Thursday, April 24, 2008
Last night's game with the Brewers sums up a lot of the season so far: Jimmy Rollins is out (rumor as it with a broken foot), Ryan Howard is struggling, and Chase Utley and Pat Burrell are carrying the team. Burrell hit his eighth home run and Utley hit his tenth last night. Sadly, the Phillies couldn't close the deal, losing 5-4 as Cole Hamels surrendered two runs at the bottom of the eighth inning to let the Brewers slip by with a comeback victory. Today the Brewers and Phillies play at 1:00 PM and Ryan Howard won't be in the lineup.
Phillies - Pirates Thoughts: the Pirates threaten the 1933 - 1948 Phillies place in the record books as they approach their sixteenth consecutive losing season. For those unfamiliar with Phillies history: the '33 - '48 team suffered through sixteen consecutive seasons of losing in a particularly ugly period of the team's history. The 1941 team lost 111 games, an impressive feat in an era when teams played 152 games. The '33 - '48 Phillies lost 100 or more games seven times. The '93 - '08 Pirates threaten that mark of futility this season. Since they lost the seventh game of the 1992 NLCS to the Atlanta Braves (how exactly did Sid Bream beat that throw from Barry Bonds?) the Pirates have been in a spiral of incompetence. The team periodically waivers from trying to rebuild with the farm system (a strategy undermined by the fact that the team drafts poorly) and trying to add declining veterans (see, Matt Morris) at the expense of developing players. The Pirates strategy is baffling to understand and it ought not be surprising that the team has throughly alienated its fan-base these last fifteen years.
The 2008 Pirates have some talent but they are hopelessly out-classed by the Phillies. I had proposed the Pirates as a dark-horse contender in the weak N.L. Central in my season preview but they've utterly flopped thus far this season, posting a 9-12 record thus far this season, six games behind the Cubs. The Pirates problem is that while they have a good pitching staff they are undermined by the fact that their position players cannot hit and cannot field. The Pirates currently rank thirteenth in the N.L. in OPS at .678, while the Phillies rank fourth in OPS at .802. The Pirates don't set the table much: they have an OBP of .310, compared to the Phillies .338. And when runners get on they don't close the deal: the Pirates Isolated Power at the plate is a puny .123 compared with the Phillies .203. The Pirates have hit 17 home runs to the Phillies 37. Chase Utley alone has ten home runs. Both the Phillies and Pirates hit below-average with runners in scoring position (BA/RISP):
Phillies: .240 BA/RISP
Pirates: .249 BA/RISP
N.L. Avg.: .254 BA/RISP
Although the Phillies inability to hit with runners in scoring position isn't lethal to their ability to score runs because they hit with so much power at the plate, whereas the Pirates struggles are compounded by their inability to hit home runs. While Jason Bay (.409 OBP) is hitting well, his four home runs have yielded just seven RBI, a testament to how little the Pirates do to set the table. Adam LaRoche, the Pirates first baseman, has been a disaster so far this season: .127 Batting Average, just one home run. Until LaRoche hits, the Pirates are sunk.
While I've bemoaned the Phillies lack of speed thus far this season (ten steals, two triples), the Pirates resemble some guy sitting on his couch watching TV in his underwear while eating a big bowl of fritos. They are the slowest team in the N.L., having stolen just six bases (the Astros Michael Bourn alone has thirteen) which is tied for the worst in the N.L., along with just one triple, the worst in the N.L.
The Pirates rotation, which I felt would be a strength, has been a major disappointment:
Ian Snell: 2-1, 4.45 ERA
Zack Duke: 0-1, 4.37 ERA
Paul Maholm: 1-2, 4.22 ERA
Matt Morris: 0-3, 9.15 ERA
Tom Gorzelanny: 1-2, 9.35 ERA
The Pirates team ERA is a whopping 5.66, by far the worst in the N.L. The Pirates hurlers are worst in the N.L. in terms of getting strikeouts (5.1 K/9) and have allowed far too many home runs and doubles to be hit off them. The team's .468 slugging percentage allowed is second-worst in the N.L. to the Florida Marlins. The Pirates 4.66 FIP is, again, worst in the N.L.
As you've noticed, the Pirates FIP is a full run better than their ERA, so one of the problems is that the Pirates fielders are simply abysmal: the team's .654 Defense Efficiency Ratio (DER - the percentage of balls put into play that fielders turn into outs) is the worst in the N.L. and sum up a major reason why the Pirates pitchers cannot develop: pitchers not confident that the fielders can take care of balls put into play tend to drive themselves nuts trying to strike each and every guy out. The Pirates inability to develop these position players is a major reason why their talented young pitchers have struggled.
Politics ... The eyes of America were on Pennsylvania Tuesday night. I voted in the Primary Election and I hope everyone registered as a Republican or a Democrat did the same. I was very surprised by the outcome: I truly expected to see Barak Obama close the deal and sink Hillary Clinton's Presidential campaign. Instead Hillary won a solid victory, 55%-45%. What was a major surprise to me was how poorly Obama did in the Philadelphia suburbs. He won Delaware and Chester Counties with just 55% of the vote and lost Montgomery County 51% to 49%. The fact that Obama lost Montgomery County, with its educated, white-collar voters - the very picture of the Obamacrat - is troubling for his campaign. John McCain is probably looking at swatches for the drapes in the Oval Office right now. On to North Carolina & Indiana ...
I'll have a few more musings tomorrow...
Labels: Odds 'n Ends
So glad Hillary won PA, I am supporting her! I would like to see a female president in my lifetime and she would be the person I would like to see make it. Hill-Bill 2008 for sure!
The Pirates looked good on Friday night, they have a lot of good players. I am glad the Phillies beat them though. Enjoy the game on Sunday!
Rich - Phillywebcast.com