Assessing the Phillies Trading Chips

The Phillies are talking about trading some of their players.

Before we do this, let’s recall some of the Phillies great trades of great players:

1) 1918 – traded Grover Cleveland Alexander for several boxes of cashews and cash to the Cubs.  He went on to win 300 games and go to the Hall of Fame.  And win a World Series.  the Phillies finished last 10 straight years.

some old history stuff

some old history stuff

2)  1930s – traded Chuck Klein Dolph Camilli and Lefty O’Doul for Cash and some Cracker Jack.  Camilli became the MVP and led the Dodgers to the 1941 NL Pennants, Klein and O’Doul continued to hit for other clubs.  The Phillies started to finish last every year.

4) 1950s – release Curt Simmons “because he could not pitch anymore.” – Curt Simmons came back to torture them in 1964 as a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals when the Phillies collapsed down the stretch.  The Phillies could have used a third starter other than Bunning and Short–like Curt Simmons.

Sen & Mrs. John & Teresa Heinz prior to his untimely death in 1991

i think John Heinz was US Senatory back in the 1930s and 1940s

5) 1960s – traded Dick Allen for Curt Flood and three so so players – Curt Flood sued baseball and moved to some island in the Mediterranean rather than play in Philly, saying “he wasn’t a slave” and “Philly was racist”.  Tim McCarver reported.  Dick Allen went on to become MVP of the American League in 1972, and nearly led the Chisox to the AL West Divisional Title.  The Phillies fell to last place–behind the Montreal Expos, an expansion team.  Tim McCarver was traded for a used chevy and later re-signed with the Phils as a free agent.

6) 1980s – traded Ryne Sandberg, Larry Bowa and Gary Matthews to the Cubs for dog poop.  The Cubs won the division twice, Ryne Sandberg became the greatest 2d baseman since Rogers Hornsby, and it would take until 1993 for the Phils to win a division again.

OJ Simpson was a very popular football player and actor during the 1970s and 1980s.

OJ Simpson was a very popular football player and actor during the 1970s and 1980s.

7) 1990s – The Phils traded Curt Schilling to Arizona for some table cloths and Vincente Padilla, a mexican-american actor impersonating a starting pitcher.  Arizona immediately won the World Series. Later, Curt Schilling did the bloody sock thing with the Red Sox.   The Phils also traded Scott Rolen to the Cards for Placido Polanco, who the Phils then traded to the Tigers for some used napkins.  The Cardinals went on to win several pennants and two World Series, with Rolen as their 3d baseman.  The Phils won one world series and lost another–with Pedro Feliz at 3d base.  Basically, most of the 2000s was a highlight reel of Curt Schilling and Scott Rolen going to the World Series while the Phillies didn’t.  And yes, those two are probably going to get into the HOF too.

so there’s your Phillies trading history in a nutshell.

Let’s take a statistical look at the actual value of their players.

1) Cliff Lee – Cliff Lee has a JAWs rating in the top 100 of all pitchers lifetime.  He has achieved Pitcher WAR levels above 7.0 in several of his Phillies seasons, and has been the single best pitcher aside from Roy Halladay on the Phils’ staff the past few seasons.  He works quickly and can hit and field his position.  He and Cole Hamels were together worth more than 11 WAR last year collectively–which means, since the team won 70 games or so last year, that without Lee and Hamels, the team would have won around 59 games without them in 2013, and trading Lee and Hamels means the Phils will probably drop to around that level.  He is easily the most valuable piece the Phils have to trade.  He is is great shape, should pitch well for at least 3-5 years, and should fit well as a #1 on a contender.  Lee’s ERA+ this year is 117 and his career ERA+ is 119.  He is a great pitcher, 20% better than league at all times.   Lee has had three years in the past where he was 160 plus ERA or 60% better than league, which is to say virtually unhittable, including 2011.

The Phillies Win the Series 2008

The Phillies Win the Series 2008

2) Cole Hamels – Cole Hamels has a JAWS rating in the top 120 of all pitchers lifetime.  He’s five years younger than Lee, so he should get higher than Lee eventually.  His established WAR levels are around 5.0 but he’s been higher in some seasons.  He pitches 200 innings a year, and he’s a quality starter in the postseason.  He’s been a #1 in the past, as well as a #2 and a #3, and he’s shown he can pitch under pressure.  With the established WAR levels he has, he is a quality starter.  A very valuable trading chip.  Hamels is 131+ ERA this year, and his career ERA+ is 123, very similar to Lee, but slightly better.  He’s been a bit more inconsistent than Lee, but in his good years Hamels puts up 130 plus ERA marks, in his off years he’s around league average, so he’s actually usually 30% better than league.

Chuck Bednarik flattens Frank Gifford

Chuck Bednarik flattens Frank Gifford

 

3)  Chase Utley – Chase Utley is now #13 on the JAWS list alltime of 2d basemen, and has passed Roberto Alomar.  He was the starting All-Star 2d baseman at age 35, and is currently the top offensive Phillie in WAR.  With the renaissance he is having this season, he shows that he will continue to be an excellent hitter for some time to come.  If he were traded to the Yankees or another AL club, Utley could be used somewhat like Jeter–resting some days by DHing–and could last until age 40–and most certainly will go into the Hall of Fame.  He is a 10/5 player and has to waive those rights to be traded.  Utley is a leader, and a clubhouse force.  He’s exactly what the Yankees need as Jeter is on the brink of retirement.

ON MY MARK, UNLEASH HELL!  WAIT A MINUTE, THAT' RUSSELL CROWE'S LINE FROM GLADIATOR...TONITE MEN, WE DINE IN HELL!!!! WE ARE SPARTANS!!!

ON MY MARK, UNLEASH HELL! WAIT A MINUTE, THAT’ RUSSELL CROWE’S LINE FROM GLADIATOR…TONITE MEN, WE DINE IN HELL!!!! WE ARE SPARTANS!!!

 

4) Jonathan Papelbon – having a terrific season, nearly 2.4 WAR as a closer with 60 games to go.  despite the big contract, he has an established WAR of 1.0 plus per season, and despite his contract of $10 million a year, he is a known quantity closer.  Papelbon’s ERA+ this year is 317.   Valuable to a contender needing a closer, and the Phils are ready to move Giles or Diekman into the closer role for less money.  Moreover, Papelbon wants a trade.  The most valuable and most likely to be traded.

HOOSIERS - THE GREATEST SPORTS FILM EVER MADE - ABOUT INDIANA HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL - BUTLERS' KIDS PLAY HOOPS THE WAY COACH'S KIDS PLAY HOOPS IN HOOSIERS!

HOOSIERS – THE GREATEST SPORTS FILM EVER MADE – ABOUT INDIANA HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL – BUTLERS’ KIDS PLAY HOOPS THE WAY COACH’S KIDS PLAY HOOPS IN HOOSIERS!

 

5)  Jimmy Rollins – right behind Utley in offensive WAR this year, having a great season.  His defensive range has diminished, but he can still hit and run effectively, and among available shortstops, he is 2.5 WAR with 60 games to go.  He currently is 34th on the JAWS list of Shortstops, and can move up still.  Shortstops above and below him on the list are in the Hall of Fame, and he has done things sufficient to get to the Hall.  An interesting fact is that Rollins plays 92% of the games each year, and has an established hit level of 150 hits a year, and is only 738 hits away from 3000.  At his established hit level, he will reach 3,000 hits in just under five more seasons from now, at around age 40.  The odds that he will continue to be productive and hit and field as a shortstop are fairly great; and he could also move over to second base and continue to hit and field and play until age 45 conceivably.  He has home run power, alley power and is excellent from the left side.  He would be a marquee addition to a contending ballclub.  Rollins is a 10/5 player and would have to waive his no trade clause in order to be traded.  The Yankees would be wise to trade for Rollins and Utley as a package to replace the retiring Jeter and whatever 2d baseman they have.  Rolllins would hit 20 homers a year in the new Yankee Stadium, and Utley and Rollins would give tremendous leadership to the existing Yankees along with speed and veteran leadership.

PLACIDO POLANCO - only Phillies to win Gold Gloves at two different positions - second base and third base.  Defense has been a problem for the current Phillies.

PLACIDO POLANCO – only Phillies to win Gold Gloves at two different positions – second base and third base. Defense has been a problem for the current Phillies.

6) Marlon Byrd – currently has WAR of 2.2 with 60 games to go.  Ranks fairly high career wise on the all time CF list, in the top 120 JAWS list.  has an established WAR of nearly 2.0 over 13 seasons.  He can field, he can hit, and he can hit for power.  He had a 4.0 WAR last year and is on pace for a 3.67 WAR this year at age 36.  Normally a team should not trade for a guy this age, but Marlon Byrd is having his best years every right now, and he is a proven veteran.  Watching him day in day out, he seems like a proven professional ballplayer.  He seems very different than the rookie I say play here in the early part of the 2000s.  Marlon Byrd gets good cuts on every at bat, always has a plan when he’s up, and seems to drive the ball, whether its into the alley or over the wall.  He has a fairly inexpensive contract.  An excellent trade piece for a team looking for a corner OF bat.  Very likely to be traded, and will do an excellent job for any team that gets him.  Helped the Pirates last year on their way to the playoffs.

 

Big Ed Delahanty - Left Fielder who once hit four homers in a game and hit .400 in consecutive seasons for the 1890s Phillies.  In the Hall of Fame.

Big Ed Delahanty – Left Fielder who once hit four homers in a game and hit .400 in consecutive seasons for the 1890s Phillies. In the Hall of Fame.

7)  AJ Burnett – even though the stats and peripherals don’t look impressive, Burnett has accumulated 1.0 WAR as a pitcher thus far, and that is with 60 games to go, so he’s on pace for about 1.4 WAR for the year.  Not great, but not shabby.  AJ Burnett has a lot of post season experience, and was helpful for the Pirates last year.  He’s had some good outings this year, and for the right club with run support, he can go 5-7 innings.  Significantly, he’s thrown by far the most innings of any Phillies starter, has 113 Ks in 136 IP, and even though the walks are high (as they are with him), he has allowed fewer hits than innings pitched, with a WHIP of 1.361.  His numbers are a bit off, but his established WAR level in 16 seasons is 1.75–he’s had a couple seasons where he went 4.0 plus, but basically this is what he is, an innings eater who strikes out a lot of guys, but can also be a bit wild.  He’s led the league in strikeouts, but also led the league in walks twice and wild pitches three times and batters hit by pitch once–he’s a classic hard thrower who has trouble locating.  but his career ERA+ is 104+ and he can go out and give you a gem one game, and then blow up the next, as he did in 2009 with the Yankees in the World Series v the Phils, where he blew the Phils away in one Series game, but got torched in the other.  He had a 4.4 WAR season for the Yanks that year, btw.  AJ Burnett should be a great trade piece for the Phils to move.  He’s a big game pitcher, a fastball pitcher who can throw hard and long, and a guy with World Series and playoff experience.  He is the very definition of wily veteran.

 

NATE THE GREAT THURMOND TANGLING IT UP WITH WILT THE STILT CHAMBERLAIN - THOSE AREN'T AIR JORDANS THEY'RE WEARING

NATE THE GREAT THURMOND TANGLING IT UP WITH WILT THE STILT CHAMBERLAIN – THOSE AREN’T AIR JORDANS THEY’RE WEARING

Conclusion

This is about it for players of real value.  The Phils essentially have three wily veteran pitchers – Lee, Hamels and Burnett–all of whom could make a huge difference in the pennant races.  They have an established keystone combo in Rollins and Utley, which they should move as a unit, probably to the Yankees.  And they have a power hitting slugging corner OF in Byrd, who can make a difference to a contender looking for a RH power bat.

The rest of the team is valueless.  People may say Ryan Howard, but in fact, he has no value at all.  At best, the Phils should move him to an AL club, but the better play would be for the Phils to lobby for a change in the rules so the NL gets a DH, so they can keep Howard and use him as a DH themselves, since they will pay his contract in any event.

Howard as a DH would be useful.  Moving the entire NL to a DH would be useful, and the Phils have the votes.  The cubs want a DH, as do several other NL clubs, and only a majority, e.g. 8 clubs, are needed.  The Dodgers now have too many OFs, so they will vote for a DH.  So Cubs, Phils, Dodgers.  Then you have Brewers–they have lots of potential DH’s.  They will go DH.  They were in the AL before anyway.  That’s four.  The Mets get no offense, so they will vote DH.  that’s five.  The Marlins don’t care one way or the others, so that’s six.  The Giants will want to play their MVP catcher Buster Posey at DH, so that’s seven.  Cincinnati will definitely want to play Joey Votto at DH, so that’s eight.  St Louis will want to play Allen Craig at DH, so thats nine.  Colorado will want nine hitters period, so that’s ten.  Arizona and the Padres can’t care so that’s 12.  why Washington would object is beyond me, so that’s 13.  that leaves the Pirates and the Braves, who might object, but who might not.

a big argument for going over to the DH is the fact that there is currently interleague play all the time, and the fact that all teams have a 25 man roster and need a lot of relievers.  a DH means less pinch hitters, and thus you can keep 12-13 pitchers on your 25 man roster, and keep only 12 position players–you only need to sub out if a player is hurt, tired or you need to pinch hit in a specific situation.  What you want in a DH lineup is nine regulars who can go every day, maybe with a platoon a one or two positions.  You don’t pinch-hit, except maybe for poor hitting SS.  So you can carry a lot of pitchers, and bring in relievers early.

Once you do this, you keep Ryan Howard around as a career DH, and just bring up Franco as your 1B, or 2B if you move Utley, and put Galvis at SS, and Ruf on 1B or Mayberry on 1B.  Grady Sizemore can play RF, and Brown and Revere CF and LF.  and you wait for all those new prospects to develop.

 

Perry Mason & Della Street

I rest my case: let’s go get dinner, Della!

WHAT A DAY FOR TV YESTERDAY AUGUST 16TH.

1) AN ELVIS MARATHON ON TCM, INCLUDING ‘KID CREOLE’.

2) THE RETURN OF DON DRAPER AND MAD MEN FOR SEASON THREE.

3) THE PHILS DESTROY THE BRAVES ON NATIONAL TV SUNDAY NITE BASEBALL ON RYAN HOWARDS TWO ENORMOUS HOMERS, SOLO AND THREE RUN SHOTS, AND WIN 4-1 AS JA HAPP WINS 9TH OF YEAR AGAINST 2 LOSSES.

Is it just me, or watching Elvis and Don Draper, do I get the feeling that back in 1961, smoking, drinking, and driving drunk, were GOOD for you?

That chasing women, even if you were married, was what men were supposed to do no matter what? and that this was ok as long as you came back to your wife at the end of the road trip or whatever?

the flip side of all this is getting inside of don draper’s creative process, which seems to require that 1) he gets a new account 2) he can’t think of an idea 3) he needs to bed down some new conquest not his wife in a seedy motel 4) the plane ride back or in his office later, he suddenly and brilliantly spits out the ad idea of the century for the account.

i’d think it was a crock, except my brother in law is an ad guy and i’ve seen his creative side work like this (except for all the wild sex) (I’m joking, he actually made don draper look like a monk back in the day) (that would be the chiat day).

speaking of monk, he’s back, and they’ve announced it’s his final season. this is rare for a tv show to say “that’s all folks”.

so the question begins, how many episodes will they devote to solving trudy’s murder before they wrap it all up? It’s been what, seven, eight years, and Monk has one case, one huge case, he’s never solved–the case of his wife Trudy’s murder.

It has to be solved.

Finally, a word about Elvis. “kid creole” is actually a very fine movie. the early elvis movies, from before 1962, are pretty good, and even the vintage ones, from the 60s, have fine qualities about them.

–art kyriazis
philly home of the world champion phillies

This was an interesting move. Seldom in baseball do you see one Hall of Fame bound pitcher replace another in the starting rotation. Pedro Martinez and Jamie Moyer, between them, have won about 400 or 500 games in the major leagues; Moyer had already won 260 plus and was still pitching reasonably well this season at age 47 while Pedro Martinez had won nearly 200 games in a brilliant span of about fifteen years when he was nearly unhittable for the Expos and Red Sox during the late 90s and early 2000s.

Martinez in recent years has not been the same unhittable pitcher. His first year for the Mets went well, but after that he began to be injured, and showed signs of weakness on the mound for the first time, and the last three or four years have not been kind to the once invincible Martinez. But this past year he pitched well in the World Baseball Classic, and he seems ready once again to throw in the big leagues.

It’s an interesting move, since Moyer has been pretty much guaranteed money both in the regular season and in the post season for the phils since they obtained him three years ago. He won sixteen games last year and was very effective in 2007; more importantly, Moyer has been like a second pitching coach, teaching his crafty off speed stuff and wily changeups to the staff, like the late great Johnny Podres used to do with older Phillies staffs before him. Its true he’s slowed down a bit in the heat of August, but of course, with 47 year old pitchers, you’re sort of in unchartered territory. After all, last year, when he was 46, he pitched very well in the heat of August.

Brett Myers is also about ready to come back to the bigs in a couple of weeks, and starting September 1, the major league rosters expand to 40, so we might even see the likes of Kyle Drabek get a start or two. The Phillies, weak at starting pitcher all year, suddenly have an embarrassment of riches—Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Jamie Moyer, Pedro Martinez are all MVPs or Cy Young winners or big game pitchers who know how to win late in the season or in the post-season, and Joe Blanton and JA Happ have outstanding numbers this season, great strikeout to walk ratios, good WHIP numbers, and neither is allowing too many homers. Hamels’ numbers are also very good, even though fans and the media are complaining, Hamels is on track to strike out 150 batters, and his WHIP and homers allowed are pretty good. They’re just not what they were last year, but compared to an average starter, they’re excellent. And Lee has been phenomenal since arrival. So Lee, Happ, Hamels & Blanton all have great numbers. This move is all about the FIFTH starter. That’s kind of neat—having to fix your fifth starter. I bet the Mets wish they had that problem.

Happ is on pace to allow the fewest homers of any of the starters, and garner the most strikeouts per innings pitched. As I stated in a blog before the season started arguing for Happ to be named to the starting rotation, based on his minor league numbers (he struck out 125 and 150 batters in two seasons starting in AA and AAA), six foot six lefthanders don’t grow on trees. Happ may well be the rookie of the year and win ten games for the Phils. He may win fifteen next year.

Next year the Phils may have the luxury of a rotation with Happ, Blanton, Hamels, Lee Drabek or Myers, which would be a young and very good rotation. Moyer could continue out of the pen as a lefthanded specialist or move to pitching coach. Who knows? The Phils may even have Pedro back for another year.

One additional remark and that is on the Cliff Lee deal. This is GM Ruben Amaro’s first really big trade, and it was a brilliant one. First, because Amaro did not trade for Roy Halladay, who is 35 and his best years behind him, and the Blue Jays asking way too much. Second, because the Indians were asking a fair price for Lee, and the Phillies gave a fair amount for Lee. Third, because Lee is much younger than Halladay, and still in his prime; he won the Cy Young last year, not back in 2003, like Halladay.

If you examine Lee’s numbers, each year he’s been in the league, he’s allowed fewer home runs and fewer walks every year, culminating in his Cy Young year last year. Lee is an accurate thrower who simply throws strike after strike, low in the zone, without allowing homers. Last year he allowed only 10 or 12 homers all year, an impossibly low total in modern five run per game baseball, and very low for an American League pitcher. Halladay by constrast gives up 20 a year. Lee only walked approximately 30 or 35 batters last year while striking out 150 or more. That’s an amazing set of statistics for a starting pitcher.

Lee’s pinpoint control was abundantly on display his first two starts as a Phillie. His first start, a complete game shutout of the Giants, and his second start, in which he allowed only one run (not on a homer), demonstrated that he strikes out a lot of batters, walks few or none, and gives up no homers when he pitches. He also pitches deep into the game, the 7th, 8th or complete game.

Lee is, in short, the ideal starting pitcher. As if that is not enough, he can hit the ball and run the bases, and he’s modest, self-effacing, and farms and hunts in the off-season in his native Kentucky.

If this all sounds like Lee emerged full grown from a Damon Runyon story, I agree. He is too good to be true, but then again, the Phillies have always been blessed with characters who could play—like Aaron Rowand, Pete Rose, Lenny Dykstra, Steve Carlton, Tug McGraw, Cole Hamels—and Cliff Lee seems as if he was born to be a Phillie.

Pedro Martinez will look odd in a Phillies uniform, I’ll admit. But then again, Curt Schilling looked odd in a Red Sox uniform. And from what’s been printed in the various columns in the local news, Pedro’s been eating out at the local restaurants in Philly, so he seems to be enjoying himself here in town.

The Phillies are going to have a tough time in the playoffs this year when and if they clinch the division title. They’re looking at playing the Cubs or Cardinals, or the Giants in the first round, and the Dodgers Cubs or Cardinals in the second round, and all of those teams are loaded up with pitching and hitting. They will have to beat good pitchers like they did in 2008, when they beat CC Sabathia in the playoffs. They will need all of the arms they have acquired to win in the playoffs, and Pedro Martinez and Jamie Moyer, whether starting or in the bullpen, will be of great value in the playoffs come October.

–art kyriazis, Philly/South Jersey
home of the world champion phillies

The legendary Aaron Rowand, who went through the wall in 2007, in a game I personally attended in the spring of that momentous year with my two young sons, departed this great sports city after leading our Phils to our first division title in 2007.

Rowand signed a huge free agent deal with the Gianhts. In 2008, that looked bad, as the Phils won the world series, Victorino took Rowand’s place in the place of the hearts of phils fans, and the Giants limped to a very poor finish.

But 2009 is a different year. Rowand has led the Giants back from the grave. With Lincecum and other fine starters, and adding the agile Freddy Sanchez at 2b from the Pirates at the trading deadline, Rowand led his ballclub over the weekend to take 3 of 4 from the Phillies at SF.

The Giants have almost the same record as the Phils. The LA Dodgers are way ahead, but the Giants are in the wild card hunt, and may play the Phils in the playoffs. All weekend, Rowand was in the action, catching balls, scoring runs, hustling,and leading from the dugout.

This was the Aaron Rowand I remember, who won a world series in Chicago with the White Sox, and who led the Phils to overtake the Mets from 7 1/2 games down in September with 15 to play in fall 2007 to win the division.

He is a great leader. Aaron Rowand. Remember the name.

–art kyriazis, philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies

Well, the Phils are winning so far this season, and they are scoring more runs than they’ve allowed, and by quite a bit, and they are close to the division lead, after a bit of a slow start, but their Staff ERA is close to six, 5.72, and their best two pitchers of last year, Brad Lidge, and Cole Hamels, are both nursing injuries.

Cole Hamels, their staff ace, at last, is back, pitching no-hitter stuff recently against the Braves through four innings, and allowing only two runs on a weakly hit seeing eye single to right with two out and two on, and having another fine outing against the Dodgers.

I wrote here recently that I thought Lidge and Hamels should have the month off, or at least shouldn’t be overused in April, but Charlie Manuel insisted on using both early and often, and both had injuries that effectively gave them April off.

Now both are better, though Lidge still doesn’t seem right yet.

It might be the time to inject JA Happ into the starting rotation from time to time and occasionally play around with Blanton and Park depending on whether the team is facing a right-handed or left-handed team in the rotation, keep Lidge on the DL, use Madsen to close, use some other bullpen guys in setup roles to see what they have (better now than never) and bring up a couple of studs from the farm and see what they have.

Your team is averaging like seven runs a game. I think the kids will figure out a way to pitch well enough to win.

I suppose this is as good a time as any to point out that Raul Ibanez has made everyone forget Pat Burrell faster than anyone though humanly possible.

This again demonstrates the illusion of home parks. Ibanez has been hitting 20-30 homers a year in Seattle, a pitchers’ park. Coming to Citizens Bank Park, a hitter’s park it would be expected that his homer run rate would increase about 30% at home, and doggone it if he doesn’t have seven homers in April, which works out to a 42 homer pace for the year.

That’s about what I would have predicted. It also goes to show how much Pat Burrell’s statistics were padded by the park—I’m certain he won’t have the same numbers in Tampa Bay he had here, though he will walk a lot.

Also, Ibanez is a better HITTER than Burrell, in the sense that he hits for a far higher average and hits more doubles, singles and triples—he’s a latin American player and a contact hitter as opposed to Burrell, who waits deep on counts and misses the ball a whopping lot and fails to put it into play.

The two players could not be more different in their styles. Ibanez will not walk as much, but he’s off to a .340 hitting pace, and even if he hits his usual .290, his OBA will be as high as Burrell’s; if he hits 40 homers, 40 doubles and a mess of singles, his slugging average may be very high indeed. His new nickname, “Raul I-BOMB-NEZ” says it all.

Utley is off to his usual great start; Victory-no (yes) is doing very well; Howard is pounding the ball; Pedro Feliz is hitting and playing great third base; and Jayson Werth thinks he’s Albert Pujols. Even the bench players are hitting. J Ro is finally catching the flame.

Jayson Werth stealing 2d, 3d and home the other day was amazing.

The other interesting thing about the Phillies, is that even the national press and commentators are starting to talk about the Phillies “character,” and to compare the Mets unfavorably to the Phillies–in that the Mets don’t have “character,” that the Mets make mental mistakes, the Mets can’t come back late in ballgames, the Mets throw in the towel, the Mets make a lot of unprofessional errors, and so forth.

I find this interesting. I’ve thought for a long time the Mets had a lot of overpaid veterans who didn’t care about winning or losing, but no one was willing to say for the longest time that the emperor had no clothes; now suddenly, everyone is seeing the fact that the Phillies are winning with youth and enthusiasm and hustle, and not with established talent (although Howard Utley and Hamels are certainly talented) but that the Phillies also exemplify a certain STYLE of play–as in Werth stealing home–that the Mets just don’t have.

The Phillies are fun to watch because of this, win or lose, they’re never out of a ballgame. They never give up even down to the last out.

On the plus side as to pitching, Jamie Moyer is getting some good games in finally, Joe Blanton has been uneven but has pitched some good ball, Myers is finding his stride, and the bullpen continues to be very good except for occasional lapses (such as when it was 95 degrees the other night, no one was going to keep the ball in the park that night). Even Chan Ho Park has done better.

A note here: Chris Coste did not do a good job handling the pitching staff in April. It’s obvious the pitchers like Carlos Ruiz behind the plate much better. Also, Coste can’t hit anymore.

It’s time to look for a better backup catcher, one with both defensive and offensive skills, but if one had to choose, at least a backup catcher who can call a game.

The Chris Coste story was nice for a couple of seasons, but the fact is that Coste’s limitations contributed in part to the staff’s high ERA in April. It’s obvious that blanton, park and even hamels like ruiz back there, and are not comfortable with coste calling the game.

Right now, the phils are winning on hitting and scoring runs. Their pattern looks more like 2007 than 2008, but they won a division title slugging their way to the top that year.

So they can win a title this way. To win another world championship will require some pitching. It may be that they need to rest Hamels and Lidge, and maybe look for another starter at the trade deadline.

Art Kyriazis
Philly/South Jersey
Home of the world champion Philadelphia Phillies

So I guess we know now why Manny Ramirez was so irritated all the time at his teammates, why he was having anger management problems, why he wanted to leave Boston despite winning two world titles, and why he was depressed, moody and suicidally despondent at times despite being the best ballplayer in the AL at times—it was all because of the steroids.

And why he grew the longest dreadlocks this side of Jamaica-mon.

LA made him no happier and now we know why. There’s nothing really to say, except that when a right handed slugger defies statistical norms, fails to decline in age-related fashion the way every other player has for decades, and fails to regress to the mean the way every other player does, it’s either because a) he has the talent of a hank aaron or babe ruth, b) the laws of statistics and probability have failed us or c) he’s taking steroids to beat the odds.

In the cases of Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriquez and now Manny Ramirez, we know the answer to the statistical riddle of how it is they could do what no other ballplayers could do. The answer is, they took performance enhancing drugs. They cheated, and they cheated badly. They wanted to beat the house odds and beat father time.

I still think the pitchers who threw spitballs and scuffballs and vaseline balls should be treated the same; it’s the same sort of deal. But as all of this gets worse and worse, we are left with fewer and fewer heroes. Even Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker gambled on baseball, but somehow they were set free.

And a voice in the distance, ever so faint, cries out more loudly;

FREE PETE ROSE!
FREE PETE ROSE!
FREE PETE ROSE!
FREE PETE ROSE!
FREE PETE ROSE!
FREE PETE ROSE!
FREE PETE ROSE!
FREE PETE ROSE!

And what the heck, Shoeless Joe and the Black Sox as well…

Art Kyriazis
Philly/South Jersey
Home of the Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies are very early on in their season, but already the Bullpen is a huge strength for them.

On Saturday, Brett Myers gave them seven innings, giving up a few solo homers and around four runs, but the pen shut down Colorado the rest of the way, and Madsen and Lidge were again perfect as the Phillies won 8-4 after initially being behind 2-0.

People who think Brett Myers should be better than this have a fundamental misunderstanding about Brett Myers. Brett Myers’ career statistics are, that he will strike out about as many hitters as he pitches innings; that he will give up about 30 homers a year; and his ERA adjusted will be around 3.99, or around 4.00. On Saturday, he struck out 6, walked one, gave up four hits, three homers, but threw 66 strikes out of 102 pitches. In Coors Field, that was a GREAT pitching performance.

Considering how great the Phillies offense and bullpen is, that’s good enough to win. Any starter for the Phillies who gives them six or more innings and holds the other team to four or fewer runs is doing enough for the phils to win–last year they averaged better than five runs a game, scoring almost 900 runs.

On Sunday, Chan Ho Park, who I wrote in this blog should not be starting (I said it should be JA Happ) gave up five runs in less than four innings, and had to be pulled early. That was NOT a good enough starting job. I do not believe Park has what it takes to be a starter anymore.

However, the Phils bullpen, and Chad Durbin in particular, came up huge and shut down the Rockies completely–Durbin, Eyre, Condrey, Madsen (who picked up the win) and Lidge (who picked up yet another save) did not allow a run through almost six full innings, shutting the Rockies down as the Phillies mounted a seven run comeback capped off by Utley’s two run shot in the 8th and Stair’s pinch-hit two run bomb in the 9th to win the game.

At this point, with Cole Hamels basically only lobbing the ball and about to go on the shelf, Joe Blanton yet to pitch a decent game, Jamie Moyer having thrown a horrible first game, Chan Ho Park having pitched dreadfully, the Phillies still find themselves 3-3, and having won one series after losing the first.

Moreover, they got to Atlanta’s bullpen to win a big third game against Atlanta; and they destroyed Colorado’s bullpen in successive games.

In the meantime, the Phillies’ own bullpen didn’t allow any runs to either Atlanta or Colorado during those three comeback wins.

If you think about this, it’s a HUGE advantage to know that three innings into a game, even if you’re five runs down, your bullpen can come in and hold the other team at bay, and still give you a chance to come back and win.

It basically means, the Phillies are never out of any game, unless the other team scores like ten runs–and even then they’re not out of it, as they showed against Atlanta, coming back to score twelve runs to win.

The Phillies are currently 7th in the NL in runs scored–but 14th in runs allowed. Last year they were 3d in the NL in both categories.

They need to do basically two or three things to get everything turned around for April.

1) Sit Cole Hamels down for all of April. Give him the month off. Let him go to Reading or Allentown and work on getting his speed up to major league level. After all, he worked an extra month last year. The man earned a month off.

2) Let JA Happ into the rotation. The man is a strikeout machine waiting to start. Six foot six lefthanders should not be in the bullpen. He’s currently sitting on a .700 WHIP and a 3/1 strikeout to walk ratio. The man can pitch.

3) It’s ok for Chan Ho Park to be the 5th starter in April, because you can skip a lot of his starts due to the schedule and off days. Happ should be the 4th starter. Or you can vary it up depending on whether the team you’re facing has a lot of lefties (start Happ) or a lot of righties (start Park). If you’re on the west coast, it’s ok to start Park, he’s effective in Dodger Stadium, the Padres’ Park or the Giants’ Park.

4) Everyone of the Phillies is off to a hot offensive start, except for Jimmy Rollins, who is off to a very slow start. I would consider resting him and giving him a day off, and starting Bruntlett. Rollins is another guy who played an extra month last year, and then played in the World Baseball Classic. Rollins looks tired, and is not hitting like Jimmy Rollins. Rollins right now has an OPS of under .300, which is pathetic, and he looked like he was late on a lot of pitches on Sunday, fouling them off to left or popping them up, instead of pulling them to right as he customarily does. If the Phils are facing any lefties, start Bruntlett, and give Rollins a day off from time to time, and a day off once a week until he’s rested again. The man was the MVP in the league in 2007, but he’s not indestructible.

5) Chase Utley and Jayson Werth now have OPS over 1.000, and Utley at 1.275. They are on fire. Ryan Howard is hitting over .300 and OPS of .843, and had a huge bases loaded double over the weekend that just missed being a grand slam. Most important, Pedro Felize looks GREAT at the plate–he’s hitting .368, with an OBA of .435 and a Slugging Average of .526, for an OPS of .926–he’s off to a terrific start.

6) Pedro Feliz FEEDS off the lefties that teams are throwing at the Phils, and has turned into a very productive hitter. He’s learned to relax and stroke the ball up the middle or to left, and occasionally jerk the ball into the left field seats. He’s a confident, experienced hitter and a terrific glove man. The Phillies have themselves an excellent third baseman.

7) Chris Coste is NOT off to a good start. I’d like to see the Phils give their rookie catcher up from Allentown a start or two to see what he can do, although what they really need is Carlos Ruiz back.

8) They might need to look around for another backup catcher. Coste was a 34 year old rookie. He may be showing signs of age related decline, or he might just be off to a slow start.

In any event, to summarize, the Phils I thought had a good week. And they get to go to the White House tomorrow to be congratulated!

World Champions!

–art kyriazis
Philly/NJ
Home of the World Champion Phillies

I wanted to wish a Happy Easter and a Happy Passover to all.

There’s an old joke, that goes something like this. A liberal is arguing with a conservative about the death penalty. Finally, exasperated, the conservative says to the liberal, “of course I’m in favor of the death penalty–without the death penalty, there’d be no Easter and no Easter Bunny!”

While this is an awful joke, it does remain true that in the two major capital punishment trials that we know about in history, Socrates and Jesus, as best we know, both were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death. I won’t even get to the OJ trial, although as we all know, the glove didn’t fit and they had to acquit.

Obviously Socrates and Jesus could have used Johnny Cochran as their lawyer.

Socrates on dying, was reputed to have said something like, I die, you live, god knows who is going to the better place. Those of us who are religious of course believe that death brings us closer to a better place indeed, but Socrates provides a flash of insight that this short life is not the only one, that there is a spiritual and inner life that transcends death. Religion ministers to the soul, or at least to our conception of the soul, and consequently it is a vital part of our lives.

The Passover story about Moses leading the chosen people out of bondage and out of Egypt is a great story, as well as being an integral part of the old testament. “Exodus” is actually ancient greek for “Exothos” or “Exit” or “Leaving”. It’s the title of the book from the Ancient Greek Septuagint. The entire point of Exodus is the story of the Chosen People Leaving, “Exothos”, from Egypt and their bondage. God frees them from slavery and bondage through Moses and a series of miracles, each one greater than the last, which are celebrated each and every Passover.

It is such an important story because it gives hope to every oppressed peoples that God will redeem every one in bondage, free them and lead them to their own Promised Land. When Martin Luther King spoke of reaching the Promised Land, it was the Passover Story he was referring to. He didn’t need to explain that to his listeners, many of whom were careful Bible readers. The African-Americans of this country understood about bondage, redemption, and being led out of bondage and to the Promised Land.

On this Passover, we should think about these matters in considering President Obama, a man who has the potential to unite many different elements of society, and perhaps finally lead a people to the Promised Land. All oppressed peoples the world over hearken to the story of Exodus.

I’ve always had a strong faith in God and I don’t doubt God’s existence. Recently there’s been a spate of books and articles by respected scholars advocating atheism and the non-existence of God. I find this to be an awful waste of scholarly time, and especially of taxpayer and endowment money. Isn’t there something important these guys should be doing on our nickel?

Richard Dawkins, who once wrote a book called “The Selfish Gene,” is one of these. He used to teach at Harvard, now teaches in England, and appears to enjoy bashing God and religion in his books. Dawkins used to be a capable biologist. In his old age, he’s turned into a menacing crank who hates old ladies who go to church and pray to the saints and God for the memories of their dead husbands.

How mean can you possible get?

You might call him “The Selfish Dean” because he really seems only to care about himself. Is this what tenure breeds? Idiotic books about atheism? Pushed on us by editors and publishing houses?

Belief in God is a personal matter, but it also means a commitment to others, and to doing things for others, without considering the personal benefit to yourself. Sitting around the table at Easter, at Seder, at any family gathering, we give thanks to our creator and Lord for family, for health, for happiness. I can’t imagine a life without God or without prayer, a life without church or without friends from church or the church community.

I’ve looked at Dawkins’ books on atheism. They are poorly written, poorly argued, and basically are rants.

It’s not a careful argument.

A careful argument, for example, would be Aquinas’ Summa Contra Gentiles, or Martin Luther’s 95 Theses against the Catholic Church, or John Calvin’s immense work of theology criticizing the Roman Catholic Church and setting forth the tenets of Calvinism.

Those are careful and thoughtful books, which make their cases carefully, point by point.

Dawkins’ books by contrast are awful and poorly researched and poorly written. It’s embarassing to see a professor publish such awful work. Especially when he was able while younger to write such a good book on biology as “The Selfish Gene.” It’s readily apparent Dawkins’ writing and intellectual skills have sharply declined with age.

But assuming that Dawkins (and any of these other atheists) has/have any rational or reasonable points to make, I’d like to refute them with Pascal’s Wager, for one. I think Dawkins is already refuted by the Transcendental a priori arguments of Kant for God’s existence, but Blaise Pascal made a classic probability argument which is, in fact, irrefutable on mathematical and utility grounds, for God’s existence.

Pascal said you should believe in God, because if you did, even if there was only a 1 in a million chance of his existence, the benefits would be eternal salvation, whereas if you denied Him, the possible harm would be eternal damnation.

Consequently, it’s a lot like the nuclear calculus–the benefits are so great, that even if there’s only a slight chance of God existing, it’s worth going all in on God. If you win, you get eternal salvation forever. (the nukes argument goes like, if there’s a one in a million chance of starting World War III, the harm is so great, you have to avoid it, because it’s nuclear winter and the death of mankind, so the policy can’t be adopted).

If you lose the wager, you burn in hell forever. I kind of envision Dawkins burning in a really hot part of hell, by the way. The part where they keep Bernie Madoff, child molesters, child molesting catholic priests and every single convicted defendant whose story was the real basis for the plot line of a LAW AND ORDER:SVU episode. Those stories are really pretty awful. This is a digression, but it’s hard to believe that’s Jayne Mansfield’s daughter in that show, by the way. Mariska Hargitay, emmy winning actress, now approximately in her mid-40s, and still very beautiful, is the daughter of Mickey Hargitay (a former Mr. Universe) and Jayne Mansfield, the 1950s starlet/sex bomb. I think you’d have to say that Mariska Hargitay has really had a solid acting career.

As for all of those who doubt God’s existence or lack faith in God, I give you an extended discusion of Pascal’s Wager from the Stanford Encylopaedia of Philosophy.

Pascal’s Wager
By Alan Hajek, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

“Pascal’s Wager” is the name given to an argument due to Blaise Pascal for believing, or for at least taking steps to believe, in God. The name is somewhat misleading, for in a single paragraph of his Pensées, Pascal apparently presents at least three such arguments, each of which might be called a ‘wager’ — it is only the final of these that is traditionally referred to as “Pascal’s Wager”. We find in it the extraordinary confluence of several strands in intellectual thought: the justification of theism; probability theory and decision theory, used here for almost the first time in history; pragmatism; voluntarism (the thesis that belief is a matter of the will); and the use of the concept of infinity.

We will begin with some brief stage-setting: some historical background, some of the basics of decision theory, and some of the exegetical problems that the Pensées pose. Then we will follow the text to extract three main arguments. The bulk of the literature addresses the third of these arguments, as will the bulk of our discussion here. Some of the more technical and scholarly aspects of our discussion will be relegated to lengthy footnotes, to which there are links for the interested reader. All quotations are from §233 of Pensées (1910, Trotter translation), the ‘thought’ whose heading is “Infinite—nothing”.
• 1. Background
• 2. The Argument from Superdominance
• 3. The Argument from Expectation
• 4. The Argument from Generalized Expectations: “Pascal’s Wager”
• 5. Objections to Pascal’s Wager
• Bibliography
• Other Internet Resources
• Related Entries

1. Background
It is important to contrast Pascal’s argument with various putative ‘proofs’ of the existence of God that had come before it. Anselm’s ontological argument, Aquinas’ ‘five ways’, Descartes’ ontological and cosmological arguments, and so on, purport to give a priori demonstrations that God exists. Pascal is apparently unimpressed by such attempted justifications of theism: “Endeavour … to convince yourself, not by increase of proofs of God…” Indeed, he concedes that “we do not know if He is …”. Pascal’s project, then, is radically different: he seeks to provide prudential reasons for believing in God. To put it crudely, we should wager that God exists because it is the best bet. Ryan 1994 finds precursors to this line of reasoning in the writings of Plato, Arnobius, Lactantius, and others; we might add Ghazali to his list — see Palacios 1920. But what is distinctive is Pascal’s explicitly decision theoretic formulation of the reasoning. In fact, Hacking 1975 describes the Wager as “the first well-understood contribution to decision theory” (viii). Thus, we should pause briefly to review some of the basics of that theory.

In any decision problem, the way the world is, and what an agent does, together determine an outcome for the agent. We may assign utilities to such outcomes, numbers that represent the degree to which the agent values them. It is typical to present these numbers in a decision matrix, with the columns corresponding to the various relevant states of the world, and the rows corresponding to the various possible actions that the agent can perform.

In decisions under uncertainty, nothing more is given — in particular, the agent does not assign subjective probabilities to the states of the world. Still, sometimes rationality dictates a unique decision nonetheless. Consider, for example, a case that will be particularly relevant here. Suppose that you have two possible actions, A1 and A2, and the worst outcome associated with A1 is at least as good as the best outcome associated with A2; suppose also that in at least one state of the world, A1’s outcome is strictly better than A2’s. Let us say in that case that A1 superdominates A2. Then rationality surely requires you to perform A1.

In decisions under risk, the agent assigns subjective probabilities to the various states of the world. Assume that the states of the world are independent of what the agent does. A figure of merit called the expected utility, or the expectation of a given action can be calculated by a simple formula: for each state, multiply the utility that the action produces in that state by the state’s probability; then, add these numbers. According to decision theory, rationality requires you to perform the action of maximum expected utility (if there is one).

Example. Suppose that the utility of money is linear in number of dollars: you value money at exactly its face value. Suppose that you have the option of paying a dollar to play a game in which there is an equal chance of returning nothing, and returning three dollars. The expectation of the game itself is

0*(1/2) + 3*(1/2) = 1.5,

so the expectation of paying a dollar for certain, then playing, is

-1 + 1.5 = 0.5.

This exceeds the expectation of not playing (namely 0), so you should play. On the other hand, if the game gave an equal chance of returning nothing, and returning two dollars, then its expectation would be:

0*(1/2) + 2*(1/2) = 1.

Then consistent with decision theory, you could either pay the dollar to play, or refuse to

play, for either way your overall expectation would be 0.

Considerations such as these will play a crucial role in Pascal’s arguments. It should be admitted that there are certain exegetical problems in presenting these arguments. Pascal never finished the Pensées, but rather left them in the form of notes of various sizes pinned together. Hacking 1972 describes the “Infinite—nothing” as consisting of “two pieces of paper covered on both sides by handwriting going in all directions, full of erasures, corrections, insertions, and afterthoughts” (24).[1] This may explain why certain passages are notoriously difficult to interpret, as we will see. Furthermore, our formulation of the arguments in the parlance of modern Bayesian decision theory might appear somewhat anachronistic. For example, Pascal did not distinguish between what we would now call objective and subjective probability, although it is clear that it is the latter that is relevant to his arguments. To some extent, “Pascal’s Wager” now has a life of its own, and our presentation of it here is perfectly standard. Still, we will closely follow Pascal’s text, supporting our reading of his arguments as much as possible.

There is the further problem of dividing the Infinite-nothing into separate arguments. We will locate three arguments that each conclude that rationality requires you to wager for God, although they interleave in the text.[2] Finally, there is some disagreement over just what “wagering for God” involves — is it believing in God, or merely trying to? We will conclude with a discussion of what Pascal meant by this.

2. The Argument from Superdominance
Pascal maintains that we are incapable of knowing whether God exists or not, yet we must “wager” one way or the other. Reason cannot settle which way we should incline, but a consideration of the relevant outcomes supposedly can. Here is the first key passage:

“God is, or He is not.”

But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up… Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, you knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose… But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is… If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.

There are exegetical problems already here, partly because Pascal appears to contradict himself. He speaks of “the true” as something that you can “lose”, and “error” as something “to shun”. Yet he goes on to claim that if you lose the wager that God is, then “you lose nothing”. Surely in that case you “lose the true”, which is just to say that you have made an error. Pascal believes, of course, that the existence of God is “the true” — but that is not something that he can appeal to in this argument. Moreover, it is not because “you must of necessity choose” that “your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other”. Rather, by Pascal’s own account, it is because “[r]eason can decide nothing here”. (If it could, then it might well be shocked — namely, if you chose in a way contrary to it.)

Following McClennen 1994, Pascal’s argument seems to be best captured as presenting the following decision matrix:
God exists God does not exist
Wager for God Gain all Status quo
Wager against God Misery Status quo

Wagering for God superdominates wagering against God: the worst outcome associated with wagering for God (status quo) is at least as good as the best outcome associated with wagering against God (status quo); and if God exists, the result of wagering for God is strictly better that the result of wagering against God.

(The fact that the result is much better does not matter yet.) Pascal draws the conclusion at this point that rationality requires you to wager for God.

Without any assumption about your probability assignment to God’s existence, the argument is invalid. Rationality does not require you to wager for God if you assign probability 0 to God existing. And Pascal does not explicitly rule this possibility out until a later passage, when he assumes that you assign positive probability to God’s existence; yet this argument is presented as if it is self-contained. His claim that “[r]eason can decide nothing here” may suggest that Pascal regards this as a decision under uncertainty, which is to assume that you do not assign probability at all to God’s existence. If that is a further premise, then the argument is valid; but that premise contradicts his subsequent assumption that you assign positive probability. See McClennen for a reading of this argument as a decision under uncertainty.

Pascal appears to be aware of a further objection to this argument, for he immediately imagines an opponent replying:

“That is very fine. Yes, I must wager; but I may perhaps wager too much.”

The thought seems to be that if I wager for God, and God does not exist, then I really do lose something. In fact, Pascal himself speaks of staking something when one wagers for God, which presumably one loses if God does not exist. (We have already mentioned ‘the true’ as one such thing; Pascal also seems to regard one’s worldly life as another.) In other words, the matrix is mistaken in presenting the two outcomes under ‘God does not exist’ as if they were the same, and we do not have a case of superdominance after all.
Pascal addresses this at once in his second argument, which we will discuss only briefly, as it can be thought of as just a prelude to the main argument.

3. The Argument From Expectation
He continues:

Let us see. Since there is an equal risk of gain and of loss, if you had only to gain two lives, instead of one, you might still wager. But if there were three lives to gain, you would have to play (since you are under the necessity of playing), and you would be imprudent, when you are forced to play, not to chance your life to gain three at a game where there is an equal risk of loss and gain. But there is an eternity of life and happiness.

His hypothetically speaking of “two lives” and “three lives” may strike one as odd. It is helpful to bear in mind Pascal’s interest in gambling (which after all provided the initial motivation for his study of probability) and to take the gambling model quite seriously here. Recall our calculation of the expectations of the two dollar and three dollar gambles. Pascal apparently assumes now that utility is linear in number of lives, that wagering for God costs “one life”, and then reasons analogously to the way we did! This is, as it were, a warm-up. Since wagering for God is rationally required even in the hypothetical case in which one of the prizes is three lives, then all the more it is rationally required in the actual case, in which one of the prizes is eternal life (salvation).

So Pascal has now made two striking assumptions:

(1) The probability of God’s existence is 1/2.

(2) Wagering for God brings infinite reward if God exists.

Morris 1994 is sympathetic to (1), while Hacking 1972 finds it “a monstrous premiss”. It apparently derives from the classical interpretation of probability, according to which all possibilities are given equal weight. Of course, unless more is said, the interpretation yields implausible, and even contradictory results. (You have a one-in-a-million chance of winning the lottery; but either you win the lottery or you don’t, so each of these possibilities has probability 1/2?!) Pascal’s best argument for (1) is presumably that “[r]eason can decide nothing here”. (In the lottery ticket case, reason can decide something.) But it is not clear that complete ignorance should be modeled as sharp indifference. In any case, it is clear that there are people in Pascal’s audience who do not assign probability 1/2 to God’s existence. This argument, then, does not speak to them.
However, Pascal realizes that the value of 1/2 actually plays no real role in the argument, thanks to (2). This brings us to the third, and by far the most important, of his arguments.

4. The Argument From Generalized Expectations: “Pascal’s Wager”
We continue the quotation.

But there is an eternity of life and happiness. And this being so, if there were an infinity of chances, of which one only would be for you, you would still be right in wagering one to win two, and you would act stupidly, being obliged to play, by refusing to stake one life against three at a game in which out of an infinity of chances there is one for you, if there were an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain. But there is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. It is all divided; wherever the infinite is and there is not an infinity of chances of loss against that of gain, there is no time to hesitate, you must give all…

Again this passage is difficult to understand completely. Pascal’s talk of winning two, or three, lives is at best misleading. By his own decision theoretic lights, you would not act stupidly “by refusing to stake one life against three at a game in which out of an infinity of chances there is one for you”—in fact, you should not stake more than an infinitesimal amount in that case (an amount that is bigger than 0, but smaller than every positive real number). The point, rather, is that the prospective prize is “an infinity of an infinitely happy life”.

In short, if God exists, then wagering for God results in infinite utility.

What about the utilities for the other possible outcomes? There is some dispute over the utility of “misery”. Hacking interprets this as “damnation”, and Pascal does later speak of “hell” as the outcome in this case. Martin 1983 among others assigns this a value of negative infinity. Sobel 1996, on the other hand, is one author who takes this value to be finite. There is some textual support for this reading: “The justice of God must be vast like His compassion. Now justice to the outcast is less vast … than mercy towards the elect”.

As for the utilities of the outcomes associated with God’s non-existence, Pascal tells us that “what you stake is finite”. This suggests that whatever these values are, they are finite.
Pascal’s guiding insight is that the argument from expectation goes through equally well whatever your probability for God’s existence is, provided that it is non-zero and finite (non-infinitesimal) — “a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss”.[3]

With Pascal’s assumptions about utilities and probabilities in place, he is now in a position to calculate the relevant expectations. He explains how the calculations should proceed:
… the uncertainty of the gain is proportioned to the certainty of the stake according to the proportion of the chances of gain and loss… [4]

Let us now gather together all of these points into a single argument. We can think of Pascal’s Wager as having three premises: the first concerns the decision matrix of rewards, the second concerns the probability that you should give to God’s existence, and the third is a maxim about rational decision-making. Specifically:
1. Either God exists or God does not exist, and you can either wager for God or wager against God. The utilities of the relevant possible outcomes are as follows, where f1, f2, and f3 are numbers whose values are not specified beyond the requirement that they be finite:

God exists God does not exist
Wager for God ∞ f1
Wager against God f2 f3

2. Rationality requires the probability that you assign to God existing to be positive, and not infinitesimal.

3. Rationality requires you to perform the act of maximum expected utility (when there is one).

4. Conclusion 1. Rationality requires you to wager for God.

5. Conclusion 2. You should wager for God.

We have a decision under risk, with probabilities assigned to the relevant ways the world could be, and utilities assigned to the relevant outcomes. The conclusion seems straightforwardly to follow from the usual calculations of expected utility (where p is your positive, non-infinitesimal probability for God’s existence):

E(wager for God) = ∞*p + f1*(1 − p) = ∞

That is, your expected utility of belief in God is infinite — as Pascal puts it, “our proposition is of infinite force”. On the other hand, your expected utility of wagering against God is

E(wager against God) = f2*p + f3*(1 − p)

This is finite.[5] By premise 3, rationality requires you to perform the act of maximum expected utility.

Therefore, rationality requires you to wager for God.

We now survey some of the main objections to the argument.

5. Objections to Pascal’s Wager
Premise 1: The Decision Matrix
Here the objections are manifold. Most of them can be stated quickly, but we will give special attention to what has generally been regarded as the most important of them, ‘the many Gods objection’ (see also the link to footnote 7).

1. Different matrices for different people.
The argument assumes that the same decision matrix applies to everybody. However, perhaps the relevant rewards are different for different people. Perhaps, for example, there is a predestined infinite reward for the Chosen, whatever they do, and finite utility for the rest, as Mackie 1982 suggests. Or maybe the prospect of salvation appeals more to some people than to others, as Swinburne 1969 has noted.
Even granting that a single 2 x 2 matrix applies to everybody, one might dispute the values that enter into it. This brings us to the next two objections.

2. The utility of salvation could not be infinite.
One might argue that the very notion of infinite utility is suspect — see for example Jeffrey 1983 and McClennen 1994.[6] Hence, the objection continues, whatever the utility of salvation might be, it must be finite. Strict finitists, who are chary of the notion of infinity in general, will agree — see Dummett 1978 and Wright 1987. Or perhaps the notion of infinite utility makes sense, but an infinite reward could only be finitely appreciated by a human being.

3. There should be more than one infinity in the matrix.
There are also critics of the Wager who, far from objecting to infinite utilities, want to see more of them in the matrix. For example, it might be thought that a forgiving God would bestow infinite utility upon wagerers-for and wagerers-against alike — Rescher 1985 is one author who entertains this possibility. Or it might be thought that, on the contrary, wagering against an existent God results in negative infinite utility. (As we have noted, some authors read Pascal himself as saying as much.) Either way, f2 is not really finite at all, but ∞ or -∞ as the case may be. And perhaps f1 and f3 could be ∞ or -∞. Suppose, for instance, that God does not exist, but that we are reincarnated ad infinitum, and that the total utility we receive is an infinite sum that does not converge.

4. The matrix should have more rows.
Perhaps there is more than one way to wager for God, and the rewards that God bestows vary accordingly. For instance, God might not reward infinitely those who strive to believe in Him only for the very mercenary reasons that Pascal gives, as James 1956 has observed. One could also imagine distinguishing belief based on faith from belief based on evidential reasons, and posit different rewards in each case.

6. The matrix should have more columns: the many Gods objection.
If Pascal is really right that reason can decide nothing here, then it would seem that various other theistic hypotheses are also live options. Pascal presumably had in mind the Catholic conception of God — let us suppose that this is the God who either ‘exists’ or ‘does not exist’. By excluded middle, this is a partition. The objection, then, is that the partition is not sufficiently fine-grained, and the ‘(Catholic) God does not exist’ column really subdivides into various other theistic hypotheses. The objection could equally run that Pascal’s argument ‘proves too much’: by parallel reasoning we can ‘show’ that rationality requires believing in various incompatible theistic hypotheses. As Diderot 1875-77 puts the point: “An Imam could reason just as well this way”.[7]

Since then, the point has been represented and refined in various ways. Mackie 1982 writes, “the church within which alone salvation is to be found is not necessarily the Church of Rome, but perhaps that of the Anabaptists or the Mormons or the Muslim Sunnis or the worshippers of Kali or of Odin” (203). Cargile 1966 shows just how easy it is to multiply theistic hypotheses: for each real number x, consider the God who prefers contemplating x more than any other activity. It seems, then, that such ‘alternative gods’ are a dime a dozen — or aleph one, for that matter.

Premise 2: The Probability Assigned to God’s Existence
There are four sorts of problem for this premise. The first two are straightforward; the second two are more technical, and can be found by following the link to footnote 8.
1. Undefined probability for God’s existence. Premise 1 presupposes that you should have a probability for God’s existence in the first place. However, perhaps you could rationally fail to assign it a probability — your probability that God exists could remain undefined. We cannot enter here into the thorny issues concerning the attribution of probabilities to agents. But there is some support for this response even in Pascal’s own text, again at the pivotal claim that “[r]eason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up…” The thought could be that any probability assignment is inconsistent with a state of “epistemic nullity” (in Morris’ 1986 phrase): to assign a probability at all — even 1/2 — to God’s existence is to feign having evidence that one in fact totally lacks. For unlike a coin that we know to be fair, this metaphorical ‘coin’ is ‘infinitely far’ from us, hence apparently completely unknown to us. Perhaps, then, rationality actually requires us to refrain from assigning a probability to God’s existence (in which case at least the Argument from Superdominance would be valid). Or perhaps rationality does not require it, but at least permits it. Either way, the Wager would not even get off the ground.

2. Zero probability for God’s existence. Strict atheists may insist on the rationality of a probability assignment of 0, as Oppy 1990 among others points out. For example, they may contend that reason alone can settle that God does not exist, perhaps by arguing that the very notion of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent being is contradictory. Or a Bayesian might hold that rationality places no constraint on probabilistic judgments beyond coherence (or conformity to the probability calculus). Then as long as the strict atheist assigns probability 1 to God’s non-existence alongside his or her assignment of 0 to God’s existence, no norm of rationality has been violated.
Furthermore, an assignment of p = 0 would clearly block the route to Pascal’s conclusion. For then the expectation calculations become:

E(wager for God) = ∞*0 + f1*(1 − 0) = f1

E(wager against God) = f2*0 + f3*(1 − 0) = f3

And nothing in the argument implies that f1 > f3. (Indeed, this inequality is questionable, as even Pascal seems to allow.) In short, Pascal’s wager has no pull on strict atheists.[8]

Premise 3: Rationality Requires Maximizing Expected Etility
Finally, one could question Pascal’s decision theoretic assumption that rationality requires one to perform the act of maximum expected utility (when there is one). Now perhaps this is an analytic truth, in which case we could grant it to Pascal without further discussion — perhaps it is constitutive of rationality to maximize expectation, as some might say. But this premise has met serious objections. The Allais 1953 and Ellsberg 1961 paradoxes, for example, are said to show that maximizing expectation can lead one to perform intuitively sub-optimal actions. So too the St. Petersburg paradox, in which it is supposedly absurd that one should be prepared to pay any finite amount to play a game with infinite expectation. (That paradox is particularly apposite here.)[9]

Finally, one might distinguish between practical rationality and theoretical rationality. One could then concede that practical rationality requires you to maximize expected utility, while insisting that theoretical rationality might require something else of you — say, proportioning belief to the amount of evidence available. This objection is especially relevant, since Pascal admits that perhaps you “must renounce reason” in order to follow his advice. But when these two sides of rationality pull in opposite directions, as they apparently can here, it is not obvious that practical rationality should take precedence. (For a discussion of pragmatic, as opposed to theoretical, reasons for belief, see Foley 1994.)

Is the Argument Valid?

A number of authors who have been otherwise critical of the Wager have explicitly conceded that the Wager is valid — e.g. Mackie 1982, Rescher 1985, Mougin and Sober 1994, and most emphatically, Hacking 1972. That is, these authors agree with Pascal that wagering for God really is rationally mandated by Pascal’s decision matrix in tandem with positive probability for God’s existence, and the decision theoretic account of rational action.

However, Duff 1986 and Hájek 2001 argue that the argument is in fact invalid. Their point is that there are strategies besides wagering for God that also have infinite expectation — namely, mixed strategies, whereby you do not wager for or against God outright, but rather choose which of these actions to perform on the basis of the outcome of some chance device. Consider the mixed strategy: “Toss a fair coin: heads, you wager for God; tails, you wager against God”. By Pascal’s lights, with probability 1/2 your expectation will be infinite, and with probability 1/2 it will be finite. The expectation of the entire strategy is:

1/2*∞ + 1/2[f2*p + f3*(1 − p)] = ∞

That is, the ‘coin toss’ strategy has the same expectation as outright wagering for God. But the probability 1/2 was incidental to the result. Any mixed strategy that gives positive and finite probability to wagering for God will likewise have infinite expectation: “wager for God iff a fair die lands 6”, “wager for God iff your lottery ticket wins”, “wager for God iff a meteor quantum tunnels its way through the side of your house”, and so on.

The problem is still worse than this, though, for there is a sense in which anything that you do might be regarded as a mixed strategy between wagering for God, and wagering against God, with suitable probability weights given to each. Suppose that you choose to ignore the Wager, and to go and have a hamburger instead. Still, you may well assign positive and finite probability to your winding up wagering for God nonetheless; and this probability multiplied by infinity again gives infinity. So ignoring the Wager and having a hamburger has the same expectation as outright wagering for God. Even worse, suppose that you focus all your energy into avoiding belief in God. Still, you may well assign positive and finite probability to your efforts failing, with the result that you wager for God nonetheless. In that case again, your expectation is infinite again. So even if rationality requires you to perform the act of maximum expected utility when there is one, here there isn’t one. Rather, there is a many-way tie for first place, as it were.[10]

Moral Objections to Wagering for God

Let us grant Pascal’s conclusion for the sake of the argument: rationality requires you to wager for God. It still does not obviously follow that you should wager for God. All that we have granted is that one norm — the norm of rationality — prescribes wagering for God. For all that has been said, some other norm might prescribe wagering against God. And unless we can show that the rationality norm trumps the others, we have not settled what we should actually do.

There are several arguments to the effect that morality requires you to wager against God. Pascal himself appears to be aware of one such argument. He admits that if you do not believe in God, his recommended course of action will “deaden your acuteness.” One way of putting the argument is that wagering for God may require you to corrupt yourself, thus violating a Kantian duty to yourself. Clifford 1986 argues that an individual’s believing something on insufficient evidence harms society by promoting credulity. Penelhum 1971 contends that the putative divine plan is itself immoral, condemning as it does honest non-believers to loss of eternal happiness, when such unbelief is in no way culpable; and that to adopt the relevant belief is to be complicit to this immoral plan. See Quinn 1994 for replies to these arguments. For example, against Penelhum he argues that as long as God treats non-believers justly, there is nothing immoral about him bestowing special favor on believers, more perhaps than they deserve. (Note, however, that Pascal leaves open in the Wager whether the payoff for non-believers is just, even though as far as his argument goes, it may be extremely poor.)

Finally, Voltaire protests that there is something unseemly about the whole Wager. He suggests that Pascal’s calculations, and his appeal to self-interest, are unworthy of the gravity of the subject of theistic belief. This does not so much support wagering against God, as dismissing all talk of ‘wagerings’ altogether.

What Does It Mean to “Wager for God”?

Let us now grant Pascal that, all things considered (rationality and morality included), you should wager for God. What exactly does this involve?

A number of authors read Pascal as arguing that you should believe in God — see e.g. Quinn 1994, and Jordan 1994a. But perhaps one cannot simply believe in God at will; and rationality cannot require the impossible. Pascal is well aware of this objection: “[I] am so made that I cannot believe. What, then, would you have me do?”, says his imaginary interlocutor. However, he contends that one can take steps to cultivate such belief:

You would like to attain faith, and do not know the way; you would like to cure yourself of unbelief, and ask the remedy for it. Learn of those who have been bound like you, and who now stake all their possessions. These are people who know the way which you would follow, and who are cured of an ill of which you would be cured. Follow the way by which they began; by acting as if they believed, taking the holy water, having masses said, etc…

But to show you that this leads you there, it is this which will lessen the passions, which are your stumbling-blocks.

We find two main pieces of advice to the non-believer here: act like a believer, and suppress those passions that are obstacles to becoming a believer. And these are actions that one can perform at will.
Believing in God is presumably one way to wager for God. This passage suggests that even the non-believer can wager for God, by striving to become a believer. Critics may question the psychology of belief formation that Pascal presupposes, pointing out that one could strive to believe (perhaps by following exactly Pascal’s prescription), yet fail. To this, a follower of Pascal might reply that the act of genuine striving already displays a pureness of heart that God would fully reward; or even that genuine striving in this case is itself a form of believing.

Pascal’s Wager vies with Anselm’s Ontological Argument for being the most famous argument in the philosophy of religion. As we have seen, it is also a great deal more besides.

Bibliography

• Allais, Maurice. 1953. “Le Comportment de l’Homme Rationnel Devant la Risque: Critique des Postulats et Axiomes de l’École Américaine”, Econometrica 21: 503-546.
• Broome, John. 1995. “The Two-Envelope Paradox”, Analysis 55: 1, 6-11.
• Brown, Geoffrey. 1984. “A Defence of Pascal’s Wager”, Religious Studies 20: 465-79.
• Cain, James. 1995. “Infinite Utility”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 73, No. 3, 401-404.
• Cargile, James. 1966. “Pascal’s Wager”, Philosophy, 35: 250-7.
• Castell, Paul and Diderik Batens. 1994. “The Two-Envelope Paradox: the Infinite Case”, Analysis 54: 46-49.
• Chalmers, David. 1997. “The Two-Envelope Paradox: A Complete Analysis?”, manuscript, http://ling.ucsc.edu/~chalmers/papers/envelope.html (and envelope.ps)
• Clifford, William K. 1986. “The Ethics of Belief”, The Ethics of Belief Debate, ed. Gerald D. McCarthy, Scholars Press.
• Conway, John. 1976. On Numbers and Games, Academic Press.
• Cutland, Nigel, ed. 1988. Nonstandard Analysis and its Applications, London Mathematical Society, Student Texts 10.
• Diderot, Denis. 1875-1877. Pensées Philosophiques, LIX, Oeuvres, ed. J. Assézat, Vol. I.
• Duff, Antony. 1986. “Pascal’s Wager and Infinite Utilities”, Analysis 46: 107-9. n
• Dummett, Michael. 1978. “Wang’s Paradox”, in Truth and Other Enigmas, Harvard University Press.
• Ellsberg, D.. 1961. “Risk, Ambiguity and the Savage Axioms”, Quarterly Journal of Economics 25: 643-669.
• Feller, William. 1971. An Introduction to Probability Theory and its Applications, Vol. II, 2nd edition, Wiley.
• Flew, Anthony. 1960. “Is Pascal’s Wager the Only Safe Bet?”, The Rationalist Annual, 76: 21-25.
• Foley, Richard. 1994. “Pragmatic Reasons for Belief”, in Jordan 1994b.
• Hacking, Ian. 1972. “The Logic of Pascal’s Wager”, American Philosophical Quarterly 9/2, 186-92. Reprinted in Jordan 1994b.
• Hacking, Ian. 1975. The Emergence of Probability, Cambridge University Press.
• Hájek, Alan. 1997a. “Review of Gambling on God” (Jordan 1994b), Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 75, No. 1, March 1997, 119-122.
• Hájek, Alan. 1997b. “The Illogic of Pascal’s Wager”, Proceedings of the 10th Logica International Symposium, Liblice, ed. T. Childers et al, 239-249.
• Hájek, Alan. 2000. “Objecting Vaguely to Pascal’s Wager”, Philosophical Studies, vol. 82.
• Hájek, Alan. 2001. “Waging War on Pascal’s Wager: Infinite Decision Theory and Belief in God”, manuscript.
• Jackson, Frank, Peter Menzies and Graham Oppy. 1994. “The Two Envelope ‘Paradox’”, Analysis 54: 46-49.
• James, William. 1956. “The Will to Believe”, in The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy, Dover Publications.
• Jeffrey, Richard C.. 1983. The Logic of Decision, 2nd edition, University of Chicago Press.
• Jordan, Jeff. 1994a. “The Many Gods Objection”, in Jordan 1994b.
• Jordan, Jeff, ed.. 1994b. Gambling on God: Essays on Pascal’s Wager, Rowman & Littlefield.
• Lewis, David. 1981. “Causal Decision Theory”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 59, 5-30; reprinted in Philosophical Papers, Volume II, Oxford University Press, 1986.
• Lindstrom, Tom. 1988. “Invitation to Non-Standard Analysis”, in Cutland 1988.
• Mackie, J. L.. 1982. The Miracle of Theism, Oxford.
• Martin, Michael. 1983. “Pascal’s Wager as an Argument for Not Believing in God”, Religious Studies 19: 57-64.
• Martin, Michael. 1990. Atheism: a Philosophical Justification, Temple University Press.
• McClennen, Edward. 1994. “Finite Decision Theory”, in Jordan 1994b.
• Morris, T. V. 1986. “Pascalian Wagering”, Canadian Journal of Philosophy 16, 437-54.
• Morris, Thomas V. 1994. “Wagering and the Evidence”, in Jordan 1994b.
• Mougin, Gregory, and Elliot Sober. 1994. “Betting Against Pascal’s Wager”, Nous XXVIII: 382-395.
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Copyright © 1998, 2001
Alan Hájek
ahajek@hss.caltech.edu

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

See also, Stephen R. Welch’s page on Pascal’s Wager
old

The Phillies begin their World Championship Title Defense tonite, hosting the Atlanta Braves.

First, I have to get ride of one of my pet peeves, and this is the often quoted statistic that the Braves won 14 division titles in a row from 1991 through 2005.

A plain look at the statistics laid out on baseball-reference dot com shows that this isn’t so.

First of all, from 1991-1993, the Braves were IN A DIFFERENT DIVISION, the N.L. West, and the league was split into two divisions, not three. The Braves did win the N.L. West in 1991 and 1992, but they tied in 1993, and were forced to a one game playoff with the San Francisco Giants (incredibly, both the Giants and the Braves won 103 games in the regular season that year); it was only by winning the one game playoff that they earned the NL West Division title. That has to have an asterisk, right?

Next, in 1994, the strike year, Atlanta was switched to the NL East–where they finished SECOND to the Montreal Expos. The Expos won the NL East in 1994, no one else did.

That would mean, by all reckoning, that Atlanta would have to have started a new streak in 1995–and from 1995-2005, they did, in fact, win eleven straight NL East Division titles–a prodigious accomplishment by any stretch of the imagination–but not the fourteen straight titles that sports commentators often ascribe to them.

That dog won’t hunt.

Incidentally, last year, Atlanta lost 90 games and finished twenty games behind the NL East champion Phillies. Hopefully they will prove once again this year to be cannon fodder for the Phils powerful bats and potent pitching arms.

Some random notes on the Phillies as they start their season:

1) Chan Ho Park was named the fifth starter ahead of J.A. Happ. I’ve already reviewed this in a prior blog and stated that Happ should be starting. Happ is a 26 year old 6 foot six lefty who strikes out a lot of ballplayers, while Park is a righty with age-related decline issues whose ERA outside of Dodger Stadium is more than 5.00 career. Happ’s minor league stats are impressive, and his starts last year for the Phils were good, as were his spring numbers. This is just a mistake by the Phils, much like when they blocked Ryan Howard with Jim Thome.

2) I predict that Happ will eventually replace Park in the starting rotation, and that Happ will develop into a superior starting pitcher in this league.

3) Having said that, either Park or Happ is CLEARLY an upgrade from Adam Eaton or Kyle Kendrick.

4) Cole Hamels might be on the shelf for a while. I’d rest Hamels and start Park AND Happ during April. It’s April, why risk injuring your meal ticket in Hamels? Let the man have a month off. He pitched an extra month last year, and might have to do it again this year. It’s not like you need him in April, is it?

5) The Phils released Geoff Jenkins, in a puzzling move, since they still owe him $8 million salary. But they also kept Matt Stairs, who is 41 and can only play first base, and Miguel Cairo, who is about a thousand years old, and can only play second base, and can’t hit anymore. Why keep those two old fuddy-duddies, and release Jenkins, who is a legit ballplayer? This is a truly imponderable move.

6) The Phils should have kept Jenkins, and released Stairs. Jenkins can play left or right fields, he can pinch run, and he can pinch hit, plus he’s already on the payroll, and he’s a power hitter. Stairs can’t field, and Cairo can’t hit, so Jenkins is a more useful bench player than either of them. Jenkins had key hits in the postseason off the bench. He’s shown he can be useful off the bench.

7) Jayson Werth is injury prone, and the Phils will need a corner outfielder to spell him. That guy had to have been Jenkins.

8) Eric Bruntlett can spell anyone in the infield, and Dobbs can spell anyone in the outfield or third base or second base. Why keep Cairo? Cairo hasn’t had a hot hitting streak since the pyramids were built, and his fielding range is about as narrow as the Nile at that point where you can step across it. I don’t think Cairo has hit a home run since Moses led the chosen people out of Egypt right after the Passover miracle and the slaughter of the first born of Egypt. The last time Cairo took an extra base, they were filming the Ten Commandments. I’m not saying Miguel Cairo is old, but I’m pretty sure he and Edward G. Robinson used to make gangster films together in the 1930s. Miguel Cairo is so old, he has a card in my oldest Strat-O-Matic baseball game that was just cards and dice from back in the 1970s. Miguel Cairo is so old, that even his wife has forgotten how many years he shaves off his real age whenever he crosses the border and lies about his birthday to immigration officials. I’m not saying the man is old, but Miguel Cairo is the guy who recruited Roberto Clemente to play baseball. It’s not that Miguel Cairo is old, but Cairo once played minor league ball with Fidel Castro in 1950s pre-Communist Cuba. I’m not calling the man old, but Julio Franco, who retired last year at age 50, calls Miguel Cairo “Uncle Mike” out of respect for his elders.

9) Jenkins, Bruntlett and Cairo were the obvious ones to keep. Cairo’s career stats are mind-numbingly awful. Jenkins by contrast is a career power hitter. Bruntlett can field and has good sped while Dobbs is a good hitter. Stairs can’t field, he’s a dh basically and should go to the AL where he belongs.

10) The Phils made no effort to sign Garry Sheffield, but on the bright side, he signed with the Mets. I’m about 90% sure at this stage of his career, stuck on 499 homers, Sheffield only wants to get into the Hall of Fame, and is only about Sheffield, not the team, so I think the Mets have bought into a problem there. Sheffield will demand playing time to pad his stats, and even if he’s hitting .220, which is what he hit last year with Detroit, he will demand more playing time. Plus he’s another over the hill superstar, which the Mets seem to collect boatloads of.

11) Having said all this, I still think the Phils will make a good run and repeat as NL East champs and go on to win the world series yet again, for all the reasons I set forth in my earlier blog on this.

–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies

CURT SCHLLING RETIRES

March 25, 2009

On Monday of this week, Curt Schilling, he of the bloody sock, the hero of the 2004 World Series that finally cured the curse of the Red Sox forever, and the last active playing member of the great 1993 Phillies team that nearly beat a powerhouse Toronto Blue Jays team in an awesome world series matchup, finally retired, joining Lenny “Nails” Dykstra, Darren Arthur Daulton, John “Krukster” Kruk and other legends of the 1993 Phillies in retirement.

Of course, Schilling was an integral member of numerous world series teams, as was Daulton (1997 Marlins) and Dykstra (1986 Mets). Collectively, all of these guys were winners, with a capital W. They lived to win, and winning was all they knew how to do.

Here I have to point out that as I am a Phillies fan, I have always had a very soft spot in my heart for Curt Schilling. From 1992, when he first emerged as a terrific power pitcher, to 2000, when he was erroneously and mistakenly traded from the Phils to Arizona (instead of their locking him up for another multi year deal), he was 1) the ace of the staff 2) the voice of the Phillies, frequently appearing on local sports radio, sometimes daily and 3) the best starting pitcher I’ve ever seen here since Steve Carlton.

But the main thing I loved about Schilling is, he hated to lose, and he loved to win. He pitched complete ballgames, nine innings, and he pitched to strike out the side. He was old school, he had old fashioned ideas, he was in every way a throwback to pitchers and players from like fifty years ago. In that sense, he was completely and totally refreshing.

From 1997-2000 the Phillies organization had a core of Curt Schilling, Bobby Abreu and Steve Rolen. Had they simply and properly built around that core, the Phillies could have built a division winner, or at least a wild card team. Schilling was an ace of the staff, Abreu was in the prime of his career, a .400 OBA man with a .500 slugging percentage, and Rolen was earning 30 win shares a year routinely with his glove and his bat. In those years, Rolen was slugging .500 or more easily, hitting tons of doubles and homers.

Where the team was weak in those days was up the middle—they didn’t stock themselves at short, second, catcher and centerfield properly (except maybe for Mike Lieberthal, but he was no Darren Daulton). And everyone knows a championship club needs to be strong up the middle. Kevin Stocker, who had played well in 1993, began to fade. Mickey Morandini, who was terrific in 1993, also began to fade as the decade wore on. Milt Thompson wasn’t around anymore and Lenny Dykstra was gone by 1997. Darren Daulton was also gone by 1997. If they had Dykstra and Daulton, and a healthry Morandini and Stocker, the 1997 Phillies would have been contenders—but the story was different.

By 97-99, they were playing guys like Marlon Anderson and Alex Arias up the middle. It wasn’t the same. Doug Glanville could field and run, but he never drew a walk.

The Phillies didn’t make immediate efforts to replace Daulton or Dykstra with great talent, nor did they replace Stocker or Morandini with great talent. They did waste a lot of money on bad free agents (see below) but we’ll get to that.

Behind Schilling were non-entities pitching—they did not put together a staff anywhere close to what they had in 1993, with Tommy Greene, Schilling, Danny Jackson, Terry Mulholland et al. and Mitch Williams as the closer. In 1994 Williams’ arm was blown and he was traded, but he never pitched again. Mulholland was traded, a bad trade since he pitched ten more years or more in the bigs. Jackson was never the same again and Tommy Greene’s arm was blown, he never had another year like 1993.

Because the Phillies did not make the effort to replace the great 1993 players with new and great players, eventually both Schilling and Rolen wanted out of Philadelphia. This was not good news for the Phillies GM and Phillies management, because Schilling and Rolen were the kind of players you built a team around.

A starting ace, and a gold glove third baseman who hits 30 homers and 35 doubles a year with 30 win shares a year, those are the two players you want to start a team with. You don’t want to lose those two guys.

The fundamental mistake of the Phils as they turned the corner on the new century was to let Curt Schilling go, even more of a mistake than letting Scott Rolen go, though both were mistakes. Curt Schilling won three world series with Arizona and Boston after he left (2001, 2004, and 2006) while Scott Rolen won one with St. Louis and got to another. Instead of realizing what they had, they wasted money on bad players instead.

You can’t help but wonder, what if the Phils had held on to these guys, and they had been around while the Phils developed Jimmy Rollins, Pat Burrell, Chase Utley, signed Jim Thome, etc. You have to think some of those 86 win seasons would have been 92 or 95 win seasons.

After Schilling was gone, the Phillies went on an endless search for the next big ace. They traded Johnny Estrada, a great catching prospect, for Kevin Millwood. In fairness, Millwood had a great 2003 season, throwing a no-hitter, throwing a lot of innings and having a great adjusted ERA. But the next season he sort of blew up, and wasn’t the same again, and the Phils let him go in free agency.

The next big ace was Eric Milton. The phils traded Carlos Silva for him. Eric Milton arrived to much fanfare, and proceeded to lead the NL in homers allowed the next two seasons. To say he was awful understates the situation. He just never adjusted to the new park.

The next big ace was Freddy Garcia. We all know about him. He never even pitched. He was hurt and didn’t pitch at all.

There were so many other horrible pitchers the Phils brought in. I can’t name them all. Jon Lieber, Adam Eaton, etc.

Meanwhile, the Phillies actually got some players for Rolen and Schilling, which were basically, Placido Polanco and Vincente Padilla. Polanco played second until Utley came up, and then Polanco was out of a job. The Phils shipped him to Detroit for Ugueth Urbina, but should have kept him to play third but at the time they had David Bell playing third.

Padilla for a while had a couple of good seasons with the Phils, but eventually they shipped him to Texas. Padilla has been pretty awful for Texas, his innings pitched are still high, but so is his ERA. He’s not really been a great pitcher, just an innings eater.

Polanco has been a starter in Detroit and it seems to me the Phils should have held onto Polanco. He was a good righthanded hitter, could play the corner outfield positions, as well as 3d and 2d, and was a good RH pinch-hitters bat off the bench. I’d have kept him. While he doesn’t walk much, he has a high batting average, had above average speed, and hits a lot of doubles and triples, and occasional homers. And he’s great in the clubhouse.

The lack of an ace in the Phillies starting staff from 2001-2007 is what kept them from winning a world series. During six of those years, Curt Schilling could have been that ace and put them over the top in any given year.

Having an ace in Cole Hamels in 2008 is one of the keys to the Phillies having won a world series and a world championship in 2008. Cole Hamels was finally the guy the Phils had been searching for since 2000, when they let Curt Schilling go for a guy named Vincent Padilla.

Bill James, in the Bill James Gold Mine 2008, at p. 2007, has an illuminating article on this subject, called “If I Had a Hamel.” He basically examines each of the Phils seasons from 1986-2007, and notes who was the Phils most dominating pitcher in each of those years. In 1992, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000, Curt Schilling was the best pitcher on the Phils’ staff, and then he was gone. Then in 2007, Cole Hamels was the best. Writes James in his article: “I have a friend who is a Phillies fan. He is optimistic about the 2008 season because, he says, we finally have an ace. We haven’t had an ace of the staff since we traded Schilling. He is referring of course to Cole Hamels….Cole Hamels Season Score [in 2007] was 233, which was the highest by a Phillies pitcher since 1998. Schilling was at 327 in 1997, 271 in 1998.” Id. at p. 207.

James also points out how silly it was for the Phils to move Brett Myers from starter to closer in 2007, and that bringing him back to starter would be a good move for 2008. Id. at p. 2007.

So there you have it—the two key moves that put the phils over the top—Cole Hamels as a staff ace, and Brett Myers back as a starter. Add to that Brad Lidge as a top shelf closer, and you have two legs of the Phils formula for world champion success in 2008.

I think it would have been nice for Curt Schilling to retire as a Phillie, myself.

Curt Schilling by the numbers: Curt Schilling was an awesome pitcher. He led the National League in strikeouts in 1997 and 1998, striking out more than 300 batters each of those years, 319 Ks in 1997 (in 254.1 innings pitched) and 300 Ks in 1998 (in 268.2 innings pitched). Schilling was a horse—he finished more games and completed more games than any modern pitcher, by far. Of 436 games he started in his career, he completed 83—19% of his games started, he COMPLETED.

Think about that—Curt Schilling, CAREER STAT, completed about 20% of every game he started. No relievers, no help, just nine innings and finish the game.

That’s as old school as you can get. Schilling was a reversion to a pitcher of the first half of the 20th century. He was more like Robin Roberts or Bob Feller, guys who finished what they started. The bloody sock tells it all.

He led the NL in complete games FOUR times—in 1996, with 8 complete games, in 1998, with 15 complete games (of 35 started), in 2000 with 8 complete games, and in 2001 with 6 complete games. He led the NL twice in innings pitched, in 1998 with 268 and 2/3, and in 2001 with 256 2/3, and led the NL those same years in pitches thrown to batters with 1089 in 1998 and 1021 in 2001.

Schilling led the NL in wins with 22 in 2001, and led the AL in wins with 21 in 2004. His adjusted ERC of 1.86 (ERA 2.35) was the lowest in the NL in 1992.

Schilling’s post-season record is insane. In 133.1 innings pitched, he struck out 139, walked only 30, gave up no intentional walks, yielded only 12 homers, 3 hit batsmen, 115 hits, 41 runs and 36 earned runs for an ERA of 2.43 (ERC adjusted of 2.79). In 19 games he started in the post season, he had 4 complete games, a 21% completion ratio. His won loss record of 11-2 in those 19 games he started is legendary.

I attended Schilling’s 2-0 complete game shutout of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993, World Series game Five, at Veterans Stadium Philadelphia. The Phillies had lost a slugfest the night before, blowing a four or five game lead in extra innings when Mitch Williams couldn’t hold the lead, and were down 3-1 in games. The game was do or die. They had to win.

Schilling did nothing less than twirl a masterpiece. He may have given up a hit, or maybe two or four hits, but the whole thing took well under two hours, and it was a masterpiece of pitching efficiency, mastery, control and power. The Blue Jays, who had scored something like 15 runs the night before, could hardly get their bats on the ball against Schilling, the master of the baseball.

I have rarely, if ever, seen a pitching performance like that one, in my life, let alone in post-season play. I had a great seat, my wife’s company at the time had some corporate seats along the 3rd base line, and I had a terrific view of the action. The game was like watching Koufax, Gibson, Carlton, the greats.

At this point I suppose I can point out that Curt Schilling is an obvious Hall of Fame selection. I know that Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine are both 300 game winners, but their post-season stats are awful. Only John Smoltz has post-season stats like Schillings, and he gave up four seasons to be a closer, or he would be closer to 250 wins than the 215 he had now.

Let’s talk now about wins and losses. Except for the 1993 Phillies, the rest of the Phillies teams that Schilling played for—1992, and 1994-2000—had losing records. Nonetheless, Schilling racked up winning or .500 records for all of those teams;

1992 14-11 Team 70-92
1994 hurt 2-8 Team 54-61
1995 hurt 7-5 Team 69-75
1996 hurt 9-10 Team 67-95
1997 17-11 Team 68-94
1998 15-14 Team 75-87
1999 15-6 Team 77-85
2000 6-6 Team 65-97

Total Schilling 85-71 percentage 85/156 = .549
Total Team 545-676 percentage 545/1221 = .446

Schilling was more than 100 percentage points higher than his teams in all of the losing seasons from 1992-2000 on the Phils—he had a .549 winning percentage, while the Phils had a .446 winning percentage.

Schilling was 14 games OVER .500, whie the Phillies were 131 games BELOW .500—Schilling was 145 games better than his team. That’s a whopping lot better than his team.

So Schilling, even with three seasons where he was hurt, and for a ballteam that was hundreds of games below .500, managed a total record of 85-71, fourteen games ABOVE .500, during the eight years he was with Philly. 145 games better than his team, 100 percentage points better than his team.

As if he was dragging a dead body and a lot of 45 pound plates around, and still managing to win ballgames.

Now let’s add in 1993, when he was 16-7 for a team that went 97-65 total, a .599 percentage. For that team, Schilling went 16-7, which is a .693 percentage. FOR THE 1993 TEAM, A WINNER, A PENNANT WINNER THAT ALMOST WON THE WORLD SERIES, SCHILLING STILL DID A HUNDRED PERCENTAGE POINTS BETTER THAN THE PHILLIES WINNING PERCENTAGE. The team was 32 games over .500, Schilling was nine games over .500.

Now, the final totals:

Schilling: Career with Phils: 101-78. Percentage: 101/179 = .564 winning percentage

Phils: Career with Schilling: 642-741. Percentage: 646/1383 = .464 winning percentage

Schilling is 100 points above philly’s winning percentage, .564 to .464, for a nine year run. Philly was 100 games below .500; Schilling was 23 games above .500.

That’s Schilling’s total for Philly. He won a hundred games in 8 years, for mainly lousy clubs. And led the league in strikeouts twice, in complete games three times, in games started twice, in innings pitched once, etc.

Schilling did all this dragging around a lousy team that was, except for the magnificent 1993 team, mainly a bad team that finished in the second division. Several of these teams lost as many as 94, 95 and 97 games (1996, 1997, 2000). They were dreadful, horrible, awful teams, and yet Schilling went out and led the league in strikeouts in 1997.

Also, that Gregg Jeffries, a free agent bust, was paid $5.5 million in 1997, while Schilling, clearly the most valuable Phillie on any day of the week, earned only $3.5 million in 1997. Schilling was correct to gripe about his salary.

In 1998, Curt Schilling got a raise to $4.7 million, but Gregg Jefferies got $6 million after a horrible year in 1997, and some turkey named Mark Portugal got $2.4 million to pitch, putting up some dreadful numbers for the Phils.

Scott Rolen was paid $150,000 in 1997 and $750,000 in 1998 after posting two outstanding years. Ridiculous.

In 1999, they raised Schilling to $5 ¼ million per year, but handed Ron Gant, who was past his prime, $6 million, and Gant had an average year in left field, while Bobby Abreu had a terrific year as a newbie in right field. Rolen meantime finally got raised to a million dollars, while having another monster year; Rico Brogna, who was awful was getting more than three million dollars a year.

There is no sense to what the phillies were doing with their payroll at this time. They should have committed to their best players, period. They kept wasting money on washed up veterans and on players who were having bad seasons instead of committing their payroll to Schilling, Abreu and Rolen.

Lieberthal, it could be argued, was a decent player, at catcher, but he shouldn’t have been getting $2 ¼ million, more than twice as much as Rolen, because Rolen was more valuable than Lieberthal. It didn’t make sense.

Some guy named Jeff Brantley got paid $2.8 million in 1999. He appeared in 10 games in 1999 and some more games in 2000, but he was entirely ineffective and washed up. A total waste of money. Brantley was out of baseball after 2001.

The Phils paid Chad Ogea about $1.7 million to be a starter in 1999. Ogea posted less than league average numbers in 1999. He was 6-12 with a 5.63 ERA. It’s almost certain that the Phillies could have brought someone up from the farm to be that bad for a rookie salary.

I could keep going on like this, but I think you get the point. The Phillies of the late 1990s were blowing money out the wazoo on bad, awful, over the hill, gassed, done, horrible players.

And then when Schilling & Rolen wanted free-agent money commensurate with their skills in 2000, the Phillies front office became hard asses? After giving Greg Jefferies and Ron Gant $6 million each? $12 millin to Ron Gant and Greg Jefferies and you won’t give $10 million a year to Scott Rolen and Curt Schilling for life?????

Are you kidding me????

No wonder the Phillies have only two world titles in 120 plus years. On the bright side, the Phillies learned from these mistakes and have been doing somewhat better in recent years in terms of front office management, although I don’t agree with all of their moves.

Let’s get back to the legend that is Curt Schilling.

Who can forget Schilling putting a towel over his head when Mitch Williams was pitching during the NLCS and the World Series?

If the Phillies had been able to close Toronto out in games four and six of that world series when they had had leads, Philly would have won the world series in 1993. Schilling did everything he could to win that series.

Curt Schilling went to Arizona, and dragged an expansion team of nobodies to world series glory. He made Randy Johnson, who everyone thought was too wild to be a great pitcher, into a world champion.

Then Schilling went to Boston, and promptly reversed the Curse of the Bambino, and brought a world championship to the Red Sox, something no one, and I mean no one, thought possible.

It was a magical accomplishment.

And just to put a flourish on it, Boston repeated in 2006, Mr. Schilling again assisting.

Finally, we have to point out, Curt Schilling never juiced.

Curt Schilling was a colorful, articulate and intelligent baseball player, and one of the most masterful men of the mound I have ever had the privilege to watch.

I’ve always missed him since he left the Phils. It was always my fervent hope that someday he might return for a final farewell tour year or two with the Phils, but apparently it is not to be. I think Schilling, no matter how he was throwing, would have been a terrific starter for the Phils this season and would have drawn fans.

And again, I say, the Phils should honor him, retire his number, and do him homage. He was one of the greatest of great Phils pitchers.

We will not soon see his like again.

–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies