Phillies/Mets Series Preview

Going into the 2009 regular season, the first Phillies-Mets series in Philadelphia looked like it would be a rekindling of a now three-year-old rivalry. Instead, both teams have been playing poorly, though the Phillies have been able to overcome a lot of their mistakes and the Mets have not (what’s new?).

The Mets’ struggles have caused the average blood pressure of Queens residents to rise by a couple points, resulting in claims that David Wright isn’t clutch, that manager Jerry Manuel’s job should be in jeopardy, and that the team in general has no desire to win. Phillies fans hearken back to the Larry Bowa years when they hear that.

Historically, the starters expected to toe the rubber over the weekend have pitched well against their opponents, but none of them have been pitching well this year. Of the Mets’ three, John Maine has the lowest ERA at 5.40; of the Phillies’ three, Jamie Moyer has the lowest ERA at 5.04.

Unlike last year, the Mets’ bullpen is pitching better than the Phillies’. New closer Francisco Rodriguez has yet to blow a save and has only allowed runs in one of his eight appearances. On the other hand, Phillies’ closer Brad Lidge is sidelined for a few days hoping to have his knee heal quickly. He has allowed runs in three of his nine appearances so far this year and has blown a save already — one more than he blew last year. Lidge’s three HR allowed are also one more than he allowed over the entirety of the ’08 season.

Where the Phillies have a significant advantage, at least so far, is with their offense. Leading the league by far at 6.21 runs per game, the Phils have come back to win in all but two of their 11 victories. You can see the difference in the teams’ ability to come back in the following chart which compares the teams’ OPS in each inning.

In the ninth inning, the Phillies are nearly 600 points of OPS better than the Mets. It’s like the Phillies are Albert Pujols and the Mets are Rey Ordonez.

Now that we’ve pointed out that the Mets can’t hit with any pressure, let’s get to the trusty tables. The teams’ most frequently-used lineups against the opposition’s starting pitchers:

The teams’ starting pitchers’ success against the opposition in their respective careers:

The Mets were successful against the Phillies in the regular season last year, winning 11 and losing 7, which was about in line with their Pythagorean expected record in those games.

It sounds cliche, but this series will be won by the team that gets the best starting pitching, since the Phillies can’t continue to count on abusing opposing teams’ bullpens — especially not one with both Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz. Both teams have been getting terrible starting pitching and it’s a matter of which staff shapes up first.

I’ll show you what I, personally, will be looking — and hoping — for in this series:

Moar Daniel Murphy errors!1!!1!

SEASON. OVER. Redux

It was just five days ago when Cole Hamels was smoked in the left shoulder by a Prince Fielder line drive. Hamels must not have made the correct offering to the Flying Spaghetti Monster because he has been struck down again. Per Todd Zolecki’s Twitter:

Cole Hamels has left the game early. Again. This time he turned his left ankle fielding a ball. Unbelieveable. [SIC]

Cole: Stay away from mirrors, ladders, and black cats. Thanks.

Looking at the Meatballs

You may recall back on April 11, I posted a chart with the pitches that have been taken yard by hitters facing Phillies pitching. One would have thought things would improve since then, but they really haven’t.

The average National League pitching staff has allowed 19 home runs; the Phillies’ has allowed a league-leading 39. Two of the top three pitchers who have allowed the most home runs are Phillies: Brett Myers (8) and Joe Blanton (6). Jamie Moyer and Cole Hamels (5) are tied with seven others for fourth-place in HR allowed.

Jamie Moyer’s start in the series finale in Florida was the first all season in which Phillies pitching did not allow a home run.

The obvious culprit is location. We’ll visualize that in a few ways. The first graph shows every single pitch hit for a home run. The next four will show platoon match-ups, and the following four will show the home runs on specific pitches.

Note that you are looking at the strike zone from the catcher’s perspective.

Platoon match-ups:

LHB vs. LHP

  • 2 FB
    • Nick Johnson vs. Scott Eyre
    • Adam Dunn vs. Scott Eyre
  • 1 FB cut
    • Kelly Johnson vs. Jamie Moyer
  • 1 CH
    • Jordan Schafer vs. J.A. Happ

LHB vs. RHP

  • 4 FB
    • Jordan Schafer vs. Brett Myers
    • Brian McCann vs. Joe Blanton
    • Adam Dunn vs. Joe Blanton
    • Adam Dunn vs. Clay Condrey)
  • 2 CH
    • Brian McCann vs. Brett Myers
    • Adrian Gonzalez vs. Brett Myers
  • 1 SL
    • Adrian Gonzalez vs. Chan Ho Park
  • 1 CU
    • Dexter Fowler vs. Chan Ho Park

RHB vs. LHP

  • 5 FB
    • Garrett Atkins vs. Cole Hamels
    • Luis Rodriguez vs. Cole Hamels
    • Nick Hundley vs. Cole Hamels
    • Elijah Dukes vs. Jack Taschner
    • Ryan Braun vs. Jamie Moyer
  • 1 FB cut
    • Chipper Jones vs. Jamie Moyer
  • 5 CH
    • Elijah Dukes vs. Jamie Moyer
    • Ryan Braun vs.  Jamie Moyer
    • Scott Hairston vs. Cole Hamels
    • Ryan Braun vs. Cole Hamels
    • Alberto Gonzalez vs. Jack Taschner

RHB vs. RHP

  • 8 FB
    • Josh Willingham vs. Chad Durbin
    • Bill Hall vs. Chad Durbin
    • Ryan Zimmerman vs. Brad Lidge
    • Kevin Kouzmanoff vs. Brad Lidge
    • Jeff Francoeur vs. Brett Myers
    • Troy Tulowitzki vs. Brett Myers
    • Clint Barmes vs. Brett Myers
    • Elijah Dukes vs. Joe Blanton
  • 4 SL
    • Matt Diaz vs. Brad Lidge
    • Jorge Cantu vs. Chan Ho Park
    • Ryan Zimmerman (2) vs. Joe Blanton
  • 3 CU
    • Garrett Atkins vs. Brett Myers
    • Dan Uggla vs. Brett Myers
    • Dan Uggla vs. Chan Ho Park
  • 1 CH
    • J.J. Hardy vs. Joe Blanton

By pitch:

The next chart shows the average distance of home runs allowed by each pitcher, using data from Hit Tracker Online. Distances of home runs hit last night and Sunday are not included.

Fantasy League Week 3 Recap

Week 3 was a week of parity: the average margin of victory was 1.5, which includes two ties. Todak and IWS tied, as did Shooter’s Swingers and The Beast.

Cust’s Club continues to swing the bats well, leading in all three bat categories: RBI, OBP, and SLG. The pitching is a bit more even, as Shooter’s Swingers is the only club to lead in multiple pitching categories.

We also saw our first trade during the season. Niagara Stars traded David Wright and Grant Balfour to Toothsome for B.J. Upton and Brandon Morrow. The only previous trade included the two clubs as well: Niagara Stars traded Stephen Drew and Carlos Quentin to Toothsome for Geovany Soto, Troy Tulowitzki, and Vernon Wells.

Congratulations go out to Jack Bauer’s Army, Cust’s Club, and Hat Guy as they were the only three to earn victories (which only count in our minds) in Week 3.

Here’s what it all looks like. Click the image for a larger version.

The match-ups:

The leaderboards:

And the standings:

The 2009 Cardiac Phillies

Washington Nationals @ Philadelphia Phillies, April 27, 2009You would think the Phillies would run out of captivating ways to win a ballgame, but they go out the next day and prove you wrong again and again. Once more, the Phillies won in epic fashion despite giving up five tape-measure home runs to the opposition.

When Lou Marson struck out to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning, the Phils had a 3% chance to win according to FanGraphs. Pedro Feliz kept hope alive with a single, and Jimmy Rollins followed up with a double to at least put the Phillies within striking distance of a tie game. After a sacrifice fly, a single, and two walks, Raul Ibanez came to the plate with the bases loaded. Joel Hanrahan, who throws 65% fastballs, served up a fat inside fastball to Ibanez and it was politely deposited behind the right field fence to put the Phillies up 13-11 with a 92.6% chance to win. Matt Stairs followed up hoping to tack on but struck out swinging.

Between outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Phillies went from a 3% chance to win to a 92.6% chance.

Of the ten wins the Phillies now have, only one has not been a come-from-behind victory. They should consider themselves extremely lucky to be two games over .500 with a pitching staff that is performing so poorly.

The Phils came into tonight’s game leading the National League in HR allowed with 34, ten more than the second-place Chicago Cubs. The Cubs only allowed one tonight, so with the Phillies’ five allowed tonight, they tack on four more to their lead of 39-25. That is, simply put, disgusting.

One thing the Phillies haven’t been doing is walking batters, with a league low 57 heading into tonight’s game, but the combination of Blanton, Taschner, Condrey, Eyre, and Happ walked ten in nine innings tonight.

I would hate to be in manager Charlie Manuel or pitching coach Rich Dubee’s shoes right now. It’s one thing to have one or two pitchers not performing well because you can have them rest a bit or even send them to the minors, but the only pitcher who isn’t getting hit around right now is… Clay Condrey.

Flexibility is nowhere to be found with the Phillies pitching staff. Sure, they could put Happ in the starting rotation and/or call up Carlos Carrasco, but that’s about the extent of it this side of a trade. Like it or not, the Phillies are just going to have to ride out this awful wave of poor pitching. They have mean-regression on their side, though, so it will shape up sooner or later.

Game graph courtesy FanGraphs.

Note: I’ll have a Crashburn Alley fantasy baseball league update some time tomorrow, for the two and a half of you who are actually interested.

Fantasy Baseball: Hamels, Rollins, Lidge

Mark Schruender at Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove asked me a few questions about the Phillies’ trio as it relates to fantasy baseball. You can check that out by clicking here. A little taste:

FBHS: Cole Hamels was on the cover of Sports Illustrated a couple weeks ago. So is the beginning of the season just the beginning of the season or is there more to be concerned about here?

CBA: Hamels has actually been a bit unlucky. His 5.5 K/BB rate is higher than those he’s had in previous seasons (career-high: 4.12 in 2007). Opposing batters are hitting .412 on balls in play. His HR/FB of 35.7% is much, much higher than the general average of around 10% (his career average is at about 12.5% including his few starts this season). He’s had a 7% dip in fly balls allowed but that’s been replaced by a 10% increase in line drives.

In other news, New York Mets outfielder Daniel Murphy has made yet another hilarious defensive gaffe. Courtesy the Phillies forum Back She Goes:

Daniel Murphy failing

You may recall a few days ago, Murphy had this Web Gem:

Daniel Murphy Failing

It must be a fun time to be in New York right now. The Yankees and Mets are playing poorly, the Knicks are terrible, and the Rangers are about to blow a 3-1 series lead to the Washington Capitals in the NHL playoffs.

Phillies/Nationals Series Preview II

Going into a three-game series in Florida against the 11-4 division-leading Marlins, the 6-8 Phillies were crossing their fingers and hoping to just win the series. Instead, they had two epic come-from-behind victories and a good ol’ fashioned “take the lead and never relent” 13-2 victory in the finale leading to a series sweep of the Fish.

In the finale, the Phillies reached a milestone: Jamie Moyer became the first starting pitcher not to allow a home run this year. He pitched six innings, struck out six, and allowed seven hits and a walk. Chad Durbin and J.A. Happ followed suit and also allowed no homers in three innings of relief. Whew. Now that that’s over…

With a three-game series against the lowly Washington Nationals, the now 9-8 Phillies find themselves in a great position (1.5 GB) to overtake the Marlins for first place in the NL East. The Marlins will travel to New York for a three-game set with the Mets and then head to Chicago for a four-game series with the Cubs. The 9-9 Atlanta Braves will host the 13-5 St. Louis Cardinals and last-place Houston Astros over their next six games.

Back to the tables! Phillies hitters against Nationals pitching:

Washington Nationals @ Philadelphia Phillies, April 27-29

The Phils saw Martis earlier this year but didn’t have a lot of success, scoring only two runs on five hits and two walks in six and one-third innings. Here’s a Martis scouting report by Harry Pavlidis at The Hardball Times:

Martis’ ability to change speeds and miss bats is impressive, and his change-up is vicious. When Martis used it on two-strike counts, he got a swinging third strike more than one time out of three. Still, his favorite time to throw it was on even counts, preferring the slider when ahead.

Phillies lefties like to hit Nationals lefties: Utley and Howard have a .993 and a 1.144 respective OPS against Lannan; and Howard and Ibanez have a 1.333 and 1.577 OPS against Olsen respectively.

National hitters against Phillies’ pitchers:

Washington Nationals @ Philadelphia Phillies, April 27-29

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if Joe Blanton can avoid this, he can have a bit more success against the “Natinals” than he did in his start against them on April 16. Call me crazy.

Hamels has had great success against mostly-bad National lineups, so this may be just what the doctor ordered to get him back on track. Hamels has been lackluster this year, and to make matters worse, he is making his first start since being smoked in the left shoulder by a Prince Fielder line drive.

Myers, the first Phillies starter with an ERA under 5.00, will look to continue his trend of keeping his team in the game. He may not be pitching well but he has limited the damage done against him. In his last start against the Marlins, he only allowed three runs — on a first-inning Dan Uggla three-run home run — in six innings despite allowing eight hits and walking six. That high-wire act will fail eventually, so here’s hoping he’s ahead of the curve.

The pitchers against their respective opponents:

Washington Nationals @ Philadelphia Phillies, April 27-29

Washington Nationals @ Philadelphia Phillies, April 27-29

By 11 PM EST on April 29, the Phillies could be in first place. They would be slightly ahead of schedule compared to last year, when the Phillies first took hold of the NL East on May 1.

BDD: Josh Johnson Was Dealing

At Baseball Daily Digest, I use Pitch F/X to illustrate just how dominant Josh Johnson was in his start against the Phillies. Fortunately, the Phillies came out of that game with a win, thanks to some timely hitting.

All night, Johnson pounded the strike zone. Two-thirds of his 102 pitches (68) were strikes. He had 11 swings and misses: 7 came on sliders, and 4 came on fastballs.

Notice that when he missed out of the strike zone, it was mostly low and to either side of the plate — nothing meaty. Brett Myers, take note of this.

Shane Victorino Is A Hero

The graph above shows the Phillies’ OPS by inning. Aside from the third inning for whatever reason, the Phils’ offense has been anemic until the late stages of the game. Did that ever hold true in tonight’s win over the Florida Marlins.

They scraped together just three hits and two walks off of Josh Johnson in seven innings, and nothing off of Leo Nunez in the eighth, so it looked like it’d be yet another disappointing loss when Matt Lindstrom, with a three-run lead, closed out the game. It was not to be.

After Howard grounded out sharply to shallow left field (he can thank the shift for that), the Phillies went on a rampage.

  • Jayson Werth: First-pitch fastball smoked to left-center for a double
  • Raul Ibanez: Five-pitch walk after going ahead 3-0
  • Matt Stairs: Pinch-hit RBI single in a 2-2 count
  • Lou Marson: Five-pitch walk after going ahead 3-0
  • Eric Bruntlett: Five-pitch strikeout looking on a vicious curve ball
  • Jimmy Rollins: Five-pitch walk after going ahead 3-1
  • Shane Victorino: Grand slam well over the right field fence after going ahead 2-1
  • Chase Utley: Solo home run with the count full

At that point, left-hander Renyel Pinto came in to try and get the final out but Ryan Howard doubled to left-center and Jayson Werth walked before Raul Ibanez struck out. All told, the Phils scored seven runs on four hits (two home runs) and three walks in two-thirds of an inning off of Matt Lindstrom.

If you’re counting, that’s 14 total bases in 9 at-bats, a SLG of 1.556. That brings the Phillies’ ninth-inning SLG to .804, and their OBP to .383 for an OPS of 1.187. That is, quite frankly, redonkulous.

Philadelphia Phillies @ Florida Marlins, April 24, 2009Brett Myers did not pitch very well, but still gave the Phillies a quality start: six innings of three-run baseball. He allowed three-runs in the first inning on a tape measure home run to Dan Uggla well beyond the left field fence. Myers allowed 14 base runners on eight hits and six walks. Clay Condrey pitched efficiently in the seventh and eighth innings, and Ryan Madson closed it out, striking out the side after allowing a lead-off walk and a double to Hanley Ramirez.

Courtesy FanGraphs is the Win Probability graph of tonight’s game. Gotta love that looooooooong green line heading from the top of the graph to about the bottom. Stairs’ at-bat had a Leverage Index (LI) of 5.71 and Victorino’s at-bat had an LI of 9.16. His grand slam brought the Marlins’ Win Expectancy (WE) from 76.5% to 4.2%, a 72.3% decrease with one swing of the bat (link).