By Greg Pinto (Featured Columnist)
We live in a very materialistic world where the focus of our daily lives is based on the here and now and very rarely on the future, and even more rarely, the past. The Philadelphia Phillies are certainly not exempt from this thought process. Over the last few seasons, the idea has been to “win now.”
Those guys are prospects for a reason, so we’ll trade them for a proven player. That pricey free agent would sure look nice in red pinstripes, but the depth on the bench is certainly going to suffer if we sign him.
That’s been the thought process for the last few seasons, and will be as long as the Phillies have a core of players intent on winning a World Series and calling any other result a failure. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. First and foremost, it means the Phillies are winning.
The dangerous situation is getting caught up in the here and now and turning a blind eye towards the future. We must look at the past for information and interpret it towards the future. I thought that comparing each player on the Phillies’ roster would be an interesting way to apply that idea.
This slide show will observe a player’s career to date, take his statistics, and compare them to a past player who followed a similar career path. Just for fun, maybe that player’s career can give us some insight into what the future holds for the Phillies.
Vance Worley Compares To…
2011 was the first season for Vance Worley spent primarily as a starting pitcher, and because there isn’t much of a track record here, I almost decided not to compare him to other pitchers in this regard. However, the similarities are almost too striking to Luis Tiant and Roy Oswalt to ignore.
All three of these pitchers started their careers at a young age, and all three were very underrated for their talent levels. So while most people expect to see some regression from Worley in the near future, he is certainly in some good company through age 23.
Dontrelle Willis Compares To…
…Oliver Perez*, and Bruce Hurst through age 29.
The addition of Oliver Perez to this group is more of an editorial than anything, simply because when I think of the career path Dontrelle Willis took, I can’t help but to compare him to the former Pittsburgh Pirates‘ ace.
Both players were highly touted to begin their careers. Both players had phenomenal seasons with one team (Willis with the Florida Marlins, Perez with the Pirates) before moving on to new teams. Willis would flame out with the Detroit Tigers, Perez with the New York Mets.
Now, both are trying to revitalize their careers as relief pitchers, but because Willis has dominated lefties in recent years, he still has an MLB job.
Through most of his career, Hurst was a very solid, middle of the rotation starting pitcher, but he struggled mightily at the back end of his career, and after leaving the Padres, he had obviously left his best days behind him.
Ty Wigginton Compares To…
…Ed Sprague, through age 33.
Ty Wigginton compares favorably to quite a few corner infielders who had a bit of a power strike but weren’t overly successful over the entire course of their careers, the most closely of whom is former first baseman / third baseman, Ed Sprague.
Sprague spent 11 seasons in the MLB as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, Oakland Athletics, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners and Boston Red Sox. Sprague was an every day player early in his career, but by the time he had joined the A’s, found himself playing much more of a bench role, very similar to Wigginton, who will become a reserve with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Shane Victorino Compares To…
…Coco Crisp, through age 30.
This comparison surprised me a little bit. With the Philadelphia Phillies, Shane Victorino has developed into one of the game’s most well rounded players, using his speed to his advantage, but also playing well above average defense, hitting for power, and hitting for average as well.
Though on a slightly smaller scale, Coco Crisp, who recently agree to a two-year deal with the Oakland A’s, has been a very similar player. Though Victorino may be heading in a different direction as he hits his prime, through age 30 the similarities are unavoidable.
What really caught my attention was each player’s respective number of stolen bases: 162 for Victorino and 169 for Crisp.
Wilson Valdez Compares To…
…Johnny Hudson, through age 33.
As a reserve player, Wilson Valdez compares favorably to a lot of players who saw limited playing time, the most favorable of whom was former Brooklyn Dodgers infielder Johnny Hudson. “Mr. Chips,” as he was called, played for seven seasons in the MLB, also spending time with Chicago Cubs and New York Giants.
Interestingly enough, Hudson finished 25th in the league’s MVP voting in 1938, something that Valdez will likely never have the chance to do.
Chase Utley Compares To…
…Jeff Kent, through age 32.
When he announced his retirement in 2009, Jeff Kent was widely considered one of the best offensive second baseman to ever play the game, so to be in his company through your age 33 season is certainly a good sign.
Though his career numbers may have stalled a bit due to injury, Chase Utley got off the same kind of start to his career that Kent did, and both had tremendous power hitters in the order with them at various points during their careers.
Kent is a borderline Hall of Fame player, and if Utley can match his career, the Philadelphia Phillies would be in good shape.
Jim Thome Compares To…
…the careers of Sammy Sosa and Frank Thomas.
Though Jim Thome will play at least one more season with the Philadelphia Phillies, it isn’t hard to look back on his career and recognize that he is a Hall of Fame caliber player. A member of the 600 HR club, it is important to note that Thome hit all of his home runs steroid-free.
Can the same be said for former Chicago Cubs’ great Sammy Sosa, who was listed on the infamous “Mitchell Report?” Though his numbers are the closest to Thome’s, Sosa tested positive for performance enhancing drugs.
What about Frank Thomas? The “Big Hurt” never tested positive for PEDs, and his home run total does not come close to Thomes’s, though, Thomas was probably the more well-rounded hitter.
At the end of the day, the two closest comparisons to Thome’s career really put just how good the slugger has been throughout his career into perspective.
Mike Stutes Compares To…
…former Philadelphia Phillies’ relief pitcher Toby Borland?
No statistical data here, but instead, a link to an article by fellow Bleacher Report contributor Mike Lacy, who wrote about the similarities between the Phillies’ careers of retired pitcher Toby Borland and current Phils’ reliever, Mike Stutes.
When injuries plagued the Phillies’ bullpen in 2011, it was Stutes who got the call to the MLB to step in and help out. Initially, he was assigned menial tasks pitching in the middle innings, but soon enough, manager Charlie Manuel was asking him to pitch big innings and get important outs in the later innings.
Borland was called up during the strike-shortened 1994 season, but didn’t last long. Control was his ultimate downfall, and the Phillies sent him packing. However, Borland would soon return to the MLB after working on his control, and in 1995, he became an effective reliever out of the bullpen. By 1996, he was the set-up man, but ultimately faltered.
Will Stutes follow a similar career path?
Brian Schneider Compares To…
…the career of Pat Borders.
There are a few catchers in the history of the game that compare favorably to the career of Brian Schneider, but Pat Borders sticks out because of how similar their careers were.
Schneider was drafted by the Montreal Expos and stayed with the club when they moved to the nation’s capital to become the Washington Nationals. Following the 2007 season, he became a back-up catcher, bounding around between the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies.
Borders had a similar career. Drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays, Borders was the starting catcher for most of eight seasons, but following that stint, became a back-up catcher for a slew of different teams. The only clubs he spent more than one season with, however, were the Seattle Mariners and the Cleveland Indians, and all but two of his 17 seasons in the American League.
Carlos Ruiz Compares To…
…Bo Diaz, through age 32.
If Bo Diaz sounds familiar to most Phillies’ fans, he should. After all, the man was the club’s starting catcher in 1983, when the Phillies challenged the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series, but ultimately came up short. Carlos Ruiz had a similar experience in 2009, when the Phillies failed to defeat the New York Yankees.
All in all, Diaz was a solid catcher. He also spent parts of his MLB career with the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, and Cincinnati Reds.
Pound for pound, Ruiz is probably the better catcher, but through their age 32 seasons, there are a few surprising similarities.
Jimmy Rollins Compares To…
…Alan Trammell, through age 32.
Jimmy Rollins and Alan Trammell may not be the closest comparison on this list, but as far as the Philadelphia Phillies’ shortstop is concerned, the former Detroit Tigers’ great posted the numbers closest to his own, the next best being Craig Biggio.
Being in Trammell’s company is definitely a good thing, as he spent his entire 20-season career with the Tigers, building a fringe Hall of Fame career in the process.
Rollins follows a similar path. The Phillies’ shortstop is in an excellent position to spend his entire career in Philadelphia, and at the end of the day, he has something that Trammell’s Hall of Fame resume does not: An MVP Award.
Placido Polanco Compares To…
…Julio Franco and Tony Fernandez, through age 35.
Who would have thought that at some point in the future, we would be able to find a way to compare Placido Polanco to Julio Franco, former member of the Philadelphia Phillies traded to the Cleveland Indians as part of the infamous “five-for-one” deal that brought Von Hayes to Philadelphia? Well, here we go.
Franco, of course, will forever be known for the longevity of his career. He played for several different teams, his best years with the Texas Rangers, and when he retired after the 2008 season, Franco was 48-years-old.
Another player who had a similar approach at the plate to Polanco and Franco was Tony Fernandez. Fernandez spent most of his big league career with the Toronto Blue Jays, but like Franco, had a long career, jumping from team to team on one-year deals at the end.
Hunter Pence Compares To…
…Aubrey Huff and Rondell White, through age 28.
For me personally, this was the most surprising comparison on the list.
Today, when we think of Hunter Pence, we think of one of the game’s best right fielders. With the ability to hit for average and power, play above average defense, and run, he is a legitimate five-tool player, and has proven so throughout his career.
When I think of Pence, Aubrey Huff isn’t exactly the first person that comes to mind. The current member of the San Francisco Giants was originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and had a few nice seasons before moving on to the Houston Astros, Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, and now, the Giants.
Rondell White was drafted by the Montreal Expos and spent most of his career there before bounding around on one-year deals, though he did spend two years with the Minnesota Twins, Chicago Cubs, and Detroit Tigers, respectively.
Needless to say, the numbers are the only things that tie these three players together, and while I would like to say that Pence has the most upside, this certainly makes you stop and wonder.
Jonathan Papelbon Compares To…
…Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, and Bryan Harvey, through age 30.
If you want to know the real reason that the Philadelphia Phillies wanted Jonathan Papelbon to be their closer moving forward, this is it. Talk about elite company.
Papelbon closely compares to New York Yankees’ closer Mariano Rivera, who has more saves than any man in the history of the game. He also compares closely with the next man on that list, Trevor Hoffman, who dominated the ninth inning with the San Diego Padres.
The fourth name on this list belongs to a lesser known closer of the California Angels, Bryan Harvey. He led all of baseball in saves in 1991, and would eventually save 40 games for the Florida Marlins after joining them in the expansion draft.
Laynce Nix Compares To…
…Scott Hairston, through age 30.
The Philadelphia Phillies brought Laynce Nix aboard this winter to help out at the plate against right handed pitching, and interestingly enough, they also had some interest (and may continue to pursue) free agent outfielder Scott Hairston.
With both players being bench players at this point in their careers, these two compare favorably to a number of different players, but this is certainly this closest match. Hairston spent four years with the Arizona Diamondbacks before bouncing around to a number of teams, most recently, the New York Mets.
John Mayberry Jr. Compares To…
…John Mayberry Sr.
After struggling to make a name for himself prior to 2011, John Mayberry Jr. struggled with the Philadelphia Phillies to the point that there just isn’t enough of a track record to compare his stats against MLB players.
Instead, let us compare him to his father, John Mayberry Sr., who 15 seasons in the MLB and gave his son those good baseball genes to get him to the show. Mayberry Sr. spent the bulk of his career with the Kansas City Royals, Toronto Blue Jays, and Houston Astros, also spend a year with the New York Yankees.
A big, powerful guy, he had a similar build to his son. Mayberry Sr. would go on to slug 255 home runs in his career—a number I’m sure the Phillies would like to see his son eclipse.
Cliff Lee Compares To…
…Don Newcombe, through age 32.
Any pitcher looking to succeed should be happy with the ability to compare himself to former Brooklyn Dodgers’ pitcher Don Newcombe at any point in his career. Cliff Lee can say that, as through age 32, he has posted similar numbers to the former Dodger.
Both lefties, the numbers aren’t the only similarities. Both Lee and Newcombe won a Cy Young Award, and both were traded for underwhelming hauls during their careers.
Kyle Kendrick Compares To…
…Joe Blanton, through age 26.
I’m really not sure whether or not this is good news for Kyle Kendrick.
First and foremost, the obvious comparison here is that both Kendrick and Joe Blanton play for the Philadelphia Phillies (and yes, Blanton will still get his own slide.) Kendrick was acquired via the draft, Blanton via trade from the Oakland Athletics.
Outside of the numbers, however, the careers of these two players have been quite different. The Phillies thought enough of Blanton to move top prospects for him in 2008 to bolster their playoff run, but didn’t think enough of Kendrick to leave him in the starting rotation in 2011, opting to spend more than $100 million on Cliff Lee in free agency.
Ryan Howard Compares To…
…Richie Sexson, through age 31.
As long as Ryan Howard’s career takes him nowhere near Safeco Field in Seattle, as Richie Sexson’s did, this may not even be a relevant comparison by the time Howard retires at some point in the future.
Outside of their handedness, there are obvious comparisons for these two first basemen. First and foremost is the raw power. By the time Sexson retired, he had hit 306 home runs, and Howard is on pace to shatter that milestone.
The real question is Howard’s health. Will that Achilles tendon be the bane of his career, in much of the same way that injuries slowed down Sexson?
Cole Hamels Compares To…
…John Smiley, through age 27.
This may not be the comparison that some people were expecting for Cole Hamels, but let’s not forget, before 2010, you would have fought tooth and nail for the right to call Hamels an “ace.”
Now that he has established himself as just that and his career is on a completely different track, comparing him to John Smiley seems a bit silly at first glance. After all, Smiley would only be in the MLB until age 32.
Through age 27, however, the two lefties had very similar careers. Smiley’s longest tenure was with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he also spent five seasons with the Cincinnati Reds.
What uniform will Cole Hamels be wearing in 2013?
Roy Halladay Compares To…
…Mike Mussina, through age 34.
There are a few surprising comparisons on this list, and this is one that caught me off guard. With the way he has pitched in recent seasons, I think that some Philadelphia Phillies’ fans would expect to see Roy Halladay’s name listed with an all-time great. Instead, he is listed with another workhorse: Mike Mussina. (I’ll leave whether or not Mussina is an “all-time great” or not up to your discretion.)
Mussina spent his career with the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees, and though he never won a Cy Young Award, “Moose” was the model of consistency. The same could be said for Halladay, who throws up similar, outstanding numbers year in and year out, and owns two Cy Young Awards.
Jose Contreras Compares To…
…the career of Cory Lidle.
With Jose Contreras’ days as a starting pitcher well in the rear-view mirror, I think it is safe to look at the 40-year-old’s career in hindsight. Before his days with the Philadelphia Phillies, Contreras was known for his work as a starting pitcher for the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox.
Oddly enough, his career was very similar to the one by another former Phillie and Yankee, Cory Lidle. When the Phillies were not a competitive team in the mid 2000s, the club acquired Lidle from the Cincinnati Reds for very little. He would later be sent to the Yankees in the same deal that sent Bobby Abreu to the Bronx Bombers.
Domonic Brown Compares To…
…the build and skill-set of Darryl Strawberry.
Without much statistical evidence to go off of here, we’ll compare Domonic Brown to the player that scouts believe he can become, and then some: Former New York Mets’ outfielder Darryl Strawberry.
It is hard to ignore the similarities. Both are tall outfielders with great baseball talent. Both were left handed and both have incredible potential at the plate. Though Strawberry never had much of a batting average, he had surprising power and excellent on-base skills, including instinctive base running.
Joe Blanton Compares To…
…Aaron Harang, through age 30.
Because Joe Blanton has never done anything overly spectacular in his career (well, on the mound anyway, because his home run in the World Series was pretty spectacular,) his career compares favorably to a number of middle of the road pitchers (including Oil Can Boyd, who has the best name of the group.)
One name that caught my eye is Aaron Harang, who signed a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers this winter. Both are big right handed starters with similar repertoires. Neither relies on his fastball and neither has an excellent off-speed pitch.
Perhaps the greatest similarity is their proficiency for underwhelming results.
Antonio Bastardo Compares To…
…Bill Bray, through age 25.
This may be an outside the box comparison, but in the long run, the results speak for themselves. The greatest similarity between Antonio Bastardo and Bill Bray of the Cincinnati Reds is their handedness. Both operate as left handed specialists, though Bastardo has shown to be effective against right handed hitters as well.
It’s a small sample size, and if 2011 was any indication, Bastardo’s career may end up going in a completely different direction. The Phillies’ sure hope so. The success of their bullpen depends on it.
For up to the minute Phillies’ news, check out Greg’s blog: The Phillies Phactor.
- Philadelphia Phillies to Sign Dontrelle Willis: Are They Going for a New Look? (bleacherreport.com)
- Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Phillies Who Could Play Their Way onto the Trade Block (bleacherreport.com)
- Phillies acquire versatile Wigginton from Rockies (tracking.si.com)
- Ty Wigginton Acquired By Philadelphia Phillies (tracking.si.com)
- Report: Yankees And Cardinals Have Interest In Roy Oswalt (tracking.si.com)