re the cards' potential 1st-round playoff foes: i think the padres are more dangerous than they appear, while the marlins appear more dangerous than they really are. then there are the phillies, who simply are not very dangerous -- and whom i hope the cardinals play in the nlds. they pulled out a dramatic win over atlanta last night to keep the astros in sight -- two games back in the wild-card thing with 10 to play. the game tidily illustrated philadelphia's strengths and weaknesses: they get on base and score runs, but they blow leads, cough up dingers, and flat-out can't pitch.
markers: the phils have outscored their opponents 740-685 this year; they are 3d in scoring but 10th in runs allowed. they lead the league in on-base pct at .346 and have a whopping 25-point advantage over their opponents in that regard; but they have been outslugged .418 to .426 and outhomered 151-176 -- a very telling disadvantage for the phils vs any playoff foe. the 176 hr allowed are the 3d-most in the league. another telling stat: phillie pitchers have thrown only 5 shutouts, the 4th-fewest in the nl.
all these numbers are skewed by the phillies' offense-oriented ballpark. for example, the philadelphia pitching staff doesn't suck at all away from home; they have the 2d-best road era in the league, at 3.95. but the team's potent-looking hitters have poked just 62 hr away from home, 14th in the league, and they've logged just 194 extra-base hits, which ranks 15th. they still draw lots of walks, ranking 3d in road obp, which helps elevate them to 6th in road scoring. but they still score fewer runs on the road than either of the cards' two other possible nlds foes. phila's leadoff man, jimmy rollins, has a .315 obp on the road (.327 overall), and their top hitter, bobby abreu, has a pedestrian .829 road ops. (context: john rodriguez has an .829 ops.) abreu apparently used up his longball allotment in the home-run derby -- since the all-star break he only has 6 hr and is slugging just .436. (more context: john rodriguez is slugging .444.)
of the three potential playoff teams, the phillies are by far the weakest at the top of the rotation. their number-one guy, brett myers, has a 3.75 era and 29 hr allowed; since june 1 (his last 21 starts) his era is 4.71, and his whip is 1.40. he does strike people out, and he has pitched pretty well away from home, posting a 3.01 era, but he just doesn't strike any fear into ya. last night, pitching in atlanta, the phillies staked him to a 3-0 lead in the 2d, but myers gave it all back by the 5th and departed, having required 95 pitches to get 15 outs.
philadelphia's number 2, jon lieber, is even more gopher-ball-prone: 32 allowed in 196 innings. he hasn't pitched well anywhere -- 4.42 era at home, 4.38 road -- but has come on strong since the all-star break, with a 3.49 era and a 58-9 k-bb ratio; his september era is 1.73. after him, philadelphia trots out the likes of cory lidle and eude brito, a so-so prospect with 18 innings of major-league experience.
the philadelphia bullpen is a mixed bag. the closer (billy wagner) is world-class, and they've gotten good middle relief out of aaron fultz. but the two primary setup men, ugie urbina and ryan madson, have been very spotty -- a combined 3.88 era and 11 blown saves between them. madson blew another one last night, yielding a game-tying 3-run homer in the 7th after philadelphia had forged its second three-run lead of the contest. the phillies' top LOOGY, rheal cormier, has a 6.07 era.
of the cardinals' three potential 1st-round foes, i think the phillies would be the easiest to take a 2-0 lead on. their punchless road offense, combined with their unimpressive starting pitchers, would seem to make them easy prey at busch stadium. the phillies do hit the ball hard in their home park, but they don't have anyone who can keep runs off the board. st louis would hold a decisive advantage in every starting-pitching pairing; if the series goes the distance, game 5 would pit carpenter vs myers or lieber.
the cardinals looked terrible in six early-season games against the phillies, but both teams have changed a ton since may 20. to my eye, the phillies just don't have the weapons.