Monday, July 1, 2019

Tracking Harper: 84 Games Into 13 Years


That's what the Phillies made on February 28, when they inked Bryce Harper to an historic 13-year, $330 million contract. Phillies fans everywhere spent the winter clamoring for GM Matt Klentak to make a deal for either Harper or Manny Machado. It almost made unbearable the listening to of sports talk radio - everyday callers, hosts, and hot takes notwithstanding, naturally.

The signing of Harper offered hope.

Just two weeks prior, Klentak himself admitted the Phightin's had already enjoyed an "objectively great offseason."  Let's see:

  1. Ever-underperforming Carlos Santana and eh prospect J.P. Crawford netted the good guys Jean Segura, Professional Hitter
  2. The unexpected 3-year, $45 million deal for former-MVP Andrew McCutchen gave the Phillies a solid defensive outfielder and a legitimate lead-off hitter;
  3. Dave Robertson and his 137 career saves would sure up the back end of the bullpen;
  4. In a surprise move, the Phillies dealt #1 prospect Sixto Sanchez and Jorge Alfaro for All-Star J.T. Realmuto.
Splashy moves, all. Klentak may have patted himself on the back for his wheeling/dealing, but business remained unfinished. Fans shouted, "GET ONE OF THE STUD FREE AGENTS, OR ENJOY THE HOTTEST OF SEATS."

(I highly doubt anyone, like at all, shouted that. Still...)

When news of the Harper deal broke, Philly pulsated with what might be: How many World Series are we going to win? How many home runs will Bryce belt in the Bank? How many hot dogs will Kruk eat this season? Nothing was off the table. In fact, everything was on the table. And it was EVERYTHING.

As I write this, the Bryce Harper-era Phillies have played 84 games. They sit in 2nd place in the NL East, 5.5 games behind the annoying-ass Atlanta Braves. The season doesn't end today, but if it did, the good guys would miss the playoffs for the eighth consecutive year.

Harper thus far has delivered on the hype. On a team oft-criticized for its lack of hustle, Harper himself boogies. He's shown aggression on the basepath and a willingness to make some of the more difficult plays in right field. Shit, we've seen him dive for balls on several occasions, and it's only July 1. Needless to say, he brings energy sorely needed to the club.

Only when glancing at the numbers could one begin to find fault with Bryce Harper's value to the franchise moving forward. "13 years of this shit?" WAR is 0.8. That's wins above replacement. Considering his replacement in Nick fucking Williams, an additional less-than-one overall win is underwhelming. I'm not the least bit whelmed. I'm not a big fan of WAR, mostly because it's a stat nerd's wet dream. I have little interest in stats that weren't on the back of the late-80s/early-90s Topps and Donruss. 

So, yeah, his HRs are down, K's are up, he needs to hit for a better average... but there's still reason to rejoice.

Harper is on pace to drive in more runs than he has in any of his previous seven seasons. He should finish among the league leaders in doubles, eclipsing his previous high of 38 two-baggers from his MVP season of 2008. He'll flirt with 30 HRs. That's just if he keeps pace. If he catches fire, we'll likely be adding a few other stats to this list.

His line to-date from Baseball Reference:


 As Drunk Phils Fans - and both as drunks and as fans - we want an immediate return on "our" investment. But Harper's is a long-term deal, no matter how insistent we may be. It's the journey, friends, and we've covered less than 4% of the trip.

Happy traveling - and tracking - you bunch o' malcontents! At least we ain't Mets fans...

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Doc Hallafame?

2019 - Roy Halladay's first year of eligibility for the National Baseball Hall of Fame 

Very few get in on their first ballot, even fewer so since the steroid era made shoo-ins like Bonds, Clemens, and Palmeiro personae non-gratae. Guys like McGwire and Sosa, whose numbers alone say they're 1st Ballot guys, remain standing on the outside, looking in. Still, of the 228 former Major League players in the Hall of Fame, 54 were voted in on their first attempt, roughly 24%. The odds don’t favor Halladay this year. 

What bodes well for Doc this year is the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, or BBWAA, has elected at least one new HOFer who was new to the ballot. Prior to Maddux, Glavine, and the Big Hurt in 2014, it had been five years since anyone had garnered the required 75% nod. (I won’t go into the BBWAA rules for HOF membership. If interested, read more here.) Moreover, only 20 players were elected on their first go-round since 2000, and that list is impressive. As good as he was – and as great as he could have been – Roy Halladay might not be one of those transcendent talents.

Joining Halladay as first-timers on the 2019 BBWAA Hall Of Fame Ballot are Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Todd Helton, Lance Berkman, and Miguel Tejada. Rivera is a shoo-in, as is Pettitte. Though, one may argue that Pettitte’s admission of HGH use precludes him from the honor of 1st Ballot status. None of the rest quite make a case. Halladay may benefit if BBWAA elects a large class of ’19.

His Credentials

The subject would be moot if Roy Halladay didn't perform at a consistently high level. His .659 winning percentage is 20th-best all time. Six of those ahead of him are in the Hall already, while active pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer may well be on their way. Doc compiled 203 wins over 16 seasons, including 148 over 12 years with a Toronto Blue Jays club that never finished a season better than in third place of the AL East. In fact, he won more games in his first year as a full-time starter, 19, than he had in the previous four years, 18. His .661 win percentage as a Blue Jay is second only to Clemens' gaudy .759, though the Rocket only spent two seasons in Toronto.

Halladay won his first of two Cy Young Awards in 2003, at age 26, when he went 22-7 with a 3.25 ERA and 9 complete games. He struck out 204, walked only 32 - a ratio of 6.38, second-best of his career as a full-time starter. Still, his seasons in Toronto ended earlier than he would have liked, and he started to express as much as early as 2008.

Halladay joined the Phillies at the age of 32 via a December 2009 trade. His tenure with the Phillies only lasted four years, during which he amassed the second-best win-loss percentage in club history. His .655 trails only that of Pete Alexander, who won 67.6% of the games he threw in Phillies gear. Not one of us reading this post remembers Pete.

Halladay's presence on the Phils' staff created a buzz sorely-needed in and around Philly at the time. After the World Fuckin' Champs season of 2008, the club rode the hot deadline acquisition - Cliff Lee - to the Fall Classic in '09, only to see the rest of the staff get shelled by the Yankees (4-2 series winners). Management knew what had to happen. They traded Lee for prospects and made it so that Phils fans had a standing appointment with the Doc every five days.

In 2010, Halladay won 21 games, earned a Cy Young Award (his 2nd), and led the Phillies to another NL East title. On Wednesday, October 6, 2010, Roy Halladay made his first-ever post-season start of his 13-year career against the Cincinnati Reds. Da Butcha, yours truly, was in attendance as the Doc operated his way to a complete game no-hitter. Halladay dominated the Reds that night. A thing of beauty, that performance was!

Still, the Phillies fell short of the World Series in 2010, losing the NLCS to the eventual world champion San Francisco Giants. (I still can't believe they let the kid from Dazed And Confused beat them.)

The Phils again reloaded in 2011, this time surrounding Doc with three more "aces." They won a franchise-best 102 games and took their fifth consecutive NL East title. Despite having the best record in baseball, the Phillies lost the NLDS to the St. Louis Cardinals, again the eventual World Champs.

Injuries limited Halladay to 25 starts in 2012, and he battled his way to an 11-8 record. Roy Halladay had brought so much promise to the Phillies in 2010, but his dominance, as well as the club's run of divisional dominance, came to crashing halt. He was no longer untouchable, and  made only 13 starts for a 4-5 record in 2013, his final season.

Though his stellar career ended with a fizzle, and no World Series title, Roy Halladay epitomized hard work and accountability. You know the story: first one in, last one out, running stadium stairs, etc. That was Roy Halladay. We only had him for a short while - at his best even more briefly. But in that time, Doc became a beloved Philadelphia sports figure. His work ethic made him a hero in our City.

The Verdict

Roy Halladay is one of those borderline great players who have been debated for many years. Fred McGriff, Yaz, Mike Mussina... the list goes on and on. Hard to figure will be the perception the writers have of Halladay's untimely death in November 2017. Originally, it was reported as just a plane crash. But TMZ had to TMZ, and word came out that Doc had been using amphetamines - speed pills. That'll tarnish a legacy, for sure.

In my opinion, Halladay had a hall-of-fame-worthy career. Much like 300 home runs isn't the magic number anymore, neither is 200 wins. Unlikely as it is that anyone will win 300 again, anything over 250 gets consideration.
203? OK, what else ya got? Two Cy Youngs?
OK, keep going. 2117 Ks? Only 81 fewer than our ol' friend Pete Alexander, himself a member of the Hall.
Anything else? Averaged 240+ innings over eight healthy years as a full-time starter; workhorse. Fair enough...

Halladay gets in, but not in 2019. The debate continues...

Roy Halladay Baseball Reference
National Baseball Hall Of Fame website
Philadelphia Phillies, Baseball Reference
Toronto Blue Jays, Baseball Reference
Roy Halladay frustrated with Blue Jays