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Phillies Blog Articles - November 2012

Predicting Phillies roster: which infielders make the team in 2013?
by Scott Butler 11/3/12

Ruben Amaro has his work cut out for him over the next few months, with major decisions to make regarding the bullpen, third base, all three outfield positions, and the bench. Just as we forecasted the Phillies roster moves for 2013 in pitching, we will predict the moves for Phillies infielders in 2013.

First, here is a list of infielders who are near locks to make the Phillies roster next season.

Phillies position player locks

Ryan Howard

Yep, that's it. Just Ryan Howard. Pretty short list, huh? Don't worry, Howard is not the only regular returning next season. But, the Phillies have concerns with age, injury, talent, and/or contracts at nearly every position, which makes for an intriguing offseason. Let's take a look at which Phillies will stick around next season.

Carlos Ruiz

Carlos Ruiz was easily the Phillies MVP last season, and had he not missed 34 games due to injury, he might have been in league MVP discussions.

Needless to say, Ruiz was ridiculous in 2012. He hit .325 with a .394 OBP, .540 slugging percentage, 16 home runs, and 68 RBIs. It was a career year in every way. Chooch beat his previous career high totals in batting average by 23 points, slugging percentage by 93 points, homers by 7, doubles by 4, and RBI by 14. He also hit .368 with runners in scoring position.

Given all those numbers, the Phillies only have to pay Ruiz $5 million in 2013 WHEN they pick up his option. So, why on God's green Earth would Ruiz not be considered a lock? Well, $5 million for one of the best catchers in the game makes him an enticing trade option.

I don't think a trade will happen, but if Ruiz even slightly replicates his offensive totals, he stands to make bank after next season. The Phillies may not be willing to take such a risk with what will be a 35-year-old catcher. The Phillies have two catchers in the minors who could be ready to play in the majors soon. They could trade Ruiz for another area of need and bring up Sebastian Valle a year early. It's a tough decision, but it is the type of creative thinking Amaro has not done enough of yet.

Brian Schneider  

Schneider is 35, hit .212 in his three seasons with the Phillies, faced injury issues, and played just 34 games in 2012. The Phillies also have Erik Kratz who is better, younger, and cheaper. Need I say more?

Erik Kratz

One of the biggest surprises in 2012 was the emergence of Erik Kratz. The 32-year-old journeyman minor league catcher finally made his jump to the big leagues in 2012. Kratz hit .319 with seven homers and seven doubles in his first 81 plate appearances. Then he slumped badly over his next 23 games, hitting .181 with 19 strikeouts in his final 72 at-bats.  

Overall, Kratz finished with a .248 average, .306 OBP, .504 slugging percentage, nine doubles, nine homers, and 26 RBI. Despite the dropoff in his last 23 games, those are splendid numbers for a backup catcher. And his power is a nice luxury to have off the bench.

More surprising was his work behind the plate. Kratzy threw out 18 of 33 base stealers, for a 54.5 percent success rate, which ranked third among catchers with at least 300 innings.

Better yet is the fact that Kratz will make less than half of the $1.18 million per year the Phillies paid Brian Schneider. Unless Sebastian Valle makes the unlikely jump to the Phillies, Erik Kratz is the backup catcher in 2013.

Michael Martinez

Michael Martinez probably should not have made the Phillies team in either of the last two seasons and definitely should not be with the team next season. Martinez was a capable fielder at numerous positions, but he wasn't particularly quick or powerful at the plate.

Martinez did the best he could with what he had, but what he had was a .188 batting average, .241 on-base percentage, and .272 slugging percentage in 133 total games with the Phillies. Martinez will play in Lehigh Valley next season or nowhere at all.

Placido Polanco

It is pretty simple with Placido Polanco. He is 37 and suffered numerous injuries which limited him to just 90 games in 2012. The Phillies hold a $5.5 million contract option which they will undoubtedly decline and instead buy him out for $1 million.

Jimmy Rollins

Jimmy Rollins played about as well as the Phillies would have expected in 2012. He hit .250 with a .316 OBP, 23 HR, 68 RBIs, 102 runs scored, and 30 SB. On the downside, he was characteristically undisciplined at the plate, led all of baseball with 42 infield fly balls, and was caught not hustling yet again.

None of that seems to coincide well with his $11 million salary, but it is actually a reasonable salary considering his standing among other shortstops. Rollins had the most runs scored (102) among all major-league shortstops, finished second in homers (23), and fifth in slugging percentage (.427), in addition to winning the Gold Glove at shortstop.

That said, the Phillies might still be trying to deal J-Roll like they reportedly were at the trading deadline. Rollins has a no trade clause and he seems happy in Philly, so trades would probably be limited to contending teams or west coast teams. Rollins will probably be back next season.

Freddy Galvis

Freddy Galvis, who had played his whole career as a shortstop, dazzled Phillies fans with his defense at second base last season. In 58 games, he committed just one error in 266 chances between second base and shortstop last season. He only hit .226, but he hit 15 doubles, 3 home runs, and had a few key hits for the team.

Galvis was expected to be a work in progress at the plate, but they hoped he would improve with experience. That did not happen because he went on the DL on June 19, faced a 50-game suspension for PED's, and never played another game with the Phils.

Despite the setbacks, Galvis will be with the Phillies next season in one way or another at second base, shortstop, third base, or all of the above. The interesting question to consider is what his role will be in 2014 when Utley's contract expires.

Ty Wigginton

Ty Wigginton will not wear Phillies pinstripes in 2013. Wigginton was a train wreck defensively and his .235 average and 11 home runs are nowhere near what the Phillies hoped. The Phillies will buy him out for $500,000.

Predicting Phillies roster: which outfielders make the team in 2013?
by Scott Butler 11/5/12

The Phillies have numerous holes to fill in 2013 at third base, the outfield, the bench, and in the bullpen. Many of those positions will be filled from outside the organization, meaning many of the faces we saw last season will not be returning to the Phillies in 2013. Just as we forecasted the Phillies 2013 pitching roster and the Phillies 2013 infield roster, we will predict the moves for Phillies outfielders in 2013.

Darin Ruf

Darin Ruf was barely even a name in the Phillies system a year ago, but a monster season at AA Reading made Ruf a definite part of the Phillies' future plans. He won the Eastern League MVP award at Reading and nearly won the AA Triple Crown with a .317 average, 38 home runs, and 104 RBIs, breaking Ryan Howard's home run record in the process. He parlayed his minor league success into the majors, hitting .333 (11 for 33) with three homers, two doubles, a triple, and 10 RBIs.

Ruf is a first baseman by trade, but in order to join the Phillies he must transition to left field. The Phillies are concerned about his speed to play the outfield, but it's not like former left fielders like Burrell, Ibanez, Incaviglia, and Luzinski were exactly Jackie Joyner-Kersee out there. If Ruf can hit, Charlie Manuel will find a way to make it work. Considering the Phillies need for outfielders, my bet is that Ruf makes the jump from AA to the majors and splits time with Brown in left.

Domonic Brown

The fact that Domonic Brown is in any of the Phillies plans shows just how dire the outfield situation is in Philadelphia. The once untouchable prospect has continually failed to live up to his expectations. After a decent minor league season, Brown hit just .235 with 5 home runs in 187 at-bats with the Phillies.

On the positive side, Brown improved his defense dramatically and showed the ability to work counts and draw walks. At age 25, Brown has time to improve and mature, but the question is, where? With three outfield positions to fill and no clear frontrunner for any of them, there is a good chance the Phillies plop him in left or right, possibly in a platoon, and see what happens. But it is just as likely that he will end up in the minors or with another organization. The Phillies may fit Brown into their plans, but they will not build any plans around him.

John Mayberry

In my mind, John Mayberry was by far the biggest disappointment of the season. It seemed like 2012 was going to finally be Mayberry's break out year. After an offensive surge in 2011 (.315 avg, 10 HR, 25 RBI after July 22) earned him a job as the everyday left fielder, his 2012 season was a disaster. He hit .245 with a .301 OBP, 14 HR, and 46 RBI.

More troubling were his numerous mental lapses. For a Stanford educated man whose father played in the majors, Mayberry seemed like he had no understanding of the game of baseball, making one mental mistake after another at the plate, on the base paths, and in the field. Or maybe he was just disinterested.

Either way, he had plenty of chances to prove his worth and, at age 28 (he'll be 29 in December), you begin to wonder if there is no potential. Mayberry has worked his way out of the everyday lineup. Amaro may keep him around as an extra outfielder, but it is just as likely he will return to the minors or get sent elsewhere.

Laynce Nix

2012 was a throw away year for Laynce Nix. After signing to a two-year deal with the Phils, Nix had only 114 at-bats and hit .246 with 3 homers and 16 RBI. Nix did little to hurt or help his standing with the Phillies. With $1.35 million due to Nix, he will probably remain with the team in the same bench role in 2013.

Juan Pierre

As painful as it to write this, Juan Pierre will probably not play for the Philadelphia Phillies next season. "He obviously had a great year for us," Ruben Amaro said. "I think where we're going to go, however, may affect his chances of being with our club. You can look at our club and see how left-handed we are, and that right-handed bats are something we have to consider. That may not necessarily preclude him from coming back, but I think we have some other fish to fry and that may not be the first one."

Not bringing back Juan Pierre would be a mistake.

For just $800,000, Juan Pierre hit .307, scored 59 runs, and stole 37 out of 44 bases (84%). With the outfield in such disarray, the Phillies almost can't afford not to keep him. He obviously lacks power, has a poor arm, and the Phillies don't need left-handed hitters, but if you found a place for Michael Martinez, you can find a place for Pierre.

You also will not find a more dedicated, enthusiastic, professional player than Juan Pierre, and he is a wonderful mentor to the number of young outfielders on the Phillies roster. Certain players like Chase Utley run hard almost all of the time, but Juan Pierre runs his hardest every time.

It will be a damn shame if and when Pierre leaves.

Nate Schierholtz

Nate Schierholtz was a nice extra piece that came over in the Hunter Pence deal. Overall, he hit .257 with six homers and 21 RBIs in 114 games with the Giants and Phillies. But he is not under contract and the Phillies already have a left-handed extra outfielder under contract with Laynce Nix. With other free agent options available, Schierholtz is probably the odd man out. Besides, if you can't find a place for Pierre, you better not find a place for Schierholtz.

Phillies and MLB World Series Championship rates
by Scott Butler 11/11/12

It’s hard to believe that Halloween marked the four year anniversary of the Phillies World Series parade down Broad Street. The book is now closed on the Phillies near dynasty from 2007-2011.   Five straight division titles, three trips to the NLCS, two World Series appearances, and only one championship to show for it.

In what was arguably the best era in Philadelphia Phillies history, they only walked away with one championship ring. That brings the Phils to a whopping two championships in 129 years. Should a World Series title be that elusive? I mean, heck, the Giants and Cardinals gathered two championships within the last seven years, the Yankees have 27 titles, and the Cardinals have 11.

Should it be that easy to win, or are the Phillies simply the laughing stock of Major League Baseball?

How bad it is to have two World Series championships in 129 years? To find out, I decided to perform a statistical comparison with the rest of Major League Baseball. The basis for the comparison is simple. With thirty teams currently in the league, each team should statistically win one championship every thirty years. You may feel like the Phils deserve more than that, but math is math.

With huge fluctuations in the number of teams over the years, to determine how many championships each team should have, I counted the number of teams in each season since 1876 and compared it to the number of seasons each team has been in existence.

In the Phillies 129 year history, they have competed against a total of 2,607 teams, an average of 20.2 teams per season. If the Phillies were average, they would have 6.4 World Series championships, putting them roughly four championships behind the pace.

I ran that same formula for all thirty Major League teams, determining how may championships they should have compared to what they actually accomplished. The chart below lists current organizations who have continually remained in the same city. For example, the Washington Nationals were technically the same organization as the Montreal Expos, but I started the clock on the Nats from when they moved to D.C. in 2005. Click here for a more detailed list of MLB championships per team.

Let's see how the Phillies compare to the rest of the league. Here is a list of the number of World Series Championships for all 30 Major League teams compared to the average number of championships they should have. Teams are listed in order from best to worst, with teams who exceeded the average in blue and those below average in pink.

MLB World Series championship rates per team

Team Actual WS Titles Avg # Titles # Titles Above/Below
Yankees 27 5.2 21.8
Athletics 9 1.9 7.4
Cardinals 11 6.5 4.6
Dodgers 6 2.1 3.9
Giants 5 2.1 2.9
Red Sox 7 5.3 1.7
Marlins 2 0.6 1.4
Braves 3 1.7 1.3
Twins 3 1.9 1.1
Blue Jays 2 1.2 0.8
Orioles 3 2.3 0.7
D-Backs 1 0.4 0.6
Mets 2 1.9 0.1
Nationals 0 0.2 - 0.2
Rays 0 0.4 - 0.4
Royals 1 1.5 - 0.5
Rockies 0 0.6 - 0.6
Angels 1 1.9 - 0.9
Mariners 0 1.2 - 1.2
Tigers 4 5.3 - 1.3
Rangers 0 1.4 - 1.4
Reds 5 6.5 - 1.5
Pirates 5 6.5 - 1.5
Brewers 0 1.5 - 1.5
Padres 0 1.5 - 1.5
Astros 0 1.9 - 1.9
White Sox 3 5.3 - 2.3
Indians 2 5.3 - 3.3
Phillies 2 6.4 - 4.4
Cubs 2 6.9 - 4.9

The fact that the Phillies are only 4+ championships behind doesn't sound too bad on its own merit, but it doesn't look so great when you realize the Cubs are the only team worse than the Phillies.

The Phillies and Cubs jump out as the obvious losers, but the team at the top is hard not to notice. The New York Yankees have won 27 World Series titles.

Let's put that number in a little perspective. The Yankees have 16 more championships than the second best team and more than the bottom 17 teams combined. The Yankees only constitute 3.3% of the teams in Major League Baseball, yet they have won 20% of the World Series titles.

Here's some more perspective. The Yankees should have five rings, but instead have 27, giving them 21 more championships than they should have. If the law of averages caught up to the Yankees and there were still exactly 30 teams in baseball, the Yankees would not win another World Series in 655 years. I've already use the "Y" word more than I would like to admit, but that is an incredible number.

Nearly as amazing is the dominance of the top three teams. The Yankees (27 titles), Cardinals (11), and Red Sox (7) have as many championships as the 25 bottom teams combined. That means that there are as many trophies in New York, St. Louis, and Boston as there are in 25 teams across the nation. Talk about the haves and the have not's.

It is also interesting to note that the nine oldest teams constitute seven of the eleven worst teams on the list.

But let's bring this back to the Phillies. This list proves just how difficult it is to win the World Series. Thirty teams each season feel they deserve a parade and only one team actually gets one. The Phillies came oh so close to winning several World Series and just walked away with one. With one chance in thirty to win the World Series, you have to rack up championships when you get the chance. With the best era in Phillies history in the rear view mirror, they may have missed out on a golden opportunity.

If the law of averages applies, the Phillies championship in 2008 guarantees we will not see another one until 2038. But hey, at least we don't have to wait until 2667 like the Yankees.

Choosing free agent relievers for the Phillies
by Scott Butler 11/23/12

If you have been reading this blog lately, you know that I have trashed Ruben every which way for his poor decisions over recent years. Now I will put my money where my mouth is and plop myself in the General Manager's seat. Rather than provide possible free agent options, I will give you, free of charge, the players I would choose in free agency.

In the first of a series of articles regarding the Phillies' free agent options, we begin with the bullpen.

Phillies bullpen needs

The Phillies bullpen as it is currently constituted involves a proven and expensive anchor in Jonathan Papelbon and numerous cheap, young, unproven, high potential pitchers. With only two players as near givens to make the roster in Papelbon and Bastardo, the Phillies have a great deal of flexibility with which to fill the bullpen puzzle. With that flexibility obviously comes an extreme amount of unpredictability.

The Phillies have a plethora of young arms with the potential to dominate, but the destruction of last season's bullpen forces the Phillies to dive into free agency to create some stability.

Who will those free agent relievers be? Who should they be?

With needs in two or three outfield positions as well as third base, the Phillies need to be frugal with their bullpen spending. With $13 million locked up in Jonathan Papelbon next season, it would be foolish to dump excessive cash into the bullpen. Relief pitchers are a notoriously flaky bunch who rise and fall with the stock market each year. Outside of closers, it is a major gamble to go overboard on relievers.

The Phillies should only be looking to fill two or three spots through free agency. Under my plan, the Phillies should first seek a legitimate setup man who they will offer a guaranteed multi-year contract. The Phils should also add another pitcher for a cheaper one year deal, ala Chad Qualls last season. Finally, they should pick a few pitchers to invite to Spring Training, as they did with Dontrelle Willis last year.

I hid in the bushes, applied my fake mustache, knocked out Enrico Palazzo, and snuck into Ruben’s office. I scoured the list of 59 free agent relievers and narrowed down my choices in the three categories previously mentioned.

Phillies free agent bullpen set up man

The Phillies desperately need an arm they can count on in the late innings ahead of Papelbon. The Phillies were a disaster in the eighth inning last season, with a 4.89 ERA that ranked second worst in baseball. The top name on the list is Rafael Soriano, but he just turned down a $14 million option and is looking for big money. Quality closers cost upwards of $10 million, so the Phillies should be looking towards set up men in the range of $4-6 million per season for roughly three years.

Here are the four free agent relief pitchers who I would choose, listed in order beginning with who I would speak to first.

Ryan Madson

This goes against my own logic, but I wanted Ryan Madson on the Phillies last year and I want Ryan Madson this year.

If the Phillies were in the market for a closer and/or had unlimited funds, I would have taken Madson already. But that is not the case and Madson will not be coming to Philly next season for a couple of reasons. Madson and his agent, Scott Boras, made it clear that he wants to close. If a team out there is willing to make Madson a closer, that pretty much eliminates the Phillies as a possibility.

Also, do you really see Madson crawling back to the Phils after they snubbed him last season?

If for some reason Madson finds no suiters as a closer, money is also an issue. Madson signed a one year deal with the Reds last season for $8.5 million, which is too expensive for a setup man in my mind. If the Phillies could grab him for $7 million per year, I say go for it. It's more than I would be comfortable spending, but $7 million for one of the top relievers in the game with the ability to close is worth it.

If Madson is available and willing to rejoin the Phillies at that rate, he tops my list. It's a nice thought, but it aint happening.

Mike Adams

The career numbers for Mike Adams are impressive. A career 2.28 ERA, 1.056 WHIP, 6.9 H/9, 2.6 BB/9, and 9.0 SO/9. In his last four seasons before last, the 34-year-old posted ERA's of 2.48, 0.73, 1.76, and 1.47 with an average of 59 appearances per season which came almost exclusively in the eighth inning.

Last year was the first hiccup for Mike Adams. His ERA was 3.27 ERA and his hits against rose to 9.6 per nine innings, but most of his other stats were comparable to his previous seasons: 2.9 BB/9 and 7.7 H/9. I like to think that four great seasons trump one bad season, and the fact that he hits free agency after his worst season since 2006 should drive his price down. There are concerns that his velocity dropped last season, but a proven veteran like Adams should overcome that.

Matt Lindstrom

If the Phillies can't work out a deal with Madson or Adams, Matt Lindstrom should be their next target. Lindstrom has been a solid pitcher with a career 3.64 ERA and is coming off his two best seasons, but he has not been as consistent as Adams. His ERA of 3.00 in 2011 and 2.68 in 2012 follow a 5.89 ERA in 2009 and a 4.39 ERA in 2010.

The problem with Lindstrom, as with many big league relievers is that it is hard to tell what you will get from one year to the next. Lindstrom might be cheaper than Adams, but he is coming off his two best seasons following several mediocre seasons which will inflate his value. What I do like about Lindstrom are his HR numbers: 0.5 HR/9, which is way below average and a perfect fit for snug CBP.

Joakim Soria

Joakim Soria screams value. He had a 1.94 ERA in his four seasons prior to last with an average of 39 saves from 2009-2011. Last year, however, Soria dealt with injury issues and posted by far his worst season with a 4.08 ERA. Soria should return to his old form if he is healthy and should be fairly cheap. One major problem with Soria is that he will begin the season on the DL. The Phillies can't afford to wait for Soria, so I would only take him for a steal.

Tier 2 Free Agent Relievers

After securing one of the top setup men listed above, the Phillies should look to offer a one-year contract for $2 million or less to one pitcher. The thought here is to find an under the radar, potentially undervalued pitcher who might have underperformed last season. If it works, you end up with pitchers like Chad Durbin, JC Romero, and Scott Eyre in 2008. If it doesn't work, you end up with Chad Qualls. Here is my list of pitchers who I would offer a one year deal for $1-2 million.

Ramon Ramirez

Ramon Ramirez is a 31-year-old with decent career numbers: 3.32 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 4.9 BB/9, 7.4 SO/9. It might be reaching to expect to get Ramirez for under $2 million with ERA's of 2.64 in 2008, 2.84 in 2009, 2.99 in 2010, and 2.62 in 2011, but his 4.24 ERA last season might scare away other teams. Ramirez is who the Phillies should look to first from this group.

Jason Grilli

Jason Grilli might be a bigger long shot than Ramirez. With an ERA under 3.00 in the last two seasons (2.48 in 2011 and 2.91 in 2012), it is unlikely the Phillies can get Grilli cheap enough. At the same time, the 36-year-old righty had a 4.22 ERA in his four full seasons prior to 2011 and is not worth the risk of anything higher than a couple million bucks. His age and more bad seasons than good seasons drops him below Ramirez in my rankings.

Matt Capps

I prefer Ramirez and Grilli, but it might be easier to come to terms with Matt Capps. He has been a consistently solid pitcher over his career, with ERA's since 2006 of 3.79, 2.28, 3.02, 5.80, 2.47, 4.25, 3.68. Nice numbers as they are, few teams will offer big setup man dollars for it. Capps seems like a nice, safe option to add to the bullpen on a one-year basis to solidify the middle innings.

Mark Lowe

Lowe might fit in nicely into the Phillies bullpen, but only at a cheap price. His ERA during the past two seasons is alright (3.80 in 2011 and 3.43 in 2012), but in his three prior seasons he had ERA's of 5.37, 3.26, and 5.40. Worth $1-2 million? Maybe.

Free agent Reliever Spring Training invites

Finally, here is my list of Spring Training invites. These are the Dontrelle Willis types, guys who will not receive guaranteed contracts and need to tryout for a spot on a Major League roster. The only cost is to compensate them at the league minimum for time served in Spring Training. If they look good, you give them a one year deal close to the minimum. If they look bad, you release them with no strings attached.

Takashi Saito

Takashi Saito is a perfect candidate for a Spring Training invite. Saito has a sparkling 2.34 career ERA in seven MLB seasons, but he turns 43 next month and was sidelined for most of 2012 with a calf injury after a hamstring strain kept him out of action for the bulk of 2011.

Saito signed a one-year, $1.75MM deal last year with the D-Backs and considering his age and injury issues, I doubt any guaranteed offers will be coming his way. If they deem Saito to be healthy enough, bring him down to Clearwater and see if he still has what it takes.

Bobby Jenks

After a few decent seasons and a 3.40 ERA in six seasons with the White Sox, Jenks had a 6.32 ERA with the Red Sox in 2011 and only pitched 19 games before encountering a back issue that kept him out of baseball for most of 2011 and all of 2012. Plus, he was charged with a DUI last year.

It is quite possible he can't pitch at all anymore. But if he is available, he is only 32 and I would certainly consider inviting him to Spring Training and possibly grab him for rock bottom prices.

Brad Penny

You may remember Brad Penny as a solid starter with the Marlins for five seasons and the starting pitcher for the 2007 all-star game. The current, 35-year-old version has a 5.41 ERA in his last two seasons sandwiched around a short stint in Japan. Penny pitched in 22 games as a reliever with the Giants last year before shoulder injuries ended his season. If he is healthy, it might be worth a shot to give him a look next season.

Phillies Free Agent Reliever Pickups

My staff of one picked the list of free agent relievers we want for next season. Since the Phillies obviously can't add all eleven players to the roster, it is time to figure out which of these pitchers will actually make the squad next season. Given the market for relievers, asking prices from the players, and the Phillies budget, here are my predictions of which players wear Phillies pinstripes in 2013.

Mike Adams

Matt Capps

Takashi Saito

So, there are your three new Phillies relievers they can and should add to the team next year. Let's see if any of them make the team in reality.

Why Phillies should not sign B.J. Upton
by Scott Butler 11/25/12

B.J. Upton is undoubtedly the name you have heard most often in relation to the Phillies free agent centerfield targets. In many ways he is an ideal fit. He is just 28-years-old, can steal bases, is a great fielder, hits for power, and still has tremendous tools and potentially huge and largely untapped upside potential.

True, his average of 39 steals per season plus his 28 home runs last season aren't too shabby, especially with the short porches at Citizens Bank Park. But those facts mask serious flaws in Upton's game.

Along with Upton's 2012 totals of 28 home runs, 31 steals, and a .454 slugging percentage comes a .246 batting average, .298 on base percentage, and 169 strikeouts which were fourth-most in the American League.

Ruben Amaro does not seem to have a problem with the strikeouts. "It's interesting that people talk about the strikeouts a lot," Amaro said. "I think we had one of the least number of strikeouts in the entire National League. To me, it’s all about production. If a guy strikes out, as long as he produces runs.

"I’m about run production -- scoring runs, driving in runs, as long as we have players that can do that and do that consistently, then I’m fine with the strikeouts. I don’t like the strikeouts, but I can live with them if people are continuing to be productive."

Herein lies the problem. From all the talk surrounding Upton you would assume the strikeouts are the necessary price for tremendous production. But in reality Upton is not all that productive. From a slugging percentage perspective, Upton is just marginally above average. His .454 SLG last season was 49 points above the league average, but that figure is the second best of his career with a career slugging percentage of .422 which is just 17 points above the average major leaguer.

Back to the strikeouts. Upton struck out 169 times last season, which was 58 more than anyone on the Phillies last year. That is just 24 strikeouts less than Howard's average of 193 strikeouts per season, but Howard is 129 points better than Upton in career slugging and 157 points better in OPS. Upton even averages 17 more strikeouts per season than Pat Burrell. B.J. Upton is simply a strikeout machine.

Finally, his abysmal on base percentage. His .298 OBP last season would have ranked him 21st on the 2012 Phillies. That is unacceptable for a player who strikeouts at such an alarming rate.

All of that for a price tag of four or five years at $15 million or more per year?! Not if I'm paying.

Phillies free agent centerfield options
by Scott Butler 11/28/12

Last week, I addressed which free agent relievers the Phillies should acquire. With that out of the way, we move to the position with the most hot stove chatter in the offseason: Phillies free agent options in centerfield. The Phillies have no legitimate options in house (and don't you dare mention John Mayberry), so they will try to fill centerfield through free agency.

The two big names that top the list are Josh Hamilton and Michael Bourn. The Phillies should not, and Ruben Amaro, in the name of all that is holy, please do not take either one. Let's start with Josh Hamilton.

Man oh man would Josh Hamilton look good in a Phillies uniform. His numbers are off the charts: a career .304/.363/.549, .913 OPS, and an average of 35 HR and 122 RBI per season. Last year he hit .285 with 43 HR and 128 RBI. But his reported asking price of 7 years and $175 million is way, way, way (three ways sounds about right) too expensive for a Phillies team already pushing towards the luxury tax and three players with salaries of 20+ million per year. End of discussion.

Now we move to Michael Bourn, who will also be asking for a contract worth over $100 million. Here's all I have to say about Michael Bourn. Take the four seasons when Jimmy Rollins was the same age as Bourn from 2006-2009, remove all his power (78 HR for Rollins vs. 15 for Bourn), double the strikeouts (291 vs. 498), and you have Michael Bourn. Read my previous article for all the reasons you need for why the Phillies should not sign Michael Bourn.

With Hamilton and Bourn out of the picture, we move to the group of second tier centerfield candidates that includes B.J. Upton, Angel Pagan, Cody Ross, and Shane Victorino.

Phillies best free agent options in centerfield

I already knocked B.J. Upton off the list of Phillies free agent centerfielders in my last article and the Braves reportedly just signed him. To summarize why this is good news for the Phils, Upton is a strikeout machine with an abysmal on base percentage, marginally good production, and an enormous price tag.

So the choice for an established free agent centerfielder comes down to Angel Pagan, Cody Ross, and Shane Victorino. 

The winner of the Phillies Free Agent Centerfielder sweepstakes: Shane Victorino.

Yeah I know, you were hoping for a nice, shiny Beemer and I came home with your older brother’s beat up Civic.  Like a used Civic, Victorino won't turn heads, but he is reliable and much more reasonably priced. The choice really came down to Pagan and Victorino and I just feel that Victorino is a smarter move and a better value.  Whether it is Pagan or Victorino, you are getting essentially the same package.  They both are 31 and offer speed, defense, decent on base percentage, and a tad of power.

Victorino vs. Pagan

The big difference here is that Pagan had his best season as a major leaguer in 2012 and Victorino had his worst.  If this decision was based solely on 2012, Pagan is the obvious choice. Here are their 2012 statistics.

Victorino and Pagan Career Stats per 162 games
  G PA AB R 2B 3B HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG OPS
Victorino 154 666 595 72 29 7 11 55 39 .255 .321 .383 .704
Pagan 154 659 605 95 38 15 8 56 29 .288 .338 .440 .778

But over their careers Victorino has been the superior player.  Here is how his career numbers per 162 games compare to Pagan:

Victorino and Pagan 2012 Stats
  G PA AB R 2B 3B HR RBI SO SB BA OBP SLG OPS
Victorino 162 647 580 93 29 10 14 62 75 30 .275 .341 .430 .770
Pagan 162 618 563 83 32 10 10 62 91 29 .281 .333 .424 .757

Victorino was awful with the Phillies last season and awfuller (shut up spell check) with the Dodgers.  And now we’ve reached the crux of the matter: was 2012 an aberration for Victorino or is it a hint of things to come?

I think 2012 was just one of those throw-away years, like the bad Olympic score that gets eliminated.  With Ryan Howard and Chase Utley both injured to begin the season, it added pressure to an already stressed Victorino who was entering his walk year.  Major League Baseball is hard enough on its own without trying to carry more of the team’s offensive load and win a bigger contract in free agency.  Shane is not exactly the most focused individual to begin with (and please don’t ask Ruiz for help), so free agency and more pressure might have taken him over the edge.

If 2012 was just a down season and Victorino returns to his old self, I think he is a slightly better player than Pagan.  Even if Victorino is slightly worse than Pagan, the Phillies can probably get Shane for less money and, more importantly, for less years.

I would go with Victorino, but Pagan would certainly not be a bad consolation prize.  He has been fairly consistent, still is relatively young, and plays good defense.  He would be a nice addition to the Phillies.

Cody Ross

If the well runs dry on Victorino or Pagan, Cody Ross deserves a good look. His career .262 average isn't all that special, but he averages 22 HR and 83 RBI per season with slightly fewer strikeouts per season (128) than the MLB average (134). The power is fairly nice, but he won't come particularly cheap and he is better suited for a corner outfield spot.

Conclusion

Now that Upton has signed with Atlanta and it appears the Giants will land Pagan, it is looking more and more likely that Victorino lands with the Phillies again. Victorino might not be the Christmas gift you were hoping for, but he fills a hole and shouldn't break the bank.

 

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