Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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Friday, May 30, 2008

Who ARE these guys? Fishstripes vs. Phillies Preview 

Oftentimes I don't really pay too much attention to the standings at the start of the season. I've seen too many teams come on like gangbusters in April, only to fall back to mediocrity in June and July. If you have a winning record on June 1, then we'll talk. So all during the months of April and May I've been dimly aware that the Florida Marlins, the team that unloaded nearly all of its talent (e.g., Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera) to rebuild once again, were sitting near the top of the standings. As I looked at things the other day, there are what the standings looked like to me:

N.L. East
1. Florida 30-22
2. Philadelphia 31-24
3. Atlanta 28-25
4. New York 25-26
5. Washington 23-31

I was stunned and needed to let the information sink in for a moment before I could process it. Now to all of those Mets fans who questioned my sanity in the preseason for doubting that the '08 Mets were the greatest thing since sliced bread, let me just take a moment and say this:


That felt good ... Well let's just look at the puny Marlins, with their team payroll according to ESPN.com of $22.6 million dollars (half - half! - that of the #29 team, the Tampa Bay Rays at $43.4 million) and the fact that have a better record that the of not-so-mighty New York Mets, spenders of $137 million dollars. Truly stunning. Now, I do intend to take a moment and devote an entire post to mocking the Mets (soon) and dissecting their struggles, but that's not going to be today. Today we are going to try and solve an important question. The Florida Marlins: Who are these guys?

Marlins Offense vs. Phillies Pitching & Fielding. So far the Marlins are scoring runs off their ability to hit home runs. They've hit 76 thus far, second in the N.L. after the Phillies with 79. Dan Uggla leads the team with 16 home runs and 38 RBI. Uggla, who finished third in the 2006 Rookie of the Year Award, is a solid defensive player with a lot of power. He makes a lot of comparisons to Chase Utley because the two play the same position - second base - and hit for power and average, but Uggla isn't the great defensive player that Utley is. While Uggla is an extremely talented player, Hanley Ramirez, the 2006 N.L. Rookie of the Year, is clearly the Fishstripes best: with nine home runs Ramirez has power, but he also supplies something that the Marlins lack this season. Speed. Ramirez has 13 steals in 18 attempts, having swiped half of the Marlins stolen bases.

While Uggla and Ramirez have been great, the big surprise to me is the play of Mike Jacobs. The unheralded Jacobs, who like Uggla and Ramirez debuted with the Marlins in 2006, has quietly hit 11 home runs and 29 RBI so far this season. The Marlins are going to need guys like Jacobs to continue to produce, lest they become a two-man show.

Their power at the plate is the reason why they've scored 254 runs, but they haven't nearly been as efficient as the Phillies have. They've hit .242 with runners in scoring position (BA/RISP) thirteenth in the N.L. Their paltry .326 OBP is also eleventh in the N.L. While the Marlins have scored runs and have had success I believe that their long-term prospects offensively are limited: without good situational hitting or without guys setting the table for the big bats, the Marlins are going to decline offensively because after a while you stop hitting solo home runs and winning games 4-3 by hitting three home runs.

The series will be an interesting test for Brett Myers, who pitches tonight. Can he stop Uggla, Ramirez and Jacobs? Thus far this season Myers has surrendered 15 home runs in 65 innings: 2.07 HR/9. Yikes. Can Myers survive the Fishstripes onslaught? Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer, the Phillies pitchers for Saturday and Sunday respectively, matchup well with the Marlins. Tonight will be the big, critical test.

Phillies Offense vs. Marlins Pitching & Fielding. At the moment the Phillies are doing nearly everything right. They rank second in the N.L. in clutching hitting, they are second in runs scored, first in home runs, third in doubles and fourth in On-Base-Percentage (OBP). They set the table, score runs, hit for power ... all they need is to improve their team speed which languished with Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins on the shelf, but seems to be making a comeback. The Phillies are doing what they are doing largely on the strength of Chase Utley (17 home runs, 46 RBI, .394 OBP) and Pat Burell (13 home runs, 35 RBI, .417 OBP) strong performances. The Phillies have done all of this despite weak play from free agent signee Pedro Feliz (7 home runs, 28 RBI, .305 OBP) and the struggles of superstar Ryan Howard (14 home runs, 38 RBI, .315 OBP). Add in the fact that speedsters Rollins (8/8 steals) and Victorino (12/14 steals) spent much of the season on the bench, and you have a Phillies offense that will only improve as the season wears on.

What do the Marlins send to the mound? A unit that is young (four of their five starting pitchers are younger than the age of 25) and solid, if unspectacular. The Marlins run a little behind the N.L. average in terms of getting strikeouts and allowing walks, so the team's middling 4.25 ERA is no surprise. That the Marlins team ERA is worse than the Phillies (3.99) is a shocker.

Defensively, the Marlins are basically average. There isn't a whole lot separating the Phillies and the Marlins here. Both teams are near the N.L. average of .695 in terms of Defense Efficiency Ratio (DER):

Marlins: .699 DER

Phillies: .692 DER

What does the series hold? With the Phillies coming off their big sweep of the Rockies which saw them score 33 runs, the Phillies clearly have momentum. My prediction is that the Marlins get to Brett Myers tonight and win a close one, but that the Phillies win Saturday and Sunday. Have a good weekend everyone ...

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Last I checked, the season is a marathon, not a sprint. The end of May leaves a LOT of baseball to be played.

Which is something I recall was the Phillie-fan mantra last season when your team FINALLY made the playoffs for the first time in like 16 years by overcoming the deficits they had behind the Mets and Braves.

The Mets went through a HORRIBLE stretch in May and still are only 3.5 games out of 1st.

The most recent post-season odds from Baseball Prospectus (which uses Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm (or PECOTA for short) state the Mets have a 48% chance of winning the National League East and a 62% percent of making the playoffs. Their projections list the Mets finishing the season with a 91-70 record.

The Cubs are the only team in the entire NL that have a higher chance of making the playoffs at 85%.

The Phillies are listed as having a 33% change of winning the NL East and a 47% chance of making the playoffs.

The Marlins have a 2% chance of winning the NL East and a 4% of making the playoffs.

The Braves have a 17% chance of winning the NL East and a 28% chance of making the playoffs.

These odds change everyday. The site using a massive amount of critera to determine these odds and often their porjections are fairly close.

As a big baseball fan, I'm sure you can resist fooling yourself that the Marlins will finish the year better than the Mets, and that the Mets are going away.

Make fun of the mets issues all you want. Your team is in first and deserves to brag... however, your pitching is simply awful and in the long run that's going to come and bite the Phillies on the ass. Plus the Mets are 4-2 vs. the Phillies so far... so you can't claim the Phils are playing too well against the Mets so far this year.

We'll see who is doing what as the season winds down.
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