Is It Time To Bench Pedro Feliz?

1 May

When Pedro Feliz was signed to a 2 year, 8.5 million dollar deal in the off-season I had my reservations about the whole thing. Basically, I looked at these things called ‘facts’ and wondered why the Phillies should be starting a guy with a ludicrously low on-base percentage (OBP). Here were my thoughts on the signing:

So what do I think? I think he’ll be a slight upgrade over Nunez/Dobbs/Helms, but he’s no great shakes. He’s a below-average hitter, as his career 84 OPS+ shows(100 is average). He’s a terrific defensive third baseman, but does that make up for his horrible patience at the plate? Somewhat, but that’s only because of the trash that was thrown out at third base the past couple seasons. Feliz is not a big upgrade, he’s a VERY small upgrade…VERY small. It seems like a waste of money, to be honest. We could’ve spent no money and gotten production that was only a little worse. Considering I feel a large part of offense is getting on base, his horrendous .288 career OBP is worrisome. His career EQA (basically an offensive metric which attempts to put everything together independent of park and league effects) is .244. .260 is league average, FWIW. Helms’ career EQA is .263.

Well, it looks like I’ve been largely vindicated. Feliz is posting career lows in damn near every category except one…he actually has 7 walks. However, that may be due to a combination of his spot in the order and the hitting philosophy of the Phillies ballplayers and hitting coach rubbing off on him somewhat. Problem is, when he tries to swing that bat he just can’t get it to fall to a spot without a defender there ready to scoop it up. He went 0-3 last night against the San Diego Padres to drop his average to a putrid .209, while his OBP dropped to .265 and his slugging percentage fell to .363. That adds up to a 628 OPS, which is a little handy-dandy indicator showing just how horrible he’s been at the plate. To put that in perspective, Wes Helms, the man the Phillies basically told to not come back this season because of how much he struggled, amassed a 665 OPS in 2007 in 280 at bats. Their OPS+ is nearly identical, with Feliz at 67 in 2008 (with 100 being league average) and Helms at 68 in 2007.

The above means I was wrong in at least one respect. I stated Feliz would be an ever so slight upgrade at third base. He’s actually provided no discernible upgrade in offensive production, and while his defense is better than Helms’, that does little to cover up the massive problem at third.

But we have a solution! The Phillies have a potential fix for third base and it wouldn’t cost them a dime. Oh, they might have a little egg on their faces, but they’ll get over it. They could pull Greg Dobbs from off the bench and give him some more regular playing time.

BUT HE’S A PINCH-HITTING SPECIALIST! one might say. Perhaps, but in 35 AB thus far he’s amassed a 982 OPS. Last year he had a 780 OPS in 324 AB. They started to really lean on Dobbs last season as they phased out Helms, why not again?

BUT WE PAID FELIZ ALL THIS MONEY! Teams have dead money on teams all over the league. The goal is to win, not to try to validate irresponsible free agent signings. Dobbs was a cheap get. He’s shown since 2006 in Seattle that he’s a major-league hitter. He’s nothing special at the hot corner in regards to defense, but the man can hit fairly well. Why not go back to his bat? A near 800 OPS would do wonders for this offense. He’s been getting about 2 starts a week..why not flip-flop his at bats with Feliz? No harm can come from it if Dobbs starts to struggle because Feliz is already one of the worst hitters in the league right now. Only good can come from this move.

While the Phillies are a meritocracy in other positions, such as centerfielder, they are seemingly willfully ignoring the potential to easily upgrade third base. It’s time to bench Pedro Feliz.

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