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Hunter Pence on the Phillies? Not Worth It

A special guest post by Domonic Pody. Or is it Dominic?


Let’s get a few things straight right off the bat: Hunter Pence is a good baseball player; having him on the roster would probably help the Phillies anemic (schizophrenic?) offense; and if a reasonable deal can be made for him, the Phillies should make it. But because by all appearances any deal for Pence won’t be reasonable, and because his much lauded offensive production is artificially inflated and unreliable, the Phillies should stop haggling for Pence.

By the Numbers

Let’s start with Hunter’s offensive statistics.  His career slash-line is a respectable .290/.339/.480, with impressive power numbers in particular (.190 ISO, or isolated power).  His .353 career wOBA is good, but not great (tied for 45th among outfielders with minimum 400 PA during that period). In 2011, Pence is hitting .309/.356/.472. His increased plate discipline is helping him to that .356 OBP, and he’s maintaining a reasonable .163 ISO. His wOBA, in particular, is impressive at .365, putting him into roughly the 75th percentile of all ML hitters.

Defense, meanwhile, is notoriously difficult to quantify, even for the sabermetricly-inclined among us. The best metric at this point is UZR, or Ultimate Zone Rating. It’s incredibly complicated, but FanGraphs gives a good summary: “the basic gist is that UZR puts a run value to defense, attempting to quantify how many runs a player saved or gave up through their fielding prowess (or lack thereof).” It’s counting statistic, much like hits or errors, so it’s generally divided by 150 for comparison purposes. Pence’s UZR/150 is 4.8, putting him somewhere between the 60th-70th percentile among ML fielders. Once again, a respectable, but not earth-shattering, number for Pence.

Bringing it all together, Pence has been worth 17.3 fWAR (Fangraphs version of Wins Above Replacement) to the Astros from his call-up in 2007 through today. This means he has been worth 17.3 wins above a replacement-level player, otherwise known as an average call-up from the minor leagues. 17.3 from 2007-2011 is a solid WAR: he is tied with B.J. Upton for 11th among ML outfielders in that statistic.

Between the Lines

But between the lines, an alarming trend emerges, especially concerning Pence’s production this year: his BABIP. BABIP (batting average on balls in play), for the uninitiated, is a descriptive statistic whose usefulness far exceeds its relatively meek sounding name. At its best, BABIP tells us when a player has been “lucky” or “unlucky” while batting or pitching. And it sure seems like Hunter Pence has been lucky in 2011.

Pence’s .370 BABIP in 2011 is 73 points higher than the major league average BABIP in 2010, strongly suggesting that Pence has benefitted from batted ball luck. Moreover, while there is evidence that batters can control some aspects of hitting that influence BABIP, Pence does not seem to have that skill (or, at least, not to the extent that it explains his very high BABIP). In 2010 his BABIP was .304, only 7 points above league average; in 2009, it was .304. If Pence had the skill necessary to make more of his balls in play fall for hits than the average hitter, we would expect to see significantly above-average BABIP throughout his career. But since we don’t, it appears that Pence has simply been lucky this year—so don’t let his current numbers fool you.

But despite that, Pence is still an above average baseball player who could add depth and power to the struggling Phillies lineup. So why not get him? The Astros are simply asking too much. The Phillies have offered top prospects RHP Jarred Cosart (ranked 6th in the Phillies system by the blog linked, the excellent Phuture Phillies) and 1B Jonathan Singleton (ranked 9th). They apparently also offered Domonic Brown, though Buster Olney has now said that will not happen. Consider that a good thing—I was planning on writing another 500 words or so defending Brown before that news came down, so the Phillies pulling him back is quite a good thing in my estimation. But even without Brown, a deal for Pence at the current price is not a good thing in my eyes. Unless they can make a deal involving Vance Worley—whose stock will never be higher, as his 2.02 ERA is likely to regress—for Pence, any deal will be questionable. Two top-10 prospects weren’t enough for the Astros; any asking price higher than that is not one the Phillies should be meeting for a player of Pence’s caliber.


As mentioned above, given the right deal, Hunter Pence would be a valuable addition to the Phillies lineup. But the right deal doesn’t seem to be on the table. Personally, I understand Ed Wade’s reluctance to deal for anything but the best from Philadelphia. In his two deals with the Phils since becoming Houson’s GM, Wade has landed Michael Bourn, Geoff Geary, Mike Costanzo, J.A. Happ, Jonathan Villar, and Anthony Gose. The Phillies, meanwhile, got Brad Lidge and Roy Oswalt*. I think it’s obvious who “won” those trades.

So, in my eyes, a deal for Hunter Pence involving anything but less than the Astros current asking price is not a deal worth making. But for anyone hoping the Phillies pick up a right-handed bat, all is not lost. Remember when I said Pence was tied in fWAR with B.J. Upton since 2007? Well, it turns out Upton is on the trading block as well. Maybe Ruben will make that deal—and make all of us happy.

* And Eric Bruntlett, but I like to pretend that part never happened.

Dominic Pody (@burythemfast) is a rabid Phillies fan and stat junkie. His most prized possession is a ball autographed by Jason Michaels, Jose Mesa, Bruce Chen, and Omar Daal.

Wikipedia: Hunter Pence is Head Cheerleader, The Boy Who Saved the Phillies

Posted by Frank Klose

Thanks to @AdamChooch for this screen cap!

I have taught college courses for the last five years.  One thing we often find ourselves repeating over and over to our students?  DO NOT use Wikipedia as a source.

Tonight is perfect evidence. 

The Hunter Pence Wikipedia page asserts that:

  • Hunter Pence is a Phillie
  • Hunter Pence wears #9 (along with Dom Brown of course)
  • Hunter Pence is Head Cheerleader
  • Hunter Pence is...

The page is continually being messed with, so periodically check it out here.

Ah wait, it has changed again:


 More updates:





Finally, thanks to @xochristinaxo, President Obama's Photo:

If Phillies Get Pence: None the Richer? Makes Sense for Future

Posted by Frank Klose

Thanks to @cubishboy for this pic

Well, Hunter Pence tonight thought he could be playing his last game for the Houston Astros.   As reported by Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi (and retweeted by 70,000,00 people), a deal could be reached "By Friday." 

Well, it's midnight, and let's see if a deal happens.

Despite all the twitter debates about whether or not a deal for Pence would be smart, many seem to think that if Brown is not included in a deal then it would make sense.  As constructed now, the Phillies do not have a strong right-handed bat.

Here is how the lineup could shape up the rest of 2011:

SS Rollins
3b Polanco
2b Utley
1B  Howard
RF Pence
CF Victorino
LF Ibañez
C Ruiz

An added advantage is that in the absence of Polanco Shane Victorino can bat second.

In 2012 the lineup could look like this:

SS Rolins*
3B Polanco
2B  Utley
1B Howard
LF Pence
CF Victorino
RF Brown
C Ruiz

Rollins may not be re-signed.  Worst-case scenario: Phillies lose Rollins, and do not have any other viable offensive alternative to play stortstop.  The lineup still could be a formidible lineup without such a shortstop. 

Having Pence also fills the need for an outfielder to replace free-agent Ibañez, and the lineup can better withstand the loss of Rollins should they not be able to find a suitable replacement:

CF Victorino
3B Polanco
2B Utley
1B Howard
LF Pence
RF Brown
C Ruiz
SS Martinez/Galvis/Any defensive SS you can pick up

Ed Wade in Houston MUST make this deal.  He must trade Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, Michael Bourn and every player that is not tied down.  The ownership is changing in Houston and Wade has one chance to take his lousy major-league team and his ranked fourth from last farm system and make it his own.

Outgoing owner Drayton McLane is known to interfere with General Managers and their ability to be creative and build rosters.  Ed Wade's hands were always tied from doing the right thing.

Wade should stockpile talent right now.  It may intrigue the new ownership and give him a chance to be a General Manager again.  The Phillies should capitalize on that.

The Norm: Kendrick Pitches Well, Offense Doesn't Show Up in 4-1 Loss

Posted by Danielle Wilson

AP Photo/Matt Slocum

We can all agree that last night's game was rather ugly. Tonight's game was uglier. If you had a bad day today, do not read the following recapitulation.

Pablo Sandoval destroyed a changeup from Kendrick to give the Giants a 1-0 lead in the second inning. In the fourth, Nate Schierholtz singled to score Aubrey Huff. Three innings later, Aaron Rowand reached on a throwing error by Michael Martinez which scored two. 4-0 Giants.

Kyle Kendrick pitched arguably well being, you know, Kyle Kendrick. He allowed three earned runs on six hits, striking out four and walking two in 6 and 1/3. Juan Perez and Brad Lidge finished off the inning for Kyle, with 0's across their lines.

However, Tim Lincecum out-pitched Kyle tonight allowing zero earned runs on three hits, striking out six and walking four in six innings. The only run scored tonight for the Phils came in the seventh on Chase Utley's RBI double. They were 1-10 tonight with runners in scoring position.

Young, beautiful Michael Stutes pitched a scoreless eighth, and David Herndon (I can't think of a description for him yet) pitched a scoreless ninth. Brian Wilson also pitched a scoreless ninth, striking out two.

It took 46 games for the Phillies to lose back-to-back, which happened tonight. The Pirates will visit for the weekend starting tomorrow with Halladay vs. Charlie Morton.

How the San Francisco Giants Can Make Room for Beltran and Only Lose Pat Burrell

Posted by Frank Klose

Courtesy circa 2003

Several have asked, how can the Giants release Burrell while on the disabled list?  Well, I don't think that they can, but there is some maneuvering they can do to achieve their purpose, which is to find room on the active roster and 40-man roster for newly-acquired Carlos Beltran.

The hangup is that the Giants need a 40-man roster spot.  Finding an active roster spot will be fulfilled by optioning Brandon Belt to the minor leagues.

So, here is what they will have to do.

First, find a player with options, one with more than three calendar years since his debut.  Jonathan Sanchez fits the bill.  Wednesday was to be his final rehab start, but his mediocre performance may have earned him a demotion anyway.  Sanchez is 4-5 with a 3.81 ERA.

Then, do the following:

1. Option Brandon Belt to AAA Fresno.
2. Activate Jonathan Sanchez from the disabled list.
3. Designate Jonathan Sanchez for assignment.
4. Place Sanchez on optional (revocable) waivers
5. Add Carlos Beltran to the 40-man roster.
6. Saturday, active Pat Burrell (still on the 40-man roster) from the disabled list.
7. Designate Pat Burrell for assignment
8. Assign Sanchez to AAA Fresno, returning him to the 40-man roster.

See the case of the Phillies' Scott Mathieson in 2010, in which they involved this similar manner.  You see, when a player is placed on waivers, there are a few options, such as those the Philadelphia Inquirer's Matt Gelb sets forth:

There are four types of waivers, the rarest being optional waivers. They are required when a team wishes to option a player who has options remaining but is more than three calendar years removed from his major-league debut. Mathieson falls under that category; he made his debut on June 17, 2006. And he has options left.

The reason many players with minor-league options are not designated for assignment is that they can simply be optioned to the minor leagues.   In this case, Sanchez (or whoever else) will just remain in limbo for a few days while they wait out the disabled list stay.  Sanchez is due to rehab soon, so this should work.

No, Pat Burrell does not fit on the Phillies.  Sorry.

Hamels' Strong Outing Not Enough in 2-1 Loss

Posted by Danielle Wilson

Courtesy of AP Photo/Matt Slocum

The Phillies play two kinds of baseball these days: Score a bunch of runs and have the starting pitcher throw a gem, or, have the starting pitcher throw a gem and give no run support behind them. Tonight, they played the second version of Phillies baseball, which is a damn shame.

Last night's game was what I was hoping to see a repeat of tonight. Nope. The Phillies' bats just weren't as lively. Apparently, neither were the Giants' gloves tonight, seeing that the only run of the game for the Phils scored on account of an error and an Aubrey Huff mishap in the same inning.

The Giants struck first in this game on Aaron Rowand's RBI triple in the third inning. Another run wouldn't score until the seventh inning; Nate Schierholtz doubled to score Jeff Keppinger. 2-0 Giants.

Matt Cain was pitching like it was the postseason of 2010. He has won a regular season game against every National League team not named the Phillies. That changed tonight as he pitched a masterpiece against the Phils. He allowed one unearned run (Dom Brown singled in the seventh, scored Shane from second) on four hits, walking one and striking out one in seven innings.

Hamels struck out six in 7.2 innings, followed by a lovely strikeout from Lidge which ended that seventh inning. Young, filthy, big-butted Bastardo tossed a scoreless ninth, striking out two.

The Phillies could not come back against...*cringes*...Brian Wilson, who saved it for Cain. Giants win this one 2-1. Kendrick tomorrow against Vogelsong or Lincecum, depending on how Tim is feeling with that food poisoning.

Source: Buster Olney and Jon Heyman Tweeted Something You Probably Then Retweeted

Posted by Frank Klose

I took this snapshot just seconds after Buster Olney tweeted it.   Already, there were too many retweets to count them.

Yes, Phillies are interested in getting a right-handed bat.   And yes, they want a good one.

Some Twitter Facts:

  • Buster Olney of ESPN has 228,449 followers.  
  • Jon Heyman of SI has 88,300 followers
  • Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports has 102,000 followers.

Other Twitter Fact:

  • If you are on Twitter to follow baseball, you probably are one of those followers.
  • Many of the people you talk to on twitter probably followbaseball, if you use twitter to talk baseball to them.

Well said by Patrick here:




Is Joe Blanton's Phillies Career Done?

Posted by Frank Klose


Yesterday's update on the status of Joe Blanton was not good.  Here's a Ruben Amaro quote via PhillySportsDaily:

“Blanton had an ultrasound. He has some inflammation of the nerve...He’ll have more studies tomorrow to see if there’s nerve damage.”

Nerve damage is no small issue.

While the Philly Sports Daily piece quotes Amaro as hoping that Blanton could return in the Phillies' bullpen this season (since he is not stretched out to be a starter, on "Extra Innings" 1210 WPHT, Ricky Bottalico seemed a lot more concerned.

Nerve damage, Bottalico said, could be career-threatening.

In this comprehensive essay about Tommy John surgery on 32Count, the author points out the importance of the nerve remaining healthy while doing major surgery to the arm:

Leaving the ulnar nerve in place reduces the risk of scarring or permanent nerve damage. Scarring would require a second procedure to rerelease the nerve, whereas nerve damage could leave a pitcher with permanent numbness or tingling in part of the hand, a condition that would make pitching tricky.

If this is permanent, Joe Blanton's Phillies career - and career period - could be over.

Then and Now: Danny Markov

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Danny Markov scored 31 goals in his NHL career, three of which came in his 52 games with the Philadelphia Flyers. Two of those goals were notable achievements for the Flyers. Since scoring his last NHL playoff goal with the Flyers in the 2004 playoffs, Markov played two more seasons in the NHL before playing in Russia. Let's take a look at Markov's work with the five teams after his days as a Flyer.

After scoring 14 points in 44 games with the Carolina Hurricanes, Markov was traded to Philly for forward Justin Williams in the middle of the 2003-2004 season.

Markov's first notable goal came during the Flyers' infamous game with the Ottawa Senators on March 5th, 2004. Adding onto his 15 PIM for the game, Markov also netted a goal in the first period that happened to be the Flyers' 10,000th goal in franchise history. This was the first of Markov's two regular season goals with Philly in his 34 games with the team before the 2004 playoffs.

Thanks to swflyers30

In the first round of those playoffs, the Flyers faced a team they had never beaten in the playoffs as they squared off against the New Jersey Devils. With a 3-1 series lead heading into Game 5 in front of their home crowd, the Flyers looked to eliminate the Devils and move onto the Eastern Conference Semifinals. With the game tied 1-1 late in the third period, Markov let go of a wrister that found it's way past Martin Brodeur to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead with just 5:23 left in regulation. With the addition of a Sami Kapanen empty-net goal, the Flyers had defeated the Devils in five games while Markov had the series-winning goal.

Thanks to swflyers30

Facing the Maple Leafs in the next round, the Flyers would eliminate Toronto in six games to head to the Eastern Conference Finals. Markov had an assist on Branko Radivojevic's second period goal in Game 5 of the series (go to 1:36).

Thanks to TheLeafsNation

Eliminated one win short of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Flyers lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in a seven-game series. Markov had his third point and second assist in the playoffs with his helper on Michal Handzus's goal in Game 1 (go to :41).

Thanks to jerms819

During the NHL lockout of 2004-2005, Markov took his talents to the Vysshaya Liga of Russia to play alongside Alexei Zhamnov on Vityaz Chekhov's roster. In 26 games with the club, Markov had five goals and seven assists for 12 points.

[caption id="attachment_3933" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="Thanks to"][/caption]

As the lockout ended, Markov returned to play in the NHL, but not for the Flyers. In early August of 2005, Markov was shipped to the Nashville Predators in exchange for a 3rd round pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Two days later, the Flyers traded away the newly acquired pick, along with the aging Jeremy Roenick, to the Los Angeles Kings for future players to be named. With the pick, the Kings drafted George "Bud" Holloway, a right winger who plays for the Kings' AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs, and has yet to play an NHL game.

Markov only played for the Predators during the 2005-2006 season notching 11 assists in 58 regular season games. He'd also play in all five of the Predators' postseason games during the 2006 playoffs as they fell to the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. Markov was held pointless during the five-game stretch.

During his season with the Preds, Markov represented the Russia in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. Markov played in eight games and had two assists as Russia lost to the Czech Republic 3-0 in the Bronze Medal game.

[caption id="attachment_3934" align="aligncenter" width="213" caption="Thanks to"][/caption]

Let go by Nashville after the 2005-2006 season, Markov played in what turned out to be his last NHL season with the Detroit Red Wings during the 2006-2007 season. While being teammates with Andreas Lilja and Kyle Calder, Markov registered four goals and 12 assists. He'd have three two-point games, including one on the last day of the season against the Blackhawks, which included his last goal in the NHL (go to :17).

Thanks to NHLVideo

During the Red Wings playoff run, Markov played in each of the 18 games the Red Wings played before losing to Chris Pronger and the eventual Stanley Cup winning Anaheim Ducks in six games during the Western Conference Finals.

Leaving the NHL, Markov moved onto play for HC Dynamo Moscow of the Russian Superleague. Playing with former Flyer Dmitry Afanasenkov, Markov had four assists in 29 games before scoring two goals with an assist in nine postseason games.

As HC Dynamo Moscow became part of the KHL, Markov remained on the roster while Alexei Zhitnik and Denis Tolpeko joined him. Playing in five less regular season games than the prior season, Markov scored three goals and had just as many assists. In his 10 postseason games with the club, Markov had a goal and four assists.

The following season, Markov ended up playing in 42 regular season games. With the increase in games played, Markov was able to score more goals and register more assists. He'd have five goals and nine assists before being held scoreless in three postseason games for HC Dynamo Moscow.

Despite his increase in games played, Markov left HC Dynamo Moscow to play for Vityaz Chekov, the team he played for during the lockout. Playing in 19 more games for the club than he played in 2004-2005, Markov was only able to register one more assist as he had five goals and eight assists before being sent to SKA St. Petersburg just before the end of the regular season. In 10 postseason games with SKA St. Petersburg, Markov had one goal and three assists.

Known more as a physical defenseman, Markov's numbers won't be pretty in any league. However, he'll be remembered by Flyers' fans for his notable goals. Hell, Jaromir Jagr probably remembers Markov very fondly. At 35 years of age, Markov can serve as a veteran defender for any team in the KHL.