Friday, May 20, 2016

Take The Day, You’ve Earned It!

GAME RECAP: No Game Yesterday
The Phillies continue to surprise just about everyone. No one expected them to be sitting in second place at any point in the season let along in the middle of May. However, the question still remains… is this another 1993 or will the young roster fall hard back to earth?


The Phils host the Braves for a three-game weekend series beginning at 7:05 p.m. on Friday. Aaron Nola (3-2, 2.89 ERA) starts against Matt Wisler (1-3, 3.14 ERA).


Reasons For Early Success – The Phillies woke up Thursday morning in second place in the National League East, just a half-game behind the Nationals with a 24-17 record. How many folks in the Delaware Valley predicted that? Thank fantastic pitching and an improved defense for the surprising start. The only question is if the Phils can keep it up. They rank 29th in baseball offensively, averaging just 3.32 runs per game. They have been outscored by 28 runs. Only 14 teams in the past 10 seasons have finished .500 or better despite being outscored. The 2009 Mariners were the most fortunate of the bunch, finishing 85-77 despite a -52 run differential. Philadelphia is on pace to be outscored by 112 runs. So how in the world are the Phillies doing it? How are they winning night after night? Here are five explanations: 1. It starts with the rotation: The starting pitching is the most obvious reason the Phillies are playing well. The rotation ranked among the worst in baseball last season, but it is among the best in the game this year. Phils starters have a 5.4 WAR, which ranks fourth in MLB. Philadelphia is third in FIP (3.26), WHIP (1.13) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.87). 2. Bullpen dominance: Remember the first four games of the season, when the Phillies' bullpen allowed 15 runs in 10 2/3 innings? It has a 3.13 ERA in 36 games since. Jeanmar Gomez transformed himself from a capable middle reliever to a surprising closer, saving 16 games in 17 opportunities. FanGraphs just wrote about how dominant the Phils' bullpen has been, pointing out that it leads baseball in Wins Probability Added at 3.08, which is 0.76 points higher than the second-ranked Royals (2.32). 3. Clutch: You just read about the Phillies' negative run differential, which falls onto the struggling offense. However, the Phils have been coming up with big hits. They are batting .356 in high-leverage situations, according to FanGraphs. Not only is it the best mark in baseball, it is 56 points better than the Angels, who rank second at .300. It is unlikely the Phillies can keep up that torrid pace for the entire season, but it at least explains how they have been winning so many one-run games. So while the Philadephia is not scoring a lot of runs, it is taking advantage of the very limited opportunities it has had to score runs in big moments. 4. Freddy improves: Freddy Galvis is fifth out of 29 qualified shortstop in Defensive Runs Above Average at 5.8, according to FanGraphs. This measures a player's defensive value relative to league average. Galvis ranked 12th out of 23 qualified shortstops last season, when he committed 17 errors and posted a .796 zone rating. This year, he has committed two errors and has an .873 zone rating. 5. Fewer circus acts, more cans of corn: The Phillies emphasized defense in the outfield, and so far it has paid off. The Phils' left and right fielders each ranked 27th in DEF last season. This season, they are in the middle of the pack, ranking 16th in left and 17th in right. That modest improvement can make all the difference in the world to the pitching staff.

Today In Phils History – It is rather an eclectic day in Phillies history as on the same day we mark Richie Ashburn’s impressive doubleheader in 1951 when he collected 4 hits in each game, we also remember Steve Carlton passing Walter Johnson for second on the all-time strikeout list in 1983 (he was just behind Nolan Ryan who took over first place earlier in the season). Speaking of all-time greats, it was on this day in 1989 when Mike Schmidt passed Jimmie Foxx for 8th on the career homerun list with his 535th blast. There was also a homerun hit in 2006. This time it was Boston’s Josh Beckett of Brett Myers for the first homerun by a Red Sox pitcher since the DH was introduced in 1973. And, finally, while he is no longer with the team we still would like to wish Jayson Werth a happy 37th birthday!

The Phillies are currently 24-17 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. The Phillies finished the spring exceeding most expectations compiling a record of 15-11-3 (18-11-3 if you include the exhibition games against Reading and the University of Tampa). All time, the Phillies are 47-56-0 on this day. I expect the Phillies to finish in the bottom half of the division but not last in the NL East by finishing the season with a 77-85 record. Let the rebuild begin!

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