Phillies 10, Cardinals 7
Record: 14 wins, 10 losses - 1st place
24 games are in the books. That's about 15% of the season completed. The Phils are in first. If you weren't following them day to day, you'd be inclined to say "sounds about right." Ah, but if we were to look at if from different perspectives - perhaps say, statistically - then you might say "how the hell did they manage to win 14 games?"
The Phils starters have logged only 130 1/3 innings pitched over 24 starts for an average of just over 5 1/3 innings a start. The starters ERA is 6.49! The pitching staff has surrendered 46 home runs! It's as if they are pitching every game against the 1961 Yankees.
Those statistics usually translate to a won/loss record more familiar to Nats fans.
There must be some yang to this ying. So there is. Through 24 games, the Phillies have kicked only 5 balls. 5! Simply amazing. Ryan Howard usually has that many all by himself when May rolls around. As awful as the starting pitching has been, the club enjoys its present perch in the rankings thanks to a defense that gives away absolutely nothing more. You beat these Phillies because you earned it. All 132 runs surrendered by the Phillies staff are earned. That's gotta be a record, huh?
Here's some more yang for you. The Phillies pen, despite the loss of Brad Lidge for a period of time, is still pretty sharp. The pen ERA is at 3.99. Not exactly superb but good enough to keep the Phils in the game. That's important because the final piece of the yang pie is the offense.
These dudes are on a tear. Raul Ibanez, yes Raul Ibanez leads the club in home runs with 8. Pat who? Ryan Howard has cut down on his strikeouts - he had only 20 in April compared to 38 a year ago. Shane Victorino has been hitting the ball like Lenny Dykstra on really good vitamins. Chase Utley has returned to pre- hip injury form. The team averages 6.49 runs a game which is about a run more than they surrender. Hence, 14 wins against 10 losses.
So the early line on the Phils is this: You can beat them but you're gonna need about 8 runs - all without out any help. I don't believe this is a good recipe for defending a championship but I am optimistic that the Phils are in good shape. Myers, Moyer, Hamels and Blanton are good enough to start eating innings and honing their ERAs down to a collective 4.5 and did I mention Jimmy Rollins is hitting .208? I suspect that the more conventional approach to winning games (solid starting pitching) will end up carrying the club. Until then, enjoy scores reminiscent of a great Steelers vs. Ravens game.