Phillies Series Preview

082811-phillies_mediumThe Reds are over .500!!!  This makes me so dang happy.  Unfortunately, the best team in the National League is coming to town for a four-game set.  Let's hope the Reds can stay hot!  Because this team is tough...

Offensively, they are quite similar to the Reds, which means they're above-average compared to the National League.  But their rotation is just to die for.  When the Phillies signed Cliff Lee this offseason, I kept telling myself that even though it looked like a historic rotation, pitchers can fall apart quickly.  You never know.  

Well, they haven't been perfect.  Roy Oswalt has battled back injuries, and has been just ok.  Nevertheless, the trio of Halladay--Lee--Hamels has been everything that any Phillies fan could have hoped for.  On top of that, they've gotten a surprisingly good debut from rookie Vance Worley.  The result is a rotation that has carried this team to a 6-game lead over a very good Atlanta Braves team.

I don't know what to say about the fielding data.  DRS, in particular, thinks this team has been catastrophically bad in the field.  But other measures have them in the vicinity of below average to slightly above average.  Raul Ibanez doesn't help, but aside from him I don't think they're a disaster.

The other thing to look at in this series is that September rolls around, and with it the expansion of rosters.  I'm looking forward to seeing Devin Mesoraco some time this month.

Position Players

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Once a powerhouse, this year their offense is just quite good--very much on par with the Reds.  Shane Victorino is having an unbelievable season in center field, but the bigger surprise to me is what Chase Utley has done.  I've been marveling at the guy for years, but reports out of spring training about his knee were dire.  There was substantial question about whether he'd be able to walk without pain, let alone play this season.  Somehow, he's been able to come back and not just play, but excel.  He's hit quite well, and has shown no sign of lost steps in his fielding data.  He's just an incredibly special player.

Jimmy Rollins is currently out with a groin strain, so they're starting Wilson Valdez at shortstop.  Also, you can make a strong argument that the Phillies are better off not starting Raul Ibanez.  And he might not start--he's currently dealing with a bum groin.  But he hasn't hit well, and he has long been known as a complete disaster in the outfield.  The numbers strongly support that claim this year, as they have in past years.

Probable Starters

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Wednesday's game is listed as TBD for the Reds as I write this, so I'm listing it as such.  

Anyway, this is what quality pitching looks like.  All three of Hamels, Halladay, and Lee really don't have any obvious weaknesses, and all three are legitimate aces.  If you would have told me in the preseason that Lee would have the highest walk rate of the three, I would have expected that Lee was having a horrible year.  Nope!

Also, Vance Worley is pretty good.  Not 2.65 ERA good, but he looks very solid, and far better than I expected from him when he debuted.  Good strikeout rate, not a lot of walks...he can be hurt by the homer, however.  He's not Halladay, Lee, or Hamels, so that's the most winnable game by default...

Bullpens

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The Phillies currently have just six arms in their pen, which is probably the smallest pen the Reds have seen this summer.  I guess having a rotation like the Phillies have means you can go light on bullpen arms.  Ryan Madson and Antonio Bastardo make a formidable end of game combination.  Remember when the Phillies wouldn't let Madson close because he lacked the mental approach for the gig?  So much for that crap.  

The rest of the pen isn't very impressive.  Brad Lidge is just a shell of his old self these days, and his limited time since coming back has seen Champan-esque walk rates that will eventually catch up to him.  Also, Michael Schwimer is not, in fact, related to David Schwimmer.  Just in case you were wondering.

 

Good luck, Reds!  If nothing else, it's a chance to test their mettle against a truly excellent team.  If they get beat, they get beat.  But who knows?  Maybe they'll make the Phillies sweat a bit as they look for the NL East crown.

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