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Series Sixteen: Phillies at Marlins

Oh, what a week it was. At this time last week, most everyone in Marlin land was depressed. The Fish were out West and had just been swept by the San Diego Chicken-led San Diego Padres. Good times they were not.

But solid play and the vagaries of interleague scheduling have worked in the Marlins favor of late. Just one week after the painful sweep in San Diego, the Marlins find themselves riding a four-game win streak and in sole possession of first place. Yes, it's only May (late-May), but it's nice to be a game and a half ahead of the Braves at any point in the season.

With the stage somewhat set (yes, I know you knew it all already), let's get into the upcoming series against the Phillies. Since we last met, things have not gone very well for the Phils. They are mired in last place. Apparently getting rid of Larry Bowa wasn't a cure all.

FishStripes: Welcome back, Phanatic. It looks like we could see some good pitching and some good ballgames here in the next few days.

: We're just glad to only catch two of the Marlins big three, and not all three. Lieber and Willis tonight should be good. Tomorrow's matchup between Myers and Beckett should be too. And Wednesday's matchup between Wolf and Leiter should be good, for the Phillies.

FS: Tonight's starter for the Phillies, Jon Lieber, has been something of a surprise for the Phillies this year, hasn't he?

: Well, the New York press - which, in hindsight seems to still wish he was a Yankee - would have you think that. But in reality, Lieber has been pretty much what the club expected. His ERA (4.01) and WHIP (1.29) have been right around his career averages.

Many of his other metrics though have been down. For instance, he's striking out less than 5 batters per 9 innings. That's about one and a half fewer strikeouts than what he's averaged for his career. He's 35 though, so you expect to see the high strikeout totals start to tail off.

What wasn't expected though were the walks. Leiber has by no means been wild, but he's already walked nearly as many batters this year (17) as he did all of last season (18). That, coupled with the 12 home runs he's given up, leaves the Phillies somewhat concerned about where things could be headed.

FS: Can you give us an update on a local favorite - Pat Burrell?

: Well, Pat got off to a hot start this year - it seemed like he drove in a run with about every at bat for the first week or two. His power numbers have not been great so far, but they've been good. He actually had a great week last week (2 HR, .615 OBP, and a .950 SLG). Those have helped bump him up over the .400 OBP mark and to nearly .550 SLG.

The jury is still out on Pat. He's a good, talented player. He's still young enough to become what the Phillies thought he would be when they made him the number one overall pick. But I think we'd all like to see him put up the numbers over the course of a full season before we get too excited.

FS: The Phillies have a nice, established, veteran catcher in Mike Lieberthal. He's gotten older (33) though, and his production isn't quite what it used to be (.227/.320/.382). If you swapped Mike Lieberthal straight up for Paul LoDuca - a trade the Marlins would never make, of course - how different would these two clubs look?

: LoDuca would definitely represent a huge upgrade, at least offensively, for the Phillies. He would probably slide right in to the second or third slot in the lineup. That would make for a pretty formidable top of the order - Rollins, LoDuca, Abreu, Thome, and Burrell.

The really isn't any downside to that trade for the Phillies. For the Marlins though, there would be plenty. Lieberthal would effectively add an out to the Marlins lineup, which - at least when Gonzalez is going - there isn't really an "easy out" anywhere one through eight in their order.

The upside to the Marlins in such a deal might be defensively, as Lieberthal would likely do an excellent job working with the Marlins predominantly young, starting staff. Mike has a reputation for calling a good game from behind the plate.

I doubt it would have much impact on the standings though. If you take catching out of the equation, the Marlins have a stronger lineup and better pitching. LoDuca is - and will continue to be - more productive than Lieberthal, but the difference between the two is only enough to swing two or three games (maybe a few more) into the Marlins favor.

FS: Thanks, Phanatic! Good luck - after Wednesday's game. But not before then.