On the first Monday of each month we roll out our Monthly MLB Report Card (forever to be known as MMLBRC) for the Mets, Phillies and Yankees. We’ll still check in from time to time with short posts to quickly take the pulse of each team, but think of the MMLBRC as an in depth physical (anal probing not included). Truthfully, a month is probably too small of a sample size to make overarching claims like we will attempt to, but dammit, you want content! So rather than write well-reasoned quarterly updates, we’ll make rash decisions based on far too little data. First up: the boys from Philly.
Seriously: does anybody want to win the NL East?
After the 2007 Mets decided they’d rather stay home in October, this year’s Phillies obviously weren’t comfortable playing the frontrunners, ripping off a 13-21 “run” to hand the division lead back to the Metropolitans. Then Willie Randolph’s Jerry Manuel’s crew — yup, you guessed it — dropped 5 of 6 to hand the reins back to the Fightins, and that’s where we stand right now.
And so I ask again: is this game of hot potato over, or are the Phils just keeping the seat warm right now?
If it’s the former, then Charlie Manuel’s bunch should seize the opportunity before them right now. The Mets are scuffling — John Maine is headed to the DL, Billy Wagner’s headed for another MRI, and Omar Minaya’s headed toward the unemployment line if his Nick Evans/Dan Murphy platoon in left field doesn’t pan out (okay, I’m exaggerating a bit with that last one, but you get the point). Meanwhile, the Marlins — who are still hanging around despite missing out on Manny, and despite outplaying their peripherals by something like 4 or 5 games, and despite having some peculiar postgame celebration tendencies — embark on a crucial 6 game road trip to Philly and Queens. A poor performance during their trip to the Northeast would, of course, put a serious damper on their playoff hopes.
So go ahead, Phils: kick ‘em while they’re down, seize the day, etc. Or don’t, and let everyone suffer through a nip-and-tuck pennant race for the next two months. Personally though, I’d prefer the first option.
Okay, on to some random musings and observations…
- We’ve been duped before (June MMLBRC: he’d shown signs of “coming out of his funk”), but I’m nonetheless hoping that Brett Myers’ recent resurgence is for real. In front of a national audience on ESPN last night, Myers was burned by a couple of mistake pitches, but was otherwise sharp and efficient in a 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 3 K no decision. If not for being pinch hit for in the 7th — the right call by Manuel, as disappointing as the outcome was — Myers could have gone another 2 innings, as he had thrown an economical 64 pitches (46 of them strikes) through 6 innings. More of that please, Brett.
- While Jimmy Rollins continues to disappoint (current OPS+ of 95), and while Chase Utley and Ryan Howard work their respective ways out of extended cold streaks, I’d like to take a minute to point out the Team MVP thus far this year: Pat “the Bat” Burrell. Burrell leads the Phils in OB% (.400), SLG% (.576), BB (77), OPS+ (149), EqA (.325), and shirtless pictures (1). He’s been the one constant in the lineup all year. If you had told me this on July 1 of last season, when the Bat’s BA dipped to .201, there’s a pretty good chance I’d have had you committed.
- Here’s a cool new stat (well, it’s new to me at least): win probability added (WPA). For all those interested, The Hardball Times explains WPA in detail, but the gist of it is this: if I come to the plate with the score tied 2-2 and no one on in the bottom of the 8th inning, the odds of my team winning are something like 63%. If I launch a solo homer, my team’s odds improve to something like 89%; I’ve therefore “added” 26% (or 0.26) to my team’s chance of winning. It’s obviously a bigger jump later in games (had I put my team ahead 3-2 in the second inning, the odds jump only from 58% to 69%) and in close games (if we were down 7-2 in the 8th and I made it 7-3, the jump is only from 2% to 5%). WPA adds up all of a player’s at bats over the course of a season, and it gives us a pretty decent indicator of how much impact a player has had, especially in “clutch” situations. With that explanation out of the way, go ahead and check out your MLB leaders in WPA so far this year. What’s that… Pat Burrell is second in all of baseball? Told you he was the Team MVP.
- I wasn’t exactly in love with the Joe Blanton deal when it was made, and I still think the Phils gave up too much, but I’m beginning to understand the move better. The only real certainties in the rotation next year are Cole Hamels and Kyle Kendrick — Jamie Moyer could decide to hang ‘em up, Adam Eaton should decide to hang ‘em up (wow), no one knows what Brett Myers’ future holds, and (as much as I like him) we can’t be 100% sure J.A. Happ is a MLB-quality starter. Blanton will be here through 2010 to provide stability and, er, girth. In all seriousness, Big Joe was excellent on Saturday night, posting five K’s (all of the backwards variety) and limiting the Cards to just 1 run in 7 innings. I’m sure Rich Dubee will work with Blanton to emphasize his splitter, and maybe we won’t come to hate this deal as much as we may have feared.
- Finally, speaking of J.A. Happ… young James was recalled on July 29 to take Eaton’s vacated roster spot, and he was joined by fellow IronPig Les Walrond, who made the trip down I-476 to take over for the recently DL’ed Rudy Seánez. What’s interesting about this is that both are southpaws, giving J.C. Romero some much-needed help on that front. Who knows how this is going to work out — Happ’s role is still undefined, and Walrond is a journeyman whose numbers don’t exactly scream LOOGY (.227 BAA rightiess, .250 BAA lefties) — but giving these two a shot is a much better idea than trading your potential 3rd basemen of the future for a 37 year-old reliever.
Okay, I’ve rambled quite enough at this point. Be sure to check back later today for the Yankees and Metropolitans, and remember: we here at TGE will stay focused on baseball, even as ESPN goes completely insane over an egomaniacal QB who’s about 4 years past his sell-by date.