2017 Series Preview

Series Preview: Philadelphia Phillies (30-60) vs. Miami Marlins (41-49), July 17-19

miami-marlins-new-log1.jpgFans swept up in the recent speculation that the Phillies would be interested in trading for Marlins players Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich will get to see the duo up close when the Phillies head to Miami for a three game set.

The Fish came out of the All-Star break by dropping a series to the red-hot Dodgers, but they’ve gotten the best of the season series against the Phillies so far. The Marlins are 3-2 against the Phils in 2017, but their run differential is a commanding 27 runs scored to 15 runs allowed.

WHAT TO EXPECT

To no one’s surprise, the Marlins are better than the Phillies at both hitting and pitching. The good news is that they’re not particularly adept at either. Marlins pitching is roughly average, allowing a 1.39 WHIP and 4.65 ERA heading into their Sunday contest. Neither mark is far off from how the Phillies have fared, but Marlins pitching also has held batters to a batting average 20 points better than the Phillies have.

More bad news comes from a look at the Marlins’ batting order, which looks a lot deeper than some may have expected coming into the season. In addition to known entities Stanton and Yelich, Marcell Ozuna is having another fine season that includes a .391 wOBA, Dee Gordon is getting on base and has already swiped 32 bags, Justin Bour was given a spot in the All-Star Game and participated in the Homerun Derby, and J.T. Realmuto is slashing .306/.361/.460 in his first 316 plate appearances.

Still, the Marlins are a sub-.500 team and rank 18th in runs scored. The Phillies aren’t running into a brick wall in this one, but Miami’s offense could pose a challenge on any given day.

PROBABLE STARTERS

Monday, 7:10 p.m., Jerad Eickhoff (4.63 ERA) vs. Tom Koehler (8.00 ERA)

It’s been a rough year for Eickhoff, who after 2016 was considered the most reliable arm in the Phillies rotation. Regression in both health and overall consistency have been factors, but his most recent start was encouraging. His first game back after being put on the disabled list in mid-June, Eickhoff struck out 8 and allowed no runs over 5 innings. He needed only 71 pitches to get through 5, which speaks to a desirable efficiency that would let him reach deep into games should be build off that success.

Tom Koehler would scoff at talk of another pitcher struggling: his own ERA is 8.00. He’s yet to have a start in which he didn’t allow a run, and he’s only made one appearance in which no one hit a homerun off him. To be fair, he also hasn’t faced the Phillies yet.

Tuesday, 7:10 p.m., Vincent Velasquez (5.58 ERA) vs. Adam Conley (7.53 ERA)

Vinny from Philly will make his first start since being placed on the disabled list on June 10. He breezed through his most recent rehab start, which came at high-A, throwing 5 innings and walking 1. Over a trio of rehab starts, Velasquez has walked 3 batters total, which is a level of command he will hope to bring back to the big leagues. He throws too many pitches, and free passes don’t help cut those down. The danger of the walk is compounded by how much worse Vinny is with men on base. In 2017, his .328 wOBA against and 4.68 FIP with the bases empty become .401 and 6.25, respectively, when a runner is on.

But it’s not like Conley is having a career year, either. After finding success in his first two years in the majors, both of which included him keeping his ERA under 4, Conley has really struggled in 2017. He, too, has been hurt by the free pass, and walks 5.02 batters per 9 innings. He hasn’t made a big league start since May 8, when he allowed 7 runs only two starts after another in which he allowed 9. Even in the minors this year, his ERA is 5.49.

Wednesday, 12:10 p.m., Nick Pivetta (5.63 ERA) vs. Dan Straily (3.32 ERA)

Pivetta has had a few starts this season that included him having a complete collapse, and his most recent outing against Milwaukee was one of them. 9 runs scored – all earned – and he walked 3 batters. Walks are something to watch with Pivetta, whose 4.36 BB/9 is 14th-worst in baseball among all pitchers (min. 60 IP). He also ranks 12th-worst in homerun rate, which can be a lethal combination for a pitcher.

Dan Straily, meanwhile, is quietly having a nice season, including his 3.32 ERA over 108.1 innings. He’s allowed more than 3 earned runs only three times in 19 starts, and more than 4 only once, in his first start of the season. His FIP and xFIP are somewhat less enthusiastic about him, but he outperformed both of them last year, too, so it’s unlikely they’ve crept into his nightmares.

 

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