Monday, September 17, 2007
Did you watch any of this weekend’s series against the Mets? Yet another sweep! Yesterday’s 10-6 victory was the Phillies eighth … EIGHTH … consecutive win against the Mets. The Phillies are 12-6 against the Mets this season, and the sweep helped the Phillies pull to within 3.5 games of the Mets and 1.5 games of the wildcard. It was a wild series to be sure: the Phillies got a pinch-hit grand slam yesterday by Greg Dobbs, and Saturday’s game featured six Mets steals on nine tries against the Phillies pitching.
So how do the Phillies look for the playoffs? Pretty good, although they have a slight problem that I’ll elaborate on later … The good news is that suddenly the N.L. East is “in play” as they say in the political realm, with the Phillies sitting a mere three and a half out with just 13 games left to play.
More good news? The Phillies are 18-14 against their final three foes, the Braves, Nationals and Cardinals. Even more good news, seven of their last thirteen games are against the Nationals, whom they are 7-4 against. The bad news, and the real problem for the Phillies, is that the Mets have six games against the Nationals, seven against the Marlins and a make-up game against the Cardinals to cope with down the stretch. The Mets could very easily blitz through those games 10-4 and make what the Phillies do utterly irrelevant. The Padres? Well, the Padres have games against the Pirates, Giants and slumping Brewers to close the season. Aside from the Rockies, the Padres have so easy foes to dispatch, so when you look at the schedule, I am not confident of the Phillies reaching the post-season.
Tonight the Phillies take on the St. Louis Cardinals, perhaps the weakest team to win the World Series since … the 1987 Twins? … I dunno, but the Cardinals look pretty lousy this season and might actually have a shot at the N.L. Central, a sad commentary on the state of the Central division … The Cardinals are no match for the Phillies on paper. Curiously, for having such a lousy season, it is worth noting that the Cardinals could be worse off than they are right now. Their run differential is -83, a product of being out-scored 650 to 733. The only teams worse in the N.L. in run differential are the Astros (-111) and the Nationals (-114). The Phillies, for the record, at +46, having out-scored the enemy 805 to 759. The Cards are a little lucky, breaking even in close games (27-26). They are five games ahead of their Pythagorean Win-Loss record at 69-76.
Offensively there is no contest: the Phillies score 5.48 R/G to the Cardinals 4.48. The Phillies get on base more – .355 OBP to .336 – they hit for more power – .459 Slugging percentage to .409 – and they’ve stolen 124 bases to the Cardinals pathetic 46. Aside from a slight advantage for the Cardinals in terms of hitting with runners in scoring position – .268 vs. .264 – the Phillies are clearly the better offensive team. Clearly.
Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
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
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).
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.
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.
Defensively things are much closer: the Cardinals are a little better in terms of team Zone Rating and DER:
Phillies / Cardinals
RZR: .808 / .816
DER: .687 / .690
And the Cardinals are better in terms of Fielding Independent Pitching: 4.62 to 4.86. However, the Phillies pitching has gotten much better as the season has worn on and actually is kind of respectable now. With Cole Hamels back, slight advantage for the Phillies?
The Phillies send Kyle Kendrick tonight and Cole Hamels tomorrow night to face-off with Mike Maroth and Kip Wells. Wells, a long-time Pittsburgh Pirate, is having a season that is a microcosm of the Cardinals campaign: absolutely horrible. Wells is 6-17, giving him an outside chance at being a 20-game loser, with a 5.77 ERA. The Cardinals are desperate enough for pitching that they are sending Wells into the fray. Wedneday the Phillies will try to close out the series with Jamie Moyer, who is 13-11 this season. As I said the other day, I like games where Jamie Moyer follows up Cole Hamels in the rotation. The ying-and-yang effect of facing Hamels blazing fastballs and then struggling to swing as Moyer’s 75mph changeups has to baffle teams that face the Phillies like that.
In the news … I was reading this weekend that the Northwest Passage is real. The European Space Agency says that their satellites have detected an ice-free area north of Canada that ships could sail from Europe to Asia and bypass the Panama canal. The Northwest Passage was long a dream of explorers and Henry Hudson gave his life looking for it, after spending years exploring the Chesapeake Bay, the Hudson River and Hudson Bay. Now it is a reality. So … does W believe global warming is real now? … Seriously, it is kinda of interesting. Check out this article from The Atlantic Monthly on global warming’s winners and losers. Pennsylvania’s agricultural industry could be a global warming winner, by the way, because experts predict that it will lengthen the growing season here in the Northeast and make Pennsylvania more of an attractive place to farm.
I didn’t post an NFL season preview deliberately this year because I wanted to provide a laser-like focus on baseball waning days. That, and I’ve been really busy this year. The Patriots cheating scandal is problematic for the NFL and I like the way they’ve dealt with it, punishing now in the short-term and promising further sanctions in the future. The taping does raise some interesting questions about the Patriots place in history. What if it is determined that they were cheating in Super Bowl XXXIX? The opening drive of the second half, where the Patriots hammered the Eagles defense with exceedingly well-timed screen passes, changed the flow of the game and helped the Pats narrowly beat the Eagles. What if we see proof-positive of the Pats stealing the Eagles signals? Puts the Patriots three Super Bowls in four years in a new light.
The biggest surprise for the week was the Browns 51-45 upset of the Bengals. I can’t imagine anyone taking the Bengals seriously for the Super Bowl now. Oh, and the Saints are 0-2 this season. Ouch.
As for tonight’s game against the Redskins? Well, I like the Eagles for a 24-14 victory. Look for McNabb to throw for two TDs and for Brian Westbrook to run for the Eagles third. The Eagles new and revamped defense will shut the Redskins down and hold them to just two scores. Bow-wow, Clinton Portis. The only thing is that the Eagles special teams had better step things up next week. They almost single-handedly handed last week’s game to the Packers.
My names Josh Jones and I stumbled across your blog and felt the need to exchange blog links with you
care to do so?
My blog is majorleagueramblings.blogspot.com