Monday, October 08, 2007
First, the San Diego Padres blew a lead to the Colorado Rockies and sent to the Rockies to the playoffs as the N.L. wildcard. The Rockies had concluded their season with victories in 14 of 15 games. They were the only team in baseball playing with more confidence and more momentum than the Phillies.
Then the Phillies dropped both of the opening games at home, before going onto Colorado and dropping the final game of the series 2-1 Saturday Night (late, I might add, I stayed up until 12:30 AM to watch it) in the Mile-High City. The quick exit tarnished the Phillies September run and has left a sour taste in the mouths of Phillies phandom.
Let’s go back and give a few reasons why the Phillies lost in the first place. Good pitching always defeats good hitting and vice versa, said Yogi Berra. Good pitching was the difference here. The Rockies managed to hold the Phillies to eight runs and a .274 OBP, about eighty points under the Phillies season average. The Phillies .366 slugging percentage was ninety-two points lower. The Phillies OPS in the series was just .640, compared to their .812 in the regular season.
More stats of note: in their 27 innings of work, the Rockies struck-out 26 Phillies and issued 12 walks.
As I poured through the numbers it became apparent that the Phillies never got going against the Rockies hitters. They hit poorly in the clutch: 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position (.091 BA/RISP), but part of that was that the Phillies rarely had runners in scoring position. Aside from their five home runs, there were just two Phillies hits for extra-bases: a triple of Jimmy Rollins and a double by Carlos Ruiz. The Phillies also only stole three bases.
Every Phillies hitter struggled. Aside from hitting solo home runs in Game One, Aaron Rowand and Pat Burrell were virtually automatic outs. Rowand was 1-for-12 and Burrell was 2-for-11. Throw out those home runs they hit, and the two went 1-for-21 with no runs, no RBI and seven strike-outs.
Chase Utley was 2-for-11 with five strikeouts. Ryan Howard was 3-for-12 with seven strikeouts. The supporting cast wasn’t a help either: Wes Helms was 0-for-2, Jayson Werth was 0-for-3, and Greg Dobbs was 0-for-3. Jimmy Rollins went 2-for-11, but he also had a triple, a home run, hit four RBI, had a stolen base and drew two walks. Out of all of the Phillies, he played the best.
The Phillies pitchers deserve some of the blame for the debacle, but you have to acknowledge that Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer pitched well. Moyer, in particular, was a surprise since he hadn’t beaten the Rockies in his career, his start in Denver this season had gone so poorly, and his soft-tossing style seemed to promise hits sailing into the outfield. Yet Jamie Moyer tried to keep the Phillies in the series with a brilliant performance in Game Three, allowing just one run on five hits and two walks in six innings of work.
Cole Hamels pitched well in Game One, allowing just three runs in six and two-thirds of an inning of work, tagging seven strikeouts and allowing just three hits and four walks. He seemed in control of the game and had he gotten some run support from his brethren, he might have won Game One for the Phillies.
The rest of the Phillies pitching staff is another story entirely. Kyle Kendrick pitched poorly in Game Two and Kyle Lohse allowed the pivotal home run in Game Two that effectively sank the Phillies chances in the series. J.C. Romero failed the Phillies in the eighth inning Saturday Night. Jose Mesa’s ERA in the series was 81.00. ‘Nuff said.
Simply put, the Phillies couldn’t hold a candle to the Rockies pitching staff, which is vastly under-rated and under-appreciated. As I watched the Rockies on Saturday Night, I thought: poor Diamondbacks. They don’t have a chance. The Rockies pitching staff is very good and was the real difference-maker. If they pitch this well against the D-backs more punch-less offense, I don’t see how the Rockies could lose.
What of Charlie Manuel? He certainly made mistakes in the series. His decision in Game Three to take out Tom Gordon and put J.C. Romero in can be second-guessed. His decision in Game Two to intentionally walk Yorvit Torrealba was baffling and came back to bite the Phillies when Seth Smith hit an infield single to load the bases, then Manuel brought in Lohse to surrender the pivotal grand slam to Kaz Matsui. The walk to Torrealba looms large as a blunder, but allowing Romero to pitch while saving Brett Myers for the ninth-inning and extra-innings seemed like a reasonable strategy in Game Three, and bringing in Lohse to pitch to Matsui seemed like a good move given that Kendrick had thrown a number of pitches by that juncture. I don’t think you can pin this loss in the series on Charlie Manuel. That would be unfair.
The odd thing I noticed in the pages of the Philadelphia Inquirer was how upbeat the coverage of the Phillies was. Despite the tragic sweep, the people who cover this team seem to be optimistic about its future. E.g., check out Jim Salisbury's take. It’s players seem to be optimistic. The fans need to be too. This is only the beginning of the Phillies run, not the end.
In summing up, let me just comment on the stunning fact that three of the four divisional series were sweeps: the Rockies over the Phillies, the Diamondbacks over the Cubs, the Red Sox over the Angels. I’d like to add that I got every one of those series wrong. The Cubs are a much stronger team on paper than the Diamondbacks and I was certain they’d take the series, especially with the momentum they’ve been playing with. Lou Pinella’s decision to pull Carlos Zambrano in Game One of their series looks to be the thread that unwound the Cubs tapestry. Burdened by decades of history and expectations, they folded quietly. Wait ‘til next year.
Over in the American League, I was stunned by how the Red Sox pitching utterly dominated the Angels. I really thought that the Angels would have an edge here, but they did not. Josh Beckett’s nine-inning, four-hit, eight-strikeout masterpiece in Game One set the tone. Meanwhile, the Yankees kept alive, but I think the Indians will win the series regardless. That one will go to five games.
Alright, so here is the posting schedule for the week coming up:
Tuesday: Rockies – Diamondbacks Analysis
Wednesday: Bring Back Charlie Manuel?
Thursday: Speed & the Phillies in 2007
Friday: The Blueprint for 2008
Mr. Ruiz seemed to do alright this series, going .333, well over his season average.
Although, yes, he did leave the bases loaded in Game 2, when Hope was still alive.
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