Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Series Preview: Phillies at Braves
After the Phillies got off to a quick start this year, a lot has been made about the Phillies having a negative run differential and their record in 1-run games.
Yes, having a negative run differential is a good indicator that you're going to lose more games than you win. But let's look at that negative run differential. The Phils have scored 104 runs in 32 games. That's 3.25 per game, which is pretty paltry. They have given up 131 runs per game. That's 4.09. We'll take that over the course of a season, right?
Take away the Phillies first four games - when they went 0-4 - and they have given up 3.75 runs per game (105 runs in 28 games).
After giving up more than five runs in three of their first four games, the Phillies have given up more than five runs in a quarter of their games.
So a closer look tells us that over 17 percent of the total season, the Phillies' pitchers have been much better than anticipated. Meanwhile the offense struggled as much, scoring 3.28 runs per game, over the same span.
It's not hard to imagine the offense actually getting better in the coming months. The only position player who has been doing better than expected is Odubel Herrera.
Left Field has given the Phillies a .446 OPS, right field has given them a .492 OPS. First base has given them a .627 OPS.
Those are brutal numbers.
With guys like Tommy Joseph (.386/.409/687), Cam Perkins (.310/.333/451) and Nick Williams (.271./.291/.396 after starting the season poorly) hitting well at Triple-A, it's hard not to imagine some offensive help around the All-Star break.
Which means the Phillies probably just have to tread water until then if they are to finish the season anywhere close to .500.
It should help that the Phils are scheduled to play a lot of games against sub-.500 teams before the break. Before the Midsummer Classic, Pete Mackanin's boys will face off against the Braves (nine games), Diamondbacks (7) Rockies (4), Brewers (4), Twins (3), Tigers (3), Royals (3), Reds (3). That's 33 of 58 games against teams currently below .500.
Tuesday May 10: 7:10
Wednesday May 11: 7:10
Thursday May 12: 7:10
Adam Morgan (0-0, 6.00) vs Matt Wisler (1-2, 3.24)
Jerad Eickhoff (1-4, 4.21) vs Jhoulys Chacin (1-2, 5.40)
Vincent Velazquez (4-1, 2.17) vs Aaron Blare (0-2, 3.31)
What to know about the Braves
Atlanta has struggled mightily in the early goings of the season. The hitters are last in runs, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage. They have fewer home runs as a team (7) than at least 15 players, including Jose Altuve (9) and Neil Walker (9).
They have been outscored by 63 runs.
The pitching has been a bit better, but only because it's mediocre. The Braves are 11th in ERA, 13 in strikeouts, 10 in walks and ninth in homers. They've given up five home runs for every one they've hit.
It's resulted in a 7-23 record.
Jerad Eickhoff has been a lot better than he's pitched. He's got a 3.29 FIP compared to his 4.21 ERA. He's given up 1.7 walks and a homer per 9 innings. He's also given up just 8.7 hits per nine. But he's got a 1-4 record. Baseball can be brutal to pitchers. Eickhoff is going up against Chacin, who has been really struggling. Since his first start of the season, which included 6 innings of shutout ball, Chacin has given up 16 runs in 20 innings. He's given up 4 homers and eight walks during those four games.
What we can't wait to see
Considering the team has given up 27 more runs than it's scored, fans shouldn't get ahead of themselves. But this is a series you really should expect to win.
I like Adam Morgan more than I probably should. It's also safe to assume that, thanks to the Phillies' stockpile of young arms, he's the starter who will be replaced at some point.
Facing a lefty-heavy lineup, Morgan should do well.
A.J. Pierzynski has yet to get a hit off a lefty in 12 at-bats.Erick Aybar is hitting .162/.158/.189 against southpaws this year. Mallex Smith is hitting .105 against lefties. Nick Markakis has a nice .282 batting average against lefties, but his OPS is .682 against them, compared to .790 overall.
Freddie Freeman, the Braves home run leader, is doing well against lefties, launching 2 homers and hitting .275/.408/.450 against them.
So if Morgan can limit the damage from Freeman, he should pull out a nice win tonight.