Philadelphia Phillies: Spring Training Preview: A Look at the New Guys: Part One
**** This is Part One of a two-part series. This edition covers the fielders/hitters. Part Two will cover the pitching additions. ****
The Philadelphia Phillies decided they were going to do something few people can do. They thought about whether they wanted quality or quantity, and ol' Rube decided he was going to get both. Adding names like Jim Thome and Laynce Nix, among others, the Phillies' bench was remade.
Now let's take a look at how he did.
The Original Philly Slugger: Jim Thome
Okay, so maybe I had to go all the way back to 2004 to get this picture, so what. He was a brute then and he still is today. Any pitchers in the NL East who were around in 2005 are dreading seeing this again. As far as Phillies fans are concerned, he started the "point your bat at the pitcher" routine before Ryan Howard turned it into an art.
However, let's not kid ourselves; this not the 32-year-old slugger who ripped 47 home runs in his first year with the Phillies. Let's take a look at the difference in numbers between his amazing 2003 and last year:
(2003) AVG: .266 / OBP: .385 / SLG: .573 / OPS: .958 / HR: 47
(2011) AVG: .256 / OBP: .361 / SLG: .477 / OPS: .838 / HR: 15
Not really that big of a drop-off if you consider the fact that the second set of statistics is eight years later. That is a 40-year-old, still producing and not really slowing down. I know, I know, you are staring at the home run total and going "WOW, he lost some power." I say Nay Nay...
In 2003, Jim played in 159 games, with 698 PAs. In 2011, he only stepped to the plate 324 times. That's less than half! Projected out over a full season, Thome would have hit 32 home runs, only seven less than his career average. That is pure power and production, and I'm happy to have it.
And finally, let's not forget that Charlie loves him some Thome. He gets excited by this guy even more than we as fans do. But we need to temper our enthusiasm. We are not getting a young slugger on the rise. But what we are getting is an experienced, seasoned slugger who fits perfectly into the Phillies' team chemistry.
My advice—look at Thome as a fine wine to be sipped from time to time (rhyme not intentional), and don't get mad when we don't get to drink it everyday.
Mr. Underappreciated: Laynce Nix
Maybe it's because he's from Texas, and we Philly fans just don't like Texas anything.
Maybe it's because he came from the Nationals, and we're still bitter about Werth.
Maybe we can't get over our crush on Thome.
Whatever the reasoning, fans, myself included, have just not gotten excited about Laynce Nix. I started this slide not really sure what I was going to nickname Nix. After looking through his stats and related info, I am extremely excited to have this man on our team.
First, and least importantly I might add, lets look at his bat:
(2011) AVG: .250 / OBP: .299 / SLG: 451 / OPS: .750 / HR: 16
Obviously nothing to write home about. But for $1.1 million, those stats sound about right. He had a career-high in home runs last year, and we only had to give him a $350,000 raise. Add in that he is only 31, and we got ourselves a great option off the bench.
The one really big offensive benefit is that he is the left-handed version of John Mayberry with the bat. Whereas John will destroy left-handed pitching, Nix does the same to righties.
Now we get to the real reason Amaro went out and got Nix: his versatility in the field. Here's a breakdown of the positions Laynce has played and how many games he has played there:
So now we have someone who has committed more than two errors in a season only once, who can rotate in with Mayberry in left when John has to play first or needs a rest, and who can give Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence some breaks.
I'm not worried about the lack of work at first base. We have Mayberry, Thome and Wigginton to work that position until the Big Piece gets back.
So for $1.1 million, we got a proven outfielder and a reliable bat against right-handed pitching. Sounds good to me.
Mr. Versatility: Ty Wigginton
One picture just isn't enough to convey all that Ty Wigginton does. Before we even get to his stats, we need to take a look at all the positions he has played, with how many games at each.
Seriously, this dude gets around. Whereas Laynce Nix is the remedy for the outfield, Ty is the medicine for our aging infield. Placido Polanco needs a rest? Wigginton's got it. Chase Utley's hamstring is acting up? Wigginton's got it. You want Mayberry in the outfield and Thome on the bench? Don't worry about first, Wigginton's got it.
All this for the low price of $2 million courtesy of Colorado paying half his salary for 2012. Can you say steal?
If it weren't for late-inning pitching heroics, we might have already forgotten about Wilson Valdez. With Polanco seemingly always on the mend, Wigginton will see quite a bit of time at third base. However, with Utley's apparent inability to admit injuries, I also think Wigginton will be the go-to guy at second on Chase's scheduled days off. Just what the doctor ordered. Literally.
Now, with all that time filling in for our beloved Philly players, will we see a major drop-off with the bat? Well let's take a look at how each player performed in 2011:
(Utley) AVG: .259 / OBP: .344 / SLG: .425 / OPS: .769 / HR: 11
(Wigginton) AVG: .242 / OBP: .315 / SLG: .416 / OPS: .731 / HR: 15
(Polanco) AVG: .277 / OBP: .335 / SLG: .339 / OPS: .674 / HR: 5
So is there a drop-off, yes, of course there is. We are talking about him filling in for one of our greatest hitters in Utley, and a player who is considered to be one of the greatest contact hitters in the game in Polanco. Let's take him for what he is: a replacement-level player. He will be at the back of the order when playing, and his greatest contributions will be just being a competent fielder.
For a better comparison, let's compare him to the player we upgraded from, Wilson Valdez:
(Wigginton) AVG: .242 / OBP: .315 / SLG: 416 / OPS: .731 / HR: 15
(Valdez) AVG: .249 / OBP: .294 / SLG: 341 / OPS: .634 / HR: 1
Now we can see the benefit of this upgrade. Wigginton played in only 31 more games than Valdez last year, but managed to hit 15 times more home runs. While we will always hold Wilson in our hearts, we will gladly take Wigginton on the field.
Check back for Part Two of "The New Guys" series, where we will go through the many additions made to the pitching staff.