Who Should We Root For?

The Flordia Marlins are in St. Louis for an afternoon rubber-match against the Cardinals today. The series has illustrated a fortunate quandary Phillies fans find themselves in: who do we root for to win? The Marlins are seven games behind in the division, and the Phillies are a game behind St. Louis (and two behind the Los Angeles Dodgers) for home-field advantage in the post-season.

Most will tell you to root for the Cardinals, but I think otherwise.

The PECOTA-adjusted Playoff Odds Report found at Baseball Prospectus gives the Phillies a 97% chance of winning the division at this point. The Marlins have less than a 1% chance. The Fish, at this point, are irrelevant.

If you recall back to last season, the Phillies went undefeated at home in the post-season. Matt Swartz of Baseball Prospectus found that the home team wins 54% of the time in baseball. With the playoffs being a crapshoot essentially, you want to be able to get any little advantage you can. 4% is actually a lot in this context.

Today, I’m rooting for the Marlins to win. Any time the Cardinals, Dodgers, Rockies, or Giants play, I’m rooting against them. The goal at this point is for the Phillies to finish with the best record in the National League, which will earn them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. At the risk of angering the baseball gods, the Florida Marlins are toast. Done. Finished. Looking to 2010.

Go Marlins!

Carlos Ruiz… Above Average?

Carlos RuizDon’t look now, but the Phillies’ starting catcher is actually hitting above the league average for his position! No, they didn’t hire Mike Lieberthal circa 2003; Carlos Ruiz is just having a damn fine offensive season. He has a .790 OPS, good for a 105 OPS+ in the National League. Most of his production has come in the second half, with a .934 OPS since July 20, including 12 doubles, 6 home runs, and 23 RBI.

After being worth a combined negative 21 weighted runs above average (wRAA) between 2006 and ’08, he’s been worth a positive 3.5 wRAA this year, the third-highest total of any National League catcher, behind only Miguel Montero and Brian McCann.

His previous lack of offensive punch used to be glossed over because of nebulous concepts such as, “He’s a good clubhouse guy,” or “He really knows how to call a game.” Now, we can say in finite terms that Carlos Ruiz is a good baseball player. He can hit, and he can block pitches in the dirt better than anyone else. And all that other stuff, too.

Who would have thought that we would be saying this after the Phillies traded away Jason Jaramillo for Ronny Paulino and Ronny Paulino for Jack Taschner, Lou Marson in a package for Cliff Lee, and shipped Chris Coste up the creek for Paul Bako? Plus, thanks to Ruiz, the Phillies can comfortably groom catching prospect Travis D’Arnaud between A Clearwter and AA Reading next year.

Ice cream for Chooch! (Thanks to Tug for that.)