Category Archives: Offseason 2009-10

The Total WAR Project, Part III: The Colorado Rockies

Around 60 or 61 A.D., the Romans were colonizing the British Isles, they encountered resistance from an indigenous tribe called the Iceni offered token resistance around modern-day Norfolk. Led by Boudica, the widow of a king who had made peace with the Romans, the Iceni forged local alliances to collect an army of around 230,000 to march on Londinium, routing a Roman legion and sacking a Roman colony along the way.

The Roman governor of Britain, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, at the head of 10,000 men, met them at what is now known as the Battle of Watling Street. Paulinus assembled his men, equipped with superior spears and armor, in a V shape, effectively funneling the Iceni attackers into a wedge where they could be surrounded by the cavalry and systematically cut down.

The plan worked spectacularly. The Romans suffered only 400 casualties, while the Britons suffered more than 80,000–200 Iceni for every Roman.

Amazing what you can down when you’ve got a plan and your opponent doesn’t.

What I’ve always found interesting about the Rockies is that while Coors Field caters to power hitters, the Rockies tend to have speedy, slap-hitting center fielders, rather than power hitters. The only exception is Ellis Burks–otherwise, the Rockies’ history is littered with guys like Dexter Fowler, Juan Pierre, Willy Taveras, and Alex Cole (look him  up, I dare you).

This is because the architects who built Coors Field knew that the thin air would result in the ball flying out of the park, so they built a massive outfield, which needed a speedy, slap-hitting center fielder patrolling it. Otherwise, just about everything hit in the air would drop for a hit. Offensively, even someone like Juan Pierre, who hasn’t hit a ball further than 300 feet since 2001, benefits because of that huge outfield. The deep fence means the opposing outfielders play farther back, which, in turn, means that lots of Texas Leaguers drop and lots of 180-foot doubles get hit.

Total WAR numbers for the Rockies after the jump.

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The Total WAR Project, Part II: New York Mets

I’m not the politic and history buff that Mike is, I won’t pretend to be, but it sure seems to me like the Mets are a lot like the war in Iraq; or, at least, like the two big views of it back here. Either you a) try to spend a whole lot more money and add more troops to try and overwhelm your opposition or b) finally admit it’s time to resign and pull back and let the system rebuild.

The Yankees finally perfected the art of option A last year, when three huge free agents propelled them to the title over the Phillies. The Mets, well, still seem to be stuck trying to master that art. After a lost season in which nearly every single starting position player and pitcher landed on the disabled list, the Mets are trying to get right back into the party in the National League East, not content to simply roll over and let the Phils take another division crown as they gather reinforcements.

Can the Mets’ returning starters – with a little help from some cavalry – actually make some noise and challenge the Phillies for the top spot in the East?

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The Total WAR Project, Part I: Atlanta Braves

One of the great 20th-century proponents of Total War, Curtis LeMay, advocated a nuclear version of total war (should it come to pass) called Mutually Assured Destruction. LeMay (the inspiration not only for General Buck Turgidson of Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb but for Burt Lancaster’s hawkish and treasonous General James Scott in Seven Days in May) thought that the best way to prevent war was to make the cost of waging it too high for a rational enemy (read: the Soviet Union) to want to wage it.

Khrushchev once said of LeMay’s vision, “The living would envy the dead.”

And so it came to pass that I discovered, after having promised the Total WAR project for all players, that FanGraphs’ CHONE projections don’t include predicted value numbers for pitchers. Therefore, where possible, I’ll be using the fan projections, which do. It’s far less scientific, I know, but for the purposes of keeping the numbers consistent, it seems to be the best option. If the fan numbers are completely f’d up the a, missing, or if only a few readers have projected stats, I’ll just repeat last year’s. This only seems to be happening with middle relievers and back-end starters, however. 2009 numbers will be italicized and followed by CHONE’s projected FIP and innings pitched, and fan predictions will be marked with an asterisk. It’s also worth noting that fan projections seem to be consistently optimistic, if only by a couple decimal points, because of the preponderance of, for instance, Braves fans projecting Braves players. Just bear that in mind when you’re reading.

So. On to the Braves.

In April 2006, I saw a Phillies-Braves game at Turner Field. The Phillies won behind early homers by Bobby Abreu, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard, and Gavin Floyd got the win. In the later innings, the Braves fans (such as were left), started doing the tomahawk chop, and I almost caught myself joining in. It’s hypnotic. Far and away the best cheer in sports, racist though it may be.  Total WAR begins after the jump. Continue reading

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The Total WAR Project: Prologue

For the first time in my life, I’d be shocked if the Phillies didn’t make the World Series. I mean, they’ve won the past 2 pennants with the same basic core group of players they’ve got right now. But what happens when they get there?

The way I see it, the Phillies have two main rivals for the division: the Braves and Mets. Once they get out of the division, I’d say that last year’s three other playoff teams (Rockies, Cardinals, and Dodgers) are a threat in the National League playoffs. Honestly, the Giants and Cubs might make a push for the pennant, but they’re so dysfunctional that I seriously doubt the likelihood of such an occurrence.

In the American League, the Yankees and Red Sox stand head and shoulders above everyone else, with the Rays, Mariners, and Angels in the second tier of contenders. Nothing good’s going to come out of the Central, trust me. Of course, now that I’ve said that, we can all bank on a Twins-Giants World Series next November.

So that makes 10 teams in all. The Phillies, if they’re going to win the World Series this fall, will have to make it through some combination of those teams. With all the wheeling and dealing going on, who out of those teams has gotten better, compared to last season, and who has gotten worse?

In short, how well and truly screwed are the Phillies heading into next fall?

Now, this is going to be an extremely unscientific analysis. Originally, I was just going to consider major acquisitions and departures (the Yankees lose Melky Cabrera and Johnny Damon but pick up Javier Vazquez and Curtis Granderson, for instance), and compare WAR from 2009 and the CHONE projections in 2010 (available on FanGraphs), but I figure, why not make this an 11-part series? So I’ll put together a 25-man roster for each of these 11 teams (or, more accurately, outsource it to India, where our Phrontiertern, Vikram, will do it for 10 cents on the dollar), total up the 2009 WAR and the 2010 CHONE-predicted WAR, and get back to you with the list, the totals, and some brief analysis.

I realize that rosters haven’t been finalized, and that each team will probably field at least one player that none of us has ever heard of, but I hope that it will just give an impression of where we stand.

Finally, FEEL FREE TO COMMENT. The whole point of this experiment is to start irrational screaming matches, so if you think something’s way off, speak up fachrissake.

That is all. See you, most likely tomorrow, with part I: The Atlanta Braves.

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On Girls With Low Self-Esteem and Flawed Free Agents

When I was in high school, I wasn’t exactly a hot ticket. I mean, I was tall and a guitarist (I still am both of those things, incidentally)…aaaand that was about all I had going for me in terms of landing the proverbial hot chicks.

I had braces until halfway through my junior year. I took all AP classes, and spent a lot of time doing homework. While my high school’s social hierarchy was based largely on how much money your parents gave you to spend, my parents never really had a tremendous amount of money, and not a whole lot of that trickled down to me for my own personal entertainment.

Let’s put it this way: being in marching band in high school is bad enough, being drum major for two years just about kills any chance you have of dating hot girls. And just to make sure I was consigned to the social underbelly of the school, I played clarinet and did three years of academic challenge.

What I learned from this experience is the value of buying low and selling high.

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Werth’s…Value

It would probably be fair to classify the 2010 season as the beginning of a transitional period in the history of the Phillies.

One piece has already been addressed, with Ruben Amaro having traded for and signed a legitimately elite starter for the next four seasons. Another, slightly less important cog has been WD-40ed, with Placido Polanco replacing Pedro Feliz for the next three seasons. What looms in the future are more pivotal decisions that, if correctly addressed, will keep the Phillies among the National League’s elite teams for years to come.

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Phillies Fantasy Drafting Guide: Hitters

Maybe it’s too small a sample for me to speak in general terms, but a lot of Phillies fans seem to give extra preference to hometown players when assembling their fantasy baseball squads. Hey, if you’re not a seamhead, go with what you know. I can dig it.

But for the sake of your team’s success, you may be able to put off drafting a Philly player by a round or two, sometimes more. Where do the Phillies’ bright stars rank among the rest of baseball’s fantasy studs? Where should you feel most comfortable taking Cole Hamels? Is Jimmy Rollins still a top five shortstop?

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