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.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Tigers vs. Phillies 

Well, well, well … Look who is sitting in second place? The much-maligned, much-derided, much-ignored Philadelphia Phillies. Thanks to a catastrophic three-game sweep at the hands of the Minnesota Twins, the Atlanta Braves have tumbled out of second place and the Phillies have advanced to within two games of the slumping New York Mets, who have lost five games in a row and are 2-10 in the month of June. With the red-hot Yankees hosting the Mets in the Bronx this weekend, things are definitely looking up for the Phillies. This team shaved six and a half games off their deficit to the Mets in just two weeks. Heck, they could be sitting in first place on Monday morning. Time shall tell.

First thing’s first, the Phillies match up with the Detroit Tigers this weekend in what promises to be a bruising battle. The Tigers are a great team, loaded with pitching and hitting, every bit the equal of the ’06 team that made it to the World Series. Taking this series is going to be a tall order. Here are the match ups:

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)
Walks per plate appearance (BB/PA): BB / PA = .BB/PA Avg
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
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.

Pitching … Tonight is Jeremy Bonderman vs. Jon Lieber. The Tigers hold a huge edge in this match up in many respects. Let’s start with the fact that Bonderman is 6-0 this season. That only tells part of the story. He’s striking out eight batters every nine innings (an exact 8.00 K/9), and his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) ERA is a low, low, low 2.96. Bonderman is allowing just 1.75 walks per nine innings pitched, which is actually lower than Lieber (2.39), a well-known skinflint when it comes to allowing walks. Advantage: Tigers for this evening. Saturday night is Jamie Moyer vs. Andrew Miller. The rookie Tigers pitcher is doing well, but is nowhere near as good as his teammate, Bonderman. That said, Jamie Moyer has been struggling quite a big of late. His FIP has soared to 4.99 … Even so, I give the Phillies a slight edge.

Finally, on Sunday night the Phillies send Adam Eaton to square-off with 2006 AL Rookie of the Year and owner of a recent no-hitter, Justin Verlander. Verlander is actually nowhere near as good as his numbers suggest – his 2.79 ERA is actually concealing a 4.00 FIP because Verlander has given up a decent number of walks (3.21 BB/9) and has benefited from some absurdly strong defense behind him. Specifically, Tigers fielders have converted .753 of the balls put into play behind Verlander into outs. Not too shabby.

On the other hand, Verlander might get a bit of a surprise. Eaton has been pitching well and might actually out-duel Verlander. The Phillies won’t be sending the strongest and weakest portions of their rotation to the mound this weekend – Cole Hamels and Kyle Kendrick.

As a team the Tigers are an offensive juggernaut. They score nearly six runs a game (5.94), by far the best in the majors. They lead, by a wide margin I might add, the A.L. in Isolated Power at the plate (.190) and are the fourth-best team in the A.L. in On-Base Percentage. If the Phillies allow the Tigers to put men on base they well get burned. The Tigers are hitting a startling .328 with runners in scoring position (BA/RISP), by far the best in the majors (the A.L. average is .272).

Defensively the Tigers are average – their .697 Defense Efficiency Ratio (DER) is a little better than the A.L. average of .695. Their plus / minus rating as a team is -2. Their fielders do little to shield their pitchers, who aren’t quite as good as they were last season this year. The Tigers 4.72 FIP is worse than the league average (4.40) largely because the Tigers give up slightly more than the A.L. average in walks and home runs and don’t get nearly the same number of strikeouts that their A.L. compatriots do.

The Tigers offense vs. the Phillies offense ought to be a fun match up – while the Tigers lead the A.L. (and the MLB) in runs scored per game, so do the Phillies (5.04) lead the N.L. in runs scored. The Phillies are the best team in the N.L. in On-Base Percentage and one of the best in terms of Isolated Power at the plate. Not too shabby. Even BA/RISP, typically one of the Phillies weaknesses, is pretty o.k. this season. The Phillies are .258 vs. the league average of .257. Add in the fact that the Phillies are getting Ryan Howard back after he was missing and unhealthy even when in the lineup, and you have to figure that the Phillies are going to explode this month and next.

And that is a good thing, because the Phillies pitching and fielding are mediocre. The Phillies are +1 and their DER is belong the league average (.687 vs. .698). Their FIP is also below par: 4.59 to 4.16.

Expect to see a lot of high-scoring games this weekend. Saturday night, in particular, could be a 11-9 slugfest. I hope to see the Phillies come out on top and sit in first place on Monday, but I am projecting a 1-2 split in favor of the Tigers. See everyone on Monday!

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