Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Phillies Clinch Playoff Berth

Thanks to Halladay, Lee and Hamels

The Philadelphia Phillies entered today's game with the Houston Astros looking to claim a playoff spot. Roy Halladay didn't waste any time delivering. Halladay threw his first shutout of the season, his 8th complete game of 2011, as the Phillies won 1-0 in a crisp two hours six minutes.

The question about this Phillies team was never about the pitching staff. Their top 3 starters consisting of Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels are a combined 48-20, with a 2.49 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and 599 Ks in 629.1 IP after today's win. Put simply these guys are excellent at minimizing base runners. The Phillies have also received big contributions from NL Rookie of the year candidate Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick has provided quality innings with Roy Oswalt sidelined with injuries at different points of the season.

They are fortunate their starters have been incredible, as their offense is mediocre at best. Once considered a potent and sometimes explosive offense, the Phillies' offensive NL rankings (16 teams) are 9th in AVG, T-7th in HR and 7th in OPS.  Not exactly intimidating is it?

In addition to their offensive deficiencies, the Phillies are a poor defensive team per their UZR/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating scaled to 150 games) ranking among the rest of the National League. Their team UZR/150 is -2.6 which is tied for 12th in the NL. The Phillies do not make a lot of errors, but the ball better be hit right at them as they have little or no range. They are unable of throwing runners out from the outfield and show little aptitude in turning double plays.

So the pressure is firmly on the starting pitching. Can Halladay, Lee and Hamels, after throwing what will amount to anywhere between 215-240 innings each in the regular season, be as effective during the playoffs? Each team they face will throw their best starters and while they may not be as talented as the Phillies' best, there is every chance that they will be able to stifle the Phillies' bats. The Phillies better hope for the same contributions from their starters because they cannot rely on their offense to carry them and when the ball is put into play the Phillies tend to have a hard time preventing runs.