Blessings in Disguise (and other Tales of the Absurd)

(Posted by Mike Frohwirth)

"If this is a blessing, it is certainly very well disguised." -Winston Churchill

The surgery on Domonic Brown's right hand was successful, and the top prospect will be out between four and six weeks. This is a blessing in disguise, as the Phillies can now take their time with the young outfielder, rather than rushing him into a major league role. (Yikes. It felt wrong even to type that.)

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I've seen variations of that "blessing in disguise" theory in several places. How could an injury of any magnitude be considered a "blessing?" That type of thinking just doesn't seem to make sense. Brown is a key component to the Phillies' future plans, and his low salary could be crucial to the Phils' efforts to keep labor costs under control. The plan for Brown was to maximize his number of Spring ABs, as he makes adjustments to his batting stance. So much for that plan.

The early returns from Brown's adjustments were not good (one hit in sixteen ABs), but Phils' fans should not overreact to a small sample of Spring ABs, especially early Spring ABs (when pitchers are, typically, ahead of the hitters). As Brown can still be optioned to the minor leagues, the Phils were not required to keep him with the parent club, nor did they need an injury to justify a decision to do so. Hopefully, Brown will be able to overcome this setback, and the Phillies won't experience too many of these sorts of "blessings."


"Wilson Valdez was probably the Phils' MVP in 2010." – Larry Andersen


The amount of Valdez love these days is pretty inexplicable. Yes, he was an upgrade over 2008 Eric Bruntlett, and 2009 Miguel Cairo. Yes, he is a better option than paying prospects (and $48MM) for Michael Young. But let's make a list of Valdez' strengths. He has an awesome arm. He can really gun the ball out there. In addition to his bullet arm, Valdez…Well, that's pretty much it. He has "positional flexibility", but this "flexibility" is Delwynesque in nature: he is fairly average, wherever he is positioned. At the plate in '10, Valdez posted an uninspiring .667 OPS, and a pitiful wOBA of .294, in what was his best MLB season. Entering his Age 33 year, it doesn't seem likely that a substantial improvement is pending. The more plate appearances Valdez receives, the worse off the Phillies are, unless they are striving to lead the league in GIDP.


"As the fourth starter, Cole Hamels has a chance at a Cy Young Award." -various


It is mildly troubling that many don't seem to know how starting rotations work. As the fourth starter, Hamels will face the opposing team's fourth starter for, perhaps, his first few turns. But, as teams get further into their schedules, and have days off/postponements, Hamels will face starters of varying abilities.

It is extremely troubling that it could be believed that Hamels requires weak opposing starters, in order to be a Cy candidate. First, the quality of the opposing starter would only really impact Hamels' won-loss record. I like to believe that, as a society, we have moved beyond evaluating pitchers by their winning percentages. Secondly, Hamels is a great pitcher! While he may be only the fourth (or third?) best hurler in his own rotation, Hamels is probably among the top twenty starting pitchers in MLB. A twenty-seven year old lefty, who has posted xFIPs between 3.4 and 3.7 in each of the past five seasons, Hamels deserves a lot more appreciation.


"Do not pay too much attention to Spring Training stats!" – Todd Frohwirth


Spring Training stats are not a good predictor for regular season performance, as there are often uneven levels of competition, strategies that would not be utilized in games that counted, and players who are experimenting with different pitches/batting stances, etc. (Not to mention the crazy insane stuff, like J.C. Romero facing right-handed batters!) It's OK to enjoy the fact that Josh Barfield, Ross Gload, and Wilson Valdez are OPSing over 1.000, but rest assured that the Phillies will be making personnel decisions based on previous seasons worth of statistics. So, we don't have to worry about the Phils doing anything stupid, like selecting a pitcher well-versed in mediocrity to be their fifth starter, based on a 25/2 K/BB ratio in Spring Training.