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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Phillies - Braves Series Preview 

Sorry for the late afternoon post, but I've been busy. Better late than never, right? Alright, five things to keep in mind about the Braves & Phillies series tonight ...

1. The Braves are a lot better than their 19-18 record suggests. I like to follow teams Pythagorean Win-Loss records and compare them to their 'real' records to predict which teams are lucky and due for a fall or resurgence. Looking at records so far this season I'm seeing the Braves as a team that is poised to make a resurgence. As of this morning, this is where the N.L. East standings sit:

1. Florida: 23-15
2. Philadelphia: 21-18
3. New York: 19-17
4. Atlanta: 19-18
5. Washington: 16-23

Here are the Pythagorean Win-Loss records:

1. Atlanta: 23-14
2. Philadelphia: 21-18
3. Florida: 20-18
4. New York: 19-17
5. Washington: 16-23

The Mets, Phillies and Nationals are all hitting their pythagorean win-loss records right on the mark, but the Marlins are over-performing by three games and the Braves are under-performing by four. Why is that? Well, the Braves have a terrible record in close (i.e., games decided by two runs or less) games at 4-10. When they start getting those break landing their way, I think that the Braves will start winning and will validate my prediction that they'll win the N.L. East in 2008.

2. The Braves have a darn good pitching staff. Of the Phillies five starters, four boast ERAs of 4.93 or above:

Cole Hamels: 3.36
Kyle Kendrick: 4.93
Jamie Moyer: 5.02
Brett Myers: 5.33
Adam Eaton: 5.40

lower than 3.00. Compare that to the Braves starters: Tim Hudson (2.54) and John Smoltz (2.00) have ERAsJair Jurrgens, who tossed just thirty innings in relief for the Tigers last season, is 4-3 with a 3.10 ERA. Braves pitchers rank fourth in the N.L. in strikeouts per nine innings (7.26), while the Phillies rank twelfth (6.09). The Braves also rank first (or last, depending on how you view it ... let's just say "best") in OPS against at .664.

Bizarrely, Phillies starters have turned in slightly more (19 to 18) Quality Starts (a start where a pitcher tossed six or more innings and surrenders three or fewer runs) than the Braves. Go figure.

3. The Braves field well. Their fielding percentage is just seventh in the N.L. to the Phillies fourteenth, but they were also second in Defense Efficiency Ratio (DER), meaning that Braves fielders converted balls put into play into outs 71.8% of the time, second to just the Cubs at 72%.

4. The Braves can hit. They have a better OPS than the Phillies (.789 to .755), a slightly better batting average with runners in scoring position (.250 to .249 BA/RISP), and have scored more runs per game (4.89 to 4.74).

5. The Braves are going to sweep this series. Sorry, Phillies fans, but the Braves are a sleeping giant.

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Darn good staff? Not really. There bullpen has been shaky all year due to injuries, poor performances, and some questionable offseason moves. Plus, their starting rotation isn't as solid as you describe either.

Smoltz is out (and possibly done as a starter) and just like every team in the NL East, the Braves have two marginal starters at the end of their rotation in Bennett and Reyes right now.
I don't understand this love affair with the Braves. They're not that good. Their pitching staff isn't nearly as good as you claim. Glavine's already been on the DL, and Smoltz won't start again.

And the phils won last night, so they won't get swept. (they will lose tonight though, since they're on national TV).
I have to agree with the first two posters... I fail to see the strength in the Braves starting staff. Glavine is a notorious fader in the 2nd half of the season (as a Mets fan I should know) and is not exactly lights out at the moment either... plus Smoltz is done as a starter. Even if he's healthy enough to be their closer (something which is no lock) the starters that can be relied on is Hudson and... well... Hudson.

Jurrgens has been pretty good so far... but as the Mets saw with Nelson Figaroa (and the Phils saw with Kyle Kendrick's decent pitching from last year), five or six good starts do not a season make.

The bullpen hasn't been very solid this year either. Overall, considering that their best hitter (Larry... errr.... Chipper Jones) gets hurt on avergae three times a year I think the Braves will fall short of making the playoffs... either as the NL East winner or the NL Wild Card. Will they be in contention? Sure. But win it? I highly doubt it.
Winning the first game aside, I don't know how you make a prediction of a sweep with Hamels going against Chuck James in the final game of the series? Seems ridiculous to me. The Braves are so overrated and are Texiera-less this whole series. Phillies are going to win it tonight
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What was this about a Braves sweep??? After splitting the first 2 games this game of opposing lefthanders was no contest.

Cole Hamels was simply brilliant. After the Braves #2 hitter singled in the first, Hamels retired the next 15 hitters he faced. The next guy to reach on Hamels was Gregor Blanco who singled to centerfield in the sixth inning.

James only lasted four, being pounded for 3 Phillie homers.
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Go Phiilies!
Can someone answer a couple of questions for me, please? My husband and I became fans of So Taguchi when he was with the Cards and while not happy when they dumped him, we were pleased that the Phillies picked him up.

He frequently had good numbers when with the Cards but it seems that lately he's become a disaster and we're wondering if there's a story behind his decline? He seems to just be used late as a PH or to run for someone, again in late innings. His numbers are really bad but his lack of playing time doesn't give much opportunity to bolster the figures.

I know he was to be a "bench player" but he seems to draw less time on the field than the bat boy. Judging by all this, I wouldn't be surprised to see him gone sooner than the end of the season which I would hate to have happen but he's always been fun to watch and it's just so puzzling to us as to why he's such a ghost anymore.

Does anyone have any concrete info and would be willing to share with us?

Thanks in advance.

KathyB in Indiana
I noticed this too, about the Braves - they clearly have been the best team in the NL East. Despite the injuries, they lead the league in ERA, and are 3rd in OBP and 5th in SLG on offense.
I keep rooting against them, maybe that helps.
In our opinion, Dan Uggla has surpassed Chase Utley as the premier 2B in the NL this year. We're curious to know if you guys agree. Here's our piece:


Let's start a debate!
Man, you haven't posted in ages.

The Phils just took 2 of 3 from the Nationals and start a 4 game series in Houston Thursday night.

Its feast or famine with the Phillies offense. Good to see Howard bash a couple out. I'd like to see Burrell where he was a few weeks ago to compliment Howard.

Hopefully Moyer's performance is sign of consistency to come. Now if we can get Myers straightened out,
Hopefully, Pat "the bat" has recharged the batteries after 3 for 27 and that Ryan Howard is on the cusp of explosion.

Brad Lidge: Simply A W E S O M E!!!
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