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: