Monday, June 02, 2008
Cincinnati / Philadelphia
As you can see, this season is no exception. The Phillies continue to whack the ball into the cheap seats at a rate of 1.47 times per game. Extrapolated out of a 162 game season, then the Phillies are on a pace to hit 237 home runs this season. And it just became June, when the air gets a little warmer and the balls really fly out of the park. 240-250 home runs wouldn't be out of the question for the Phillies. The Reds, meanwhile, are on a pace to hit "just" 188 home runs.
But not before Griffey becomes the sixth player to top six hundred home runs. More on that later ...
The Phillies, meanwhile, continue to kill the baseball. Chase Utley leads the N.L. with 20 home runs and 50 RBI. Pat Burrell and Ryan Howard have hit 13 and 15 home runs respectively. Extrapolated over a 162-game season, that means that these players will hit, respectively:
Monday: Kyle Kendrick vs. Bronson Arroyo. Kyle Kendrick hopefully won't be the one to surrender #600. So far this season he's done pretty good not allowing home runs: just five in 57 & 2/3 innings, or 0.74 HR/9. This is an even matchup between Arroyo and Kendrick, although they have different styles. Kendrick is a pitcher who pitches to contact. Arroyo is a strikeout artist. Kendrick gets half the strikeouts Arroyo gets (8.0 K/9 vs. 4.0), walks fewer hitters (3.4 K/9 vs. 2.7), allows fewer homers (1.05 vs. 0.74) and throws fewer pitches per plate appearance (4.0 vs. 3.6).
Wednesday: Brett Myers vs. Edinson Volquez. I hope Myers recent strong outing (eight innings, three earned runs, just six hits and eleven strikeouts) is a harbinger of better outings to come. Volquez is a formitable hurler thus far this season. He's 7-2 with a 1.46 ERA. Don't be fooled - he isn't pitching that well - but he's still pitching very well. Like Arroyo and Harang, Volquez is a pitcher who throws a lot of pitches. Unlike guys to pitch to contact like Kendrick, pitchers like Volquez nibble around the edges of the strike zone and play coy with hitters. Volquez has K'd a phenomenal 83 batters this season (11.4 K/9) and has allowed just three home runs (0.41 HR/9), but he's walked 36 batters (5.0 BB/9) and his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) ERA is a run and a half higher at 2.96. This will be a very interesting game.
Thursday: Cole Hamels vs. Homer Bailey. Cole Hamels gets to pitch again against the Reds for the second time this season. He won the first game 5-3, going seven innings and allowing just a single earned run. Some of Hamels most memorable starts have been against the Reds. He made his rookie debut against them in '06 and his eight inning, 15-strikeout masterpiece against them in '07 was the critical game that lifted the Phillies from their 4-11 start and got them back into the playoff race. Homer Bailey is a talented rookie who made his MLB debut in '07 for the team.
Intangibles: the Reds are leading the N.L. in strikeouts at 8.0 K/9, which is pretty impressive. Reds pitchers have to have good stuff however, because they get no help behind them. The Reds rank fifteenth (second to last) in the N.L. in Defense Efficiency Ratio (DER) at .679. The Phillies are more willing to pitch to contact because their defense is better, although at .693 it is still below the league average of .695. I'm amazed that the fact that the Phillies have the fifth-best ERA in the N.L. is flying completely under the radar with most observers. Such a maligned pitching staff playing behind a so-so defense ... Why don't people notice?