NLDS Preview: Offense and Defense

Welcome to Part 2 of 3 of the NLDS Preview, where I'll scout the Phillies in painstaking detail.   RockiesMagicNumber will finish up the preview tonight or tomorrow morning with details on the pitching in the series.

 

The Bats:  A

So you learned this morning that Citizens Bank Park, while a hitters park, is not nearly as big of an advantage as you might think.  That in part is why I won't discredit the Phillies awesome offensive production, giving them their bats the lone A in the National League.  Here are their rankings:

Stat NL Rank
Avg .258 9th
Runs 820 1st
HR 224 1st
OBP .334 8th
SLG .447 1st
wOBA .340 1st
OPS+ 102 1st

Philadelphia's offensive numbers perfectly reflect their CBP's park factors.  They are a home-run hitting team shy on singles.  So either the park factor is right, the Phillies have fielded a team tailored to their park or a combination of the two.  Either way, this is the best offense in the National League.

Let's look at Charlie Manuel's lineup, which is about as stable as you will find, as six players have played at least 155 games:

Player Avg HR RBI OBP SLG wOBA OPS+
Jimmy Rollins - SS .250 21 77 .296 .423 .316 85
Shane Victorino - CF .292 10 62 .358 .445 .354 109
Chase Utley - 2B .282 31 93 .397 .508 .402 135
Ryan Howard - 1B .279 45 141 .360 .571 .393 139
Raul Ibanez - LF .272 34 93 .347 .552 .379 130
Jayson Werth - RF .268 36 99 .373 .506 .382 127
Pedro Feliz - 3B .266 12 82 .308 .386 .302 80
Carlos Ruiz - C .255 9 43 .355 .425 .337 103

A glance at the first five, and it's easy to understand why it would be such a big boost for Franklin Morales to get his head on straight.

Bench:*
IF: RH Eric Bruntlett (.171, 0, 7), RH Miguel Cairo (.267, 1, 2), LH Greg Dobbs (.247, 5, 20)
OF: RH Ben Francisco (.257, 15, 46), LH Matt Stairs (.194, 5, 17)
C: LH Paul Bako (.224, 3, 9)
*At the time of writing, playoff rosters had not yet been announced, so the bench composition is an educated guess.

 

The Gloves:  A-

This Beyond the Boxscore article points to the Phillies as being the clearcut best NL playoff team defensively.  Indeed, they rank 5th in MLB and 2nd in the NL in UZR/150, yet they have made 76 errors, second least in MLB.

Take the jump to a detailed look at Philadelphia's lineup.

LINEUP

1.  Jimmy Rollins

#11 / Short Stop / Philadelphia Phillies

5-8

175

B

R

Nov 27, 1978

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2009 - Jimmy Rollins 155 672 100 168 43 5 21 77 44 70 31 8 .250 .296 .423

Comment:  Rollins followed his disappointing 2008 campaign with three straight sub-.700 OPS months in 2009.  The low point was a .167/.206/.292 June.  However, he turned it around in a big way in July, throwing a more familiar .313/.385/.539 July.  Since that month, he has maintained a better level of play than the first half, but he has sloped off as the second half has worn on.

Strengths:  In spite of his terrible average, J-Roll is still a legitimate power threat, is very difficult to strike out and is just two shy of the MLB lead in stolen bases  among shortstops.  He seems to have lost a little bit of range defensively, but he did make a career-low six errors at shortstop, and he is coming off of two straight gold gloves.

Weaknesses:  Rollins is ill-suited for the leadoff role with that OBP below .300.  Not surprisingly, he doesn't walk much.  He hit just .230 as a RHB.  



2.  Shane Victorino

#8 / Center Field / Philadelphia Phillies

5-9

180

B

R

Nov 30, 1980

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2009 - Shane Victorino 156 620 102 181 39 13 10 62 60 71 25 8 .292 .358 .445

Comment: In some regards, Victorino had his best season of his career this year. He didn't deserve the All-Star selection he received, though he did himself well by having his best month in July. He faded down the stretch though, posting just a .650 OPS in Sept/Oct.

Strengths: According to Fangraphs, he has done more damage hitting fastballs than any NL OF sans Justin Upton. He doesn't steal a lot of bases, though he will be a threat to do so. Fangraphs doesn't like his defense, but he earned a Gold Glove last season, and this year's Fangraphs values are incongruent with recent years. He's a good fielder.

Weaknesses: He tends to struggle against finesse pitchers like Aaron Cook and can have issues hitting the change-up. Victorino is better from the left-side of the plate.

 

 

3.  Chase Utley

#26 / Second Base / Philadelphia Phillies

6-1

200

L

R

Dec 17, 1978

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2009 - Chase Utley 156 571 112 161 28 4 31 93 88 110 23 0 .282 .397 .508

Comment: Utley is no contest the best hitting second baseman in the game today, as he should collect his fourth consecutive Silver Slugger this year. He can thank Albert Pujols for robbing him of MVP Awards

Strengths: On top of all his ridiculous offensive numbers, he leads all NL 2B in fielding value. He has never had difficulty turning on fastballs, and he has shown the best plate discipline of his career, walking more and laying off pitches outside of the zone more. He actually performs slightly better against left-handed pitchers too. Note: this would be a good place to bring in your better RH reliever over playing the platoon splits.

Weaknesses: Is he tired? His.193/.290/.325 line since September 1 is truly pitcher-like. For some reason, he seems to have difficulty hitting in a count with three balls.

 

 

4.  Ryan Howard

#6 / First Base / Philadelphia Phillies

6-4

260

L

L

Nov 19, 1979

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2009 - Ryan Howard 160 616 105 172 37 4 45 141 75 186 8 1 .279 .360 .571

Comment: Ryan Howard is a scary man to see digging into the batter's box. He had a solid second half and finished the regular season strong, posting a .303 average even since September 1.

Strengths: The imposing run producer finished the year 3rd in MLB in HR, 1st in RBI and 5th in slugging percentage. He is just an elite slugger who can change a whole game and series by seeing one bad pitch. Despite his giant frame, he has managed to be a decent defensive first baseman.

Weaknesses: As we all know, Howard is prone to the strikeout. He has cut his K-rate to a career low, but it's still over 30%. Howard has struck out in half his PA's that have reached two strikes, in part due to the fact that he is the worst hitter in the league at making contact on pitches out of the zone. He also exhibits a nasty platoon split, hitting just .207/.298/.365 against LHP.

 

 

5.  Raul Ibanez

#29 / Left Field / Philadelphia Phillies

6-2

225

L

R

Jun 02, 1972

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2009 - Raul Ibanez 134 500 93 136 32 3 34 93 56 119 4 0 .272 .347 .552

Comment: Ibanez made me look like a genius in May when he helped put my fantasy team at the forefront of my division. He had a stellar All-Star first half, when he hit .309/.367/.649. However, he came down to earth in a big way in the second half, hitting a paltry .232/.326/.448.

Strengths: The veteran actually hits left-handers better than right-handers, so ignore the platoon splits here too. He has positive values against every pitch he's seen, so there's not one pitch that can get him out. Even with his second half struggles, he's sixth among NL outfielders in runs created.

Weaknesses: Maybe it's the short porch, but the former Mariner has graded out well defensively from UZR after years of being one of the worst defensive outfielders in the game. He'll go fishing on about a quarter of the pitches outside the zone, only making contact with half of them, which might explain his suddenly high K rate.

 

 

6.  Jayson Werth

#28 / Right Field / Philadelphia Phillies

6-5

225

R

R

May 20, 1979

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2009 - Jayson Werth 159 571 98 153 26 1 36 99 91 156 20 3 .268 .373 .506

Comment: It's hard to believe Ned Coletti DFA'd this All-Star just three years ago. It may seem like he has come out of nowhere, but really, the increase in production has only come with more at-bats. His rate stats have been in this vicinity for years.

Strengths: His power has been very consistent, knocking seven dingers in each of the last four months, six in the one prior. He trails only Adam Dunn and Ryan Braun in wRAA among NL outfielders, and while his season has been uninspiring on the defensive side statistically, he is regarded as a very solid defensive outfielder.  He even has 20 stolen bases.

Weaknesses:   He has a decent walk rate, but a 27.2% K rate is still a little too high.  Werth struggles most against RHP and power pitchers, so Ubaldo will hold the edge over him in Game 1.  He leans pretty heavily to being a pull hitter - only four home runs have gone opposite field and he's hitting just .257 when going the other way.

 

 

7.  Pedro Feliz

#7 / Third Base / Philadelphia Phillies

6-1

210

R

R

Apr 27, 1975

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2009 - Pedro Feliz 158 580 62 154 30 2 12 82 35 68 0 1 .266 .308 .386

Comment:  Feliz is one of those hitters Rockies fans think is a lot better than he is - like Fred Lewis - due to head-to-head matchups.  Among all MLB third basemen, only Emilio Bonifacio had a worse wOBA.  He may see purple pinstripes and go all Hulk on us, but he's not a real threat.

Strengths:  The Phillies 3B doesn't strike out much.  His UZR has gone down quite a bit since joining Philly, but he's still a solid defensive third baseman.  12 HR and 82 RBI is very strong for a 7-hole hitter.

Weaknesses:  Feliz struggles with anything offspeed, though it's not as if he has really punished fastballs either.  Only 11 NL hitters swing at more pitches out of the zone (Barmes is one of them), one of the reasons he is one of the worst NL hitters at drawing walks.  He has limped to the finish, hitting in the .225 range over the last two months.

 

 

8.  Carlos Ruiz

#51 / Catcher / Philadelphia Phillies

5-10

200

R

R

Jan 22, 1979

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2009 - Carlos Ruiz 107 322 32 82 26 1 9 43 47 39 3 2 .255 .355 .425

Comment:  Ruiz has improved dramatically with the bat from last year, moving from liabilty to unquestionable asset at the bottom of the lineup.  

Strengths:  Only one NL catcher strikes out less and only one walks more than Ruiz, who grades out as an above average MLB hitter regardless of defensive position despite a .266 BABIP.   His 27% caught stealing percentage is solid, and he has committed just 3 errors, the least of any MLB catcher with 800+ innings logged.  He has a decent amount of thump as well - his SLG% is just 15 points behind that of Clint Barmes.

Weaknesses:  He struggles mostly against groundball pitchers, which bodes well for the Rockies, the best groundball staff in the business.  Most of his offensive success comes at CBP - his road splits are .203/.296/.314

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