by Joshua Worley
The Dodgers can't afford to lose any more series if they hope to hold off the three teams right behind them and leap over the three teams ahead of them into the wild card lead. Their first test on this road to competence is among the toughest: a visit to Citizen's Bank Park, home of the mighty Phillie offense. Do the Dodger pitchers have a chance of keeping their team in the game? Do the hitters have a chance of outproducing the most prolific offense in the league?
It's true, the Phillies have the best offense in the National League. They've scored 670, 41 more than the next closest. It's not just the Phils favorable home park, either. They lead in runs scored on the road as well. ( Though the Braves lead in runs per game on the road. ) And while Citizen's Bank Park does favor offense, it's nowhere near as favorable as places such as Coors Field or Fenway Park. In fact, just by the numbers, Dodger Stadium is more favorable to scoring runs this year.
In yielding home runs, however, Citizen Bank Park is second to none in 2007. Woe and pain is promised for any team that comes into Philadelphia carrying pitchers who give up lots of home runs and an offense that rarely produces them. So how do the Dodgers measure up coming in to Philadelphia, especially regarding the long ball --- what chance do they have of taking the series?
Tomko, Lowe and Billingsley are scheduled to be the Dodger starters. Here are their home runs allowed per nine innings. Average in the National League is about 1.02.
Tomko -- 1.08
Lowe -- 0.65
Bills -- 1.15
I thought Tomko would be at 2, at least! Instead he's actually better than Billingsley, though these are such small sample sizes that one can't really say that Tomko is better than Billingsley. We can say that Lowe has a decent shot of keeping the Phillies from exploiting their home park, especially if his sinker is working ( obviously ). Tomko and Billingsley may be buried. The home runs against will likely come --- will there be men on base when they do? If they hope at all to be effective they'd better not be wild.
The Phillies starters are Kendrick, Hamels, and Durbin. How do they measure up in allowing home runs? Keep in mind that their numbers may be higher because they pitch half their games in such a homer happy park.
Kendrick -- 1.08
Hamels -- 1.34
Durbin -- 0.84
The best pitcher has the worst number. Hamels is carrying a 3.5 ERA in spite of his high home run rate because he strikes out a ton of batters and almost never walks any. Hamels have given up 25 home runs: only 4 of them have come with any runner on base.
But the Dodgers just don't hit many home runs. They are second to last in the NL with 90. The Phillies have 155. This is an advantage in favor of the Phillies that just gets amplified by their home park.
Chase Cameron Utley -- DL
Alas, the star of the Phils, the second place OPS man in the National League, is out with injury. He broke his hand in late July, and is only now able to swing a bat again. He is targeting August 27 to come back right now, so he won't play at all against the Dodgers. The Phils are 13-9 since Chase went down with injury, but it's obviously going to be easier for the Dodgers to take a series from them with him out of the lineup.
Shane Patrick Victorino -- DL
Another key player who's down with injury. He's on a rehab assignment right now, but it doesn't seem likely he'll be back in time to play the Dodgers.
Ryan James Howard -- 1B
0.258 -- 0.384 -- 0.563
He's not hurt. Funny thing is that he's not doing much at home this year. His line at home is just 0.222 -- 0.373 -- 0.509. That's a Betemit-like line, and not really so bad aside from the batting average, but it's much worse than his road line. Unfortunately he just kills right-handers, and all of the Dodger starters are right handed. Wildness is death against Howard, because he will gladly take a walk, and if a pitcher loses a pitch over the heart of the plate, then BOOM! I wouldn't be surprised if he's on base one way or another nearly every time up against Tomko and Billingsley.
Partick Brian Burrell -- LF
0.266 -- 0.413 -- 0.491
He's batting third with Utley out. I wish the Dodgers had a hitter with an OBP of 0.413 they could bat third. The huge problem is he bats right in front of Howard, so if he draws one of his many walks, then suddenly the pitcher really has to go after Howard, and then --- something bad happens.
James Calvin Rollins -- SS
0.289 -- 0.343 -- 0.523
Rollins is 5 triples away from having 20 each of home runs, triples, doubles, and stolen bases. With a little less than a quarter of the season to go, I think he has a chance. I know that Ryne Sandberg almost had this quadruple 20 feat one year, but I don't know if anyone has done it since then.
Tadahito Iguchi -- 2B
0.267 -- 0.349 -- 0.394
Acquired near the trade deadline, he's been Utley's replacement. While not anywhere close to the hitter Utley is, he's not exactly been a black hole in the lineup either. He's batting second these days. Do I need to say how vital it is he's kept off base ahead of Burrell and Howard?
Aaron Ryan Rowand -- CF
0.307 -- 0.379 -- 0.516
He has an OPS of 1.027 at home. At least he does worse against right handed pitching. The Phillies lineup is stacked even with two of their starters on the DL. They might be the best team in the league if they could just muster some league average pitching; instead they are third worst in team ERA in the NL.
Jayson Richard Gowan Werth -- RF/DL
0.255 -- 0.364 -- 0.431
Werth has been playing regularly with Victorino out. Werth's biggest challenge this year has been his biggest challenge every year: staying healthy. I was always a fan of Werth and was sad to see him go.
The Phillies have started Branyan, Halms, Nunez and Dobbs the last 6 games at third base. Branyan and Dobbs have some power but otherwise there isn't much to choose from in this group.
Carlons Joaquin Ruiz and Christopher Robert Coste are the Phillies rotating catchers. These guys hit okay for catchers. The Dodgers can probably steal on both of them if they get decent jumps.
I think the most surprised I've ever been while listening to a Dodger game on the radio was the time Ross Porter suddenly blurted out, "Antonio Alfonseca has 6 fingers on each hand and 6 toes on each foot!" What? It just came out ot nowhere, and Ross had a way of making things sound surprising anyway. I guess he needed to fill some dead air, and there was that fact in his notes, so he let us all know. I really miss Ross.
So yeah, Alfonseca is one of the Phillies relievers, one of their better ones, actually. He, Ryan Madson, and Brett Myers are the end of game guys, but Madson is out with injury right now. The overall 'pen ERA is 4.36, which is much better than the team ERA of 4.77. The back end of the 'pen is awful. Clay Condrey, Yoel Hernandez, JC Romero --- Romero has a good looking ERA but he walks more than he strikes out. Jose Mesa has been okay.
Colbert Richard Hamels -- P
ERA -- IP -- SO -- BB -- HR
3.50 -- 167.1 -- 156 -- 39 -- 25
His only weakness is the home run, as discussed earlier. If this guy pitched half his games in Petco we'd probably be talking about him as the leading Cy Young candidate. If Lowe is on his game ( as he was last time out ) he may be able to match Hamels long enough to get the game into the bullpen. If the Dodgers lose to Hamels they will probably wish they had used Lowe in one of the other games instead of a homer happy pitcher to maximize their chances of winning those games.
Joseph Adam Durbin -- P
ERA -- IP -- SO -- BB -- HR
5.36 -- 43.2 -- 25 -- 25 -- 4
Lots of walks, lots of baserunners. His WHIP is 1.69. And what's with the JD he goes by? How do you get JD out of Joseph Adam? Whatever his name, he is the weakness of the Phillies the Dodgers have to attack. The team weakness is starting pitching, and he is the weakest starter the Dodgers face.
Kyle Rodney Kendrick -- P
ERA -- IP -- SO -- BB -- HR
3.94 -- 75.1 -- 27 -- 18 -- 9
Wow, that's a Zach Duke-like strikeout rate. At least he keeps the walks down too. It's really weird to see a young pitcher have such a low strikeout rate --- usually they struggle with the walks or home runs, but the strikeouts are there. He is tonight's starter, and the Dodgers really have to pound out a bunch of hits to have a chance to win. It's not going to be easy to win with Tomko starting.