiving numerous MVP votes it only make sense that he would be scrutinized more.

It's as if that neighbor's son started winning some beauty contests and then ppl started to notice and say 'Hey, he really isn't all that special' and begin to point out his flaws. The neighbor's mom will counter that everyone else's son has those flaws too. And that is exactly the point.

Jun 10, 2009 06:13 AM
rating: 1
 
thehotcorner

And in regards to what Hamels said. I know he was baited by the NY media but come on, you honestly think that his response could not have been worded any other way and that he didn't realize the sh-tstorm it would create?

Athletes are asked 'tough' questions by the media all the time, but most of the time they stay away from the type of answer Cole gave. Those words would probably never come out of David Wright's mouth and if they did, I'm sure you would be the first person defend him, right?

Jun 10, 2009 06:22 AM
rating: 0
 
casey

Personally, I thought it was a refreshingly honest answer.

Jun 10, 2009 09:56 AM
rating: 2
 
Tank
(989)

I agree. I love it when a player says what they actually think, rather than repeating the same cliches we've heard forever. As a Mets fan, it pissed me off, but that just adds to my enjoyment of their contests. The evolution of this rivalry has been great, esp with the Braves having faded.

Jun 10, 2009 11:08 AM
rating: 1
 
mgentry

In 2005, Carlos Beltran did NOT singlehandedly push the Astros to the World Series. He was actually busy hitting .266/.330/.414 for a third place Mets team. He was pretty impressive in the '04 playoffs though.

Jun 10, 2009 10:02 AM
rating: 1
 
Patton1941

The ridiculous thing about the Phillies', and their supporters', comments that the Mets choked is that it completely diminishes what the Phillies did. Saying the Mets choked implies they were the better team. Further, it becomes about the Mets losing rather than the Phillies winning. Saying the Mets choked, and repeating that mantra, ignores what the Phillies did in both September 2007 and 2008.

Jun 10, 2009 10:02 AM
rating: 0
 
smitty

I agree 100 percent. The Phillies were probably the best team in baseball by the end of last season and they were much better than the Mets. After struggling with their starting pitching and some guys (Howard in a big way) finally shaking off some long slumps, the Phils were clicking from mid August on.

They were 38-15 over their last 53 games. That isn't luck. They were a very fine club. The Mets lost out to a better club as did the rest of MLB. The best team doesn't always win the World Series. But it did last season.

Jun 10, 2009 13:03 PM
rating: 0
 
W. Clark

It is just unavoidable. The majority of the section based on the Phillies regards the over performance of the players as compared to statistical expectations. Conspicuously, I can't find a single reference to statistical expectations compared to performance in the Mets section. Prior posters have pointed out how warped that approach is.

But I want to point out the rhetoric used as well:
L Hernandez? he is "legitimate"
C Beltran? he is "underappreciated"
D Wright? He is having a "fantastic" season.
G. Sheffield? He's "shut up" his detractors.
Oliver Perez? He “would help”

On the other hand:
Utley? He's "over his head" or "above expectations"
Ibanez? His #s are "ridiculous"
Ruiz? well, you just make a joke.
Bastardo and Happ? they have "no upside."
Feliz? c'mon Joe, what's up with "changed approach?" You mean to say, he is an "established veteran" who can't "sustain" the improvements.

None of these observations as to the Phillies are necessarily wrong. But the conclusion that your analytical starting point, when contrasted with the Mets, is uneven (to be generous) is unavoidable.

Bias does not require that you go to sleep at night wishing ill on the phillies. But the polar opposite approach to analysis just seems intellectually dishonest, and yes, biased.

Jun 10, 2009 11:33 AM
rating: 5
 
gjgross

"He's about a .380 OBP guy. Pretty well established. He's at .438."

In 2005, he became a full-time starter, his OBP was .376 that year. That's been the lowest number of his career. Even last year, when he played 80% of the season with a hip that required surgery, he was at .380. To expect him to be at .380 is to expect a subpar year.

It's easy to admit that you had lowered your expectations based on his rehab from his hip surgery. Or you can ignore the obvious and keep telling us that you're right. Will you write more or with exclamation points if Utley's OBP gets higher?

Jun 10, 2009 13:52 PM
rating: 0
 
sbnirish77

"Think of player performance as a bell curve—Lidge was far to the left last year, and he's far to the right this year. Same guy, same basic skills, but this is the range of performance that's possible for a reliever of his ilk."

The times I saw Lidge this year he looked to have completely abadoned his fastball - almost afraid to throw it. I saw 10 sliders in a row at times. He's not the same pitcher last year.

Jun 10, 2009 20:08 PM
rating: 1
 
thehotcorner

That's not just this year. Lidge throws his fastball as little as anyone in baseball.

http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=563&position=P#pitchtype

2008 - 56% sliders

2009 - 53% sliders

He's actually throwing less.



Jun 11, 2009 14:39 PM
rating: 0
 
sbnirish77

I agree that both smart team construction AND statitical variation can lead to both success and failure.

The problem is that when BP is right (esp with repect to the Red Sox, Indians, and A's) the reason is attributed to team smarts.

But when BP is wrong (see White Sox and Phillies) a long and convoluted statistical analysis is on the way.

The regression to the mean argument seems to be inconsistenly applied (see Ibanez vs Beltran and Wright).

Changes in the performance of some players are dismissed as playing over their heads with a regression to the mean ...

"It takes a season, even more, to determine if changes in a statistical profile, or the observable changes in approach that create that profile, are short-term or long-term in nature."

while others such as Rollins recieve a level of scrutiny that assumes a real change in performance level ...

"The other Phillie who's well off his game is Rollins, and as Marc Normandin wrote last week, the problem seems to be in his approach, which has become pull-happy from both sides of the plate and is showing the signs of impatience that he'd left behind in the past few years."

The record of the Mets is not evaluated in terms of the overperformance by Beltran or Wright but the record of the Phillies is dismissed on the basis of overperformance by Ibanez and an unliklely improvement to the mean by Rollins.

This inconsistency is why people view a BIAS in articles such as this.

Jun 10, 2009 20:45 PM
rating: 0
 
amazin_mess

Great post and totally agreed.

Jun 12, 2009 20:43 PM
rating: 0
 
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