Baseball Toaster Mike's Baseball Rants
Monthly archives: January 2007


Feast Or Famine
2007-01-22 22:38
by Mike Carminati

Welcome to the Phillies 2007 season, which, with the Sixers and Flyers riding on fumes in the basement of their respective divisions and the Eagles faltering in the second round of the NFL playoffs, has already been anointed the savior of Philly sports this season.

The Phils have just missed the playoffs in the last weekend of the season the past two years. They just picked up a top-of-the-rotation starter in Freddy Garcia this offseason. Their key players (Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Cole Hamels) are maturing. The team seems pointed in the right direction, right?

Well, the day after the Eagles were eliminated from the NFL playoffs, the Phillies signed bullpen dreck, Antonio Alfonseca. The good news is he's healthy and should be ready to pitch. The bad news is he's healthy and should be ready to pitch.

This move is in line with a series of acquisitions that make you go "Hmm?" that this team has made in the Pat Gillick era. Last season there was picking up and then jettisoning Sal Fasano and Ryan Franklin, trading Bobby Abreu for a left-handed, 27-year-old, rookie reliever and three marginal prospects while still in the midst of a playoff hunt, gutting their bullpen midseason. This year we get career journeyman Wes Helms signed after a career year set to platoon with Abraham O. (No) Nunez at third, devoting a corner outfield spot to power-challenged Shane Victorino, slavish attempt to rid the team of Pat Burrell that were as devastating a failure this side of Manny Ramirez. There's also the questionable move of picking up the final year of Freddy Garcia's contract in exchange for a good-looking prospect in Gio Gonzalez and one-time staff savior cum fallen prospect Gavin Floyd.

Now, the Phils have backed up the Brinks truck and dumped a ton of money on Chase Utley. This is the same team that blanched at giving Utley the starting second base job coming out of spring training a year and one-half ago. Utley gets seven years and $85 M, and Ryan Howard's asking price just doubled. The last three years of his contract call for $15 M per.

Don't get me wrong: I love Utley and am gratified that the Phils didn't trade him away like most of their young players (think Ryne Sandberg). But did they have to lavish such riches to keep him. I mean, four years at somewhere between $5 and $10 M would have pleased the second baseman and would have been somewhat fiscally responsible. Besides Utley would be 31 at the end of a four-year contract as opposed to 34, which will be his age in the last year of the actual contract.

How many second baseman have been worth $15 M at the age of 34. Some of the greats have faded by that age. Look at Robbie Alomar, Ryne Sandberg, or even the great Joe Morgan. And I'm not even going to mention Carlos Baerga (except that I have).

I looked up all of the Hall of Fame second baseman plus those that have exceeded 250 Win Shares for their careers. Very few of them have remained stars at the age of 34. Here they are by OPS in descending order:

Charlie Gehringer1445641496.371.458.520.978383Y
Jeff Kent15262337108.313.368.565.933317Ineligible
Jackie Robinson1364841295.329.425.502.927257Y
Buddy Myer127437671.336.454.465.918258N
Lou Whitaker1384702378.279.391.489.881351N
Bobby Grich1203871662.292.414.460.874329N
Tony Phillips151566757.313.443.398.841268N
Bid McPhee126474588.304.420.418.838305Y
Eddie Collins139526258.337.412.424.836574Y
Rogers Hornsby42104218.308.385.433.817502Y
Tony Lazzeri54120523.267.380.433.814252Y
Nap Lajoie128469147.324.378.431.809496Y
Red Schoendienst1506481565.309.344.451.795262Y
Craig Biggio101377835.268.388.393.780425Ineligible
Frankie Frisch147585466.303.358.398.757366Y
Joe Morgan1324411375.236.347.385.733512Y
Roberto Alomar1495901153.266.331.376.708376Ineligible
Ryne Sandberg57223524.238.312.390.702346Y
Willie Randolph145549236.282.366.326.692312N
Kid Gleason135547375.274.327.364.691294N
Nellie Fox157621254.267.314.343.657304Y
Bill Mazeroski70193116.254.303.295.599219Y
Johnny Evers71241015.216.330.241.570268Y
Bobby DoerrDNP 281Y
Billy HermanDNP 298N
Larry DoyleDNP 289N
Avg120445857.291.376.413.789 347

These are basically the best second basemen in baseball history and other than Kent's and Whitaker's seasons, the Phils would be disappointed if Utley is performing at this level by the last year of the contract. The average season results in 8 homers, 57 RBI, a .291 batting average, but a .789 OPS.

Perhaps the best second baseman tend to fade early and there are other second basemen that Utley can emulate. Here are the best seasons at age 34 for any second basemen not making the list above:

Bret Boone15962235117.294.366.535.902137Ineligible
Carlos Baerga105207439.343.396.464.859147N
Danny Murphy141508666.329.398.461.858214N
Juan Samuel912051239.263.360.498.858175N
Tony Taylor124439955.301.374.462.837198N
Davey Lopes1535822873.265.372.464.836239N
Tom Daly97343455.312.403.414.817213N
Germany Schaefer125440045.334.412.398.809117N
Hardy Richardson132536679.304.367.437.803229N
Fred Pfeffer104409559.308.357.443.799201N

Again, barring Boone's season, none would please the Phils.

So where are we? The Phils locked up Utley for what will probably be three good seasons and four others that will most probably lead to Utley being the new Pat Burrell (i.e. payroll albatross) by the sixth or seventh season.

And Leon is getting laaaaaaarger!

This is my site with my opinions, but I hope that, like Irish Spring, you like it, too.
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