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, August 17, 2007

Phillies vs. Pirates 

This weekend’s series with the Pittsburgh Pirates will be a tune-up for the Phillies stretch run, which will see them kick-off games with the Dodgers, Padres, Mets and other contenders in the coming days. I wouldn’t call these games against the Pirates “Must Wins”, but losses in Pittsburgh will be costly to the Phillies down the stretch.

Don’t expect these to be easy games for the Phillies. The Pirates will send to the mound, in two games, two of their best pitchers, and the Pirates do have some talent on the mound. Game One, J.D. Durbin will face-off with Tom Gorzelanny, a left-handed with a 11-6 record and a 3.29 ERA. Gorzelanny doesn’t walk many batters (2.7 BB/9), doesn’t give up many home runs (0.75 HR/9), and does a nice job handicapping hitters. Durbin is out-matched here: he’s given up more walks (22) than gotten strikeouts (21) and clearly deserves his 1-4, 4.14 ERA record. The Phillies have to get to Gorzelanny and get him off the mound to have a chance.

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
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.Runs Created
Zone Rating (ZR): 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.
ERA – Earned Run Average: (Earned Runs * 9) / IP = ERA
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.
HR/9 – Home Runs allowed per nine innings: (HR * 9) / IP
BB/9 – Walks per nine innings: (BB * 9) / IP
K/9 – Strikeouts per nine innings: (K * 9) / IP

Game two, the Phillies send Jamie Moyer to contend with Paul Maholm, a very average pitcher. Finally, in Game Three, the Phillies send Kyle Lohse to work against Ian Snell. Snell is just 7-10, but he’s pitched just as well as Gorzelanny: his ERA is 3.87, and he gets a lot of strikeouts (7.8 K/9). Let’s hope Lohse can step things up on Sunday.

The bad news is that the Phillies are clearly out-classes by the Pirates in terms of starting pitching. The good news is that everywhere else, the Phillies hold the cards in this series. The Phillies lead the league in OBP and are one of the top slugging teams in the N.L. They lead the league in runs scored with 645, 41 more than the second-place Rockies. The Pirates rank near the bottom of the N.L. in OBP and Isolated Power at the plate so it ought to be no surprise that the only teams worse at scoring runs are the Giants and Nationals. Simply put, the Pirates have a collection of weak-hitting utility guys who hit singles occasionally. Even when Jason Bay and Adam LaRoche are hitting well, which they haven’t for big stretches of the season, the Pirates don’t set the table for them at all. Compare the Pirates offense to the Phillies:

Phillies / Pirates / N.L. avg.
OBP: .353 / .318 / .331
SLG: .455 / .400 / .416
BA/RISP: .264 / .255 / .265

The Phillies are also much faster. Memo to the Pirates: if you are going to have a weak-hitting offense, your position players can’t be a bunch of slow-foots either. Even without Shane Victorino and Michael Bourn, the Phillies are easily more aggressive and quicker on the base-paths.

Defensively things are a little closer, but here too, the Phillies hold the edge. The Phillies fielders are better at converting balls put into play into outs: .690 DER vs. .684, they have allowed fewer unearned runs (32 vs. 40), the Phillies have gotten to more balls outside of the fielder’s zone (309 vs. 257), they have a better Plus/Minus (+15 vs. -45) and Revised Zone Rating (.811 vs. .807), they’ve caught a greater percentage of base-stealers (31% vs. 26%), and … you kind of get the idea. Aside from the Pirates starting pitchers, these games are a complete mismatch. So the question is, can Gorzelanny, Maholm and Snell win this series for the Pirates? Because if the Phillies drive them from the mound, they will easily destroy the Pirates. My prediction: a 2-1 series win for the Phillies, with the Pirates taking tonight’s game 3-2, and the Phillies taking Saturday 7-4 and Sunday 6-2.

Incidentially, I’ll be at Sunday afternoon’s game at PNC Park, sitting waaaaay up in Section 307. (I live in the South Hills area of Pittsburgh.) If any Phillies fans are making the trip, be sure to give me an email … citizensblog at gmail dot com.

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