Friday, July 25, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

The economics of victory

Ryan Howard and Chase Utley combined to score or drive in all of the Phillies' runs in Sunday's 4-3 win over the Cubs. That type of production is what the Phillies will likely need if they hope to avoid undercutting their rotation-for-the-ages with a lineup-of-the-aged.

The economics of victory

Ryan Howard went 3-for-3 with three RBI in the Phillies´ 4-3 win over the Cubs. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)
Ryan Howard went 3-for-3 with three RBI in the Phillies' 4-3 win over the Cubs. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)

In the game story you will find in Monday's Daily News, we focus on the production of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. The two players combined to score or drive in all four of the Phillies runs in their 4-3 victory over the Cubs on Sunday. Of the 12 times the Phillies reached base, seven came via Howard or Utley.

That type of production is what the Phillies will likely need if they hope to avoid undercutting their rotation-for-the-ages with a lineup-of-the-aged.

Ruben Amaro Jr. said several times last week that he is not planning on making a significant acquisition prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Now, Amaro has said such things before. And it is hard to imagine that the Phillies would not find a way to accommodate two or three million dollars in salary if it would provide significant insurance against squandering the $175 million or so that they have already spent (and by squander, we mean fail to make the playoffs or get eliminated in the first round).

But even if the Phillies do add a solid right-handed bat in the Josh Willingham mold, they will still need to get production out of their current players that is more in line with the salaries they are making. The more runs guys like Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins produce, the less impact they will need from their big-money guys. But Howard and Utley are making more this season than the rest of the line-up combined, and the Phillies gave them that money with days like Sunday in mind.

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In the story in the paper, we compare Howard and Utley's performance with the performance of the two highest-paid position players on other World Series contenders: Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday (Cardinals), Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun (Brewers), Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez (Yankees) and Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford (Red Sox). To identify the highest-paid players, we took all of the money each player is currently guaranteed and divided it by the years of the contract or contracts he has signed. In other words, we added together Gonzalez's current pittance and the seven-year deal that goes into effect next year.

Howard and Utley, who will make $35 million combined this season, entered Sunday having combined to produce a .239 average, .332 OBP, .448 SLG and one home run every 20.7 at-bats. Obviously, the bulk of that is Howard, and the Phillies have some reason to hope that time will ease the disaprity between their dynamic duo and those of other big-money playoff contenders.

Since the start of Utley's second series back with the team, he has hit .291 with a .409 on base percentage and five extra base hits in 13 games. As for Howard, who carried a .238/.326/.463 line and 13 home runs into yesterday.slow starts are nothing new  Through 65 games in 2008, he was hitting .214/.317/.458 with 15 home runs for the 39-26 Phils. Over the last 97 games, he hit .274/.353/.597 with 33 home runs. That season finished with a world title, the impact of which has helped fuel their current payroll.

Still, the point is, the Phillies need to see a more equitable return on their current investments if they hope to provide their rotation with enough run support to advance to the postseason and win at least the seven of 12 games it will take to get to the World Series.

In the paper, we used numbers like batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage and at-bats-per-home-run to compare the various tandems. We did not delve into runs created, mostly because we did not have enough room to explain what that means. It isn't complicated, as most of you probably know. Runs created measures the runs a player either scored or drove in. In other words, it adds together Runs and RBI and subtracts home runs (because a player gets credit for both an RBI and a run when he hits a home run, even though it only results in one run for his team).

A player's Run total and RBI total are partially dependent on the performance of his teammates (A Howard double with Victorino on first will result in a run more often than it does with Raul Ibanez on first). That's another reason why we avoided using RC in the paper. But you can't completely dismiss it (especially runs, since they are a product of getting on base and baserunning instead of just putting the ball in play). And people will point to Howard's RBI total as an answer to his meager rate stats.

Anyway, that's a big lead-in to a relatively simple chart that measures the the rate at which each of the tandems has created runs this season. We took Total Plate Appearances, divided them by Total Runs Created to get PAs-per-RC. We also added in Chipper Jones and Dan Uggla from the Braves and Aubrey Huff and Aaron Rowand from the Giants.

Players PAs RC PA/RC Salary
Holliday/Pujols 469 127 3.7 $33.1 mil
Gonzalez/Crawford 551 146 3.8 $40.2 mil
Fielder/Braun 555 139 4.0 $27.0 mil
Rodriguez/Teixeira 522 129 4.1 $50.0 mil
Howard/Utley 359 83 4.3 $39.2 mil
Jones/Uggla 514 88 5.8 $28.4 mil
Huff/Rowand 448 75 6.0 $23.0 mil

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David Murphy Daily News Staff Writer
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