Cardinals-Phillies by the Numbers

In case you missed it, the Phillies came out victorious in one of the most exciting games of the season (after that 11-10 win over the Mets).

Fangraphs

0 – Number of reasons for ever having Abraham Nunez in the lineup

1 – Number of Rod Barajas’ at-bats, hits, runs, and RBI

1 – Number of position players still available in the 14th inning — Rod Barajas, who delivered the game-winning RBI single

1 – Number of Cardinal extra-base hits

1.5 – Number of games the Phillies trail the Mets and Padres by in the NL East and Wild Card, respectively

2 – Number of pinch-runners used each by the Phillies and Cardinals

2 – Number of triples and stolen bases for Jayson Werth (the last person to achieve this feat in the same game was Larry Walker in 1996)

2 – Number of pitchers used by Tony LaRussa to pinch-run

2 – Number of blown saves in this game

3 – Number of 14th inning runs the Phillies scored

3 – Number of innings the Phillies’ ace pitched in his return from the disabled list

3 – Number of pinch-hitters used by the Cardinals

3 – Number of Cardinals pitchers who were in the game, but did not pitch (Wainwright as a pinch-hitter; Reyes and Piniero as pinch-runners)

4 – Number of Phillies relievers used after Cole Hamels to not yield any runs

4 – Number of hits the Phillies had through 12 innings of play

5 – Number of hitless at-bats for Ryan Howard

5 – Number of pinch-hitters used by the Phillies

5 – Number of consecutive losses for the Mets

6 – Number of Phillies fans confident in Jose Mesa when he came in to pitch in the 12th and 13th innings

6 – Number of consecutive wins for the Phillies

6 – Number of catchers used (Ruiz, Coste, Barajas, LaForest; Molina, Stinnett)

7 – Number of people still awake watching the game at its conclusion, around 1:15 AM EST

8 – Number of total hits in the game for the Phillies in 49 at-bats

8 – Number of pitchers used by the Phillies

8 – Number of combined pinch-hitters used

9 – Number of strikeouts from the Phillies’ #1-5 hitters

9 – Number of Phillies relievers to earn a save this season (Clay Condrey earned it in this particular game)

10 – Number of scoreless innings pitched by the Phillies bullpen (Myers allowed one run in the 10th inning)

11 – Number of pitchers used by the Cardinals, a National League record

19 – Number of total pitchers used by both teams

21 – Number of scoreless innings of 28

25 – Number of Phillies players used

28 – Number of Cardinal players used, tying the National League record

53 – Number of combined players used, tying the National League record

168 – Number of days passed since the Phillies were this close to the lead in the NL East

304 – Number of minutes the game lasted

481 – Number of combined pitches thrown

42,170 – Paid attendance at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, MO

Why?

I’ve been doing some thinking lately (not a frequent activity of mine), and I have some questions that need some answers. Maybe my readers can help me out.

Warning for those with weak stomachs: Heavy political content.

Why do we get upset when head coaches spy on their opponents

…but hardly anyone gets upset when the government starts spying on its own people via wiretap, seizing personal records (bank and library, for example), among other methods?

Why do we get upset when an athlete tortures dogs

…but applaud the government torturing human beings for political reasons?

Why do we get upset when managers leave pitchers in too long

…but no one takes action when the President leaves the troops in the Middle East too long?

Why do we get upset when the commissioner hands out ridiculous punishments to athletes and coaches

…but it’s A-okay to hand out ridiculous punishments to Americans and foreigners alike if you are merely suspected — not proven — to be involved with terrorism?

Why do we get choked up when Kevin Everett suffers a life-altering neck injury

…but say nary a word about the kids being paralyzed and killed in a meaningless war?

Why do we feel sorry for the disabled NFL players who aren’t getting enough disability coverage from the NFL players union

…but continue to shoot down socialized health care in the United States?

Why do we insist at least one minority be interviewed for a head coaching position

…but continue to send out two majorities from which to nominate the U.S. President?

Why do we criticize the Florida Marlins front office for not planning for an obviously upcoming problem

…but give our government a free pass when they failed to prepare for Hurricane Katrina?

Why do we detest athletes and coaches who make public their worship of a deity

…but watch from the sidelines as Christians try to put prayer back in public schools, have creationism taught alongside evolution, and religious dogma hung on courthouse walls?

Why do we frown at fights between fans of different teams

…but attribute fights between sects in Iraq to business-as-usual?

Why did we shake our heads when Latrell Sprewell said “I have a family to feed” in reference to his contract situation…

…but didn’t bat an eye when our Congresspeople voted for a payraise for themselves?

Why do we demand to hear the truth from Bud Selig about the Steroid Era

…but didn’t demand the truth from the Bush administration for many of their wrongdoings?

Why did we lose respect for Tony LaRussa and when he was found intoxicated in an automobile

…but didn’t lose respect for Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI) when he crashed his car into a barricade as a result of being on prescription drugs?

Switching it in reverse before I sign off!

Why did we petition for a Hall of Fame plaque in Cooperstown for Pete Rose amid his gambling issue

…but have said nothing about Congress “severely limiting” online poker?

Hopefully, I will find out answers to these questions. I’m not trying to diminish that about which we are vocal, but I think it’s interesting to note where our priorities lie.

What’s Wrong in Florida?

As the Marlins play their final 16 games of the 2007 regular season, they guarantee themselves no more than 79 wins — a losing season. It will be their second straight losing season just four years removed from their second World Series championship in their 15-year history.

The Marlins have never been known for their devoted fan base, but they have ranked among the leaders in attendance early in the club’s history, but have since fallen on hard times. As the Palm Beach Post notes about the Nationals-Marlins game on Wednesday:

Forget the announced attendance of 10,121 for the Marlins-Nationals game at Dolphin Stadium. When Byung-Hyun Kim threw the first pitch, 375 spectators could be seen.

As they say, pictures speak louder than words, and boy, does this picture scream for the Marlins to take their business elsewhere:

Click to enlarge

A look at the Marlins’ attendance and their rank among the other National League teams (information on the Marlins team pages on Baseball Reference):

1993: 3,064,847 (5th out of 14)
1994: 1,937,467 (6th out of 14)
1995: 1,700,466 (8th out of 14)
1996: 1,746,767 (10th out of 14)
1997: 2,364,387 (5th out of 14)
1998: 1,730,384 (13th out of 16)
1999: 1,369,421 (15th out of 16)
2000: 1,218,326 (15th out of 16)
2001: 1,261,226 (15th out of 16)
2002: 813,118 (15th out of 16)
2003: 1,303,215 (15th out of 16)
2004: 1,723,105 (14th out of 16)
2005: 1,852,608 (15th out of 16)
2006: 1,164,134 (16th out of 16)
2007: 1,230,162 (16th out of 16)

The only team that ranks lower than the Marlins among all of the teams in Major League Baseball this season is the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Marlins’ stately “brother.” Unlike the Marlins, however, the Rays haven’t had even one winning season in their ten years of existence (and have clinched another losing season this year), let alone two World Series championships.

It’s not as if either team has been boring to watch. The Marlins have had Gary Sheffield, Edgar Renteria, Al Leiter, Kevin Brown, Moises Alou, Bobby Bonilla, Cliff Floyd Derrek Lee, Mike Lowell, A.J. Burnett, Brad Penny, Josh Beckett, Carl Pavano, Ivan Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis, Paul Lo Duca, Carlos Delgado, Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez, Josh Willingham, Scott Olsen, Anibal Sanchez, Josh Johnson, and the list will go on. You can even count the overrated Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo as exciting players that have played for the Marlins.

And to continue the name-dropping, the Rays have had Fred McGriff, Wade Boggs, Jose Canseco, Vinny Castilla, Greg Vaughn , Dwight Gooden (albeit at the end of their careers), Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, Aubrey Huff, Scott Kazmir, Danys Baez, Joey Gathright, James Shields, Carlos Pena, B.J. Upton, Akinori Iwamura, along with Elijah Dukes and Delmon Young (exciting more so for their antics than their play).

The Rays’ attendance figures and ranks:

1998: 2,506,293 (7th out of 14)
1999: 1,562,827 (10th out of 14)
2000: 1,449,673 (13th out of 14)
2001: 1,298,365 (14th out of 14)
2002: 1,065,742 (14th out of 14)
2003: 1,058,695 (14th out of 14)
2004: 1,274,911 (14th out of 14)
2005: 1,141,669 (14th out of 14)
2006: 1,368,950 (14th out of 14)
2007: 1,220,212 (14th out of 14)

Both teams have had talent, but both have failed to fill the seats.

Wikipedia has an excellent entry on the Marlins and their issues with both Major League Baseball and the city of Miami in regards to financing a new stadium, and the possible relocation to another city.

The Devil Rays also have a subpar stadium. As the St. Petersburg Times reported in March of 2005:

A random Times telephone survey of 400 Tampa Bay area baseball fans found 45 percent do not plan to attend games this season. Twenty percent of those said the reason was the Trop’s location – tied for the top answer with “I’m too old.”

The Marlins have been hamstrung by a stingy ownership that has kept the team payroll in the bottom rung among Major League Baseball teams, resulting in the well-known “firesales” following their World Series championships. The Rays, too, have been among the bottom-feeders payroll-wise. A look at both teams’ payrolls over the years and their ranks (information courtesy USAToday.com):

Florida Marlins

1993: $ 18,196,545 (25th out of 28)
1994: $ 20,275,500 (25th out of 28)
1995: $ 23,670,000 (25th out of 28)
1996: $ 30,079,500 (15th out of 28)
1997: $ 47,753,000 (7th out of 28)
1998: $ 33,434,000 (20th out of 30)
1999: $ 15,150,000 (30th out of 30)
2000: $ 19,870,000 (29th out of 30)
2001: $ 35,562,500 (26th out of 30)
2002: $ 41,979,917 (25th out of 30)
2003: $ 48,750,000 (25th out of 30)
2004: $ 42,143,042 (25th out of 30)
2005: $ 60,408,834 (19th out of 30)
2006: $ 14,998,500 (30th out of 30)
2007: $ 30,507,000 (29th out of 30)

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

1998: $ 25,317,500 (25th out of 30)
1999: $ 37,812,500 (21st out of 30)
2000: $ 64,407,910 (10th out of 30)
2001: $ 56,980,000 (19th out of 30)
2002: $ 34,380,000 (30th out of 30)
2003: $ 19,630,000 (30th out of 30)
2004: $ 29,556,667 (29th out of 30)
2005: $ 29,679,067 (30th out of 30)
2006: $ 35,417,967 (29th out of 30)
2007: $ 24,123,500 (30th out of 30)

So, the necessary question is: Do the two Floridian teams need a change of scenery, a change in ownership, or both?

Save the Internet!

Imagine one day calling a hospital to talk with your friend who is recovering from surgery, and not being able to complete the call because you and/or the hospital did not subscribe to the phone company’s “premium package.”

Or, imagine that you are only allowed to use a certain amount of electricity per day because you haven’t yet upgraded to the electric company’s “elite power package.”

Terrible, isn’t it? But that is what they’re trying to do with the Internet.

From CBSNews.com:

The Justice Department on Thursday said Internet service providers should be allowed to charge a fee for priority Web traffic.

The agency told the Federal Communications Commission, which is reviewing high-speed Internet practices, that it is opposed to “Net neutrality,” the principle that all Internet sites should be equally accessible to any Web user.

Several phone and cable companies, such as AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp., have previously said they want the option to charge some users more money for loading certain content or Web sites faster than others.

This has already been occurring in small instances, most recently with Comcast. As the Washington Post writes:

Comcast has punished some transgressors by cutting off their Internet service, arguing that excessive downloaders hog Internet capacity and slow down the network for other customers. The company declines to reveal its download limits.

Remember when the Internet wasn’t a highway of commerce, when it belonged to and was financed by the public? The Internet was only recently commercialized and now the corporations are trying to funnel as much money out of your bank account as they can.

It’s not enough that companies like Comcast and Verizon offer three-in-one packages that include television, telephone, and Internet, with the former two running your bill into the $200-300 range. Now they want to inflate that bill even more from the $20-40 monthly rate for broadband Internet into the stratosphere with cable and telephone. And they have a near-monopoly on the market, so you almost have no choice but to open your wallet upside-down at the steps of their corporate offices.

The Internet is the last virgin entity of freedom. Let’s keep it that way.

Further reading:

The corporations own everything else. Fight to let us keep our Internet.


Save the Net Now

Phillies Bullpen Isn’t to Blame for This Loss

In poker, you can be at the top of your game, making no mistakes and capitalizing on your opponents’ weaknesses and miscues, but still end up losing. When that happens, you abdicate your chair, shake your opponent’s hand, tell him “nice hand,” and mutter “That’s poker” back to the bar to drown your sorrows.

The same holds true in baseball. Wednesday’s Braves-Phillies game is one of the few where the box score doesn’t tell the whole story. To the many Phillies and Braves fans who stopped watching the game once it was “out of reach” at 8-2 in the top of the 8th inning, the box score will tell you that Tom Gordon and Brett Myers combined for an impressive performance in blowing a six-run lead.

Sure, Gordon did give up a legitimate lead-off double to Chipper Jones. But the three singles that followed were flukey in every sense of the word. After getting Mark Teixeira to fly out to right field, catcher Brian McCann hit a fly ball to shallow right-center field, and neither Aaron Rowand nor Chris Roberson could reach it, and it fell for a single. Jeff Francoeur followed in similar fashion, blooping an end-of-the-bat single to the shallow outfield, well in front of Roberson, allowing Jones to score. As if the game was a perpetual torture machine, Scott Thorman gave us an encore with a bloop single in the dreaded “Bermuda Triangle” between left-fielder Jayson Werth, Rowand, and shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

Things were getting tense, but it’s only 8-3… but it was also a save situation (the tying run is on-deck), so in came closer Brett Myers, who wasted no time in letting the Braves’ fourth run cross home plate by throwing his first pitch in the dirt in front of new catcher Carlos Ruiz. Showing no command, Myers threw three more balls to Yunel Escobar to give him a free ticket to first base.

To Myers’ credit, he made a good pitch to the next hitter, Matt Diaz. He got it on on his fists, and the ball had little momentum, but just enough to get past the pitcher in-between the third baseman and shortstop. One of those flukey base hits again, this one scored Francoeur to make it 8-5. Myers’ lack of command flared up again, walking Willie Harris and forcing in Thorman for an 8-6 bid. Kelly Johnson helped him by fouling out to third base early in the count, and frustrated Chipper Jones by throwing him two straight 3-2 curveballs to fly out to left-center.

To Phillies fans, watching that inning was like passing a kidney stone. And it wasn’t over. Just for the added suspense, what I am about to describe happened after Myers easily retired the first two batters, Mark Teixeira and Brayan Pena.

Braves fluke hits

Francoeur grounded a ball past third baseman Abraham Nunez, just deep enough in the hole so that Rollins couldn’t get enough on the throw to beat Francoeur at first base. Martin Prado came up to the plate and chopped the ball off of home plate. Phillies fans held their breath as Myers and catcher Ruiz stared up into the sky for a good three seconds — enough to ensure an infield single for Prado. The ball had to have richocheted off of home plate into the air at least 50 feet. At this point, Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas was having an aneurysm, and Phillies fans were having flashbacks of the Craig Biggio homerun off of Billy Wagner (spooky — it was almost two years ago to the day). To add insult to injury, Myers walked Yunel Escobar, putting the tying run at second base, and the winning run at first base.

Matt Diaz would be the last batter to swing his bat, ripping the deathblow to right field, off of Chris Roberson’s glove, scoring all three Braves baserunners.

So, in the 8th, the Braves had one legitimate hit (Jone’s double), four flukey hits (McCann, Francoeur, Thorman, and Diaz), a wild pitch, and two walks. In the 9th, the Braves had one legitimate hit that should have been caught (Diaz’s walk-off), two flukey hits (Francoeur and Prado), and a walk.

I can’t blame the bullpen for this loss. I can’t blame Charlie Manuel, either. I blame Lady Luck for choosing the Braves. Maybe she was sympathetic to Chipper Jones’ cause.

As for what the win could have meant for the Phillies, the Mets lost and so did the Padres, Rockies, and Dodgers. The only team the Phillies wouldn’t have picked up or gained ground on were the Diamondbacks, who beat the Padres. Instead, the Phillies have 5 games to pick up in the East, and 3 games in the Wild Card with 23 games to go. They can earn a playoff berth thusly:

Assuming the Mets go 12-11 in their final 23, the Phillies would have to finish the season 18-5 to win the East.

Assuming the Diamondbacks win the NL West, the Padres go 12-11 in their final 23, and no one else in the Wild Card chase picks up ground, the Phillies would have to finish the season 16-7 to win the Wild Card.

Assuming the Padres win the NL West, the Diamondbacks go 11-10 in their final 21, and no one else in the Wild Card chase picks up ground, the Phillies would have to finish the season 17-6 to win the Wild Card.

There’s always next year.

The World’s Tiniest Violin Plays for the Atlanta Braves… Again

Back on August 13, I wrote about the Atlanta Braves’ whining following a 5-3 loss at the hands of a Ryan Howard three-run homerun. Manager Bobby Cox and right fielder Jeff Francoeur complained about the dimensions of Citizens Bank Park, a tactic not foreign to the Tomahawks — John Smoltz loves to hate the “bandbox,” too.

But tonight, the Braves lost by a similar margin, 5-2, to the Phillies and starter Kyle Lohse, who went six and two-thirds innings, allowing only two runs — both at the hands of Chipper Jones. But was that enough for Larry? Of course not. It wasn’t Buddy Carlyle’s fault he went only one and two-thirds innings in the loss, and it wasn’t the Braves’ fault for getting 10 baserunners on base and only scoring 2 of them. It’s the home plate umpire’s fault they lost.

Courtesy FOXSports.com, we have a gem from Mr. Jones:

The first pitch to me with the bases loaded was in my batter’s box, inside. Now you tell me how I’m supposed to hit that. We have to get Questec here in this ballpark. We’ve got to. Umpires have got to be held accountable. That’s Little League World Series stuff right there.

It’s a joke. I’m tired of it. And baseball can fine me whatever they want. I do not care. Somebody’s got to say something. I’ve got more walks than strikeouts in my career – I know what a strike looks like.

You’re going to see frustration from now on as long as the officiating is abysmal. Major League Baseball ought to be ashamed. It’s abysmal. It’s awful. Not all of them but some of them. It’s awful.

Are Jones’ complaints valid? Let’s look at a screenshot of the at-bat on MLB Gameday:

Chipper Jones

Yes, the first pitch was a ball, but it was close. If MLB Gameday is accurate, part of the pitch went across the plate, if only a sliver.

Jones’ complaints are nothing more than [warning: amateur psychoanalysis] pent-up frustration from a season gone awry as a result of the Braves winning only 6 of their last 19 game, and now 8.5 games behind the Mets in the NL East, and 5.5 games behind in the Wild Card. After 14 straight seasons of making the postseason from 1991-2005 (excluding the strike-shortened ’94 season), losing is probably an unpleasant foreign concept to Chipper.

The Atlanta Braves are often said to be a classy organization, and for the most part, they are, but their players and manager act childish when things don’t go their way. They’re sore losers.

Perhaps [warning: more amateur psychoanalysis] it’s the realization that their NL East dominance is fading. Maybe it’s the realization that John Schuerholz and Bobby Cox are close to resigning from their current positions. Maybe it’s that the ownership changed. Maybe it’s the uncaring fanbase (10th out of 16 NL teams in attendance this season, and they’ve given their fans more than enough reason to come out to the ballpark).

For what it’s worth, Carlos Ruiz’s solo homerun (to view it, click here, then click “Top Play: 350K” and select “Ruiz’s Homer” from the list) in the top of the second inning barely cleared the 380-foot mark in left-center. I’m waiting for the Braves to complain about the “bandbox-ish” dimensions of their own ballpark.

Falling Behind, Looking Ahead

They had the Thursday night rush from drinking the Red Bull that was sweeping the division-leading New York Mets, only to have a Labor Day weekend-long crash that saw J.D. Durbin allow the first seven Florida Marlin baseruners to reach base in the first inning, the Phillies pitching fork over a 5-0 lead to the Marlins, and the NL-best offense snooze its way to a depressing 5-1 loss to the downtrodden Atlanta Braves.

The starting pitching had to return to reality eventually — the second-worst pitching staff in the NL had held the Mets to six runs in the first three games of the four-game series that turned up aces for the Phillies. After allowing the Mets to score ten times in the series finale, the pitching seemed to recover, holding the Marlins to only two runs in the opener, in large part to Kyle Kendrick and his typical quality start (two-thirds of his starts have been of the quality variety, tied for ninth-best in the National League). But that was just a tease.

A recap of the Marlins series and the Labor Day game against the Braves:

August 31 @ FLA, Phillies win 9-2

As mentioned, Kyle Kendrick put up seven innings of quality pitching, Kane Davis become the Phillies’ 28th different pitcher used this season (a club record), Jimmy Rollins reached base in four out of five at-bats (two singles, a double, and a walk), Chase Utley knocked in three runs on two hits, and Jayson Werth continued his hot hitting with three hits in four at-bats.

All in all, an impressive offensive showing despite Ryan Howard going 0-5 with three strikeouts. The Mets beat the Braves, and the Padres beat the Dodgers, so the Phillies stayed at two games behind in both the NL East and the Wild Card.

September 1 @ FLA, Phillies lose 12-6

As far as “quick and painless” defeats go, this seemed to be it. J.D. Durbin allowed the first seven baserunners to reach base (five singles, a hit batter, and a walk) before Charlie Manuel pulled him for Clay Condrey, who allowed three of his inherited baserunners to score, putting the Phillies at a quick 7-1 deficit.

However, the Phillies appeared to be on the verge of one of their typical comebacks, scoring three runs on five hits immediately off of Marlins starter Byun-Hyun Kim. The inning could have been bigger, but Clay Condrey failed to get down a sacrifice bunt, and Chase Utley failed to make contact with runners on second and third base.

They failed to score again until the eighth inning, scattering five baserunners over the next five innings. After the Phillies scored those two eighth-inning runs (on an RBI groundout and single), the Marlins came right back and delivered the knockout blow, scoring three times in the bottom-half of the inning on an RBI single and a two-run homerun to Cody Ross, his second of the game.

The Phillies bullpen was responsible for 5 of the 12 runs (Mesa, 2; Alfonseca, 3), but that looks miniscule considering the bullpen was asked to pitch nine innings in relief of Durbin, whose ERA for the game is “INF” (infinite, since he didn’t record an out).

The Mets and Padres both won, so the Phillies moved to three games back in both the East and the Wild Card.

September 2 @ FLA, Phillies lose 7-6

This loss, more than anything, was unnecessary. The Phillies had Marlins starter Scott Olsen on the ropes early, making him throw 97 pitches in three and one-third innings, putting up five runs in the third and fourth innings.

Adam Eaton, though, showed why he has the worst ERA in baseball (among those who have pitched enough innings to qualify) by awarding the Marlins five runs over the next three innings, three of which came via homerun (Cabrera, Ross twice). Kane Davis did a great Adam Eaton impression, allowing back-to-back solo homeruns to NL VORP leader Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla to lead off the bottom of the seventh.

Jimmy Rollins doesn't like the umpire's call

The Phillies mounted a comeback against Marlins closer Kevin Gregg, though. Down 7-5, they put runners on first and second for Carlos Ruiz, who singled to center field to score Aaron Rowand. Chase Utley walked to load the bases for Jimmy Rollins, who was robbed of an game-tying RBI walk by the home plate umpire, who called a fastball that was clearly around Rollins’ chin a strike (replays confirm that this was, in fact, a ball), moving the count to 3-2. Having to swing defensively, Rollins flew out to center field to end the game.

The Mets won and the Padres lost, putting the Phillies at four games back in the East, and three games back in the Wild Card.

September 3 @ ATL, Phillies lose 5-1

The Braves entered the Labor Day game reeling from a three-game sweep at the hands of the Mets — three games in which they managed only one extra base hit and four total runs. Even better was the fact that they were to face Lance Cormier, he of the 57 ERA+ in six starts. Putting the league-best offense against such a pitcher calls for an offensive outburst, but Cormier had everything working, as he held the Phillies to one run on four hits (Utley had three of those hits, Burrell had the only other one). The Braves bullpen pitched three and one-third nearly flawless innings (one walk).

Jamie Moyer pitched well for the most part, but was a victim of bad luck and bad defense. Abraham Nunez, only in the lineup for his defense at third base (because right-handed hitters pull Jamie Moyer’s slow pitches), was unable to barehand a slow ground ball off of the bat of Andruw Jones in the bottom of the fourth inning, loading the bases for Brian McCann. The Braves’ catcher ripped a double to right field, scoring two. Kelly Johnson tacked on one more with a sacrifice fly that allowed Jones to score following an airmailed throw to the plate from center fielder Aaron Rowand.

Moyer’s bad luck came in the bottom of the sixth inning, when he easily retired Jeff Francoeur and Andruw Jones to start the inning, but allowed singles to McCann and Kelly Johnson to put runners at first and third. Pinch-hitter Brayan Pena hit a slow ground ball to Jimmy Rollins, but beat the throw at first base, scoring McCann.

Jeff Francoeur tacked on the fifth run with a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning, sealing the deal for the Braves. Unfortunately for the Phillies, the Mets won handily in Pedro Martinez’s 2007 debut, 10-4 over the Reds, pushing the Phillies to five games back in the East. As of this writing, the Padres have a 4-0 lead on the Diamondbacks in the third inning, so things aren’t looking good.

Looking Ahead

A look at the Phillies’ and their competitors’ schedules for the rest of the season:

Phillies

(2) @ ATL (70-68, .507)
(3) vs. FLA (60-78, .435)
(4) vs. COL (70-66, .515)
(3) @ NYM (77-60, .562)
(3) @ STL (67-67, .500)
(4) @ WAS (61-77, .442)
(3) vs. ATL (.507)
(3) vs. WAS (.442)

Average: .489

12 road games
13 home games

Mets

(2) @ CIN (62-76, .449)
(3) vs. HOU (61-76, .442)
(3) vs. ATL (.507)
(3) vs. PHI (72-65, .526)
(3) @ WAS (.442)
(4) @ FLA (.435)
(3) vs. WAS (.442)
(1) vs. STL (.500)
(3) vs. FLA (.435)

Average: .464

9 road games
16 home games

Padres

(2) @ ARI (76-62, .551)
(3) @ COL (.515)
(3) @ LAD (71-65, .522)
(3) vs. SFG (62-75, .453)
(3) vs. PIT (60-77, .438)
(3) vs. COL (.515)
(3) @ SFG (.453)
(4) @ MIL (69-67, .507)

Average: .494

15 road games
9 home games

Diamondbacks

(2) vs. SD (.551)
(3) vs. STL (.500)
(3) @ SFG (.453)
(3) @ LAD (.522)
(3) vs. SFG (.453)
(3) vs. LAD (.522)
(3) @ PIT (.438)
(3) @ COL (.515)

Average: .494

12 road games
11 home games

So, things look more favorable for the Phillies against the Padres and Diamondbacks for the Wild Card, than against the Mets for the East. The schedule favors the Mets, who have the advantage of both facing weaker opponents overall, and playing the most games at home.

Who’s Up?

Jayson Werth, who had hit safely in nine straight at-bats, just one more hit short of tying the National League record. Werth went 5-for-5 with five singles against the Padres on August 26, and 4-for-4 with four singles and a walk against the Mets on the 27th.

Jimmy Rollins, who had a multi-hit game in seven straight games from August 26 to September 1. He sandwiched those multi-hit games with one-hit games, combining for a nine-game hitting streak that ended today against the Braves. During the hitting streak, Rollins put up a 1.321 OPS (three doubles, a triple, and three homeruns).

Who’s Down?

J.D. Durbin, for his lack of a performance against the Marlins September 1. As mentioned, he allowed the first seven baserunners to reach base before Charlie Manuel replaced him with Clay Condrey.

Antonio Alfonseca, has allowed more hits (eight) than he’s recorded outs (seven), according to Phillies.com. His manager understands why Alfonseca has been extemely hittable lately:

Stop and think about it. He’s given us a lot this year. We’ve asked a whole lot of him, and he’s given us a lot. I tell you what, he doesn’t have a whole lot left in his tank.

Ryan Howard. Not that strikeouts are indicative of a bad hitter, but with three more today against the Braves, Howard’s strikeouts total has reached 168. At this pace, he’ll finish the season with 199, which is four more than Adam Dunn’s all-time record for strikeouts in a season.

Down and Certainly Not Out — Not Anymore

The Phillies tried desperately to give the New York Mets a victory yesterday, squandering a 5-0 lead, and then an 8-5 lead. The Mets — Billy Wagner, specifically — wouldn’t hear of it and promptly forked over 3 runs in the bottom of the eighth and nine innings after taking a 10-8 lead, to lose in dramatic fashion.

The Phillies hit ’em hard (two homeruns from Pat Burrell, a Ruthian two-run homerun from Ryan Howard, and a solo homerun from Aaron Rowand) and they hit ’em soft (bloop RBI singles from Carlos Ruiz and Shane Victorino, and a slow-rolling RBI single up the middle from Jimmy Rollins).

The most impressive feat of the series, though, was not the offense (outscoring the Mets 27-16 in the four-game series) — it was the bullpen (sans Thursday):

August 27: 2.2 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 0 BB, 3 K
August 28: 4.1 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 2 BB, 4 K
August 29: 3 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 2 BB, 1 K

Total: 10 IP, 0 R, 5 H, 4 BB, 8 K

And then the ugly August 30 day game: 5.1 IP, 7 R, 5 H, 6 BB, 0 K

The Mets’ bullpen, on the other hand… not so fortunate:

August 27: 3.1 IP, 4 R, 8 H, 2 BB, 2 K
August 28: 2 IP, 4 R, 5 H, 2 BB, 0 K
August 29: 2 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 0 BB, 1 K
August 30: 5.1 IP, 6 R, 11 H, 4 BB, 5 K

Total: 12.2 IP, 14 R, 25 H, 8 BB, 8 K

Kudos to Pat Burrell for continuing his hot streak. Burrell leads the Major Leagues in on-base percentage and slugging percentage since the All-Star break. He put up a 1.486 OPS in the four games against the Mets, hitting 4 HR and knocking in 7 runs.

Jimmy Rollins put up a 1.342 OPS for the series, hitting 2 HR and knocking in 3 runs.

How about Jayson Werth? 1.278 OPS for the series, and his 2 stolen bases in the 9th inning against Billy Wagner allowed Tadahito Iguchi to knock in the 10th and tying run with a marginally-deep sacrifice fly, or any base hit.

An interesting note about the series: each game was unique. The 27th was a mild blowout, the 28th was a come-from-behind win, the 29th ended on an umpire’s judgment, and the 30th was a mild blowout that turned into a come-from-behind win. Anyone who bought tickets to any of those four games definitely got their money’s worth (especially those who sat in Section 302).

And the Phillies did all this without Cole Hamels starting a game. With Utley missing the third game against Mets starter Oliver Perez. With Shane Victorino playing sparingly. With a makeshift starting rotation. With all the pressure the city of Philadelphia could throw on top of them. Four straight wins against the division leader, where even a series split would have been devastating to the Phillies’ playoff hopes.

Baseball Prospectus now lists the Phillies’ odds of making the postseason at 39% (the Wild Card-leading Padres are at 62%, and the East-leading Mets are at 85%). The Mets are playing two games better than their Pythagorean W-L record, and the Phillies are exactly where the PWL calculates them, which says that the Phillies are on par with the Mets, and a division title is not out of the realm of possibility.

So, now we look on with our newfound playoff hopes.

August 31-September 2, Phillies @ Florida Marlins

Kyle Kendrick (116 ERA+) vs. Sergio Mitre (98 ERA+)

J.D. Durbin (111 ERA+) vs. Byung-Hyun Kim (95 ERA+)

Adam Eaton* (72 ERA+) vs. Scott Olsen (75 ERA+)

This is a sweep-able series. The Mets go to Atlanta to face the Braves, and they have to face both Tim Hudson and John Smoltz. Even better — on Saturday, the Mets will trot out Mike Pelfrey to the bump.

So, by Monday, the Phillies could find themselves in first place in the NL East.

It’s about time the Phillies start getting some respect.

* Cole Hamels was supposed to start in the series finale against Scott Olsen, but, according to Todd Zolecki of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels has suffered a setback and will not start Sunday against the Florida Marlins at Dolphins Stadium.

The Phillies said Hamels had discomfort in his left elbow in his last bullpen session. They will shut him down from throwing for the next few days and progress him accordingly.

Hamels went on the disabled list August 22 with a mild elbow strain. He has not pitched since August 16 at Washington.

Adam Eaton will start Sunday in Hamels’ place.

A Poker Tip for Playing Tournaments

Lately, I have noticed a common trend among most Internet poker players: they don’t know how to play tournament-style poker.

The scenario I am talking about is when a player is all-in, and there are two other players in the hand playing for a side-pot. Oftentimes, one player will bet out at the other in attempt to win the side-pot and go against the all-in player. And, in my experience, the player that bet out at the side-pot ends up losing to the all-in player, allowing him to not only continue playing in the tournament, but to have a good shot at building up his chip stack even more.

The two players should not even bet to create a side pot; they should check the hand down to the river, that way they have two hands that can possibly knock out the all-in player, allowing themselves to move up in the money.

The only time one should ever bet in that situation is if he is sure he has the best hand (i.e. getting the nut flush or a full house) and he is trying to extract chips from his opponent. If your hand is not made (and getting a pair, or even two pair, does not constitute “made”), collude (this is legal collusion) with your opponent. As the proverb goes, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Just for clarification, here are two scenarios — one is correct, one is not.

Incorrect

Blinds $25/$50

Player A posts small blind $25

Player B posts big blind $50

Player C folds

Player D folds

Player E raises to $250 and is all-in

Player F folds

Player G folds

Player A calls $225

Player B calls $200

Flop [Ks 9d 3s]

Player A bets $100

Player B folds

Turn [5c]

River [2d]

Player A shows [Ac Qd]

Player E shows [8d 8c]

Player E has a pair of eights

Player A has high card — Ace kicker

Player E wins main pot ($750) with a pair of eights

Correct

Blinds $25/$50

Player A posts small blind $25

Player B posts big blind $50

Player C folds

Player D folds

Player E raises to $250 and is all-in

Player F folds

Player G folds

Player A calls $225

Player B calls $200

Flop [Ks 9d 3s]

Player A checks

Player B checks

Player A checks

Turn [5c]

Player B checks

Player A checks

Player B checks

River [2d]

Player A shows [Ac Qd]

Player B shows [5d 5s]

Player E shows [8d 8c]

Player A has high card — Ace kicker

Player B has three of a kind, three fives

Player E has a pair of eights

Player B wins main pot ($750) with three of a kind, three fives

Player E finished the tournament in 7th place

The side-pot-betting isn’t so bad early in tournaments, but when it’s getting down towards the final table, there’s no question you want everyone else to drop like flies. Roughly, you’re cutting down your all-in opponent’s chance to win by 17% regardless of what the cards are (1-on-1 is 50%/50%; 2-on-1 is 33%/33%/33%).

Phillies Bullpen Is Back to Normal

With the return of Brett Myers and Tom Gordon from the disabled list, the Phillies’ bullpen was finally able to stabilize and return to its status quo of forking over leads late in the game. The two combined in an impressive effort on August 25 against the San Diego Padres, allowing three solo homeruns in two innings of work.

Kyle Lohse pitched six and two-thirds of excellent baseball, and J.C. Romero met the bullpen quota of a scoreless one-third of an inning to retire the Padres in the seventh inning.

In comes Gordon with his arsenal of belt-high fastballs. As if on cue, he served one on a platter to the show-boating Milton Bradley to tie the game at two-all.

Many disagreed with Charlie Manuel’s decision to use Brett Myers in the ninth inning of a tie game, but Myers has really been the only reliable arm in the bullpen. It seems Manuel is not a fan of statistics, because the following should indicate that Myers is never to be used in relief of a tie game:

Tie Game: 1.016 OPS

Within 1 run: .912 OPS

Within 2 runs: .785 OPS

Within 3 runs: .762 OPS

Cue solo homeruns to Kevin Kouzmanoff and Terrmel Sledge to make it a 4-2 game — out of reach, even for the comeback-prone Phillies, who did score one run in the bottom of the ninth, but Aaron Rowand whiffed with Ryan Howard standing on first base to end the game.

After the game, Brett Myers gave many an open door to make references to his domestic abuse issue last summer by physically threatening a reporter who was needling him about the homeruns he gave up, and blamed on the size of Citizens Bank Park. Myers is still unapologetic to the reporter he berated and threatened, but did apologize to the other members of the media.

Three things I want to address:

1. Just how bad is the Phillies’ bullpen?

2. What is in Brett Myers’ future?

3. Is Citizens Bank Park really a “joke” as Milton Bradley insists?


1. Just how bad is the Phillies’ bullpen? I’ve scoured the FanGraphs and I’ve come up with quite a few games that the Phillies’ bullpen has blown.
Bullpen blew a lead or tie, Phillies lost
  1. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Tom Gordon (1 run), Brett Myers (2 runs); Phillies lose, 4-3
  2. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): J.C. Romero (1 run), Tom Gordon (1 run), Geoff Geary (2 runs); Phillies lose, 5-2.
  3. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): J.C. Romero (1 run), Antonio Alfonseca (3 runs), Yoel Hernandez (1 run); Phillies lose, 8-4.
  4. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Jose Mesa (3 runs), Mike Zagurski (1 run), Antonio Alfonseca (1 run); Phillies lose, 11-6.
  5. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Brett Myers (2 runs); Phillies lose, 4-2.
  6. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Tom Gordon (2 runs); Phillies lose, 6-5.
  7. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): J.C. Romero (2 runs), Mike Zagurski (2 runs); Phillies lose, 7-6.
  8. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Mike Zagurski (1 run), Jose Mesa (1 run), Antonio Alfonseca (1 run), J.D. Durbin (1 run); Phillies lose, 7-6.
  9. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Antonio Alfonseca (1 run), Jose Mesa (1 run); Phillies lose, 5-4.
  10. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Geoff Geary (4 runs), Mike Zagurski (2 runs), Ryan Madson (1 run), Jose Mesa (2 runs); Phillies lose, 9-6.
  11. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Geoff Geary (1 run), Yoel Hernandez (5 runs); Phillies lose, 7-4.
  12. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Francisco Rosario (1 run); Phillies lose, 4-3.
  13. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Antonio Alfonseca (1 run), Francisco Rosario (1 run); Phillies lose, 4-3.
  14. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Antonio Alfonseca (3 runs); Phillies lose, 5-2.
  15. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Tom Gordon (2 runs); Phillies lose, 2-1.
  16. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Francisco Rosario (1 run); Phillies lose, 5-4.
  17. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Matt Smith (1 run), Geoff Geary (2 runs), Jon Lieber (5 runs); Phillies lose, 11-5.
  18. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-0…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Tom Gordon (2 runs), Ryan Madson (1 run); Phillies lose, 3-2.
  19. fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2007-o…amp;season=2007
    • Culprit(s): Ryan Madson (2 runs); Phillies lose, 5-3.

Even if the bullpen is just moderately bad — let’s say they only blow 10 leads — the Phillies would be 76-53, good for the second-best record in baseball behind the Boston Red Sox, and they would be three games in front of the New York Mets instead of six games back.

2. What is in Brett Myers’ future?

Myers will continue to be the Phillies’ closer, as he has done a great job when he is trying to nail down a lead — 12-for-13 in save opportunities. After 2007, however, is a question.

Citing Curt Schilling, Scott Rolen, and Jason Michaels just from recent memory, the Phillies’ upper management has been quick to ship out players that aren’t displaying good behavior. Schilling and Rolen had openly criticized the Phillies’ organization, and Michaels punched a police officer.

However, the Phillies’ starting rotation is in shambles and will continue to be in the off-season. Jamie Moyer could retire. Freddy Garcia will most likely not be resigned. Jon Lieber is a free agent. So, that leaves the Phillies rotation with Cole Hamels, Adam Eaton, and Kyle Kendrick as certainties, and one or two spots to fill depending on which direction the Phillies go in. If Moyer comes back for another year, and the Phillies decide to use a prospect in the rotation (J.A. Happ would be the most likely candidate), Myers will once again be the Phillies’ closer.

If the Phillies’ front office decides to stock up on relievers, Myers will probably be pushed back to the starting rotation, no matter how much he enjoys closing. Scott Mathieson, who has missed most of this season following “Tommy John” surgery, could be a dark horse candidate for the closing role.

Adding to the uncertainty is the rumor that Pat Gillick will not be returning as the Phillies’ GM. Granted, the source of this rumor is one Howard Eskin (the “journalist” who famously brought manager Charlie Manuel to a rolling boil following an 8-1 loss to the New York Mets). Assistant GM Ruben Amaro is likely to take the reins should Gillick leave.

3. Is Citizens Bank Park really a “joke” as Milton Bradley insists?

The ballpark has been criticized by many in Major League Baseball. Milton Bradley said of his fifth-inning three-run homerun against the Phillies on Saturday, “I thought I flied out. This park is a joke.”

Recently, I wrote about the Atlanta Braves whining about the ballpark when they lost to the Phillies 5-3 due to Ryan Howard’s lead-changing three-run homerun off of Buddy Carlyle

Well, is there something fishy about the ballpark? And if so, does it provide a distinct advantage to the Phillies?

According to ESPN.com’s park factors, Citizens Bank Park ranks eleventh in runs, and first in homeruns. A look back since the park’s inception:

2007: Runs, 11th; HR, 1st.

2006: Runs, 8th; HR, 6th.

2005: Runs, 2nd; HR, 2nd.

2004: Runs, 12th; HR, 5th.

So, the ballpark has always been homer-friendly, and home of above-average run scoring. Now, let’s find out how much the Phillies have benefited from this (keep in mind that, before the 2006 season, they moved the fences in left field back five feet and raised 2.5 feet):

From the above chart, we can glean that the Phillies get a slight bump in OPS from playing at home. The .019 average difference between their OPS and the OPS allowed at home is essentially the difference in slugging between Chipper Jones and Magglio Ordonez, to put it in perspective (in other words, not that much).

This season, the Phillies’ 103 HR allowed at home ranks first among all thirty Major League teams, while their 61 HR allowed away from home ranks twenty-third among all thirty Major League teams. So, the Phillies’ opponents seem to get a huge advantage in homeruns when they play in Philadelphia.

It’s not the dimensions of the field that make it so homer-friendly — it’s the wind. As Anthony Wood of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes,

In contrast to hulking Veterans Stadium, winds pour through Citizens Bank Park like water through a flow-through tea bag. Balls that get airborne are lifted up, up and away.

The most obvious suspects are the prevailing southwest and south winds of summer, which blow straight out to center and right-center fields. Those winds increase with height. Other factors might also be at work.

[…] [Phillies president Dave] Montgomery believes that the structural mass of Veterans Stadium – totally enclosed save for the exit-ramp openings – had a blocking effect on the movement of air. Jim Eberwine, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, says Montgomery is on sound scientific footing. A massive building would affect air currents the way an island distorts approaching waves. […]

In the new park, a wind blowing toward center outside the park blows toward center inside, too.

An important difference between the two stadiums is how Citizens Bank Park uses prevailing winds to benefit hitters.

Well after the park was designed, the Phillies retained a Canadian engineering firm to study air-flow patterns at the site. Using Weather Service data, RWDI Inc. determined that the prevailing winds on summer nights were from the south, averaging about 12 m.p.h.

So, if the Phillies want to cut down on homeruns at Citizens Bank Park, they can do one of two things: