Friday, May 15, 2009

Scouting Report: Phillies at Nationals (5/14)

Phillies and Joe Blanton? Shoot, I previewed this exact match-up two weeks ago. You can check it out here.

The Phillies are skidding at bit, having lost 6 of their last 8. Carlos Ruiz is back, and Scott Eyre is back to being the guy who can't find the strikezone. Other than that, I don't have much to add.

So with that, on to the...

Fearless Prediction
Season Record: 21-11
Lannan's strung together some nice starts and has his ERA down to 3.89. He's elevated his groundball tendencies to new heights, generating 58.2% on balls in play this year. Still, his fielding independent ERA has always been higher than his actual ERA because he's consistently had a lower-than-expected BABIP. This year is no exception, as he's got a .289 BABIP so far, which is low especially for a groundballer. But you gotta wonder if maybe in his case for some reason he's able to sustain a lower-than-normal BABIP? He's got a career 17.9% line-drive rate, which would rate among the best in baseball most years. This year, that number is down at 16.4%.

This honestly is a tough game for me to call. The Phillies are a so much better team, but they're slumping. Lannan always seems like he should be a good match-up for the lefty-heavy Phils, but his numbers don't really bear that out, as he has a 6.23 ERA against them career. Then there's the matter of Joe Blanton's terribleness, countered by the Scats' bullpen. I just don't have a real good feel for this one.

I'll say the Phillies take it by beating up on our 'pen again, something like 7-5.


Grover said...


Why do you say that the Phillies are a "so much better team"? The Nats actually have a better third-order record than the Phils at the moment: I swear, I didn't believe it myself but it's true. Obviously that's not the full picture because it hides the bullpen woes to some extent (you can only score so many runs in the bottom of the ninth), but it certainly has some significance.

And I'm not sure the Phillies, as a whole, are really slumping, either. The only guy who's way off his projections so far is Rollins, and they've got Ibanez exceeding his projections, which balances it out. On the pitching side, Hamels hasn't been all that sharp, and Lidge has been off a bit (he'll never replicate last year), but everyone else has been about what you'd expect. I don't see a viable #2 starter on that team. I see a #1, a #4 and three #5s. That's a recipe for trouble.

I think "so much better" is a stretch at best, and probably just wrong. Not because the Nats are any good, but because I think the 2009 Phillies are just the team we've seen the first six weeks. I see them finishing the season around .500.

Steven said...

This is the team that won the world series last year if I'm not mistaken.

Grover said...

That seems like a very "square" answer to me from a guy who's usually so numbers-oriented.

We both know it's not the same team, they're just wearing the same uniforms and have many of the same players. But Jamie Moyer is a year older and, by all accounts, has finally aged directly from 36 to 46 after somehow stopping time for a decade. Even though we haven't seen it yet, trading 2008 Burrell for Ibanez is probably a downgrade. Lidge caught lightning in a bottle last year, there's no way he can replicate that. Hamels appears to be banged up and really struggling to regain his form.

Yeah, the 2008 Phillies were World Series champs, but that's not who we're playing this weekend. We're playing the 2009 Phillies, who I personally think are gonna win somewhere between 80 and 85 games. You might disagree, but I'm not sure how their championship last year is relevant. Unless you suscribe to the Joe Morgan-esque "some teams just know how to win" view of baseball. You've never struck me as a Morgan-ite.

Steven said...

Well, 80-85 wins I think qualifies as "so much better" than the Scats who at this point will be fortunate to crack 70 wins.

Lidge was lucky on HR/FBs, and the perfect save % is a fluky product of randomness, but he's the same guy, one of the better closers in the game. You're right, simple regression on those fronts will cost them a couple games though.

Losing Hamels would be a game-changer, but he looks like he'll be ok actually--getting better recently after a bit of a slow start. Scott Eyre's a big drop off from JC Romero. Otherwise, I just don't really see significant drop-off anywhere for them from last year. 85 wins may be right. 80 I don't think will happen.

Grover said...

True, I guess, although I'd predict the Nat around 69, like you. So if I'm saying 80-85 for the Phils and the Nats are already five games behind them in the standings, it means I expect the Nats to only be a couple games worse than the Phils the rest of the way.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I bet on baseball (and blog about betting on baseball) and I'm planning to fade the Phillies a lot this season, so when you brought it up I figured maybe I'd poke your brain a bit.