The Good and Bad, So Far

The World Champion Phillies can’t be feeling great on their way to Colorado with the Division Series tied 1-1. Although they did lose one game in every playoff series last year, they never lost a game at home, winning all seven games at Citizens Bank Park against the Brewers, Dodgers, and Rays. While the Rockies deserve a lot of credit for playing a mostly clean game of baseball yesterday, the Phillies are kicking themselves for several mental lapses that occurred throughout Game 2.

It’s not all bad, though, as we’ll find down in a recollection of the first two games. Let’s start with the good the Phillies can be inspired by:

  • The second-half of the regular season was not kind to Raul Ibanez, hampered by a groin injury. His second-half OPS was nearly 250 points lower than his first-half OPS, 1.015 to .774. However,  he has caught fire in the NLDS with four hits and four RBI in eight at-bats. According to FanGraphs, he has added .115 and .105 WPA in Games 1 and 2, respectively. Even better, he has only left stranded one Phillies runner in his eight at-bats.
  • Like Ibanez, Jayson Werth found himself in a slump late in the season. He had only one hit in a span of 32 at-bats between September 19 and 26. In eight plate appearances, Werth has three hits (a single, triple, and home run) and a walk, and has driven in two runs.
  • What else can be said about Cliff Lee? He’s another Phillie who hit the skids to finish the season, but rebounded in a great way in Game 1 against the Rockies and Ubaldo Jimenez. Lee pitched the first complete game by any Phillies pitcher in their current three-year post-season run, and a CG was never more important than this year, with all of the mayhem in the bullpen. Lee was masterful, allowing only six hits and one run in nine innings while striking out five and walking none.
  • Scott Eyre and Ryan Madson looked absolutely dominant against the Rockies in Game 2. Eyre pitched the seventh inning and didn’t allow any hits, but did allow an inherited runner to score on a fly ball by Dexter Fowler, who had a great approach. Otherwise, Eyre made Carlos Gonzalez (who had three hits in three at-bats against left-hander Cole Hamels) look like the rookie that he is, and induced future Hall of Famer Todd Helton to pop out weakly to Jimmy Rollins.

    Madson cut through the Rockies like butter. He needed only seven pitches to get through three hitters in the top of the ninth, and all seven pitches were strikes. Carlos Gonzalez swung at Madson’s first pitch and popped up to Rollins. After taking a first-pitch low-and-inside change-up for a strike, Fowler swung at two more low-and-inside change-ups and was back on the bench quickly. For as bad as Eyre made Helton look earlier, Madson made him look even worse. Helton saw three straight fastballs — 93, 96, and 97 MPH consecutively — and took a called strike three.

    With J.C. Romero injured and Brad Lidge thinking he’s going to use a cutter in the playoffs, Eyre and Madson are critical under the assumption that the Phillies don’t get any more complete game gems like they did from Lee in Game 1.

The bad:

  • Before I criticize Cole Hamels, I’d like to offer my congratulations as the Hamels family is adding another member. In Game 2, he pitched like a husband whose wife could go into labor at any second, and it’s certainly understandable. Still, he gave up four runs in five innings.

    He threw eight curveballs out of 83 pitches, but they weren’t particularly effective curveballs. Three were taken for balls, three were taken for strikes, and the Rockies were 2-for-2 when they swung at it: Carlos Gonzalez singled, and Yorvit Torreabla smoked one over the left field fence for a two-run home run that boosted the Rockies’ lead to three runs. The curve is easily Hamels’ worst pitch but he supposedly keeps it in his repertoire to keep hitters from sitting on his fastball and change-up (Nash equilibrium). Perhaps Hamels needs his curveball, even as bad as it is, to keep his other pitches working. However, I would not be sad to see him scrap that curve.

  • As I detailed after the Phillies’ loss, Brett Myers‘ performance in Game 2 may have punched his ticket out of Philadelphia.

    He’s a free agent after the season and he rarely has a clean inning when he has come in as a reliever. Considering his wild boy demeanor and proneness to off-the-field incidents, get a good look at Myers while you can — it’s unlikely he’ll be back in Philly next season unless he’s willing to take a pay cut (he’s making $12 million this season, the last leg of a three-year, $25.75 million contract).

    Myers was wild and ineffective in his two-thirds of an inning of work. He was fortunate that Antonio Bastardo was able to fool pinch-hitter Jason Giambi with the bases loaded. Myers loaded the bases by allowing a double and walking two batters (one intentionally to set up a double play).

On a related note, it would be nice to see Chase Utley catch fire. He’s not having a bad series, but he is just 2-for-8 with two singles and three strikeouts. Utley finished the season hitless in his final 18 plate appearances and, in a broader range, got only three hits in his final 41 PA.