2/18/09: Baseball Prospectus has just released its 2009 projections.
Jimmy Rollins – .293/.360/.458, 16 HR, 43.9 VORP
Shane Victorino – .291/.352/.430, 12 HR, 24.3 VORP
Chase Utley – .295/.377/.522, 28 HR, 55.9 VORP
Ryan Howard – .270/.374/.547, 40 HR, 40.5 VORP
Jayson Werth – .283/.380/.511, 22 HR, 32.8 VORP
Raul Ibanez – .276/.341/.450, 18 HR, 15.4 VORP (still listed w/Seattle)
Pedro Feliz – .261/.312/.409, 12 HR, 7.7 VORP (427 PA)
Carlos Ruiz – .250/.331/.357, 5 HR, 4.9 VORP
I’m very, very impressed with Werth’s projected numbers. He could be the epitome of what fantasy players like to call a “sleeper,” in that he won’t be among the first 10 outfielders drafted, but will still have excellent production. Everybody else looks right on par with what we’ve come to expect; a boost in Howard’s numbers is a nice sight to see, as are Rollins’s.
How about the reserves?
Lou Marson – .258/.347/.378, 8 HR, 11.3 VORP
Ronny Paulino – .246/.308/.375, 3 HR, 1.7 VORP
Geoff Jenkins – .267/.335/.454, 9 HR, 7.4 VORP
Matt Stairs – .262/.344/.437, 9 HR, 7.7 VORP
Greg Dobbs – .276/.337/.451, 7 HR, 10.3 VORP
Eric Bruntlett -.241/.319/.324, 1 HR, 0.7 VORP
Well, that’s about as good as you can expect from your bench. How about the rotation?
Hamels: 27 GS, 180 IP, 3.65 ERA, 160 K, 46 BB, 1.19 WHIP, 36.9 VORP
Myers: 27 GS, 175 IP, 3.87 ERA, 154 K, 54 BB, 1.27 WHIP, 30.0 VORP
Blanton: 29 GS, 185 IP, 4.43 ERA, 128 K, 53 BB, 1.36 WHIP, 20.1 VORP
Moyer: 25 GS, 160 IP, 4.62 ERA, 86 K, 42 BB, 1.30 WHIP, 13.0 VORP
Happ: 12 GS, 65 IP, 4.63 ERA, 57 K, 29 BB, 1.42 WHIP, 6.6 VORP
The line for Hamels is a bit of a regression, sort of corroborating the dangers of the Verducci Effect. Myers looks primed for a bit of a bounce back, but spots three through five are mediocre at best. Coupled with some less than impressive bullpen numbers that aren’t far off from the James projections, it appears as though offense will need to drive this team again, just as it did in 2007.
12/22/08: At this point, all of the Phillies’ major roster moves are complete. There may be some doubt as to who exactly will make the 25-man roster come April, but I think we all have a pretty good idea.
Knowing that, then, let’s take a look at what these Phillies are projected to do in the coming season. I think we may find that a title repeat may not exactly be easy to come by.
- Jimmy Rollins (S), SS
- Shane Victorino (S), CF
- Chase Utley (L), 2B
- Ryan Howard (L), 1B
- Jayson Werth (R), RF
- Raul Ibanez (L), LF
- Pedro Feliz (R), 3B
- Carlos Ruiz (R), C
- Pitcher’s spot
Aside from tying the record for most names ending in “Z,” this lineup looks OK. Ibanez, by all measures, is a better hitter than Jayson Werth, but no one can expect to line up three lefties back-to-back-to-back and expect to survive against lefty starters and specialists, especially given the combined numbers of those three against lefties over their careers.
Utley’s numbers are very good, but then Chase Utley is very good. Howard’s numbers are bad but always have been, and Ibanez’s numbers got a boost from a surprisingly successful season against lefties in 2008. The slugging from all three is nice, but the OBPs of Howard and Ibanez still show that they don’t have the best eye for lefty pitching (though Howard gets credit for having a decent IsoD of .083).
I have a sneaky, personal suspicion that Jayson Werth will fall short of replicating the production rates he had in 2008. He still strikes out too much, and in a lineup that does too much of that to begin with, he doesn’t stand out. He’ll be asked to replace Pat Burrell’s power, though, seeing as Ibanez is more of a doubles hitter than a slugger; credit that to the expanses of SafeCo if you will.
Rollins should have a bounce-back season. He’s never been an excellent hitter, but he had such a plummeting power drop-off that something in his swing just might not have been right. That’s grasping for straws, as Rollins didn’t really show any ill effects following his return from the DL in the middle of 2008, but such a regression at age 29 is surprising.
Well, don’t take my word for it. Let’s see what Bill James projects for each of the player on the Phillies roster.
Bill James Offense Projections
- Jimmy Rollins: .282/.344/.449, 17 HR, 70 RBI, 41/51 SB
- Shane Victorino: .286/.345/.428, 13 HR, 54 RBI, 27/37 SB
- Chase Utley: .299/.381/.527, 30 HR, 109 RBI, 12/16 SB
- Ryan Howard: .276/.376/.587, 50 HR, 144 RBI, 202 K
- Jayson Werth: .279/.369/.484, 25 HR, 89 RBI, 21/27 SB
- Raul Ibanez: .278/.343/.448, 22 HR, 100 RBI
- Pedro Feliz: .248/.293/.420, 17 HR, 66 RBI
- Carlos Ruiz: .262/.341/.391, 7 HR, 40 RBI
James’s projections often seem a bit optimistic in the grand scheme of things, but most of these look about right. Feliz’s numbers are scary bad, and there’s still no projected .300 hitter through the regular lineup. But if Howard’s IsoD can, in fact, get to .100, and this lineup can hit almost 200 homers, that’s acceptable.
I prefer Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA projections, but they are not set to be released for some time yet.
How about the bench players?
- Greg Dobbs: .284/.329/.432, 8 HR, 44 RBI
- Matt Stairs: .242/.333/.404, 12 HR, 46 RBI
- Eric Bruntlett: .244/.319/.321, 2 HR, 20 RBI
- Lou Marson: .292/.391/.397, 6 HR, 42 RBI
- Geoff Jenkins: .257/.330/.441, 15 HR, 52 RBI
- Chris Coste: .268/.326/.415, 5 HR, 22 RBI
- Ronny Paulino: .272/.330/.397, 4 HR, 24 RBI
Chris Coste is more than likely not going to be on the team come Opening Day, but for now he is a member. Also, Jason Donald does not have any projected numbers, despite being expected to make the 25-man roster early in the season as a utility player.
Dobbs, Marson, and Paulino look to be very serviceable pinch-hitting or spot starting options. For Dobbs and Marson, that was already sort of assumed or expected, but Paulino could be a pleasant surprise.
The team is still catcher-heavy, with Ruiz, Coste, Paulino, and Marson all ready for Major League contributions. Coste is aging, though, and his bat is slipping. Without his bat, Coste essentially turns into a pumpkin. The bench is also still lefty-heavy, but that wasn’t really much of an obstacle late last season.
On the whole, it appears as though the pitching staff will once again be called on to bail out the offense on a few occasions. So, let’s see if the staff will be up to task.
Bill James Pitching Projections
- Cole Hamels: 223 IP, 16-8, 3.24 ERA, 214 K, 58 BB, 1.12 WHIP
- Brett Myers: 210 IP, 12-12, 4.26 ERA, 182 K, 73 BB, 1.35 WHIP
- Jamie Moyer: 193 IP, 11-11, 4.23 ERA, 114 K, 54 BB, 1.33 WHIP
- Joe Blanton: 193 IP, 11-10, 3.99 ERA, 110 K, 55 BB, 1.36 WHIP
Bill James does not have projections for J.A. Happ, who I believe will win the fifth starter’s spot.
I’ll tell you what, though, if we can get those numbers for an entire season out of that staff, that is one solid rotation. Four starters with sub-4.50 ERAs are pretty hard to come by on one staff. Again, going into personal opinion, I don’t think Moyer will have that kind of year. Blanton’s just average enough where he would have a 4.00 ERA on the dot, and Myers is certainly primed to bounce back. He can’t do much worse to start the year than he did in 2007.
The bullpen will probably be relied on to carry most of the burden once again, so let’s see how they could do.
- Brad Lidge: 70 IP, 3.26 ERA, 39 Sv, 96 K, 31 BB, 1.21 WHIP
- J.C. Romero: 53 IP, 3.96 ERA, 43 K, 31 BB, 1.45 WHIP
- Ryan Madson: 84 IP, 4.15 ERA, 66 K, 26 BB, 1.36 WHIP
- Scott Eyre: 34 IP, 4.09 ERA, 32 K, 16 BB, 1.44 WHIP
- Clay Condrey: 67 IP, 4.74 ERA, 36 K, 20 BB, 1.48 WHIP
- Chan Ho Park: 85 IP, 5.36 ERA, 66 K, 35 BB, 1.52 WHIP
- Chad Durbin: 86 IP, 4.59 ERA, 59 K, 32 BB, 1.41 WHIP
Ouch. That’s a fairly significant regression just about everywhere, except for Condrey. Those are not good numbers for a whole ‘pen contingent. Remember, the bullpen was a pretty big reason why the Phillies were able to close down games, something they had struggled to do in the Tom Gordon/Jose Mesa/Antonio Alfonseca era. These numbers seem to suggest a return to that time, just with different names.
If the Phils hope to defend their division crown – much less make a run at defending their championship belt – these projections need to be far off. The starters should be good, but not so good as to offset a bullpen that could be this bad.
The Mets made some fairly high-profile improvements. The Marlins will be about as good in 2009 as they were this past season. The Braves missed out on A.J. Burnett but should still field a competitive team. And the Nationals may land Mark Teixeira.
This division isn’t standing still and the Phillies’ core is about to leave its collective peak. The signing of Ibanez was a pretty bad move for the long-term, but only about average for the here and now. Luckily, the best outfield prospects in the system are still too far away to be blocked by Ibanez, though that doesn’t mean there are any five-star prospects down that far, either.
If Utley does miss a month or two, the offense will struggle. Howard gets pub for his power, Rollins gets airtime for his mouth and speed, but Utley is the team’s best player, bar none. Without him, the lineup and defense will have fairly significant holes that will not be replaced until he returns.
Cole Hamels is a prime candidate to experience the Verducci effect – a pitcher 25 or younger surpassing his previous year’s IP totals by 30 or more – and hopefully his past health concerns won’t resurface.
Brad Lidge had a resurgent year in ’08, but I don’t necessarily buy that he’ll immediately collapse again. His knee was fine throughout the year, and though he often relied on his slider a little too heavily, he’s still got the stuff to put up solid numbers once again.
This is a good team, and they’ll be in the mix of things again late into September. Whether they’ll be playing in October for the third straight year, however, is not a matter of when. They could very well turn this division over to the Mets.
But I don’t think they will. The core may be hitting their 30s, but they’re still damn good players. Hamels will be excellent again, and somehow it seems every other cog in this machine will do just enough to get by.
The Phillies will finish 86-76, good enough for another playoff spot.
As if “good enough” was ever truly that in this town.