Looking into the Future

The Phillies put up their tentative 2008 schedule on their website for all to see. Let’s slice through it in a few ways.

Strength of Schedule

March/April – .499 opponent ’07 winning percentage over 10 series.

May — .484 opponent ’07 winning percentage over 9 series.

June –  .498 opponent ’07 winning percentage over 8 series.

July — .506 opponent ’07 winning percentage over 8 series.

August — .487 opponent ’07 winning percentage over 9 series.

September — .480 opponent ’07 winning percentage over 8 series.

OVERALL –  .492 opponent ’07 winning percentage over 52 series.

Before any off-season wheeling and dealing, and based solely on the teams’ 2007 performances, the Phillies appear to have an easy schedule ahead of them in 2008.

Interleague

Even though it’s not really special anymore, it is still worth noting which A.L. teams the Phillies will face.

May 16-18: Toronto Blue Jays (83-79, 3rd in AL East in ’07)

June 16-18: Boston Red Sox (96-66, 1st in AL East in ’07)

June 20-22: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (94-68, 1st in AL West in ’07)

June 24-26: at Oakland Athletics (76-86, 3rd in AL West in ’07)

June 27-29: at Texas Rangers (75-87, 4th in AL West in ’07)

Those five series yield an average record of about 85-77 (.525).

The Phillies are home against the “good” teams, which bodes well both from a perceived home field advantage standpoint, and from a ticket sales standpoint.

Divisional Rivalries

The number of times the Phillies face division rivals by month…

March/April — 9 games out of 28 (32%)

May — 8 games out of 29 (27.5%)

June — 7 games out of 27 (26%)

July — 18 games out of 25 (72%)

August — 8 games out of 29 (27.5%)

September — 21 games out of 26 (81%)

I think it’s safe to assume that July and September are the most important months of 2008 for the Phillies.

Reservations

Finally, a look at the Phillies home/away match-ups…

March/April — 14 games home out of 28 (50%)

May — 15 games out of 29 (52%)

June — 11 games out of 26 (42%)

July — 13 games out of 25 (52%)

August — 15 games out of 29 (52%)

September — 13 games out of 25 (52%)

Every month, the Phillies have more home games than road games besides June, so that also bodes well.

The worst trips for Eastern teams like the Phillies, obviously, are westward. The Phillies head West four times:

  • April 21-22: Colorado for 2 games
  • May 5-11: Arizona and San Francisco for 7 games (4 ARI; 3 SF)
  • June 24-29: Oakland and Texas for 6 games (3 apiece)
  • August 11-17: Los Angeles and San Diego (4 LAD; 3 SD)

As mentioned, the Phillies’ 2008 schedule is tentative — it is subject to change.

In Other News

Bad news if you’re a Philadelphian: You’re ugly. Per Dayn Perry’s $8 Beers (per With Leather (per Yahoo! News)):

Philadelphia is home to the least attractive people in the United States, a survey of visitors and residents showed on Friday.

The city of more than 1.5 million people was also found to be among the least stylish, least active, least friendly and least worldly, according to the “America’s Favourite Cities” survey by Travel & Leisure magazine and CNN Headline News.

I was just getting some confidence in my self-image back, and then I hop onto the Internet and read this. That’s it! No more Pat’s and Geno’s cheesesteaks! No more Italian ice or pretzels! No more hoagies!

I think I’m going to start a group and go on a field trip to Los Angeles to get some plastic surgery, too.

Oh, nevermind, I just read more of the article and now I realize that while I’m not attractive, I’m also not unattractive:

[...] [Travel & Leisure senior editor Amy] Farley pointed out the results don’t mean people in Philadelphia are ugly or the city is a bad place to visit.

“We were asking people to vote on attractiveness, not unattractiveness. Travel & Leisure editors believe there are a lot of attractive people in Philadelphia,” she said.

Phew. I almost made a rash decision.

Blog Hoppin’

Check out these quality blogs:

  • Vancouver has a fool-proof plan to earn the right to host the 2010 Olympics. [100% Injury Rate]
  • Taco Bell is intensely patriotic with this new marketing ploy. [Babes Love Baseball]
  • The Eagles are so bad, Philadelphians are already counting down to Spring training. Only 115 days left! [Balls, Sticks, & Stuff]
  • Dusty Baker: The new Jack Handey? [Between the Lines]
  • Settle down, folks! We know it’s Willie Green season! [Broad Street Bastards]
  • The guy responsible for the Indians’ seventh-inning baserunning blunder is the leading candidate for the job as manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. [Bugs & Cranks]
  • How Scott Boras became the most hated man in baseball. [I'm Writing Sports]
  • It’s fun to blog when your favorite teams are winning. [Josh Q. Public]
  • Keyshawn Johnson’s interview with Chad Johnson is ironic. [Signal to Noise]
  • Jonathan Papelbon knows how to celebrate. [Six Pack Sports Report]
  • Jesus will be forced to pick sides in the World Series. [Ump Bump]

Retribution

Comedian and political commentator Bill Maher, during the taping of last night’s episode of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, was dealt the unfortunate hand of having to deal with numerous raucous audience members spouting 9/11 conspiracy theories.

Bill Maher

Maher, known for his controversial take on current events, said that his view of the 9/11 attacks are “the only time I defend [President] Bush.”

As the Associated Press reports,

[9/11 conspiracy theorists] often linger outside his studio to share 9/11 conspiracy theories with [Maher] and try to get into the show.

On how he dealt with the situation:

Maher was talking science during one of his weekly panel discussions when a protester in his audience stood up, held up a smuggled-in sign reading “9/11 is a cover up fraud” and shouted comments to the same effect.

The host tried to shout down the audience member, who only became more agitated.

“Do we have some (expletive) security in this building,” Maher yelled, “or do I have to come down there and kick his (expletive)?”

When security reached the man’s aisle and the man resisted leaving, Maher ran into the seats and helped them push him out the door, shouting “Out! Out! Out!”

Several other protesters, sprinkled throughout the audience, then stood up and shouted.

While Maher could have not let the issue get to him, the way he handled the situation had to have been retribution for all of the athletes who have been heckled or have had objects thrown at them by fans, and for all of the celebrities who have been stalked — almost all of them not retaliating (you know who you are… Milton Bradley).

The video is up on YouTube, but it’ll probably be taken down, so catch it while you still can.

That’s Poker!

I just finished up a poker tournament on PokerStars lasting nearly 4 hours (starting at 10 PM EST). It was a measly 25-cent buy-in that saw 3,565 players sign up, and I played well and got lucky enough to place in the top 45, earning $1.59. Seems measly, but it’ll pay for 6 more of these tournaments.

I was completely card dead towards the end, not that that was much different than the rest of the tournament. My total statistics…

During current Hold’em session you were dealt 214 hands and saw flop:
- 13 out of 25 times while in big blind (52%)
- 5 out of 25 times while in small blind (20%)
- 14 out of 164 times in other positions (8%)
- a total of 32 out of 214 (14%)
Pots won at showdown – 7 of 10 (70%)
Pots won without showdown – 12

You can definitely say that I played tight, and there were a few spots where I would have cashed in big time had I been more aggressive, but I erred on the side of caution and it seems to have paid off. The killer was when I got pocket kings late in the tournament and got a walk (everyone else folded before I had a chance to make a play, as I was the big blind).

I got A-10 in first position with just over $20,000 in chips with $2,500/$5,000 blinds, so I decided to push all my chips in and hope for the best. Pocket red eights and K-10 of clubs both called me. I flopped an ace, but K-10 flopped his flush draw and made it on the river, knocking me out.

I was definitely card-dead, but I did get pocket aces early in the tournament and nearly tripled up.

From that pocket kings hand (when I got a walk) on, here were my hands (s = spades; h = hearts; c = clubs; d = diamonds):

Kh 7c (1,500 small blind, folded to a +3,000 raise)
Jc 3d
4s 2h
3c 3s (folded pre-flop)
Kd 9c
Ks 6s
7h 6h
8h 6d (4,000 big blind, folded to +8,000 raise)
10s 2d (2,000 small blind, folded and the big blind got a walk)
5s 3c
8h 2d
Qs 3s
Js 9h
Kh 3h
10c 5d
Qs 4s (4,000 big blind, folded to +19,000 raise)
Qd 7h (2,000 small blind, called the other 2,000 and folded to a +36,000 raise)
Ks 2d
Jc 4s
Ah 7d (could’ve made my move here and it would’ve worked out with a board that read: [5c 7c 5d Jd 7h], but I didn’t since someone raised an extra 4,000)
Qc Jc (also could have made a move here, but I opted to limp in and hit nothing on the flop, so it was a good thing I didn’t)
Ad 3c
5d 5s (I pushed all-in and no one called)
10s 3d (5,000 big blind, folded to a +10,000 raise)
10s 4s (2,500 small blind, folded to a +15,000 raise)
Jh 7d
Kc 8s
9h 7h
Kh 2s
Jc 9s
Ad 10h (my execution)

Throughout the late stages of the game, it felt I was getting raised in my blinds a lot, so I decided to check that out. From the above, we see that 6 of my 7 blinds featured a raise, with the other one being a fold to the big blind with 10s 2d.

But before that (going from most recent backwards)…

Ac 10h (1,500 small blind, folded to a +6,000 and +2,600 (short-stacker) raises)
Qs 10c (3,000 big blind, got to go all the way to the river with straight checks and folded to a $3,000 river bet)
10s 2c (1,000 small blind, folded to +4,000 raise)
Ks 5d (2,000 big blind, got to go to the turn and folded to a $6,000 turn bet)
10h 3c (800 small blind, folded to +2,700 raise)
Jc 3h (1,600 big blind, everyone else folded and I got a walk)
Ad 9d (800 small blind, got to see the flop and folded to a $1,600 flop bet)
5s 2s (1,600 big blind, everyone else folded and I got a walk)
9d 7h (600 small blind, folded to +2,400 raise)
10d 3c (1,200 big blind, folded to +9,700 raise)
Jd 2c (500 small blind, folded to +1,000 raise)
8c 5h (1,000 big blind, checked to the flop, flopped top pair of eights, bet $3,000, called a +211 raise, and won against Ad 3c with a board that read: [3d 7s 8h 5s] [5c])
4c 4s (500 small blind, folded to +5,700 raise)
Kd 7s (1,000 big blind, got to see the flop and folded to a $3,400 post-flop bet)
Js 2d (400 small blind, folded to +6,100 raise)
Kd 5d (800 big blind, folded to +8,900 raise)
Js 7d (400 small blind, folded to give the big blind a walk)
10s 3h (800 big blind, folded to +800 and +1600 raises)
As 8h (300 small blind, got to see the flop and folded to a $600 post-flop bet)
7d 2d (600 big blind, got to see the flop and folded to a $600 post-flop bet)
As 6c (300 small blind, got to see the flop and folded to a $600 post-flop bet)
Kd Qs (600 big blind, got to see the river and won a $3,400 pot on a board that read: [Tc Jd Kc 8d 2c])
8s 3h (200 small blind, folded pre-flop)
Kc 8c (400 big blind, got to see the flop, checked the flop, raised by $900 a $300 bet on the turn, raised $4,150 all in and won a $13,475 pot with a board that read: [2c Jc Ts 4c] [Tc])

That’s a good portion of the meaningful blinds. The results:

  • Folded 10 of 24 blinds to pre-flop raises (42%)
  • Saw the flop in 10 of 24 hands (42%)
  • Saw the turn in 5 of 24 hands (21%)
  • Saw the river in 4 of 24 hands (17%)
  • Won 5 of 24 hands (21%)
  • Was given a walk in 2 of 24 hands (8%)
  • The big blind (other than myself) got a walk in 1 of 24 hands (4%)

Of the hands I listed above, only my pocket 4′s and KQ (2 hands — 8%) would have been considered good hands, with A10, A9, A8, A6, and possibly Q10 (5 hands — 21%) being considered marginal hands.

So, I was, I think more unlucky than usual in my blinds, both with the hands I was given and with the pre-flop raising.

Nonetheless, I’m happy with my finish. It’s almost 2:30 AM now and I have to get up at 7:30 AM.

Tracy, Tracy, Tracy…

I E-Mailed this to the good folks at Fire Joe Morgan, since they are experts at dissecting articles, but this article by Tracy Ringolsby of FOX Sports was eating away at my insides, so I had to rebut it.

I’ll approach this like FJM does: the author’s words in boldface, my words under it in regular font.

Then the simplistic work of “Moneyball” was published, taking a shallow view of the complex approach Billy Beane had taken to having success on a moderate budget in Oakland[...]

Moneyball, written by Michael Lewis, was about finding value in an area in which the current market deems worth less (note: not worthless) than other aspects. At the time the Oakland Athletics were reeling off NL West pennants, on-base percentage (OBP) was rather undervalued, so they picked up guys like Jason Giambi (OBP of .476 and .477 in 2000 and ’01, respectively; career .411 OBP), Scott Hatteberg (.374 OBP in ’02; career .363 OBP), and Erubiel Durazo (.374 and .396 OBP in ’03 and ’04, respectively; career .381 OBP).

[...]suddenly front offices were being filled with guys wearing pocket protectors.

I must have missed the memo where it said that anyone who values statistics over random, unverified assumptions (like grit and determination winning championships) is a pocket protector-wearing nerd. I also must have missed the memo where all anti-statistics journalists impersonate elementary school bullies, taking the lunch money from us nerds, too busy punching away at our calculators to actually watch the games.

Pocket protectors were last prominent in the 1970′s and ’80′s, so I cordially invite Tracy to join us here in the 21st century, where math and science have greatly advanced the human species.

I’m surprised Tracy didn’t throw in a slide rule reference. C’mon, Trace!

Now, maybe, the game is going to get back to its roots.

Ah, yes: the roots of baseball. Rough players (meaning their skills aren’t honed) with second jobs playing a game that kept the African-American players in a separate league. The game where the analytical approach hadn’t been heard of, where managers allowed their pitchers to ruin their arms by pitching 350 innings in a season, making one start every three days in a 154-game season. That was a much better game since there weren’t any nerds doing any thinking for us.

Now, maybe, some owners will realize that for all the efforts to find new and improved versions, round is the best shape for a tire, and a home-grown product is the best method for success in baseball.

What is the difference, really, between a home-grown product and a non-home-grown product? A player isn’t better for the Rockies because he’s been in the Rockies’ system for his entire Minor League career.

Some teams are better at scouting, drafting, player development, and such. The Pittsburgh Pirates are notoriously horrible at scouting, drafting, and developing pitchers. But their talent was home-grown, that’s why John Van Benschoten has been a rousing success in the Pirates’ rotation and hasn’t encountered any injury problems. Zach Duke has been progressively better with each passing season. Did I mention Cy Young candidate Paul Maholm?

What Tracy is guilty of is not heeding the “correlation is not causation” axiom. The Rockies made the World Series with a lot of home-grown talent; therefore, all teams should be promoting their Minor Leaguers instead of trading and signing free agents, right? The Yankees grew multi-MVP winner Alex Rodriguez. The Tigers grew MVP-candidate Magglio Ordonez. The Giants grew the best player in baseball history, Barry Bonds. See how wise Tracy is?

This is a team that tried quick fixes and high-priced free agents and failed, miserably.

What I infer from this is that signing free agents is a bad thing because it didn’t work out for the Rockies. What doesn’t work for one team most definitely won’t work for the other 29 teams. And the Rockies’ failure with free agents doesn’t have anything to do with their upper management, scouts, or injuries, does it? Nah, of course not. Free agents earn more money than young Minor Leaguers, so all free agents have to put up better numbers. Exhibit A: Alex Rodriguez, abysmal failure.

It’s a team that got caught up in overanalyzing statistical analysis and failed, miserably.

Notice in the article how Tracy illustrates how the Rockies used statistical analysis and then showed why it didn’t work out. No wait, that never happened.

Finally, general manager Dan O’Dowd, took a step back. He reshaped his front office, bringing in some old-school baseball minds to go with the new analytic types.

Yes, those smart old-school guys that measure everything in terms of a pitcher’s win-loss record and a hitter’s batting average. Those guys actually watch the games! Their analysis cannot be wrong, since it is based on human perception, which, as we all know, is perfect. Isn’t that why eyewitness testimony alone is enough evidence to convict a criminal?

Hey, anyone want to bunt that runner over to second base with no one out? That’s such a winning play. I know because an old-school guy told me so. Run expectancy charts? Feh!

Fifteen of the 25 players on their postseason roster are home-grown, tops among the postseason teams.

This is an excellent cherry-pick. I can do the same thing coming from the opposite direction. 19 of the 25 players on the post-season roster of the Boston Red Sox are not home-grown. Everyone: don’t home-grow your talent!

And they [won 21 of 22 games; the Wild Card; the NLDS; the NLCS] as a team.

As opposed to those un-home-grown Red Sox, who won the AL East as individuals. When the Red Sox were jumping up and down on the mound after clinching the East, you could hear Jason Varitek screaming, “Yay me!” and see Jonathan Papelbon holding a giant foam hand with “I’m #1!” written on it.

While Arizona manager Bob Melvin sits back and watches like he’s in spring training, making sure people get their work in[...]

While Melvin’s D-Backs are indeed a fluke (check out their run differential), this snipe at Melvin is unwarranted. I’m sure Tracy knows this, but the D-Backs won their division with a 90-72 record, best in the National League. I’m pretty sure Melvin doesn’t approach any game like a spring training game, let alone one in the post-season. And, if anything, Melvin is a genius with his bullpen management.

Rockies manager Clint Hurdle sees a chance to take command against an obviously less-than-full-speed Micah Owings. So with two out and two on, he sends up Smith to hit for rookie Franklin Morales, even though Morales had thrown only 64 pitches and allowed only one run.

Smith fights off a pitch up and in, sends it the opposite way, just inside the left field line for a two-run double.

What Tracy fails to mention is that this hit was one of those “lucky” hits that hitters sometimes get. Smith is left-handed, the pitcher Micah Owings is right-handed, so what do you expect most left-handed hitters do when they get a pitch right over the middle of the plate, like Smith did? Pull? Of course not. We always expect a weak blooper down the left-field line! (You can watch the hit here, titled “Smith’s two-run double”)

Gosh, that Smith is so clutch. That hit he got to set up Kaz Matsui’s grand slam in Philadelphia in the NLDS? A screamer right down the third base line (click here to see it under Oct. 4 titled “Smith’s infield single”).

There you go, folks. Another fine example of great journalism by a sportswriter. Stick to rodeos, Trace.

MLB in Cahoots with Criminals

If it wasn’t already blatantly obvious by their sickeningly frequent advertising, State Farm is, of course, a top sponsor of Major League Baseball. As such, State Farm plastered its name and logo all over AT&T Park at this year’s All-Star festivities in San Francisco. On MLB’s website, you couldn’t watch a 15-second highlight this season without having to sit through that tired commercial where a man reminisces about Hank Aaron, his father, and his childhood. Touching, because State Farm cares.

Just kidding. If they really cared, would they be screwing the victims of Hurricane Katrina out of policy payments? As Brian Ross and Joseph Rhee report from ABCNews.com:

State Farm Insurance supervisors systematically demanded that Hurricane Katrina damage reports be buried or replaced or changed so that the company would not have to pay policyholders’ claims in Mississippi, two State Farm insiders tell ABC News.

[...]

[Kerri and Cori Rigsby] say they saw supervisors go to great lengths to pressure outside engineers to prepare reports concluding that damage was caused by water, not covered under State Farm policies, rather than by wind.

They say reports that concluded that damage was caused by wind, for which State Farm would have to pay, were hidden in a special file and new reports were ordered.

Don Barrett of the Scruggs Katrina Group goes over an extensive list of State Farm’s misdeeds.

Remember State Farm’s legendary jingle, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there”? Now it’s ironic.

In this highly-corrupt era of capitalism we find ourselves in here in the United States, it would be remarkable to see Major League Baseball, a huge business, do the right thing by severing its ties with State Farm. Don’t hold your breath, though.

Instead, what both companies can do is have all of the proceeds from the All-Star festivities, for the duration of the contract, be given to the victims of Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast. For years, we saw Century 21 give away houses at the Home Run Derby to people who, presumably, did not need a new house. State Farm could do them one better by giving houses to people who really need houses.

That, I think, is a reasonable proposition.

Crashburn Alley Itinerary and Anniversary

Since the Phillies’ season is officially over, and since I focus mainly on the Phillies, things will slow down slightly in terms of content posted here. I haven’t posted since October 1 (mostly since my thoughts on the Phillies’ collapse are pretty much the same as most of the other Phillies bloggers out there) but I do plan to put up a few thorough pieces right after the World Series on the Phillies’ work to be done in the off-season.

That will come in installments following the conclusion of the World Series, when the wheeling and dealing officially begins. I’ll try to stick to the schedule of putting up one new post per day highlighting each position and what the Phillies can do to improve.

Other than that, expect a slightly higher amount of non-sports-related topics until about March, when spring training exhibition games begin.In the meantime, I might create some “segments” like a video of the day.

On another note… today is the two-month anniversary of Crashburn Alley! I had been writing on the Internet, to my own website hosted by Tripod and to the FOX Sports blogs, for years prior to my purchasing of this domain, but I never really “blogged” (interacted with other writers, networked, etc. besides on FOX Sports) and I have to say that it was a huge mistake not to jump in sooner. I have been fortunate enough to associate with a bunch of great bloggers (you can find them in my blogroll to the right) who have been exceptionally helpful to me.

I have even been so fortunate as to have my work featured on FOXSports.com’s main MLB page and on FOX Funhouse. Admittedly, my writing shouldn’t lay side-by-side with the work of writers like Dayn Perry, but I’m not complaining.

So, I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been gracious enough to put up with me, a blogging newbie, and I look forward to keeping this thing going for a long time. Hopefully, that “long time” includes witnessing a Phillies World Series championship at least once (I can dream).

Phillies Surmount 500-to-1 Odds Against — UPDATED

You read right. 500-to-1. They were that much an underdog on September 12, seven games behind the New York Mets in the National League East (Baseball Prospectus goes over some of the biggest collapses here, and mentions this year’s playoff hunt).

Today, on October 1, the Mets are officially out of the playoffs (the second-worst collapse in baseball history, after the 1964 Phillies and the worst since divisional play began in 1969), while the Phillies are officially in for the first time since 1993.

I’ve mentioned in other articles of mine the vicious rash of injuries the team has endured. I have also mentioned the insane luck against them when they lost to the Braves on September 5. And I have mentioned how many games the bullpen has blown.

And hell, even I was disheartened at one point. But I’m a fan of the Phillies — can you blame me?

The 500-to-1 odds really undershoots what the Phillies did, though.

  • They lost to cancer the one man most emblematic of the Phillies franchise — John Vukovich — on March 8 and wore “VUK” on their sleeves all season.
  • Jayson Werth thought his baseball career might have been over before he signed with the Phillies.
  • Before the season started, Jimmy Rollins declared that the Phillies were “the team to beat” and they started off 4-11.
  • Manager Charlie Manuel berated “journalist” Howard Eskin and was on the “hot seat” until about mid-season.
  • The coaching staff acted rashly and moved their then-ace Brett Myers to the bullpen to pitch the 8th inning (when Tom Gordon went down with an injury, Myers moved to closer).
  • Ryan Howard, the reigning NL MVP, had a horrible April (.390 SLG) and then missed two weeks from May 10 to 24.
  • Pat Burrell had a mind-bogglingly awful first-half of the season (.408 SLG).
  • They started the season with six starting pitchers (Garcia, Lieber, Hamels, Eaton, Myers, Moyer). By season’s end, only one of them would not spend a day on the disabled list — the 44-year-old, who ended up pitching Sunday’s game, the biggest Phillies game in 14 years. In addition, the Phillies set a club record for most pitchers used in a season (28).
  • More than a month after moving Myers to the bullpen, he got injured closing out a game in Florida and missed the next two months. By season’s end, nine Phillies have recorded saves (Myers, Alfonseca Gordon, Condrey, Madson, Mesa, Rosario, Durbin, Ennis).
  • Wes Helms showed himself to be a free agent bust, and saw his playing time significantly reduced in the last two months in favor of the offense of Greg Dobbs and defense of Abraham Nunez.
  • The franchise reached 10,000 losses on July 15.

And despite ALL of that…

  • The Phillies won the most games in a season (89) since 1993 (97).
  • Jimmy Rollins, en route to a possible and likely NL MVP award, recorded the fourth 20 2B/20 3B/20 HR/20 SB season in baseball history, joining Curtis Granderson (also achieved this year), Willie Mays, and Frank Schulte. In addition, he played in all 162 games, and set records in at-bats and plate appearances, surpassing Willie Wilson and Lenny Dykstra, respectively.
  • Pat Burrell followed up his awful first half with an amazing second half (1.016 OPS) and finished the season with at least 30 HR for the third time in his eight-year career.
  • Ryan Howard followed up his awful first half with an amazing second half (1.016 OPS) and finished the season with 47 HR and led the National League with 136 RBI.
  • The Phillies overcame the one-month loss of then-MVP candidate Chase Utley to a hand injury when Pat Gillick made a quick acquisition of Tadahito Iguchi, who instantly took to the red pinstripes.
  • The Phillies overcame the three-week loss (and light use following his return) of Shane Victorino, and the six-week loss of Michael Bourn (both lost in the same game in Chicago) with the help of Jayson Werth (.950 second-half OPS), who at one point hit safely in nine straight at-bats, breaking Pete Rose’s mark of 8 at-bats.
  • The starting rotation changed from Hamels, Moyer, Lieber, Garcia, and Eaton at the start of the season to Hamels, Moyer, Kendrick, Lohse, and Eaton by season’s end. Kendrick is a solid candidate for some third-place Rookie of the Year votes.
  • J.C. Romero put up an insane 369 ERA+. A 100 ERA+ is considered league-average.
  • The Phillies led the league in humanitarian efforts.
  • In their campaign against the Mets, the Phillies beat them in eight consecutive games, including sweeps of a four-game series in Philadelphia and a three-game series in New York.
  • 44-year-old Jamie Moyer, born in Sellersville, PA, pitched the biggest game for his hometown team since 1993. He went 5 and one-third innings, giving up only one unearned run on five hits and no walks, striking out six.

There were far too many great storylines for this year’s Philadelphia Phillies, and far too much going against them. Yet they persevered. It couldn’t have happened to a more likable group of guys or a more deserving group of fans.

Advantage: Phillies

The San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies play a one-game playoff to determine the Wild Card winner at Coors Field tonight. The Padres will send Cy Young candidate Jake Peavy (176 ERA+) to the mound to face Rockies starter Josh Fogg (99 ERA+).

This is beneficial for the Phillies for a few reasons.

  • Both teams will be at the disadvantage of having played an extra game, adding to the risk of injury, and adding to the already high level of fatigue in most of the players.
  • If the Padres win, they will have burned their “ace in the hole” in Peavy until at least Game 3 of the NLDS. It’s even more beneficial when you consider that the Padres’ starting rotation hasn’t been great. Chris Young, for example, has a 5.96 ERA since returning from his injury. Meanwhile, the Phillies will have their ace, Cole Hamels, pitching Game 1 and likely Game 4.
  • While not a long flight, the Padres are at another disadvantage for having to go on the road. The Phillies get to rest until Wednesday.

Give ‘em Credit

The Phillies’ 2007 run at the post-season will forever be linked to the biggest divisional collapse in baseball history by the New York Mets. Due to this fact, the Phillies will likely not be given much credit for winning themselves so much as winning by default because of the Mets’ inadequacies.

The Phillies played .623 baseball in August and September, and, as mentioned, beat the Mets in eight consecutive games. Not only was this due to the Phillies’ league-best offense, but the settling down of the pitching staff. They had their occasional bad games, but nothing like the first half when it was commonplace. Since September 13, the Phillies have given up 68 total runs in those 17 games, an average of exactly 4 runs per game, more than a full run better than their seasonal average of 5.07 runs per game.

While the Mets definitely were in a position to cinch the deal in the NL East, let’s give credit where credit is due — to the Philadelphia Phillies.

When Words Aren’t Enough

Yahoo! has some great pictures from the Associated Press, Reuters, and Getty Images.

The Phillies website has some great video footage.

When Words Are Enough

The blogosphere’s reaction to the Phillies and the Mets, looking towards the post-season:

When Words Are Too Much

From SI.com:

[...]Hall of Fame announcer Harry Kalas sang “High Hopes” over the public address system.

You have to have seen and heard it to appreciate it. Kalas won’t be on American Idol any time soon, but it was a moment where every one of his off-key notes sounded infinitely harmonic.

Please advise me if a video of this is posted on the Internets!

CrashburnAlley [at] Gmail [dot] com.

UPDATE: Thanks to an E-Mailer, here is the Harry Kalas video!