Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Contreras Returns for 2 Yrs./$5.5m

The Phillies have decided to bring back Jose Contreras for 2 years at $2.75 million per season. This seems fine with me. Contreras is getting older (he says he's 39... he could be 48), but was great this year. In particular, he had tremendous movement on his splitter throughout the season and into the playoffs. Also, I don't think much better options exist on the market at a lower price. Ideally, he will pair with a rejuvenated Danys Baez (who is signed through 2011 and probably untradable at the moment) to form a nice 6th-7th inning combo. This, combined with a young arm --- Scott Mathieson, Antonio Bastardo and/or Vance Worley --, a new LOOGY (I like Taylor Tankersley or Pedro Feliciano, personally), and Madson/Lidge at the back-end form a solid bullpen.

Regarding one of these points, GM Ruben Amaro recently said that acquiring a lefty reliever is not a priority. He's either lying or crazy (probably the former). The Phils have no established lefty relievers on their roster. Bastardo has talent, but clearly we'll need a bit more depth. I fully expect the position to be addressed by March.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Is Mike Schmidt Underrated?

Today I pose the following question that I was recently asked by a friend: is Mike Schmidt, the greatest Phillie to ever live, underrated by the baseball community?

In 1999, Schmidt was ranked the 28th best baseball player of all-time by the Sporting News. Notably, he was the highest ranked 3rd baseman. In addition, he was named to MLB's All-Century Team. It's fair to say that baseball writers have consistently called Schmidt the game's best at his respective position.

But are they still selling him short? Let's consider the numbers.

Schmidt ranks 39th all-time in Adjusted OPS+ (147), my favorite offensive statistic. But more can be said in support of him. Four steroid users --- Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Manny Ramirez, and Alex Rodriguez --- are ahead of Schmidt. As far as I'm concerned, these achievements are null and void. In addition, Schmidt was a third baseman, a difficult position to play and one that historically has not produced a high number of offensive standouts. In fact, only three (3) non-outfielders/first basemen all-time have a higher Adjusted OPS+ than Mike Schmidt: Rogers Hornsby, Nap Lajoie, and Honus Wagner. Edgar Martinez retired with the same figure as Schmidt (147), but played the majority of his career as a DH. Taking nothing away from their great careers, neither Hornsby, Lajoie, nor Wagner played a day after 1937. Therefore, none ever played in an integrated game. Therefore, an argument can be made that Schmidt is the greatest offensive non-outfielder/first baseman of the past 75 years, if not all-time.

Schmidt also put up amazing counting numbers. He hit 548 home runs in the 70s and 80s, easily the highest figure for those two decades. He led the league in home runs an astounding 8 times --- second only to Babe Ruth. During the two decades in which he played, Schmidt was simply in a different dimension than his peers.

Schmidt, however, was not only an offensive standout. He was an exceptional defensive third-baseman, an extremely important position. He won 10 Gold Gloves and by all accounts, earned them. Only 15 players in MLB history can claim to have won double-digit Gold Gloves. Of the 15, only Willie Mays competes with Schmidt offensively in terms of Adj. OPS+. Ken Griffey Jr. and his 630 HRs indeed surpass Schmidt in terms of counting stats, but he was an outfielder in a hitters' era.

Imagine if Schmidt had played after expansion, or better yet, in Citizens Bank Park! What would his career numbers look like?

There's something about baseball in the 1970s and 80s that seems not to excite baseball historians, writers, etc. It was a time for multi-purpose, astroturfed stadiums. It was the age of 150-lb. slap hitters. Save the A's and Reds in the early 1970s and there were no dynasties. Historically speaking, it was a quieter time for the game than the 50s, 60s, 90s, or 2000s. Perhaps this explains why Schmidt, in my view, remains underrated. Or perhaps it's because he played in the Philly, which in those days was not a particularly high-profile baseball town.

Whatever the reason, Schmidt is never discussed among the game's greatest players of all-time. When all things are considered, however, it's difficult for me to rank him anywhere outside the top 7 or 8 all-time for position players or the top 12 to 15 for all players (including pitchers). Am I crazy?

Phils Increase Ticket Prices for 2011

The Phillies today announced an increase in ticket prices; hikes will range from $2 to $5 per seat throughout the park in 2011.

I suppose this was to be expected. After all, the team set a home attendance record of 3,647,249 fans and will enter the 2011 season with a streak of 123 consecutive sellouts. The average attendance in 2010 was 45,028/game.

According to Team Marketing Report, the Phils' average ticket price in 2010 was $32,99, good for 5th in MLB. It is unclear whether the new increases will leap the Phils into a higher slot in 2011.

I'll be completely honest; this doesn't bother me. As a "long distance" fan who attends 2-3 home games per season, I'm actually more pleased that the team will be able to increase it's revenue (and hopefully, payroll) in 2011.

From a less selfish perspective, I also think it's defensible. The Phils play in a Top 5 market, in a Top 5-10 stadium, and are one of the best 5 teams in baseball. Therefore, they have every right (in my view) to charge Top 5 prices.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Phillies Reportedly Considering Aaron Rowand

Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated reported today that the Phils would consider re-acquiring Aaron Rowand from the World Champion San Francisco Giants (wow, that's weird to write) if they are unable to sign Jayson Werth.

Rowand, a fan favorite while with the Phils (2006-07), is due $12 million next season. According to the report, the Giants would need to pick-up part of Rowand's salary to make the move happen. The Giants are likely to go with Andres Torres in center-field after Rowand's poor season, so shedding any of his salary would be beneficial to them.

Having not seen any proposed offer, or the amount of $ the Giants would pick-up, this seems like a mistake to me. Rowand, a free-swinging strikeout (74 Ks in 330 ABs in 2010) threat, is clearly on the offensive decline. He posted an OPS of .659 in 2010, a deplorable figure for a starting outfielder. He's also lost a step in the outfield. To me, there are much better options. I would consider Marcus Thames, who is likely to leave the Yankees. Magglio Ordonez, who Heyman also said is on the Phils' radar, is also intriguing at the right price.

I just hope that sentimentality and visions of Rowand crashing into the fence don't sway the Phils. Losing Jayson Werth is serious, and a legitimate right-handed bat is needed to replace him (at least on a platoon basis).