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March 30, 2012 12:00 pm

Overthinking It: Are the Phillies Too Old to Win?


Ben Lindbergh

The defending NL East champs should gather their titles while they may, since the same Phillies that flower today tomorrow will be dying.

It’s been six seasons since the Phillies finished anywhere other than first in the National League East. Last year, they led the major leagues with 102 wins, their highest total during their recent run of success. Over the winter, they signed Jonathan Papelbon, the top closer available on the free agent market, and saw their jilted former closer, Ryan Madson, blow out his elbow before he could throw a meaningful pitch for a competitor. Their starting rotation will be headlined by Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels, who project to be three of the 15 most valuable pitchers in baseball. Their lineup will be bolstered by a full season from Hunter Pence. On the surface, most signs point to continued success. But the Phillies’ competitive window may be closing quickly.

There are four Phillies ranked between 51 and 100 on ESPN’s list of the top 500 players for 2012: Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Shane Victorino. It’s conceivable that none of those four will be both ranked in that range and in uniform for the Phillies in 2013. Howard was worth less than two wins in each of the past two seasons and finished 12th on his team in WARP last season, so he’s already out of place that high on the leaderboard. This could be the season his reputation starts to reflect his recent performance: Even after he recovers from the ruptured and subsequently infected Achilles tendon that could cost him the first two months, his on-field decline will likely accelerate at age 32.

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December 29, 2011 9:00 am

Painting the Black: You Must Be This Old to Enter October


R.J. Anderson

As the Astros' example indicates, having a young roster isn't always a ticket to success.

On the regular season’s final night, the Cardinals defeated the Astros. It would have been difficult to find two more dissimilar teams. While the Cardinals won the World Series, the Astros’ most notable victory involved securing the number-one pick in next June’s draft. The Cardinals had arguably the best player in baseball; the Astros did not have a position player finish in the top-75 in Wins Above Replacement Player. And so on. Under new ownership, the Astros acknowledged the gap between the teams and elected to pluck an executive from the Cardinals’ nest to lead them to the promised land.

Jeff Luhnow is quickly becoming a popular figure around these parts, as he came up during Ben Lindbergh’s masterful argument that being smart is no longer enough to separate a general manager from his peers. Lindbergh granted Luhnow status as a well-received hire with a history of success. Yet in juxtaposing Luhnow with Neal Huntington, Lindbergh made it clear that commercials advertising young, progressive-minded general managers should include disclaimers at the bottom that read, “Andrew Friedman-like results are not typical.”

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September 20, 2010 8:00 am

On the Beat: Being Part of the Solution


John Perrotto

Interim manager Kirk Gibson would like a full shot at turning around the Diamondbacks, along with other news and notes from around the major leagues.

Everything is lining up for Kirk Gibson to have the "interim" removed from his title and continue as the Diamondbacks' manager past the end of this season. The Diamondbacks' search for a permanent general manager is down to two, with interim GM Jerry Dipoto and former Padres GM Kevin Towers the finalists and a decision likely to come this week. Dipoto will keep Gibson, who was promoted from bench coach to interim manager on July 1 when A.J. Hinch and general manager Josh Byrnes were fired, and Towers is expected to do the same if he is hired.

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June 7, 2010 8:42 am

Ahead in the Count: Production and the Draft


Matt Swartz

The players teams select in the draft over the next three days can make a big impact on their future.

The 2010 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft begins tonight, presumably commencing with the Washington Nationals calling the name of Bryce Harper.  The draft will be televised for the fourth year in a row, thanks to increasing fan interest.  Unlike basketball and football with well-exposed college stars that fans are already familiar with, the baseball draft has always been filled with obscure names and generated less interest historically.  However, the collective bargaining agreement in Major League Baseball keeps salaries of young talent especially suppressed when compared with other sports, meaning that drafting well can allow even a small-market team to become successful.  As fans have become more cognizant of this, and as the Internet has made learning about amateur stars easier, the draft has become a bigger deal and more people are taking more notice.

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The long-awaited deal goes down in the desert, and two teams who didn't have a Hall of Famer to trade away muddle through their winter as best they can.

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The Diamondbacks are going the way of old teams, just faster than most, while the Tigers and Royals can find silver linings in their under-.500 seasons.

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The Diamondbacks lead the wild card chase--how do their chances at an NL West crown look? The Royals have opened up a 4.5-game lead in the AL Central, despite multiple setbacks. Larry Bowa, Greg Gross or both may be to blame for some of the Phillies' offensive deficiencies. These and other news and notes out of Arizona, Kansas City, and Philadelphia in today's Prospectus Triple Play.

  • Micro Study: Arizona has overtaken Philadelphia for the National League's wild card lead. They're one game ahead in that race, with last-place San Diego in town for a two-game series (Arizona won game one 8-3 last night). The Diamondbacks close out the first half with a weekend set against the Giants, who lead the Snakes by four games in the West. They have an opportunity to hit the break on a roll.
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    The Diamondbacks have quietly done a good job of rebuilding their farm system. The Royals have fallen out of first place in a hurry. The Phillies' bats are ice cold. Plus other news and notes out of Arizona, Kansas City, and Philadelphia.

  • Down on the Farm: The Diamondbacks have two first-round picks in next week's draft, selections 19 and 29. Just a couple of years ago Arizona had such a poor minor league system that the organization rated dead last on Baseball America's annual list. In their desperation to field a championship team quickly, the Diamondbacks depleted their minors by using their best prospects to acquire veterans. After three strong drafts under scouting director Mike Rizzo the system has vaulted to number 21. The improved ranking is not simply a matter of Pollyannaish projections based on the physical gifts of pimply mesomorphs. Rizzo has focused on collegians, and because of it the system is stocked bottom to top. The Diamondbacks now have a premium prospect at every infield position, and all of them could be major league regulars by 2005. Four of these prospects have come from the last two drafts. The other, Lyle Overbay, is already in the majors.
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    No, the Diamondbacks' theory on winning is this: hand the ball to Randy Johnson or Curt Schilling. Say hello to win column. Repeat as often as possible.

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    March 5, 2001 12:00 am

    Lost in America


    Keith Scherer

    Following the 2000 season, the minor leagues underwent dozens of changes. Organizations changed their affiliations within leagues, moved their affiliates from one league to another, and jumped and bumped teams between levels. Along with the reconfigurations, there will be several new parks throughout the minor leagues. What follows below is a delineation of the changes, along with an attempt to anticipate what effects those changes might have.

    Most of the changes occurred at the lower levels. At any level, the talent matters more than the park or league. That's especially true for the low minors, where the change is so rapid, the talent so immature, and the organizational goals so much more focused on development than statistical results. This article doesn't spend much space addressing changes at the rookie or short-season levels. But all the changes are worth noting, both to help track player movement and to better analyze drastic changes in player performance.

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    Re-signed pitcher Jack McDowell and infielder Randy Velarde to one-year contracts. Signed infielder Craig Shipley to a minor-league contract. [12/7]

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