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Series Preview #41: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Philadelphia Phillies

Tonight, on a very special episode of Series Previews...

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

I met a traveller from a cheesesteak'd town
Who said: "Two thick and rotund legs of stone
Stand in the dugout. Near them on the ground,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose
And wrinkled lip and
sneer of cold command
Tell that Amaro well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on by bad contracts,
The hand that signed Young(s) and filled fans with dread.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is OzyManuelas, King of Kings:
Look on my Ring, ye Tampa, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The Howard contract stretches far away".

If there was any doubt that Phillies, who ruled the NL East during the Late First Decade of the 2000s epoch, should be spoken about in past tense, it was eradicated by the letting go of Charlie Manuel, who represents that period in Phillies history on a level that few modern managers represent anything. While we have very little idea of what the Ryne Sandberg era will look like, it seems unlikely to resemble the Charlie Manuel era, for better or worse.

What the Stats Say (Courtesy of Fangraphs):

Hitting (wRC+): 93 89 Arizona
Pitching (ERA-/FIP-):
97/101 113/105 Arizona
Fielding (UZR):
38.9 -43.6


And the problem with letting the manager go is that what's going on in Philly is pretty clearly a team-construction issue rather than a management one. Your mileage is going to very on how much you buy the park effects in play here, but the stats above suggest that the Phillies have the second-worst offense, the third-worst pitching staff, and the worst fielding in the National League. They're tied with the Marlins for the worst Run Differential in the NL.

If you really want to give the manager credit for anything that happens on the field, Manuel probably deserves credit for keeping a terrible team a step or two above terrible all year.

Starting Lineups:

Arizona Diamondbacks

1. Adam Eaton, LF
2. Martin Prado, 3B
3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
4. Aaron Hill, 2B
5. Gerardo Parra, RF
6. A.J. Pollock, CF
7. Wil Nieves, C
8. Didi Gregorius, SS

Philadelphia Phillies

1. Jimmy Rollins, SS
2. Michael Young, 1B
3. Chase Utley, 2B
4. Domonic Brown, LF
5. Darin Ruf, RF
6. Cody Asche, 3B
7. John Mayberry, CF
8. Carlos Ruiz, C

I'm an upbeat guy, so let's focus on Domonic Brown here. It took a little while, but Brown finally morphed into the great hope for the future right when Philly fans most needed a great hope for the future. There are guys with better Isolated Slugging numbers than Brown in the NL, but they have last names like Goldschmidt and Gonzalez.

His defense is an issue, and he doesn't walk as much as I'm sure people would like to see, but there's not a team in baseball that can use a hyper-talented 26-year-old to cash in on his potential more than the Phillies. Put your hand down, Astros, and stop pretending that Chris Carter is "hyper-talented."

This was a nice smokescreen to avoid the news that the rest of the above lineup is almost 31 years old on average. It's only that young because Ryan Howard is injured. Sorry, Phillies, but giving Cody Asche, who has a .589 OPS so far, PAs because Howard isn't around to steal them doesn't count as a "youth movement."

They can't trade Howard with his contract, and they can't sit him, so once he's healthy again, he's going to go back to getting his veteran ABs, and I can't even pretend that he shouldn't because Cody Asche isn't a good enough reason for him not to. But other than that, rebuilding!

Starting Pitchers:

Friday: Wade Miley (9-8, 3.56) vs. Cole Hamels (5-13, 3.61)

Insightful Commentary: With the Diamondbacks' season essentially over, Miley will be one of the pitchers I will be watching most closely. Mostly because even though he's gotten similar results to last year, save about a month of struggles, he's been a very different pitcher. His walk rate has nearly doubled, and his HR/9 has shot up despite him forcing noticeably more ground balls than last year. His track record suggests he should be fine, but his 2013 FIP suggests otherwise. We'll see who's right.

If you like recency bias, this is your matchup for the series. We all know what Miley's done recently, but Hamels has a 2.05 ERA in his last nine starts, per Having a K:BB of 55:8 during that time doesn't hurt either, in all likelihood. Other than the record, Hamels is back on track to have a traditionally Cole Hamels season after a very slow start.

Saturday: Randall Delgado (4-4, 3.82) vs. Ethan Martin (2-2, 5.23)

Insightful Commentary: 19 of the 37 runs Delgado has allowed this year have come via the home run. Frankly, that's pretty insane. Delgado's struggles are not the result of a variety of struggles: he has one very serious issue, and he'll either correct that and take a step forward as a pitcher, or he won't.

I had honestly forgotten that the Dodgers ever traded for Shane Victorino until I saw Martin's name and remembered that he was the prize. He had been mediocre for much of the season in Triple-A, so the Phillies brought him up to be mediocre in the majors after Jonathan Pettibone was injured. So far, so mediocre.

Sunday: Patrick Corbin (13-3, 2.45) vs. TBA

Insightful Commentary: If the season ended now, Patrick Corbin's 2013 would finish second in Diamondbacks' history among starter ERA, behind just Randy's 2002 (2.32). I don't want to compare across eras or account for BABIP or things like that, because we all know RJ comes out better and it wouldn't add anything. I just wanted to leave that stat there for people to appreciate.

For People More Optimistic than I...

Dodgers Upcoming Schedule:

At home against Boston, 9.5 up on Diamondbacks

Friday: Nolasco vs. Lackey
Saturday: Ryu vs. Lester
Sunday: Capuano vs. Peavy

Reds Upcoming Schedule

At home against Milwaukee, 7 up on Diamondbacks

Friday: Bailey vs. Gallardo
Saturday: Arroyo vs. Peralta
Sunday: Cingrani vs. Estrada

Phillies Blog: The Good Phight

(All stats from Fangraphs or Baseball-Reference unless otherwise indicated.)