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Fear the Pythagorean champs: Phillies vs. Marlins series preview

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The Phillies always seem to bring out the Marlins’ “true” talent level

MLB: Miami Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies
Starling Marte: Future Phillie?
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

After finishing a difficult first half schedule at .500, the Phillies theoretically have a much easier schedule in the second half. Which means if they continue to muddle along around .500, it will be all that more frustrating, because these are teams that they “should” be beating.

Speaking of teams they should be beating, we start off the second half with four games against the Marlins. Based on their record, the Marlins are not a good team, yet that doesn’t seem to matter when the Phillies play them. But maybe there’s a reason for that.

Miami Marlins

Record: 39-50 (Fifth place in National League East)

The last time they met

There was a three-way split of the last series between these teams: One team won each game and the third got rained out. The game the Phillies lost was started by Aaron Nola, but that won’t happen this series since he has to sit these games out due to COVID protocols. If only there was a free and readily available way to greatly reduce the chances of something like this happening.

Since then?

The Marlins went 5-5 in the ten games before the All-Star break. They actually swept the Dodgers in that span, but lost four of six to the Braves. This computes because the Marlins always seem to roll over against every National League East team that isn’t the Phillies.

Pythagorean champs

If MLB decided to scrap its traditional win-based standings system and instead decide playoff berths based on Pythagorean record, the Marlins would be in good position to make the playoffs. Their Pythag record of 47-42 would have them in first place in the East.

Pythagorean records and how much they reflect a team’s “true” performance can be greatly overstated, but the discrepancy between the Marlins’ Pythag record and actual record could partly explain why they seem to play better than expected against the Phillies.

Least valuable player

The Marlins have had some success in calling up young pitchers in recent years. Thus far, Zach Pop is not among those success stories. He’s appeared in 27 games, and most of them have not gone very well for the Marlins. (However, unlike the managers of some other teams, Marlins manager Don Mattingly generally doesn’t use bad relievers in high leverage situations.)

Hector Neris: Mid-inning stopper?

Hector Neris’ tenure as closer didn’t go all that well in 2021, but in recent games, Joe Girardi has been using him in mid-inning situations when the starter has pitched himself into a jam. In previous games, Girardi might have turned to the likes of Brandon Kintzler and watched as fuel was added to the fire. But by using (theoretically) one of his better relievers there, he’s making sure the Phillies are able to stay close.

More Moore?

At first, Matt Moore seemed like an odd choice to start the first post-All-Star game. But with Nola unavailable, and with Zack Wheeler assuredly worn out from his 0.1 innings pitched in the All-Star Game, the move actually makes sense.

The teams are starting the series with a doubleheader, and if a pitcher generally can’t last past the fifth inning, it’s probably better to use him in a game that will only be seven innings long. And while nobody would say he’s been good, he also hasn’t been bad since returning to the rotation, and for whatever reason, the team wins the majority of his starts.

That said, I don’t think anyone would be shocked if the Marlins have put up eight runs by the third inning.

Punchable face analysis

Zach Thompson just has a big old punchable face, does he not?

MLB: Miami Marlins-Media Day USA TODAY NETWORK

I look at that picture and can’t help but imagine he talks like Goofy.

Trivia

Last series’ question : Nobody was able to guess that Maikel Franco was bizarrely productive with the Phillies when he played at Fenway Park, going 10-18 in four games there.

This series’ question: On April 21, 2004, a Marlins player hit three home runs in a game against the Phillies. Who was he?

What to expect

  • Since he’s had two bad starts in a row, feels like we’re due for a career-extending good Vince Velasquez performance.
  • Coming off hitting the first All-Star Game home run by a Phillie in 40 years, J.T. Realmuto will hit another.
  • Starling Marte will have a key hit, prompting Phillies fans to urge the team to trade for him and help solidify centerfield.

Closing thought that may or may not relate to the series

A few weeks ago, I said I wasn’t feeling Loki, but I thought the final three episodes were great.

In case anyone was curious....yes. Yes I would.