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.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Know Thy Enemy: The D-Backs 

I have to admit to being surprised to see the Arizona Diamondbacks leading the NL West. I had the team written-off in the preseason as an also-ran: little talent, coming off a series of bad seasons … bah! … Either this is a testament to how mediocre the NL West is, or the D-backs are a team much greater than the sum of their parts.

There really isn’t ay superstar on the D-backs roster. Collectively it is a bunch of little-known faces: Eric Byrnes and Chad Tracy (who?) are leading the team with nine home runs each. Shawn Green, the team’s perpetually under-achieving slugger, has four home runs. Four.

And yet the D-Backs have a potent offense, averaging 5.25 runs-per-game, .045 better than the NL average. Their success has been in timely hitting: they rank third in the NL in Batting Average with Runners In Scoring Position (BA/RISP). They’ve been getting hits at the right time.

The secret to the D-Backs success has been their better-than-expected pitching. Brandon Webb is 8-0 with a 2.01 ERA … Not that anyone has noticed. The D-backs FIP ERA is third in the NL. This is a much better pitching staff than they look.

The Phillies make a counter-point to the D-Backs: they always seem to be much less than the sum of their parts. Despite having potent weapons like Bobby Abreu, Pat Burrell, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the lineup, the Phillies score just 4.98 runs a game. Ok, better than the NL average, but why have the D-backs scored 278 runs to the Phillies 269?

Well, they are hitting .233 with RISP. Not the worst in the NL, but let’s not celebrate being better than the Chicago Cubs (.232). The Phillies are awful, trailing the league average in BARISP by thirty points.

The Phillies have really struggled on the mound of late, with the decision to send Gavin Floyd to the minors and Cole Hamels absence high-lighting a problem: the Phillies have pitching talent but they aren’t clicking. Perhaps Hamels return will improve matters, and Gavin Floyd has to be addition-by-subtraction.

So I’d be worried going into this series. On paper, the Phillies are much better than the D-Backs. But games aren’t played on paper and the D-Backs are a team that is much better than the sum of their parts.

Nice 6-4 win for the Phillies last night. Escaping L.A. with a 2-2 split is a mild victory. The Phillies also jumped back into second place and are a game and a half above the Braves.

Inquirer writer Marcus Hayes writes that Ryan Franklin wants to go to the rotation. Read it for yourself here. Favorite quote: "Franklin could hardly do worse." Yes he could.

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