Heading Out West

The Phillies left for California yesterday a season-high eight games over .500.

This 10-game road trip through San Diego, Los Angeles and New York … wait a second, didn’t the Phillies just finish one of those? Yeah, they did. I can’t remember the last time two 10-game road trips were so close together. That’s craaazy. … is going to be a great test for the Phillies.

Can Joe Blanton build upon last week’s start against Florida, when he threw seven shutout innings? Can Antonio Bastardo — the man who is taking Brett Myers‘ spot in the rotation — outpitch Jake Peavy on Tuesday — the man Phillies fans would love to see pitching in Myers’ spot? Can the Phillies manage at least a split in four games in LA, where the Dodgers are the best team in baseball? And can they play a little better against the Mets, who are 3-1 against them this season?

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A couple stats to get your Monday morning going:

  • Baseball Prospectus gives the Phillies a 37 percent chance to make the postseason. BP likes the Mets better, however. They give the Mets a 71.1 percent chance.
  • Jayson Werth leads the Majors, averaging 4.52 pitches per plate appearance. Boston’s Kevin Youkilis is second with 4.44. Chase Utley is tied for 35th with 4.06. Ryan Howard is tied for 45th with 4.03. Shane Victorino sees the 15th fewest pitches in the Majors with 3.41 pitches per plate appearance.
  • Utley swings at only 7 percent of first pitches in his at-bats. That’s the third-lowest mark in baseball. Only Joe Mauer (3 percent) and J.J. Hardy (3.9 percent) swing at fewer first pitches. Werth is the 12th lowest at 12.1 percent. Raul Ibanez (24th at 15 percent), Jimmy Rollins (47th at 18.4 percent) and Victorino (tied for 57th at 19.9 percent) also are in the lowest 100. Ryan Howard is the 24th highest at 35.8 percent.
  • Utley leads the Majors with 11 hit by pitches. He leads the Majors with 88 hit by pitches from 2004 through 2009. Former Phillies centerfielder Aaron Rowand is second with 85.

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Petco Park and Dodger Stadium are two of my favorite ballparks in baseball. Petco is just a notch below Citizens Bank Park. I’d put Dodger Stadium on par with the Bank, I think. I wasn’t impressed with Dodger Stadium the first time I walked in it, but it really grew on me. But maybe I like it because there’s a solid chance I’ll see fellow MLBlogger Alyssa Milano there. We go way back. And when I say we go way back, I mean I used to watch Who’s the Boss? 

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23 Comments

Good baseball this weekend. Glad to Phils were able to sweep the lowly Nats. Congrats to Jamie Moyer on FINALLY achieving the 250 milestone win! Howard’s HR were truly spectacular!! Let’s hope this roadtrip is as successful as the last one. GO PHILS!

From what I have observed it is not surprising that Utley and Werth are among the league leaders in number of pitches seen per bat or that Victorino is among the worse. I am not so sure that it is within Victorino’s nature to change but I believe Utley and Werth can. They both allow too many good pitches to go by while waiting for the perfect pitch. In other words they sacrifice the good while waiting for the perfect. The satistics seem to bear out the impression that Howard has improved in this area. But the greatest improvement in my opinion is Pedro Feliz. Way to go Pedro. Keep up the good work.

Pherris: I disagree with you. Both Utley and Werth are patiant hitters who raise teh other guy’s pitch count. Remember what teh Yankees did to us? By forcing our pitchers to pitch more, they got rid of the starters earlier. As for Victorino, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix” he’s doing fine, so leave it alone. What is more of concern is how many times Utely gets hit. One of these days he’s going to get serriously hurt this way. It’ s fine and good to take one for the team now and then, but he seems to make a living out of it.

Pherrisphain: You’ve got it reversed, you DON’T want your hitters swinging at the first pitch. I can think of very few situations if any where that’s a good idea. Taking the first pitch is the hallmark of a disciplined hitter, and it vastly increases your likelihood of getting on base.

Phylan and Fan-in-Jerusalem: Whether or not the first pitch is a strike or ball changes the dynamic of the at-bat. It does not show discipline when you never go after first pitch strikes down the middle of the plate no less than first ball hackers who go after anything. Quite the opposite. If the book says you never go after the first pitch you have, in effect limited yourself to two strikes. Given the inclination to guard the plate after two strikes, the pitcher is only required to throw a quality pitch to obtain a second strike if even then. Utley and Werth are prime examples of paralysis by analysis.

f-i-j and phylan are accurate in their assessment of Utley and Werth. In fact, Werth should always bat higher in the lineup due to his patience at the plate in contrast to Victorino. I don’t want my #5 hitter working the count (one of the failings of Pat Burrell). I want him to see the pitch and hit it. But with Rollins, Werth and Utley at the top of the lineup, they can put tremendous pressure on starting pitchers and their pitch count. Utley is a great 2-strike hitter who, while sometimes having to protect the plate, often gets the pitch he wants deep in counts and drives the ball. Saying Utley has ‘paralysis by analysis’ is not understanding his approach at the plate at all. Swinging at the first pitch was always a problem for Pete Happy and his patience at the plate this year has resulted in greater success. He’s a much better hitter this season because of it.

Utley, and werth are so paralysed that Chase is hitting .294 with a .430 obp and Werth has a .342 obp with 8 hr and 26 rbis despite being in a huge slump. Give me a break. Taking the first pitch allows you to see what the pitcher has, his delivery and get focussed.

Samantha!

good article with a quick scouting report and comparison of Bastardo’s minor league numbers to Hamels, Wolf and Happ.

Also shows how Phillies prospects have fared in their first start with the club..

http://www.reclinergm.com/antonio-bastardo-what-to-expect/

Pherris it absolutely does not limit you to two strikes, particularly if the pitcher has just walked a batter or has shown poor/erratic location in a game. There is a significant chance the first pitch will not be a strike. Dan Haren currently leads all MLB pitchers with 70% first pitch strikes. So even against the pitcher that throws the most first pitch strikes, you’re still going to get a ball 30% of the time. There is no Philly hitter so terrible that he should be afraid to bat with 1 strike.

Working the count and making a pitcher throw pitches is one of the key elements of MLB-level hitting. You’ll note that Werth, the Philly who swings at the second-fewest first pitches, also leads the entire league in pitches seen per plate appearance. That’s a good thing.

I think this tells us that overall the Phils hitters are patient at the plate. I’m sure if Charlie thought Chase was taking too many good pitches to hit, I’m sure he would’ve said or done something by now. And Shane is sometimes frustrating to watch, but at the end of the season he’ll have a .290+ BA with 120 runs scored while playing a near flawless centerfield.

It is great that Chase is hitting .294 except he hit .309 in 2006 and .332 in 2007. In 2007 he also had career highs in OBP and SLG and career lows in walks and strikeouts. Maybe, just maybe he had something to do with better pitch selection or maybe not being so “selective” or, as I said above, not giving up the good pitch to wait for the perfect As indicated above, Chase receives 4.06 pitches per at bat. The net effect for him would be taking one quarter of pitches he sees no matter what. I don’t care about hitting orthodoxy as it supposedly applies to him. Chase is a unique talent and stand by my belief he takes too many pitches.

I don’t know why you’re not getting this, but taking more pitches correlates with improved hitting numbers. This is not some gray area or anything like that, that is how it works. Utley’s OBP right now is higher than either of the two years you mentioned, and .298 is just fine when combined with an OBP like he has right now. His wOBA right now is also higher than it was in either of those years.

If his BABIP right now was equal to what it was in the two years you mentioned, his average would be equal or at least comparable.

Also it’s sort of funny that you mention 2006 and 2007 as some kind of sign of great things happening when he swings at more pitches, and in the same breath point out that he had a career low in walks (that’s a bad thing, FYI). In 2006, when swinging at more pitches, he walked 8.7% of plate appearances and struck out in 20.1% of them. Now he’s walking in 15% of his plate appearances and striking out in 18.1%. Which sounds better to you?

pherrisphain, you are apparently unaware that some players become better hitters deeper in the count. They are not afraid to his with two strikes and they know that part of their job at the top of the order is to work the count and get pitchers to throw more pitches that their teammates can see. I suppose you think that their teammates are just sitting in the dugout, not paying any attention to what is happening on the field. We had a guy who was great at that for years in Bobby Abreu and it irked me that he refused to showcase that particular talent as a leadoff hitter.
A pitch that you may like sitting in your recliner may not be all that to the player at bat. Early in the count, they are looking for their pitch, not the pitchers’ pitch. If they get it, believe me, they are swinging at it. They are waiting to see more pitches and sometimes they are setting up the pitcher for later in the game.

Phylan are you thick or something? Let me spell it out for you. Given his higher BAs in 2006 and 2007 it is reasonable to conclude that increased swings meant increased hits which meant a higher average. You think? And maybe, just maybe, walks were down because he was getting more hits. And maybe he was getting more hits because he was going after pitches earlier in the count and no longer anal-izing as much as you evidently do. There is no one formula that fits all. Think of the possibilities connected with getting on base through a hit rather than getting hit by a pitch or walking. The possibilities should be enough to boggle even a great mind such as your own. Did you notice Chase getting a hit to drive in a run on the first pitch tonight? ’twas truly a thing of beauty.

Gee pherrisphain, I guess Utley should have swung at the first pitch in the fifth too.
Oh. Never mind.

Batting average tells only a very small part of the story. As I said, statistically, better plate discipline correlates with better hitting. This is indisputable. It’s not my opinion, it’s a fact.

I told the rest of the story and you ignored it. Your argument amounts to “Screw you and your fancy numbers, I know I’m right!”

I’m quite confident in the case I’ve made.

Phan 52 Oh great baseball Guru, Sage of Swig. Where did I say Chase should swing at anything? The first pitch in the fifth was a ball but the second was a strike. And the one he did park looked to me to be low and outside and he went out and got it. Regardless, he definitely looked more aggressive. First two at bat he received four pitches or half of what he has been averaging this year.

Phylan Ruffle your feathers, Buddy? Were did I say screw you? You really ought to learn to read and strive to improve your comprehension why you are at it. Other than referring to some baseball reference book you never addressed anything specific about Utley other than to cram him into some obscure baseball factoids. All I was trying to do is get some opinions as to why Utley’s average fell from his peak years. You still haven’t given an opinion.

pherrisphain, I thought by now you might realize that you are in a miority of one when it comes to assessing Chase Utley’s discipline at the plate and how it translates into being a better hitter. Maybe you should look at his current OPS and his BB/SO ratio this year. It might help open your eyes.

phan52 I thought the object of baseball is to score runs. You can twist yourself in a knot all you want over OPS or BB/SO ratios for this year or any other year. The fact remains that Chase has scored more runs in years that he hit over .300 than in years that he hit below .300. The year he hit highest for average he still drove in runs at his career annual average despite missing approximately 30 games. Standard batting philosopphy may apply to your standard hitter and even may make your standard hitter better but their is nothing standard about Chase.

I give up. You are just wrong. Deal with it.

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