Phillies Blog Articles - December 2011

Searching for more options for Phillies at shortstop
by Scott Butler 12/3/11

Replacing Jimmy Rollins might be a refreshing change to rejuvenate the Phillies roster. But as I mentioned earlier, there are not many good free agent shortstops from which to replace J-Roll. My first list was limited to free agents listed as shortstops in 2011, so I scanned the remaining free agents for players with some previous experience at shortstop. Here are a list of other possible options at shortstop:

Jerry Hairston, Jr.

Jerry Hairston is an attractive “super utility” player, having played at least 80 games at each outfield position, shortstop, second, and third. Offensively, Hairston was extremely close to Rollins last season. Outside of their speed (Rollins had 27 more steals than Hairston), they are nearly identical. See how Hairston compares to Rollins in 2011 in many of the key categories:

Jerry Hairston 120 337 .270 .344 .383 .727
Jimmy Rollins 142 567 .268 .338 .399 .736

Defensively, Hairston has been fine, posting a .974 career fielding percentage at shortstop, although he has only played 146 games at shortstop over his 7 year career. If the Phillies are confident Hairston can hold his own defensively at shortstop over a whole season, they may not lose much offensively. The other perk: Hairston made only $2 million last year and has signed one year contracts in the past. Jimmy will be looking for $8-10 million and at least three years.

Don't bet on Hairston, though. Hairston has not played much shortstop and has been essentially a bench player for a reason. As intriguing as it sounds, there's no way Ruben Amaro will replace his team "captain" for a utility player.

Nick Punto

If Nick Punto can reproduce his 2011 offensive numbers, he would be a fantastic fit for the Phils. Punto hit .278 with a .388 on-base percentage in 63 games with the Cardinals last season. Punto's OBP is 110 points higher than his batting average, which is significant considering the average differential between batting average and OBS is 66 points. Better yet, his differential is 98 points over the last three seasons. What that means is that Punto knows how to find a way on base, and the Phillies desperately need that type of player on their roster.

The Phillies cannot bank on Punto replicating his 2011 figures since he only hit .248 over the last three seasons. The obvious other question is his defense. Punto has a .974 fielding percentage in 265 career games at shortstop, but, as with Hairston, it remains to be seen if Punto can play consistently over an entire season. The Phillies may try to grab Punto and he only made $750,000 last year, but I wouldn't expect to see him replacing Jimmy Rollins.

Ramon Santiago

Ramon Santiago has played 438 games at shortstop over his career (27 in 2011) with a career .976 fielding percentage. But Santiago is a downgrade over Rollins offensively, with a .260 average, 5 HR, and 30 RBIs last season with the Tigers. Santiago also had a low on-base percentage (.311), struck out over twice as much as he walked, and had no steals. Vote no on Santiago.

The Verdict

Hairston and Punto are nice players and would come a lot cheaper than Rollins, but they aren't the kind of guys that a World Series contender with cash to spend is likely to trust as their starting shortstops. It looks more and more likely that Ruben Amaro will have to bite the bullet and sign Rollins to a three or four year deal (nobody is gonna give him 5 years) for more money than he wants to spend. Unless he can make a trade, we are probably going to see Rollins in a Phillies uniform for a few more years.

Jimmy Rollins may be the best option
by Scott Butler 12/7/11

Ahhh, what to do with Jimmy Rollins? If you decide to let Rollins go, you are replacing the face of your organization, your leadoff hitter, your former MVP, your team “captain," your quarterback on defense, and the one player who was here when we stunk and when we won it all. Of course J-Roll’s absence in 2012 won’t have the same impact as if it had taken place in 2009, but removing your shortstop and franchise player is no small decision.

Here is the Phillies shortstop conundrum:

Their shortstop of the future is Freddy Galvis, but offensively he is probably a year away from being ready for the majors. With few quality position players waiting in the minors, Galvis represents the Phillies best option to go younger and cheaper.

But J-Roll wants three to five years. We’ve already seen a noticeable offensive decline by Jimmy, and who knows how good he will be when he is 35 in the last year of his contract. Jimmy was the unquestioned leader in the clubhouse in his prime years and when Jimmy talked the talk, he walked the walk. But his approach had a lot to be desired, he was stubborn to make any changes, and routinely didn’t hustle to first. That was fine and dandy when he still produced, but when that production wanes, Jimmy could become a hindrance in the locker room very quickly.

The obvious solution is to find a solid, veteran shortstop for one year before handing the reigns to Galvis in 2013. Unfortunately, I pointed out recently that the Phillies won’t find much in the free agent market. Unless the Phillies are happy with Jerry Hairston at shortstop, they need to find their answer through a trade.

So who could the Phillies get through a trade at shortstop?

You might be surprised at how few quality shortstops exist. There isn’t much outside of the superstar shortstops like Reyes and Tulowitzki (and let me break it to you, they aren’t going anywhere after signing their huge contracts). Hanley Ramirez may be an option for some team now that Reyes stole his position at short, but the Phillies don’t have the pieces to trade for him. And you can forget about Derek Jeter. Even if the Yankees would consider moving Jeter, his contract is way too big for what he offers and he is signed through at least 2013.

Some of the remaining names are nothing more than recognizable: Jason Bartlett, JJ Hardy, Ian Desmond, Jamey Carroll, and Emilio Bonifacio. These players are either defensive liabilities, bad hitters, or just overall a downgrade compared to Rollins.

That's why it was exciting to hear the name of Aramis Ramirez being thrown around. If the Phillies insert Ramirez at third in place of Polanco, it more than replaces Jimmy's offense and allows the Phillies to either acquire a veteran glove for a year or take their chances on Galvis at third. I'm hearing even as I write this that the Phils are close to a deal with Rollins, so that might be a fleeting dream.

Let's put it this way: Jimmy Rollins is the best shortstop available. Period. Unless Ruben Amaro has something up his sleeve, the Phillies are stuck with Rollins.

Just how much money does Albert Pujols make?
by Scott Butler 12/13/11

I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around the contract Albert Pujols just signed. 254 million dollars is a lot of money. Pujols’ contract is like the size of the universe: just too big for the human brain to comprehend. So let me break it down for you in smaller pieces to illustrate just how stinkin rich King Albert has become.

Breaking down Albert Pujols' salary

Pujols is due to make an average of $25.4 million each year, which breaks down as follows:

Pujols salary...

per calendar day - $69,589.04
      per hour - $2,899.54
      per minute - $48.32
      per second - $0.80
per regular season game - $156,790
per plate appearance (average of 676 PA per season) - $37,573.96
per pitch (average of 2,467 pitches per year) - $10,295.91

Think about those values for a second. Pujols earns in a single day what a normal everyday worker makes in an entire year. Pujols will earn nearly 100 bucks every two minutes and $1 million every single week.

Now let’s imagine Pujols got paid per pitch. That means he would earn $10,000 for every foul tip, for every strikeout, for every called strike, and for every pitch in the dirt. He would earn $40,000 for each intentional walk and at least $60,000 for every full count.

If you aren’t depressed yet, chew on this: Pujols probably makes more during a healthy dump than you make in an entire day.

It's been a long fall for Ben Francisco
by Scott Butler 12/15/11

The day that Jayson Werth signed along the dotted line on his $126 million contract had to be one of the best days of Ben Francisco’s life. See, Jayson’s departure gave Francisco a chance of living the dream and starting for the Philadelphia Phillies.

After spending all of their Christmas money on Cliff Lee, the Phillies placed the job of right fielder in the lap of Ben Francisco. Entering Spring Training, right field was Francisco’s job to lose. With his hopes and dreams within arm’s reach, Francisco won the job over John Mayberry with an excellent spring, hitting .361 with 5 HR, 14 RBI, and an OPS of 1.106.

Francisco parlayed his spring success into an equally impressive first week of the season. He hit .357 with 2 HR and 6 RBIs through his first seven games and was even robbed of a couple homers during that span. Ben was hitting for average and power and beginning to open some eyes.

But it didn’t last.

Francisco continually declined from that very point and his fortune has taken a complete U-turn ever since. His average dropped to .214 by May 24th and by July he was back to riding the bench. Despite his three-run homer in the NLDS, the Phillies decided this week that Francisco wasn't even worth arbitration, so they sent him to Toronto...for a minor leaguer.

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

But don’t feel too bad for Benny Fresh. He still gets to play major league baseball and he has made over $3 million in his major league career. And, oh yeah, at least he has a hot wife.

Ben Francisco's wife

What the heck happened to Dontrelle Willis?
by Scott Butler 12/27/11

Dontrelle Willis has officially signed with the Phillies. Had this news come prior to the 2006 season, adding Willis would have been huge news. Dontrelle had just finished his third season with a 22-10 record and a 2.68 ERA with the Florida Marlins. At the age of just 23, Willis had a career 3.27 ERA and was well on his way to becoming an elite starting pitcher. His funky delivery, electric personality, and ability to swing the bat made Dontrelle Willis one of the main faces of Major League Baseball.

Fast forward to 2012...

In the six years since his peak in 2005, Dontrelle Willis has a 26-39 record and a 5.01 ERA. Those numbers led to Dontrelle signing a one year contract for less than a million no more than a lefty specialist. So, I ask the question again...

What happened to Dontrelle Willis?

In a case like Dontrelle Willis where a player drops so hard, so fast, it is almost always an issue with velocity or command. My first inclination is to look for a decrease in velocity and it does appear his velocity dropped a little. Reliable velocity charts only date back to around 2008, so it's hard to say exactly how much his speed declined, but the reports I read show that his fastball averaged 92-93 mph until 2005 and dropped to 89-90 mph as of 2008 and has held steady since. Three mph is a fairly significant drop, but probably not enough to explain a collapse of this magnitude.

Willis lost control and can't command

At the face of it, Dontrelle Willis just lost control and command of his pitches. The stats point this out very clearly. Willis went from 2.63 walks per nine innings in his first three seasons to 4.67 in the 6 seasons since. That's nearly twice as many walks. More walks means Willis is behind in the count much more often and it also suggests that he is throwing less quality strikes. Just imagine if Roy Halladay doubled his walks.

A slight drop in velocity and a higher walk rate explains why Dontrelle Willis is so much worse, but the main culprit of how it happened comes down to mechanics.

It's all mechanical with Dontrelle Willis

As "The Hardball Times" pointed out in 2007, changes to Dontrelle's mechanics explains it all. It shouldn't come as a huge surprise that Willis would eventually run into mechanical issues with such a funky delivery. With so many moving parts in his delivery, one small issue can cause a domino effect. Poor mechanics leads to decreased velocity, difficulty commanding pitches, and eventually mental issues. It's all pretty simple.

It's probably too late to expect the old Dontrelle Willis to miraculously take the mound in a Phillies uniform, but maybe a move to the bullpen will take some pressure off. This is a classic Pat Gillick move and there's no doubt he played a part in the decision. Who knows, maybe Gillick can pull another genie out of a bottle.

Phillies Win/Loss ChartIf you are a Phillies fan, I think you will enjoy this. Available now!