Saturday, October 12, 2013

2013 Phillies Post-Mortem

Well, for the second year in a row, we Phillies fans have the opportunity to watch the playoffs knowing that our team had no shot of being involved.  Another year of moderate optimism (and, in the case of my step-dad, delusional optimism -- he predicted 100 wins!) resulted in another year of injury woes and disappointment.  I spent a fair amount of time before the season creating a projection for the team, and if you don't mind, my review of the season will re-assess those predictions.  You can see the whole thing here.

1. Outfield? More like doubtfield!

At the start of the season, the outfield looked like it was going to be mostly Domonic Brown, Ben Revere, and Delmon Young.  Well, Revere got hurt early and Young got traded, so there was a lot more John Mayberry and Darin Ruf than I expected.  Young really had a rough go in the field, but he had a predictable season offensively, hitting .261/.302/.397 with 8 homers and 31 RBI in half a season compared to my expected .260/.290/.400 with 9 homers and 37 RBI for the same play time.  In relief of him, Ruf put up a more exciting half-season, with a slugger-riffic .247/.348/.458 line, 14 homers, and 30 RBI.  He certainly earned another look next season, although he will have to keep up his solid walk rate to balance out the possible drop-off in batting average (he had a .324 BABIP, which is pretty unsustainable for a slow guy).

The centerfield position had some trouble after Revere got hurt.  He exceeded my expectations with the bat, going .305/.338/.352, and was on pace for 40 steals.  He has good athleticism in the field which allows him to sometimes overcome his terrible instincts (like a chicken with his head cut off going after fly balls sometimes).  Unfortunately, with his injury, it gave John Mayberry another opportunity to underwhelm in 384 PA.  As the Phillies, you have to be able to put someone else in the field that can play average defense and hit better than .227 with 11 homers and 5 steals in 2/3 of a season.

Domonic Brown, on the other hand, was a rare bright spot, at least when you consider fan expectations after previous seasons.  As I noted at the beginning of the season: "If Brown puts up something between his career rates (.236/.315/.388) and his spring training pace (.376/.430/.671) with double-digit steals, he could reasonably end up contributing a .270/.340/.430 line with 15 homers, 75 runs/RBI, and 15 steals."  He ended up with .272/.324/.494, showing less discipline than he had in the past, but he did smack 27 homers, and would have had 30 if he played a full season.

I predicted 4.2 WAR from the outfield, and, get this, they ended up with NEGATIVE 1.6!  Doubtfield for sure.

2. The Four Aces Big Three Two Towers?

Well, that didn't go as expected.  Roy Halladay started the season with an 8+ ERA then got hurt, Cole Hamels couldn't buy a win, and the back end of the rotation was, uh, a rotation of "meh" young arms.  Halladay in particular was brutal, as he ended up with his worst strikeout rate since '07, walk rate since ever, and strand rate and ERA since 2000.  He might get re-signed to a one year good-faith deal, but I think we've learned not to expect much.

Lee and Hamels were both solid for much of the year, with Lee having another exceptional year (222 strikeouts in as many innings, just 32 walks, and a 2.87 ERA), while Hamels struggled early and bounced back late, ending up with his 3rd-worst ERA at 3.60, which says something about his career.  Cole had an ERA improvement of over a run between the first and second halves of the season, winning just four games in his first 24 starts and then four in his last 9.  Both guys should be just fine next year as well, and should at least keep the team moderately competitive.

The rest of the rotation was nothing to write home about.  Kyle Kendrick, who had a 3.61 ERA in 40 starts in the two previous seasons, saw his ERA this season shoot up over a run thanks to a brutal second half in which his strand rate dropped by 20%, his opposing BABIP rose by 70 points, and so his ERA jumped by over 3 runs.  Halladay's injury and John Lannan's absences allowed for Jonathan Pettibone, Tyler Cloyd, and Ethan Martin to get substantial play time.  Unfortunately, only Pettibone posted an ERA below 5, so there's not much going for the Phils here, although at least Pettibone was the only one of those to throw 100 innings.  They really need one of these guys (or the guys in AA) to step up and help out.

3. Age is just a number, right?  Right? ... The infield

No, looks like age is actually a thing.  Huh.

A healthy Howard hit just 11 homers and 43 RBI in half a season, and with a ridiculous .349 BABIP (his highest since his MVP season), it's hard to feel warm-and-fuzzy about his .266 average.  We already talked about John Mayberry, who spent a lot of time as the replacement here.

Jimmy Rollins had his fewest HR, R, RBI, and SB since 2003 despite playing 160 games, and almost as importantly, had his worst advanced defensive metric performance since 2002.  

I predicted a not-as-awful-as-last year .280/.330/.400 slash line from Michael Young, and he ended up with .276/.336/.395 -- sometimes, I impress even myself.  Neither of his replacements, Kevin Frandsen and Cody Asche, inspired any confidence (averaging about a .235 average and .300 OBP with 10 homers in almost 500 at-bats).  

Chase Utley had 2 more WAR than any other position player on the team, posting his best batting average, slugging percentage, home runs, and RBI since 2009 (although he also played his most games since that season). 

Using a guess of 5 WAR for Carlos Ruiz (the catchers actually got 2.5 WAR), and 2 for the bullpen (they actually got -0.1), I guessed that the Phils would win 84 games.  Obviously, there were a lot of disappointments and injuries above, but a 73-89 season in which they finished behind the Mets is not anyone in Philly's idea of a good time.  Now that we've seen a decline for two straight years, I feel safe in saying that this team is not going to compete for a division title until after the completion of Ryan Howard's contract in 2016, at which point salary-cap-cloggers Rollins and Papelbon will also be gone, but so will Hamels' prime and the presence of Lee and Utley.  Oh, and let's not think too hard about the teams ahead of them in the division who have two young stud pitchers each (Strasburg/Zimmermann, Teheran/Minor, Harvey/Wheeler) and will probably not be going away any time soon.

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