Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Chase Utley scratched Tuesday ... but don't worry

It rained like mad in Clearwater this morning, so Utley likely was told to take the day off just to be safe. Slick fields and balky knees don't go well together.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Mike Schwimer traded to Blue Jays for 1B Art Charles

The Phillies traded RHP Mike Schwimer to Toronto for young, raw 1B Art Charles. The Phils have a glut of young relievers on the 40-man roster, and Schwimer, 27, became the odd man out. He went 2-1 with a 4.46 ERA in 35 games for the Phils last season, but had his season end oddly when he and the organization had a difference of opinion over an injury he believed was responsible for some struggles before he was sent to the minors.

Charles, 22, is a 6-6 left-handed hitter who had 13 HR in 212 ABs last season between Rookie ball and low-A. He also struck out 74 times, but drew 46 walks and had a .381 OBP despite a .236 average.

Location:US 19 N,Clearwater,United States

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mike Schmidt and Domonic Brown after 500 plate appearances

Click on the statistics to the right. Those are the career hitting totals for Domonic Brown in the big leagues, courtesy of baseball-reference.com. Kind of disappointing for a big-time prospect, right? In fact, some people call him a failed prospect, a bust.

Next up are nearly the same amount of plate appearances for Mike Schmidt at the start of his career. Take a look.

Not all that different from Dom Brown, are they? In fact, in some ways they are worse.
Schmidt eventually figured it out at the plate and merely became the greatest offensive third baseman in MLB history. So, it begs the question: Why in the hell does Dom Brown have so many people around writing eulogies to his career after 500 plate appearances?
"The difference between me and Domonic Brown in that analogy," Schmidt said, "is that I was an infielder. I didn't really have any competition as a third baseman. I guarantee I would've been in the same boat as him if I were a left fielder or right fielder. They expect more out of you, you have to assert yourself more as a hitter in order to win a job in the outfield ... From a hitting standpoint, even now he might be ahead of where I was at that time, a little better idea of hitting. I couldn't hit a ball to the opposite field to save my butt back then. I couldn't hit a curve ball, I couldn't hit a slider. But I sure could hit a long home run down the left-field line and play third base. I was afforded the time to make adjustments and sort of become an everyday, consistent major-league hitter. He doesn't have that luxury."

In a way, it makes sense. The outfield allows for a little more defensive liability in exchange for offensive readiness. And there is a far larger stockpile of capable outfielders around (which is why the Phillies can enter this season with question marks out there, since acquiring outfielders in trades isn't all that difficult).
Schmidt then said something interesting about his career:
"When you talk about my career, it would've been very, very mediocre if I were a left fielder. You would be comparing me to a lot of guys you don't compare me to right now. I was an infielder, not an outfielder."

That's quite a statement from a Hall of Fame member who never has been reluctant to admit he's the cock of the walk, and it's probably an overstatement. The guy hit 548 home runs when you could fit 500-homer members on standard-width horizontal poster. The Steroid Era forced the landscape version needed today.
Schmidt seemed to indicate that 2013 will determine whether Brown will be a Phillie in 2014. What he didn't question was Brown's potential.
"It's about time that Domonic does the things that everyone thinks he can do. And not does them over a day, but does them over a month, then two months. And that's when he gets his name inserted in the lineup every day. Who knows who it will be with? I hope it's here, when he's in a Phillies uniform. But sometimes young kids like that, the opportunity comes with another team. I don't know. But it's getting to that time where Domonic needs to become the player everyone believes he can be. And hopefully it will be soon, hopefully this year."

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mike Schmidt is in camp. His mustache, however...

(This is Daily Times photographer Eric Hartline's fine handiwork.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Citizens Bank Park Food News

Forget about who is going to be the Opening Day starter, or who will be the leadoff hitter for the Phils this season (although Jimmy Rollins says he doesn't mind if it's Ben Revere -- more on that coming in the Daily Times). The real buzz in the press box Tuesday was this:

Federal Donuts has a stand in Citizens Bank Park this season.

For those in Delco who have no idea what Federal Donuts is, well you have been missing out. The South Philly staple -- originally at 2nd & Federal, with a second store opening late last year at 16th & Sansom -- serves outrageously awesome hot donuts, as well as "fancy" donuts with such flavor bombs like Maple Bacon and French Toast. (Just writing those words makes me want to fly home and stuff my face.) Then, in the late morning, the store switches gears and starts making twice-fried chicken that is like crack in fowl form.

Anyway, they are coming to the ballpark. And it's probably the best offseason signing the Phillies made.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Why Ryan Howard needs (and deserves a chance to) stay healthy

As I wrote in a column Wednesday, the Phillies' lackluster offseason won't really matter unless their high-paid veterans figure out how to stay active -- specifically Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay.

In Howard's case, this need to stay on the field uninterrupted has more to do with the type of player he has been throughout his career: A power hitter who gets better as the dog days pile up.

In the column I mentioned that he needs "400 uninterrupted plate appearances" before he reaches his peak of productivity. Clearly, a switch doesn't instantly switch at 400 plate appearances. But historically, it has been around that point -- 400 plate appearances that come without a DL stint bifurcating them -- when Howard hits another level.

Here is the breakdown, year-by-year, of how Howard produced in at-bats before reaching that point and afterward. I stayed true to that stance in 2007, when he spent the minimum 15 days on the D.L. with a quad strain. That's why his plate appearances that year were so high before he arrived at the magic 400 mark (and in truth, he started heating up before that ... but he still was even better in those final 121 plate appearances).

Before 400 consective PAs (BA/SLG/OPS)

2005 (143 big-league PAs): .280/.488/.845 6 HR, 21 RBI
2006 (399 PAs): .282/.593/.947 32 HR, 80 RBI
2007 (527 PAs): .270/.573/.960 36 HR, 110 RBI
2008 (399 PAs): .231/.493/.816 25 HR, 80 RBI
2009 (401 PAs): .259/.534/.880 24 HR, 69 RBI
2010 (400 PAs): .299/.538/.895 21 HR, 74 RBI
2011 (401 PAs): .254/.471/.822 18 HR, 72 RBI

After 400 consecutive PAs

2005 (205 PAs): .294/.620/.976 16 HR, 42 RBI
2006 (305 PAs): .361/.762/1.280 26 HR, 69 RBI
2007 (121 PAs): .260/.635/1.049 11 HR, 26 RBI
2008 (301 PAs): .278/.608/.967 23 HR, 66 RBI
2009 (304 PAs): .306/.619/.998 21 HR, 72 RBI
2010 (51 PAs): .233/.442/.795 2 HR, 7 RBI
2011 (243 PAs): .256/.516/.854 15 HR, 44 RBI

In 2010 Howard suffered that ugly ankle injury at the beginning of August that cost him nearly a month. Ironically, that had been one of his most consistent performances in the first half of a season, and he never really got back to that when he returned.

It's worth noting that in 2011 Howard's numbers after the magic 400 mark only took a modest gain, and are strikingly lower than any of his other post-400 PA surges. However, when you look at his OPS+ -- the SABR stats that adapts your OPS to the rest of the league -- for that season (see below), his overall performance wasn't much different from his 2008. Oh, the magic of the post-Steroid Era!

The bottom line is this: Howard is a creature of habit. He needs plate appearances. He needs them in spring training, he needs them regularly during the season. And if he can make it to mid- to late-July without missing any time, the expectation should be that his production starts to lift. Granted, it probably never will return to the heights of 2006-09, but this is a pitcher's league these days. If he can be the hitter he was in 2011 -- ok, maybe a tad better -- the Phillies should be much, much better for it.