Archive for the the de Jesus Era Category

Scouting Moyer II

Posted in the de Jesus Era on April 22, 2012 by wechslerh66

Will he land a job?
In his five-year major league career Moyer’s winning percentage has gone constantly downward: .636, .444, .375, .308 and .250. He’s a free agent and the Rangers have announced that they won’t re-sign him, probably figuring that they don’t know exactly what will come after .250 but they also don’t know exactly what might be living in the bottom of the Arlington sewer system, and sure as hell don’t want to find out.
Unless he impresses somebody tremendously in spring training, Moyer will have to go back to the minor leagues and work his way back. I think he still has a major league arm, and with regular work and no help from Tom House has a good chance to get the gears to mesh.

–Bill James, The Baseball Book 1991

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Hipper than Werth

Posted in non-de Jesus related, the de Jesus Era on January 16, 2011 by wechslerh66

Everyone has a band with an 80s Phillies jones these days, or at least 80s baseball. Hardcore fans have Dykstra, whose members include one Vaughn Hayes, whose breathless growls you probably hear on tracks like “One Nut Kruk.” Psyched-out hippies have Von Haze, whose languorous drone recalls Joe Boever trying to throw a strike. Hipsters who’ve worn out their R.E.M. and Pavement LPs (who doesn’t own vinyl? please) but miss the Blue Jays and Indians being relevant have Candy Maldonado (who also happens to make a really pathetic Halloween costume). Even Hoboken’s own Yo La Tengo owes its name to His Whiteness.

True, up north, bands worship at the altars of 80s hockey gods, and enough red-blooded grunge bands from the states prefer 80s basketball. But 80s baseball remains the Coke, the Mercedes, the cool jazz of sports band names among the hipsterati.

Who else will be welcomed into this hipster pantheon someday? What other obscure, ironic, or memorably bad 80s (or 90s, or 00s) players will become heroes of the Barbary, or Kung Fu Necktie, or (we can only dream) Johnny Brenda’s?

My nominations:

Hee Seop Choi— would probably be a ska band (“Hee Skeop Choi”?) who grew up Dodger fans in Orange County during the Paul DePodesta era

Dread Lowrie— obviously, a Boston reggae band (e.g. white Harvard alum Trustafarian Red Sox fans, or, Vampire Weekend meets Dread Zeppelin)

Ricky Bones— think Muse meets Band of Skulls, or, welcome to the Twilight: Part IV soundtrack

Outside of the realm of baseball:

Jukka-Pekka Seppo— sounds Scandinavian, but isn’t– think Hüsker Dü

Réal Cloutier, or simply Cloutier (so as not to exclude him or him)– Canadian, no doubt; somewhere in the Tragically Hip/Rheostatics/Odds realm

Polamalu— obviously, an Angry Samoans tribute band

Zarley Zalapski— a Pittsburgh ZZ Top cover band (would that be redundant?)

Of course, “DeJesus” would totally rock too, but it’s been taken.

Who was the better Steve Ontiveros?

Posted in non-de Jesus related, the de Jesus Era on November 12, 2010 by wechslerh66

One was an obscure, oft-injured Phils righthander who, as an Oakland Athletic, would lead the AL in ERA in 1994. The other was one of the Cubs’ revolving post-Santo third basemen who walked 81 times for a .390 OBP in 1977.

One was born in Tularosa, NM, best known for the Rio Tularosa, Tularosa Canyon, and a bunch of Western novels. The other was born in Bakersfield, CA, best known for its honky-tonk, Buck Owens, “Mexicali Blues,” and a Frankensign on the 405 North outside of LA that read BAKERMENTO.

One was drafted by Oakland and debuted in 1985, the other by San Francisco and in 1973.

One was a pitching coach for the Chinese National Team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The other was a Seibu Lion from 1980-1985.

Both were named Steve Ontiveros.

Whoever confuses Chase Utley with Chase Headley, believe me, this was worse (though it wasn’t quite as bad as Bobby Jones and Bobby Jones, or Greg Harris and Greg W. Harris).

Who was the better Steve Ontiveros? Obviously, it’s tough to compare a pitcher– especially one who began as a reliever, became a starter but never exceeded 150 2/3 IP in a season (when he led the AL in ERA, he only pitched 115 1/3 IP but qualified for the title because of the strike)– with a utility infielder and occasional outfielder who twice exceeded 500 AB in a season. We can, however, compare WAR. BaseballReference has Ontiveros the pitcher at 7.6 career WAR; FanGraphs has him at 8.5. Ontiveros the third baseman is at 4.3 and 7.7, respectively. FanGraphs has them much closer, but “Onto” the ex-Phil beats the ex-Cub twice overall. FanGraphs also has Ontiveros the pitcher with a career 3.96 FIP and a somewhat lucky .275 BABIP (with a career-low .242 BABIP, as one would expect, in 1994, hence the 2.65 ERA and 167 ERA+). Ontiveros the batter had an unexceptional .335 career wOBA; FanGraphs also has him with a brutal -27.0 career fielding runs below average.

Ontiveros the pitcher wasn’t a star– he only played for the A’s (twice), Phils, Mariners and Red Sox but spent time in the Tigers, Twins, Angels (twice), Cardinals, Orioles, (Devil) Rays, Brewers, Rockies and Mets organizations before retiring in 2001, meaning he belonged at one time or another to 13 of 30 major league teams– but he was an All-Star with Oakland in 1995. Ontiveros the third baseman was also an All-Star– in Japan, where he hit .312 with 82 HR and 390 RBI. Nonetheless, a similarity score of 981 with Luis Aquino beats a similarity score of 942 with Randy Ready. Ontiveros the pitcher was the better Steve Ontiveros, at least in the majors.

One other Phils-related note: both Ontiveroses (Ontiverii?) will be forever immortalized in the boxscores: Ontiveros the pitcher for his 3 2/3 mopup innings in the Phils’ 10-run comeback win that caused Jim Rooker to walk to Pittsburgh, Ontiveros the batter for his 1-for-7 with two runs scored in the even more memorable 23-22 slugfest at Wrigley Field. Without a doubt, the A’s, Cubs, Giants, and Phils could use another Steve Ontiveros. At least Oakland now has a DeJesus.

Mulholland Drive

Posted in the de Jesus Era on August 15, 2010 by wechslerh66

It was the first Phillies no-hitter since Rick Wise beat the Reds 4-0 (and hit two HRs himself) in Cincinnati on June 23, 1971.

It was the first Phillies no-hitter at home since Red Donahue blanked the Boston Beaneaters 5-0 on July 8, 1898– at the Baker Bowl.

It was the only nine-inning no-hitter in Veterans Stadium history until Kevin Millwood no-hit the Giants 1-0 on April 27, 2003. (Pascual Perez’s rain-shortened 5-inning no-hitter doesn’t officially count.)

And it was one error shy of being the only perfect game in Veterans Stadium history (which would have been the 11th perfect game in the modern era; 8 more have occurred since 1990).

Terry Mulholland threw 105 pitches, 75 for strikes, with 8 Ks and no walks in the Phillies’ 6-0 win over San Francisco on August 15, 1990. He also went 1-for-3 with an RBI. He would end the 1990 season 9-10, 3.34 (114 ERA+) with 6 complete games, and would then win 41 more games in a Phillies uniform (with a Halladayesque 27 CG!) the next three seasons before being traded to the Yankees for Kevin Jordan, Ryan Karp, and Bobby Munoz after the 1993 season– a trade the Phillies actually won:

Mulholland as a Yankee, 1994: 6-7, 6.49, 71 ERA+, -6.7 VORP as a pitcher (worst on team)
Munoz as a Phillie, 1994: 7-5, 2.67, 161 ERA+, 25.9 VORP as a pitcher (second-best on team, behind only Danny Jackson)

Bill James offered an unusually brief overview of Mulholland in the Baseball Book 1990:

He’s a perennial prospect, which is a subtle distinction from being no prospect at all. I’ve seen very little about him that I like.

When he retired as an Arizona Diamondback at 43 in 2006, Mulholland was 124-142, 4.41 (94 ERA+) with 46 CG and 10 shutouts, mediocre numbers (other than the age 43) that obscure his years as Phillies ace (62-57, 3.81, 99 ERA+, 38 CG, including an 8-7, 4.66 return to the Phils in 1996 that ended with a trade to Seattle for Desi Relaford– another trade the Phils won).

He was no Curt Schilling– nor was he Jose de Jesus (in terms of pure “stuff”)– but one night twenty years ago, Terry Mulholland was almost perfect.

Mellow Carmelo

Posted in the de Jesus Era on August 12, 2010 by wechslerh66

Carmelo Martinez as a Phillie: .242/.339/.404, 105 OPS+, 8 HR in 198 AB, or almost exactly his career averages of .245/.337/.408, 108 OPS+

Mellow Carmelo was traded to the Pirates when Pittsburgh GM Larry Doughty placed both Wes Chamberlain and Julio Peguero, two rookie prospects, on irrevocable waivers in error and the Phillies claimed them. (Pittsburgh also sent prospect Tony Longmire to the Phillies to complete the trade.)

Also worth noting: Carmelo has a 949 similarity score with former Angels/Red Sox/Cubs of/1b Lee Thomas– the Phils GM who acquired him.

Was Ken Howell an ace?

Posted in the de Jesus Era on August 12, 2010 by wechslerh66

Fellow Phils blogger Ricky Jordan Fan Club of Drunk Phils Fans says he was and he wasn’t:

When it comes to starting pitchers in Major League Baseball, the term “ace” can often be used very loosely. We think of a true ace as a horse, a pitcher whose mere presence almost guarantees his team a win every fifth day. On the flip side, an ace can also just happen to be the best pitcher on a very weak staff. For the majority of the 1989 and 1990 seasons, Ken Howell fell into this category for the Philadelphia Phillies.

A former Dodgers reliever (not to be confused with Jay Howell) and current Dodger bullpen coach, Howell was 20-19, 3.85 with the Phillies in 51 games, 50 of them starts, from 1989-1990 with 234 strikeouts and an ERA+ of 94 before shoulder injuries ended his career at 29. Drunk Phils Fans concludes:

So was Ken Howell really an ace? No, not by a longshot. But for a time, he was the best the Phillies had to offer. Which probably tells you all you need to know about life for the Philadelphia Phillies in the late 80s/early 90s.

Ouch. He may not have been Steve Carlton or Curt Schilling, but Howell was by far the best the Phillies had to offer in 1989 (his only full season with the Phils) in terms of traditional stats:

                                    ERA+
Howell                          103
Bruce Ruffin                  80
Dennis Cook                 89
Terry Mulholland           71
Don Carman                68+
Larry McWilliams         89++

+49 games, 20 of them starts
++40 games, 16 of them starts (including the immortal 15-11 comeback)

His 12 wins were tied with reliever Jeff Parrett (98 K’s in 105.2 IP, helping make him trade bait for Dale Murphy and Tommy Greene the following season); Ruffin and Cook were tied for second among starters with 6. More meaningfully, his 204 innings were by far the most on the staff (Carman was second with 149.1, despite the 68 ERA+), his 7.2 K/9 was best among starters, and his 3.44 ERA was .55 better than Cook, the only other starter below 4.

How did Howell rank among the rest of the NL? He was 3rd behind Jose DeLeon and Sid Fernandez in fewest hits/9 at 6.838 and 7th in K/9 behind Mark Langston, Fernandez, Tim Belcher, David Cone, DeLeon, and John Smoltz, all of whom were aces by any definition in 1989 (even Belcher, arguably the least remembered ace among them, had 8 shutouts that season). His 164 total K were 10th in the NL behind the same aces plus Mike Scott and Bruce Hurst. He was 4th in fewest HR/9 at .485, behind Joe Magrane, Orel Hershiser, and Ken Hill.

On the other hand, his 86 total walks were tied with teammate Carman for 5th, behind future ace Hill, former aces Fernando Valenzuela and Kevin Gross, and Langston, and he led the NL with 21 wild pitches, five ahead of runnerup John Wetteland (who had 16 in only 102.2 IP but would only have 24 more the rest of his career).

True, Howell was as lucky as he was good. Behind his opponents’ slash stats of .215/297/.313 was a BABIP of .263, second lowest among Phillies starters to Cook’s .247. (In comparison, Ruffin may have been bad, but he was also unlucky, to the tune of a .334 BABIP against.) Howell’s BABIP was tied with Bob Ojeda and Tom Browning for 24th lowest in the NL (minimum 100 IP). Howell was also only 28th in VORP among NL pitchers at 23.8, tied with reliever Jay Howell and behind non-aces such as Les Lancaster, Mike Morgan, Greg Harris, and Mike Bielecki, and 52nd in Runs Prevented at 5.8 (adjusted for park and league), placing him between Mark Grant and Tim (Not Dead) Leary. (Orel Hershiser led the NL in both pitcher VORP and Runs Prevented.)

Regardless, in his Baseball Book 1990, Bill James was optimistic about the future of Ken Howell:

Threw 21 wild pitches last year, most in the major leagues. Despite that, I think that having finally gotten his career on track, he is a good bet to stay on track, and could get better. He had more strikeouts last season than hits allowed, and there aren’t very many starting pitchers who can say that…Even if he pitches well, the Phillies may stick him with a losing record.

The 1990 Ken Howell wasn’t quite as lucky: his BABIP rose to .288 (the only Phils starters with a higher BABIP were Pat Combs and Ruffin, who continued to be bombed to the tune of .324), his opponents’ slash stats to .260/.343/.422, and the only traditional category where he ranked within the top 10 was wild pitches (tied for 10th with 8). But he was injured, and after a 4 inning, 5 run appearance versus the Pirates on August 5, 1990, Howell would never throw another pitch in the majors.

James was still optimistic about Howell in the Baseball Book 1991:

Can he come back from the injury?
Howell was pitching great, the best ball of his career, through June 17 last year (8-3, 2.48 ERA), when he had a series of poor starts which led to the disabled list, eventually to arthroscopic surgery on the shoulder. I think chances are good that he will come back and have his best year in 1991.

Sadly, he wouldn’t. But if Howell was never a true ace, he came a lot closer than a longshot.

Bruuuuuuce

Posted in the de Jesus Era on July 28, 2010 by wechslerh66

Bruce Ruffin as a Phillie: 42-58, 4.16 ERA, 9.9 H/9, 3.6 BB/9, 4.8 K/9, 92 ERA+