Things to Know about the Philadelphia Phillies

The Mets return home this weekend for a three game set against the Philadelphia Phillies. Here are some things you might want to know about them:

Record: 31-19, first place NL East
Manager: Charlie Manuel. 794-637 (.555%) lifetime managerial record.
Park: Mets are home. Citi Field. Memorial Day weekend and the Phillies should be a nice test for attendance.

Quickly . . .
Can they hit? Eh.
Can they pitch? Does Charlie Daniels play a mean fiddle?
Can they field? Not so much.
Who’s their best player? The Mets miss Halladay this series, so check out Chase Utley.

Lineup:
SS – Jimmy Rollins – S
2B – Chase Utley – L
3B – Placido Polanco – R
1B – Ryan Howard – L
LF – Raul Ibanez – L
C – Carlos Ruiz – R
RF – Domonic Brown – L
CF – John Mayberry Jr. – R

Traveler of both time and space, Chase Utley has returned to the Phillies lineup, cracking his first home run yesterday. He has been much needed: Since May 1st, the Phillies are third to last in the league in on-base percentage (.295), second to last in slugging percentage (.349), and only the Giants, Dodgers, and Mets have scored fewer runs. Although Raul Ibanez has shambled back to life, hitting .333/.352/.583 for the month, all the other Phillies regulars have been slumping or injured. Catcher Carlos Ruiz and rookie right fielder Domonic Brown have recently returned from the DL, but center fielder Shane Victorino tagged out when they tagged in, meaning the Phillies still haven’t been able to get all their starters on the field at the same time. This has made it a struggle for the Philadelphia bats this season – they’re scoring 3.96 runs per game playing in Citizens Bank Park – but they’ve shown signs of life recently, putting up 10 runs on Monday and another 10 runs on Thursday.

With the return of Utley and Brown, it is an extremely lefthanded lineup, so the Mets’ lefties starters — Chris Capuano and Jon Niese — could match up well. Or at least that’s an optimistic spin on Chase Utley taking the place of (relief ace) Wilson Valdez.

Rotation:
5/27: RHP – Roy Oswalt (vs Chris Capuano)
5/28: LHP – Cole Hamels (vs Mike Pelfrey)
5/29: RHP – Vance Worley (vs Jon Niese)
Miss: RHP – Roy Halladay
Miss: LHP – Cliff Lee

The offense has been off, but the Phillies are 13-11 this month because the starting pitching has been as good as the hitting has been bad. Deep breath: Through their first 50 games, Philadelphia starters have averaged 6.5 innings, 2.38 runs allowed, 0.4 home runs, 1.5 walks, and 6.2 strikeouts every time out. They’ve made 35 quality starts, a 70% rate (the NL average is 55%). They’re first in wins, strikeouts, and ERA (and FIP and xFIP). Fangraphs has them at 9.4 wins above replacement – the Giants’ rotation is second at 5.7 wins above replacement, and most teams have less than half the Phillies’ WAR total.

So they’re doing all right.

Roy Oswalt starts Friday night. He’s been moving away from his breaking pitches and throwing a changeup more often this year, and has been the least sharp of the Phillies’ core four . . .  and he has a 2.77 ERA. (*sobs*) Lefty Cole Hamels starts Game 2; he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball (3.06 ERA, 68 strikeouts in 67.1 innings), but no one, not even Phillies fans, thinks that he’s cool. Think about how difficult that combination is to pull off. Notorious Mets-slayer Vance Worley goes on Sunday, owner of a 2.12 ERA in three starts. He’s going to remain the Pete Best of the rotation for a while longer, as Joe Blanton is out with a sore elbow — Blanton will avoid Tommy John surgery (little known fact: contrary to popular belief, Tommy John surgery is not always performed by people named Tommy John), but he’s not going to be back till the break or later.

Bench:
C – Dane Sardinha – R
IF – Wilson Valdez – R
UT – Michael Martinez – S
OF – Ben Francisco – R
1B/OF – Ross Gload – L

Ross Gload has 10 hits in 35 at-bats this season, but no walks and no extra base hits, and thus a .286/.286/.286 batting line. That’s more or less the story for the entire Phillies bench: They’re not adding much offensively. The players that were supposed to hit – Gload and Ben Francisco – are slumping, and the glove men, who weren’t supposed to hit, have done just that. All the injuries have stretched the bench thin, but every team has injuries — not every team has capable replacement players. So far, the Phillies don’t appear to have many capable replacement players.

Bullpen:
RHP – Ryan Madson
RHP – Jose Contreras
RHP – Kyle Kendrick
LHP – Antonio Bastardo
LHP – J.C. Romero
RHP – Danys Baez
RHP – Michael Stutes

Closer Brad Lidge remain sidelined, but Ryan Madson (1.71 ERA) is probably a better option anyway. Antonio Bastardo provides a stable lefty arm and Jose Contreras threw a scoreless inning yesterday in his return from the DL, but everyone else is a ticking bullpen time bomb. The Phillies’ pen has a 2.66 ERA, third best in the NL, but they’re last in strikeout rate and have the third highest walk rate. J.C. Romero has a 3.75 ERA, but more walks than strikeouts. Kyle Kendrick has a 2.08 ERA, but twice as many walks as strikeouts. Danny Baez has more strikeouts than walks, but he only has 11 strikeouts in 24.1 innings, which is an unusually low total. There are a lot of top players on this team, but there are a lot of really bad ones, too.

And those were some things to know about the Philadelphia Phillies.

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