Series Preview: Mets Head To Philly After Solid Homestand

Ryan Howard is not the player he used to be.

The Mets begin a three-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies tonight at Citizens Bank Park, their first road series of the year and their first against a decent team.

Tha Phillies are currently at a crossroads. Where health and age meet talent. The Phillies are getting older, and this may be their last year to make a run at the World Series, although it’s very unlikely. The Phillies went 81-81 last season, spending half the year without Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. They have both back this year, but neither is the same player they used to be. Howard struck out in a career-high 33.9% of his plate appearances, while batting just .219. 57.1% of the balls he hit last year were ground balls. That’s significantly higher than his 39.4% career average, and a bad sign for a slugger. Utley has been slowly losing his power. His Isolated Slugging Percentage (ISO) was just .173 last season, compared to a .213 career average. A healthy spring training does not necessarily mean a better year for those two either, as they are both another year older and another year slower.

The pitching staff isn’t looking much better, either. After losing Joe Blanton and Vance Worley, the Phillies’ once-great rotation is lacking depth. And although it appears Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels are as good as ever, Roy Halladay is showing signs of age. He had a 4.49 ERA in 25 starts last year, and hasn’t looked much better this year.

While there is an outside chance the Phillies make the playoffs, it’s unlikely. They are only a shell of the group that dominated the division a few years ago, and they will only be getting worse from here as their expensive assets become less tradeable with age. Nonetheless, they are probably about on-par with the Mets right now, which will make this series a fun one to watch.

Pitching Matchups

Game 1: Matt Harvey (2012: 59.1 IP, 141 ERA+, 2.69 K/BB) vs. Roy Halladay (2012: 156.1 IP, 89 ERA+, 3.67 K/BB)

Halladay hasn’t been himself lately, struggling this spring and in his first start, in which he went 3.1 innings, allowing five runs and two home runs. Jayson Stark of talked to a scout about Hallday. Here is some of what he said:

“If you didn’t know it was Roy Halladay out there,” he said, “you would say, ‘This guy looks like a journeyman.'”

A journeyman. For more than a decade, that would have been the last word anyone ever would have attached to a description of Roy Halladay. But now he finds himself a few weeks from his 36th birthday with more than 33,000 pitches on the odometer. And all of a sudden, the same scout said, “he looks like a guy who doesn’t have a whole lot left in his tank.”

“I didn’t see anything alarming,” the scout went on. “Nothing where you’d say he’s doing this or doing that, and that’s what was wrong. I just think he’s thrown a lot of pitches over the years. He’s always kept himself in great shape, so it isn’t that. But you’ve only got so many throws in that arm.”

He may be right: this may be the end for Halladay

Game 2: Dillon Gee (2012: 109.2 IP, 94 ERA+,3.34 K/BB) vs. Cliff Lee (2012: 211 IP, 127 ERA+, 7.39 K/BB)

Lee was horribly unlucky last season. Despite posting a 3.16 ERA and 3.06 xFIP (first in baseball), the Phillies lost most of the games Lee started. His win-loss record from last year is completely misleading. He is still one of the best in the game, walking only 1.219 batters per nine while striking out 8.8. In his last outing, Lee tossed eight shutout innings, allowing just two hits and striking out eight.

Game 3: Jeremy Hefner (2012: 93.2 IP, 76 ERA+, 3.44 K/BB) vs. Kyle Kendrick (2012: 159.1 IP, 103 ERA+, 2.37 K/BB)

Kendrick has proven himself to be a solid option at the back of the rotation with an occasional stint as a long man. With a career 4.7 K/9 rate, he doesn’t dominate, but he doesn’t walk too many hitters either, with a 2.61 BB/9 ratio. Kendrick allowed five runs on eight hits in 5.2 innings in his last start against Kansas City.

Series News & Notes

  • Carlos Ruiz, who batted .325 with a career-high of 16 home runs is still serving a 25-game suspension for violation of Major League Baseball’s drug policy.
  • The Mets have hit at least one home run in each of their first six games, the longest such stretch to open a season since New York hit a home run in six straight games to begin the 1987 campaign. That team went on to hit home runs in their first eight games.
  • David Wright played his 61st consecutive game without an error yesterday, extending the franchise record for third basemen. Lenny Randle is second on the list with 54 consecutive errorless games.
  • In his final start in 2012, Harvey allowed a leadoff home run to Jimmy Rollins on September 19…That was the only hit and run allowed by Harvey over seven innings as he racked up seven strikeouts in a no-decision…the Mets lost, 3-2.
About Connor O'Brien 336 Articles
Connor O'Brien is a third-year economics student at Rutgers University, a longtime writer here at MetsMerized Online, and an aspiring economist. He embraces sabermetrics but also highly values scouting. Follow him on Twitter at cojobrien.