Big Series In May? Big Series In May
Can the first series in May be a big one?
I think so because it represents a good test following a 6-4 road trip on the West Coast and an ugly loss Tuesday to the Mets. The Phillies must get on a roll at some point. At some point they need to push past the .500 mark and put it behind them. At some point they need a winning record to back up their beliefs they are postseason contender.
The Phillies have their three best pitchers on the mound to try to make it happen: Cliff Lee tonight, A.J. Burnett tomorrow night and Cole Hamels on Sunday. That is no accident. The Phillies could have kept Kyle Kendrick‘s turn in the rotation, but they pushed him to Monday against the Blue Jays. Kendrick does not have good career numbers against the Nationals (5-8 with a 4.85 ERA in 24 appearances), which could be why they bumped him. But the reality is the Phillies wanted their best to face Washington.
The Nationals are a better team than the Phillies, if you look at nearly every statistical category. They are third in the National League in runs per game (4.50). The Phillies are sixth (4.12). The Nationals have a better on-base percentage (.328 to .315), slugging percentage (.415 to .376) and OPS (.743 to .690). Their rotation has a better ERA (3.74 to 4.06) and their bullpen has a significantly better ERA (2.14 to 4.84). The only edge the Phillies can say they have is defensively. The Nationals have been sloppy in the field. They are tied for third in baseball with 26 errors, while the Phillies are 25th with 14. And while I understand there are other ways to gauge defense, my point is the Nationals have been kicking the ball around, while the Phillies have not. In fact, the Phillies have just one error since April 14. No other team in baseball has fewer than six since then.
Certainly there is plenty of baseball to play following this series, but a series win here would keep the momentum going from Los Angeles and Arizona. A series loss and skeptical Phillies fans say, “See? They are who we thought they were.”
If the Phillies hope to win this weekend, they’ll need strong performances from the bullpen. I looked yesterday at the Phillies’ bullpen, the organization’s troubles at developing young relievers and potential help from outside the organization.
Random stats and thoughts: Ryan Howard is on pace for 31 home runs and 87 RBIs. I think if Ruben Amaro Jr. and Ryne Sandberg were told in February that Howard would finish the season with 30+ homers and 90+ RBIs they would take it. … Phillies third basemen have a .478 OPS, which is the worst in baseball. Third basemen from the 1981 Blue Jays finished with a .516 OPS, the lowest mark in baseball over the past 40 years. … I understand Freddy Galvis‘ value defensively — he is the team’s best defensive player — but he has to hit at some point because no glove can make up for his current offensive production. The Phillies are giving away too many outs at the bottom of the lineup. … Domonic Brown has one home run since Aug. 14. Phillies left fielders are 25th in baseball with a .623 OPS. … Carlos Ruiz‘s .889 OPS is fifth among catchers.