Monday, June 30, 2008

We’ve Created Dave Kingman

Today’s angst in Philadelphia centers around Brett Myers and his rotation spot. I would point out that this angst exists because they’ve credible options here: Myers is a potential bullpen asset, there are some minor league arms that appear sustainable for a bit, JD Durbin could stretch out, Kris Benson is closer and closer.

The Phillies are something like 3-11 in games Myers starts- so really, anything probably has to be better at this point (although I’d keep pitching him as long as they’re in first place). But, you can have an argument abut that because the problem is not, yet, intractable.

I’m more worried about Ryan Howard.

It is hard to figure out exactly how much Howard is helping or hurting. If sabermatricians turned the game on its head- then Howard turns them on their head.

Most sabermatricians worship at the altar of OBP (don’t make outs) and home runs (hit a three run home run, you almost always win the game). Howard normally gives you good OBP. He’s down this year- but he finished at an outstanding .392 last year (.400 is good for lead-off hitter)and with any kind of finish ought to be around .350 this year. He hits a prodigious amount of home runs. But they frown on strike-outs (unproductive outs)- and no one strikes out like Howard. And he’s hitting .212- he’s on pace to have 130 hits this year- which is horrendous.

So I dunno how good an offensive player he is. With 45HRs, he’s going to win a few games by himself they would lose otherwise. But, ugh .212 is a cancer in the core hitting spots. And they’re on the hook for $10M every year he’s here. Right now, he's like Dave Kingman (.236, 442 HRs, 1818Ks) writ large.

The very fact there is a question about the $10M clean up hitter makes me wonder increasingly about the utility of keeping him around after the season. I’d look for every opportunity to send him to the American League. They could probably get a good player back- and freeing up $10M means they could add another real good player. That is one good player and another real good player for an increasing enigma. Mind you, this isn’t a Scott Rolen deal- you can be choosy and take the right deal- but I think they’d be remiss to not pitch Howard as a Frank Thomas type American League 1B/DH.

As to an immediate solution, why not try hitting him sixth? It is still an RBI spot- and the fact the just doesn’t get on much won’t hurt so badly there (with the seventh and eight hitters not being in the business of driving in guys). I kinda see the sixth spot as a place where you’re trying to get one more chance to generate extra base hits, pick up those good hitters with good-to-decent OBP in the 3-4-5 spots, clear the bases- before going on to the situational hitting that drive the bottom line-up spots in the National League. Pat the Bat is on base a lot, and the new four/five hitter figures to be one of their better hitters too. I just don’t think they lose much of Howard’s utility batting sixth- and they get a .212 hitter out of the engine room (ed. note: plus, the line up chain reaction probably gets Rollins out of the lead-off spot where his poor OBP will stop being a problem, but his RBI bat will help immensely)

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