26 games into the 2012 season, the Philadelphia Phillies are hitting .256/.300/.361. It’s not the worst OPS for major league teams — the Marlins, Cubs, Padres, Pirates, Nationals and A’s all fare worse — but it is pretty bad, particularly since the Phillies play in a better hitter’s ballpark than most of those other clubs. Their isolated slugging percentage of .105 is next to worst in the majors, barely ahead of the Nationals at .104. Even the light-hitting Padres are at .114 despite their Petco Park time.
So, I thought it’d be fun to take a glance at some of the players who compare best with these 2012 Phillies…. those who hit closest to .256/.300/.361 over significant careers.
Joe McEwing – .251/.302/.355 in nine seasons
Tom Pagnozzi – .253/.299/.359 in 12 seasons
Luis Sojo – .261/.297/.352 in 14 seasons
Gerald Laird – .242/.301/.360 in his 10th season
Billy Martin – .257/.300/.369 in 12 seasons
Jose Macias – .256/.298/.371 in seven seasons
So, yeah, the Phillies are even getting outslugged by Jose Macias. On the plus side, they’re not too far away from hitting like a Hall of Famer. Bill Mazeroski came in at .260/.299/.367 during his 17-year career.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.