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Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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United States, Pennsylvania, Wexford, Christopher Wren, English, Michael, Male, 26-30, baseball , politics.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Game Chat 

No open thread today. Go check out my friend Tom's site Balls, Sticks 'n Stuff for his live game updates. Click here for Tom's discussion of today's Braves-Phillies matchup.

Braves fans, feel free to join in. We welcome all points of view.

(7) comments

Friday, April 15, 2005

Open Thread, Game Ten 

Game 10 of 162. Record-to-date: 4-5.

NL East (April 15, 2005)
Washington: 6-4
Atlanta: 5-4
Florida: 5-4
N.Y. Mets: 4-5
Phillies: 4-5

Yeah, the Nats are in first ...

Tonight's matchups: Ramirez (0-0) v. Floyd (1-0).

Post your comments below.

(4) comments

In case you missed it .... 

I couldn't pass without pointing out this terrific article on ESPN's Page 2 by Eric Neel about the Dodgers. The "Moneyball doesn't work" is sharpening their claws ...

(1) comments

Braves v. Phillies: Preview 

I think we can call the next few days a critical stretch to the year: 6 games at home against the Mets and Braves. Games against division foes are always important, but the fact that the Phillies have a six game stretch at home makes it doubly so. Given the Phillies total befuddlement when playing the Marlins (yeah, Wednesday's game was rather discouraging), it would be nice to see the Phillies make up some ground on division foes they've actually been able to beat in the past. It would also be nice to see guys like David Bell and Jim Thome start to hit and six home games at home with nice weather would be just the tonic.

The Braves and Phillies look like very different teams right now, despite the fact that their records are virtually identical. The Phillies are +6 in run differential (49 for, 43 against), while the Braves are -5 (34 for, 39 against). If you go by pythagorean records the Braves and Phillies records should be inverted (!):

NL East (actual) (as of 4-14)
Braves 5-4
Nats 5-4
Marlins 5-4
Phillies 4-5
Mets 3-5

NL East (pythagorean)
Marlins 8-1
Phillies 5-4
Braves 4-5
Mets 3-5
Nats 3-6

So the Phillies are in a good spot: they are just a game out and the only team looking strong is the Marlins. They have a real shot at taking some games from the Mets and Braves, which would help them keep the pace with the Fish and put the competition behind the eight-ball.

So how do the two teams stack up? Here are the pitching matchups:

Friday: Floyd v. Ramirez
Saturday: Lieber v. Smoltz
Sunday: Myers v. Hampton

I like Friday because Floyd is hurling so well. Saturday is a tossup and I'd give the Braves the edge on Sunday. I'm eager for Lieber to turn in a dominating performance. So far he hasn't but he's also pitched well. It's time for him to put the whole thing together.

ERA / FIP
Atlanta: 3.96 / 4.59
Phillies: 3.99 / 4.26

I never thought I'd see the day when the Phillies could arguably say that they were out-pitching the Braves. The two teams are remarkably similar: the Phillies are surrendering a .454 slugging percentage, the Braves a .450 (NL average: .420). The Phillies are surrendering fewer walks (2.28 v. 3.43 per nine innings), but the Braves are surrendering fewer home runs (1.14 v. 1.18). For now the Braves near-legendary pitching advantage is no more.

The Phillies don't have much of an advantage at the plate: while the Phillies are out-slugging the Braves .392 to .369, they are both well under the .420 league average. The Phillies advantage is their ability to get on base: .345 OBP over a .314 ... The Braves actually have the lowest GPA in the NL right now, a scary thought for Smoltz, Hudson and Hampton to consider. The Braves margin for error is zero.

Defensively the Phillies aren't doing as well as their NL East competitors:
NL East: (DER)
Marlins: .771
Mets: .706
Nats: .693
Braves: .686
Phillies: .676

I'm finding it difficult to process and assimilate defensive information because ESPN and CNNSI don't have sortable team fielding stats, but I did look at the team stats for each. Here is what team Zone Rating (ZR) looks like:

NL East (ZR)
Marlins: .896
Mets: .862
Braves: .859
Nationals: .855
Phillies: .806

Not a promising sign, is it? Defense was supposed to be the Phillies ace in the hole. We are actually lagging badly.

Eric Milton Watch: 9 & 2/3 innings pitched, five home runs allowed. If Milton pitches as many innings (201) as he did last year with the Phillies and keeps up at this pace, he'll surrender 104 home runs this season. Reds fans: we warned you.

Confused by the stats I just mentioned? Here is what the stats mean:
GPA (Gross Productive Average): (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA. Invented by The Hardball Times Aaron Gleeman, GPA measures a players production by weighing his ability to get on base and hit with power. This is my preferred all-around stat.
ISO (Isolated Power): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.
OBP (On-Base Percentage): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
ZR (Zone Rating): Is a stat which measures a player’s defensive ability by measuring plays they should have made. Admittedly, this is a stat left open to subjective opinions.
Defense Efficiency Ratio (DER): (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.
Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP): (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).

(4) comments

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Off-day... 

A little potpurri for today ...

Nine games into the season, three series are down. The Phillies are 4-5 and aren't playing badly, aside from the bullpen foibles and their cronic inability to defeat the Marlins. Here is how the individual Phillies are playing:

By-the-Numbers: (OBP / SLG / Noteables)
Rollins: .368 OBP / .250 SLG / 6 BB's v. 4 K's
Lofton: .423 OBP / .625 SLG / 3 XBH's
Abreu: .385 OBP / .528 SLG / 4 2B's
Thome: .432 OBP / .414 SLG / 4 RBI's, 0 HR
Burrell: .447 OBP / .879 SLG / 17 RBI's, 4 HR
Utley: .263 OBP / .444 SLG / 0 BB's
Bell: .278 OBP / .242 SLG / 1 XBH
Lieberthal: .370 OBP / .360 SLG / 1 XBH

Polanco: .300 OBP / .222 SLG / 0 XBH
Michaels: .636 OBP / .500 SLG / 3 BB's, 0 K's
Offerman: .400 OBP / .000 SLG / 2 runs, 2 BB's, 0-for-3 AB's

What the stats mean:
ISO (Isolated Power): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.
OBP (On-Base Percentage): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
BB / PA (Walks per plate appearance): (BB / PA = .BB/PA Avg)

Obviously Pat Burrell's red-hot start is the story of the season. As for the rest, Abreu is hitting well and Thome is in his usual spring power slump. He's getting on base, but hasn't hit a home run yet. I wouldn't worry: Thome usually hits 4 or 5 homers in April, 6 or 7 in May, and then 15-to-20 in June.

I was casting my eye along the numbers and saw that Chase Utley is looking for his first walk, 18 AB's into the season. I'm disappointed to see that: I hoped that he'd work on getting on base a little and would be doing better.

How are the Phillies doing compared to other NL teams?

Batting Average: 4th (.296) (although that will probably decline with their 3-for-whatever against the Marlins yesterday)
OBP: 5th (.365) (though again, I suspect yesterday's horror show will hurt that)
SLG: 9th (.423)
Runs Scored: 2nd (49)

The Phillies ability to get hits consistently is the reason why they have played so well despite ranking 12th in ISO (.127) and 6th in BB/PA (.090), stats that the Phillies did well at in 2004 and should still do well at in 2005. Simply put, the Phillies are hitting well (Burrell in particular), but there is room to improve. Given that Burrell has 4 of the Phillies 7 home runs, we should hope so.

I'm mildly disappointed by how the team is hitting (good, but not great), but I take solace from the fact that they've played 6 of their 9 games on the road and 1/3 have been against the Florida Marlins, a team the Phillies simply cannot figure out. Wait until the Phillies get a crack at the Mets and Braves.

What else ...

A nice review at Baseball Think Factory about the movie Fever Pitch. I want to see this movie because I'm a fan of Jimmy Fallon and I love how the writers rewrote the movie to deal with the Red Sox run to the World Series last year. It looks like a funny movie about sports in the tradition of Bull Durham.

Informative article at ESPN.com from Peter Gammons defending the deals made by Paul DePodesta. I don't like his decision to throw cash at J.D. Drew, but Derek Lowe was a savvy move and his trade of Lo Duca was the right call (though maligned at the time by the pundits). I'll reserve judgment for now.

(8) comments

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

On the docket: the Braves 

The Marlins & Phillies have another game to play, but it is never too soon to start looking ahead to another series, especially when that series involves our archnemesis ... the Atlanta Braves. In effect, the Roadrunner to our Wile E. Coyote ...

I honestly don't have anything against the Braves specifically. The Braves fans I've met are nice, polite people. The team itself doesn't seem to have particularly odious personalities. They play good defense, have excellent pitching, and come up with timely hits, so I like the way they play the game. As stupid (and petty) as it is, I can only hate them for winning.

Despite the Hudson deal I think this year is finally the year for the wheels to come off the Braves jauggernaut. Let's look at the numbers:

As of April 11, the Braves had scored 27 runs and surrendered 24 (+3), yet had a record of 5-2. Going into yesterday's matchup with the Marlins, the Phillies were +16 (47 to 31). The Phillies were a game worse (4-3). I know these sorts of distinctions are meaningless at this stage of the year, but the Braves don't have their usual confidence. They look like they know they need to sweat out close games to capture their ... what, 14th pennant?

Hudson is going to have a great season, as will Hampton and Smoltz, but they aren't playing particularly good defense (.677 DER v. .685 NL average) and they aren't producing on offense (.312 OBP v. .344 NL average; .365 SLG v. .421 NL average). This team misses J.D. Drew and haven't been able to replace his bat in the lineup. The Braves circa 2004 weren't that strong at the plate, but the '05 team looks to be on its way to finishing in the bottom half of the NL in most offensive stats.

So the division is wide-open. I continue to be skeptical that the Mets have a shot, so it has really become a three-way race between the Phillies, Braves and Marlins for the pennant. After watching the boring, predictable Braves win year-after-year, I welcome the change, even if the Phillies flop and it is the Marlins. Change is good, though Braves fans must be pining for the good 'ol days.

(5) comments

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Open Thread... 

No open thread this evening for the Marlins-Phillies game. I'm going to refer everyone to Tom's Balls, Sticks & Stuff for his live update session this evening. Tom updates the game as it is in progress, something I don't do. As with everything Tom does, it is thorough, informative and fun.

Head on over, ya'll!

(2) comments

Pat's Back! 

Since he has drafted by the team in 1999, Pat Burrell’s rise and fall within the Phillies system has been closely watched by everyone. Widely seen as Mike Schmidt’s heir apparent (especially after former heir apparent Scott Rolen was dealt to the Cards in 2002), Burrell has been the endless topic of conversation and speculation. From his break-out season in 2002, to his horrific collapse in 2003, to his struggles to regain his form in 2004, fans, pundits and bloggers have argued whether Burrell is the team's superstar or someone who failed to live up to his potential.

Let's look at the first six games of the season and compare them to Games 1-6 for the last three years:

Games 1-6 (2005): 6 XBH’s (3 2B, 3 HR); .483 OBP; .960 SLG
Games 1-6 (2004): 1 XBH’s (1 2B); .440 OBP; .401 SLG
Games 1-6 (2003): 2 XBH’s (2 2B); .250 OBP; .240 SLG
Games 1-6 (2002): 3 XBH’s (2 2b, 1 HR); .292 OBP; .524 SLG

(I'm not including last night's 1-for-4 with a home run in these numbers.)

What a difference two years make! Burrell is off to a fast start, getting 15 RBIs in just 25 AB's. This is the best start Burrell has had (pre-2002) and a marked contrast to last year, when he failed to hit a home run for his first eight games. Burrell 2005 is mashing the ball like it is nobody's business: a .960 slugging percentage is Barry Bonds territory. Last year we were all relieved to see Burrell hit again, but surprised he hit for so little power. This year feels different. Burrell looks like a 40 HR, 120 RBI guy.

Burrell has also keyed the Phillies to their impressive start at the plate: the Phillies are leading the NL in runs scored with 43. Note that Burrell did this against a team with better than average pitching, the St. Louis Cardinals.

Random note: I was looking at The Hardball Times 2005 stat page on Monday and I noticed that the Braves were averaging just 2.7 runs a game. I know they've faced off with some decent pitching, but this backs up something I said in the preseason: these guys are going to have trouble scoring runs in 2005. They need Hudson and Smoltz to have good seasons or they are in trouble. Despite the Marlins record, I still think they are the toughest team in this division, bar none.

(9) comments

Monday, April 11, 2005

Open Thread, Game Seven 

Game 7 of 162. Record-to-date: 3-3.

Brett Myers (0-0) vs. Al Leiter (0-1).

Post your comments below.

(1) comments

Week in Review: April 4-10 ... 

The Phillies 2005 season got off to a rocky start, but heading into their first series against their archnemesis, the Florida Marlins, there is little reason for Phillies Nation to panic. Take a deep breath, things are fine. Here is what the first six games of the season have told us:

-Pat is back. I’ll expand upon this a little tomorrow, but Pat Burrell is having a heck of a season just six games in. He’s leading the NL with 15 RBIs with three home runs and three doubles. Ok, it is premature to say this, but the Phillies have themselves a viable MVP candidate (gulp!) here. Fears that Burrell wouldn’t recover from ’03 and ’04 look to be unfounded. Not only is he hitting, but he’s hitting for power. It took him eight games to get a home run in 2004. He’s got three already, and two were in St. Louis.

-The Phillies starters are 3-0 and pitching very well. Aside from surrendering four home runs, Jon Lieber is pitching decently well in his two starts. But the story so far has been Brett Myers and Gavin Floyd pitching great games. Floyd’s in particular was a gem: a 22-year old kid gave up just three hits and a run to the most fearsome lineup in the NL. Can’t argue with that. He’s going to have a bright future and give the Phillies some flexibility when Vicente Padilla comes back from the DL.

I’d bet Randy Wolf will be dealt to clear room for Floyd.

-The bullpen has bombed, but the losses to the Nationals were mostly Worrell’s fault. Let's hold off before we panic about this.

-The Phillies lineup is hitting well. While I think that the Utley / Polanco switching is hurting Chase, the team itself is playing well. Even Bobby Abreu, a slow starter, is hitting well: his 3-for-6 against the Cards Sunday was impressive. (And it raised his BA from .227 to .320 …)

As a team the Phillies have rolled up forty-three runs in just six games. I’d note that 50% of their performance has been against a tough pitching staff (the Cardinals).

-It is too soon to pass judgment on the Phillies defense, but they are playing well … correction: everyone except Kenny Lofton is playing well. Lofton is proving to be a disappointment defensively. As I said in my Season Preview, a new solution is needed in centerfield.

So what has the week taught us? The starting rotation has been bolstered and is pitching well. The lineup is smacking in runs by the bushel (and they haven’t even gotton to play in Coors Field yet!) and Pat Burrell 2005 looks more like Pat Burrell circa 2002 than circa 2003 or circa 2004. Aside from the ‘pen, this team is lookin’ strong.

At the moment the Phillies are 3-3 and just a game back of the Atlanta Braves, part of a three-team logjam for second place. This season is underway and it looks like those who predicted a wide-open race for the NL East were correct … Pity Mets fans, somewhat discouraged by their team’s 0-5 start. Their investments haven’t helped a poor bullpen much.

Coming up: tonight the Phillies kick off a big series against the Marlins in Miami. It's an important (but not critical) series because the Fish have had the Phillies number over the last two years and they are our biggest rival for the division. I really want to see them take two of three and separate from the pack a little. The weekend sees the Phillies square off with the Braves at Citizens. Probably our first chance to see Tim Hudson in the flesh.

On an unrelated matter: I typically don’t talk about my personal life but I want to make an exception because it is a big deal to me. My wife recently passed the PA bar exam (I'm very proud) and we’ve been doing some house-hunting. Saturday we bought a terrific home in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. We are very excited.

(2) comments

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Open Thread, Game Six 

Game 6 of 162. Record-to-date: 2-3.

Jon Lieber (1-0) vs. Chris Carpenter (1-0).

Post your comments below.

(5) comments

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