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October 31 2006

For lots of Phillies fans the Cardinals win in the World Series is bittersweet.  St Louis won just 83 games this season, two fewer than the 85-77 Phils, leaving many fans feeling the Phillies could have gone far in the playoffs had they been able to get to them.  Here's a look at a few of the big differences between the teams.

The biggest difference is simply that the Cardinals won the games they had to and the Phillies could not.  On September 24 the Phillies beat the Florida Marlins 10-7 for their fifth straight win.  They were 82-73 and a half game up in the Wild Card chase with seven games left to play.  They lost three of their next four, dropping a makeup game to the Astros and losing two of three to the Nationals.  They lost those three games by a total of four runs.  The Phils took two of three from the Marlins in Florida, but wound up three full games behind the Dodgers for the Wild Card.  The Cardinals limped into the playoffs, going just 3-7 in their last ten and just barely holding off the surging Astros.  They could easily have not made the playoffs, but, unlike the Phillies, they won enough games and they did. 

The Cardinals were a balanced team that was good at both scoring and preventing runs.  The Phillies scored tons of runs but allowed too many.  The Phillies scored the most run in the league while the Cardinals scored the sixth-most.  The Cards allowed the fifth-fewest runs in the NL while the Phillies were tied with the Rockies for allowing the fourth-most. 

As a team, the Phillies threw to a 4.61 ERA while the Cards threw to a similiarish 4.54.  St Louis did a tremendous job of preventing unearned runs, however, the 41 they allowed were the fewest in the NL.  The Phillies allowed 64.

The Cards had an elite pitcher, perhaps the best in the league in Chris Carpenter.  The 2005 Cy Young winner went 15-8 with a 3.09 ERA and a 1.07 ratio in 221 1/3 innings.  Brett Myers, the Phillies' best pitcher, was 12-7 with a 3.91 ERA and a 1.30 ratio in 198 innings.  Myers was very solid, but he's not an ace.  Not yet, anyway.  Carpenter, on the other hand, most definitely is.

Carpenter didn't win the World Series for the Cards, although he did get a win throwing eight shutout innings in his one World Series start in Game 3.  You can argue that he got them there, however, going 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA in his two starts in the four games of the ALDS with the Padres.

The Cardinals managed to win the World Series with a single game's contribution from their elite pitcher, but they still won it with tremendous pitching -- it just came from guys that you wouldn't expect to be tremendous pitchers.  After the ALDS Jeff Suppan went 1-0 with a 1.71 ERA in his three starts.  Jeff Weaver went 2-2 with a 3.00 ERA.

If the question is whether the Phillies should take hope because the World Series has shown that a team without dominating pitching can win the World Series, I think the answer is no.  The Cardinals got dominating pitching -- it just didn't come from their dominating pitcher.  And if the Phillies want to think they could have gone far in the playoffs this season I don't have any problem with that.  But more important to remember is that they had an opportunity to and they didn't.  They lost three of four.  Winning two more games than the Cards doesn't make you better than them -- beating them would have.

Mesa Solar Sox 14, Big Cacti 4, in AFL action yesterday.  The Saguaros drop to 7-10.  Kyle Kendrick got bombed, allowing five runs on seven hits in a single inning to puff his ERA to 11.37.  He threw a scoreless sixth and returned for the seventh and gave up five runs on five hits without getting an out.  At least they stuck with him.  Jason Jaramillo was 1-for-3 with his sixth double.  He's hitting 308/408/538 in 39 at-bats.

Pontifications about a Pat Burrell for Hank Blalock trade.

The list of names of people who won't be playing third for the Phillies next season is long and growing.  Looks like Pedro Feliz will soon be added.  Russell Branyan.

Aramis Ramirez, meanwhile, tells the Cubs to take this job and shove it, at least temporarily.

The Phillies also have "interest" in slugging third-baseman Akinori Iwamura, a monster left-handed bat from the Japanese league.  Iwamura hit .309 with 32 home runs for the Yakult Swallows in 2006.  I kind of expect the Phillies are interested in him in the same way you're interested in winning the lottery.  You might want to wait a couple of days to cash that check.  Maybe he and A-Rod could platoon and third and they'll put Soriano in left and Sheffield in right.  It wouldn't leave any place for Ramirez, but they could always slot him in as the fifth starter and reap the benefits of his clubhouse persona.  Iwamura hit 389/429/500 in the World Baseball Classic prior to the start of the 2006 MLB season.

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