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Just Off-Camera

"They respect you if you write. The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter." -Dan Jenkins

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A Premature Phillies Year In Review

Baseball Prospectus has a neat feature where you can see each team's odds of reaching the playoffs, calculated by simulating the remainder of the season a million times and then taking the percentage of the times that team makes the playoffs. You can also see how a team's playoff odds have fluctuated over the course of the season by clicking on each team's name.

The Phillies, as of this morning, were in a tie for the Wild Card lead, and had a 53.6% chance of making the playoffs. When you consider that on July 26, they had bottomed out with a 1.2% chance of reaching the postseason, their turnaround (and the collapse of most every other NL contender) is stunning. And although I am a big fan of statistical baseball analysis, the game also lends itself to the written word. So, with the Phillies more likely than ever before this season to play October baseball, I want to walk you back through the season - both by looking at the playoff odds around the first of each month, and by looking at what my two favorite Phillies blogs, Balls, Sticks, & Stuff and Beerleaguer, had to say about the squad and the news surrounding it.

April 2
Phillies' record: 0-0, 0 GB (NL East), 0 GB (Wild Card)

From Balls, Sticks, & Stuff:
It's a trade that creates some needed depth for the Phillies, who needed some additional power off of the bench from the lefthand side in pinch-hitting situations and as an insurance against injury, or, poor play from Shane Victorino. Most people expect Victorino to be a good player, but no one can say they know he will. In Dellucci, the Phillies know what they are getting.
From Beerleaguer:
The Phillies probably have the best outfield in the National League with this addition of a bona fide four, with Bobby Abreu, Aaron Rowand, Pat Burrell, Dellucci and Shane Victorino manning the yard. They can afford to give the starters more rest, and wouldn't be in terrible shape if one of them went down. The days of Burrell and Abreu playing every single day are over. The Phillies will get more use out of Dellucci than you think.

May 1
Phillies' record: 10-14, 6 GB (NL East), 6.5 GB (Wild Card), Playoff odds: 5.2%

From Balls, Sticks, & Stuff:
Every fan at some point in a long baseball season, has serious doubts about his team, maybe even threatens weakly to not watch them play anymore games. But if you are a Phillies fan, they sure do make it hard to hang in there.
From Beerleaguer:

Winning would certainly help, but good stories wouldn’t hurt, either. Here are a few possibilities.

Phillies call up Cole Hamels: Hamels’ first Triple-A start is the most significant performance this season: 14 strikeouts, 3 hits, 0 runs is heavy at any level. Hamels is known to be tough. Gavin Floyd, by comparison ... more like a wet noodle.

Phillies fire Charlie Manuel: Goes without saying. Axed managers are good press. It’s also significant because it would represent Pat Gillick’s first big "theoretically" uninhibited move.

Phillies release Alex Gonzalez, purchase the contract of Chris Coste: This very, very minor move might be smart baseball more than good print. The cinderella of spring is a catcher who can play first and third. The Phillies have been pulling their starting catcher early to pinch hit, and Coste would offer more insurance. Alex Gonzalez has been a flat dud without any real purpose to the Phils.

June 1
Phillies' record: 27-25, 5 GB (NL East), 2.5 GB (Wild Card), Playoff odds: 14.2%
From Balls, Sticks, & Stuff:

So it's not every year, but it is certainly a theme that rears its ugly head from time to time. What's puzzling is how the Phillies lineup is nearly the same this year as last, yet instead of overachieving with runners in scoring position, now they have trouble.

When you think about it, considering how inefficient the offense has been, and the well-documented pitching woes, the Phillies are doing quite well to have a winning record.

From Beerleaguer:

With speculation the Phillies, Marlins and Yankees are working on a three-way deal that would land Dontrelle Willis in Philadelphia, Pat Gillick addressed the matter yesterday on Comcast. Gillick said a deal at this stage wouldn’t be wise for the rebulding Marlins, who can only demand more for the 24-year-old hurler closer to the trade deadline.

In one rumored deal, the Phils would send either Pat Burrell or Bobby Abreu to the Yankees for prospects and Aaron Small. The Phillies would flip those prospects and a few of their own to the Marlins for Willis.

July 3

Phillies' record: 37-44, 11 GB (NL East), 6.5 GB (Wild Card), Playoff odds: 2.6%
From Balls, Sticks, & Stuff:

If good ol' fashioned bias doesn't motivate you to vote for Bobby Abreu -- or against Billy Wagner -- take a look at the facts:

Bobby Abreu is on pace for 116 RBI, 157 walks, and 30 stolen bases. He is also tied for fourth in the National League in win shares, hits .341 with runners in scoring position, .327 with runners in scoring position with two outs, and overall, nobody gets on base more than Bobby.

From Beerleaguer:
Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Tom Gordon will represent the National League in the all-star game, happening Tuesday, July 11. Bobby Abreu is one of five players vying for the final spot among the Internet fan vote.

It's one of the worst seasons in years, yet the Phillies could send as many as four players to the all-star game.

August 1
Phillies' record: 49-55, 14 GB (NL East), 5.5 GB (Wild Card), Playoff odds: 2.6%
From Balls, Sticks, & Stuff:

"Realistically, I think probably it would be a stretch to think we're going to be there in '07."
~ Pat Gillick, general manager, Philadelphia Phillies

Put that in your pipe and smoke it Phillies phans.

Gillick made the statement after announcing he had dealt Bobby Abreu, one of the best players to ever don the red pinstripes, and Corey Lidle to the New York Yankees for four guys who, if they showed up at your front door, you would ask, "Selling cookies to support the local Little League?"

From Beerleaguer:

A seismic salary dump and a gaggle of unheralded prospects are all that's left as the dust settles on the Phillies trade deadline proceedings. In part one, Beerleaguer analyzes how well the club succeeded in making themselves more flexible as they begin reshape themselves.

I’ll get right to the gist of it: Have the Phillies succeed in making themselves more flexible? The answer is yes, but only to a certain extent. This is a purge that is only getting started, and will likely continue after the season concludes.

However, a look around at the remaining players finds some lingering dead weight that should have been moved right now.

September 1
Phillies' record: 67-66, 15.5 GB (NL East), 1 GB (Wild Card), Playoff odds: 20.5%
From Balls, Sticks, & Stuff:
By blowing a two-run lead in the ninth inning in last night's Phillies' game against the Nationals, thereby spoiling Ryan Howard's historic homerun and a chance for the Phillies to tie for the lead in the NL Wild Card race, Arthur Rhodes has now joined a certain other someone whose name will never appear in this space again.
From Beerleaguer:

If Ernesto clears, the Phillies have announced that Jon Lieber will start in the 1:05 game tomorrow, with Jamie Moyer pitching game two. Scott Mathieson, who was called up along with Eude Brito yesterday, was originally scheduled to pitch tomorrow's game one.

SimonSausages beware: Phillies acquire Randall Simon
In other news, the Phillies have added to their bench yet again by acquiring first baseman Randall Simon from Texas for cash considerations.

September 21
Phillies' record: 79-73, 13.5 GB (NL East), 0 GB (Wild Card), Playoff odds: 53.6%
From Balls, Sticks, & Stuff:
Since Jamie Moyer made his first start for the Phillies on August 22, the Phillies starting pitchers have an ERA of 3.89 with a K/BB ratio of 3.09 and a .722 winning percentage. Interestingly, during that stretch the starters have a 2.91 ERA at home and a 4.38 ERA on the road.
From Beerleaguer:

Myers and Hamels represent perhaps the best September one-two punch in the NL, an amazing feat all things considered. Hamels is a buck rookie who still doesn’t have the starts necessary to qualify for statistical recognition. The other is still tinkering with two pitches, a splitter and a more established changeup. This month, Myers is 2-0 with a 2.40 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. Hamels is 1-1 with a 2.75 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. They have combined to strike out 53 batters in seven games.

These are the types of performances the Phillies will need in October. I can’t believe I just wrote that.

What a freakin' roller coaster ride this team is. The magic number is 11.


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