Three Strikes: Philadelphia Phillies vs Miami Marlins

Chances are if I told you two weeks ago that one of the combatants for this matchup of NL East rivals would enter the fray in last place in the midst of a four game losing streak, your money wouldn’t have been on the Marlins.  My, how times have changed.  While the Phillies have played down to their woeful expectations, with only three teams in all of baseball having a worse winning percentage to this point, the Marlins have been turning heads left and right with the crashing halt their feel good story has come to through the first two weeks of the season.  While I still think it’s early to give in to the gloom of the Jeff Passans of the sports world ( click here if you want my opinion of anything Jeff Passan writes by the way), there is certainly cause for concern.  But you get back into it one game at a time- or for our purposes, a series at a time.  So without further ado, let’s dive in.

Why Miami Wins The Series

  • Strike 1- Offense.  As much as the Marlins offense has struggled this year, the Phillies have been worse.  By a lot, in every measurable way.  Nearly thirty points of average, home runs, doubles, runs batted in, OBP, slugging- for the first time this season, Miami is significantly better on paper than their opponent.  Except for triples, in which they’re tied.  And none of that even touches on the fact that Miami is considerably more talented at the plate.  Be it actual performance thus far, or projected potential, Miami wins this matchup.
  • Strike 2- Defense.  Broken record on this one, I know.  But not only has Miami consistently fielded a top 8 defense all season, Philadelphia is way at the other end of the Spectrum (see what I did there Philly sports fans) with 11 errors; only four teams in baseball have had a worse defensive start than the Phillies.  Basically they can’t score, and they play sloppy.  By the way, the NL East is setting the standard in both excellence and futility defensively this year: Atlanta tops the charts with a single miscue while the Nationals languish in last with…well, Ian Desmond.
  • Strike 3- Giancarlo Stanton.  He’s hitting .348 over his last six games, and has had a fair amount of success against Philadelphia historically with a respectable mark of .271 and fifteen home runs.  Plus I expect to see the team’s leader raise his game to another level as the situation grows more dire.   A career .289 hitter against lefties, he’s .279 against Cole Hamels; Stanton has more at bats against Hamels than any other pitcher.  So he’s well equipped to deal with who will be far and away the toughest obstacle Miami will face on the mound.

Why Philly Wins The Series

  • Strike 1- Pitching.  Cole Hamels is one of baseball’s best pitchers, and a true ace; he also has a 3.17 career ERA against the Marlins. Miami sends what is technically their bottom three against Philly’s top two.  Miami has not one the first game of a series all season, and it will be only that first contest that they will have the arguable advantage on the mound.  That puts a lot of pressure on Dan Haren in Game 1; while Miami’s best starter thus far, he has only beaten Philadelphia once in his career and sports a 4.50 ERA against them over 58.0 innings.  Philly also wins team ERA 4.06 to 5.10; Miami has the worst team ERA in all of baseball.
  • Strike 2- The City of Unbrotherly Love.   Atlanta wins by an eyelash over Philly for the worst set of head to head road splits all-time, with Miami on the wrong end of a 68-112 mark at Veterans Stadium/Citizens Bank Park.  That….is fairly terrible.  From Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell to Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz, Phillies always seem to fill up the list of top “Marlin Killers”.  It should not surprise at all if Utley, Ryan Howard, and the rest of the remaining familiar faces rise up to pull Miami down; they’ve only done it since 1993.  The last time Miami even sported a winning record against the Phills in combined division play? That’d be 2008.
  • Strike 3- Zero pressure.  As covered above, there were no preseason delusions about what kind of team Ryne Sandberg would roll out in 2015.  Nothing has changed two weeks in, with the season serving as nothing more than a chance to develop players and showcase Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon for their deadline departures in July.  Miami on the other hand has the weight of the world closing in on them, with the now added burden of speculation about the future of Mike Redmond entering the mix.  Personally, I’d like to think the club will rally to his defense; overall, he is quite popular amongst the players.  But this has also been a season defined by their very inability to handle adversity, and have burned through their allotment of benefit of the doubt.  Philly has nothing to lose, while Miami stands to lose more with every game.
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