Stats & Info: Ryan Howard

Is this the end for Ryan Howard?

July, 29, 2014
7/29/14
2:20
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AP Photo/Alex BrandonRyan Howard has struggled to find a consistent role in the Phillies' starting lineup.
Last week Ryan Howard sat four games in a six-game stretch, including three in a row. Two of those three straight were against left-handed starting pitchers, but Thursday he sat against Tim Hudson, the pitcher he’s faced the most in his career. Howard holds a .328 career BA (22-67) with 7 HR and a 1.112 OPS against Hudson.

Howard is having the worst full season of his career including a career-low .380 slugging percentage. He turns 36-years-old in November, he’s still owed $60 million after this season and he can block trades to 21 teams.

Could this be the end of the line for the former National League MVP?

Howard Can't Hit Righties
The biggest reason behind Howard’s disappointing season is his performance against right-handed pitchers, which has always been better than his performance against lefties.

In 2009, Howard hit .320 and slugged .693 against righties. This season he's hitting .221 and slugging .356 against them.

In 2011, his last full season, he hit 30 HR in 387 AB against righties. In the past 3 seasons combined, he's hit 26 HR in 656 AB against righties.

He Can't Handle Fastballs
The book on Howard used to be a steady diet of offspeed pitches that he would chase, especially if he was behind in the count.

In 2011, Howard saw 41% fastballs, the lowest figure of any qualified hitter in baseball. But after he tore his Achilles in that year’s playoffs, pitchers haven’t been afraid to throw him heaters or pitches in the strike zone anymore.

From 2009-2011 Howard ranked 11th in MLB in slugging percentage against fastballs and 10th against pitches in the strike zone. From 2012 on he ranks 130th in slugging percentage against fastballs and 110th against pitches in the strike zone.

He’s not even punishing the slower fastballs that he used to crush. In 2010, he slugged .851 and only missed 16% of his swings against fastballs from righties that were 91 MPH or slower. This season, he’s slugging .405 and missing 22% of his swings against those fastballs.

No Power at a Power Position
Howard is giving the Phillies almost nothing at a power position. The list of first basemen with similar slugging percentages this season have never been in Howard’s class as a slugger. He currently ranks 22nd in slugging percentage among 25 players with 100 plate appearances at first base.

He’s had plenty of opportunities to produce, tied with Albert Pujols and Casey McGehee for the MLB lead at 234 plate appearances with runners on base, but his .255 batting average with runners on has him in a tie for 107th in MLB this season.

Top stats to know: Giants at Phillies

July, 23, 2014
7/23/14
12:25
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Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Madison Bumgarner will take his sparkling road record to the hill tonight against the Phillies.
Tonight, Wednesday Night Baseball features the San Francisco Giants hitting the road to take on the Philadelphia Phillies (7 PM, ESPN and WatchESPN).

The Giants enter tonight’s game with a one-game lead in the NL West over the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the lead stood at nine-and-a-half after games on June 8. Since then, the Giants have been nine games under .500, while the Dodgers have put up a 23-15 mark.

Part of the Giants recent struggles have come at the plate, as they’ve been shut out in six of their last 25 games, and held to two runs or fewer in 13 of those contests.

It’s part of an offensive decline that’s been in effect for the Giants since winning the 2012 World Series. Their batting average and on-base percentage have each dropped in each season since, leaving them ranked 22nd in batting average and 25th in on-base percentage this season entering Wednesday’s games.

Luckily for the Giants, they’ll send Madison Bumgarner to the mound tonight to face the lefty-heavy Phillies lineup. This season, no left-handed starter has a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Bumgarner, who has 40 strikeouts against just three walks. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Ben Revere and Domonic Brown are among the Phillies regulars who are left-handed.

Bumgarner has also been much better at home than on the road, going 7-2 with a 1.94 ERA on the road, compared to just a 4-5 mark with an ERA of 5.22 in his home park.

He’ll also be facing a Phillies lineup that is having one of the worst seasons in recent franchise history. A team that once leaned on its offense is now batting .238 with a .300 on-base percentage, which would be the worst marks for a Phillies team since the early 1970s. And this season, only the San Diego Padres have a lower slugging percentage.

Who has struggled for the Phillies? Nearly all of their sluggers have tailed off:

• Ryan Howard: .377 slugging percentage would be the lowest mark of his career (previous lowest is .423).
• Domonic Brown: .606 OPS is sixth-worst in the majors among qualified players. -1.6 Wins Above Replacement is second-worst in majors among qualifiers.
• Chase Utley: 47.25 at-bats per home run is more than double his career average of 23.5.

The Phillies find themselves in last place, four games back of the Miami Marlins for fourth in the NL East. The Phillies haven’t finished last place in their division since 2000. That 13-year streak since finishing in last place in the division is the eighth-longest in all of the majors.

5 stats to know: Nationals at Phillies

July, 8, 2013
7/08/13
4:15
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Mitchell Layton/Getty ImagesDan Haren looks for his 1st win since May 9 when he takes on the Phillies tonight.
The Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies open a four-game series at Citizens Bank Park at 7 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN. Here are five stats that will surely be talked about tonight on tonight's telecast.

1. Bryce Harper is starting to heat up after coming off the DL on July 1. He is 4-for-6 with four RBI in the last two games after going 1-for-19 in his first five games back. He has hits in all three games against the Phillies this season.

2. The Nationals are 13-10 against left-handed starters this season, but the offense has struggled against southpaws.

Washington hitters have a .218 batting average and .626 OPS against lefties, both the lowest in the majors.

The acquisition of Scott Hairston from the Cubs on Sunday should help; he has a .818 career OPS against southpaws.

3. Dan Haren will be activated off the DL for the Nationals and take the place of Ross Detwiler (who was placed on the DL).

Haren hasn’t won since May 9, and with a loss, he would be the fifth 10-game loser in the National League.

Over his last eight starts, Haren is 0-6 with a 7.01 ERA. He has allowed at least one home run in 11 of his 15 starts this season. His 19 homers allowed are tied for the second-most in the majors (Jeremy Guthrie has allowed 20).

Eleven of the 19 home runs Haren has allowed this season have come off his slider, one of his best out pitches during his three seasons with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

4. Domonic Brown is second in the NL with 23 home runs, 20 of them coming since the calendar flipped to May (most in the National League).

Brown has been especially productive at home. He leads the majors with home runs on 34% of his flyballs at home; compared to only 15% away from Citizens Bank Park.

5. For the second straight season, the Phillies placed Ryan Howard in the DL. After playing at least 140 games every year from 2006 to 2011, he’s played only 151 games over the last two years combined.

Howard signed a 5-year, $125-million contract in 2010 that runs through 2016 (with a club option in 2017). As for platooning, Howard has hit below .200 against left-handed pitchers in each of the last two seasons.

Phillies could end drought in Cincinnati

April, 17, 2013
4/17/13
3:25
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Mike Janes/Four Seam Images via AP Images
Ryan Howard will look to the end Phillies offensive slump against the Reds (7 ET, ESPN2 & WatchESPN)


Tonight, ESPN’s Wednesday Night Baseball will feature the Cincinnati Reds hosting the Philadelphia Phillies (7 ET, ESPN2 and WatchESPN). The teams will face off after completing Tuesday’s game, which was suspended in the ninth inning due to rain.

There hasn’t been much offense in this series so far. Through the first nine innings of Tuesday’s game, the Reds have batted .200 (11-55) while the Phillies are batting .119 (7-59).

This series has continued the trend of offensive struggles for the Phillies. Last season, the team averaged 4.2 runs per game, the team’s lowest total since 1997, when they averaged 4.1. This season, Philadelphia is averaging just 3.8 runs per contest.

That offensive downturn last season led to the Phillies finishing 81-81, the first year they didn’t finish over .500 since 2002, and the first time missing the playoffs since 2006.

Despite these struggles, there are reasons to believe that Cincinnati could be a good site for Philadelphia to turn it around.

Although Ryan Howard's numbers have slipped considerably since his 2006 MVP season, he’s always shown excellent power in Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park. Howard has 24 career hits at the park, 19 of which have gone for extra bases, including 11 home runs.

There are four pitchers that Howard has hit at least .500 against (minimum 10 plate appearances), and one of those is Mike Leake, tonight’s starter for the Reds. Howard is 6-12 career vs Leake with a pair of home runs.

Howard’s infield mates, Chase Utley and Michael Young, have shown signs of bounce-back seasons.

Utley, through the ninth inning of last night’s game, already has seven extra-base hits this season. Last season, it took Utley 21 games to reach seven extra-base hits. He already has two triples this season, equaling last season’s output.

Young is coming off the worst season of his career, setting career lows in slugging percentage, OPS, home runs and WAR in 2012. His -2.0 WAR was the third-worst among position players in the majors last season.

However, this year, Young is taking a more disciplined approach at the plate. His chase percentage has fallen from 32 percent last season to 26 in 2013, and his overall swing rate has dropped from 51 to 42 percent from last season.

Cincinnati has been a good site for the Phillies since the Great American Ball Park opened in 2003. In that time, the Phillies have the second-best win percentage at the park, with a 22-14 mark.

Cincinnati is also a good site to face Leake. Last season, Leake had a 5.54 ERA at home, the highest home ERA of any NL pitcher to qualify for the ERA title last season. He was one of just two such pitchers to have a home ERA over five last season, joining teammate Homer Bailey (5.16).

Show them the money, watch them get hurt

August, 20, 2012
8/20/12
7:26
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AP Photo/Kevin CaseyAlex Rodriguez is one of a host of players with large contracts who got hurt this season

This isn’t necessarily the best time to be a big-money player. Carl Crawford’s decision to have season-ending Tommy John surgery is the latest in a run of significant injuries to players with $100 million contracts.

Let’s run through the list:

Carl Crawford After signing a $142 million contract in the 2010-11 offseason, Crawford was a disappointment in his first season with the Boston Red Sox. He then missed most of 2012 with an elbow injury, came back, but has since decided to have Tommy John Surgery and will miss the remainder of 2012.

Ryan Howard-- The Philadelphia Phillies signed Howard to a $125 million contract extension in 2010, though the deal didn’t kick in until this season. Howard’s contributions this year were stalled by an Achilles injury suffered while making the final out of the 2011 NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals. He’s played in just 35 games this season.

Matt Kemp-- Kemp signed an 8-year $160 million contract that began this season, but has had to battle through a pair of hamstring injuries. He’s had a fantastic follow-up season to his 2011 campaign, but has only played in 70 games.

Alex Rodriguez-- Rodriguez played only 99 games last season for the Yankees due to injuries. This season, in his 94th game, he suffered a broken left hand when he was hit by a pitch from Felix Hernandez.

CC Sabathia-- Sabathia had a season and a vesting option added on to his massive contract this offseason, but has since fallen victim to the injury bug. He is expected to return from his second DL stint of the season on Friday, but has battled both a groin and elblow injury.

Johan Santana-- Santana proved to be worth the $137.5 million early into his contract with the Mets. But he then had to miss all of 2011 with a shoulder injury. He returned to throw a no-hitter in 2012, but has been greatly ineffective in the latter part of the season.

One stint on the DL doesn’t appear to have cured him and there is talk that the Mets could shut him down for the remainder of 2012 in the near-future.

Troy Tulowitzki-- Tulowitzki signed a 7-year deal worth more than $130 million with the Colorado Rockies after the 2010 season. This season, he’s been limited to 47 games by a groin injury and hasn’t played since May 30.

Joey Votto-- After signing a $225 million extension with the Reds this year (it kicks in in 2014), Votto got through 86 games before being forced to the sidelines with a torn meniscus. He has yet to return.

Vernon Wells--A thumb injury in mid-May sent Wells to the sidelines and he didn’t return for more than two months. Wells, who signed a seven-year, $126 million deal that runs through 2014, is hitting just .222.

Jayson Werth-- Werth got a 7-year $126 million deal in the 2010-11 offseason, but was a disappointment with the Washington Nationals in 2011. Werth broke his wrist trying to make a catch in May and missed nearly half a season’s worth of games. He is hitting .389 since his return on August 2.
Ryan Howard was back in the lineup for the Philadelphia Phillies for the first time since last year’s playoffs, but strong pitching and a late rally by the Atlanta Braves spoiled his return.

The game was a scoreless tie until the eighth inning, when the Braves scored five runs on a bases-loaded walk and Brian McCann grand slam. It was the second grand slam of the season for McCann, with both coming against the Phillies.

McCann has nine career grand slams, with one as a pinch hitter and eight while he was behind the plate. According to our friends at the Elias Sports Bureau, his eight grand slams as a catcher are tied for fourth among backstops who debuted in the last 50 years. Mike Piazza leads the way among catchers with 14.

Tim Hudson picked up the win for the Braves by tossing seven scoreless innings. Hudson was able to get outs early in the count. Fourteen batters saw only one or two pitches, and six of his seven innings were completed in 12 or fewer pitches.

Tim Hudson
Hudson
He averaged 3.04 pitches per plate appearance, his lowest in a game since September 2009. Hudson did not record a strikeout, and induced just three swings-and-misses, tied for the fewest in his past 48 starts.

The key pitch for Hudson on Friday was his sinker. He threw the sinker 47 times out of his 79 pitches. That 57 percent usage was well above his average of 41 percent of pitches over the past two seasons. The sinker averaged 10.3 inches of horizontal break, his most in a game since May 2010.

Hudson’s outing spoiled the return of Howard to the Philadelphia lineup. He doubled to the centerfield warning track in his first at-bat and singled in the seventh. That marks the third straight year that Howard has recorded a multi-hit game in his first game of the season.

Kyle Kendrick pitched seven shutout innings for the Phillies, his first quality start since May. But the call to the bullpen marked the end of Philadelphia’s pitching success.

Antonio Bastardo allowed five runs in the eighth inning. He has allowed 17 runs in 28⅔ innings this season. That’s the same number of runs he allowed in 58 innings while compiling a 6-1 record last season.

In 2011, the slider was the money pitch for Bastardo. In 70 at-bats that ended with the pitch, he allowed only nine hits (.129). McCann’s grand slam came on a slider, the 10th hit that Bastardo has allowed on a slider already this season in 46 at-bats.

Lost velocity clue to Halladay injury, decline

May, 29, 2012
5/29/12
6:34
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Howard Smith/US PresswireRoy Halladay, who was placed on the disabled list Tuesday, has struggled with his velocity in 2012.
Roy Halladay was placed on the disabled list Tuesday and is expected to miss six to eight weeks before returning to the Philadelphia Phillies' rotation.

That would be his longest absence from the active roster since missing the second half of the season in 2005 with a fractured tibia. It is the sixth time in his career that Halladay has been placed on the disabled list and first since he missed two weeks in 2009 with a strained groin.

This isn’t the first injury to a key player for the Phillies this season. Philadelphia currently has more than $50 million in salary on the disabled list. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard were placed on the DL before the season started, and Cliff Lee missed three weeks earlier this season.

Since joining the Phillies in 2010, Halladay has been the most valuable pitcher in baseball according to Baseball Reference’s wins above replacement. He has accumulated one and a half more wins than Justin Verlander, who is second on the list. Before his injury, the Phillies’ rotation included three of the top five pitchers over the past three seasons.

Halladay has tallied 1,487 regular-season innings since the start of the 2006 season, the most in the majors. He is the only pitcher in the majors to throw at least 220 innings in each of the previous six seasons, with Dan Haren and CC Sabathia each reaching that threshold five times.

The injury helps explain why Halladay didn’t have the normal zip on his fastball early in the season. Combining his fastball and cutter, his average and maximum velocities were down noticeably from the previous two seasons. So far this year, his fastball has averaged 89 mph and peaked at 93. In his first two seasons in Philadelphia, the average was 91 and he regularly touched 95.

With his velocity down, Halladay’s signature cutter was less effective this season. Batters swung less frequently, especially at cutters out of the zone, and had better results when putting it in play.

Halladay’s current numbers are his worst since early in his career with the Toronto Blue Jays. In 11 starts before being placed on the DL, he was 4-5 with a 3.98 ERA. That would be his highest ERA in a season since he posted a 4.20 ERA in 2004. The only time he has finished a season with a losing record was 2000, when he went 4-7 while posting a 10.64 ERA.

Marlins should be wary of 10-year deal

December, 6, 2011
12/06/11
2:54
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Just days after reeling in noted free-agent shortstop Jose Reyes, the Miami Marlins may not be done fishing. Reports have surfaced that the team has offered three-time MVP Albert Pujols a 10-year contract. While the specific figures are not clear, there is no question that a 10-year contract represents a massive risk.

If the 10-year contract offer is legitimate, then the parallels between Pujols and Alex Rodriguez are eerie. Pujols will be in his age-32 season in 2012, presumably the start of the contract. Rodriguez’s 10-year, $275M deal with the New York Yankees began in his age-32 season. Rodriguez has steadily declined since signing that contract despite being one of the great players in the game.

In his final year prior to signing the contract, Rodriguez posted 9.8 Wins Above Replacement, the third-highest mark by an AL position player in the Wild Card Era. On the flip side, Pujols’ last season prior to free agency (2011) saw him produce only 5.1 WAR, the lowest mark of his career.

Despite the lofty perch, Rodriguez’s decline has been swift. Rodriguez has finished with a WAR below five in each of the past three seasons. He is still owed over $140 million through the end of the contract, which runs through the 2017 season.

Putting aside the Rodriguez comparison, it’s distinctly possible that Pujols’ own decline has already started. Using the Wins Above Replacement metric, Pujols’ marks have declined each season since 2008. In fact this past season marked the first in his career in which he posted a WAR below six.

Fangraphs.com has a tool that assesses the monetary value of a season based on Wins Above Replacement and the cost of a marginal win on the free agent market. Based on that, Pujols’ 2011 season was worth $22.8M. In other words, contracts worth in excess of $22 million are being bandied about for Pujols – and yet he was barely worth that as a 31-year-old. How will he fare as a 32, 37 or 40-year-old?

The only team Pujols has known in his career, the St. Louis Cardinals, reportedly offered Pujols a contract for nine years and $198 million entering this past season. That works out to an annual average value of $22 million, a sum that would give him the fourth-highest average annual salary among first basemen.

Pujols certainly has reason to expect more than that from the franchise he led to two World Series championships. Consider the Philadelphia Phillies signed Ryan Howard to an extension that will begin starting this upcoming season and will pay the slugger an average annual salary of $25M.

Since 2006 – Howard’s first full season – Pujols has been worth twice as much as Howard by Wins Above Replacement. In fact, there has never been a season in which Howard has outperformed Pujols, including Howard’s MVP season in 2006.

Howard's season ends in agony

October, 8, 2011
10/08/11
10:18
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Ryan Howard
Howard
Ryan Howard made the last out for the Philadelphia Phillies in their NLDS Game 5 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night, but that wasn’t the only disappointing outcome for the team and for Howard coming out of that final play.

Howard fell as he ran out of the batter’s box, and on Saturday night learned that he has a torn Achilles tendon. According to ESPN Medical Analyst Dr. Michael Kaplan, Howard is expected to miss six to nine months with the injury, making his return uncertain for spring training next year.

This is potentially bad news for the Phillies, given that the team awarded Howard a five-year, $125 million extension in late April 2010, which takes effect for the 2012 season.

Howard’s average annual salary of $25 million will make him one of the most highly-paid players in the history of the game.

Howard’s large contract becomes especially disconcerting considering the steady decline that he has shown over the past few seasons. Howard has regressed from an MVP winner in 2006 to a slightly-above-replacement player over the last two seasons, according to Fangraphs.com.

Digging deeper into the numbers behind Howard’s decline, pitchers appear to be exploiting Howard’s weakness against sliders at an increasing rate in recent seasons, especially in the postseason.

In 2009, 59 percent of the pitches he saw in the playoffs were fastballs, and 26 percent were sliders. In this year’s postseason, 48 percent of his pitches seen were heaters and 35 percent were sliders.

Howard just completed one of the worst Division Series performances in the Wild Card Era. He had .406 OPS in the series, and went 0-for-12 with five strikeouts in the last three games. His batting average of .105 is tied for the fifth-worst by any player in an NLDS since 1995.

Despite Howard’s slumping stats in recent years, he has been one of the best and most feared sluggers since becoming a full-time player in 2006. He has more RBI and more homers than any other major-leaguer during that time, and only Albert Pujols has been intentionally walked more than Howard.
David Freese
Freese
David Freese knocked in four runs with a go-ahead two-run double and his first career postseason home run to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.

Edwin Jackson won his first postseason start and the teams will head to Philadelphia for a winner-take-all Game 5 on Friday night.

Jackson threw his breaking pitches more than in any start since joining the Cardinals -- 33 of his 77 pitches (43 percent) were breaking balls, which accounted for all four of his strikeouts.

The Phillies chased 10 of the 15 slider Jackson threw out of the strike zone, his highest chase percentage (67 percent) with his slider this season. Helped by the Phillies chasing, 85 percent of his sliders were strikes, also his highest this season. Phillies hitters were 2-for-10 with three strikeouts in at-bats ending with a Jackson slider.

After hitting .400 (4-for-10) with runners in scoring position in Game 1, the Cardinals’ batting average in those situations decreased for the third consecutive game (1-for-5 in Game 4), but they left just three runners on base, a day after tying a franchise postseason record by stranding 14 runners.

The Phillies looked like they were ready to put the series away early when their first three batters went double, triple and single on Jackson’s first five pitches. But they recorded just four hits -- all singles -- the rest of the way.

Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley -- who doubled and tripled, respectively, to start the game -- are 15-for-29 with six doubles and 11 runs scored combined in the series.

Utley has really turned it up through four postseason games (.462/.588/.769) compared to his poor September (.205/.295/.337).

Cleanup hitter Ryan Howard went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, the 10th three-strikeout game of his postseason career, easily the most all-time -- only one other player has more than half as many. His career postseason strikeout rate of 40.4 percent is also the highest in MLB history (minimum 100 PA).

Roy Oswalt took his first career loss in a postseason start and the Phillies lost for the first time ever in Game 4 of the Divisional Series (3-1).

The Phillies had won each of their previous six postseason games in which they had a chance to eliminate an opponent, dating to 2008, matching the second-longest such streak in MLB history (according to Elias).

Chris Carpenter
Carpenter
Former Cy Young award winners Chris Carpenter and Roy Halladay will square off in Game 5 Friday night. Elias tells us it’s just the third time in major-league history (the Cy Young award was introduced in 1956) that previous award winners will face one another in a winner-take-all postseason game.

Pedro Martinez was involved in each of the first two back in 2003 -- in Game 5 of the ALDS against Barry Zito and in Game 7 of the ALCS against Roger Clemens.
The National League Division Series shifts to St. Louis for a pivotal Game 3 between the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals tonight.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, in a five-game Division Series that is tied after the first two games, the winner of Game 3 has gone on to win the series 19 of the 23 times since 1995, including 11 of the 12 series in the National League.

However, by winning Game 1, the Phillies have history on their side. In the Wild Card Era (since 1995), the Game 1 winner in the Division Series has won 73 percent of the time, including wins in 29 of the 32 NL series.

Inside the Series
Sunday night’s loss snapped a six-game winning streak in the Division Series for the Phillies. That was tied for the third-longest all-time and second-longest among NL teams. Since their World Series run in 2008, the Phillies are 10-3 in Division Series.

Despite their victory on Sunday, the Cardinals are still just 2-5 in their last seven Division Series games. However, the Redbirds have won six of their last eight postseason games at Busch Stadium and are an impressive 11-3 all-time in Division Series games in St. Louis.

On the Mound
Cole Hamels, the 2008 NLCS and World Series MVP, makes his 13th career postseason start. Hamels has had success in this situation before, when he threw a five-hit, nine-strikeout shutout in Game 3 of the NLDS last year against the Reds.

Hamels struggled down the stretch this year, with a 3.79 ERA in September that was his highest in any month. He allowed four runs in two of his final five starts, after doing so in just three of his first 26 starts.

Hamels had trouble with the longball last month, during which he allowed nine of his 19 homers. Luck may not have been on his side, though, as one of every five flyballs hit against him went over the fence in September; in the first five months, he gave up a homer on just one of every 15 flyballs he allowed.

Jaime Garcia gets the nod for the Cardinals, making his first career postseason start. Garcia was much more effective at home this season, with an ERA in St. Louis that was more than two runs better than on the road.

Garcia shut down the Phillies in his two starts against them this season, allowing just one earned run in 15 innings while holding the Phillies batters to a sub-.200 average. Garcia owns a 1.20 ERA in six career games against Philly, the lowest ERA among active pitchers versus the team (min. four starts).

Matchups to Watch
Albert Pujols hasn’t been able to solve Hamels during his career. He is 4-for-23 (.174) in their matchups, although two of his four hits are homers. That’s his lowest batting average vs. any active pitcher (min. 20 at-bats).

Garcia has been able to neutralize the current Phillies hitters, holding them to a .186 batting average and .547 OPS in his career. Of note, lefties Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are a combined 2-18 (.111) while switch-hitters Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino are a combined 3-20 (.150).
In Game 2 of the NLDS, the Philadelphia Phillies will send former Cy Young winner Cliff Lee to the mound to try to take a 2-0 lead before the series moves west. The St. Louis Cardinals, who have lost four straight postseason games, will counter with their former Cy Young winner, Chris Carpenter.

Carpenter won only 11 games this season, his fewest in a full season since 2001. He’s been one of the best pitchers in the majors lately though after a rough start.

Despite never starting on three days’ rest in his big-league career -- which he’ll do Sunday night -- Carpenter may be the right man for the job. He’s 7-2 with a 4.14 ERA in his career against the Phillies and he’s 5-2 with a 2.93 ERA in nine career postseason starts.

Carpenter will try to neutralize the Phillies’ lefties, something Kyle Lohse couldn’t do in Game 1. Raul Ibanez is just 1-for-11 and Ryan Howard is 2-for-9 with a home run against Carpenter, but Chase Utley is 7-for-15 and has only struck out once against him.

Lee has been one of, if not the best pitcher in the majors the past two months. In 10 starts since the beginning of August he’s allowed eight earned runs, and his 0.93 ERA in the lowest among all major-league starters.

He’s may be an even better choice than Carpenter; he’s 3-1 with a 1.48 ERA in his career against the Cardinals. In 10 career postseason starts he’s 7-2 with a 2.13 ERA, although he has allowed nine earned runs in his past two postseason starts.

Lance Berkman (5-for-13) and Ryan Theriot (5-for-16) have had success against Lee in their careers but Albert Pujols is just 1-for-8 against the Phillies lefty.
The Philadelphia Phillies beat the St. Louis Cardinals 11-6 on Saturday to take a 1-0 lead in the NLDS. Roy Halladay once again put himself in the same sentence as Don Larsen -- after a rough first inning he retired the last 21 batters he faced. According to Elias, Larsen was the last pitcher to retire at least 21 consecutive batters in a single postseason game when he threw his World Series perfect game in 1956.

After Halladay allowed two hits and a home run to the first seven batters, the next 20 Cardinals hitters couldn’t get the ball out of the infield. He's 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA in four career postseason starts and the Phillies have won seven of their past eight Game 1s.

Roy Halladay
Halladay
Seven of his eight strikeouts came on a curveball or changeup and hitters went 2-for-18 with eight groundouts against those two pitches. In three games against Halladay this season, Cardinals righties in particular are 0-for-16 with eight strikeouts against off-speed pitches.

Halladay has started Game 1 of the NLDS twice now and he’s allowed three earned runs in 17 innings and has separate streaks of 13, 14 and 21 consecutive batters retired.

The 11 runs the Phillies scored are their most in a postseason game since Game 4 of the 1993 World Series, the only postseason game in franchise history they’ve scored more than 11 runs. For the Cardinals, it’s tied for the second-most runs they’ve ever allowed in a road postseason game.

Ryan Howard hit a go-ahead three-run home run in the sixth inning, his first postseason HR and RBI since Game 6 of the 2009 World Series. He had no homers or runs batted in last year in 33 at-bats spanning nine playoff games.

The homer came on the eighth pitch of his at-bat against Kyle Lohse; during the regular season Howard had 22 PA that went eight or more pitches and homered in just one of them. Lohse had 16 PA in which he threw eight or more pitches and allowed a home run in NONE of them.

Lohse needed just 23 pitches to get through the first three innings, facing the minimum. In the fourth he threw 22 pitches and allowed hits to Chase Utley (double) and Shane Victorino (single), the latter after he walked Howard on four pitches.

It all fell apart in the sixth when Lohse allowed hits to five of the six batters he faced, four of them to left-handed hitters. The Phillies have long been susceptible to left-handed pitching, but had no problem Saturday with the right-handed Lohse.
The Arizona Diamondbacks and Philadelphia Phillies play the middle game of a three-game set in Philadelphia on ESPN’s Wednesday Night Baseball.

Two of the top four teams in the National League square off in the City of Brotherly Love, a city where before Tuesday night’s win, Arizona had lost seven straight and eight of the last nine games to the Phillies.

On the mound

Joe Saunders takes the mound for the Diamondbacks tonight. The lefty has turned around his season of late after an ugly start to the year. After starting 3-7 with a 4.50 ERA, Saunders is 5-2 with a 2.82 ERA over his last 10 starts.

Saunders has not had success against the three Phillies he has faced the most, Placido Polanco (9-23, .391 BA), Raul Ibanez (8-23, .348 BA) and Ben Francisco (5-11, .455 BA).

However, the good news for Saunders is that the player he’s faced the next most is Ryan Howard (0-9, 4 K).

The Phillies counter with Cliff Lee, who’s also had a tale of two seasons. Lee got off to a slow start before having one of the best months ever by a starting pitcher in June.

Over the first two months of the year, Lee went 4-5 with a 3.94 ERA, but is 8-2 with a 1.86 ERA since June (including going 5-0 with a 0.21 ERA in five June starts).

How has Lee done it during this turnaround?

By throwing his curveball more often, which has made his changeup even more effective as a secondary pitch even though he’s throwing it with the same frequency.

Matchups

There are two bona-fide MVP candidates squaring off in this game -- one who gets mentioned all the time (Justin Upton) and one who is routinely passed over (Shane Victorino).

Upton is on the short list of NL MVP candidates this season as he’s broken through to superstardom. He leads all National League players in Wins Above Replacement and is third among all major leaguers.

Victorino’s name doesn’t normally come up when National League MVP candidates are mentioned, but maybe it should, especially since Victorino has played just 93 games to Upton’s 121.

Stat of the game

The Diamondbacks are 33-27 on the road. They haven’t finished a season with a winning road record since 2005 (41-40). One of the biggest keys to that – their pitchers are on pace to allow 67 fewer ROAD walks than last season.

NL East narrows gap in power rankings

August, 2, 2011
8/02/11
1:03
PM ET
The American League East remains at the top of the ESPN Stats & Information Divisional Power Rankings for the third straight month, with the National League East close behind.

Over the past three months, the AL East and NL East have been the top two divisions by a large margin. The two east divisions have separated themselves from the pack, so let’s take a closer look at how they compare.

The NL East has a slightly higher win percentage in games outside its division. The NL East has won 56.1 percent of its games outside the division, one percent higher than the AL East. In July, the NL East outperformed its American League counterpart with a .609 win percentage outside the division, compared to .585 for the AL East. The two divisions also produced the two best teams in the league last month: the Boston Red Sox (10-3) and Philadelphia Phillies (11-5) had the two best win percentages against non-divisional opponents in July.

The NL East also outperformed the AL East in the category that measures strength of schedule. The two divisions have the top four teams in the MLB Relative Power Index, a metric that combines win percentage and strength of schedule. The Baltimore Orioles’ extremely low RPI hurt the AL East. The NL East did not have one team in the bottom third of the index.

The AL East and NL East had exactly the same score when it came to the ESPN.com Power Rankings. Four of the top six teams in the most recent ratings are from the east divisions, and resurgence of the Florida Marlins in July (17-10) helped in July’s rankings.

The greatest difference between the two divisions is in the category that measures player performances. The NL East has two more top-30 pitchers than the AL East, but its lack of power hitters hurt its ranking. As of August 1, the AL East has 10 position players ranked in the top 30 of ESPN’s MLB Player Ratings, including eight from the Red Sox and New York Yankees. Only Jose Reyes and Ryan Howard from the NL East ranked in the top 30. An injury to the Atlanta Braves’ Brian McCann and trade of Carlos Beltran hurt the NL East’s player ratings. (Both players appeared in last month’s top 30 batters.)

The trades of Michael Bourn to Atlanta and Hunter Pence to Philadelphia have the potential to increase the NL East’s player rating scores if these players can perform as expected. Other trades, such as Ubaldo Jimenez to the Cleveland Indians, have the potential to help one division and hurt another in the next edition.

Look for the NL Central, which lost more impact players to trades than any other division, to fall even further into last place. Both the NL West and NL East had teams involved in major deals, so expect them to reap the benefits in the ratings.

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