What a difference a week makes! Before last week the Phillies Nation poll showed a majority of you though the Phillies had little to no chance to be in the playoff hunt come September. But as polls closed, the optimist camp surged ahead with 53% of the vote while the nay-sayers could garner only 30%. Yes, the Marlins-Braves-Giants troika was good to the Phillies, but now it’s time to get down to business as the Mets bring their NL-best record and 4 game division lead into town. It seems a fitting epilogue to the Billy Wagner saga of this winter that he returns amidst more controversy than he left. But hopefully he will never make it out of the thunderdome of insults known as the visitor’s bullpen. Therefore today I wanted to concentrate on two pitchers that will definitely see the rubber tonight.
The Phillies and Mets open this intense and important series with a huge pitching matchup between Brett Myers and Pedro Martinez. As Jim noted a few days ago, Myers always seems to step his game up when he faces the opponent’s ace. But will that be enough? Pedro, this year and throughout his career, has been one of – if not the – most dominant pitchers in the game. Coming into tonight’s game, he has allowed two runs or less in four of his last five starts and allowed just nine hits and four walks in his last 20 innings. A few weeks ago Jayson Stark took to the task of determining just how great Pedro is. Of all pitchers in the live-ball era who won 150 games or more here’s how Pedro ranks in the following categories:
- Baserunners/9 IP — 1st
- ERA — 1st
- Strikeout/Walk Ratio — 2nd
- Winning Percentage — 1st
- Strikeouts/9 IP — 2nd
- Hits/9 IP — 3rd
Pretty impressive I must agree. Now Brett Myers is only in his fifth year in the majors and has 44 wins to show for it. Comparisons between Brett and Pedro using Fan Graphs technology easily show that Pedro is ahead in all major categories. Only in recent LOB% does Myers top Pedro and that’s just because he allows more baserunners. Myers is 6-5 all time against the Mets and will face four or five lefties in the current Mets lineup tonight. Although left-handed hitters have a higher average and OPS against Myers, they have yet to score a run, and have less homers and RBIs. They do however have a significantly higher percentage of walks, so keep an eye out on how aggressive Myers pitches to Cliff Floyd, Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, and Carlos Beltran. Looking at the last sentence again, that’s a rather dangerous lineup on paper as we all know; fortunately though, Cliff Floyd is in a huge slump this year (.186 AVG). The fact that Myers throws first pitch fastballs 73% of the time should help him to stay ahead of Mets hitters – as long as those balls all stay in the park, that is.
Suffice it to say, fans should be in for a treat tonight with this pitching matchup on the docket. Although an eight game winning streak was essentially necessary to salvage this early part of this season, in my opinion, a win tonight would be just as crucial.