Phillies Favorites?

lee phillies.jpgA few seconds after the Phillies got Cliff Lee from the Indians last week, fans started asking if the Phillies suddenly became favorites in the National League.

What about the Dodgers? They have the best record in the National League. Of course, the last NL team to finish the regular season with the league’s best record and make the World Series was the 2004 Cardinals. And the last NL team to finish the regular season with the league’s best record and win the World Series was the 1995 Braves.

Remember the Cubs last year? Best record in the NL, bounced from the playoffs in three games.

But there are reasons to think the Phillies will be tough to beat in the postseason. Maybe even favorites:

OFFENSE

The Phillies lead the league in runs (547), home runs (143) and slugging percentage (.445). They rank fourth in on-base percentage (.339) and sixth in average (.260). They are tied for third in stolen bases (79) and first in stolen base percentage (79.8 percent). They are fourth in pitches per plate appearance (3.89), which shows the Phillies know how to work a starter and get into the bullpen. They have grounded into only 61 double plays, which is second fewest in the league. They don’t kill many rallies.

Offensively, few are better. Pitching wins in the postseason, but you’ve got to be able to score, too.

DEFENSE

The Phillies are second in the league with a .988 fielding percentage. Their 45 errors are second fewest in the league. A recent SI.com story praised six Phillies for their defense: Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, Jayson Werth, Pedro Feliz and Ryan Howard.

You’ve got to minimize mistakes in the postseason, when every play is huge. The Phillies do that.

PITCHING

This is where it gets tricky.

The Phillies rank 12th in the league with a 4.38 ERA while the Giants, Dodgers and Cardinals are first, second and third, respectively. The Giants and Rockies are tied for the NL wild card, the Dodgers lead the NL West and the Cardinals lead the NL Central. That could be a problem in the postseason.

But the Phillies lead the league with a 3.00 ERA since July 2. That is just one month, but if the Phillies have found their footing for good that bodes well.

Lee certainly helps the rotation. We’ll see what Pedro Martinez does. Brad Lidge remains a concern. He is 0-4 with a 7.11 ERA. That ERA is the worst of any qualifying relief pitcher in baseball. Lidge’s struggles haven’t been an issue lately, but it could be come September and October, when it seems like every game is a one- or two-run game.

So how does the 12th-ranked pitching staff, despite the fact they have pitched better recently — with a closer with the highest ERA in baseball — make the Phillies favorites in the NL?

Lidge’s track record shows he is much better than he has been, and the Phillies also have a slew of relief pitchers on the disabled list: Brett Myers, J.C. Romero, Clay Condrey and Chad Durbin. Myers could be back before the end of the month after recovering from surgery on his right hip. Get those pitchers healthy, and the bullpen looks pretty deep.

“I like our pitching staff when it’s healthy,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “We need to get healthy. I think Brett is going to be back, and I have some optimism about him. He’s throwing and he’s not feeling any problems with his hip. We have a pretty good fighter’s chance we’ll get him back before the end of the season. Who wouldn’t want to have that arm in the back end of the bullpen?”

Cole Hamels had shown signs of improvement before Sunday’s loss to the Giants. Joe Blanton has the eighth-best ERA (2.55) since May. J.A. Happ ranks 14th (2.96). Jamie Moyer‘s ERA is 4.05 in that span, which will win the Phillies plenty of games.

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29 Comments

All the stats make for what could be an interesting run for post season play, and should they make it, post season play itself, but some stats that need to be seen and our ranking with such, would be, runners left on base, runners left on base in scoring position, runners left on 3rd base, any one of these could be the difference between a win and a loss. It seems we are not driving in runners of late, and if we dont fix that, we could struggle to even reach the post season, this past road trip was a good example.

Anybody notice Ruben say this about Myers?….

“Who wouldn’t want to have that arm in the back end of the bullpen?””

That comment’s been made before, about Brett being put into the ‘Pen when he returns. I think it’s a great idea! Especially with the uncertainty of Lidge. Once he’s got some work in, put him in the starting rotation, in the post season, if needed. Especially with the uncertainty of Moyer and Hamels.

norma, he specifically said, “the back end of the ‘bullpen”. Just sayin’…

I was at this game. He pitched great, but his bat was unreal!!!
http://kmcleod.mlblogs.com/

I think having Myers in the back end of the bullpen is a good idea. Also many of you I think are reading too much into Ruben’s comment. Obviously with Myers coming back from the DL the bullpen is an ideal place for him to get more work and get his “sea legs back”.

I also realize its a strategy plan in case Lidge might be faltering. But I don’t think they’re thinking of replace Lidge with Myers going forward.

The talk of Myers in back end of Pen is due to his pitch count. The concern is he’ll not be able to stretch out his arm enough to pitch more then 20-30 pitchers, that’s a 1-2 inning stretch or back end. He won’t be used as a middle inning guy.

As for Devil: you have a good point, but you forget. The Phillies strand more runners on base because they get more runners on base. If you have twice as many runners you’ll probably strand twice as many. A better indication would be either percentage, or runs per game. It doesn’t matter if you stranded 20 runners while scoring 10 runs. In fact it’s better then not having stranded any while only scoring 1 run.

fij- agree, then the stats need to be as you indicated percentage of runners stranded….it makes more sense, although it would be nice to not strand any and have 20 runs…:-)

it would be nice if someone would pay me what Brunlett makes a year. I know I’m better at my job then he is at his, but this is the real world

fij- your right there, if only in the real world you could get jobs that paid that much just to be an understudy for someone, go days without actually working, just showing up and waiting the day out, okay so he throws a few balls, swings the bat a few times, but there basically paying him to keep learnig his job… oh well trades a plenty coming up…

pherrisphain, I posted this in the last thread in response to your last post directed at me, and since there is a new entry I might as well paste it here:

     pherrisphain my point was never that his ERA is “really” 3.5. I have not backtracked. You just misunderstood the point of xFIP, which is to factor out elements that the pitcher cannot control. As for seeing the rest of the team’s xFIPs, you could have just asked. Here’s the whole National League sorted by xFIP: http://www.hardballtimes.com/thtstats/main/index.php?view=pitching&league_filter%5B0%5D=2&orderBy=xFip&direction=ASC&page=1 . Here’s just the Phillies: http://www.hardballtimes.com/thtstats/main/index.php?view=pitching&linesToDisplay=50&orderBy=xFip&direction=ASC&qual_filter=ignore&season_filter%5B%5D=2009&league_filter%5B%5D=2&team_filter%5B%5D=PHI&Submit=Submit . (Note that you should ignore Cliff Lee’s entry there, as he’s only made one start for the Phillies so the sample size is only 9 innings).
Anyhow stop talking as if I just made this number up. I don’t operate Hardball Times and I am in no way affiliated with it. xFIP is the end result of many years of research by some of the best baseball minds determining the things that most effect a pitcher’s performance. It’s also not the only defense-independent pitching metric out there. I encourage you to explore others, like FIP, DIPS, PERA, NERA, tRA. Read the glossaries of the various analysts if you want an explanation. They all arrive at similar conclusions, just with different formulations. The goal is always the same – to factor out things that can distort our understanding of how a pitcher is pitching, and to most accurately evaluate their ability.

Bruntlett makes $800,000 this year. As much as I (deservedly) criticize him, even the worst MLB player is better than 99% of the world at baseball. Therefore he gets paid a lot of money. That’s just how the market works.

I am curious how we determine the 99% of the rest of the world, this has to be a ficticious number that is just an assumption, since there is no way to test the people of the world in their capabilities in baseball. The fact is he gets paid a lot of money compared to the average person to do a job and right now he’s not very good at it, and i think the comments were reflective of the fact that if someone performed that badly in the real world they would probably be let go from the job…

You made a very good point, Todd. The key to winning in the postseason is making the fewest amount of mistakes. These can be errors, passed balls, wild pitches, walking someone at the wrong time in the game, a base that should have never been taken (like tagging to second on a sacrifice fly), or baserunning mistakes.

As for offense, just remember that Pedro Feliz, of all people had the game winning RBI in Game 5, and Pat the Bat and Utley combined had a total of four hits in 32 ABs. But Werth hit .444 and Chooch hit .375. You just never know. If Bruntlett has the game winning pinch hit to win a playoff series, all will be forgiven.

     Well obviously it was made up but it has to be something like that. Generally you make it into the MLB if you’re one of the best baseball players in the world. There are about 1200 players on 40 man rosters in the MLB. That’s far less than one percent of the world population of around 6.7 billion (est. July 2008). Adjust for undiscovered talent and foreign leagues and what not and I’m sure it’s around there. My point was that the supply for a job like Bruntlett’s is far, far, far, far, far smaller than it is for whatever you or I do. Therefore he gets paid more.
     As for him being fired though, you and I agree wholeheartedly on that, I assure you.

Ruben may replace Bruntlett by the end of August, but Charlie is going to use him as long as he’s on the team, whether any of us like it or not. And for the idiots who think they will just release him, don’t you think they would have kissed his $800,ooo-butt good-bye by now. Ruben released Eaton at $9 million and Jenkins at $8 million; do you think he’d hesitate to throw Bruntlett’s non-productive tail off the team if he felt that his value was nil?! Bruntlett obviously has “intangibles” that most of us are unable to see. I trust Charlie and Ruben. If they want Bruntlett on the team, I’m not going to waste my time typing a comment about his uselessness. It’s counter-productive and “negadelphian” I’m going to be positive. I’ll root for Eric (that’s right- his first name is Eric, not that anyone here uses it) I’ll hope for the best, see the certainty of improvement in his game, and then…………..I’ll wake up……..God, this is harder than I thought!

If Utley or Rollins go down with an injury, Eric is right there.

philwest, That’s the spirit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

phylan- was just jkg with you for lack of something else to write about, and erichh1, the fact that he is currently wearing a phillies uniform should produce support from all Phillie fans when he is playing regardless of his performance, the fact is any manager would use what they have available, I think the point being made here is if Amaro is going to make more trades by end August that is a position that should be a major consideration and I think that in pointing that out is being positive about the team, and as for calling him Eric or Bruntlett, the MLB list everyone by their last name, in fact Sarge on his first interview with Cliff Lee kept calling him Lee…. so I don’t think us calling him Hamels or Cole or Myers or Brett reflects on how we see or what we think of the players, but thats just my opinion.

So, riddle me this Todd: Since they were able to make the deal for Cliff Lee without giving up J.A. Happ, are there at least a few front-office types second-guessing themselves for signing Pedro Martinez? Two weeks ago it looked like he was necessary. Now, not so much.
Where does he fit in, if at all?

A couple of items of interest: Eric Brunlett is a Stanford grad so there might be some “fraternal” bond btwn he and Ruben for that reason. Also read with some dismay that Pat the Bat may be losing his DH status because he’s struggling at the plate. Was sorry to hear that.

Just because I am tough on, uh…er…Eric, doesn’t mean that I don’t want him to succeed. He just hasn’t shown me any reason to have confidence in him.

And the Phillies do not have to release him if they found a replacement. He has an option left.

Just like we all complained and bit*hed about So-what last year, we’re doing the same to Brunlett this year. (no I will not call him by his first name as I do not know him personally, and it is stupid to call them Eric, Cole, etc–unless he’s known by it like Michael Jack, or other’s who’s last name is too long/difficult to type)

We should be thrilled that the team is in such good shape that we complain about the 25th man off the bench and not the starting 8. Imagine if we were the ROyals for God’s sakes

You say that as if I should regret bitching about So last year (I don’t)

not at all, I think we’re fortunate to be able to only bitch about players like So-what and Brunlett and not about our starting OF or inf. Can you imagine what this board would look like if we were Royal fans, or Mutt fans (do they have any left?)

We have 23 very good players on our team and two who we’re not quite sure why they’re there (Brunlett and Bako). In both cases we can rationalize their being on the team.

I cannot find any rationalization for Bruntlett, especially since they have Cairo in AAA and the extra outfileder they needed in Francisco. As far as Bako is concerned, they blew it with Paulino and Jaramillo and are stuck.

Hamel appears to be the top student in the “Jamie Moyer School of Pitching”.

Jaramillo is hitting .255/.325/.386 in 170 plate appearances for the Pirates right now. That’s good enough to be the starting catcher on the Phillies.

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