21 December 2013

Comparing Cord Phelps and Ryan Flaherty at AAA

Maybe one of the Ryan Flaherty foul balls or in-play hits I talk about. Photo courtesy of Elaina Ellis / Norfolk Tides

In my last article, I reviewed Cord Phelps' 2010-2012 performance in games I had seen and scored in Norfolk's Harbor Park when his Columbus Clippers played against the Norfolk Tides. I summarized the final results of each at-bat; reviewed the outcome of each pitch; and counted the number of pitches he saw at each possible count.

I concluded by saying that I thought Phelps was of comparable value to Ryan Flaherty, although their respective offensive games took different shapes. I saw and scored eight games in 2012 and 2013 in which Flaherty played for Norfolk. In August 2012, Flaherty spent time in Norfolk on a minor-league rehab assignment; in May 2013, Flaherty was optioned to Norfolk when he was struggling in Baltimore. This article will review Flaherty's Norfolk stints in the same way my previous article reviewed Phelps'.

Flaherty's Results

I saw four games in 2012 in which Flaherty played. On August 14, against Gwinnett, Flaherty went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts; he played second base. On August 15, also against Gwinnett, Flaherty went 0-for-4 and played third base. On August 18, against Charlotte, Flaherty went 2-for-5 with a single, a solo home run, and a strikeout; he played first base. On August 19, also against Charlotte, Flaherty went 4-for-4 with three singles and a solo home run; he played left field. In the four games, Flaherty hit .353/.353/.706 with three strikeouts and zero walks.

I also saw four games in 2013 in which Flaherty played. On May 21, against Durham, Flaherty went 1-for-4 with a single and two strikeouts. On May 22, also against Durham, Flaherty went 2-for-4 with two singles. On May 27, against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Flaherty went 1-for-4 with a single and a strikeout. And n May 28, also against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Flaherty went 2-for-5 with a single, a three-run home run, and a strikeout. He played second base in all four games; overall, he hit .353/.353/.529. In the eight games over the two seasons, he hit .353/.353/.617 with three home runs. (Phelps hit .429/.467/.643 over ten games in three seasons.) Flaherty also had zero walks, which is in line with his reputation as a low-OBP hitter whose offensive strength is hitting home runs.

Pitches

To review, here are the pitches Cord Phelps saw in the ten games I scored in 2010-2012:

2010
2011
2012
Total
Ball
17
25
24
66
Swinging Strike
2
6
1
9
Called Strike
3
13
8
24
Foul Ball
3
13
8
24
In-Play
9
17
9
35
And here are the pitches Ryan Flaherty saw in the eight games I scored in 2012-2013:


2012
2013
Total
Ball
27
19
46
Swinging Strike
10
6
16
Called Strike
10
7
17
Foul Ball
8
8
16
In-Play
14
13
27

The big, and really the only difference, is that Phelps swung and missed at substantially fewer pitches than Flaherty did. The obvious explanation is that Flaherty is more of a power hitter - or at least perceives himself to be more of a power hitter - than Phelps. If that's the case, then it makes sense that Flaherty will sacrifice bat control for increased force.

Flaherty saw slightly more pitches per plate appearance than did Phelps - 3.58 to 3.51.

Counts

Here are the number of pitches Phelps and Flaherty saw with different counts in the games I scored:
                 Phelps                                                   Flaherty
2010
2011
2012
0-0
11
22
12
1-0
4
8
8
0-1
4
12
3
2-0
2
1
3
1-1
4
10
6
0-2
0
4
0
3-0
0
0
0
2-1
4
6
5
1-2
0
5
1
3-1
4
0
2
2-2
0
6
5
3-2
1
2
5
2012
2013
0-0
17
17
1-0
10
5
0-1
3
7
2-0
3
2
1-1
7
7
0-2
5
1
3-0
1
0
2-1
5
2
1-2
7
6
3-1
4
1
2-2
4
5
3-2
4
0















There are two notable differences. First, Phelps had 4 0-2 counts in 44 plate appearances (9.1%); Flaherty had 6 in 34 plate appearances (17.6%, or nearly twice as often.) The second distinction is the ratio of 2-1 to 1-2 counts - Phelps is 15/6, Flaherty 7/13. When we couple that with the swing-and-miss tendencies, we can guess what's happening here - again, Flaherty is sacrificing bat control for power.

Both Phelps and Flaherty have hit extremely well when I've been watching them play at Harbor Park. Flaherty is more of a home run hitter; Phelps has had more balanced results. Ryan Flaherty appears to be the frontrunner for the Orioles second-base job in 2014. If he struggles, Cord Phelps is a viable alternative, and he may even be a better fit for the Orioles offensive needs than Flaherty.

2 comments:

Mike Berman said...

We're seriously using a trickle of games scored over three seasons as a way to compare Phelps and Flaherty, and drawing conclusions about what that means about their potential contributions in 2014?

Super. Because that's a statistically-valid, methodologically-rigorous way of looking at two players.

This is such a weird site. Some days you get projects based on analytical rigor. Some days you get articles like this -- "I scored a bunch of games, and here's how two middle infielders did in this incredibly small and spread out sample size" -- that would fail a high school class.

Jon Shepherd said...

Mike, this is often the focus you would have in a scouting report. You mark the games you see and you base your judgement on that. What you see here is a companion piece to the Phelps article as mentioned.

What you are looking for is a narrow view. A view that I gravitate to, but one that is not the main way teams look at players. What Joe put together is similar to the reports you would have from a scout.

I can't think of an article or book at the moment to help you understand that decisions are made in a variety of ways in a front office.