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Philadelphia Phillies: ‘Ruffing’ It in Left Field?

The Philadelphia Phillies have several holes that they needed to fill in the 2012 offseason. This is partially due to the subpar performance of the 2012 where they decided to trade away two outfielders and a starting pitcher. Those players are Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, and Joe Blanton, respectively.

Since the offseason has started, Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has sought to fill those holes along with the hole at the back end of the inconsistent bullpen.

So far, Amaro has filled three of those holes: first by trading for Ben Revere from the Minnesota Twins to play centerfield and then for Michael Young from the Texas Rangers to third base, as that was a position of inconsistent performance in 2012 as well and one that saw eight different players cover during throughout the year. Last week, Amaro also filled the bullpen hole by signing free agent Mike Adams.

Amaro has been looking for a corner outfielder that can provide consistent offense and play strong defense. The free agent market has been unflattering, except Josh Hamilton who has already signed with the Los Angeles Angels. The price of any outfielder seems higher than Amaro wants to pay and probably higher than those players would receive if there were better talent on the market.

With the free agent market drying up and trade agents seemingly shutting down, Amaro has looked at internal options for the outfield.

Three options that he has are the frustratingly inconsistent Domonic Brown, who has yet to live up to the potential stamped on him when he was regarded as a top prospect, John Mayberry Jr. who has also been inconsistent, but shown flashes of how well he can play given an everyday starter job (see more in a forthcoming story) and Darin Ruf, who seemed to come out of nowhere after blowing up in AA Reading this past season.

The general consensus is that Ruf will have a fair shot at earning an everyday or platoon spot on the Phillies roster in left field. People have compared him to Pat Burrell in his prime.  The 26-year-old has a lot of pop from the right side of the plate, which was one major vacancy in the Phillies roster all of last year with the exception of Carlos Ruiz. Now, Ruf has an extremely limited amount of major league experience, but all signs point to the fact that he can contribute on a daily basis.

No matter where he played in 2012, all he did was drive in runs.  In AA Reading he hit 38 home runs and drove in 104 runs.  When he finally got a chance to play in nine Phillies games last year, he managed to hit three home runs and drive in 10 runs.  He then played in the Venezuelan Winter League where he broke the record for home runs with 10 and drove in 27 runs. Through all the leagues he played in, he has averaged at least one hit per game.

Overall, in the minors this year, across 489 at bats, Ruf hit for .317 average, with a .620 slugging percentage, and a 1.028 OPS.  In those at bats, he hit 38 home runs, 32 doubles, and had 104 RBIs.  He also had a 120:65 strikeout to walk ratio.  When he made his debut in the majors, he continued with his natural slugging ability by hitting for a .333 average, with 3 home runs, 2 doubles and 10 RBIs across 33 at bats.  Then in Winter League he hit for an average of .258 with 10 home runs, 27 RBIs, and 8 doubles across 120 at bats in 33 games.

He is also a substantial defender at left field or first base.  He is not going to be the best defender in the game, but he brings an above average ability to play his zone and brings a great deal to the plate overall.  So, regardless of the fact that he is a first baseman and not a true outfielder, would the Phillies be risking it by “Ruffing it in left field,” or would he be the answer for power that was missing from the right side of the plate and left field in all of 2012?

He is an average defender, but he has been hitting the ball like an all-star all season. If he can perform like he has shown he can, the Phillies are much better with him in left field than any option they would find on the market. For example, he drove in the last eight runs against the Nationals that the Phillies had in 2012 across four games. Ruf has shown enough to be the Phillies left fielder for 2013.

The question for left field has been answered. The only question should be is what will be done in right field.

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MLB Trade Rumors: Why It’s Time for Cardinals To Move Albert Pujols and Rebuild

Towards the end of this offseason, there were a lot of rumblings about Albert Pujols and his need for a contract extension. 

Pujols has said throughout that he wants to remain with the St. Louis Cardinals and that he would not deal with the contract once spring training had started. Although Pujols took the noble path of not allowing the contract to interfere with the current season, there was no agreement met between the two parties.

Now that spring training has officially started, the Cardinals have a much greater issue to deal with, which is the season ending injury of Cy Young Award hopeful Adam Wainwright.

Perhaps, with this early season ending injury to Wainwright and the unsettled issue of Pujols’ contract, it is time for the the Cardinals to move Pujols in order to begin to rebuild.

There has been talk about Pujols being able to see a contract as high as $30 MM after this season and if he desired money anywhere close to that, he will no longer be a Cardinal.

It may be best that the Cardinals deal Pujols now. The Cardinals are in need of a starter to replace Wainwright for this season and perhaps Chris Carpenter for next season. There is an option on Carpenter for next season.

Carpenter is still certainly an ace, who last year pitched for an ERA of 3.22 with 16 wins, nine losses, 179 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.18, but since he will be 36 next season, who knows if the option on Carpenter will be acted on. The Cardinals could very well be in need a of new starter for next season, depending on what happens with Carpenter, but they will definitely need one for this season to replace Wainwright.

If the Cardinals did deal Pujols, they would be able to have Lance Berkman play first base, as it is his natural position. Although Berkman may only be able to fill that hole for a season, he would make a good replacement for this season. Also, the Cardinals have a good depth when it comes to replacing a first basemen and an outfielder.

Pujols would be missed in the lineup for sure, but his market would be big. It would be better for the Cardinals to replace Wainwright by dealing Pujols than it would be for the Cardinals to hold Pujols and look at the free agency or farm system to replace Wainwright.

Loosing Wainwright is a worse blow to the Cardinals than it would be for them to lose Pujols. The time may have come where the Cardinals should deal Pujols and allow their team to rebuild for the future and have a chance at competition for this season as well.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Ben Francisco Is the Answer to Replacing Jayson Werth

Former Philadelphia Phillie Jayson Werth signed with his former division rival Washington Nationals for $126 MM over seven years, which allowed Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. to offer a contract to the much-coveted Cliff Lee.

In a deal that shocked baseball where Lee left millions of dollars on the table, he decided to return to a team where he enjoyed the city, the team and the fans.

Lee decided that his comfort and the chance for history and a championship was more important than the money the Yankees offered him.

As a Phillies fan, I am extremely excited to have Lee back on the team, especially since I spent 12 months criticizing Amaro for getting rid of Lee to begin with. Werth, unlike Lee, decided that he would rather have the money than an immediate chance to become a world champion yet again.

With Werth missing from the roster, there has been a great deal of discussion as to who will replace him. Werth was the second best hitter on the Phillies who ranked towards the top in home runs and RBI. He was also a smart baserunner and a great defensive player.

Werth was certainly a productive player and helped the Phillies earn their four consecutive NL East championships and the 2008 World Series victory. Werth was a key asset to these accomplishments, but he did not solely earn these accomplishments, as baseball is, after all, a team sport.

Werth will be 39 years old at the end of his contract. He may still be a productive player, but it is unlikely that he will be as productive in the latter years of the contract as he has been in the past few years, especially if he is injured again or as he becomes slower with age.

With Werth gone, however, who will be his replacement in right field and as a right-handed hitter? Discussions have surfaced about a platoon in right field consisting of Ben Francisco and Ross Gload or Domonic Brown. However, I think that splitting right field with either Gload or Brown leaves much to be desired since they both are left-handed hitters, and Brown also had very disappointing numbers at the plate in the winter league.

Why not just use Ben Francisco as the starter? He may not have as much power as Jayson Werth, but he can produce offensive numbers that are very comparable to what Werth did in 2010. Francisco was largely used as a pinch hitter and not a starter. If he had chances to start every day, he could find a rhythm and become more productive than an off-the-bench player.

Comparing Francisco’s stats to Werth’s stats for 2010, we can see there is not a big difference in the ratio of their stats between these two players.

In 554 at-bats for 2010, Werth batted for an average of .296 with 27 home runs and 85 RBI. Werth’s on-base percentage was .388 with a slugging average of .532. Werth did lead the league in doubles with 46 and had 13 stolen bases, but he had 147 strikeouts. Doing the math, that means that almost 27 percent of the time that Werth was batting, he struck out.

Francisco had 179 at-bats in 2010, which is just shy of a third of the at-bats that Werth had. During those 179 at-bats, Francisco batted .268 with six home runs and 28 RBI. Francisco had an on-base percentage of .327 with a slugging average of .441, which is not much less than Werth’s relative numbers. He also had 13 doubles and eight stolen bases.

If we were to adjust Francisco’s numbers to make it comparative to having played a full season, his numbers would be equivalent to 18 home runs, 84 RBI, 39 doubles and 24 stolen bases, assuming that Francisco’s numbers were directly proportionate through the season.

























Francisco (Adjusted to assume full-season stats)









If Francisco’s adjusted numbers proved to be his true production over the whole season, he would be a perfect replacement for Werth.

Francisco is a better player than he often gets credit for. He has not played full-time since before he came to the Phillies with Cliff Lee the first time Lee became a Phillie. Francisco batted one-third of the number of times that Werth did and produced exactly one-third of the RBI. That means that over the course of a full season, both of these players will have the same run-producing ability.

The one thing to mention about Francisco is that his home-run-producing ability is less than Werth’s, but as already mentioned, his RBI-producing ability is exactly the same. How can there be this paradox in numbers? The answer to that question is that Werth struck out about 27 percent of the time he batted, whereas Francisco only struck out 19 percent of the time he batted. Therefore, it is clear that Francisco strikes out eight percent less frequently than Werth.

Another answer to this question is that Werth bats for a much lower average when runners are in scoring position than Francisco does. Werth’s batting average with runners in scoring position was only .186, whereas Francisco’s average with runners in scoring position was .306. It can be seen here that Francisco is much better at producing runs when runners are on base than Werth is.

Francisco is a favorite to win Werth’s spot this spring because he will have a chance to shine and prove that he is better than many people expect him to be. Many people beyond myself claim that he is underestimated, including Werth himself and Brad Lidge.

Werth in an interview spoke of Francisco, saying, “I think Ben Francisco is a better player than people realize.” Werth does believe that the Phillies should have Francisco be the man that fills the hole he left. Charlie Manuel also claimed that Francisco is a primary candidate and said, “I think it’s time we give Ben a chance.”

Lidge also spoke of Francisco, claiming that he thinks Francisco is the Phillies’ best option to fill in for the loss of Werth. He said, “In my opinion, if Ben Francisco plays the way I think he can, if he delivers like a lot of guys on our team think he can, the blow of losing Jayson won’t be as big as it appears on paper.

“We’ll need Domonic Brown at some point and Ross Gload could be an everyday player. But to me, Ben is the key. He’s a right-handed hitter with 20-plus home run potential and he can play good D. You look at last year and guys like Ryan [Howard] and Chase [Utley] and Jimmy [Rollins] were hurt. I think we’ll be healthier and that will make up a lot for the loss of Jayson.”

Francisco should be the favorite to earn the starting right field spot this year. He can replace the defense that Werth once added to right field, and Francisco can also make up for Werth’s run-producing ability in the fifth spot in the lineup. Francisco is the answer to how the Phillies can replace Werth in all ways.

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15 Former High-Priced MLB Stars Now Proud to Play for Peanuts

Some of the former big names of baseball still linger in the sport today, even if it is just some time in the minor leagues. Some people say that these players should hang up their spurs, because those players do not know when to walk away.

Some of the players who took the biggest contracts in baseball, or at least had an extremely expensive market price, are now contracted to play for mere fractions of the contracts that they were once signed to. This has allowed some players to get good play time for teams who are in desperate need of a rebuild. It also reunited Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez, but some other players are making chump change playing for a minor league team, at least in comparison to what they once made.

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Brad Lidge, Philadelphia Phillies: What to Expect for the 2011 Season

For the first time in the past few offseasons, the closing pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, Brad Lidge, is ending his season at 100 percent health, which has allowed him to have an extremely rigorous offseason of training.

Lidge has not had productive offseasons for the past few years due to an injury to his throwing elbow. The 2010-2011 offseason is different for Lidge.

Lidge has often been the target of criticism ever since he failed to match the numbers he had in 2008, where he had 41 saves in 41 opportunities, including the offseason. To be honest, after the first half of the season that Lidge had in 2010, it is somewhat justified.

Preceding the 2010 All-Star break, Lidge had a 4.60 ERA with only six saves in nine opportunities. In the 15.2 innings pitched before the break, he allowed 15 hits, eight earned runs and three home runs.

However, after the All-Star break, Lidge’s numbers shot up drastically. In 30 innings pitched following the break, Lidge had 21 saves out of 23 save opportunities. During that course of time, he only allowed seven earned runs and two home runs, both of which were one less than those respective stats for the first half of the season, where he pitched half the number of innings. This allowed Lidge’s ERA for the second half of the season to be as good as 2.10.

It should also be noted that the batting average against Lidge for the first half of the season was .250, whereas it was .192 for the second half of the season. After the conclusion of July through the postseason, Lidge had 19 saves out of 20 opportunities.

Overall for 2010, Lidge had an ERA of 2.96 with 27 saves, 52 strikeouts, 24 walks and a WHIP of 1.23. Obviously, the numbers from the first half of the season drove his overall numbers up.

Lidge, and the Phillies in general, hope that Lidge can replicate the numbers he had for the second half of the 2010 season for the entirety of the 2011 season. His chances of starting strong in 2011 are much greater than they have been in doing so because he is not nursing an injury through the offseason.

Lidge has been training hard this offseason and will be starting spring training (on Monday) in a better situation than he has in the previous few seasons.

The chances he has to produce like he did after the 2010 All-Star break are greater because of his training this offseason being in place of the rehabilitation that he has gone through in the previous years. Lidge will be working hard to perfect his training and performance during spring training, and his chances at perfection have not been this good in quite some time.

Lidge has been throwing regularly and at the rate that he needs to pitch at to be effective. Lidge has not only been healthy, he has also been able to maintain his top-notch ability through the offseason thus far. He has made the proper moves to make sure that he has not lost the effectiveness he had for the second half of last season. This is all paired with his hunger to be the world champion again.

Expect Lidge to be hungry, healthy and performing at the ability level that he performed at from August through October in 2010. With Lidge’s offseason health being 100 percent, and with his participating in a great offseason training program, expect him to improve upon his 2010 season’s numbers and have a season closer to his 2008 season, where he had an ERA of 1.95 with 41 saves.

Lidge will greatly improve upon his 2010 season based on his great offseason health and training, in addition to having the honor of pitching behind Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, plus the quality setup relief of Ryan Madson.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Batting Order Projection and Where Each Player Fits Best

With pitchers and catchers reporting Monday and the full team beginning spring training shortly after, the only major change for the Philadelphia Phillies in the starting position players will be the absence of Jayson Werth. 

There has been a lot of debate over who will replace Werth in the outfield and in the lineup.  There has been talk about platooning right field with either Ben Francisco and Dominic Brown or Francisco and Ross Gload.

Looking at the depth chart provided by, Brown is the first player listed for right field. 

Personally, Francisco is my favorite for winning the full time starting position, as I believe that he can replace the run production of Werth completely, just doing so with less home runs. 

Francisco can produce runs, because he can hit as many RBIs since he is a better contact hitter than Werth.  The numbers of Francisco and Werth are directly proportionate to one another once playtime of each respective player is accounted for. 

The Phillies website differs from ESPN, because it has Francisco listed first for right field and Brown listed third, which strengthened my favor towards Francisco even further.

Another conversation that has hit the surface regarded what the batting order will be for the team this year. 

Based on split statistics, I believe that the best batting order for the Phillies will be, in order, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Ben Francisco or Dominic Brown (depending on which of the two are playing that day), Carlos Ruiz, and Placido Polanco. 

This is based off of each of these players batting history at different spots in the order.  If you do not feel comfortable having numbers two, three, and four being left handed batters, you could switch Polanco and Utley, but I feel much more comfortable with Polanco being at the end of the lineup than I do with Utley being there.

Of the nine different Phillies that I analyzed for this, I ranked them for each spot in the order with regards to how each player batted in that spot.  Not everyone batted in each spot in the order, so not each player will be ranked in every spot.

Victorino was easily the best hitter in the leadoff spot, followed by Polanco then Rollins. 

Victorino  batted for .276 at leadoff, whereas Polanco batted for .273 and Rollins for .241.  The difference between Victorino and Polanco is the on-base percentage, which was .345 for Victorino and .304 for Polanco at leadoff. 

Leadoff was Victorino’s second best batting position, the fifth spot being his best.  In the fifth spot he batted for .313 with an on-base percentage of .353.  However, Victorino should leadoff, not only because he was the best but, because, although his batting average was better fifth, his on-base percentage was only less than one percent better at fifth spot.

The second spot in the batting order was ranked, in order, Polanco, Utley, Victorino, and Ibanez. 

Although there are four names mentioned here, the competition is really only between Polanco and Utley.  Polanco batted for .303 with on-base percentage of .346, whereas Utley batted for an average of .257 with an on-base percentage of .350.  So, although Utley batted for a worse average than Polanco, his on-base percentage was a little better. 

Part of the reason that Utley should be batting second is because of the improvements offensively of the person that should be batting third, which is actually Utley’s best place in the order.

For the third spot in the order, Utley batted for an average of .282 with an on-base percentage of .395, but his offensive performance in the second spot in very comparable to his performance in the third spot. 

The overall ranking for the third spot in the batting order is Ibanez, Polanco, Utley, and Rollins, but Rollins is not really in contention with this spot. 

Ibanez is an easy favorite for the third spot in the batting order.  His numbers there were a batting of .350 and an on-base percentage of .430.  Ibanez is best fit for batting third, because his batting average improved by .080 and his on-base percentage by .088 from where he usually batted.  If Ibanez can maintain a .430 on-base percentage at third, he is the best option to hit there.

Ibanez is technically the best fit for batting fourth when it comes to average and on base percentage, but I do not think that there is any chance that Howard will bat anywhere else in the lineup.  Howard also has much more power than Ibanez, so Howard will be batting fourth, and everyone else will fit around him.

The fifth spot in the batting order is easily favored by Rollins. 

The other contenders for that spot are Victorino and Francisco.  As previously mentioned, Victorino’s best spot in the lineup was fifth, but Rollins is still easily the favorite for that spot.  Rollins batted for an average of .400 with an on base percentage of .417 and a slugging average of .700 while batting at fifth, which are very impressive numbers.  Rollins would easily be best fit to follow Howard in the batting order.

Rollins was also the best batter for the sixth spot in the rotation, but he is easily favored to bat fifth in the batting order. 

That allows the Phillies to place Francisco in the sixth spot in the lineup.  Francisco was second best in the sixth spot, batting with an average of .306 and an on-base percentage of .370. 

Sixth is also where Brown batted best as well with an average of .256 and an on-base percentage of .273.  Whichever of these two players wins, although the favorite according these numbers is Francisco, will be best fit to bat sixth in the lineup.  Brown was actually ranked fifth for the sixth spot, but the two players between Francisco and Brown are easy fits in other spots in the lineup.

With the seventh spot in the batting order, there really is no competition.  Ruiz is easily the favorite to bat seventh. 

Ruiz usually batted eighth, where his numbers were a batting average of .263 with an on-base percentage of .398 and a slugging average of .351.  When Ruiz batted seventh in the lineup, he batted for an average of .337 with an on-base percentage of .407 and a slugging average of .524.  His numbers are much better, excepting the small improvement with on-base percentage, at the seventh spot, making him an easy favorite to bat there.

Another way that the batting order could be arranged, from first to last, is Polanco Utley, Ibanez, Howard, Victorino, Rollins, Ruiz, and Francisco or Brown, although I am not that comfortable having a potentially big run producer like Francisco or Brown at the bottom of the order. 

I would feel much more comfortable with having a contact hitter with minimal power at the bottom of the lineup.  It is a given that Francisco or Brown have much more power than Polanco, which is why Polanco is the best fit at the bottom of the order, keeping the order as Victorino, Utley, Ibanez, Howard, Rollins, Francisco or Brown, Ruiz, and Polanco.

That is my projection for the 2011 batting order. 

The players I placed in the first, third, fifth, and seventh spots in the batting order were the players who batted the best in that spot in the batting order in 2010. 

The players that I placed in the second, fourth, and sixth spots in the batting order were those who finished second best in that spot in the rotation in 2010, and the ones who finished best in those respective spots were best fit in one of the other spots in the lineup. 

The only legitimate way that I could see the lineup being better would be to have the pitcher bat eighth and have Polanco bat ninth to have him start the wrap-around of the lineup.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Top 10 Players To Fill Holes In Outfield After 2011

I know that it is way to early to be thinking about the 2012 season, as the 2011 season has not even started yet, or is it? Some teams as of right now know that they will not have a chance for the World Series, and some of those teams are probably already eying players who are due to hit the free agent market after the conclusion of the current season. It is wise for all teams to look at this point in time at the holes that may be left in their current roster after this season and see who will fit into that hole.

This offseason, the Philadelphia Phillies lost Jayson Werth to free agency, which has left a big question mark in the Phillies lineup to see who will replace Werth. Initially, there was talk about seeking the free agents to fill this hole. Names like Matt Diaz, Jeff Francoeur, and, the much coveted, Carl Crawford. The potential for all of these players sifted away when the Phillies signed Cliff Lee, which is perfectly fine with me and most Phillies fans.

In this coming offseason, Raul Ibanez is due for his contract to expire. Ibanez may be turning 39 years-old in June, but he still proved to be within the top three offensive producers for the Phillies in 2010, with the second highest on-base percentage following the All-Star break. So will the Phillies resign him or let himgo and find an in house replacement or seek free agency.

This list will contain outfielders that are due for free agency or are within the Phillies organization already that could fill the hole in the outfield.

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Philadelphia Phillies: If They Only Keep One, Roy Oswalt or Jimmy Rollins?

For the 2012 season, it should be a reasonable assumption that the Philadelphia Phillies will contain both Jimmy Rollins and Roy Oswalt.  In 2010, Rollins had a down year due to the fact that he spent nearly half of the season on the disabled list.  However, it is safe to assume that he will return to form in 2010.

Rollins is a veteran and a star, and he knows what is at stake this year.  This could be the only opportunity that he will have to play with a rotation of this caliber, and, beyond the chances of a repeat of a World Series championship, his career is also at stake, as this is the last year of his contract.

Oswalt is a proven ace, who still has yet to lose a game in Citizens Bank Park as a Phillie.  He still ranks as one of the top pitchers currently in baseball and finds himself among the best rotation that exists in baseball today.  At the end of the 2011 season, there is a mutual $16 million option to stay with the Phillies for the 2012 season.  If that option is not taken by either party, we will likely see Oswalt retire, although I think that he would take a serious pay cut to stay with the Phillies before he actually retired.

Rollins will produce a season much more like his 2008 and 2009 seasons to ensure his longevity with the Phillies organization, and Oswalt will continue to hand his command on the mound for this coming season.  Expect both of these players to have great 2011 seasons and be on the Phillies roster for 2012.

However, for the sake of argument, let us assume that the Phillies can only or will only spend the amount of money to keep both of these players.  Which of these players has more to offer to the organization and would be more worth paying to keep as a Phillie?  I think that if we examine the 2010 season, we can assume that Oswalt brings a talent to the organization that would be harder to replace than it would be to replace the talent that Rollins brings.

We saw a 2010 season where Rollins was missing from nearly half of it.  Of 162 regular season games, Rollins played in 88 of those games.  Even with Rollins missing half of the season, the Phillies had the best regular season record in all of baseball.  It would be much more difficult and expensive to find a replacement for Oswalt than it would be for Rollins, especially since the Phillies could look within their own organization to find some to replace Rollins who could produce very comparable numbers.

I am, of course, speaking of Wilson Valdez.  Valdez sometimes gets criticized for not producing offensively, but this is not quite fair.  Valdez may have less ability to hit home runs or steal bases than Rollins, but he still is quite able to do so.  Valdez filled in for Rollins a lot this season, having played in 111 games, still not quite the numbers for a full season, so his numbers would be north of where they were had he been an everyday starter.

That being said, Valdez had seven stolen bases and was never caught in 2010.  He also hit four homeruns.  With stolen bases, Rollins had 17 and was caught once, so Valdez is not quite to Rollin’s ability, but they compare more closely when it comes to other aspects of batting.

Rollins batted for an average of .243 with 41 RBIs, an on-base percentage of .320 and a slugging percentage of .374.  Valdez, on the other hand, batted for an average of .258 with 35 RBIs, an on-base percentage of .306 and a slugging percentage of .360.  I should also mention that Rollins made $8.5 million in 2010, whereas Valdez only made $400,000.  Valdez is only entering his sixth year as a professional player—although he is technically six months older than Rollins—and will not be eligible for free agency until after this season.

When comparing Oswalt to the rest of the pitching in the majors, he was eighth with ERA, second with WHIP, 18th with strikeouts and 33rd with wins; however, that last stat would likely have been higher if he had not played the first half of the season in Houston.  Oswalt’s 2010 stats were a 2.76 ERA, 13-13 Record, 193 strikeouts, 55 walks, and a 1.03 WHIP.  With the starting pitcher free agents who are due to hit the market after the 2011 season, only two pitchers can really compare to Oswalt, Chris Carpenter and Cole Hamels.

Even if the Phillies went the route of trying to sign a free agent to replace Oswalt, they would be paying top dollar to replace him or, more likely, sign someone who does not really hold a candle light to what they could get out of Oswalt.  If the Phillies tried to trade for someone to replace Oswalt, the cost would likely be too great to either the everyday starters or the farm system.  Rollins could be replaced from within at a fraction of the cost and see similar results.

Oswalt would not be nearly as easy to replace, not that replacing Rollins is easy, and finding one from within may be difficult.  Vance Worley has potential, but I will not claim that he is Oswalt’s caliber until he proves it, nor would I bet on it.  Oswalt is a quality pitcher that is rarely found in baseball, especially at his consistency.

Overall, the Phillies would be better off with keeping Oswalt and letting Rollins go than they would be if they kept Rollins and let Oswalt go.  I would expect both players to remain a Phillie, but if we could only pick one, Oswalt is the better option for the team to keep.

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Raul Ibanez: A Top Ranking Offensive Tool But A Subject Of Unjustified Criticism

When people take a look at the roster of the Philadelphia Phillies, there are certain players that are often targeted with criticism. I find that much of this criticism is unfounded against most of the players. Right now the Phillies are perhaps the strongest, or at least almost the strongest, that they have ever been.

Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Brad Lidge have often been the target of criticism, especially after last season. Utley and Rollins both spent a large amount of time on the disabled list, which caused them to have down years. Some of the critics claim that this trend will continue, but I would not count them out. 

One down year does not mean that the following years will be of the same caliber. I would expect both Utley and Rollins to have bounce-back years for this coming season. Lidge had a down year early in 2010 but showed strength and great improvement in the second half of the season. Lidge should be on form again come spring time.

Another subject of criticism has often been Raul Ibanez for whatever reason. Early last year, Ibanez was showing the signs of a down year, but he recovered during the second half of the season. In fact, following the All-Star break, Ibanez was second on the Phillies in on-base percentage. 

So how does Ibanez rank when compared to the rest of the Phillies?

Offense is needed in Philadelphia, although perhaps less so now that the Phillies have the best rotation, which was strengthened by the addition of Cliff Lee. That being said, Ibanez did hold his weight at the plate in 2010 to help support the seventh-best offense in the majors. 

Besides his on-base percentage for the second half of the year, Ibanez was fourth in the number of home runs on the Phillies, and third if you remove Jayson Werth, who will be playing for the Washington Nationals for the next seven years.

Ibanez was also third with the number of runs batted in, which would be second without Werth. Ibanez also was second in doubles for the Phillies, lagging only behind Werth again. Overall, offensively, Ibanez had 16 home runs and 83 RBIs with a batting average of .275, an on-base percentage of .349 and a slugging percentage of .444.

Ibanez was also fourth in total bags, second in walks, third in hits, second in triples and fifth in runs, and he followed Werth in each of these categories except triples. 

Although analyzing these numbers shows how much production will be missed by Werth, it also shows that Ibanez produced numbers very comparable to the production of the departed outfielder.

With what the Phillies will be missing from Werth, I predict that Ben Francisco will be able to almost entirely make up for Werth’s offensive production once he wins the full-time starting position this spring (

Besides performing better than Werth with the number of triples, Ibanez was also better than Werth with the number of strikeouts, having about 40 less. Although those are impressive numbers, Ibanez also performed much better than Werth when it often counts, batting with runners in scoring position. 

Ibanez’s batting average with runners in scoring position was .304, whereas Werth’s batting average with runners in scoring position was .186.

This is partially why I think that Francisco is the perfect fill for Werth. Francisco will not be able to compare to Werth’s home run production, but everything will be nearly the same production that was seen from Werth. 

Francisco had a third of the at-bats of Werth and produced exactly a third of the numbers that Werth did, excepting home runs. However, Francisco will make up for Werth’s homeruns by the fact that Francisco’s batting average with runners in scoring position was .306 (

This article is not about Francisco filling in for Werth. It is about Ibanez and what production he brings to the Phillies. 

In the second half of the season, Ibanez improved his batting average by .066, his on-base percentage by .049, his slugging percentage by .097, and his OPS by .146.  Although his yearly numbers for these respective categories were .275, .349, .444, and .793, those numbers were .309, .375, .494 and .869 after the All-Star break.

If Ibanez can continue to produce the numbers that he did in 2010, particularly the numbers produced in the second half of the season, he will be well worth the $11.5 million he is due by the Phillies this season. 

Ibanez is going to be turning 39-years-old in June, and this is the last year of his current contract with the Phillies. Overall, he ranks towards the top of all of the Phillies in offensive production, and any criticism that he receives is unjustified when he is compared to the rest of the team. 

His future is unknown, but if his production continues to rank towards the top of the Phillies’ team overall, I would like to see him stay with the organization.

Ibanez’s numbers have consistently ranked him towards the top of the list for the Phillies’ offensive production, but critics still have negative things to say. However, there seems to really be only one number that stands against Ibanez: his age.

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Ryan Howard: Despite a Shorter 2010 Season, Reigns Above the NL East Offensively

In the 2010 season, the first basemen of the Philadelphia Phillies, Ryan Howard, spent a great deal of time on the disabled list.  When doing the math by analyzing the innings played, it shows that Howard played in about seventeen fewer games in 2010 than he did in 2009. 

Of 162 games, missing seventeen games does not sound like that much. Howard usually plays well over 150 games per year.  In 2008, Howard started 156 games and 155 in 2009.  With the injury, Howard only started 139 games in 2010.

Even with missing so much time during the 2010 season, he still produced numbers better than most other players in baseball.  Of 1000+ baseball players, Howard produced numbers good enough for him being tied at 14th rank with the number of home runs. He was 11th in the number of runs batted-in. 

Howard was also ranked 49th for on-base percentage, 25th in slugging percentage and 29th in OPS.

Howard had a very productive season in 2010, although it was certainly not his peak year, that we can blame on the time he missed from injury. 

He did hit for an average of .276 with 31 home runs and 108 runs batted-in.  His on-base percentage was .353 and his slugging percentage was .505 with 152 hits and 59 walks.  He also had 157 strikeouts, which is at a ratio of about a two-percent improvement.

Howard’s numbers were good enough, even with missing all of the time from injury, to be the best and most productive first basemen in the NL East Division.  When comparing Howard to the other first basemen in the NL East, the only player that can actually challenge Howard’s numbers, according to the stats of 2010, is Adam LaRoche.

LaRoche, who was not in the NL East in 2010, batted for an average of .261 with 25 home runs and 100 runs batted-in.  His on-base percentage was .320 with a slugging percentage of .468.

However, LaRoche was still lagging behind the numbers of Howard even though Howard started about 17 less games than usual and less games than LaRoche had played. 

When comparing Howard to LaRoche, it is easy to see that Howard will provide more offense to the team.  Howard beats LaRoche in batting average, home runs, RBIs, on base percentage, slugging percentage and stolen bases. Although neither are particularly a threat to run. 

On the defensive side of the field, they were both credited with the same number of double plays.  LaRoche had a few less errors, but you can expect the same from these two players defensively.

Howard and LaRoche produced similar numbers in 2010.  Although Howard did not beat LaRoche’s numbers all that significantly, that wouldn’t have been true if we were talking about a season that Howard played the entirety of. 

Either way, Howard is the most productive first basemen of the NL East, followed by LaRoche.  The other three first basemen follow these two further down the line.

The New York Mets have Ike Davis and the Florida Marlins have Gaby Sanchez for their role in first base.  These two players are coming off of productive 2010 seasons, but they cannot compare to the top, Howard or LaRoche. 

The Atlanta Braves have Freddie Freeman for first base, but it is hard to speculate how he will fair in 2011 since he is only 21-years-old and has only had 24 major league at bats. 

In those at bats, he had four hits including a double and home run, but only an average of .167. Seeing how Freeman will fare in 2011 will be interesting, but as of right now, I will predict that he will not produce numbers that can compare to Howard, which I think is a pretty safe prediction.

Davis batted for an average of .264 with 19 home runs and 71 RBIs.  He had an on-base percentage of .351 and a slugging average of .440.  Sanchez had an average of .273 with 19 home runs and 85 RBIs.  He had an on-base percentage of .341 and a slugging average of .448.

As these numbers show and Howard continues to prove, he is one of the best offensive producers in baseball, and he is, undoubtedly, the best first basemen that will be found in the NL East for at least the 2011 MLB season. 

If Howard stays healthy, which would be safe to presume about this season, he will certainly shine above the rest of the NL East at first base and most other players in baseball like he has in seasons past.  Howard can afford to play less then 15 games than usual, and still reign towards the top of offensive productivity.

Not only is Howard the most productive first basemen, but he is also the top producer of those who remain in the NL East Division. With the rosters currently set the way they are in the NL East, with all players included, Howard was second with the number of home runs and first with RBIs.

In the NL East, Howard is one of only three players with over 100 RBIs, where the rest of the RBI leaders did not cross 85 RBIs last season.

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