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Small victories, large defeats.



Updated: 2017-09-22T00:11:26-04:00

 



Sweepus Interruptus: Dodgers 5, Phillies 4

2017-09-22T00:11:26-04:00

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So close.

The Phillies came so close to sweeping the mighty Dodgers in four games. So very, very close. Instead they had to settle for winning three out of four against the best team in baseball, losing game four 5-4.

They did everything they could. Nick Williams hit a third inning home run against Kenta Maeda, who left the game after that inning. I like to imagine he was just so devastated that he gave up the home run that he couldn’t continue. In reality, he was really struggling, throwing 61 pitches in three innings. Dave Roberts taking him out was merciful.

Mark Leiter Jr. continues to be a non-shitty back-of-the-rotation-if-there’s-an-emergency starter. The Phillies have needed a guy like him for awhile now, a guy who can start and pitch in long relief. He’s not perfect, but he’ll do. And he did just fine today, going six innings and giving up three runs on six hits. You couldn’t ask for more from a guy like Leiter.

In the bottom of the fifth, the score was tied 2-2. And then Rhys Hoskins stepped to the plate. And while he still hasn’t hit a home run in a large handful of games now (since September 14), he’s still doing great things. He hit a two-run double and put the Phillies in front 4-2.

It wouldn’t last. Curtis Granderson hit a solo homer in the sixth, and things really fell apart in the top of the seventh. Ricardo Pinto was on the mound and it did not go well. Andre Ethier hit a solo home run to lead-off the inning, and that tied the game. A triple from the next batter meant that a groundout would score the go-ahead run, and that’s what happened.

It was honestly a pretty uneventful game. The win would have been sweet, but the loss was fine. The Phillies have already taken so much from the Dodgers this week. Let them have this, right?




How many “on base machines” do the Phillies have?

2017-09-21T20:41:21-04:00

The Phillies have some players who can walk. Some of them can hit. Is that allowed? During the gamethread for the final Phillies/Dodgers game of the year, an embryonic conversation started to develop around how nice it is that the Phillies may have an “on base machine” on their hands, or maybe even more than one. The first question I had was, “What is an ‘on-base machine’?” Using Baseball-Reference.com’s 2017 league hitting numbers as a starting point may help answer this. MLB average for on-base percentage (OBP) is .325 this year. Batting average is at .255 and walks can be back-of-the-enveloped at 8.5% from 3.26 walks in 38.19 plate appearances per game. Also, Fangraphs tells me BB% is 8.5% here. This will obviously vary from position to position. Average for a shortstop is .260/.314/6.9% (batting average, OBP, and BB% - this convention will continue throughout). First base looks like this: .261/.343/10.4%. Second base is: .263/.328/8.0%. Outfielders vary a bit by position, but not as much as I expected. As a whole: .260/.332/8.9%. All that is too confusing to remember without a chart, so here’s a chart with some made up stuff at the bottom. I’ll get to that in a minute. Some goon at my house who has been eating mescaline A bunch of malarky I made up At an MLB-wide level, to be an on-base ‘machine’ (“OBM”) the threshold requirement appears to be superior performance in getting on base. Round numbers make great metrics because of their roundness. Round numbers are awesome because of the Golden Ratio or the Mother Goddess or something. I picked (right out of my ass) an on-base threshold of .350. Should we ignore components? The god of OBP does not care how you do it, right? Just don’t make outs. Except an insane BABIP year could give crapola results and mess up this whole exercise, so should batting average just be completely ignored in favor of walks? Conversely, if someone walks a lot but can’t hit a lick, their OBP won’t be that great, so walks alone are not enough. I decided unilaterally on .235/.350/9.5% as MLB baselines.. You can be a bad hitter (for average) as long as you get on at a .350 clip. And your walks have to be above average. I’m ignoring hit batters and such, and I know my numbers don’t add up. It’s not internal consistency we seek, after all, it is an objective measure of my subjective soft, fuzzy feeling about the rule of thumb goodness of the things I actually want to measure, which is getting on base goodly. The made up crap on the chart contains my effort to take the baseline of each position and make it match the made-up “goodly” numbers I created out of whole cloth for the MLB average. Basically, they are purely arithmetic adjustments, nothing more or fancier. Now let’s test this out a bit. Rhys Hoskins: .293/.425/17.8% vs 1B OBM baseline of .241/.369/11.62% — Winner! Cesar Hernandez: .291/.363/9.4% vs 2B OBM of .243/.353/8.94% — Winner! J.P. Crawford: .255/.379/17.8% vs SS OBM* (SSS) of .240/.338/7.71% — Winner! Aaron Altherr: .281/.351/7.8% vs LF OBM of .241/.355/9.61% — Sad Trombone Cameron Rupp: .217/.299/10.3% vs C OBM of .225/.338/8.94% — Sad Trombone Andrew Knapp: .250/.356/14.4% vs C OBM of .225/.356/8.94 — Winner! And so forth. Rupp would qualify except he doesn’t hit enough. Altherr would qualify except he doesn’t quite walk enough. Herrera likewise needs to walk a bit more. Galvis needs to hit and walk more, even at the reduced target for shortstops. Franco...well...no. Just...no. Does this answer any questions about anything important? Not really, I don’t think. It’s just trying to think about a term we sometimes toss around (“on base machine”) and trying to figure out what it might look like to codify it into quantifiable rules. The arbitrary ones I picked confirm what we already know from looking at OBP, which is Hoskins, Hernandez, and Crawford get on base well both generally and relatively within their respective positions. One of the fun things[...]



Zeke Bonura - Who the heck was he, anyway?

2017-09-21T18:00:02-04:00

Rhoys Hobbskins* keeps hitting. And driving in runs. And having the hot start of his career compared to...Zeke Bonura. Who was Zeke Bonura? First of all, Rhoys Hobbskins credit goes to EastonAssassin63. Rhys Hoskins didn’t come out of nowhere, but the start to his MLB career did. He never struck out the Whammer or got shot by a fan. He has walked tons, hit loads of homers, and driven in tons of runs. In the entirety of the long and storied history of Major League Baseball, nobody has come out smoking them as hard or as often as Hoskins, and nobody is driving in runs faster than Hoskins. Except this Zeke Bonura guy did for a while. I keep hearing Hoskins mentioned with “Zeke Bonura” so much that I want to know more about this guy who is linked to the Phillies’ Shiny New Thing. Zeke Bonura played in the 1930’s, mostly for the Chicago White Sox. Here’s his page at Baseball-Reference.com. He was a first baseman with an rWAR was consistently good, but not elite. His rookie year was 1934 when he was 25. Leaguewide scoring was at 4.91 runs/game per team that year, which is at the higher end of the historical range. We haven’t exceeded 4.91 runs a game since the height of the steroid era during 1999 and 2000, so we know that Bonura played in a hitter’s environment. The White Sox team he came up with gave up 946 runs in 1934, or 6.14 per game over 154 games. They scored 704 runs, or 4.57 per game. As you might expect, their record was terrible, and they finished 53 - 99 and were buried in last place in the American League, 47 games behind the Detroit Tigers. Woof. A bright spot for this otherwise dreary, last-place team, was their young, slugging first baseman who began with the hottest of hot streaks to start his career. A wonderful summary of his background and rise to MLB is contained in this piece on him at the SABR website. Notably, his season total of 27 homers would have been higher but for missing 24 games due to injury. The SABR piece briefly touches on the hot start (10 homers in 25 games). Bonura was a solid player, accumulating a total of 21.6 rWAR over 7 seasons. Ultimately, his career was interrupted, as were so many others of that era, by World War II. Bonura was drafted by the Army and served overseas in North Africa and Western Europe where he continued to organize and play baseball. Again, the SABR piece covers this, as well as mentioning his receipt of the Legion of Merit from General Eisenhower for scrounging and scraping and organizing baseball for the troops during the war. Bonura was, like many players of the period, from a blue collar immigrant neighborhood (his family had a Sicilian background). He had to work outside of baseball in the offseason during which he was also a professional basketball player. He served his country when called, and he stayed involved in the game even after his playing years were over, managing a minor league team. Bonura was no Gehrig or Foxx, but he was an above-average player who led an interesting life beyond just his contribution to baseball. And he was fool enough, like me, to own beagles. If Rhys Hoskins keeps being compared to Zeke Bonura, at least now you know a little bit about who Zeke Bonura was. While that comparison is being made for baseball purposes, if it turned out that Hoskins followed Bonura’s example off the field, that would be OK, too. It turns out that an unexpected benefit for me of Hoskins’ electric start was to have a chance to learn about an interesting baseball player I had not known about before, and a person who deserves to be remembered. Finally, I am very grateful that resources such as SABR and Baseball-Reference.com exist. Steven V. Wright, who wrote the SABR piece, did great work on SABR’s platform fleshing out the numbers and telling the story of an interesting player. The fact that I can take a few seconds googling and turn up tremendous work and resources like those makes reading and learning about baseball a delight. So maybe the next tim[...]



Aaron Altherr is an All-Star player if he can stay healthy

2017-09-21T13:26:53-04:00

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The Phils’ right-handed slugger has had a breakout campaign in 2017, when he’s been on the field.

There were a lot of doubts about Aaron Altherr at the start of the 2017 season.

He missed almost all of 2016 with a severe wrist injury and struggled mightily when he did come back (.202/.304/.293 in 227 PAs). That convinced the Phillies to hit the trade and free agent market this winter, as they brought in Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders to man the corner outfield positions.

Altherr entered the spring as the team’s fourth outfielder, and it didn’t seem as if a breakout was coming. But then Kendrick hurt his oblique just half a month into the season and Altherr was plugged into the starting lineup on April 16.

Cue the breakout.

After a 4-RBI game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night, Altherr was batting .281/.351/.539 in 370 plate appearances. He’s hit 19 home runs and driven in 60 in 97 games, with a wOBA of .373 and a wRC+ of 130.

The numbers are gaudy, and they are history-making, too. In a way.

I love happy endings.