Welcome to this week’s edition of the weekly notes column. As I mentioned last week, I’m going to use this as my space to kind of tie a bow on the week that was, and more specifically, share my thoughts on what I’ve noticed and what I’m thinking about with regard to the Phillies minor league system. Its also going to give me a chance to talk about a few things I’m working on for the site, and lots of other stuff. So check below for this week’s column.
* I wanted to start at the top and say, simply, not to draw any conclusions from the first 10 or so games of the season. Its easy to get really excited early on, and at the same time, get really down on guys early on. My recommendation is an easy one….just wait. When you assess a prospect, you have to look at him as a commodity or a stock or something tangible. When you evaluate the stock of a company, you don’t just look at how it performed yesterday, or for the last week, you are looking at what its done over 3 months, 6 months, and in some cases, years in the past. Prospects evolve a bit quicker than equities in the stock market, but the concept is the same. For a player who has been in the system for 3 or 4 years, you have to trust your assessment of the player before the season before starting to alter it after 10 games. That’s not to say you shouldn’t get excited over breakout guys, or have some reservation about a guy really scuffling out of the gate, but basically I think its best to not even focus on numbers until May. Small sample sizes are prone to lots of noise and error, and that certainly applies in the early going. Nevertheless, I want to look at a few guys off to really good starts and a few guys who have gotten out of the gates slowly in chart form
First, batters who are Hot
And now the pitchers. Hot…
As I mentioned in the intro, these numbers don’t mean much of anything. But damn it sure is encouraging to see what Anthony Hewitt is doing early on.
* Another note I wanted to make is in regard to the guys that I focus on and the things I write about. My interest in the minor leagues is based on the development of prospects and how they will impact the major league roster. If Lakewood wins 20 games this year, but Anthony Hewitt turns into a superstar, hits .300 with 30 HR, then I’ll be elated with Lakewood’s season. This is somewhat selfish of me, but the reality is, I live in Boston and will maybe get to see a handful of games from all of the affiliates combined this year, and those will be games at away stadiums across the various leagues. For those who have season tickets to an affiliate and care about seeing winning baseball, I can understand you being interested in the career minor leaguers like Neil Sellers and Mike Spidale. I only really care about the legit/fringe prospects in the system, because my obsession with the Phillies still burns brightest at the major league level, and I’m not all that interested in guys who I don’t feel will ever make any kind of major league impact. Again, its a personal preference, and I can understand the other side, I just want to outline why I probably won’t be including career minor leaguers in my analysis or writeups, or in the various charts/stats packages you’ll see here.
* I have a number of interesting concepts I am going to be gradually integrating into the site over the next few months. One of these is a concept I dabbled in a few years ago; estimated pitch counts. While teams are generally very careful with young arms in the minors, I am curious about pitch counts, and how it relates to performance, both within a start and then a few starts down the line. For those of you who have been around here for a while, you probably know my stance on pitch counts. I think its important that young players are protected until they reach the age of 23/24/25. I was discussing this with a friend a little while back, and the perfect analogy is marathon running. If you’re an average person who isn’t overly active or overly inactive in your daily life, you don’t wake up one morning and decide to run a marathon that day. Your body is not conditioned to run 26.2 miles. If you were to do it, and you were in really good shape, you might be able to make it through the 26.2 miles. But there’s a really good chance that you would suffer some sort of physical issue, whether it be really sore muscles for weeks, some kind of ligament tear, or some other malady, and that’s if you make it through the entire run. Most people decide to run a marathon, or a half marathon, or a 5K, and they slowly build up their endurance through training. They’ll start with a 2 mile run, then build up, eventually hitting 5 miles, then 10, then 15, then 20, and then finally the full 26.2. These are the types of runners who generally become successful and who don’t have to deal with constant physical problems. The same applies to pitchers. You don’t take a kid who is 18, who has thrown maybe 60 or 65 innings in a high school season, and then have him throw 175 innings in his first full season. You don’t go from someone throwing 75-90 pitches in a high school game to 150 pitches in his first pro start. A lot of good young pitchers have their arms destroyed in college for this very reason, where coaches’ primary concern is winning, which boosts their recruiting, not the long term prospects of a kid they have on their pitching staff. Some coaches have begun to take more care of their pitchers, Tony Gwynn was a great example last year with Stephen Strasburg, but lots of guys are still getting battered and really damaging their long term future with massive overuse in college. The estimated pitch count tracker will monitor the pitches thrown per start for all the Phillies starters this year. I hope to have the first version up sometime this week, but I can’t make any promises. Also, and this is very important, if you go to a minor league game at Lakewood, Clearwater, or Reading, and you can jot down the number of pitches the starter throws, it would be a huge help if you could post it here on the Reader Submissions page.
* In addition to the pitch count estimator, another project I am working on is creating a page with all of the game logs for all of the Phillies prospects. Currently, minorleaguebaseball.com only lists the last 10 games played on each player’s page. My goal is to create a page the chronicles every player’s game logs. It won’t capture things like fielding errors or putouts, but it will capture batting lines and stolen bases, which should be useful to have. This again is coming soon, and I’ll add a quick post to indicate its presence when its complete and posted.
* Finally, I’m going to create a guide that outlines a bunch of helpful resources that people can use to follow the Phillies minor league system outside of just using this site for information. You can find tons of great stuff all over the interweb and there is lots to see/read. Here are my suggestions, and as I said, eventually this info will end up in a centralized place, but for now I’ll put it here.
A. An RSS Reader – RSS readers and subscription feeds are certainly nothing new, but I think they are still somewhat underutilized by the masses. Many sites offer free RSS readers, and Google Reader is the best of the bunch in my opinion, but your mileage may vary. A simple google search will reveal tons of options, and this site gives a decent overview. After you get yourself set up with a good RSS reader, you can begin subscribing to feeds. The benefit of this is that your reader will automatically check for updates for sites you subscribe to, and when new content is available, you will be able to read the articles. For Phillies minors-centric sites, you can set up your reader to receive those new feeds, keeping you up to date on the latest news in just a few clicks, without having to visit 10 different sites.
You can subscribe to the phuturephillies RSS feed by clicking here. Here are a few other great feeds for Phillies minor league news
Firstinning.com Phillies daily report (click here to subscribe)
minorleaguesplits.com Phillies prospects daily recap (click here to subscribe)
Lehigh Valley IronPigs News (click here to subscribe)
Reading Phillies News (click here to subscribe)
Clearwater Threshers News (click here to subscribe)
Lakewood BlueClaws News (click here to subscribe)
B. The aforementioned minor league splits daily report is an invaluable resource and a great place to get all of the previous night’s action condensed onto one page. You can bookmark this link and check it every day to get the updates. I’ve found that the updates from the previous night are usually made around noon or 1PM Eastern time.
C. If you’re into more advanced, sabermetrically slanted statistics, Stat Corner offers wOBA and tRA, two advanced metrics, on their website. I’m not sure how frequently they are updated, but I think its nightly. You can read more about it on their site.
* And to wrap up my notes column, and something I’m going to try and do every week, I’ll just post 5 random prospect related nuggets/stats/splits.
1. Jonathan Villar has hits in 8 of the 9 games he’s started this season.
2. Jiwan James has 4 multi hit games in his 10 GP so far
3. Yohan Flande has thrown 12 innings thus far, and has only 2 strikeouts.
4. For the bulk of his minor league career, John Mayberry has had a sizable platoon split, crushing lefties and putting up mediocre lines against righties. In a very small sample, he’s posted a .453 OPS against LHP in 2010 (12 AB) compared to a 1.333 OPS v RHP in 24 AB. Small sample size!
5. Anthony Gose has a .956 OPS in 30 home AB, and a .266 OPS in 15 road AB to open the season.
That’s all for this week. Our newest contributor here at phuturephillies, Dave, will have the Lakewood weekly affiliate report later on Monday, so tune in for that. As always, thanks for reading, and if you know someone who might be interested in this site, do pass along the link!