Friday, August 31, 2007
It was a clutch, dramatic win that capped a huge series of successes for the Phillies. A four-game sweep of the Mets was something that I simply did not think was in the cards. Sweeter still that the running runs came off pitches thrown by Billy Wagner.
How important has the running game become for the Phillies? Werth's two steals put him in position to score the tying run and Igushi's steal helped to score the winning run when Chase Utley singled him home from second base. This team is really running and stretching the opposing defenses. Maybe this, speed, is what separates the 2006 team from 2007.
So now the Phillies turn their attention towards the Florida Marlins and Atlanta Braves as they enter the stretch run. They get the Marlins in Miami tonight and this weekend, then the Braves Monday through Wednesday before coming home to play the Marlins again. With the Fishstripes and Braves slumping, the Phillies are poised to roar.
Circle the date in your calendar: Sept. 14-16, Phillies vs. Mets in Shea Stadium. The NL East will be won by someone.
That’s it. I’ll give a little post to keep everyone’s appetite whetted for when I come back, but I am taking a trip to Western New York starting on Monday and I won’t be back until Sept. 10.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Odds ‘N Ends … By my estimation the Phillies ought to have two gold glovers at the end of the season: Shane Victorino, who is third amongst N.L. right fielders in Relative Zone Rating and has ten assists, ought to be the right field gold glove. Chase Utley is leading N.L. second basemen in RZR and is third in Range Factor. Both deserve the nod and I think Utley is basically a lock to take the Gold Glove and might still win the MVP award despite missing a little playing time. He has 21 Wins Shares, four behind N.L. leader Albert Pujols, whose Cardinals are having a terrible, terrible season. If I had to guess who the front-runners are for the MVP right now, I’d say …
1. Chase Utley
2. Jose Reyes
3. Carlos Beltran
4. Albert Pujols
5. Prince Fielder
Fielder is playing on a small-market, mid-western team that might fail to make the playoffs. Pujols is playing on a team that sucks and his performance is less impressive than last season’s, when he didn’t win the award. Beltran and Reyes will split the vote of New York writers, so I think the MVP is Utley’s to lose at this point.
Cy Young-wise, I’d say the front-runners are …
1. Jake Peavy
2. Brandon Webb
3. Brad Penny
4. Tim Hudson
5. Cole Hamels
I’m about 90% that Peavy will win. Webb, last year’s winner, stands about an 9% chance. The rest – Penny, Hudson and Hamels – are also-rans who don’t stand a chance. Hamels injuries don’t help.
Speaking of Cole Hamels … he’s slated to return from the DL and pitch Sunday against the Florida Marlins. Hamels return will be just in time to help the Phillies come down from this insane sixteen games in sixteen days. Since the Phillies lost four of six to the Dodgers and Padres, they’ve rebounded quite nicely. Let’s see if the Phillies can keep things runnin’ …
Given that most of the Phillies games down the stretch are against the rest of the N.L. East, they are well-set to make a run on the Dodgers, D-Backs and Padres for the wildcard, because they have to battle it out amongst themselves while the Phillies get to prey on the Nationals and Marlins. The Phillies are 7-4 against the Nats and 6-6 against the Marlins and Braves. As the Marlins continue to slid towards irrelevance, I like the Phillies chances.
Turning my eye towards the rest of the MLB … The Red Sox and Angels are pretty much locks to win the A.L. East and A.L. West respectively. Forget the Yankees. They just don’t have the staying power to keep up with the Red Sox. I think the Tigers will nudge out the Indians for the Central and the Yankees will be the wildcard. I anticipate a good race at the wire between the Yankees and Mariners for the wildcard … I still think that the Angels are a near-lock to win the World Series this season.
The Mets and Phillies will make the playoffs in the N.L., along with the Padres and Cubs. After their slow start, the Cubs could end up playing in the World Series after all. While the Padres should have the edge here because of their terrific pitching, it is an interesting phenomenon that teams with good pitching tend to come up empty in playoff series: the Braves consistently went flat in the playoffs over the last 14 or so years, and teams built around pitching like the Mariners really struggled (e.g., 2001 Mariners). I am thinking that the Phillies or Cubs will roll into the post-season as the N.L. representative to take on the Angels.
One more post before I go on vacation!
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Good times to be a Phillies fan …
I wanted to take a quick gander at the Phillies outfield defense today. To be blunt, it is the worst in the N.L. According to Relative Zone Rating (RZR), the Phillies rank dead-last, sixteenth of sixteen teams in terms of Zone Rating in the outfield:
1. New York: .912
2. Washington: .896
3. Atlanta: .895
4. Chicago: .891
5. Arizona: .8906. Florida: .888
7. Los Angeles: .881
8. Colorado: .877
9. San Diego: .877
10. Houston: .869
11. Cincinnati: .867
12. Milwaukee: .865
13. Pittsburgh: .862
14. San Francisco: .856
15. St. Louis: .855
16. Philadelphia: .849
N.L. Average: .877
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.
Why so bad? Well, over in left field the Phillies have Pat Burrell, who is desperately in need to being traded to an American League team this off-season and becoming a DH. Burrell’s .779 RZR in left field is the worst, by far, I might add, of any NL left fielder. The Cardinals Chris Duncan comes closest at .792.
The best left fielder? The Diamondbacks Eric Byrnes at .927.
In centerfield, Aaron Rowand continues to disappoint. His .845 RZR is better than the declining Jim Edmonds (.841), but he compares much worse to his rivals: Andruw Jones (.931), Carlos Beltran (.917), Juan Pierre (.900), and Mike Cameron (.893). I’m not sure why, but Rowand seems to really struggle in the outfield and hasn’t played the same since being the best center fielder in the A.L. in 2005.
Right field is the only place where the Phillies are getting real production from their outfielders. Shane Victorino ranks fourth of eleven N.L. right fielders at .897 RZR. Combined with his impressive throwing abilities (ten assists), I think the Phillies have a legit shot at seeing Victorino win the 2007 Gold Glove for right field. We’ll see.
Alright, a pretty short update, but it is better than none. Still digging out of a time-consuming mess at work …
Monday, August 27, 2007
So the Phillies sit six games behind the Mets for the N.L. East, a game ahead of the Braves, who have thankfully been just as bad as the Phillies. Strike that: worse. I thought the Braves decision to bring Mark Teixeira on the roster was a bold stroke that was going to guarantee the Braves a berth in the post-season? Well, the Braves have lost eight of their last eleven games and dropped three of four to the Cincinnati Reds and two of three to the St. Louis Cardinals. That’s pretty bad, folks.
Meanwhile, the Phillies sit three out of the wildcard, behind the Padres. Had the Phillies won some of these games, they'd be sitting in a better position for the playoffs. A much better position for the playoffs. Now the Phillies have a four-game set with the Mets. The good news is that Chase Utley returns to the Phillies lineup tonight. Utley is back and the Phillies get a chance to make up some ground on the Mets.
The bad news is that Cole Hamels' injury really has the Phillies hamstrung. Tuesday's starter has yet to be determined and the Phillies send J.D. Durbin to the mound tonight. If the Mets manage to take three or four games from the Phillies, the N.L. East race might be effectively over.