An In-Depth Look at the Newest Phillies: Ben Revere and Michael Young

In an offseason in which many expect GM Rubén Amaro Jr. to back up the Brinks truck once again for a top-flight free agent like Josh Hamilton or Michael Bourn, the first substantial movement by the Phillies brass brings in some much needed defensive talent for the outfield and an aging stopgap at 3rd.

Ben Revere –  OF / Bats: Left, Throws: Right

A defensive wiz with a knack for scoring from 2nd, the 24-year old speedster is expected to start in centerfield, plugging a gap that was never adequately filled after last year’s midseason trade of Shane Victorino. In his young career, Revere has already shown flashes of brilliance in the field:

Click to Play Video

The thing that keeps Ben from being a top-flight prospect is his strength. Revere possesses neither a strong throwing arm nor power at the plate. He did record 8 outfield assists in 2012, but 6 of them came from right field, where he spent the lion’s share of his time in Minnesota. In Philadelphia he’ll almost certainly be playing CF, where arm strength is not generally considered to be as essential for success as speed.

Revere has been less than spectacular with the bat, but there are some encouraging trends in his numbers. Below is Revere’s 2012:

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ GDP HBP SH SF
2012 24 MIN 124 553 511 70 150 13 6 0 32 40 9 29 54 .294 .333 .342 .675 89 8 3 6 4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/10/2012.

Revere is a good ol’ fashioned slap hitter. He may not get much wood on the ball, but dammit he is going to hit the thing. His .294 batting average is made a bit more impressive by his very low rate of striking out. In 2012, he fanned in only 9.8% of his plate appearances. Plug that in on the 2012 team, and he’s only surpassed by Placido Polanco and Juan Pierre. His .294 also would have ranked 3rd on the team behind Chooch and Pierre. The major downside of Revere’s style is that he rarely draws walks. His 5.2% walk rate in 2012 would have tied Pierre for the lowest on the team.

There are a couple of schools of thought on how Revere will develop. For the sake of discussion, let’s bar the possibility that he flames out and falls out of the league. Some feel that Revere could very well turn into the player the Phillies really want but probably can’t afford, Michael Bourn. Here’s a look at Bourn’s numbers at age 25 and 26 (his 2nd and 3rd MLB seasons, respectively):

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ GDP HBP SH SF
2008 25 HOU 138 514 467 57 107 10 4 5 29 41 10 37 111 .229 .288 .300 .588 57 3 2 7 1
2009 26 HOU 157 678 606 97 173 27 12 3 35 61 12 63 140 .285 .354 .384 .738 97 1 2 5 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/11/2012.

Bourn had a very poor 2008 – Hard to blame the guy, he got traded away from the World Effing Champions to play in a stadium that features a hill and a flagpole in fair territory – but he had a breakout campaign the next season. He earned a lot more chances at the plate while decreasing his strikeouts, increasing his walks, and hitting more balls to the outfield wall. From a Sabermetric standpoint, Bourn’s Wins Above Replacement* (WAR) jumped from -.7 (worse than replacement-level) to +4.7 (borderline All-Star) in just one year. Revere’s 2012 was better than Bourn’s 2008 by a substantial margin, most easily represented by the difference in OPS (Revere’s .675 to Bourn’s .588), so matching or surpassing Bourn’s 2009 is indeed within the realm of possibility.

But that look is a bit too optimistic. Despite their many commonalities (diminutive, base-stealing, hitters-for-average), Revere and Bourn are too different offensively to expect their growth to follow the same pattern. First of all, Bourn has much more natural power than Revere, who will likely never hit more than 3 home runs in a season. Hell, even that tally is overly optimistic, because Revere hasn’t hit a homerun since AAA in 2011, and hasn’t hit more than 1 in a season since playing for the high-A Fort Myers Miracle. Secondly, Bourn is less swing-happy. He both struck out and walked far more than Revere. Finally, Revere and Bourn had a similar number of steals, but Revere is a better overall baserunner. When Bourn is on 2nd and a single is hit, he’s scored 66.7% of the time. Revere has scored on 88.9% of those opportunities.

It seems much more likely that Revere’s development will mimic his current Phillies counterpart, Juan Pierre. I’ve already mentioned some statistical similarities between Pierre and Revere last year, but let me throw this last one at you: % of Balls in Play.

This number is calculated by determining what percentage of a player’s total plate appearances result in a ball that lands between the foul poles and somewhere short of the outfield fence (AB-SO-HR+SF/PA). Even for a player with huge swings in his career performances, this number tends to hover within 10-percentage points of his career average from year to year and is usually much closer than that.Bourn’s career mark is 69%. Pierre’s is 85%. Revere’s mark so far is 84%.

Assuming that his power never blossoms to Bourn’s level (Rubén Amaro, for the record, doesn’t seem to think so), Revere will likely continue to rely on his elite speed and baserunning ability to beat out singles he slaps through the gaps or bloops over the heads of opposing fielders.

So bottom line: The Phillies traded Vance Worley and a top pitching prospect Trevor May for a guy who could be Willie Mays in the field but will probably never surpass Juan Pierre at the plate.

Sounds kinda shitty, especially when you consider how shaky the Phillies’ starting rotation would be if one of the Aces goes down and can’t pitch. But the silver lining here is, well, silver. Revere’s salary is controlled through the 2017 season, so the Phillies can get him on the cheap for the next half-decade if they so choose. For a team that’s right on the cusp of the luxury tax, Ben Revere looks like a very good fit.

Michael Young –  3B / Bats: Right, Throws: Right

This is going to be a much shorter entry, because Young will be with the Phillies for a much shorter time. Here’s what you need to know:

Young used to be an absolute stud.
Young is now 36.
Young is no longer a stud.
The Phillies are paying Michael Young $6M to no longer be a stud.

Here are his 2012 numbers, followed by his career numbers:

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ GDP
2012 35 TEX 156 651 611 79 169 27 3 8 67 2 2 33 70 .277 .312 .370 .682 78 26
13 Yrs 1823 8047 7399 1085 2230 415 55 177 984 89 30 532 1152 .301 .347 .444 .791 104 215
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/12/2012.

This late in his career, a return to his former level of production is unlikely without the unbridled use of steroids and amphetamines. In my estimation, this move is basically the 2012 version of signing Ty Wigginton, which didn’t go well. Except that Young is slightly more effective and much more expensive.

Of course, there is the caveat of Young’s very low BAbip (Batting Average on Balls in Play) in 2012 (.277, career .301), which indicates he suffered from some bad luck at the plate. But this doesn’t excuse his troubling decrease in power over the past two seasons. Young hit 21 HR in 2010, but has hit just 19 total in the two seasons since. For a lineup already full of past-prime stars, adding another to the mix just doesn’t seem like a winning recipe.

People who defend this trade are generally in one of two schools: They think he can turn his production around (probably not happening at his age) or they think he’s going to strengthen the locker room (not worth $6 million).

There’s still plenty of offseason to go, and there will be many opportunities for Amaro to bring in talent (I’m looking at you, bullpen), but if we see Kevin Frandsen starting at midseason and the pitching situation is still in shambles, Amaro can point to this move as one of his chief mistakes.

_____

*Statistics according to Baseball-Reference.com

Posted on December 13, 2012, in Hank Mushinski, Phillies, Posts, Stats Posts and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Josh , where art thou?

Say something!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: