Again with the misdirection? First the Phillies say they need/want to add a third baseman and a pitcher only to admit that they will likely head into Spring Training with the team as constructed. That means Wes Helms and Greg Dobbs holding down the hot corner and staff that most folks agree needs one more arm.
Nothing is ever good enough, is it?
Anyway, the Phillies signed third baseman Pedro Feliz yesterday to a two-year deal worth $8.5 million with an option for a third year. Most observers and fans like the addition of Feliz for a handful of reasons. One is that Feliz is an excellent fielder. He's so good that shortstop Jimmy Rollins said, "There won't be too many balls getting through on the left side," with the addition of Feliz. Not exactly a bit of humility from Rollins, but give the guy a break, he won the MVP and the Gold Glove.
If you think Rollins Cadillac-ed plays in the past, wait until 2008.
Regardless, Feliz is a good fielder and for a pitching staff that sometimes will need divine intervention playing in the bandbox in South Philly they're going to need a whole team of guys like Feliz and Rollins catching as many balls as possible.
Feliz can also hit a few homers. Playing in the pitching-friendly INSERTCORPORATENAMEHERE Park, Feliz hit 100 homers in the last five seasons and nearly had 100 RBIs (he had 98) in 2006. Substitute Citizens Bank Park for the ballpark in San Francisco for 81 games and Feliz suddenly is a 30-homer threat.
"We got better," manager Charlie Manuel told reporters yesterday. "He's a good defensive player. He's got power. He'll hit probably sixth, seventh, somewhere in there. I think putting him down in our lineup will help him. He was called on to hit in the middle of the lineup in San Francisco. A couple years ago, he might've been pressing to do too much because they had Barry Bonds there."
But most importantly, Feliz is not Wes Helms. Actually, Feliz's arrival could lead to Helms's departure if the Phillies can find a team willing to take his contract off their hands.
So there are the good parts, not to mention that Feliz will probably benefit from getting out of San Francisco. But Feliz is hardly the second coming of Brooks Robinson. Instead, he might be a more powerful version of the last third baseman the Phillies got from the Giants. Yep, remember David Bell? Statistically, Feliz seems to have the edge on Bell in the field and is a better slugger, but he makes a ton of outs and swings at everything. That's no exaggeration either - Feliz has a ridiculously low on-base percentage of .288 and averages 28 walks per 162 games.
But for as much as Feliz swings at nearly every pitch, he really doesn't strikeout too much. That's relative, of course, but last season Feliz hit 461 fair balls. That amounted to 3.073 per game and a .306 batting average on all balls put into play.
In other words, don't blink when Feliz comes to the plate because he's going to swing.
Back to the Bell comparison for a second: Feliz and Bell battled it out for the most grounded into double plays during 2005 and 2006 with Bell holding a 42-38 edge. However, by hitting all of those fair balls Feliz has been in the top 10 in making outs over the past two years. The leader in making the most outs? Jimmy Rollins.
It's that left side of the infield... gripping and ripping.