As it has been well-publicized by the media, both in and outside of the Colorado area, Mike Hampton’s time in the Mile High City was anything but successful. In his two years with the Rockies, Hampton posted a won-loss record of just 21-28, along with a major league-high ERA of 5.75—more than half a run higher than the next closest starter, fellow Rockie and member of the Great Changeup Experiment, Denny Neagle.
And yet, as 2003 regular season gets under way, whose name do we see listed in the Atlanta Braves starting rotation? None other than Michael William Hampton. Acquired over the off-season in one of the most complicated deals of all time not involving Herschel Walker, Hampton joins perhaps the most vulnerable Braves rotation in a decade—a unit that has already seen its star have a brush with mortality, and an off-season signee go down until July.
What can be expected of Hampton, though? Members of the media have spent more than their fair share of time waxing philosophical on the situation, with most coming to the conclusion that gambling on the 30-year-old lefty is a worthwhile risk. Granted, this might very well be the case, as Hampton was among the winningest pitchers in the National League before signing with Colorado in 2001. Fellow Rockies refugee Darryl Kile was able to make the transition from 5,200 feet above sea-level to Busch Stadium without missing a beat. If he could do it, why can’t Hampton?
I’ve recently written a couple of columns sketching a general measure of outfield fielding by looking at putouts the outfield turns as a percentage of team fly balls, using 2002 season data.
What about unit defense in the infield, though? Can we do the same thing there, except with ground balls instead of flies? And can that lead us to some really strange conclusions?
Yes on all counts, with some problems. While outfield putouts are context-neutral–each time a putout is recorded the batter, and only the batter, is out–infield putouts are context-heavy. A man on first means a successfully turned ground ball to short goes to the second baseman for the first out, and then (if possible) a second putout is recorded by the first baseman if the ball arrives there in time to get the batter.
For my purposes, though, I’m only interested when the infield turns any out, and only that first out. I’m going to try and isolate that by looking at infield unit POs by making a few adjustments:
The Phillies are 9-6, tied for first in the NL East. Even after a couple of low-scoring nights against the Marlins, they lead the world in runs scored. I mention that because this is going to seem like a strange time to pick on their offense. Bear with me.
In my NL East preview, I wrote the following:
“It is interesting to look at the Phillies’ lineup and see just how many slots have major platoon issues. Jim Thome and Bobby Abreu routinely lose 150 to 300 points of slugging against lefties, while Polanco and Mike Lieberthal are everyday players in name only; neither hits right-handers well enough to justify his lineup spot or salary. The Phillies might get away with this during the regular season, but it’s hard to envision them winning a short playoff series against a good manager, one willing to exploit these weaknesses.”
Here are the career platoon splits, through Tuesday, for the eight Phillies starters and their current center fielder. They’re listed in the most common order in which they’ve appeared.