Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Brett Myers pitched a good game: he allowed just two extra-base hits – both doubles – and twelve of the sixteen balls put into play that he allowed were ground balls. Good performance, he really gave them a chance to win.
Well … enough dissecting last night’s performance … I outlined the Phillies series with the Nationals yesterday, so I figured that I might outline the Dodgers road ahead since what happens to them weighs heavily on what the Phillies do over the next few days. The Dodgers faced off again tonight against the Rockies, whom they beat 11-4 last night, then again tomorrow, followed up with a weekend series against their hatred archrivals, the San Francisco Giants.
The Rockies are a weird team this year: once a collection of sluggers and bad pitchers, they’ve transformed themselves into a group of defense-oriented small-ballers. I never imagined that I’d see the Colorado Rockies rank eighth in isolated power instead of first, or seventh in Fielding Independent Pitching instead of fifteenth or sixteenth. Or that the Rockies would be the second-stingiest team in the majors to hit a home run against.
Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
Isolated Power (ISO): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.
On-Base Percentage (OBP): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
Slugging Percentage (SLG): Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage. Power at the plate.
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).
Hr/9 – Home Runs allowed per nine innings: (HR * 9) / IP
K/9 – Strikeouts per nine innings: (K * 9) / IP
BB/9 – Walks per nine innings: (BB * 9) / IP
But they are exactly like the Dodgers, a team built on base-stealing, small-ball and pitching. The Dodgers are second, after the Phillies, in OBP, but fall below the league average in slugging percentage. The Dodgers have relied on clutch hitting all season: they rank first in BA w/ RISP at .282, a key factor in driving in their runs. The problem is that their offense is so keyed on getting guys on base and getting them home with timely singles that when the bats fall silent the Dodgers struggle. The Dodgers are so bizarrely streaky that just after the All-Star Break they when 1-13, then rebounded, won eleven games in a row and eventually went 17-1. Later in August they proceeded to lose four games in a row and then turned around and won seven in a row before losing another three. The Dodgers could lose their final five games, or they could win all five. Either result to me is more likely then them going 3-2 or 2-3.
Tomorrow the Dodgers send Derek Lowe against the Rockies. I’ve been very impressed by what I’ve seen from Derek Lowe since he left the Red Sox following the ’04 season. Unlike what the Phillies got with the inconsistent Jon Lieber, the Dodgers got exactly what they wanted when they signed Lowe: a groundball pitcher who would keep the ball in the park, keep the walks low and get the fielders lots of chances to make 6-3, 5-3 and 4-3 groundouts. What has Lowe done? 0.61 Home Runs per nine innings, 2.4 walks per nine innings, 5.2 strikeouts per nine innings. His 3.65 FIP is right in line with his 3.57 ERA. He’s also induced 28 double-plays this season. Last year’s leader in GIDP’s induced was Tim Hudson with 32, so that is pretty good. Lowe has helped his fielders out too: just 15.4% of the balls he put into play were line-drives. He is a tough, tough cookie to crack.
Tomorrow the Dodgers send Brad Penny, the former Marlin, to the mound. Penny is another Dodgers hurler having a good season: 16-9, he’s pitching better than his 4.21 ERA indicates (3.73 FIP). Like Lowe he’s tough to homer off of (0.87 HR/9), keeps them off the bases (2.4 BB/9), but unlike Lowe Penny gets some strikeouts (7.0 K/9).
Friday the Dodgers send Hong-Chih Kuo to the mound against the Giants. The rookie hurler is pitching much, much better than his 1-5 record indicates: his FIP ERA is 3.03. The scary thing is that he’s struck out 28% of the batters he’s faced (65 K’s against 236 batters faced). After that, the Dodgers send Greg Maddux (4-3, 3.26 ERA as a Dodger) on Saturday Night, followed by Lowe on Sunday. If a one-game playoff were needed for Monday against the Phils, I’m assuming that Brad Penny will make the start.
I am deeply impressed by the depth and quality of the Dodgers pitching staff. Man-for-man, they are all better than their Phillies counterparts, Cole Hamels excluded. Maddux in particular looks to have been rejuvenated at the age of forty since his trade to L.A., lowering his ERA almost a run and a half. The Dodgers FIP ERA is third-best in the N.L. after the Mets and Astros. They are stingy with the walks (3.1 a game) and even more so with the home runs (a league-best 0.9 a game).
As I look at the Dodgers right now I fear that they are clicking on all cylinders. This is a streaky team, but right now they look like they are on a hot streak rather than a cold one. With last night’s loss, I think the Phillies playoff hopes are looking bleak.
Wildcard Watch! … Now the Phillies need Cole Hamels to come up big. They cannot drop three in a row right now and they cannot put their playoff destiny in the hands of another team any more than it already is. I wouldn’t call tonight a Must-Win, but a loss would leave the Phillies with little margin of error going into their series with the Marlins.
1. Los Angeles: 83-74
2. Philadelphia: 82-75 (1.0)
3. Houston: 79-78 (4.0)
4. Cincinnati: 78-79 (5.0)
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