While a few of their offseason moves may have been baffling, like trading Cliff Lee for Seattle’s best B-level prospects, the fact that they dipped into their extensive prospect pool for the league’s best pitcher is a sign of their commitment to winning. Even early season struggles and injury problems throughout the year couldn’t hinder the belief of everyone in baseball that at season’s end the Phillies would be there.
Winning 23 of their last 30, the Phillies are without a doubt the best team in baseball. Due in large part to their obnoxious fans, they give the Yankees a run as the most hated team in baseball too.
You know the television series It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia? When the cast was first pitching the show to television executives, it was originally set in Los Angeles, but because no one would find it likely that such morally depraved and narcissistic characters could exist anywhere outside of the seventh layer of hell known as Philadelphia, it was set there to make it more believable.
The Phillies open their playoff campaign later this afternoon against the Reds in Philadelphia. According to manager Charlie Manuel there shouldn’t be too many surprises.
We’ve got all of the reports on them, we’ve played them, we know them, they know us. It’s not like we’re tricking anybody. At the same time, if we play them we have to beat them, no matter how good they are. If you’re going to win, you’ve got to beat them. We know everything about them. I don’t know what we don’t know. We haven’t seen Chapman. He’s pretty good.
Pretty good? 107 MPH is pretty good? Charlie might want to check those reports again.
The Difference Maker
For the past few season, the Philadelphia Phillies have leaned heavily on left handed hitters to find success at the plate. In addition to Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez batting from the left side, the Phillies have also employed switch hitters Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino.
Ken Rosenthal points out that despite the team’s dependence on these players, Philadelphia actually performed better this season against southpaws than right handers. Rosenthal attributes this in part to Ryan Howard having the closest splits of his career this season.
Truth be told the Phillies have always hit lefties well. You’d have to go back to 2004 to find a Philadelphia team that didn’t have a higher OPS against left handed pitching. The fact that Howard’s splits are so much closer this season has little to do with him improving against southpaws, and far more to do with him struggling overall, but especially against right handers, where his OPS has dropped off by .212 from last season.
What does this mean? The Reds are fine using three right handed starters against Philadelphia, but don’t think for a moment that they shouldn’t use situational lefties when Howard comes to the plate. Unlike Utley and his career even splits, the Phillies first baseman has a far longer history of struggling against southpaws, no matter what this year’s numbers might suggest.
Catcher Carlos Ruiz and third baseman Placido Polanco are both nursing sore left elbows, but will be expected to start later this afternoon.
As I mentioned in the Reds preview, Joey Votto’s only known Kryptonite has been groundball pitchers. All three of Philadelphia’s starters can pitch to contact, but Roy Halladay has induced 367 ground balls this season. He ranks third in total strikes pitched, but tenth in total pitches.
That, my friends, is called throwing to contact. Watch for Votto to get a steady diet of pitches low and in the zone.
Seriously, I know it’s a generalization, and I know that there are very intelligent ones out there, but Phillies fans are a completely different sub level of humanity.
Exhibit #1: Smart idea: Leaving the ballpark early to avoid traffic. Bad idea: Drinking 18 beers before attempting to leave the ballpark early to avoid traffic.
Exhibit #2: That slobbery mass of parenthood is eating the popcorn that litters the rows of Citizen’s Bank Park via the hand of its indentured servant child. Stay classy, Philly.