Friday, October 24, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Who's hot? Who's not? More importantly, does it matter?

You'll find an interesting dichotomy within the baseball coverage in today's Daily News. On one page, there is a story about the Phillies' potential to use these last seven games to get hot. On another, there is a story about their potential to use these last seven games to get some much-needed rest.

Who's hot? Who's not? More importantly, does it matter?

You'll find an interesting dichotomy within the baseball coverage in today's Daily News. On one page, there is a story about the Phillies' potential to use these last seven games to get hot. On another, there is a story about their potential to use these last seven games to get some much-needed rest.

This raises a number of questions. Is it more important for the Phillies to get their regulars and pitchers into a groove after a mediocre seven-game road trip that saw mixed results from the line-up, bullpen and rotation? Or is it more important for all of the above to get some rest, particularly guys like Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez and Shane Victorino, all of whom have shown signs of fatigure this month? Are the two mutually exclusive, or might they go hand-in-hand?

I spent this morning poring over statistics in an attempt to find some quantifiable answers. Which playoff contender has the hottest pitching staff right now? The hottest line-up? The hottest team overall?

First, though, does it even matter?

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History suggests yes. . .and no. Last year, the Phillies went 7-3 in their last 10 games and 14-6 in their last 20. Two years ago, the Rockies went 9-1 in their last 10 games and 16-4 in their last 20. Both teams represented the National League in the World Series.

But in 2006,  Cardinals went 3-7 in their last 10 and were out-scored by an average of a run per game. They went 8-12 in their last 20, and 13-17 in their last 30. . .and they won the World Series.

Here are the last eight NL Champions and their records and average score in their last 10, 20 and 30 games:

2008 Phillies:     7-3 (5.2-4.6), 14-6 (5.7-4.7), 19-11 (5.2-4.4)
2007 Rockies:   9-1 (6.2-3.3), 16-4 (6.7-4.1), 22-8 (6.3-4.3)
2006 Cardinals: 3-7 (4.6-5.6), 8-12 (5.3-4.7), 13-17 (4.6-4.3)
2005 Astros:     6-4 (4.0-3.1), 13-7 (4.6-3.4), 19-11 (4.4-3.6)
2004 Cardinals: 5-5 (5.2-4.8), 11-9 (4.8-4.2), 17-13 (4.9-4.4)
2003 Marlins:    7-3 (4.2-4.2), 14-6 (4.6-4.2), 21-9 (4.5-3.8)
2002 Giants:     9-1 (5.3-1.9), 15-5 (5.3-3.0), 22-8 (5.3-3.1)
2001 DBacks:  7-3 (5.9-4.5), 12-8 (6.3-4.0), 15-15 (5.7-5.0)

So unless you play in a non-descript midwestern city with horrible nightlife and Stepford Fans, it pays to be hot.

Which brings us to 2009, and the five teams with a legit chance at the postseason. Who is hot? Who is not? Who should the Phillies fear in the postseason? How hot are they? Does it matter? Does the offense need to start clicking?

Glad you asked. . .

Warning: what you are about to read is an orgy of information that only Bill James and Rain Man - or are they the same person - could possibly make sense of. But I'll try.

National League Standings w/ Remaining Opponents

1. Dodgers (93-63): Pitt. (1), SD (2), Colorado (3)
2. Phillies (90-65, 2.5 GB): Hou. (4), Fla. (3)
3. St. Louis (90-66, 3.0 GB): Cin. (3), Mil. (3)
4. Colorado (88-68, 5 GB): Mil. (3), LaD (3)
5. Atlanta (85-70, 7.5 GB): Fla. (3), Was. (4)

NL Contenders w/ Record in Last 10, 20, 30 games

Dodgers:  7-3, 13-7, 19-11
Phillies:    5-5, 13-7, 17-13
St. Louis:  5-5, 10-10, 18-12
Colorado:  6-4, 12-8, 16-14
Atlanta:     8-2, 15-5, 19-11

Pitching

Last 20 games, record when allowing 0-3 runs, 4-6 runs, 7+ runs in a game
0-3:
Dodgers 8-1, Phillies 8-1, Cardinals 9-4, Rockies 9-1, Braves 10-2
4-6: Dodgers 5-4, Phillies 5-1, Cardinals 1-4, Rockies 2-3, Braves 3-3
7-+: Dodgers 0-2, Phillies 0-5, Cardinals 0-2, Rockies 1-4, Braves 1-1

Season, record when allowing 0-3 runs, 4-6 runs, 7+ runs in a game
0-3: Dodgers 67-15, Phillies 56-8, Cardinals 71-13, Rockies 60-13, Braves 65-16
4-6: Dodgers 25-30, Phillies 28-29, Cardinals 14-28, Rockies 21-26, Braves 16-32
7-+: Dodgers 1-18, Phillies 6-28, Cardinals 5-25, Rockies 7-29, Braves 4-22

Last 20 games, pitching lines
Dodgers: 3.05 ERA, 73 runs, 159 hits, 59 BB, 47 XBH, 14 HR, 6/9 SB, 159 SO
Phillies:   4.07 ERA, 84 runs, 189 hits, 46 BB, 63 XBH, 19 HR, 12/14 SB, 140 SO
St. Louis: 3.20 ERA, 67 runs, 165 hits, 59 BB, 46 XBH, 10 HR, 5/8 SB, 153 SO
Colorado: 4.34 ERA, 89 runs, 149 hits, 82 BB, 43 XBH, 16 HR, 11/15 SB, 177 SO
Atlanta:    2.99 ERA, 65 runs, 162 hits, 60 BB, 44 XBH, 16 HR, 14/20 SB, 148 SO

Analysis: Despite all the hand-wringing about the inconsistent performance of the Phillies offense, the numbers suggest that you should concentrate most of your concern on the pitching staff. The good news is that, over the last 20 games, the Phillies are 13-2 when they hold an opponent under seven runs, the best mark of any of the contenders. Yes, you say, but they will be facing better pitchers in the postseason. Well, some number crunching by Rich Hofmann a couple weeks ago revealed that, at the time, the Phillies had averaged 3.86 earned runs per nine innings against the Top 12 pitchers  in the NL based on ERA, the highest among L.A, St. Louis and Colorado (Atlanta wasn't considered a legit playoff threat at the time). The bad news is that Phillies pitchers have allowed seven or more runs in five games. The worse news is that two of those games were started by their top two starters, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, and a third was started by likely Game 3 starter Joe Blanton.

Offense

Last 20 games, record when scoring 0-3 runs, 4-6 runs, 7+ runs in a game
0-3:
Dodgers 1-4, Phillies 1-1, Cardinals 4-8, Rockies 2-6, Braves 3-4
4-6: Dodgers 4-3, Phillies 9-4, Cardinals 3-2, Rockies 7-2, Braves 6-1
7-+: Dodgers 8-0, Phillies 3-2, Cardinals 3-0, Rockies 3-0, Braves 6-0

Season, record when scoring 0-3 runs, 4-6 runs, 7+ runs in a game
0-3: Dodgers 18-41, Phillies 10-44, Cardinals 25-50, Rockies 11-39, Braves 11-56
4-6: Dodgers 36-19, Phillies 41-17, Cardinals 33-14, Rockies 40-36, Braves 34-12
7-+: Dodgers 39-3, Phillies 39-4, Cardinals 32-2, Rockies 37-3, Braves 40-4

Last 20 games, hitting lines
Dodgers:
116 runs, 185 hits, 86 BB, 68 XBH, 25 HR, 16/21 SB, 148 LOB
Phillies:  
108 runs, 185 hits, 72 BB, 70 XBH, 26 HR, 17/22 SB, 149 LOB
St. Louis: 
77 runs, 186 hits, 50 BB, 52 XBH, 16 HR, 14/17 SB, 154 LOB
Colorado: 
92 runs, 159 hits, 88 BB, 53 XBH, 21 HR, 15/21 SB, 146 LOB
Atlanta:   
103 runs, 184 hits, 71 BB, 64 XBH, 17 HR, 6/8 SB, 153 LOB

Analysis: Look at the hottest offensive team over the last 20 games -- surprise, surprise. The Phillies have scored four or more runs in 18 games, more than the Dodgers (15), Cardinals (8), Rockies (12) and Braves (13). They have scored the second-most runs, have the most extra-base hits, most home runs, most stolen bases, and -- believe it or not -- have stranded fewer runners than two of the four other teams.

Overall

I do not have any concrete numbers to back it up, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the majority of people in the Delaware Valley consider the Cardinals to be the team they'd least like to face in the playoffs, most certainly in the first round. I've heard other writers say it. I've heard fans say it. And I've heard friends say it. But I contend, and the numbers over the last 20 games back me up, that the Dodgers are the team that could send the Phillies to the earliest exit. Both L.A. and the Cardinals have succeeded in thwarting the Phillies' primary means of offense-- home runs and base-stealing. But the once-vaunted Cardinals offense has seen its production drop as it's schedule has toughened. They've scored three or fewer runs in 12 of the last 20 games. The Dodgers, meanwhile, have scored more than four runs in 15 of their last 20 games to go with a 3.05 ERA. They have a tough lefty in Randy Wolf who has given the Phillies problems, a righty in Hiroki Kuroda who has stymied the Phillies since coming to America, and another lefty in Clayton Kershaw who has improved vastly since the last time he faced Ryan Howard and Co. More than anything, the Dodgers are hot, having won seven out of 10 games and 19 of their last 30.

If ever there were incentive for the Phillies to finish strong this week, the Dodgers are it. Currently a half game ahead of the Cardinals for the second-best record in the NL, they would face the Rockies if the playoffs began today. But if St. Louis out-plays them over these final seven games -- and with six games against the Reds and Brewers, the toughest part of their stretch-run schedule is behind them -- and finished in second place, the Phillies would likely be headed to Dodger Stadium for a five-game series.

This brings us back to the original question. Which is more important over these final seven games: finding some rest for the weary, or finding a groove? 

Perhaps the answer is C. - Out-playing the Cardinals.

^

Can't get enough numbers? Here are some more:

Record, Score against LaD, PHI, STL, COL and ATL
Dodgers: 21-15, 167-140 (12-3, 92-56 vs COL, 2-5, 19-31 vs STL)
Phillies:   19-17, 165-166 (8-10, 69-88 vs ATL)
St. Louis:  9-16, 91-125 (1-6, 19-42 vs COL, 1-4, 24-40 vs PHI)
Colorado:15-21, 164-184
Atlanta:   22-17, 182-154 ( 4-3, 28-30 vs LAD, 4-2, 24-17 vs STL, 4-4, 42-38 vs COL)

Last 30 games hitting:
Dodgers: 157 runs, 277 hits, 118 BB, 96 XBH, 41 HR, 20/28 SB, 223 LOB
Phillies:    129 runs, 261 hits, 91 BB, 98 XBH, 36 HR, 21/26 SB, 219 LOB
St. Louis: 132 runs, 278 hits, 85 BB, 87 XBH, 29 HR, 20/23 SB, 222 LOB
Colorado:128 runs, 256 hits, 115 BB, 82 XBH, 34 HR, 20/32 SB, 221 LOB
Atlanta:    150 runs, 280 hits, 107 BB, 84 XBH, 27 HR, 8/11 SB, 233 LOB

Last 30 games pitching:
Dodgers: 2.87 ERA, 102 runs, 243 hits, 92 BB, 69 XBH, 23 HR, 13/22 SB, 253 SO
Phillies:    4.04 ERA, 122 runs, 267 hits, 71 BB, 89 XBH, 31 HR, 17/21 SB, 219 SO
St. Louis: 3.23 ERA, 100 runs, 245 hits, 85 BB, 68 XBH, 14 HR, 6/11 SB, 216 SO
Colorado:4.31 ERA, 132 runs, 233 hits, 114 BB, 73 XBH, 26 HR, 19/24 SB, 242 SO
Atlanta:    3.36 ERA, 110 runs, 264 hits, 86 BB, 85 XBH, 26 HR, 16/22 SB, 221 SO

Last 10 games hitting:
Dodgers:  64 runs, 93 hits, 46 BB, 38 XBH, 14 HR, 6/9 SB, 71 LOB
Phillies:    56 runs, 95 hits, 36 BB, 33 XBH, 12 HR, 6/11 SB, 77 LOB
St. Louis: 38 runs, 93 hits, 24 BB, 25 XBH, 9 HR, 6/8 SB, 73 LOB
Colorado:51 runs, 88 hits, 41 BB, 32 XBH, 12 HR, 6/11 SB, 76 LOB
Atlanta:    59 runs, 98 hits, 32 BB, 32 XBH, 9 HR, 5/5 SB, 72 LOB

Last 10 games pitching:

Dodgers: 3.18 ERA, 38 runs, 79 hits, 32 BB, 23 XBH, 8 HR, 5/6 SB, 79 SO
Phillies:    4.73 ERA, 49 runs, 99 hits, 25 BB, 32 XBH, 12 HR, 6/8 SB, 74 SO
St. Louis: 2.81 ERA, 31 runs, 84 hits, 31 BB, 23 XBH, 4 HR, 3/4 SB, 78 SO
Colorado:4.35 ERA, 46 runs, 74 hits, 37 BB, 23 XBH, 8 HR, 6/8 SB, 90 SO
Atlanta:    3.36 ERA, 35 runs, 79 hits, 30 BB, 30 XBH, 12 HR, 5/10 SB, 74 SO
 

David Murphy Daily News Staff Writer
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