Eventually we will get a glossary out but until then I want anyone who's interested in what wOBA is to read this column by Rob Neyer which not only discusses what wOBA is but also adds another discussion about Baseball Prospectus statistics. Rob hits it on the nose why I have such a problem with the closed statistical analysis of BP.
Onto our next opponent, the 2008 World Champion Phillies. The last time they visited Dodger Stadium they broke the hearts, and crushed the dreams of millions of Dodger fans by defeating the Dodgers in the LCS. Eric still has nightmares of Matt Stairs shot into the nether lands of Chavez Ravine.
This year's version is much like last year's version in that they score runs at a good clip enabling them to maintain a .600 winning percentage. They come into LA on a hot streak having won six games in a row and sit atop the Eastern Division by three games at 31-20 (.608). The biggest move of the offseason was exchanging Pat Burrell for Raul Ibanez who might just be the best hitting outfielder in the NL at the moment with a .460 wOBA good for 3rd in all of baseball. They have three regulars with a plus .900 OPS.
With part timer Matt Stairs doing what he does best (1.086)
The biggest positive surprise for the team has to be Carlos Ruiz. When we last visited the Phillies, Ruiz had a .480 OPS and by the time we left he had raised that to .781 leaving us wondering why this feable hitting catcher was able to feast on our pitching. However Ruiz was not done hitting and has been as hot as any hitter in baseball over the last three weeks. He now boasts the highest wOBA (.393) for catchers in the NL. The second biggest surprise is the fact that ex-Giant Feliz is taking walks like Juan Pierre. The man with the career .298 OBP is sporting a nifty .358 OBP spiked by walk rate of 9.1%. Fangraphs shows him with a postive offensive value for the first time since 2004. However his one time elite defense seems to be on the decline so you might just be ending up with a zero net gain.
The biggest negative has to be the continued slump of 2007 MVP Jimmy Rollins who has become the rally killer not unlike our own Rafy Furcal. With a .269 wOBA, last on the team Rollins is easily the worse position player on the team at the moment. According to Fangraphs the only SS with a lower wOBA would be Kahil Greene and Alex Gonzalez. Not exactly the company you want your lead-off hitter hanging out with. Still just like the Dodgers dealing with Furcal the Phillie's manage to score runs even with Rollins struggling. If he gets going, Ibanez and Ruiz better cool off or the NL East is in trouble.
We don't need to be reminded that the outfield consists of two old friends that we have nothing to show for. In the past this was a bone of contention but now that we have an outfield to be proud of, who cares. Jason Werth has found that playing full-time against RHP is going to be a hard road to hoe. He's still slugging away against LHP but the more he hits against RHP the more his overall numbers merge into a pedestrian level. Shane Victorino is a fine center-fielder who is good but not great at any part of the game. He's what Xavier Paul's ceiling is and that would be a good thing. Victorino is fun player to watch much like this whole Phillie team.
Howard still can't hit LHP to save his life but watch out when you put a RH on the mound. The mountain of swat will do damage more times then not. Why he even plays against LHP is a mystery to me. Chase Utley is one of the best players in baseball and should have been the 2007 MVP. He seems to excel at every part of the game of baseball. Ibanez (FanGraphs Link) is doing what he's always done but those 40% fly balls he's hitting are flying out of the park at a 26% clip. His career norm is 12.9% so in effect twice as many fly balls are turning into home runs for him this year.
The offense is the best in baseball at scoring runs per game, just a tick above ours. They do it the old fashioned way with 74 home runs, twice as many as our 37. However we get on base at a .366 clip compared to their .349. The pitching on the other hand is their current Achilles heel. While they score runs better then anyone, they also give up runs more then just about anyone. Only Washington, Florida, and Colorado have given up more runs per game then the Phillie pitchers.
The pitching is still led by 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels whose best game of the year so far was the gem he threw against us on May 14th. Hamels is now a few years beyond phenom but he will be facing our phenom on Thursday. At home Kershaw is as good as it gets and with extra rest he should be a beast on Thursday. Brett Myers is gone for the season leaving the rotation as the weak spot as they attempt to win another world series. Following Hamels to the mound in this series will be Moyer and Blanton with the Sunday starter being rookie Antonio Bastardo. Bastardo will be making his 2nd career major league start and first start against the Dodgers. He had a very solid debut and maybe he can help out the rotation given he only needs to do decent work to give them a shot at the win. Bastardo has moved quickly, coming into the season he was only ranked as the 11th best propect in the Phillie organization by Baseball HQ. Based on the scouting report he might be lucky to stay even as a back end solution which is why the Phillie's are looking for pitching in every nook and corner. Chan Ho Park started out as the fifth starter but has predictably been moved to the bullpen. The starters actually have the worse FIP in the NL at 5.68. The relief crew is a much better at 4.47 but that still puts them 12 out of 16. Ryan Madsen is the only pitcher out of the bullpen with solid skills at this point of the season. Brad Lidge continues to close but an implosion is never out of reach when he tries to close games. Condrey has a nice 2.20 ERA but his 4.51 FIP shows how lucky he's been.
This should be a great offensive four game series as the Phillie's attempt to show they are still the best team in the NL , while the Dodgers expect to display why they have the best record in baseball. ESPN knows they have a good match-up on Sunday night as these two teams could easily be playing in the LCS again, come this October.
|31-20, 1st NL East
|5.64/gm (1st in NL)
| .360 (1st in NL)
|4.98/gm (13th in NL)
| 5.11 (15th in NL)