Old Friends

There’s our old friends, offense and pitching!

Looking good, offense. You kicked the meth habit though, right? Good — you were getting kind of skinny. Hah, you still dating that arsonist, pitching? She’s bad for you, man.

It’s been tough without you guys — I didn’t know what to do with myself. I tried not to think about it, but eventually found myself flipping through the yearbook remembering all the good times we had.

Offense, you remember last year when we went to St. Louis and beat the snot out of Todd Wellemeyer and Ron Villone? We did the same thing in Colorado to Jorge de la Rosa. That’s when we were at our peak, man — nobody could touch us. I think we just grew apart for a little while but it’s good to have you back. How long are you going to be in town for?

Pitching, I saw you recently. I don’t think you saw me, but I saw you. Where have you been? Seems like you come in and out of town all the time. I think you just need to settle down, maybe get an apartment around here. Lots of jobs, don’t worry about that. Seems like everything just goes to hell when you leave. Maybe the three of us can get a place together, just like old times.

Tired of the metaphor yet? If you can’t tell, it was great to see the Phillies’ offense and their pitching both show up at the same time for a 10-1 win in Tampa against the Rays. The Phils scored six in the first and four in the fourth. Chase Utley and John Mayberry drove in seven of the Phillies’ ten runs, and Jamie Moyer threw six efficient innings, allowing only one run. The bullpen? A scoreless three innings.

The win, the Phillies’ first in nine days, snaps a six-game losing skid. Add another W into the road wins column as well. Make it 24 on the year with nine losses, compared to 13-22 at home.

Dear Mr. Selig,

Please re-schedule all of the Phillies’ home games as road games.

Thanks.

Sincerely,

Crashburn Alley

Unsettling Trends

With yet another sweep at home against an American League team, the Phillies’ record at home drops to 13-22 (.371) and their interleague record drops to 3-9 (.250). For comparison, the 20-46 Washington Nationals fall in between those winning percentages at .303.

Going into the season, only five teams had a worse interleague record since 1997: the Cincinnati Reds, Tampa Bay Rays, San Diego Padres, Baltimore Orioles, and Pittsburgh Pirates. The Phillies had a 90-109 record which is now 93-118 (.440). Since 2006, the Phillies are 20-40 (.333). The awful, awful Phillies teams of 1997-2000 were 32-35 (.478).

In this series against the Orioles, they were outscored 15-8. Thankfully, while the Phillies have slid, so too have the Mets. Since the end of the Phils-Mets series in New York on June 11, the Mets have gone 3-6 while the Phils have gone 1-8.

Fortunately for the Phillies, they will at least be on the road for the last six games of interleague play against the Rays and Blue Jays June 23-28.

BDD: Statistics Are Not Like Bikinis

At Baseball Daily Digest, I try to clear up some of the confusion in the stats/scouts debate.

Additionally, Sabermetrics — contrary to the claims of many who don’t trust it — is not adhered to religiously. Just because PECOTA says Matt Wieters is going to smoke some American League pitching doesn’t mean that he is, in fact, going to smoke some American League pitching. We can choose to accept what various analyses say, or we can reject them.

BDD: Rookie Phenomenon?

At Baseball Daily Digest, I debunk Gary Cohen’s myth that there have been a lot more rookie starters this year than in years past.

I was linked to a blog entry by Rob Neyer (thanks, BBTF!). In it, Rob talks about Mets broadcaster Gary Cohen claiming that nearly 15% of all starts made by pitchers this season have been from rookies, more than at any other time since “rookie” became an official adjective in the baseball vernacular. The discussion at BBTF attempts to answer Rob’s question, “Why all the rookie starters?”

Good points were made throughout the discussion, but that 15% kept eating at me — it seemed too high.

What Just Happened?

The Phillies were dispatched by the Toronto Blue Jays, who outscored the Phightin’s 23-11 in the three-game series. It was arguably the worst series of the season, and the Phillies brought their 14th-best-in-the-NL home record to 13-19. They’re 23-9 on the road.

Anyone have any ideas as to why there’s such a disparity? I’m baffled.

Maybe they can’t handle playing in the Limelight of their own stadium.

(In case you’re wondering, that’s another Rush reference. There was no wager between Crashburn Alley and Drunk Jays Fans, but after the sweep, I feel obligated.)

Talkin’ Jays with Drunk Jays Fans

It’s been a while, but Crashburn Alley and Drunk Jays Fans have finally joined forces again to give you a… uh… well… a mediocre preview of the upcoming Phillies-Jays series. It was about 13 months ago when I had my first DJF experience and I haven’t been the same since, what with the Rush references and whatnot.

I asked Andrew Stoeten a few Jays-related questions and he was kind enough to provide his insight (blurry and unstable as it is). Enjoy.

. . .

1. Roy Halladay’s groin injury: season over? What are you going to include in your suicide note? More importantly, who is going to replace Halladay in the rotation?

They’re saying it’s mild, so that’s good, but yes, if Halladay goes down, that’s it– but I guess it’s better to burn out than to fade away (that one’s for the suicide note). And even though it would have meant your team losing, Phillies fans– or, I should say, baseball fans in Philadelphia– should be upset that they’re not going to get a chance to see him pitch. This guy isn’t just a very good pitcher. He’s absolutely the best there is.

Replacing Halladay– as if such a thing were possible– would probably be Brett Cecil, a 2007 draft pick who jumped from high-A to AAA last year, and they think is going to be the number two around here for a long time. But he won’t be needed until after the series with the Phillies, because the Jays haven’t used their fifth starter, Scott Richmond, for a while, and he’ll take Halladay’s turn on Wednesday.

2. The Jays’ offense has surprised the hell out of me, as I’m sure it has other people. In a lineup where Vernon Wells and Alex Rios have disappointed, how have the Jays been hitting so well?

The whole lineup has been (had been?) picking up our struggling three and four hitters, really. Marco Scutaro has been getting on base like crazy, Adam Lind has been producing, Aaron Hill doesn’t walk much but had been hitting everything until a couple weeks ago. Lyle Overbay absolutely kills right-handers, and Scott Rolen is still a great hitter despite losing his power stroke. We marvel at what it must have been like to watch him play third every day when he could hit 25, 30 homers too.

3. What substances do the Jays feed their young pitchers? Seems like every year they bring up a couple starters and a couple relievers and enjoy a lot of success. Then they get injured. See: Marcum, Shaun; Litsch, Jesse.

A lot of folks are starting to believe that it’s a heavy dose of cutters that’s doing all the damage, but whatever it is that’s blowing out arms, it’s also turning minor league pitchers into guys who can compete and win in the AL East. When I’m willing to look at these guys as nothing more than chattel, absolutely I’ll take a couple seasons of 3.67 ERA from a 24th round pick like Jesse Litsch before his arm blows up and he’s never the same again. It seems like there will always be a guy to take his place. Of course, it sucks for the pitchers to be sent on a collision course with Dr. James Andrews, but a lot of these guys seem like they’d be fringe big leaguers– sometimes at best– if not for what the Jays are doing to them anyway. So… I don’t know… I guess I’ve bought the fact that there seems to be a bit of a trade-off here.

4. What do you see the Jays doing leading up to the trading deadline?

Honestly? Nothing. Ricciardi seems content to grab rejects from the waiver wire– see: Dellucci, David, or Mencherson, Brevin (our nickname for the awfulness that was Kevin Mench and Brad Wilkerson). He’s never really gone out and picked up an impact player at the deadline, and I don’t expect that to change. Their main need is a left-handed hitting DH, so that we don’t have to keep running (ugh) Kevin Millar out there against righties. Dellucci is going to get a chance to be that guy, and it’s a bit of an unfortunate situation for Jays fans. If Dellucci does well, they definitely won’t make a move and we’ll be stuck with him. If he doesn’t, we get to watch a month– or more– of David Dellucci as a black hole in the lineup. I guess we just have to hope that he makes it clear, one way or the other, as quickly as possible. Giving 300 plate appearances to Mencherson last year was ugly. They finished nine games back of the wild card, so it probably wasn’t going to do much good anyway, but imagine if those at bats had gone to someone, you know, good.

5. Over/under on the amount of innings in which you are sober during the three-game series: 10.

Monday is the fifteenth, which means its payday for me, so after spending the last few days with little more than dust in the ol’ bank account, I’m taking a strong over on that one. Take it to the bank.

BONUS: Predict the outcome of the series. Who wins each game? This is your chance to prove to the world that you can, in fact, see into the future.

Tuesday: Romero/Hamels

The Jays have a knack for playing to the level of their competition, so I think they actually manage to get to Hamels in this one. Ricky Romero is starting to find his form after injuring his oblique muscle sneezing, and something tells me the Jays somehow pull through here.

Wednesday: Richmond/Moyer

The Jays cannot hit a junkballer like Moyer. Flat out, simple, easy. Richmond probably pitches six good innings and one truly awful one, while Moyer will make the Jays hitters look like overmatched children– his types always seem to.

Thursday: Janssen/Blanton

I genuinely think that Joe Blanton sucks, despite what the recent starts will tell you– and I’ve had him in a keeper pool for four years, so it’s not like I haven’t been watching. That said, Casey Janssen seems like he cannot miss a bat right now, and at Citizen’s Bank Park, I don’t think that’s going to go over so well. He’ll take another loss, and Joe Blanton will keep fooling people into thinking he’s not terrible.

. . .

It’s going to be hard for the DJF crew to deal with both hangovers and the depression that comes with a series sweep at the hands of the Phillies. But that’s what you get for being from America’s hat.

Canada

The Interwebs

Back in late April, I answered a few questions about the Phillies for Mark Schruender of Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove. Two of the players discussed — Jimmy Rollins and Brad Lidge — haven’t had significant upward mean-regressions as I (and the Phillies) had hoped. Still, that didn’t stop Mark from coming back for more. Click here to read my responses to his latest batch of questions.

Here’s a snippet:

What you may be surprised to learn is that, despite the hot start, Ibanez is actually hitting worse against the fastball and slider this year as opposed to last year, according to the pitch-type linear weights found at FanGraphs. He has improved against the cut fastball and the curveball, and is absolutely killing change-ups.

Elsewhere on the Interwebs, check out the Adam Dunn All-Star campaign at The Bottom of the Barrel. He’s willing to part with an autographed Dustin Pedoira baseball if Dunn gets in the midsummer classic.

Tomorrow evening, you’ll be able to enjoy a Phillies-Blue Jays series preview-interview with Drunk Jays Fans, a high-quality Jays blog. Yay, Internet!

Phillies Salvage Series with Sox

The Phillies have really had a tough time against the Boston Red Sox, losing seven of the last nine games against them going back to 2006. Looking through the barrel at Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Josh Beckett, the Phils knew they had their work cut out for them.

Jon Lester dominated the Phils in game one, striking out eleven in seven innings and allowing only one earned run. Ryan Howard tied the game in the bottom of the ninth with a solo home run off of fill-in closer Ramon Ramirez to send it into extra innings. Both bullpens held things down until the wheels finally came off of Kyle Kendrick in the thirteenth inning. KK allowed four singles and a walk as three Red Sox crossed the plate to go up 5-2.

The interesting part of that game, besides that it was yet another extra-inning affair — the Phillies’ fourth in six games — was that in thirteen innings, 20 Phillies and 14 Red Sox struck out. That’s right: 44% of the hitters that made outs did so by striking out.

Last night’s game didn’t appear to be worth watching when the tarp was pulled on the field after the first inning with the Red Sox up 5-0. Antonio Bastardo was shaky, and the Phillies’ defense was surprisingly inefficient. After play resumed, the Phillies tried to get back into it when Raul Ibanez hit a solo home run and Pedro Feliz hit a two-run shot in the fourth inning to bring it to 5-4, but that was as close as it’d get.

Chad Durbin pitched three solid innings of relief after the rain delay, but Jack Taschner gave up five hits and a walk, contributing to three runs, in the fifth inning and the Phillies were knocked down again, this time for good. Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka wasn’t sharp but good enough to hold the Phillies to four runs in four innings. Another Red Sox win, 11-6.

In game three, it looked like the Red Sox were going to sweep for sure when they took a 4-1 lead on the Phillies and J.A. Happ in the second inning. Happ settled down, though, and held the Sox scoreless until the sixth inning. Meanwhile, the Phillies mounted a fifth-inning rally that included a lot of hard-hit balls off of Sox starter Josh Beckett. Earlier in the game, Beckett was making the Phillies look stupid, especially Jayson Werth, inducing a lot of confused swings.

Pedro Feliz singled, Chris Coste singled, Shane Victorino singled, Chase Utley singled, and Ryan Howard doubled, accounting for the five hits in the inning. Even Jayson Werth hit a line drive for the third out of the inning. It was fun to watch as Beckett had a 3.67 career ERA against the Phillies in nearly 96 innings in his career heading into the game.

Josh Beckett led off the top of the sixth inning for the Red Sox, and there was some thought that manager Terry Francona would pinch-hit for him, but he didn’t. Beckett was noticeably agitated about his pitching effort in the previous inning, and somehow used his anger to fuel his swing at the first pitch from J.A. Happ, sending it over the left field fence. Beckett has three career home runs now, two of which have come against the Phillies, both with the Red Sox.

Beckett came out for the seventh, but promptly served up a lead-off home run to the pitifully-slumping Jimmy Rollins. It was the start of a six-run seventh inning that saw four hits, four walks, and a hit batter from Beckett and relievers Josh Bard and Takashi Saito. The Phillies bullpen closed the door, including a solid two and one-third innings of long relief from Chan Ho Park. Ryan Madson pitched the ninth with a five-run lead, which is normally a questionable move, but the Phillies have an off-day tomorrow so it doesn’t matter.

The Phillies salvage a game in the series and, coupled with the Mets’ embarrassing 15-0 loss to the Yankees today, retake a four-game lead in the NL East. The most surprising aspect of the series was the poor defense. Going into the series, the Phillies had committed 19 errors in 58 games, an average of one error every three games. In the three-game set with the Sox, they commited five errors.

With the off-day, the Phillies can rest their tired bullpen that saw three different relievers entered into the mix: Kyle Kendrick, Sergio Escalona, and Tyler Walker. On Tuesday, they welcome in the Toronto Blue Jays to whom they dropped two of three last season. In that series, however, there was a bright spot: Jayson Werth hit three home runs. In this series, the Phillies get to miss Roy Halladay on account of his groin injury, so there is some hope of a repeat performance from J-Dub.

Stay tuned for a preview-interview with a Blue Jays blogger. In case you’re wondering, I won’t be doing the totally rad hitter vs. pitcher and pitcher vs. team tables since, overall, not too many of the players have prolonged experience against each other.

BDD: Title Does Dictate Behavior

At Baseball Digest Daily, I point out that, despite the screeching about Milton Bradley’s gaffes yesterday, we actually really like them.

This is the storyline that we as fans want, though. We would much rather see two teams of nine Milton Bradleys square off than two teams of David Ecksteins. Remember, besides the whole hunting-down-the-broadcaster thing, everything Bradley has done has been done before. Others have flipped the ball to the fans with less than three outs; others have engaged in heated arguments with umpires; others have dropped easy fly balls. None of them, however, did it with the flair of our temperamental Cubs outfielder.