McCoy: Brandon Phillips “slipping into Joe Morgan’s domain”

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If the aforementioned quote refers to a science fiction film, you can count me in. As it relates to baseball, though, I’m not on board. In a column for FOX Sports Ohio, Hal McCoy uses some dubious statistical comparisons to equate Phillips to Joe Morgan. It’s an otherwise interesting and informative column, but I can’t get past this:

Morgan played seven years for the Cincinnati Reds and Phillips is in his seventh year with the Reds. And so many of their statistics are dead-on similar that it is eerie.

Consider: Joe Morgan hit 152 home runs and Phillips has 150. Joe Morgan had 612 RBI and Phillips has 605. Brandon Phillips has 221 doubles and Morgan had 220. Brandon Phillips has 1,214 hits and Morgan had 1,155.

Consider: Morgan had a career .392 on-base percentage and led the league in the category four times. On ten different occasions, Morgan finished a season with a .400 or better OBP. Phillips has a career average .322 OBP and has never exceeded .353 in a season.

Morgan posted an .800 or better OPS on seven different occasions, going as high as 1.020 in 1976, the second of his back-to-back MVP award-winning seasons. Phillips has gone .800 or better just three times. When you adjust OPS for the quality of the league and for park effects, Morgan’s career average is 132, Phillips is at 97 (the general average is set at 100). Morgan also stole 689 bases in 851 attempts (81%) while Phillips has only stolen 154 in 215 attempts (72%). Phillips certainly has Morgan on defense and even though Baseball Reference credits Phillips at 52 career runs above average defensively and Morgan 48 runs below, Morgan easily wins the WAR battle 100 to 24.

Phillips is a great player and extremely fun to watch, but it is unfair to put him in the same conversation as one of the greatest second basemen ever to play the game of baseball.

The 2017 Yankees are, somehow, plucky underdogs

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There’s a lot that has happened in the past year that I never, ever would’ve thought would or even could happen in America. Many of them are serious, some are not, some make me kinda happy and some make me terribly sad. I’m sure a lot of people have felt that way in this oddest of years.

There’s one thing in baseball, however, that still has me searching my feelings in a desperate effort to know what to feel: The New York Yankees are the postseason’s plucky underdogs.

This is not about them being lovable or likable — we touched on that last week — it’s more about the role they play in the grand postseason drama. A postseason they weren’t even supposed to be in.

None of the three writers of this website thought the Yankees would win the AL East or a Wild Card. ESPN had 35 “experts” make predictions back in March, and only one of them — Steve Wulf — thought the Yankees would make the postseason (he thought they’d win the division). I’m sure if you go over the plethora of professional prognosticator’s predictions a few would have the Yankees squeaking in to the postseason on the Wild Card, but that was nothing approaching a consensus view. Their 2017 regular season was a surprise to almost everyone, with the expectation of a solid, if unspectacular rebuilding year being greatly exceeded. To use a sports cliche, nobody believed in them.

Then came the playoffs. Most people figured the Yankees would beat the Twins in the Wild Card game and they did, but most figured they’d be cannon fodder for the Indians. And yep, they fell down early, losing the first two games of the series and shooting themselves in the foot in spectacular fashion in the process. Yet they came back, beating arguably the best team in baseball and certainly the best team in the American League in three straight games despite the fact that . . . nobody believed in them.

Now we’re in the ALCS. The Astros — the other choice for best team in the American League if you didn’t think the Indians were — jumped out to a 2-0 lead, quieting the Yankees’ powerful bats. While a lot of teams have come back from 0-2 holes in seven game series, the feel of this thing as late as Monday morning was that, even if the Yankees take a game at home, Houston was going to cruise into the World Series. Once again . . . nobody believed in them.

Yet, here we are on this late Wednesday morning, with the Yankees having tied things up 2-2. As I wrote this morning, you still have to like the Astros’ chances given that their aces, Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, are set to go in Games 5 and 6. I’m sure a lot of people feel still like the Astros’ chances for that reason. So that leads us to this . . .

It’s one thing for no one to have, objectively, believed in the Yankees chances. It’s another thing, though, for the New York Yankees — the 27-time World Champions, the 40-time American League pennant winners, the richest team in the game, the house-at-the-casino, U.S. Steel and the Evil Empire all wrapped into one — to officially play the “nobody believed in us” card on their own account. That’s the stuff of underdogs. Of Davids facing Goliaths. Of The Little Guy, demanding respect that no one ever considered affording them. If you’re not one of those underdogs and you’re playing that card, you’re almost always doing it out of some weird self-motivational technique and no one else will ever take you seriously. And now you’re telling me the NEW YORK FRIGGIN’ YANKEES are playing that card?

Thing is: they’re right. They’ve totally earned the right to play it because, really, no one believed in them. Even tied 2-2, I presume most people still don’t, actually.

I don’t know how to process this. Nothing in my 40 years of baseball fandom has prepared me for the Yankees to be the David to someone else’s Goliath and to claim righteous entitlement to the whole “nobody believed in us” thing.

Which, as I said at the beginning, is nothing new in the year 2017. I just never thought it’d happen in baseball.