Friday, June 22, 2007
The next few weeks will present the Phillies with some opportunities: the Cardinals and Reds, their next foes, both look terrible this season. The 32-37 Cardinals are struggling through a hard-luck season which has seen manager Tony LaRussa pick up a DUI in Spring Training, then pitcher Josh Hancock died in a car accident, all the while the team has played sub-.500 baseball. Even with Albert Pujols being his usual terrific self, the 2007 Cardinals are a shell of the team … which wasn’t even that good anyway … that won the N.L. Central and the World Series in 2006.
The Cardinals are doing nothing well, from hitting (their .130 ISO is one of the worst in the N.L., and they aren’t doing a good job about getting on base either) to pitching (their 4.60 Fielding Independent Pitching ERA is fifteenth in the N.L., better than just the Washington Nationals at 4.70) to fielding (.690 DER, .007 below the league average). The Cardinals are allowing 5.42 runs per game, worst in the National League. This team is terrible and seems like it needs an injection of youth or LaRussa and the rest of the Cardinals high command risk seeing their 2006 championship become a fluke, an afterthought the same way the Florida Marlins ’97 title was.
The Reds are even riper fruit for the Phillies to pick. The 28-45 Reds are the worst team in the National League and don’t seem to have a prayer. Despite having a ton of talent – namely two terrific pitchers in Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo – the Reds are a total disaster. As usual, the Reds are able to hammer the ball (.180 ISO), but unlike in years past the Reds aren’t putting hitters on base (.321 OBP) and are hitting awfully with runners in scoring position (.230 BA/RISP). The Reds fielders are atrocious. Their surprisingly good pitching staff is being utterly undone by their terrible fielding (.677 DER). Expect the Reds to move Adam Dunn to a contender by the trading deadline, Reds fans. Also, expect the team to be unable to unload Ken Griffey, Jr., whose porous defense, declining hitting and shaky health have basically killed the Reds as a franchise since he arrived in 1999.
The week ahead is a golden opportunity to pick up four, five or even six easy wins and catch up to the Mets and Braves. The slumping Mets will likely roll into the Phillies series broken and weary. While the Phillies get the Cardinals this weekend, the Mets get the Oakland A’s. The Mets also have to play seven days in a row heading into next Friday night’s doubleheader with the Phillies. The Mets ought to be exhausted by the time they wrap up the series with the Phillies on Sunday afternoon.
Then the road doesn't get any easier. The Mets will ultimately play eighteen games in seventeen days before the All-Star Break rolls around. The Mets are 4-14 this month and seem to be collapsing. Their massive lead over the Phillies and Braves has dwindled to nothing. When these two teams play each other next Friday, expect to see the Mets with a worse record than the Phillies.
The pitchers the Phillies draw in St. Louis have, if I'm not mistaken, a 7-25 record. GO REDBIRDS WOOO CARDS!*
*I'm going for the reverse jinx here.