Philadelphia Phillies Trade Speculation: Is Joe Blanton Headed to St. Louis?

February 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

Adam Wainwright will undergo Tommy John Surgery in the near future, prematurely ending his 2011 season. Before his injury, Wainwright looked to lead a strong St. Louis Cardinals rotation, which also included Chris Carpenter, Jamie Garcia, Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse. If the Cardinals decide to fill out their rotation with a pitcher already in their camp, Ian Snell, Kyle McClellan, P.J. Walters and Lance Lynn will compete for the final spot. However, there is also a possibility they will look to acquire a pitcher through a trade before Opening Day.The Phillies and the Cardinals might just match up if the Cardinals decide they need to go outside of their organization to add an arm.

The Phillies are saying and doing all of the right things when it comes to dealing with Joe Blanton right now. But, I still think if the right offer were to arise, they would at least entertain it. I am talking about a deal where the Phillies would acquire Colby Rasmus in exchange for Blanton. The Phillies would most likely have to include some money towards Blanton’s remaining salary.The Phillies would acquire a young, talented and controllable outfielder, while the Cardinals would instantly upgrade their rotation and ease some of the pain of losing Wainwright. The question is: Would the Phillies want Rasmus if the Cardinals were willing to include him in the deal?

Colby Rasmus, 24 years old, posted a .276/.361/.498 slash line in 2010. He also hit 23 HR and produced 66 RBI, finishing with a 132 OPS+. These are all very impressive numbers, especially for a 24-year-old. The problem lies not only in the fact that Rasmus hits from the left side of the plate, but also in the widely perceived notion that Rasmus cannot hit left-handed pitching. The latter is very important because if Rasmus hit LHP well it would not matter which side of the plate he hit from. So the question arises whether Rasmus truly cannot hit LHP or has he not been given ample opportunity to prove that he can?

Ideally, when examining his lefty-platoon splits I would be able to use at least 1,000 plate appearances. However, Rasmus has only 256 PA in his young career vs. LHP, so I will use what I have. In 115 PA during the 2009 season, Rasmus was terrible against LHP posting a .218 wOBA. Compare that to his .341 wOBA against RHP and .218 looks even worse. The one glimmer of hope from 2009 was Rasmus’ .187 BABIP against LHP which suggests he was very unlucky.

In 2010, Rasmus had only 131 PA against LHP. However, his numbers were much more encouraging, as he posted a wOBA of .355 and an OPS of .810 against LHP. Rasmus did strike out at a high rate (33 percent) in 2010, but his strikeout percentage vs. LHP (29.6 percent) was actually less than against RHP (32.7 percent).

Throughout his minor league career, Rasmus hit pretty well against LHP—.275/.371/.455—as opposed to .278/.364/.496 vs. RHP. His minor league numbers suggest he should be an adequate hitter against LHP in the major leagues.He showed good improvement from 2009 to 2010. However, he must be allowed to prove himself against LHP. Rasmus is obviously not a LHP killer, but he is also not as terrible as most would believe.

Rasmus is only 24 years old with immense upside. He would infuse some youth into an aging Phillies lineup. Another key factor is Rasmus is not eligible for free agency until 2015. This would give the Phillies a young, reasonably priced outfield of Rasmus, Domonic Brown and Shane Victorino for the next few years. After looking at Rasmus’ stats, I think it would make sense for the Phillies to accept a deal of Rasmus for Blanton (plus cash) if the opportunity arises. If the Cardinals believe they need to add an established pitcher to their rotation and the Phillies believe Rasmus will hit LHP, then this may be something to watch as spring training progresses.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Philles and San Francisco Giants: Cliff Lee Vs Matt Cain

February 13, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

The Philadelphia Phillies and the San Francisco Giants have two of the best pitching rotations in baseball heading into the 2011 season. The Phillies rotation is full of veteran leadership and true ace-caliber pitching. The Giants rotation is young, full of potential and battle tested. The Phillies are led by Roy Halladay, while Tim Lincecum sits atop the Giants rotation. Both are two-time Cy Young Award winners and considered among the few elite pitchers in baseball.

However, much of the debate when looking at these two rotations comes when comparing Cliff Lee and Matt Cain. Some like Cain, while others prefer Lee. I am going to look at the statistics of both Cain and Lee over the past three seasons to make an informed decision as to who I believe will be the better No. 2 starter in 2011.

I used Fangraphs as my source for statistics. Also, I am not going to explain all of the abbreviations I use. Head over to Baseball Prospectus if you need definitions.

In 2008, Cliff Lee won the American League Cy Young Award. He started 31 games, pitched 223.1 innings and finished with a 22-3 record. Cliff Lee also led the league with a 2.54 ERA and a 168 ERA+. Lee posted a K/BB: 5.0, while compiling a WHIP of 1.11. Lee’s FIP was 2.83, which does not differ much from his actual ERA showing just how effective Lee was in 2008.

His BABIP was .301 showing luck did not factor into his performance. Finally, Lee posted an astonishing WAR of 7.2. After reviewing Lee’s 2008 numbers, it is easy to see why he was named the AL Cy Young Award winner.

Matt Cain pitched 34 games and 217.2 innings while compiling an 8-14 record in 2008. Although an 8-14 record is not very impressive, I do not consider a pitchers record nearly as important as other statistics when trying to determine their actual value. There are too many factors which the pitcher cannot control when determining the winner/loser of a game.

Moving on…Cain posted an ERA of 3.76, ERA+ of 118 and WHIP of 1.36. Cain’s FIP was 3.91, just slightly higher than his actual ERA. All of these are good numbers, but not outstanding. His BABIP was .297, which is right around the league average showing, like Lee, his success should not be attributed to luck. Cain’s K/BB ratio of 2.04 was quite ordinary. Although Cain’s K/9 was 7.7, which was better than Lee’s 6.9, his BB/9 was 3.8, which was significantly worse than Lee’s 1.4. Cain’s 3.7 WAR was very good, but it was not elite.

2008 Advantage: Cliff Lee

In 2009, Cliff Lee started the season with the Indians before being traded midseason to the Philadelphia Phillies. Between the two teams he pitched 231.2 innings and started 34 games. He finished with a 14-13 record. Lee had a 3.22 ERA, an ERA+ of 131 and a WHIP of 1.24. Lee once again produced a FIP 3.11, almost identical to his actual ERA and a BABIP, .315, right around the norm. Lee’s K/BB ratio fell a bit from 2008 to 4.21.

Lee’s WAR value was calculated at 6.6. These are all numbers which are expected from a front of the rotation pitcher. Lee’s numbers dropped off a bit from his Cy Young performance in 2008, but that was expected. He still put up very impressive numbers across two leagues.

Matt Cain pitched 33 games and 217.2 innings in 2009. He finished with a record of 14-8. He produced an ERA of 2.89, ERA+ 148 and WHIP of 1.18. All of these numbers were better than Lee’s. However, Cain’s FIP was 3.89, which is a full run higher than his actual ERA. This would suggest his numbers may be a little better than they should have been. This could be attributed to his BABIP of .263 which is much lower than the norm of .300. Both his FIP and BABIP would suggest Cain was a little lucky in 2009 and should have posted higher numbers across the board. He once again posted a pedestrian 2.34 K/BB ratio.

Cain finished with a WAR of only 3.5, which was actually slightly less than his 2008 WAR.

2009 Advantage: Tie. Advanced statistics show Lee had a better 2009 but Cain put up a better ERA, WHIP and ERA+. Therefore, I would say this is a toss up.

2010 once again saw Lee switching teams midseason. He missed his first few starts because of injury, but still pitched 212.1 innings over 28 games. He compiled a 12-9 record. Lee posted an ERA of 3.18, ERA+ 130 and a WHIP of 1.00. These are very good numbers, however, his FIP, 2.58 suggests he was even better than those numbers. His 2.58 FIP was second best in the entire league for 2010. His BABIP was .287, once again showing his numbers were not effected much by luck.

Lee’s most astonishing number was his 10.28 K/BB ratio which led the league. For the season, Lee walked only 18 batters while striking out 185. Lee, by all accounts, had one of his best seasons in 2010. He finished with a WAR of 7.1 which was best in the league.

In 2010 Cain pitched 223.1 innings across 35 games. His record was 13-11. Cain posted an ERA of 3.14, ERA+ 130 and a WHIP of 1.084. However, once again his FIP, 3.65 was much higher than his actual ERA. His BABIP, .252, was also much lower than the norm. Both of these factors would suggest Cain benefited from luck in 2010 and should have had worse numbers than he actually posted.

His K/BB ratio rose slightly to 2.90, but was still nothing special. Especially when compared to Lee. Cain posted a good WAR of 4.0.

2010 Advantage: Cliff Lee. His K/BB ratio, WAR, and FIP place him among the elite pitchers in 2010.

As you can see, both pitchers are very good and most teams would be lucky to have them as their No. 1 starter, let alone their No. 2. However, the advantage must go to Cliff Lee here. Cain’s numbers suggest he has been greatly overachieving and it is too early to know if this will be a trend throughout his career. Cain is a fly ball pitcher, 42 percent career fly ball rate, and benefits greatly from pitching in AT&T Park: Home ERA 3.19/Road ERA 3.76.

This could also explain his huge differences in ERA and FIP. However, Cain is still a very solid pitcher. Lee has been consistently very good over the past three seasons and a move to the NL for a full season will only benefit him.

Therefore, in my opinion, Cliff Lee projects to be a better pitcher than Matt Cain in 2011.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Michael Young: Would He Be a Good Fit with the Philadelphia Phillies?

February 8, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

Michael Young has played his entire career with the Texas Rangers. He has put up some pretty impressive numbers during his career, averaging 17 HR, 87 RBI, a .300 BA and a .795 OPS. He has posted these numbers while switching positions twice already, and if he plays with the Rangers in 2011, he will once again switch positions.

Young is considered a leader within the Rangers clubhouse. However, he has become expendable with the emergence of Elvis Andrus and the acquisitions of Adrian Beltre (3B) and Mike Napoli (DH/C). The Rangers are trying to gain some payroll flexibility, and moving the remaining three years and $48 million of Young’s contract is the most logical move for Texas. Therefore, Young has been openly shopped the past few months with the Rockies looking like the most likely destination to date.

Enter the Philadelphia Phillies. The only way this trade will work is if Young is capable/willing to play RF or LF. I am not sure if LF or RF are viable options for a 34-year-old career infielder. I am merely suggesting the Phillies kick the tires on a trade for Young.

Young would provide the Phillies with the right-handed, middle-of-the-order bat the team has been looking for since losing Jayson Werth this offseason. He would provide protection for Ryan Howard in the middle of the lineup. Young would also allow Ben Francisco to resume his role as the fourth outfielder or be used as a part of a platoon with Raul Ibanez. Domonic Brown would be free to start the year in Triple-A where he will receive regular at-bats every day.

The most important part of this trade would be the money and players exchanged. The trade I would propose for the Phillies would be Joe Blanton and possibly a fringe prospect for Young and $4-$8 million. After losing out on Cliff Lee, it is no secret the Rangers are looking for pitching. The Phillies are trying to unload Blanton mainly to cut payroll, but I believe a deal like this could sway them to actually take on some payroll.

The Phillies would offload the two years and $17 million left on Blanton’s contract and pick up Young’s remaining contract. Since we can’t guarantee how much, if any, money the Rangers would chip in, I’m not going to speculate. Basically the Phillies would be spending $7.5 million extra this season for Young and $31 million extra over the life of the contract.

So the Phillies would pay Young $7.5 million in 2011, $7.5 million in 2012 and $16 million in 2013. With Ibanez coming off the books next season and Dom Brown presumably ready to play in the majors full time in 2012, the Phillies could surely afford this even with the raises already guaranteed to other players.

Also, if Rollins continues to decline and is not willing to take a pay cut when he signs a new contract, the Phillies could always switch Young back to shortstop. Just a thought.

Like I said before, this is just speculation and most likely will not happen. I am just wondering what people think of a possible Blanton and Young swap.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies