Take It Easy

I write this as the Phillies are trailing the Florida Marlins 3-0 in the seventh inning of the second game of the double-header, having won the first one. Prior to today’s games, Cool Standings gave the Phillies a 99.9% chance of winning the division and the Marlins and Braves were below 0.1%. The PECOTA-adjusted odds at Baseball Prospectus were a bit kinder to the NL East runners-up, giving the Phillies only a 99.75% chance of winning the division.

If you recall last season, the Phillies clinched on September 27 with a sweet game-ending double play that also clinched Brad Lidge’s perfect season. It is September 22 and the Phillies’ magic number after the first win today is down to five. With Cole Hamels, J.A. Happ, and Cliff Lee pitching in the next three days, it’s possible that the Phillies will clinch before this Saturday the 26th.

Even if means the Phillies don’t clinch the division by the end of the month (it won’t), it is a good idea to take it easy by resting the regulars. The Phils have five injured pitchers: Pedro Martinez, J.C. Romero, Scott Eyre, Brett Myers, and Chan Ho Park. J.A. Happ missed nearly three weeks after his start on September 2. It would be a shame to head into the post-season with anymore sore shoulders or stiff necks or strained obliques.

It is true that the Phillies went into the post-season last year on a serious hot streak, winning 13 of their remaining 16 games, and their hot streak continued on through the NLDS, NLCS, and the World Series. But they also finished 2007 on a roll as well, winning 13 of their final 17 games, and then they got swept by the Colorado Rockies in the NLDS. Small sample of course — what else would you expect — but momentum that baseball commentators so often refer to doesn’t seem to play a big role in the Phillies’ post-season success.

That’s why it benefits the Phillies to rest their important pieces as much as possible. The Phillies have played 150 games this season. Ryan Howard has played in 149, Chase Utley 146, Jimmy Rollins 145, Pedro Feliz 147, Shane Victorino 144, and Jayson Werth 147. Cliff Lee has made 32 starts, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton 29. J.A. Happ and Pedro Martinez are less than 100%. Ryan Madson and Chad Durbin have logged 72 and 63 innings in the bullpen respectively. Brad Lidge has appeared in 62 games and has had one hell of a stressful season.

For the next week-plus, rest them all. Let Kyle Kendrick and Andrew Carpenter make a start. Near the end of the season, let Martinez and Happ make one final start — with a strictly-enforced pitch count — to make sure they’re ready. Sergio Escalona and Tyler Walker can shoulder most of the bullpen work. Greg Dobbs, Matt Stairs, Ben Francisco, Eric Bruntlett, John Mayberry, Paul Bako, Miguel Cairo, and Andy Tracy can get some regular at-bats, which would benefit the former four as they would be on the post-season roster.

The Phillies were fortunate last year that they did not have to deal with many injuries. While they are also fortunate this year they are not dealing with the Mets’ infirmary, they do have to be careful with several pitchers. It would be a shame that the Phillies would lose a post-season game, or even a post-season series, if Jamie Moyer has to throw four-plus innings because J.A. Happ never quite healed from his oblique problem. Or because Ryan Madson ran out of gas because Charlie Manuel used him to pitch seven innings over the final twelve games.

It isn’t official yet; the Phillies haven’t won the division. But even if they play at a Washington Nationals level of baseball — that is to say, .333-ish — the Marlins would still need to go 12-0 down the stretch to surpass the Phillies. I’d sooner bet on getting struck by lightning. Do the right thing and take it easy for the final week and a half.

BDD: MVP Award Should Be Vaguely-Defined

At BDD, I revisit the Rosenthal debate from a different angle. Click here to read it.

Were we to take the voting out of the hands of the BBWAA and mechanically dole out awards, for instance, then how would MLB ever cultivate any interest in the awards? Would anyone stand around the water cooler and simply chirp agreement with The Award Machine (for to disagree with it you would be akin to a flat-earther)? Would writers and bloggers take the time to write a post about “it got it right again”?

Comparing the 1976-78 Phillies to 2007-09

With the Fightins on their way to a third straight division title, it is an appropriate time to compare the 2007-09 teams to the last trio of division champs, the 1976-78 Phillies.

Here’s a quick look at who manned each position (i.e. had the most plate appearances at the position) for those teams:

  • Position: 1976, 1977, 1978; 2007, 2008, 2009
  • C: Boone, Boone, Boone; Ruiz, Ruiz, Ruiz
  • 1B: Allen, Hebner, Hebner; Howard, Howard, Howard
  • 2B: Cash, Sizemore, Sizemore; Utley, Utley, Utley
  • SS: Bowa, Bowa, Bowa; Rollins, Rollins, Rollins
  • 3B: Schmidt, Schmidt, Schmidt; Nunez, Feliz, Feliz
  • LF: Luzinski, Luzinski, Luzinski; Burrell, Burrell, Ibanez
  • CF: Maddox, Maddox, Maddox; Rowand, Victorino, Victorino
  • RF: Johnstone, Johnstone, McBride; Victorino, Werth, Werth

Offensively, the current three-peaters are better than the the ’76-78 teams at first base (slight), second base (huge), and shortstop (huge); the ’76-78 teams had the advantage at catcher (huge), third base (huge), and left field (slight); and the teams had virtually identical production from their center and right fielders.

The following are the offenses’ league ranks in runs scored per game and total HR:

  • 1976: 2nd of 12 in RPG (4.75); 2nd in HR (110)
  • 1977: 1st of 12 in RPG (5.22); 2nd in HR (186)
  • 1978: 3rd of 12 in RPG (4.37); 3rd in HR (133)
  • 2007: 1st of 16 in RPG (5.51); 2nd in HR (213)
  • 2008: 2nd of 16 in RPG (4.93); 1st in HR (214)
  • 2009: 1st of 16 in RPG (5.05); 1st in HR (210*)

* Incomplete season, of course. Prorated total over 162 games is 231 home runs.

Unfortunately, the wealth of defensive statistics we have now aren’t available as far back as 1976, so we can’t compare the teams defensively. We’ll just have to leave that to speculation and debate.

The following chart plots the teams’ starting and relief pitching by ERA minus FIP. A negative number shows that the pitchers were worse than their ERA indicated and a positive number means they were better than their ERA indicated. It’s a very rough measure of luck.

Phillies pitchers of late seem to have been very, very lucky, especially relievers. Considering Brad Lidge’s perfect 2008 season, that may not be a surprise.

Here are the actual numbers, using ERA:

I was going to use ERA+ but it’s not as ubiquitous as OPS+ as it is a poor metric with which to evaluate relievers.

Simply put, the Phillies teams of the late 1970′s were better on the mound than the new kids.  Each of the 1976-78 reliever corps was better than the best 2007-09 corps from 2008. The same rule applies for starters as well. However, the gap between the two eras of pitchers would be closed with an adjustment for the respective leagues.

Lastly, we’ll look at each squad’s performance compared to its simple Pythagorean expectation.

  • 1976: 101 wins (Pythag: 104)
  • 1977: 101 wins (Pythag: 98)
  • 1978: 90 wins (Pythag: 95)
  • 2007: 89 wins (Pythag: 87)
  • 2008: 92 wins (Pythag: 93)
  • 2009: 86 wins (Pythag: 84)*

* Again, incomplete season. Prorates to 95 wins with a Pythag of 93.

The 1976-78 squads aggregately under-performed their Pythag by five games or an average of under two games per season, which is well within the standard error. The 2007-09 squads under-performed by three games, an average of one game per season. None of the teams resembled the 2007 Arizona Diamondbacks, who out-performed their Pythag by 11 games.

All told, there are actually a lot of similiarities between the teams. They hit first and pitched second, in order of importance. Actually, if we had reliable defensive metrics, we would conclude that they hit first, fielded second, and pitched third.

The contemporary Phillies are strong defensively up the middle with Ruiz, Utley, Rollins, and Victorino. So, too, were the late-’70′s Phillies with Boone, Bowa, and Maddox, the Secretary of Defense.

Pedro Feliz is Mr. Consistency

When the Phillies signed Pedro Feliz as a free agent after the 2007 season, they were hoping for the slugger who banged out 20-22 home runs in four straight years in the pitcher-friendly confines of the Giants’ frequently-renamed home ballpark. From 2004-07 in San Francisco, Pedro hit 22, 20, 22, and 20 home runs respectively.

The signing of Feliz was somewhat of a surprise, considering that he had seen his OPS drop in every season since 2004, from .790 to .717 to .709 to .708. What didn’t vary, however, was his defense. In those same years, his UZR/150 ranged from 14.3 to 31.7 and it was his primary source of value for the Giants.

In his two years with the Phillies, though, he has not been the guy they thought he’d be and yet he’s been about as valuable as he always was. He has not had the pop they expected, especially considering his move from a spacious ballpark to a “bandbox”. Even more mysteriously, his glove hasn’t been as valuable, with UZR/150 scores of 9.3 last year and 5.0 this year, the two lowest scores of his career.

Just as Feliz’s OPS dropped every season between 2004-07, it continued to drop in Philadelphia. Last year, he had a .705 OPS and his ’09 OPS is at .697. That isn’t a significant slip, however. There is only a .020 range between his best (2005) and worst (2009) seasons. As Pedro got older, the more he got on base and the less he hit for power.

That’s a good thing. As Cyril Morong stated at Beyond the Box Score, “OBP [is] about 53% more important than SLG.” Cyril then goes on to focus on specific lineup spots. Pedro’s #7 spot would make OBP about 25% more important than SLG. The offensive statistics agree with this: his ’08-09 wOBA is higher than his ’06-07 wOBA. While Pedro doesn’t have the pop we all hoped he’d have, he has made up for it by getting on base at a better rate thanks to increasing his walk rate and his rate of contact (which has also resulted in a higher BABIP).

Of the eight regulars, Pedro Feliz is the least valuable this season at just 1.4 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). However, Feliz has been consistent, and after years of worrying about the third base position following the shipment of Scott Rolen to St. Louis back in 2002, Feliz has allowed the Phillies to worry about other areas of the roster. Imagine if the Phillies had to worry about adding a third baseman at the trading deadline in either of the past two seasons or during the off-season prior to this season. Things probably would have been a lot different, and not for the better.

It’s That Time of Year

We’re past the midpoint of September, and you know what that means: award debates. Well, award arguments. It’s the same dance every year: the professionals take an intentionally controversial stance, we bloggers disagree with them (and subsequently respond and link to their explanations), repeat cycle. It’s actually kind of fun, except when the goading is blatant.

With a hat tip to The Big Lead and BBTF, here’s Ken Rosenthal’s attempt to fire up an argument:

MVP Award Deserves Robust Debate

I’m inclined to agree with the choice of Mauer, but that’s not why I’m writing. No, I’m writing because of the cyber-shoutdowns of anyone who offers dissent, anyone who dares suggest Derek Jeter, Kevin Youkilis or whoever is a legitimate alternative to Mauer.

I’m inclined to label the above statement as a strawman. Derek Jeter and Kevin Youkilis are not ridiculous alternative MVP suggestions. Yes, it’s true that if you take position into account, it’s not a particularly close call between the three. But suggesting Jeter or Youkilis is not outrageous. I would like to see who, exactly, Rosenthal is reading from the Sabermetric community that is cyber-shutting him down.

Taking a contrary position does not make me just another unenlightened member of the MSM (translation: mainstream media). But it will subject me to a certain level of scorn for rejecting SGT (translation: sabermetric groupthink).

I like to compare fans of Sabermetrics to atheists. The common saying about atheists is that they’re hard to herd, like cats. I think Sabermetricians are similar. Very rarely will two Sabermetricians think exactly alike and interpret statistics the same way. There is no leader of Sabermetrics, not even Bill James. No one is sending out newsletters with official Sabermetric viewpoints, like “Do not support David Eckstein. He is too small and too gritty and mucks up our calculations. Boo him if possible.”

The mainstream media is a common target of scorn because, Ken, you guys are supposed to be smarter than us. You guys are supposed to have that oh-so-important access; you should be making better decisions, but instead, a majority if you guys — the MSM — don’t use the wealth of information at your fingertips. A Sabermetric blogger in his mom’s basement really shouldn’t be able to so easily out-reason someone from the MSM, but it’s a common occurrence.

Here’s the problem: Sabermetricians were ignored for so long, they had to shout to be heard. Now they are getting heard — properly heard in the highest levels of baseball media and front offices. But some continue to shout, dismissing those who disagree as ignorant dolts.

I’m inclined to label the above as another strawman argument. I’d love it if Ken would have linked to examples of Sabermetricians acting this way. And, frankly, even if there were one or two legitimate examples given, they wouldn’t represent Sabermetricians as a whole. If I run into two different members of a local chess club and they are both uncouth, I cannot fairly assume that the entire group is composed of uncouth chess lovers.

Last I checked, it’s a free country. Last I checked, the MVP is a subjective choice.

If it’s a free country, and if the MVP is a subjective choice, why is Kenny complaining about people disagreeing with him?

A very childish way for a professional journalist to go about this “debate”.

But the beauty of the award, as outlined by the instructions given to voters, is “there is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means.” Which, of course, drives sabermetricians nuts.

More addressing of Sabermetricians as one cohesive group. Does Ken really think that those of us who use Sabermetrics get together once a week and file official viewpoints and analytical methods over a baseball game?

Most Sabermetricians don’t even agree with each other. For a good majority of us to reach a conclusion, there has to be an overwhelming amount of evidence. Such happens to be the case with regard to Joe Mauer’s value. The only player who even comes close to Mauer in value is Ben Zobrist of the Tampa Bay Rays.

If you want to say “it’s a subjective choice, I can use any criteria I want” then go ahead. But an opinion backed up by zero facts does not hold as much weight as that backed up by many facts.

And while the definition of value, in this case, is somewhat subjective, I don’t think Ken would disagree with the interpretation of Sabermetricians, which takes into account just about anything you can think of.

The award is not for highest VORP. It is not for most win shares, most runs created, most wins above replacement player. It is for something that no one can quite define

Ken tells us what the award is not about, and then he says, “Well, we don’t know what it’s about.”

In other words, Ken doesn’t know what the award is about, he just knows that the Sabermetricians’ general interpretation is dead god damn wrong.

Skipping a bunch of weak “Mauer missed a month” talking points…

It certainly creates the opportunity for debate, which is my entire point.

Ken doesn’t want a two-sided debate. He wants you to shut up and listen to him. The fact that he took the time to write this article shows that he is not interested in a debate.

Slavishly adhering to sabermetric dogma reduces the level of discourse.

Slavishly adherering to any dogma reduces the level of discourse. Yes, absolutely, there are likely some people who follow Sabermetrics too closely that it blinds them from considering alternate viewpoints, but that is not unique to followers of Sabermetrics.

Slavishly adhering to Oprah’s book recommendations reduces the level of discourse.

Slavishly adhering to Rolling Stone’s political viewpoints reduces the level of discourse.

Try it yourself.

For all intents and purposes, the Sabermetric slobs he’s been talking about are imaginary. I have yet to read a defense of Joe Mauer that is so one-sided, so close-minded that it fits the descriptors Ken has used throughout his article. I would love to see who, exactly, he had in mind while he was typing up this article.

We’re supposed to debate.

So what’s the problem then? Why even write this article?

So, the question becomes: Does anyone but Mauer deserve the award?

Deserve? You can name a bunch of players who deserve the award. Does Mauer most deserve the award? The facts point to yes.

My top alternative is Youkilis. But I also can make cases for Jeter and Cabrera and, to a lesser extent, Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira and Angels first baseman Kendry Morales. Heck, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez — who missed even more time than Mauer while recovering from hip surgery — might be the most valuable of all.

Remember above, when Ken said Mauer missed a lot of games, so it hurts his MVP eligibility? Games played:

  • Mauer: 121
  • Youkilis: 121

This is why Ken gets criticized. All it takes for Ken to make sure he has no holes in his logic is to simply look up each player on Baseball Reference, which takes ten seconds. If you read further, Ken realizes that Youkilis and Mauer have similar playing time, but he didn’t backtrack. He willingly ignored his flawed logic and went on.

The super-important Ken Rosenthal, with his press pass, makeup crew, and microphone, either thought too highly of himself or too little of his readers to clean this up. When he then writes articles insulting followers of Sabermetrics for being too rigid about facts, this stuff sticks in the collective craw. If you’re going to insult the methodology of others’, you’d better have a flawless one of your own.

Still, he is second in the league in OPS to Mauer and possesses the unique ability to shift almost seamlessly between first base and third. Youkilis even made two starts in left when the Red Sox were depleted by injuries. While the experiment did not work, it demonstrated anew Youkilis’ team-first approach.

This criticism is not a subjective argument: this is some Grade A awful logic. Ken factors in offense, Mauer wins. Ken factors in defense: Youkilis played three of the least important positions on the diamond; Mauer plays the most important. Mauer wins. Youkilis hurt his team by playing poorly defensively in right field, and yet Ken denotes this as a positive.

The MVP award is, yes, subjective. But logical arguments are not. Look at it this way, Ken is saying:

  • Mauer and Youkilis are close enough in offense that it’s a wash (not taking into account defensive position, which does enhance the usefulness of offense)
  • Mauer plays an important defensive position, but Youkilis is versatile having played at first, third, and in left field, so it’s a wash
  • Youkilis may have played poorly but it illustrated a selfless approach, so the tie is broken here; point Youkilis!

You do not have to follow Sabermetrics to a T to understand Ken’s Swiss cheese argument.

Jeter, like Mauer and Youkilis, possesses many of the same selfless qualities.

The problem with these intangible arguments is that anyone from anywhere can attribute an intangible and it’s impossible to disprove. Ken says Jeter, Mauer, and Youkilis are selfless. Hey, fine, I don’t think anyone will disagree with that. But what if I say Milton Bradley is a selfless player? How do you disprove it? How do you prove or disprove selflessness?

Essentially, in a debate, both sides can claim intangibles for their choices and it leaves us in a stalemate.

Example:

  • Me: I like Mauer. He’s selfless. Can you disprove it? No? One point.
  • Ken: I like Jeter. He, too, is selfless. Can you disprove it? No? One point.
  • Me: I like Mauer. He’s gritty. Can you disprove it? No? Two points.
  • Ken: I like Jeter. He is also gritty. Can you disprove it? No? Two points.
  • Me: I like Mauer. He’s a grinder. Can you disprove it? No? Three points.
  • Ken: I like Jeter. He has an aura about him that helps his team win. Can you disprove it? No? Three points.

It’s not that intangibles don’t exist, it’s that they don’t do anything to enhance an argument because they’re unprovable. Jeter may be the grittiest, grindiest, most aura-having player in baseball history, but I can just as easily claim the same about Eric Bruntlett and they’re suddenly on equal footing.

I just want to have a nice, civil discussion about a fascinating MVP race, a discussion that includes number geeks sitting in their basements, overworked hacks in press boxes across America and fans of all ages, colors and philosophies.

Ken says it, but clearly doesn’t believe it. We have — mostly — been having nice, civil discussions for years. It’s just that the advent of Sabermetrics has allowed the common fan access to nearly as much information as the professional journalist. Thus, the fan then is able to formulate more educated, more logically sound arguments. As a result, the professional journalists like Ken are no longer required to tell us what we should think, as we can now think for ourselves.

What Ken wants is for us to need him again. He does not want a debate, as a debate entails two relatively equal sides, and that has been the case for a while now.

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.)

BDD: Does League Superiority Exist?

At Baseball Daily Digest, I investigate into whether or not the American League really is more dominant than the National League.

The defending World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies went 6-12 in interleague play this season. Three of the twelve losses (25%) came in a series sweep at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles who currently have a .408 winning percentage overall. When you only play one or two three-game series once a year, stuff like that is going to happen. No one will argue that the series reflected both teams’ true talent levels.

Welcome Back, Kendrick

Kyle Kendrick stepped out on the mound this afternoon making his first start of the season and his first appearance in over a month. After last night’s brutal loss to the New York Mets, KK was being looked to as one to stop the bleeding. Five innings and three runs allowed would have been fine from the savior from 2007.

The Mets did not know what they were in for.

Kendrick started off the game by striking out the side in the first inning. He would not strike out another hitter. Instead, he relied on his fielders to turn batted balls into outs and they did just that. It was a solid defensive performance all around, but particularly from the left side of the infield, Jimmy Rollins and Pedro Feliz.

Through seven innings, Kendrick had not yet allowed a run, and there was some speculation that Charlie Manuel would let him bat in the bottom half of the inning, given the problems the bullpen has caused lately. That held to be true. Kendrick did bat, and reached base on an infield single. In the eighth, Kendrick went back out and retired the first hitter he faced in Jeremy Reed. Five outs from a complete game shut-out.

Then, as it seems to happen lately, things fell apart yet again late in the game. Kendrick allowed a single up the middle to Angel Pagan, and very quickly got tagged by Anderson Hernandez, to quote broadcaster Chris Wheeler, “of all people.” Hernandez had only one home run on the season coming into the game. But two runs through seven and one-third innings is much better than anyone expected out of KK. He was pulled for a reliever and left to a standing ovation from the Citizens Bank crowd.

With J.A. Happ battling an oblique strain, Kendrick has emerged as, for better or worse, necessary back-up for the remaining 21 games. Should Happ’s injury knock him out for the rest of the season, Kendrick could make as many as four more starts and his performance today could be enough to assuage any fears about rotation depth, considering Jamie Moyer’s inconsistency as well.

Here’s a quick look at pitches that Mets hitters made contact with during Kendrick’s start today. This is from the catcher’s perspective.

He’s a bit too over the plate for my tastes and it’s not like he dominated a great offensive team — not to discount anything he did today. He threw 84 fastballs and 22 off-speed pitches (16 change-ups and 6 sliders), a ratio of about four fastballs per every five pitches. That’s just fine with a spot start as was done today, but for more sustained success, KK will need to introduce breaking pitches more often. Aaron Cook is the only qualified pitcher in the Majors who uses his fastball at least 80% of the time.

With the Marlins currently losing to the Nationals, the Phillies will likely have a six-game lead in the division going into tonight’s nightcap. If we imagine the Phillies dropping tonight’s game, they’d go to 81-61. And if we imagine the Phillies only playing .500 ball the rest of the way (10-10), that would put them at a 91-71 record. That means that the Marlins, who will drop to 76-67 with a loss today, would need to go 15-4 (.789) just to tie the Phillies. If the Phillies go 14-6 in their remaining 20, the Marlins would need to go 19-0 down the stretch.

I’m liking those odds.

Hasty Judgment

By no means was Jamie Moyer ever expected to rival Tim Lincecum for the NL Cy Young award this year. And by no means was he — nor should have been — expected to repeat last year’s FIP-defying season. So my reaction to his allowing the first four Mets hitters to circle the bases and the first five to reach base was a bit too much. Little did I know the BABIP gods would make things right again.

Here’s the first five Mets hitters in the first:

- L. Castillo doubled to shallow left
- F. Tatis singled to right, L. Castillo to third, F. Tatis to second advancing on throw
- D. Wright singled to shallow right center, L. Castillo and F. Tatis scored, D. Wright to second advancing on throw
- C. Beltran homered to deep center, D. Wright scored
- J. Francoeur singled

And this was the rest of the game:

- W. Valdez lined out to shallow right
- M. Pelfrey grounded out to third
- L. Castillo lined out to center

- F. Tatis fouled out to shallow left
- D. Wright grounded out to second
- C. Beltran lined out to third

- J. Francoeur popped out to right
- O. Santos grounded out to pitcher
- D. Murphy popped out to shortstop

- W. Valdez grounded out to pitcher
- M. Pelfrey grounded out to third
- L. Castillo flied out to right center

- F. Tatis singled to pitcher
- D. Wright lined out to third
- C. Beltran flied out to left
- J. Francoeur lined out to third

- O. Santos flied out to deep center
- D. Murphy doubled to center
- D. Murphy stole third
- W. Valdez grounded out to third, D. Murphy scored
- N. Evans grounded out to third

In short:

  • First five hitters: 0 outs, 3 singles, 1 double, 1 home run, 4 runs
  • Rest of the game: 21 outs, 1 single, 1 double, 1 run, 0 walks

Jamie got the job done after a rough start, and actually gave the Phillies a decent start given the circumstances. Not too many pitchers can get shelled to start a game the way he did and rebound for an otherwise quality start through seven innings.

Unfortunately, the Phillies’ bullpen could not lead Moyer to a victory, as the trio of Brett Myers, Chan Ho Park, and Ryan Madson combined to give up five runs in two innings of work en route to a 10-9 loss. Four of the five runs came courtesy two David Wright home runs, one off of Myers and one off of Madson.

[Tom McCarthy lazy transition]Speaking of hasty judgment[/Tom McCarthy lazy transition], let’s hold off on the pitchfork mobbing for a little while when it comes to Ryan Madson. He’s had very limited opportunities to close out games. Yes, he has not performed very well in those limited opportunities, but give the guy a chance to prove himself before citing his lack of a “closer’s mentality” or some such intangible.

The fact is, Madson has ridiculous stuff and will enjoy success against Major League hitters more often than not. Including this season, his xFIP has decreased significantly every season since 2006, hand-in-hand with a similarly-increasing strikeout rate. Give him a chance and don’t let your emotions guide your judgments as mine did during Moyer’s rough start today.