Monday, September 1, 2008

Scouting Report: Phillies at Nationals (9/2)

The Nationals go for (am I really typing this??) number eight in a row, and more importantly look to push those smug Phillies and their obnoxious fans (this is NOT your house!) another game back in the NL East.

For a detailed look at the Phillies' offense, check out my post on game one.
Otherwise, here's my take on game two.

Pitching Match-Up

Cole Hamels: Seems odd given how often we've played the Phillies, but we haven't seen Hamels, their ace, since May. He throws three plus pitches: a fastball in the low 90s, a curve and change. His strikeout rate is a bit down over last year
(from 8.69 to 7.73 per 9), but his walk rate is down to a sparkling 1.98 per 9. He's a bit of a flyball guy, as many power pitchers are, but when you strike out this many and walk this few, it isn't a problem.

The gripe about Hamels has been durability. This year, he hasn't missed a start and will hit 200 innings on this start if he gets one out in the fifth. With likely five more starts this year and perhaps a couple more in the playoffs, the Phillies could be looking at an innings jump of over 50 for their budding star. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the Phillies pull him after 5 or 6 if the Phillies can get a lead.

Bottom line, there could be a very interesting debate about who's the best left-handed starter in the NL East, Hamels or Santana.

John Lannan: Lannan broke out of a two-start slump last time out, going 6 innings and allowing just 2 runs. In the two starts before that, he seemed to have lost focus, walking 7 and allowing 5 stolen bases, a ridiculous number for a left-handed pitcher.

He was knocked around pretty good by the Phillies last time he saw them about a month ago. He'll need to bring his A-game and get back to what he does well: keeping the ball down in the zone, spotting his fastball on the corners, and using mixing his mix of off-speed stuff--slider, curve, and change--to keep hitters off balance and generate lots of groundball outs.

Other Notes

--Zimmerman's homer yesterday gave him four extra-base hits in the last five games. He had just four extra-base hits in the previous 22 games.

--The lefty Hamels has a slight reverse platoon split--lefties hit a .687 OPS off of him, while righties hit .621. Those are both very impressive numbers, but the relevance for the Nationals is that there's no reason to sit Willie Harris, for instance.

--Five HBPs yesterday? I don't have the stat handy (maybe someone will know where to find this quickly and easily). No team has beaned more Nationals hitters this year than the Phillies (8), and only the Marlins have beaned more Phillies than the Nationals (Fish: 8, Nationals: 7). Of course, there's probably some bad blood between these teams dating back to John Lannan's ejection
in his major-league debut for obviously unintentionally hitting Chase Utley and breaking his hand, an injury which cost him a month last year. We'll see if this continues.

Fearless Prediction
(Season record: 19-14)
The streak ends as the Phillies' stopper stops the Nationals. Phillies win, 4-1.

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