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SnakePit Round Table: into Philadelphia

The D-backs are in the NLCS for the first time since 2007!

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Philadelphia Phillies Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The D-backs face Philadelphia. What do you think of this match-up?

DBacksEurope: It will be a tough series. I remember that before the Wild Card playoffs there was a round table and we were asked whether we preferred the Brewers or Phillies and I am sure many contestants would like to get their answer back. To me, these slugging teams like the Phillies or Rangers are the worst kind of opponent you wish for. They can knock out a ball at any given moment and we have a couple of pitchers that give up a lot of fly balls so I am not too confident here. Both Diamondbacks and Phillies knocked out a 100+ wins team, so both teams deserve credit for that. I believe the Braves were in better shape than the Dodgers, so in my opinion the Phillies are favourites for this matchup, but game 2 there showed that you can get in their bullpen. Despite the Phillies being slight favourites, given the Diamondbacks’ performance so far, I’ll say it is a 50-50.

Spencer: Like DBE alluded to, I was one who would’ve rather played Philly. Now, I question that a bit. But we’re riding on house money and I wouldn’t put anything past this youthful core of exciting players. Philly has power, but pretty much nothing else. Their starters are good, but that only goes so far in the playoffs. The bullpen is adequate, but leaky. And the rest of the offense’s game is non-existent. Houston beat them last year; we can do the same.

Makakilo: Recent play best reflects the matchup. So far in this postseason, the teams are evenly matched in three ways (Data from, ESPN, and The Fielding Bible) :

  • Runs scored via homers. The Phillies scored 3.17 runs per game from homers, and the Diamondbacks scored 3.2 runs per game from homers.
  • Aggressive baserunning. The Phillies stole 1.5 bases per game, and the Diamondbacks stole 1.4 bases per game.
  • Excellent Bullpen Pitching (runs allowed per game). The Phillies’ bullpen allowed 0.5 runs per game. Although the Diamondbacks’ bullpen allowed 0.8 runs per game, two runs were allowed when they had an 11 run lead – without those runs the Diamondbacks’ bullpen would have allowed 0.4 runs per game.

So far in this postseason, the teams are unevenly matched in three ways:

  • Small Ball (Runs scored from non-homer events). The Phillies scored 2.0 runs per game, and the Diamondbacks scored 2.8 runs per game. Advantage Diamondbacks.
  • Starting pitching. The Phillies have three aces (Suarez, Nola, and Wheeler) while Diamondbacks have two aces (Gallen and Kelly), albeit that Pfaadt pitched well in his latest game. So far in the postseason, the Phillies’ starters allowed 1.17 runs per game while the Diamondbacks’ starters allowed 1.4 runs per game. Advantage Phillies.
  • Defense. So far in the postseason, the Diamondbacks had a better fielding range factor in every position (including pitcher) except first base (Harper), left field (Marsh), and catcher (Realmuto). That small sample size is backed up with regular season DRS (Phillies ranked 26th with negative 30 DRS and Diamondbacks ranked 4th with positive 46 DRS). Advantage Diamondbacks.

Overall Summary: Based on postseason performance, the Diamondbacks chances of winning the series are 55-45.

ISH95: I think there are a lot of interesting parallels between the two. First and most obvious is Philly did last year what we are trying to do this year. Will the Dbacks be able to get past those rivals? Will they get farther? The second is Corbin Carroll and Bryce Harper. The young phenom vs the once phenom, now grizzled vet. Should be interesting to see which side comes on top.

James: I too was one that said I would prefer to see the Diamondbacks face the Phillies. I have no illusions that they will be a potent offensive force. While Atlanta might have been less so, I’m not sure it would have been by that much. On the other hand, Philadelphia’s defense is garbage compared to Atlanta’s and I think that Atlanta has better overall pitching. So, I’ll stick with my sentiment of preferring to face the Phillies.

Steven: The Phillies are oddly similar to the Dodgers in that they have more than half of their hitters performing like All-Stars at this point, something that the Dodgers did all year long until the playoffs. I think we were lucky to not face them in the Wild Card round and they’ve proved it with 5 runs a game on average and their pitching has got them through games without an explosion of runs. The Phillies starters are hittable, and if the D-backs can get to them early like the Dodgers series, we have a chance.

Sam: I was more ambivalent than you’d expect about the other NLDS because of Philly’s playoff experience, but their strengths are also being overblown. Yes their rough patch was early in the year while the Dbacks’ was in July/August but they still only won 90 games.

Would you rather have got Atlanta?

DBacksEurope: I think the Braves would have been a very difficult opponent to play against as well, but apparently the Phillies were in better shape. So yeah, after seeing quite a complete Phillies team in this playoff (great starting pitching, powerful offence and heat in that bullpen), give me the Braves that showed up in the NLDS.

Spencer: Not really. Atlanta is an overall better team than Philly, so pound for pound I’ll take the lesser opponent and hope Philly handles their workload and days off worse than we do.

Makakilo: In a previous roundtable I wrote that the Braves are by far the best team in the Majors. Nevertheless, the Braves looked flawed in the postseason.

My view is that the Phillies beat the Braves because they hit a lot of homers in the third and fourth games of their series.

If other things were equal (an uncertain assumption), could the Diamondbacks hit a lot of homers to beat the Braves? My view is they could because they are hitting a lot of homers in the postseason. Comparing the postseason to the regular season, the Diamondbacks scored a higher percentage of runs via homers (53.3% vs 36.3%). (Data from Baseball Savant.)

While they would have bested the Braves via homers, perhaps they will beat the Phillies via small ball. Per my answer to a previous question, small ball is an advantage that the Diamondbacks have over the Phillies.

Justin: No.

ISH95: Obviously. The Braves had a layoff so they are, of course, helpless and weak.

In seriousness, not really. That offense scares me. We got lucky/good/both with the second best offense in baseball. I feel no need to have tried it again, this time with the best.

James: As I already pointed out in my previous answer, I’m happier facing the Phillies.

Steven: I think the Braves looked vulnerable but were just starting to turn the corner in Game 4 and just seeing how they were playing at that point I’d rather face them if they were able to squeek by the Phillies. Kudos the Phillies though, they took care of business.

Sam: No, but I wish the other series had gone to 5 games. It would at least have messed with the narratives and pushed Wheeler back, but he would still pitch twice in the series.

What are the keys to Arizona’s success?

DBacksEurope: Stay aggressive and put up some early runs and keep the balls on the ground. The Phillies aren’t the best defensive squad out there, I saw some misplays from Trea Turner in the NLDS as well, so make contact and create havoc on the bases.

Spencer: I like DBE’s suggestion here. Mine was similar. Philly isn’t a fundamentally sound team. Even their best player (Harper) is learning a new position in real time at a very important spot (1B). Use power if you can, but be willing and able to force the issue and earn a few victories the Good Ol’ Corbin Way.

Makakilo: The biggest key to success is to score an average of 6 runs a game (as they have done so far in the postseason).

ISH95 That defense has me licking my chops. I want to see extra bases, stolen bases, infield hits, let’s make them work.

On the flip side, we need Gallen and Kelly to be perfect again and bring the length. It’s a lot to ask, but that’s playoff baseball. Pfaadt in game three and a bullpen game, give or take, in the fourth is going to put even more pressure on them.

James: Gallen and Kelly need to be in peak form. The bullpen has to continue it fun of fine performances as well. At the plate and on the bases, the offense has to push Philadelphia to make plays. Make Philly make the right play at the right time and make it nearly perfect. If the defense is called on too often, the Diamondbacks will find ways to push runs across.

Steven: The pitching needs to hold up over a long series. If Gallen and Kelly can do their job just like they did in the Divisional Round we’ll always have a chance to win. The Phillies pitchers are vulnerable, both in allowing contact and the defense behind them struggling. We’re not going to lead the playoffs in home runs, we need to create chaos and be a nuisance on the basepaths.

Sam: Disrupt the narrative. Take the home crowd out of things by scoring early. Shift bullpen and lineup management slightly to account for the 7-game series.

What is your biggest area of concern?

DBacksEurope: That we do something that’ll release Bryce Harper’s anger and he goes medieval on us like he did with Atlanta.

Spencer: That our pitching falters when theirs doesn’t and the offense can’t put up enough runs to stop the onslaught.

Makakilo: Will Diamondbacks’ starting pitchers be effective at run prevention and complete 6 innings in every 2 out of 3 games?

Justin: Game 4.

ISH95: The bullpen. We are asking so much from them, and I’m conditioned to believe eventually they won’t answer the bell.

James: Pitching in general. The Phillies can post up a ton of runs on anyone. Arizona has a number of pitchers who are known to give up runs in bunches. Brandon Pfaadt is a flyball pitcher. That’s going to play into Philadelphia’s strength. The bullpen is not known for pitching clean frames. That means more opportunities for Philadelphia’s thumpers to put up crooked numbers.

Steven: It’s the offense for me. Both teams are playing out of their minds on offense right now, the D-backs moreso than the Phillies. Which team can continue to play well and allow their pitching to relax? These are already high-leverage innings, but there’s a large difference between pitching in a 2-2 tie vs a 6-2 lead.

Sam: Unlike the Brewers and Dodgers, the Phillies’ starting rotation is intact, and they’re confident. The psychological factors don’t all point in our direction, in other words.

Predict the series result, and explain why.

DBacksEurope: I think that either the Phillies make quick work of us or both teams start a battle. I definitely don’t see the Diamondbacks roll over Philadelphia. I say D-Backs in 7 with Gallen locking it up in the final game with a Cy Young worthy performance.

Spencer: Arizona in 6. I think we may stumble to start against the first opponent who is actually hungry to be where they are. But the youth will have matured and by game 3 is ready to throw Philly’s fanaticism back in their face.

Makakilo: Diamondbacks in 7 games. Per my answer to a previous question, the Diamondbacks and Phillies are evenly matched, increasing the chances of 7-games. Game 7 will be an away game for the Diamondbacks, but they have shown they can win away games

Justin: DBE’s response is what I most agree with.

ISH95: Gentleman’s sweep, Dbacks in five.

Unfettered optimism got me this far, why stop now?

James: Either the Phillies steamroll the Diamondbacks in 4-5 games, or the series goes the distance. Since I want to be a supportive fan, I’ll go with the Diamondbacks in seven. The longer the series goes, the more I like Arizona’s chances.

Steven: It’ll be a great 7 game series and the D-backs will clutch it up on the road at Citizen’s Bank Park.

Sam: Dbacks in 6 feels more likely than Dbacks in 7 since Kelly starts game 6 and Pfaadt game 7, presumably.

Would you rather face Texas or Houston in the World Series?

DBacksEurope: It’s hard to repeat a World Series win, so give me Houston. Texas is scary, pretty much like Philadelphia, but they also have more starting depth.

Spencer: Texas. Houston is defying every baseball normalcy from the last 20 years. If we can get past Philly, I want a similar opponent we are comfortable playing against.

Makakilo: The Houston Astros are the only team remaining that had a first round bye. If the Texas Rangers beat them, then no teams with a bye made it to the World Series. I would like that.

Justin: Texas

ISH95: I’ll just be happy to be there, tbh.

James: I’m with ISH. However, picking one or the other, I’ll go with Texas. Houston has too much World Series experience still remaining on the roster and they rather easily carved up the Diamondbacks in the final series of the season when both teams still had something to play for.

Justin: That is a good point James on the last series. As a Coyotes fan, Ill echo ISH and something I said to someone a couple of weeks ago, “just happy to be here.” The last time the DBacks were in this position, I was a lurker still on DBBP and wouldnt even meet my best friend for another 2 years…

Steven: Bring em both on, but I’d rather face Texas.

Sam: Texas has shown hot and cold streaks all season and we beat them in 3 of 4 games this year.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever ate — and was it good?

DBacksEurope: I’ve been pretty clean in that aspect. I’ve sucked some shrimp heads, eaten a bull scrotum here and there, pig feet and chicken liver. Nothing really weird and it was all okay, but you won’t see me getting all crazy about it and I will order something else if the menu has more to offer. Over here they pretty much eat everything you can eat of an animal, especially South American immigrants do that, who have an appetite for all kinds of intestinal stuff or tongue or brains…yuck…or maybe not? I’d like to know what kilnborn has eaten, I am sure he will beat all of us.

Makakilo: Vegan imitation fish. It was a very realistic filet of fish with chili sauce on a bed of steamed veggies. It was great! The restaurant was Vegan House near Chase Field.

Justin: I am honestly not sure. I’ve had a bison burger. That was good. I might have had quail. Prickly pear jelly is good (but wouldn’t go out of my way to buy it), but that’s the only prickly pear “thing” I like.

I will go off on somewhat of a tangent because it was actually the first thing I thought of and say I like kippered herring. I would eat it at my Scottish grandparents house growing up. I am not sure I liked it then as much as “Grampa eats it, so yay” and it just grew on me lol. My grandmother made a really good home made shepherds pie.

ISH95: Sea Urchin, and no it wasn’t. Weird flavor, weirder texture. I also have had some imitation vegan not-meats of varying quality. As far as a weird thing I did like, freshwater eel is one of my favorite things to eat.

Justin: With a side of dead unicorn, perhaps? [Jim: 2007 called - they want their reference back... ]

James: Having spent 30 years as a chef, there is very little I have not eaten. However Mak pointed me in the right direction. Vegan Andouille sausage certainly has to rank up there. I mean, I tried it, but it was absolute garbage. Someone please explain the point of a vegan alternative to what is one of the most “we like animal flesh however we can get it” foods?I’m not a fan of fake meats in general. That one though was just vile. Even the vegan hated it.