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Gone With the Draft
2005-03-29 21:39
by Mike Carminati

As I await an other season of mediocrity in the land of the Phils, I am left wondering where the team would be if they could develop a modicum of decent pitching.

The Phils have three potential starters who came from the organization—Randy Wolf, Brett Myers, and Gavin Floyd. Wolf has shown flashes of being a capable frontline starter and has on occasion drawn comparisons to Tom Glavine, but his career ERA is 4.13, just 4% better than the park-adjusted league average, and his career record is slightly better than .500 (59-56).

The best that can be said of Myers is that he won 14 games two seasons ago. He owns an abysmal 4.84 ERA (14% worse than the park-adjusted league average) in two and one-half seasons.

Floyd looked good in a brief call-up at the end of last season (3.49 ERA, 125 ERA+ in 28.1 IP), but it took a Padilla injury to secure him a spot in the rotation. Of course, that may be more an indictment of the Phils' decision makers than of his abilities.

Then, there's Cole Hammels, who is sure to be a midseason callup in 2005. And of course staff savior Ryan Madson who rescued many a failed start as the long reliever last year. The Phils' future relies on these young pitchers, but given their history, I'm not sanguine.

Whether it's Jim Wright, Randy Lerch, Marty Bystrom, Dickie Noles, Pat Combs, Don Carman, Bruce "Roughed Up" Ruffin, Charlie Hudson, Tyler Green, Carlton Loewer, Mike Grace, Jason Grimsley, "Starvin'" Marvin Freeman, Brandon Duckworth, David Coggin, Mike Mimbs, Matt Beech, Mike Maddux, or Brett Myers the Phils seem to find the biggest flashes in the pans possible. In fact, other than a few like Larry Christenson and Kevin Gross, who have enjoyed some sustained success with the Phils—about one per generation—, the handful that found success, found it elsewhere. Those are guys like Cy Young winner Mark Davis, Andy Ashby, and Mike Williams. Dick Ruthven only enjoyed success as a Phil after developing as a Brave. Then again, the Phils' history is riddled with decent pitchers traded away before reaching their prime. Ferguson Jenkins, Bucky Walters, and Pete Alexander come to mind.

But this is all anecdotal evidence. Are the Phils actually worse than other major-league teams at developing pitchers? Can it be quantified?

I thought it would be interesting to compare them using the transaction data from Retrosheet. First, I had to determine which types of transactions were important for the study. The obvious one was the amateur draft, but there were others that could weigh in the decision.

The draft wasn't instituted until 1965. Prior to that teams were free to contract with young unsigned players. Therefore, the second type of transaction deals with amateur free agents (and so-called "bonus babies").

The last category deals with how well teams scout other organizations for prospects. They include Rule V draft picks, minor-league draft picks, first-year waiver picks, and first-year draft picks.

Using Win Shares Above Baseline (WSAB), how well have the Phils done in each of these categories?

First, let's look at the draft. Here are the franchise totals prorated per draft class:

FranchiseFirstLastPost Career WSPost Career WSABWS TeamWSAB TeamTeam %
Chicago Cubs1965200191.8640.9534.3015.3638%
Toronto Blue Jays1978200081.3033.5740.1619.1957%
Boston Red Sox1965199968.3732.0037.1718.7759%
Kansas City Royals1969200070.2528.8438.7417.5761%
Los Angeles Dodgers1965199668.0928.7221.419.3332%
Cincinnati Reds1966199875.2428.1833.3313.4848%
Montreal Expos1969199770.6228.1734.7214.3551%
Seattle Mariners1977199772.9028.0528.4710.2937%
Anaheim Angels1965199962.2026.7434.1115.8559%
San Francisco Giants1965199974.1426.6629.7211.4543%
Minnesota Twins1965200062.8125.6133.0314.8758%
New York Mets1965199861.6525.2624.199.4737%
Chicago White Sox1965199957.7122.8333.0913.2258%
Oakland Athletics1965199957.7722.5436.9316.9075%
Texas Rangers1965199957.6922.2318.955.5625%
Atlanta Braves1965200054.0321.6729.6812.6458%
Pittsburgh Pirates1965199860.5021.2624.007.9137%
Baltimore Orioles1965199950.9120.4624.0310.3050%
Cleveland Indians1966200053.2920.3719.317.0535%
Milwaukee Brewers1969199956.6819.6835.1712.5264%
St. Louis Cardinals1965199955.3419.4929.1410.4854%
Houston Astros1966200147.4717.8329.3812.7571%
San Diego Padres1970199949.4015.6326.308.6655%
Detroit Tigers1965199944.8314.9726.5710.2068%
New York Yankees1965199833.1213.6510.084.6234%
Philadelphia Phillies1965199947.8312.9116.683.6328%
Colorado Rockies1993200026.386.5016.593.9661%
Arizona Diamondbacks1998199827.006.0026.006.00100%
Tampa Bay Devil Rays1998200113.753.508.751.2536%
Florida Marlins1993199913.712.298.121.4363%
Average 59.6123.1828.2511.5150%

So there it is: the Phils are the worst at drafting and developing pitching talent in baseball except for the last four expansion teams for which the data are limited.

Not only that. The Phils retain only 28% of the pitching prospects Win Shares Above Baseline. That's the second lowest.

That's a killer combo: do a bad job at developing pitching talent and trade away what you do develop. The facts back up the anecdotal evidence. The Phils are abysmal at developing and retaining pitching talent.

Now, let's look at the other categories. How do the Phils do in signing amateur free agents?

FranchiseFirstLastPost Career WSWSAB Post CareerWS TeamWSAB TeamTeam %
St. Louis Cardinals1938199654.9729.0529.7716.6657%
Los Angeles Dodgers1944199757.5927.2632.5017.5264%
Arizona Diamondbacks1998199950.0027.0028.8717.6065%
Philadelphia Phillies1944199747.6922.7623.7811.4550%
Atlanta Braves1940199844.9322.1224.3512.9158%
New York Mets1962199942.5821.7118.0710.1647%
Baltimore Orioles1944199645.3021.5725.7413.5363%
Cleveland Indians1942200042.0021.1217.729.5045%
Detroit Tigers1945200141.3720.0016.137.6938%
Pittsburgh Pirates1948199748.3419.8224.7510.9455%
New York Yankees1947200040.6119.7425.2113.2967%
San Francisco Giants1949199640.5819.6519.0810.0251%
Oakland Athletics1948199541.1917.2921.489.5555%
Cincinnati Reds1944199727.6112.8915.497.4658%
Boston Red Sox1945199830.4612.3016.397.0657%
Florida Marlins1993199629.5011.756.780.968%
Minnesota Twins1937199723.8210.6111.074.7845%
Chicago Cubs1947199724.1410.2211.044.6946%
Chicago White Sox1948199114.775.708.533.8568%
Montreal Expos1972199213.335.579.464.3278%
Texas Rangers1961199712.765.084.651.5430%
Kansas City Royals1969199810.534.677.043.6578%
Toronto Blue Jays1979199813.804.556.472.4353%
Houston Astros196219978.473.757.613.5093%
Anaheim Angels196119988.112.974.881.9565%
Seattle Mariners197720005.632.293.581.4664%
Milwaukee Brewers196919958.561.676.431.1167%
San Diego Padres198320005.171.561.100.064%
Colorado Rockies199319930.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays199819980.
Average 32.9415.3117.018.4055%

Here the Phils excel. So as long as they don't draft the pitchers, the do pretty well. This is also part of the anecdotal evidence: the Phils fall in love with their shinny high draft picks and are mesmerized by them as they flounder. The lower expectations for amateur free agents seems to allow these players to develop more thoroughly.

So does this translate into scouting other organizations?

FranchiseFirstLastPost Career WSWSAB Post CareerWS TeamWSAB TeamTeam %
Florida Marlins1993199538.6713.3311.005.0038%
Seattle Mariners1984200013.184.532.880.8819%
Chicago White Sox1947199811.124.401.680.4811%
Milwaukee Brewers1981200010.404.351.470.205%
Chicago Cubs194920018.512.922.440.4917%
Boston Red Sox195119955.732.561.340.3915%
Detroit Tigers194920025.692.443.201.6166%
Cincinnati Reds194820014.942.331.440.7432%
Pittsburgh Pirates194820005.622.264.361.8180%
Toronto Blue Jays198220027.052.052.560.4321%
Houston Astros196219995.391.821.560.6134%
Minnesota Twins194619975.481.813.451.2569%
Anaheim Angels196220003.871.441.740.4632%
Texas Rangers196119905.771.304.641.1790%
Cleveland Indians194719844.711.050.700.1413%
Oakland Athletics194919984.240.981.700.3839%
St. Louis Cardinals195419953.430.981.770.6061%
Philadelphia Phillies194819972.940.901.840.6067%
Montreal Expos196919904.860.862.740.4553%
Baltimore Orioles194719953.730.762.110.3749%
Los Angeles Dodgers194920012.870.660.420.023%
Atlanta Braves194619982.150.420.970.1741%
San Francisco Giants194619651.550.300.650.1033%
Colorado Rockies199419974.000.253.750.25100%
Kansas City Royals197019941.400.081.040.08100%
New York Mets196220000.770.000.590.000%
New York Yankees195119940.
San Diego Padres197120010.970.000.550.000%
Average 4.811.601.890.5736%

Not much to see there. But what they hey, I'm a completist.

Anyway, given the Phils' past performance, I am not so optimistic about this season or the further development of the Phils youngsters. I hope they surprise me.

2005-03-30 07:39:15
1.   mattapp
Interesting.. and depressing... study. One quick question, however: in terms of signing amateur free agents, how much do the signings of Robin Roberts and Curt Simmons play into the Phillies success. Without any sort of research, I have a gut feeling that the track record there looks a lot worse without them.
2005-03-30 09:06:03
2.   Mike Carminati

That's a good question. Maybe exploring the categories will yield some interesting results. I'll keep you posted.

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