Following a tough series versus the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Miami Marlins are in last place in the NL East and are looking to climb back out of that pit. To do that, they will have to do defeat their next opponents, the Philadelphia Phillies, as the fourth place Phillies come to town for a three-game set. The Phillies stand just a half game ahead of the Marlins in the standings, so this meeting will be a matchup to get out of the division cellar.
Tale of the Tape
|.302 (25)||wOBA||.312 (19)|
|85 (28)||wRC+||92 (T-22)|
|4.15 (20)||ERA||4.09 (19)|
|3.87 (12)||FIP||3.82 (8)|
The Marlins and Phillies seem evenly matched in terms of pitching, with the Phillies hurt by injuries (Roy Halladay) and regression (Vance Worley), while the Marlins have suffered from full-on collapse (Ricky Nolasco, Carlos Zambrano) and personnel losses (Anibal Sanchez). Either way, both staffs have not thrown their best out there for a while now this season, and that has hindered their teams' respective success.
Meanwhile, the Marlins continue to show offensive futility as the club boasts an undermanned lineup. Of course, the Phillies underwent a similar retooling this trade deadline, trading away two outfield starters in Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino and leaving themselves mostly empty in the outfield. The club has also been hurt by injuries that kept Ryan Howard and Chase Utley out at the beginning of the season; both players have only recently returned, and their rust is somewhat evident.
To preview the series, I sent five questions over to Peter, aka WholeCamels, of the SB Nation Phillies blog The Good Phight. He was gracious enough to answer the questions on short notice, so I have to thank him for his answers. Check out what he had to say as the Phillies come to town.
1) The Phillies have had a disappointing season, going from division champions to basement dwellers. What was the biggest issue that led to the current state of the Phillies?
The quick, easy, and accurate answer is injuries. When your two best hitters, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard (putting aside positional adjustments) miss about half of the season, and your Super-Ace Roy Halladay fights through injuries, misses two months, and then battles with diminished stuff, the wind comes right out of your sales. Add in a relatively minor injury to Cliff Lee, and his bizarre season otherwise, a slight decline from Cole Hamels, and Vance Worley's foreseeable regression, and the pitching staff just hasn't been what it was projected to be.2) The Marlins made a number of trades before the trade deadline and the words "fire sale" was plastered all over their moves by media and fans. What was the reaction of the Phillies fan base after the deadline deals of Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino, and Joe Blanton?
Hunter Pence: I'm reluctant to say that it was "good riddance," but Pence received a lot of the blame for the team's first half struggles, which wasn't really fair in light of the fact that he was performing pretty much as he had for most of his career. His other-worldly two months in Philadelphia last summer set a very high bar, and the perception that the Phillies sent away too much in trade to acquire him last year (Note: They did), resulted in a quick loss of "fan favorite" status for the goofy right fielder.
With the Pence trade, what is important to note and what many people don't understand, is that the team wasn't just trading away Pence, they were trading away the obligation to pay him the $14-15 million he was likely to be awarded during his final year of arbitration in 2013. Pence is a very nice player, but a team with payroll restrictions cannot really afford to pay an above-average guy that kind of coin. Catching prospect Tommy Joseph was a nice return, and outfielder Nate Schierholtz is a capable fourth outfielder/platoon type.
Shane Victorino: With Victorino, there was mostly sadness and regret that another key member of the 2008 World Championship team was departing. Victorino had struggled with a hand injury most of the season, reducing his offensive effectiveness, but still played a solid centerfielder. He's a guy with value and it wouldn't surprise me if the Phillies re-sign him this offseason.
Joe Blanton: Blanton has always gotten a little bit of a bum rap, in part for his physique, and also the fact that he spent the last two seasons as "the other guy" in the otherwise stacked Phillies starting rotations. He's not a great pitcher, but he's an adequate one.
3) What are Phillies fans watching for in the second half of the season with contention out of the picture?
For me, the big storylines for the rest of the season are Domonic Brown, who has all but been guaranteed a full-time outfield spot in 2013, and tracking Roy Halladay's performance and stuff down the stretch.
Brown has been a lightning rod and has gone from super-elite prospect to "bust" in the eyes of many despite never really getting a full chance at the big league level. His outfield defense in 2011 was atrocious, and he was sent to Triple-A in the spring allegedly for "playing time," but I suspect the actual reason was to allow the 24 year old outfielder time to work out some issues in a lower-pressure environment. With the Phillies effectively out of the pennant race, the big league games now "low pressure," and two outfield vacancies left by the departed Victorino and Pence, now is the time for Brown, and he's done a decent job so far.
As for Halladay, he has lost velocity, even after his return from the disabled list, which is troubling, particularly for a 35 year old starter with an enormous workload in previous seasons. Halladay struggled after his return last month, but has post two excellent starts in a row, most recently relying heavily on his curveball to dominate the Cardinals last Friday. Halladay is one of the hardest workers in the game, and I suspect he can re-make himself into a good starting pitcher with diminished stuff, but his days of being a Cy Young caliber starting pitcher are probably over.
4) I know The Good Phight was on Cole Hamels Trade Watch for a while before the extension. What were your thoughts on the six-year, $144 million deal he received?
A lot of money, but the cost of doing business. Frankly, I don't know how you can go $24 million a year on Cliff Lee into his late-30s, and refuse to do the same for Hamels, who isn't as good as Lee was at the time their contracts were signed but was four years younger.
Frankly, I'm also pleased that I don't have to change my screen name.
5) What is the positive that you are going to take away from the Phillies' performance thus far?
Wow. Carlos Ruiz's MVP-caliber season, maybe, but that's been derailed by injury.
That's it. Depressing.
I want to thank WholeCamels again for answering these questions for me to preview to Marlins/Phillies Battle For Not Last Place this week. Good luck to all during the series!