The 2011 Phillies and Their Place In History

The 2011 season is three-quarters completed for the Phillies, and, frankly, it’s been a breeze. They’ve been in first place for all but one day in the season. The last time the Braves were within three games was in mid-July. The Phils haven’t had a losing streak longer than four games, and they’ve never been below .500. It’s been so easy for the Phillies, in fact, that I can’t help but feel that I’ve been taking for granted what a uniquely stress-free season we’re experiencing. Even after the 2007 season, magical as it was by any account, it was difficult, for a time, to shake the nagging question of whether or not the Phillies actually belonged there, mentioned in the same breath as perennial contenders. A World Championship helped beat back those doubts. But 2009 and 2010 were both peppered with maddening offensive droughts, losing streaks, injury woes, and under-performing players. It was a whole lot of stress, ultimately over nothing — both teams made the playoffs, and the former won the NL pennant.

The point, though, is that the Phillies have had no such (superficial) issue to (needlessly) pull our hair out over this season. It’s not as if they’re lucking their way to dominance, either. They’re only outplaying their Pythagorean expectation by two games at the moment. It’s just been some legendary pitching backed by an offense that is more than adequate to support it. The unrelenting, uninterrupted success of the 2011 Phillies is something that I, as a 27 year-old fan, don’t really have a precedent for. It’s tough to restrain one’s expectations for this team, and it’s tough not to think, when Cliff Lee whiffs his seventh batter in as many innings or Chase Utley works the strike zone like some kind of baseball android, that we’re watching the best Phillies team that has ever played. What previous iteration could have been better? The Phillies have had 13 playoff teams and two World Championships, yes, but a lot of things can happen in the playoffs that don’t reflect the true talent level of the team. Has any other Phillies club achieved, in the regular season, what this current group figures to?

We can take a look at the runs scored and runs allowed by previous Phillies teams and try to approximate an answer. Of course, comparing that sort of raw data between eras isn’t possible without some preliminary work. The NL has gone through countless different run environments over the years, and this season is particularly run-starved compared to the last 20 or so years. The league has also had several variations of season length, between the earlier 154 game standard, the strike-shortened 1994 and 1995 seasons, and others. By taking these teams’ run totals and adjusting them to a 4.5 runs per game environment and a 162 game season, we can lay out an equal playing field on which we can start to make comparisons. Plugging these adjusted totals into a Pythagenpat calculation, we can project a win percentage that endeavors to filter out at least some of the luck that goes into a team’s actual record.

These adjustments are still fairly crude. Of the best ten teams by our adjusted Pythagenpat record, four are from prior to the turn of the twentieth century. Two are from seasons prior to the integration of African American players, and well before any substantial number of Latino players had made their way into the league. The vast difference between baseball in the 19th century and baseball as we know it today, as well as the impact of non-white players on the game’s talent pool, are two things that transcend any one quantitative adjustment. To be safe, let’s limit our look to teams following the 1946 season, when integration in baseball got underway. As it turns out, it doesn’t make any difference in our top two teams:

Year Actual Record Adj. Pythag? Adj. Run Diff. wRC+ ERA+
1976 101-61 105-56 241 105 116
2011 75-40 102-60 197 97 127
1977 101-61 99-63 183 110 109
1978 90-72 95-67 138 98 108
2010 97-65 95-67 137 99 110
1993 97-65 94-68 137 105 101
1952 87-67 94-68 119 98 120
2008 92-70 93-69 118 99 113
2009 93-69 92-70 113 104 101
1950 91-63 92-70 98 93 115

ERA+ is an era and park adjusted version of ERA. 100 is average for that league and year, 110 is 10% above that average, etc. wRC+ performs this exact same adjustment with the wOBA offensive metric.

At least by this assessment, the 2011 Phillies are topped only by their 1976 counterparts, who finished the season 101-61. Like 2011, the 1976 NL was a run-starved league, and the Phillies that year relied on some hitters who were having far from their best seasons, but thriving relative to the league. Their anchor was a young core of hitters. Mike Schmidt (150 wRC+), Greg Luzinski (137), and Garry Maddox (133), all in their mid-20s, posted wRC+ figures of 130 or higher. Phillies fans were just beginning to understand the generational talent that they had in Schmidt; he had broken out two years prior with a .282/.395/.546 season, and, in 1976, led the NL in home runs for the third straight year. Jay Johnstone (130) and a declining Dick Allen (133), in the second year of his reunion tour with the Phils, chipped in as well.

In our hypothetical run environment of 4.5 runs per game, this offense would have managed 5.37, the second highest figure of all the post-1946 Phillies teams (and fourth highest over their entire 129 year history). This outstrips the 2011 club easily. Shane Victorino (157), Chase Utley (140), and Hunter Pence (138) match up favorably against the 1976 team’s top three, but Pence has only been with the Phillies for a little more than a week, and, in any case, the current club lacks the ’76 iteration’s depth down the lineup, and potent bench.

Not surprisingly, pitching is where the current Phillies really have an edge. The 2011 rotation, in the 4.5 runs per game environment, allows 3.53 runs per game, decidedly the best in Phillies history (the closest competitor was the 1886 Quakers, with a staff led by Charlie Ferguson, who posted a modest 165 ERA+ in 396 innings). Their present ERA+ of 127 leads the majors, and, among the starters, only Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton have an ERA above 3.5. The 1976 crew featured a formidable bullpen — none of their qualified relievers had an ERA+ below 120 — but their starters just don’t stack up. And how could they? Five of the 2011 club’s qualified starters have an ERA+ above 120, which is higher than anyone in the 1976 rotation managed. This season’s pitching rotation has a legitimate claim to be placed among the best in baseball history, much less franchise history.

Fans in both 1976 and 2011 have had the privilege of watching a future Hall of Famer. Steve Carlton, though experiencing what could be called a “down year” by his standards, was still only 31 in 1976, and had 3 Cy Youngs ahead of him. Like Halladay, he regularly posted gaudy numbers in the innings pitched department, and, as Halladay has, he led the league in batters faced three times prior to the 1976 season. Compared through their age 33 seasons (1978 for Carlton, 2010 for Halladay), Carlton logged almost 1,000 more innings (in an era when they piled up much faster for starters) but Halladay has a significant edge in ERA+ (136 to 120) and K/BB (3.53 to 2.22). Both could be considered an enigmatic and quirky clubhouse presence, although Halladay’s relationship with the press is not nearly as acerbic. Each of them were and are blueprints for the hard-nosed, unrelenting work ethic of a truly elite starting pitcher. It’s easy to imagine, had Twitter existed in the 1970s, more than a few “after this, Carlton is going to go run some stairs” comments. Just like our 1976 counterparts in fandom, we await the remainder of Halladay’s career with unbounded expectations and wide-eyed reverence.

All the way down the list, this year’s Phillies match up well with the best teams in franchise history, the 1976 squad included. And this is without discussing the previous three years’ worth of teams, all of whom appear on our top ten list. As with the late ’70s, this is a golden era of Phillies baseball. 2011 could well be a standout in an era of dominance that likely isn’t over. When the playoffs compress this season into a few vital short series contests, many things could happen to derail this team. But the elite regular season performance, the myriad player personalities, and the dynastic multi-year success will persist in digital and oral history. I’m one of many people who have remarked recently that they look forward to telling their children and grandchildren the story of Chase Utley, or of Roy Halladay, or of Cole Hamels. There is plenty more to be written for all of them.

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49 comments

  1. Curtwill

    August 10, 2011 09:51 AM

    Great article. I truly feel it is a special year for the Phils. I was just a babe in 1976-77 so this team is shaping up to be the best team I have seen wearing the Red Pinstripes.

    And I think they will do well going forward also. Yeah, this is the oldest team in the majors, but the average age is like 31 years old and even though the offense isn’t like it was in 2009, with their pitching, it’s more than adequate to support it.

    I never thought I would see the day when the team in red pinstripes would be talked about in this manner and to see not only the Phils fans appreciate it, but the fans outside the fan bases for the most part(there will always be trolls) and especially the outside media doing it, that’s special.

  2. Curtwill

    August 10, 2011 10:02 AM

    Another thing, I was looking up some stats to make comparisions from last year to this year.

    In 2010, they were 48-46 before they won that 11 inning game with Polanco getting that 2 run game winning double. Since that time, they went 49-19(and probably would have won that last Atlanta game if they hadn’t took out Hamels after 2 innings in order to keep healthy for the playoff).

    This year’s team was 59-35, an amazing 11 games over last year’s team at that time. If they keep similar pace, THAT WOULD BE 108 WINS. That sounds crazy, but knowing that the Phillies are a strong second half team, especially in September, it’s doable.

    In fact, at 76-40 are 11 games over last year’s team so again. That’s keeping pace and even though there are a lot of variable with regards to schedule in terms of who they play, how quickly the Phillies clinch the East and HFA throughout the playoffs and etc, 108 wins is extremely possible. It’s mindboggling to even think about it.

    I think 103-105 is probably what they will do, but 106-108 wouldn’t surprise me in the least. Good article, once again and I hope many of the readers will comment and compliment it whether they agree with the content of it or not.

  3. Kunk

    August 10, 2011 11:55 AM

    Out of curiosity, where did the 1980 squad fall on the adjusted Pythagenpat?

  4. Phylan

    August 10, 2011 12:00 PM

    Just off the end of the above table, at number 11. 91-71 adjusted, matching their actual record.

  5. Buzzsaw

    August 10, 2011 02:03 PM

    The thing that stands out to me is that the 2011 Phillies have had only five losing streaks.

    Lose 1 in a row: 26 times
    Lose 2 in a row: 3 times
    Lose 3 in a row: 0 times
    Lose 4 in a row: 2 times

    Following a loss, they are 31-9 (.775)
    Following a win, they are 44-31 (.587)

    That’s a HUGE spread.

    65% (26/40) of their losses have come in 1 game anti-streaks

    For the 76 Phils, 13 losing streaks

    Lose 1 in a row: 24 times
    Lose 2 in a row: 8 times
    Lose 3 in a row: 3 times
    Lose 4 in a row: 1 times
    Lose 5 in a row: 0 times
    Lose 6 in a row: 0 times
    Lose 7 in a row: 0 times
    Lose 8 in a row: 1 times
    (not counting the 3-game sweep in the playoffs)

    Following a loss, they were 37-24 (.607)
    Following a win, they were 64-36 (.640)

    39% (24/61) of their losses have come in 1 game anti-streaks.

  6. AGH

    August 10, 2011 03:16 PM

    Obviously Chase has performed as well as can be expected coming off his injury. But given his drop off in power, wouldn’t it make sense to flip him and Shane in the order?

    Shane has been raking from both sides, but his numbers are borderline obscene against LHP (.375//485/725!). The shuffle would further alleviate the late-inning strugges against lefty relievers Utley and Howard tend to experience.

  7. Phylan

    August 10, 2011 03:34 PM

    Well, even over a season, the amount of difference a lineup move like that would be questionable. Over the remaining quarter of the season, it would definitely be negligible.

  8. AGH

    August 10, 2011 04:16 PM

    Fair enough, Phylan–my main concern is actually the post-season.

  9. Phillie697

    August 10, 2011 04:18 PM

    @AGH,

    If it is negligible for 1/4 of a season, why on earth would you think it would statistically matter at all for at most 19 games?

  10. Fatalotti

    August 10, 2011 09:08 PM

    Try this on for size: I asked if a team has ever had three pitchers with 200+ strikeouts, less than 50 walks, a sub 3.00 ERA and 200+ IP.

    I ran a query on baseball-reference.com, and there have been 30 such seasons.

    NOTE: can’t get the link to work, but Bill, you have the Play Index feature. Can you post the results here? Also, can you give me a hint on why I’m having trouble posting the link?

    Of these 30 such seasons, I can’t find even two players from the same team. Some notable things are that Roy Halladay has done it three times already (and on pace to do it a fourth), and Pedro Martinez did it three times. Cy Young did it twice. No one else has ever done it even more than once. Sometimes I think we underrate just how awesome Roy Halladay is. Anyways, the Phillies have three pitchers who could possibly do it this year. Here are there 162 game averages for this season:

    Doc: 249 IP, 231 SO, 31 BB, 2.51 ERA
    Lee: 244 IP, 251 SO, 49 BB, 2.83 ERA
    Cole: 237 IP, 213 SO, 44 BB, 2.53 ERA

    If all these guys keep up their current pace, I have no problem calling this the most dominating front three of a rotation ever.

    Soak it up, because we are truly watching history!!

  11. Scott G

    August 10, 2011 09:50 PM

    AGH,

    Statistically, you want to have your best hitters batting 2nd and 4th, so swapping them for your reason wouldn’t make too much sense. I like flipping them for another reason. Managers will want to throw lefties at Utley and Howard which means Victorino’s chance at seeing a LHP, against whom he is wOBA-ing .512. Victorino is definitely not being recognized as much as he should be.

  12. Chris

    August 10, 2011 10:34 PM

    Obviously in terms of run production such a lineup change makes little to no difference over the course of a full season, but I think the question is worthy in that post-season bullpen usage is generally going to be different than during the regular season. I think splitting Utley and Howard with Vic could maybe force managers to make bullpen decisions that they’re not comfortable with. Like let’s say that Rollins is leading off an inning. With current lineup, most managers would probably bring in a RHP and see what happens against Rollins and Vic, and if they get out, maybe leave them in to face Utley. If Rollins/Vic get on, they bring in a LHP for Utley/Howard. But if Utley bats 2nd, then what do you do? If they start with RHP, then Rollins bats LH (where he’s been more productive than RH), then Utley, then Vic LH (who is still slightly above average). This seems rather dumb so a manager brings in LHP instead, against whom Utley has a career reverse platoon split and Vic is killing this year. These types of situations might not make a big difference through the course of the regular season, but I think they are prevalent enough in the postseason that the idea is worth exploring from a theory-crafting standpoint.

    So let’s look at other possible examples. If the 2-hole hitter’s leading off, then most managers I think would use a LHP regardless of if it’s Utley or Vic. So now lets say that the 3-hole hitter’s leading off, then with current lineup, all managers would use LHP for good reason. If Vic’s batting 3rd, then managers would probably be less willing to use a LHP. Even though Pence has a reverse platoon split, most managers would not want to use a LHP against him. So the result is managers could either use LHP against Vic, which is risky, Howard (not so risky) and Pence (slightly risky) or use a RHP against Vic (slightly risky), Howard (very risky), and Pence (still pretty risky). I think then that managers would use LHP because it poses the least risk because of Howard and Ibanez after Pence, but it still offers Vic and Pence the opportunity to do damage. It presents a pretty difficult situation for most managers, imo, outside of the one’s with really deep bullpens (aka Giants) that can afford to switch pitchers in innings regularly.

    Outside of these 3 (really 2) situations, the effect of switching the lineup obviously becomes a relative non-issue, which is why the run production over the course of the season is negligible. I think, though, that the cons of switching them are pretty much nonexistent while the upside in the postseason could be worth it because of matchups.

  13. bptess

    August 10, 2011 10:41 PM

    Before todays game the Phillies had played 116 games. They went 34-24 over the first 58 games for a 59% winning percentage. The next 58 games, they were 42-16. A 72% winning percentage!

    Over a full year, 72% is 116 wins.

    If they maintain this pace for the rest of the season, that means 109 wins.

  14. jauer

    August 10, 2011 11:10 PM

    If the 2-3-4 batters are due up in a late-inning situation and Victorino bats third, you either have to use 3 pitchers in one inning to get your desired matchups, or Victorino gets to face a LHP.

    Simply switching Victorino and Utley in the order doesn’t change your lineup’s production at all, but any opposing manager will have much more difficult decisions in the playoffs.

    Keeping Utley and Howard stacked in the lineup simplifies everything for the opposing manager, while offering zero benefit over an Utley-Victorino-Howard lineup.

  15. Phillie697

    August 10, 2011 11:53 PM

    And if any of you think that the hypothetical situations you just described are going to 1) actually happen, 2) happen in a close game where it might matter slightly, and 3) end up actually changing the outcome of said game, then your imagination might be running a little too wild. There is a reason why such lineup changes result in negligible run production difference in the regular season, even when you have 162 games to accumulate whatever tiny effect it may have.

    To top it off, Charlie Manuel, who isn’t exactly the world’s greatest tactician in the world, has to make this determination at the START of the games. I rather he stick to what he’s good at and not cause his brain to explode from the thinking I don’t think he’s capable of.

  16. Cutter

    August 11, 2011 08:06 AM

    @Phillie697:

    We’re past talking about how changes will affect a team over a 162 game season. Every move from here on out should be about giving the team the best chance to win in a playoff series.

    And while maybe over a full season, the effects are minimal, in a playoff series they can be huge.

    As we saw in last year’s NLCS, successful utilization of a team’s relievers can make a huge difference in those kinds of situations.

    By going Rollins-Utley-Victorino-Howard-Pence, an opposing manager is either going to have to use a lot of relievers, or at least one of the Phillies hitters is going to get a favorable matchup.

  17. Phillie697

    August 11, 2011 10:55 AM

    I STILL can’t get my head around the logic how something that even after accumulation over 162 games is negligible can somehow be “huge” over the course of at most 19 games.

    I guess it’s that mentality that playing the lottery is really logically a losing proposition, but tell that to the people who think they will win every time they buy a ticket… And looking at last year’s NLCS has so many causation/correlation problems it’s hardly worth my while to point them out.

  18. AGH

    August 11, 2011 11:29 AM

    Phylan/Phillie697:
    I understand your points, but how significant is a win over the course of a season? 1 game out of 162 is negligible. Everything matters more in the postseason.

    Also, the situation where opponents bring in tough lefties to face Utley/Howard in late and close situations is far from hypothetical. It happens on a regular basis–even more during the playoffs where you would expect closer games between more evenly-matched teams.

    Scott G, I specifically mentioned the “other reason” you like dropping Victorino to the 3-hole (success against LHP) in my original post.

  19. Buzzsaw

    August 11, 2011 11:50 AM

    The team i think we’re trying to overtake on the greatness meter is the 1976 Phils.

    On Aug 24, 1976 they were 82-41 with a 15.5 game lead. They coasted out the year going 19-20 and got swept by the Reds.

    fwiw

  20. Cutter

    August 11, 2011 11:52 AM

    Phillie697:

    As AGH mentioned, every game matters more in the playoffs.

    In a late game situation, you’re not going to see a manager use his 4th best reliever because their main setup guy has pitched two days in a row. No, the manager is going with the best matchup he has available.

    And remember that regular season numbers are an accumulation of stats against both good and bad pitchers. So any lineup changes made might not have that much of an effect over the long haul.

    But in the playoffs, you’re not facing the John Lannans and Chad Billingsleys of the world. They’re going to be facing guys like Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and the Giants relievers.

    Against guys like that, a small lineup change might have a big effect.

  21. Scott G

    August 11, 2011 12:28 PM

    Is it really that hard to believe that a LHP might be brought in to face the Chase Utley and Ryan Howard? You know it’s going to happen, it happens a lot to the Phillies. Knowing that it’s imminent, why not do your best to give the Phillies the best chance at being successful against the LHP, or force the manager to burn relievers? I don’t know how this can be refuted.

  22. Phillie697

    August 11, 2011 12:32 PM

    Except you’re not talking about making lineup changes because of the starters… Lincecum and Cain and Bumgardner are going to face Vic and Utley no matter where they are going to bat in the order (btw, Giants might not make it to the playoffs, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves), so you’re really talking about a situation where you are making a lineup change at the START of the game for the unlikely scenario that 1) the game is close in the 7th, 8th or 9th inning, 2) the inning happens to start with the 2nd batter in the order, and 3) said lineup change actually makes a difference, i.e. somehow a run is created that changes the outcome of the game because of a matchup problem for the opposing manager. Do you know how unlikely that is, psychological effects and confirmation bias notwithstanding?

    I mean, either way I really don’t care, since as long as Utley and Vic are both in the lineup I could care less what order they bat in. I just can’t see why it’s such a big deal for some of you.

  23. Phillie697

    August 11, 2011 12:35 PM

    I just want to add… Most of you are pointing to some situation where this happened. Yes it DOES happen, and it is WAY more likely to happen in the course of 162 games than it is likely to happen in 19. That is why I really don’t understand how on one hand you are discounting the regular season, yet on the other thinks that it somehow is more important for 19 games.

  24. Tom

    August 11, 2011 01:04 PM

    Intriguing discussion about flopping Victorino and Utley, but here’s what I see: Milwaukee has no lefties in their pen so it doesn’t matter versus them. Arizona has no lefties to speak of either out of the pen. SF has Affeldt, Lopez, and possibly Sanchez from the left side for the playoffs. And ATL has Sherrill, O’Flaherty, Venters, and likely Mike Minor. So any playoff matchup has either no lefties, or lefties to burn. Only time I can see a flop in the batting order yielding potential dividends is deep into extra innings against SF or ATL. Not worth screwing around with where the players are comfortable batting or possibly seeing Charlie’s head explode.

  25. Scott G

    August 11, 2011 01:20 PM

    How is a playoff game unlikely to be close? Are you kidding me? You also don’t need to start the inning with the 2nd hitter. You could start it with any spot and it would apply. More realistically, any time the 9,1,2 or 3 hitter leads off, it would really come into effect. This stuff happens all the time. J.C. Romero was left in the game constantly for LRL matchups that we complained about on my site (easily more than 20 times in the last 2 seasons). It happens with the Phillies also. This is absurd.

  26. jauer

    August 11, 2011 01:33 PM

    “Lincecum and Cain and Bumgardner are going to face Vic and Utley no matter where they are going to bat in the order”

    So why are you arguing? There’s no benefit to keeping the lefties stacked.

    We’re saying that Manuel should pull Utley/Victorino aside now and say they’re going to be flipped in the order. I highly doubt they can’t adjust psychologically in the next two months.

    Justifying an inefficient lineup by saying “anything else is too complicated for the manager” is pretty much proving our point: if only we had a manager who’s brain wasn’t flammable, then the lineup would be better.

  27. jauer

    August 11, 2011 01:40 PM

    “And ATL has Sherrill, O’Flaherty, Venters, and likely Mike Minor. So any playoff matchup has either no lefties, or lefties to burn”

    I highly doubt the Brewers would enter a playoff series against Philly without adding a lefty reliever. Same with Arizona. And if they only have one lefty reliever each, then this strategy becomes even more important.

    The Giants aren’t going to make the playoffs.

    And the Phils have a 50% chance of missing the Braves in the playoffs. If they do meet in the NLCS, then you want Gonzalez to be forced with as many difficult decisions as possible. He’s proven over the years that he’s just as bad as Manuel. Stacking two lefties only makes his decisions easier.

    Splitting the lefties in the order could potentially force Gonzalez to use 3 relievers in one inning to face one batter each, and even if they have 4 lefties in the pen, burning two of them in one inning is a huge benefit for the Phillies. If not, Victorino gets to face a lefty.

    I’m not sure why any Phillies fan wouldn’t want to maximize Victorinos ABs against LHPs in the playoffs.

  28. Buzzsaw

    August 11, 2011 04:36 PM

    in the last 50 years, 25 NL teams (including us this year) have won 100+ games. Looks like we’ll win around 105 games which’ll be among the 5 highest totals.

    75 Reds 108
    86 Mets 108
    98 Braves 106
    04 Cards 105

  29. Steve

    August 11, 2011 10:23 PM

    That 1976 NLCS must have been heart wrenching.

  30. Phillie697

    August 11, 2011 11:54 PM

    @Scott G,

    Maybe you need to understand the word “and”…

  31. jauer

    August 12, 2011 12:06 AM

    “so you’re really talking about a situation where you are making a lineup change at the START of the game for the unlikely scenario that 1) the game is close in the 7th, 8th or 9th inning, 2) the inning happens to start with the 2nd batter in the order, and 3) said lineup change actually makes a difference”

    1) playoff games are generally close. including this possibility in your scenario is pointless

    2) the inning doesnt have to start with the two-batter. relievers often pitch in separate innings, and its not uncommon for 4-6 batters to bat in a given inning.

    3) it doesnt HAVE to make a difference of a run in order for it to be the correct decision.

    perhaps he would have addressed all 3 issues if they were actually relevant to this conversation, but the first one was just so ridiculous it wasn’t worth considering the other two.

  32. Kyle

    August 12, 2011 03:12 AM

    Wow, the Giants are still drinking the kool-aid believing that they’re going to have a chance this season? I know the Giants had tons of all-stars, but that was a joke. Pablo was an all-star? Did he even have 200 at-bats?

    Unlike the Phillies, the Giants pitchers don’t pitch in a sandbox. This is a problem when you have one of the bottom 3 offensive teams in the league. When Pablo Sandovol, Beltran(who hasn’t hit one homerun there and is hurt)and Aubrey Huff are your best hitters… I’d hate to have to face the Phillies, Brewers, St. Louis who could still sneak in, the Braves who have enough pitching and now with Bourn have a much more complete lineup. But right now, the Giants are on the outside looking in. If they somehow get past the Phillies, the Red Sox or even the Tigers would kill them. With Verlander, they just need one guy to step up and they actually have a few real all-stars in their lineup. Oh, and Verlander is easily the best pitcher in baseball.

    But it’s more than likely going to be the Phillies and Red Sox with some awesome pitching duels, and a 7 game series. So if the Giants make the post season no more ridiculous upsets with Lincecum sneaking up on hitters since he’s walking more guys than ever. Vogelsong’s WHIP of 1.28, and his extreme luck so far shows he’s not the pitcher his ERA and record indicate. When Pablo is your best hitter but doesn’t even have enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title, and Huff is still your leading hitter at a FANTASTIC .249… you’re not going to win anything.

  33. Scott G

    August 12, 2011 09:34 AM

    Phillie697

    I addressed 1 and 2 explicitly in my last post, and addressed 3 in the prior post. I certainly understand the word.

    To quote:

    1) How is a playoff game unlikely to be close? Are you kidding me?

    2) You also don’t need to start the inning with the 2nd hitter. You could start it with any spot and it would apply. More realistically, any time the 9,1,2 or 3 hitter leads off, it would really come into effect.

    3) Is it really that hard to believe that a LHP might be brought in to face the Chase Utley and Ryan Howard? You know it’s going to happen, it happens a lot to the Phillies. Knowing that it’s imminent, why not do your best to give the Phillies the best chance at being successful against the LHP, or force the manager to burn relievers? I don’t know how this can be refuted.

    To combine them (and show you my understanding of the word and): I’m assuming that every playoff game will be close. Obviously they won’t all be, but I’d say that the overwhelming majority will be. Last year the run differential in each playoff game was: +4, +3, +2, -1, +5, -2, -1, +2, -1.

    Do these not seem close to you?

    Pretty much hitters 8-3 can start the inning and have this apply. (55.5% chance), AND

    who knows if this change will result in positive outcomes? I sure as hell don’t, but what it will do is give the Phillies the BEST CHANCE TO BE SUCCESSFUL, which is all you can do as a manager. Victorino seeing a LHP is by far better than his seeing a RHP. Utley is essentially equivalent between the two. However, you know opposing managers will want Utley and Howard to not get the platoon matchup, and force to Victorino to beat them. ORRRRRRR (another conjunction!!), they’ll make multiple changes. Either way a positive for the Phillies.

  34. Nick

    August 12, 2011 09:45 AM

    The Mets sure fleeced the Giants in the Beltran deal that’s for sure.

    The Giants need to stop talking trash because they need to work on winning their own division.

    Team in the NL I’m most scared of is probably the Braves. Followed by the Brew-Crew. Arizona and San Fran don’t scare me.

  35. hk

    August 12, 2011 02:02 PM

    Anyone who is missing Scott G.’s point about splitting up Utley and Howard in the playoffs should look at the box scores from last year’s NLCS. Javier Lopez, San Francisco’s LOOGY, pitched in 5 of the 6 games and faced a total of 14 batters, Utley and Howard 5 times each, Polanco 3 times (because Charlie did split Utley and Howard in a few games) and Victorino once. As it turns out, none of the Phillies were particularly effective against him – Victorino walked in his only plate appearance while Utley was 0-5, Howard was 1-5 and Polanco was 0-3 – but if the Phillies face the Giants again, it would surely be advantageous to make Bochy have to decide whether to let Lopez face Victorino between Utley and Howard or only face Utley or Howard, but not both.

  36. Scott G

    August 12, 2011 02:38 PM

    Thank you HK. It certainly helps to have examples. I remember Manuel randomly splitting up the LHBs, which infuriated me. It seemed like he was going by starting pitcher (sans Cain and then Sanchez in the final game), which is ridiculous. You do this to gain advantage over the LH specialists.

    BTW, it’s kind of annoying that the B-R split of “vs. LH starter” seems to encompass every PA in a game where the opposing starter was a LH rather than my desired goal of seeing Chase Utley vs. LH starters and LH relievers (mostly LOOGYs).

  37. Phillie697

    August 12, 2011 03:22 PM

    10% * 10% * 10% = 0.1%. Yes, three things that have a decent chances of happening, when combined, could have a drastically low chance of happening. Imagine that…

  38. jauer

    August 12, 2011 03:28 PM

    Yes, 1 out of 10 playoff games feature a close score. And Utley and Howard only bat in the same inning 1 out of every 10 games.

  39. jauer

    August 12, 2011 03:36 PM

    If the argument was: “If Manuel splits up the lefties, the Phillies will gain at least one additional run in the playoffs,” then your third premise would be valid. But that’s not what anyone is arguing.

  40. Scott G

    August 12, 2011 03:48 PM

    If you’re going to go the number route I would say more like 75% * 55.5% * ? = .417?

    10% of playoff games are close enough to worry about late inning plate appearances? Surely you jest.

    If the 8th hitter leads off, you need 1 runner to get to the 2nd hitter where this would effect. 9-3 is pretty self explanatory after that.

    To address the 3rd 10%, again, we’re not saying this will change the course of anything (nor will we be able to prove it one way or the other), but how can improving odds hurt? Have you ever bet? Do you not like odds? If you’re a Phillies fan, why would you not acknowledge the benefit of platoons that help the Phillies. This is ridiculous.

  41. Cutter McCool

    August 12, 2011 05:59 PM

    Off topic question: Ryan Howard is leading the league in RBI and is only 3 off the pace in home runs. Assuming he finishes hot and wins both (2/3 of triple crown), what are the odds he win another MVP?

    Or will the Phillies pitching dominance and big lead during this stretch run negate his chances?

  42. Phillie697

    August 12, 2011 10:23 PM

    @Scott G,

    Because I don’t really accept the premise of your argument. Your 41.7% is predicated upon the fact that it is 100% likely that flipping Vic and Utley will result in better performance, which of course is not true, and THAT is what is hidden in that 3rd percentage you haven’t put a number to. I think I wrote a few posts back it really matters not to me because I don’t think it makes much of a difference, hence why I don’t understand what the big deal is. My problem isn’t the fact that it may or may not improve the odds. My problem is that you make it sound like it’s going to be such a big deal. It’s really not.

  43. Jauer

    August 13, 2011 01:12 PM

    You said yourself that lineup order is generally irrelevant, which means you cannot possibly believe that flipping utley and victorino will have an adverse effect. Weve already demonstrated the multiple benefits of not having consecutive lefties in the lineup, whereas your best argument has been , “ehhh, it really doesnt matter.” Im a fan of playing devils advocate, but youre not doing a very good job.

  44. Scott G

    August 14, 2011 09:55 AM

    Phillie,

    What it all boils down to for me is whether Shane Victorino bats RH or LH. If he bats 2nd, they will most likely let a RH pitch to him before going to a LH for Utley and Howard. If he’s in the middle, he’ll most likely get to see a LH.

    Now to Victorino’s numbers:
    2011 as a LHB: .298/.363/.487
    2011 as a RHB: .361/.470/.699

    Career as a LHB: .278/.340/.417
    Career as a RHB: .301/.373/.511

    I don’t really see how you can’t make an argument that you want him batting RH. Obviously, nothing is certain, but CLEARLY he’s much better from the right side of the plate. We can force this more by batting him between Utley and Howard.

  45. Phillie697

    August 14, 2011 08:38 PM

    @jauer,

    Considering that I never once said you were wrong, and from the very start took the position of “eh, why are we even bothering talking about such a minor thing?” I think you and I are talking about apples and oranges.

    Hey, if you have a way of actually demonstrating that this is a HUGE deal, or something more than a minor thing, feel free to continue this argument. Otherwise, this is a waste of time. I could care less how the lineup is set up either way, but it was you and Scott G who couldn’t accept that it’s a minor thing and wanted to prolong the discussion. Here is an idea… Maybe it DOES give us a slight edge, but probably not something we should lose sleep over, i.e. we are BOTH right.

  46. jauer

    August 14, 2011 10:37 PM

    It is certainly a minor issue, but its been a minor issue for 6 years and its never been corrected. Over the course of 162 games, occasionally baseball fans discuss minor issues.

  47. Phillie697

    August 15, 2011 05:58 AM

    @jauer,

    Just to make sure I wasn’t delusional, I read the comments thread again. I think my dispute the entire time was against those comments about how “this could be huge” or “this is significant.” Otherwise, as I’ve said before, I’m fine with or without the swap, and usually when the difference is minor, I err on the side of “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?” Last I checked, since Chase came back, we haven’t exactly been hurting in the run-scoring department, no matter where Vic has batted.

  48. jauer

    August 15, 2011 05:29 PM

    Lineup changes are not significant compared to other baseball events, but this particular lineup change is about as significant as a lineup change can get.

    I don’t think anyone views this as a huge priority, but when a minor flaw can be corrected so easily, it’s irritating. Especially when Manuel breaks up Utley and Howard against lefty STARTERS, as if that makes any impact at all.

    As for “if it aint broke, dont fix it,” I’d say Howard’s numbers vs LHPs qualify as “broke,” and I’d like to see as few of those matchups as possible.

    Victorino facing a LHP in a high-leverage spot in the playoffs as opposed to facing a RHP can certianly make the difference between a win and a loss. The odds of this are low, but it will be lower if he remains in the 2-hole.

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