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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Here’s why the Marlins are winning … 

… and we aren’t:

The Marlins excel at defense and pitching and the Phillies don’t.

Let’s go to the numbers:

Phillies / Marlins (NL Rank, of 16 teams)
ERA: 5.38 (15) / 2.34 (1)
DIPS: 4.92 (14) / 3.78 (3)
FIP: 4.90 (14) / 3.54 (3)
WHIP: 1.43 (10) / 1.09 (1)
SLG: .494 (16) / .307 (1)
DER: .683 (12) / .759 (1)

What the stats mean …
WHIP – Walks plus hits by innings pitched: (BB + H) / IP = WHIP
ERA – Earned Run Average: (Earned Runs * 9) / IP = ERA
FIP – Fielding Independent Pitching: (13*HR+3*BB-2*K / IP) + League Factor Evaluates a pitching by how he would have done with an average defense behind him by keeping track of things that a pitcher can control (walks, strikeouts, home runs allowed) as opposed to things he cannot (hits allowed, runs allowed). DIPS is basically FIP, but w/ a more complex formula.
DER – Defense Efficiency Ratio: (Batters Faced – (Hits + Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) / (Batters Faced – (Home Runs, Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) How often fielders convert balls put into play into outs.

Offensively the two teams aren’t that far apart: the Marlins are scratching out runs without the benefit of much power and the Phillies are relying on Pat Burrell to supply them runs. Both teams have absurdly low slugging percentages and ISO (SLG - BA = ISO) numbers.

So the difference is at the pitching and defense level. The Marlins starting rotation is fearsome:

Josh Beckett: 1.00 / 2.07
Dontrelle Willis: 1.50 / 3.08
A.J. Burnett: 2.40 / 2.90
Al Leiter: 5.66 / 5.49

Beckett, Willis and Burnett have 3 of the top eleven DIPS ERAs in the NL right now. The Phillies are doing much worse:

Jon Lieber: 2.73 / 5.00
Randy Wolf: 6.38 / 4.07
Brett Myers: 1.71 / 2.93
Lidle: 3.86 / 3.70

Myers is actually doing well (ninth in the NL) but Lieber is struggling with the home runs and doesn't strike guys out. Wolf & Lidle are doing ok. The bottom-line is that while the Marlins hurlers are being backed up by fabulous defense, so their pitchers are confident and are mowing down opposing batters left and right. The Phillies pitching staff is struggling in many respects and have had to deal with sloppy defense behind them (e.g.):

Jimmy Rollins (PHI): .827 ZR (12th of 15 NL SS’s)
Alex Gonzalez (FLA): .917 ZR (2nd of 15 NL SS’s)

(Although I admit to my amazement that David Bell is actually leading NL 3B’s in ZR, despite three errors. Maybe sitting him isn’t such a great idea.)

Most people in the MLB world think that building a team around pitching and defense is simple and cost-effective. Hard to argue with the Marlins approach, especially given that the Phillies have the fourth largest payroll in the MLB ($93 million) and the Marlins are eighteenth ($60 million).

Maybe the Phillies should take some notes?

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