Friday, September 26, 2008

Scouting Report: Nationals at Phillies (9/26-8)

The season-ending series in Philadelphia will help determine the NL playoff picture and the winners of the Strasburg Sweepstakes. Because the Phils and the Nationals have matched up so many times lately, I don't have much to add to previous posts.

So instead, I'm going to share my reply to a Mets fan commenter who asked whether the Mets have any reason to hope that the Nationals may help them by knocking off the Phillies:
Off the top of my head, some reasons for Mets fans to be optimistic are:

1. The Nationals don't give up, period. I don't know what kind of Kool-Aid Manny's pouring in the clubhouse, but in 2 godawful seasons the team's never quit on him. They always play to the max that their very limited talent will allow.

2. The Nationals' young bats, finally healthy, are hitting. Dukes, Zimmerman, and Milledge in particular are finishing strong. Over the last month, Dukes and Zimmerman have OPS-es of 1.055 and .885, and Milledge's OBP since 8/1 is .390. (Didn't think you'd ever see him put up a number like that over 2 months, did you Mets fans? And he's only 23...)

3. Brad Lidge has a silly 4% HR/FB rate. That number should be more like 11%, and the difference is mostly luck. it would take about 7-8 HRs in a row for him to fully regress to the mean. That guy is going to turn into a pumpkin eventually. Why not this weekend? If the Phillies do make the playoffs, I look for Juan Pierre to reprise the Scott Podsednik role and take Lidge deep.

4. Shairon Martis's start was bumped due to the rain-out last night. That kid has potential, but boy is he not ready for prime time. He's lucky his ERA isn't over 10.

5. Balester is young and inconsistent with off-speed command, but if he's able to get strikes with his curve and change, he's a legitimately tough pitcher for any lineup. He threw 5+ innings of no-hit ball against the Marlins a couple weeks ago, and he's capable of shutting down the Phils.

6. Joe Blanton is terrible. OK, not terrible. But very hittable. Never trade for a pitcher with Billy Beane. Just don't do it. Without checking, I think the Phillies gave up like 3 of their top 5 BA-ranked prospects in that deal. They could have had similar (or better) production from Tim Redding or Odalis Perez for a lot less, I'll tell you that.

7. Lannan and Odalis Perez have both pitched well this year, and as lefties they match up well with the Phils' left-handed heavy lineup. Lannan actually had one of his worst starts of the year against the Phils on July 31, but don't read too much into that. He just didn't have it that day, and he bounced back the next week and did much better. Perez is in a walk year and has been very solid the last 2 months.

8. I think there's a real rivalry emerging with the Phillies. Since Utley took out Jesus Flores with that Jack Tatum-like dive at his ACL, it's been ratched up a notch. And as disrespectful as Mets, Braves, and Cubs fans are when y'all visit Nationals Park, Phillies fans are way, way worse. When they were chanting "this is our house" last year in RFK, the half-dozen or so of us Nationals fans still watching were quite annoyed.

9. If the season goes to the last day, Charlie Manuel seems liable to do his best Dusty Baker impersonation and pitch poor Cole Hamels short rest, even though the 24-year-old has led the league in innings and could be looking at an innings jump (counting playoffs, should that happen) of 60-70 innings.

10. Luck does even out.... eventually.
And, as always, here are my fearless predictions for the final series of the year (season record: 32-21):
  • Game one (Blanton v. Balester): Phillies, 7-4
  • Game two (Lannan v. Moyer): Phillies, 5-3
  • Game three (Perez v. Hamels): Phillies: 3-1

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