Friday, September 09, 2005


Professional baseball presents the fan with an odd dichotomy. On one hand, among the major pro team sports, an individual game is the least deterministic. That is to say, in a fancy way, that a single game does not really tell us much about the relative on-field merits between the two competing clubs. The oddness is that the individual games, when put together- aka the season, illustrates more about a baseball team than any of the seasons of the other leagues.

That being said, one conclusion I think we can safely draw from the 2005 Phillies season is the Houston Astros are pretty much better than Philadelphia.

The Phils have unfortunately seen a lot of the Astros since the wild card race took form- and it was frankly not a great experience: handled, swept twice. Now 0-for-12 over the past two years. Watching the games, I was bluntly a little amazed the Phils managed to hang around this long with this Houston club. Philadelphia does not have a single pitcher close to breaking their top three. The Astros roll a quality ‘pen out there- largely equal to the Phils it seems to me- although the Phils might have better situational lefties. Houston’s divisional schedule is a lot easier than the Phillies share.

With Wagner suffering his worst stretch of the season, dropping two in a row, the Phils probably watched any realistic shot of a wild card berth slip away. With fifty games left, I wrote the Phils almost certainly needed fifteen wins in both of their last 25 game segments. The Phillies promptly started with a hot mini-road trip out west (5-1) and rode that to fifteen wins in their first segment. But there were some diffident signs even then. For example, winning 11 of 21 to finish the first segment wasn’t bad- but it also suggested that my aggressive pace was potentially too much for a team that lost another two starting pitchers- including their most consistent (the surprising Tejada)- for a few turns.

They’re not done- but the 0-3 start of this last segment suggests that they’ll need 15-7 the rest of the way… something like that… while playing a lot of quality NL East teams. That is hard- particularly with Floyd and Brito likely making several emergency starts.

The frustration is that the Phils so clearly have left wins on the table this year through the postponement or annulment of obvious decisions: the ongoing crippling fiasco of Rollins leading off, the refusal to pull the plug ealier on Thome’s struggles, getting any third baseman at the deadline to shore up the defense and the bottom of the order. No fix would have turned the Phils into a 90 win team- but come on, fixing or mitigating any of these three obvious problems would have added 2-3 wins to their total.

And none of these fixes were really hard. Rollins just isn’t working out on top- and some sort of platoon of Michaels/Lofton would have added intelligence/saavy there- and a better OBP than .300. Thome deserved a chance to play through his difficulties- but not every single freaking day and not for three weeks when he was clearly hurt. And Bell is a shadow of a major leaguer right now- someone could have come in here and at least made the routine plays down there.

Can’t houseclean or quit yet of course- but the Phils got some problems this morning.