Friday, May 19, 2006

Don't Jump Off That Wagon Just Yet Folks

Yes, the Phillies lost their third game in a row yesterday in Milwaukee. Yes, they got swept by a young team who ran out Dave Bush and Dana Eveland as starting pitchers. But let's not jump off the bandwagon just yet. Let me list the ways:

-- Dave Bush is better than people think, as is Dana Eveland. Both are young pitchers with a good track record in the minors, with Eveland(aged 22) getting to the majors in 2.5 years. He's better than his numbers have indicated this year, and he's good against lefties. There's a reason why the Brewers pitched him, and we must realize that Phillies baseball doesn't occur in a vacuum. Other teams have good young players and pitchers too.

-- Another reason is that the Phillies are STILL 12-4 in May. Yes, that's right, they're still winning at a 75% clip. We must realize that if we kept this pace up, we'd be the best team of all-time. The Phillies simply won't win at such a dramatic rate, but we're still in a very good month.

-- We were on the road. Going 3-3 on the road is not horrible, and we swept a good team in the Cincinnati Reds. The Milwaukee Brewers in general are a pretty good team with a good shot at the NL Central when Ben Sheets comes back. Their offense has several good bats, and their pitching has held up thus far. Chris Capuano is an ace now, and while the Phillies didn't hit him well, they hung in there against the tough lefty.

-- Bobby Abreu's bat is back. He had a good series at Milwaukee after struggling mightily for about three weeks. He still hasn't hit a home run in a solid month (April 19th), but he drove the ball with some power into the gaps. Bobby went 5-12 with 2 doubles, 2 walks, 2 SB, and 3 RBI. The guy just gets on base whether he's hitting or not, but it looks like he's starting to hit again. This could be key in winning games, as he was not hitting well during the Phils hot streak.

-- Our two best pitchers are going against Boston. There has been tremendous talk about Cole Hamels, even from this blog, but Brett Myers and Jon Lieber remain the two best pitchers on this staff. Myers has gone into the 7th inning in 5 of his 8 starts, with two of the early exits being his first two starts. He has a great ERA (2.73), a decent WHIP(1.23) and is holding opponents to a decent batting average (241). His K per 9 is 7.17, walks per 9 at 2.91, and K:BB ratio is a good 2.48. AND he's improving with each start. This is a great sign for Myers and the Phillies, as he is blossoming into the ace many thought he could be.

Also, as this blog thought, Jon Lieber is not as bad as he was pitching in April. Lieber has started to improve, most recently giving up only 2 hits in 8.2 IP against the Reds. His ERA is down to 5.50, WHIP is down to 1.22, and his peripheral stats are improving too: opponents are hitting .286(down from .365 in mid-April), 5.85 K per 9, 0.86 walks per 9! and his K:BB ratio is 6.8! Those are tremendous numbers which are starting to go back to what he approached last season. He's a viable pitcher who can be on or off depending on if he can control his slider, but he should be a positive for the Phillies going forward. Keep in mind that he leads the majors in K/BB ratio. He's also doing well in DIPS(which tries to take away the defense's impact on pitchers) stats, as is Cory Lidle.

-- Tom Gordon is our best reliever, and did not get any time against the Brewers. He is simply dominating thus far this year, to the tune of a 1.53 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, and converting 13 of 14 saves. He's also struck out 13.25 per 9 innings while only giving up 3.06 walks per 9! This gives him a 4.33 K:BB ratio, which is stellar. He's simply in control when he's on the mound, and has shown little signs of letting up, sans a Carlos Delgado two-run homer. It's not his fault Manuel did not pitch him against the Brewers and trusts Ryan Franklin and Arthur Rhodes for no real reason at all. Over the course of the season, the bullpen will likely shake out, as Brian Sanches(2-2 1.50 ERA, 0.50 WHIP, 18 K, 3 BB in 18 IP) and Eude Brito(4-1 2.56 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 25 K, 17 BB in 45.2 IP) are nipping at the heels of guys like Rhodes, Madson, and Franklin. They are ready to step in, though Brito's walks could be a concern. But so are Rhodes' walks.

Strap yourself in and enjoy the ride, but let's not jump out of the window every time the Phillies lose.

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