Just a few more hours before today's game starts. While we've got some time to mull yesterday's brilliant start by Cliff Lee and look forward to Cole Hamels repeating today, here are a few things to think about:
How great would going up 2-0 be for the Phillies? Very. The Phillies have a 1-0 lead in the 5 game division series. Historically, teams up 1-0 have won 70% of division series. As you can imagine, the odds get even better when a team goes up 2-0. They're not insurmountable, but they're pretty close. Since the division series started in 1995, there have been 34 out of 56 in which a team has gone up 2-0. Of those 34 teams, 30 have gone on to win the series. That means teams up 2-0 have won 88% of those series. In fact, 22 of those 34 teams have swept the series. The four unlucky losers were the A's in 2003 (to the Red Sox), the A's in 2001 (to the Yankees), the Indians in 1999 (to the Red Sox), and the Yankees in 1995 (to the Mariners).
How similar has Cole Hamels been in 2009 compared to 2008? Very. Actually, "very" is probably an understatement. If you look in the newspaper, you'll see Hamels had a 3.09 ERA in 2008 and a 4.32 ERA this year. An informed columnist might even tell you Hamels allowed 1.09 baserunners per inning last year compared to 1.29 this year. So how has he been so similar in the two years? These numbers depend on fielding, and Hamels was incredibly lucky in that department last year and not so lucky this year. Digging deeper than newspaper numbers shows us this. His BABIP last year was .270 compared to .325 this year. That means 5.5% more balls in play went for hits this year compared to last year. Hamels' home run rate was nearly identical (1.11 HR/9 last year compared to 1.12 this year) while he improved his walk rate (2.10 BB/9 last year compared to 2.00 this year) and strikeout rate (7.76 K/9 last year compared to 7.81 K/9 this year). Put this all together and his FIP (fielding independent ERA) was 3.72 last year and 3.72 again this year. What's this mean? The Cole Hamels who takes the mound today will be the same Cole Hamels as the Cole Hamels who dominated the playoffs last year. In fact, if you care most about strikeout, walk, and home run rates, this year's version may even be slightly better.
- How nice is it that the Rockies have such a lefty-leaning lineup? Very. I covered this yesterday, but it's worth repeating. The Rockies have a .791 OPS against righties but just a .765 OPS against lefties. Lefties hit just .191 yesterday against Cliff Lee. They're going to flail again today against Hamels. This year, Hamels gave up a .767 OPS to righties but just a .711 OPS to lefties. Add in that Hamels held all opponents to a .698 OPS at CBP this year, and we have a dominant outing in the works. Worried that Hamels faced the Rockies earlier this year and gave up 7 earned runs in 3.2 innings? Don't be. That game was Hamels' first game back from the DL when he was still working out kinks (and was a stupid game for Manuel to pitch him in to kick off his year!).
Enjoy Game 2 in a few hours!