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Posted By Christopher Rowe On Jun 28 2011 @ 3:49 pm In Philadelphia,Philadelphia Phillies | 2 Comments

At the outset of the 2011 season, most prognosticators (including Las Vegas oddsmakers) tabbed the Phillies and Red Sox as World Series favorites (myself included).

Now halfway through the season, the timing could not be better for a [1]preview of what that World Series might look like – assuming no changes are made to either roster over the remaining 3-1/2 months of the regular season. Phillies fans will tell you that 2011 is “World Series or Bust” as they have seen diminishing returns relative to talent and payroll additions since 2008. This series against the Red Sox may make Citizens Bank Park a true proving ground for the 2011 Phillies.  2009 saw them lose the World Series to the Yankees while 2010 saw them drop the NLCS at the hands of San Francisco. Do they have enough offense to rely on their stellar pitching staff or will they need to make a deal in order to avoid another early exit?
Roy Oswalt may be lost for the season meaning Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick will have to prove themselves down the stretch – but the real focus should be the dearth of Phillies offense. Should [2]they get another bat before the trading deadline or can they rely on Domonic Brown, Ben Francisco and Raul Ibanez to get the job done? What about the bullpen and the bench? Well, the Midseason Classic is upon us so take it for what it is worth – a worthy test of mettle between two titan teams.
The Phillies (49-30) boast the best record in baseball while the Red Sox (45-32) sport the third-best but any real baseball fan will consider the competition. The Sox are in the same division as the Damn Yankees (45-31) and Devilish Tampa Bay Rays (44-35) while the Phillies only real intra-division competitors are the Atlanta Braves (45-35, 4-1/2 games behind Philadelphia). 
Across the board, the National League claims 10 teams with records of .500 or better (the AL has only 7) but when you look at the team stats that tells the real story. Boston is ranked #1 in runs scored (409 in 77 G = 5.31 RPG) while the Phillies wallow around the 17 spot (320 R in 79 G = 4.05 RPG). That differential is much more significant than it may appear to be – especially in a short series.


[3]What happened to good pitching always beating good hitting? That may be true in All-Star games (Carl Hubbell mowed down 5 consecutive future Hall of Famers on [4]strikeouts in the 1934 All-Star Game – Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin) or in Spring Training but the MLB postseason is not the Grapefruit League. The 2010 San Francisco Giants beat the Phillies in the NLCS and Texas Rangers in the World Series [5]with superior pitching – but they also got some help from timely offense. Harvey Haddix and Lew Burdette combined for the best-pitched game of all time (May 26, 1959) where Haddix registered 8 K in 12 perfect IP (allowed one hit in the 13th), only to be countered by Burdette who allowed 12 hits but no runs in his 13 frames. Haddix and Pittsburgh lost the game in the bottom of the 13th because it only takes one run to win the game. Even a staff of Warren Spahn, Cy Young, Bob Gibson, Whitey Ford and Bob Feller can’t win unless they have some modicum of offense.

[6]The Phillies pitching staff ranks best overall in wins (49), ERA (3.05), SHO (11), QS (53), ER (244), BB (207), CG (9) while Philadelphia (1.19, 3rd overall) leads Boston (1.28, 8th) in WHIP. This series will help prove the not-so-old-adage that good pitching beats good hitting… except (of course) when it doesn’t.

The Red Sox are a superior hitting team – possibly the most feared lineup in baseball – who happen to have good pitching. The Phillies are a diamond-studded team of moundsmen who could use some help finding the bat rack (and have lost one of their four aces). No one in [7]the Phillies starting lineup has an average better than .300, while Boston boasts three (Gonzalez, Ortiz, Ellsbury). David Ortiz (17 HR) is a DH and may not see much action in a National League park but Adrian Gonzalez is on pace for 160 RBI and is currently hitting .359. Six Sox regulars (Pedroia, Lowrie, Saltlamacchia, Youklis, Ortiz & Gonzalez) are hitting at least .250 (with Carl Crawford on DL). For the Phillies, Shane Victorino (.298) [8]and Placido Polanco (.292) are closest to .300 while Chase Utley (.265), Ryan Howard (.261), Jimmy Rollins (.261) and Carlos Ruiz (.257) lap the field of Raul Ibanez (.240), Ben Francisco (.218) and Domonic Brown (.206). John Mayberry Jr. (.231) and Pete Orr (.230) are in AAA while pitchers Vance Worley (.250), Cole Hamels (.242) and Cliff Lee (.222) might be asked to take over one of the corner outfield spots.

[9]Cliff Lee (8-5, 2.87 ERA) has been unbelievable in the month of June going 3-0 allowing 13 hits and one earned run in 24 IP, racking up 21 strikeouts to just 5 walks over this time. Lee hopes to close out the month with another strong effort (two shutouts back-to-back first time since [10]1964 for Phillies starter) tonight vs. Josh Beckett (6-2, 1.86 ERA, 11 QS, [11]7.73 K/9IP). Vance Worley (2 wins in 7 starts, allowing 32 hits and 11 ER in 29 IP and totaling 22K vs. 12 BB) will take the ball in Game 2 vs. John Lackey (5-6, 7.36 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 5.49 K/9IP). Cole Hamels (9-3, 2.51 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 13 QS, 104 IP, 19BB/103K) will finish the series against Boston [12]lefthander Jon Lester (9-3, 3.70 ERA, [13]1.27 WHIP, 8.78 K/9IP). Another area of concern is the bullpen. The Phillies are without Brad Lidge, JC Romero, Jose Conteras and Ryan Madson (15 SV, 1.19 WHIP) who has been placed on the 15 Day DL [14]with a deep hand bruise. Rookie Michael Stutes (2-0, 2.38 ERA in 24 G, 1.19 WHIP, 8.74 K/9IP) and sophomore Antonio Bastardo (3-0, 0.96 ERA in 31 games, 0.86 WHIP, 33K in 28 IP) will likely be asked to take over the late inning roles while Scott Mathieson (5H, 2 BB, 3 K in 3 IP) will join David Herndon and Danys Baez to bridge the gap.

Phillies hope that their starters go the distance in games one and three while Worley may need the bullpen to finish off game two. Boston sports a bullpen consisting of Jonathan Papelbon (13 SV, 39K in 29 IP), Bobby Jenks (14K in 12 IP) and young Daniel Bard (2.55 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 14 Holds & 8.41 K/9IP) along with Dan Wheeler and Hideki Okajima.


No doubt that this will eventually come down to Hitting vs. Pitching. While there will be no DH for these [16]games under National League rules, it also allows the option of bringing David “Big Papi” Ortiz off the bench as a pinch hitter. The best pinch hitter the Phillies can [17]counter with is Ross Gload (.298) who is also limited by injuries. Will Domonic Brown (.206, 4 HR, 11 RBI) emerge renewed from his meeting in the manager’s office? Can Ben Francisco (.218, 6 HR, 26 RBI in 179 AB) or Raul Ibanez (.240, 8 HR, 32 RBI) lock up a corner outfield spot for the second half of the season? Is [18]this the final litmus test before the Phillies make a deal to trade for more offense?



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Time to Pay the Piper

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[19] http://prosportsblogging.com/mlb-baseball/philadelphia-phillies/o-is-for-offense/: http://prosportsblogging.com/mlb-baseball/philadelphia-phillies/o-is-for-offense/

[20] http://prosportsblogging.com/mlb-baseball/trade-talk-season-check-with-irs-first/: http://prosportsblogging.com/mlb-baseball/trade-talk-season-check-with-irs-first/

[21] http://prosportsblogging.com/mlb-baseball/philadelphia-phillies/time-to-pay-the-piper/: http://prosportsblogging.com/mlb-baseball/philadelphia-phillies/time-to-pay-the-piper/

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[23] http://prosportsblogging.com/mlb-baseball/philadelphia-phillies/trading-deadline-approaches/: http://prosportsblogging.com/mlb-baseball/philadelphia-phillies/trading-deadline-approaches/

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