Phillies/Brewers Series Preview

The Milwaukee Brewers are in town for a three-game series, looking to enact revenge for their early exit in the NLDS last season at the hands of Shane Victorino and Brett Myers. They’ll be sending out Manny Parra, some guy named “TBA” (ESPN reports that it will be Braden Looper), and Conestoga High School alum Dave Bush. The Phillies counter with Old Man Moyer, Joe Blanton, and King Cole.

The Phils find themselves a game under .500 and five games out of first place behind the 11-2 Florida Marlins, who they’ll face after completing this series with the Brew Crew. The Marlins have two more games left against the Pittsburgh Pirates, who shut them out 8-0 last night behind the great pitching of… Ross Ohlendorf? Did I read that right?

Obviously, no games in April are “must win,” but the Phillies would be putting themselves squarely behind the 8-ball if they were to lose more ground to the Marlins.

How do the Phils and Brewers match up with each other? Let’s go to our trusty old tables.

The following two charts show the hitters’ success against each of the pitchers slated to start, using each team’s most-used batting order. There’s a small change in the way I made the charts: a – indicates that a hitter never faced the pitcher while a 0.000 OPS indicates that the hitter has faced the pitcher and has not had any success. I used to mash them both together with a 0.000 OPS.

Also note that most of the Phillies only faced Parra in one game, so their plate appearances are 3 or under. Ditto Joe Blanton against the Brewers. And remember that this data does not include the post-season, so last year’s NLDS stats aren’t counted.

Milwaukee Brewers @ Philadelphia Phillies, April 21-23

Milwaukee Brewers @ Philadelphia Phillies, April 21-23

The current Brewers lineup has had great success aginst Jamie Moyer — only Bill Hall and Jason Kendall have an OPS under 1.000 against him. However, the Phillies roughed up Manny Parra the only time they saw him in the regular season.

The next two tables show how each pitcher has fared against the opponent in their respective careers.

Milwaukee Brewers @ Philadelphia Phillies, April 21-23

Milwaukee Brewers @ Philadelphia Phillies, April 21-23

The Phillies have had enormous success against the Brewers pitchers they’ll be seeing in the series. Howard in particular loves to face Braden Looper, as he’s hit four home runs in seven plate appearances against him. And the Phillies have shown no mercy to Pennsylvania native Dave Bush.

With the way the Phillies have been pitching and with the lack of success Brewers pitchers have had against Phillies hitters, this could be a very high-scoring series. While Phillies pitchers have been victimized by abnormally-high BABIPs, even FIP agrees that they’ve pitched poorly thus far.

Fantasy League Week 2 Recap

It was a great week for yours truly. In my match-up with Cust’s Club, I led in all eight categories at one point, but eventually conceded RBI to his slew of talented hitters. I can thank Ian Kinsler and Carlos Pena for the offense; Zack Grienke and Roy Oswalt for the great starting pitching; and Heath Bell for the relief pitching.

Gold stars to Toothsome, Jack Bauer’s Army, The Beast, and Shooter’s Swingers for their Week 2 successes as well.

Without further ado, the stats (click the image for a larger version):

Raul May Not Be Great with the Glove…

…but is he ever swinging a hot bat. With a 1.232 OPS heading into the game, Ibanez added a double and a walk-off two-run home run — his fifth “long drive” and ninth and tenth runs batted in — in four at-bats this afternoon.

The Phillies fell behind 3-0 after the third inning and were behind 4-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth. The game had failure written all over it until a two-run home run from Chase Utley in the sixth, a pinch-hit solo homer from Jimmy Rollins in the eighth, and then Ibanez’s walk-off two-run shot in the bottom of the ninth off of fill-in closer Edwin Moreno.

Had the Phillies lost, it would have been their fourth in a row. Instead, they find themselves just a game under .500 with plenty of time to turn this into a good month.

Ibanez made an embarrassing fielding gaffe in the third inning when Edgar Gonzalez hit a sinking line drive to left field. Ibanez attempted a diving catch but it sailed right on by him, allowing Jody Gerut to score and Gonzalez to advance all the way to third base. It was somewhat reminiscent of this gaffe from a while ago (via Lookout Landing):

Raul Ibanez fielding error

UPDATE: Courtesy the Phillies forum Back She Goes, you can see Ibanez’s gaffe from two — count ‘em, two — different camera angles.

Missing Pat Burrell? We all are, but this graph, courtesy FanGraphs, should cheer you up a bit. It’s a comparison between Ibanez and Burrell using wOBA. Click the graph to see a larger version. Obviously, pay attention to the 2009 numbers.

FanGraphs: Raul Ibanez vs. Pat Burrell

On a related note, Josh Geer was extremely frustrating to watch pitch against the Phillies today — he was good. In seven innings, he walked none, allowed only six hits, and struck out four. His only mistake came on a fastball that caught too much of the plate. Chase Utley turned on it and sent it a couple rows back behind the right field fence.

Geer had a hell of a change-up working today. In terms of movement, it was hard to tell apart from his other pitches.

Josh Geer pitch movement

It’s Over

Brad Lidge's consecutive save streak is overMr. Perfect is perfect no more. Going into tonight’s game with the San Diego Padres, Brad Lidge hadn’t blown a save since September 23, 2007. The ’09 season has, thus far, been a struggle for the Phillies closer as he has already given up more home runs (3) than he did last season (2).

Going into the ninth to protect a new 5-4 Phillies lead thanks to an eighth-inning Chase Utley solo home run, most Phillies fans felt confident with the ball in Lidge’s hands. However, Jody Gerut led off with a double to right-center field and was promptly moved over with a gritty ground out by the white-haired mighty-mite. Paying homage to the WHMM (not really), Giles drove in Gerut with a gritty ground out to first baseman Ryan Howard.

It was not over. Lidge walked both Adrian Gonzalez and Chase Headley on four and six pitches, respectively.

Still not over. After falling behind 2-0 to Kevin Kouzmanoff, Lidge threw a high-and-inside 92-MPH fastball that was promptly deposited behind the left-field fence to stake the Fathers to an 8-5 lead. In a scene never before seen, Charlie Manuel went to the mound to take Lidge out of the game after blowing a save.

As announcer Tom McCarthy noted, it’s been quite a while since Lidge could be found in the dugout thinking about how he blew the save opportunity. Nevertheless, he should be commended for his flawless season last year and for being one of the key contributors to the Phillies’ WFC.

Phillies/Padres Series Preview

After a terrible, terrible trip to Washington, the Phillies return home to celebrate the life and accomplishments of their late Hall of Fame broadcaster and to begin a seven-game homestand. The next four games will come against the surprisingly good 7-3 San Diego Padres and afterwards, they’ll play three with their NLDS foes of last year, the 3-6 Milwaukee Brewers.

The Phillies can breathe a sigh of relief in that they will not be facing Jake Peavy if all goes according to plan. They’re slated to face Chris Young, Shawn Hill, a replacement for Walter Silva, and Kevin Correia. The WFC’s will trod Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Chan Ho Park, and Jamie Moyer to the pitcher’s mound in opposition.

The picture to your right comes from Todd Zolecki’s Twitter. In one of the many ways the Phillies organization is paying respect to Harry Kalas, they are putting his Hall of Fame signature on the baseball field for all to see.

Let’s get down to brass tacks and take a look at what the recent past tells us to expect in this unexpectedly interesting series.

The following two tables show, using OPS, how each team’s most frequent starting lineup fares against each of the starting pitchers they are slated to face.

San Diego Padres @ Philadelphia Phillies, April 17-20

San Diego Padres @ Philadelphia Phillies, April 17-20

There are only three Padres starters listed since we don’t know who Silva’s replacement is yet.

The following two tables show how each team’s pitchers fare against the opposing team throughout their careers.

San Diego Padres @ Philadelphia Phillies, April 17-20

San Diego Padres @ Philadelphia Phillies, April 17-20

As with the other previews, we’re dealing with small sample sizes here. Some players haven’t faced some pitchers, or only have a couple plate appearances under their belt. That’s how Kevin Kouzmanoff has a 5.000 OPS against Brett Myers: one home run in one plate appearance.

If the Phillies can handle Chris Young, this series should favor the Phillies, but these upstart San Diego Padres have been proving a lot of us wrong so far.

Let’s Just Ditch the Rotation

Thanks to a three-run home run served up to Adam Dunn by Joe Blanton in tonight’s game in Washington (this concludes the attempt to set the record for most prepositions used in one sentence), the Phillies’ trend of falling behind early continues.

May as well let the bullpen go all nine innings, huh? You see what I’m getting at? Huh?

The bright spot: Lou Marson just got a hit in his first at-bat of his 2009 season!

Update: Make that two hits in two at-bats for Lou.

BDD: Sit On It

At Baseball Daily Digest, I refute the claim that one should sit on Brad Lidge’s slider.

Hitting a slider is, as one might expect, really difficult, especially one thrown as well as Brad Lidge throws his. Add in that Lidge had a 94 MPH fastball that, on average, was more than 9 MPH faster than his slider, and you have a tremendous task in front of you to A) differentiate between the release points of his slider and fastball, if there is a difference; B) pick up the movement of the pitch as it makes its way towards home plate; and C) be able to keep your hands back when you expect fastball and instead get a slider — you can’t expect his slider and adjust for the fastball.

[…]

Lidge doesn’t just choose to throw his slider 13% more than his fastball because he likes the pitch; he bases his decisions on scouting reports (the hitters’ tendencies), past experience, and so forth. Likewise, the hitter goes up to the plate looking fastball most of the time because they are more likely to hit it (and hit it well) if they see one than if they get a slider that they are anticipating — based on scouting reports (Lidge’s tendencies) and past experience.

The hitter’s best strategy is to go up ready to hit a fastball most of the time but anticipate a slider some of the time so that Lidge will stay honest and throw that fastball. Lidge’s job is to effectively mix up his pitches so that hitters are unable to sit on one pitch or another, and that’s a job that Lidge has done extremely well over his career.

Pitch F/X Tutorial Videos

R.J. Anderson at Beyond the Box Score has written two excellent tutorials on how to utilize Pitch F/X in Microsoft Excel, but I figured that a lot of people are like me in that they learn how to do something when they see it done first. As such, I’ve made several supplementary videos to go along with R.J.’s how-to articles. Check them out if you’ve got some free time.

Here is my tutorial on how to open XML files in Excel:

How to chart a pitcher’s release points:

How to chart a pitcher’s horizontal and vertical pitch movement:

BDD: That’s Odd

At Baseball Daily Digest, I paw through the pitching performances of position players since 1980.

Arguably the worst performance is attributed to Frank Menechino with the Oakland Athletics. In a game that the A’s would lose 18-3 to the Colorado Rockies, Frank came in the bottom of the eighth inning, replacing T.J. Matthews who had allowed a lead-off walk and a double.

Menechino allowed four singles, a double, and a home run, leading to six Rockies runs. He was saved, mercifully, when Butch Huskey grounded into a 4-3 double play to end the inning.

Harry Kalas, 1936-2009

Per Todd Zolecki’s Twitter: Harry Kalas passed away today after passing out in the broadcast booth.

This is extremely sad news, as I, along with millions of Phillies fans, grew up listening to him call the Phillies games day in and day out. It will be extremely difficult to enjoy Phillies games without his legendary voice — his legendary home run calls.

I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say that I’m thrilled he got to see one more World Champion before his time was up.

One of my favorite calls:

Looking for the signature Chase Utley moment? It came on Aug. 9, 2006, when he motored home from second base to score on a routine ground ball in a 9-3 victory over Atlanta.

Chase Utley, you are the man!” Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas gushed from the booth.

Click here to listen to his World Championship call and to see him throw out the first pitch of the 2009 season. It was extremely difficult to get through but so worth it.

Click here for a previous post on Harry Kalas, which has a link to a radio interview with Angelo Cataldi.