Sunday, May 21, 2006

Sampling The Margin of Error

As goes Jimmy Rollins so go the Phillies, and right now none of them is going well.

J-Roll is back to his old habits – impatience and swinging at the high ones – while his mates continue to fail in the clutch and their losing streak is now five games and counting. Three days ago Charlie Manuel tried a one-game experiment and had Shane Victorino leading off. So much for experiments. Someone should tell the Phillies’ skipper that one game does not a sample make.

At the start of the season two things seemed certain: this team was going to score runs and it would catch the ball. Pitching was the troubling prospect. As of last night’s loss to Boston, the Phils are not scoring runs, especially when opportunities present themselves, and they are booting the easy plays. Overall, their pitching has been erratic but in a number of instances the starters have pitched well enough to win some of the games the team is losing. See the Milwaukee series for a three-game sample of such tendencies.

Last night’s game was billed as a match-up of young studs Brett Myers and Josh Beckett, whose career numbers are reasonably similar (44- 34 with a 4.34 ERA for Myers and 47 – 35 with an ERA of 3.52). Through five innings the game proved worthy of its advance billing, but in the sixth inning things fell apart for the Phillies and Myers. The box score will show Myers only gave up two earned runs in 6.1 innings, but that isn’t the whole story let alone necessarily the true one.

Jimmy Rollins, who an inning before had made a terrific stop on a ball absolutely scalded by David Ortiz, made a two-base throwing error on a routine one-out grounder by Alex Gonzalez in the sixth inning. Then Myers gave up a single to pitcher Josh Beckett, batting for the second time in 2006, and the Red Sox had their first run. On the next play David Bell could not handle a catchable ground ball by Kevin Youkilis (the play was charitably scored an infield hit) and the flood gates opened. By the end of the frame, the Red Sox had scored four runs and the Phillies’ fate was sealed.

Later in the game, Myers gave up another hit to Beckett, this one the second home run of his career. If Myers has any troubling tendencies they are his inability to work through bad plays behind him and allowing home runs to soft batters. Those two earned runs do not tell the whole story for Myers this night. Let the record show among other things he failed to get out his opposite number twice!

The fantastic recovery of early and mid-May during which the Phils won 12 of 13 is now a distant memory, soured by the failures that have plagued them all season. Local columnists are again highlighting the differences between the Red Sox, a confident team, and the Phils, a team with no discernible identity or direction. Worse, once again the Phils are playing in front of sell-out crowds at home, a sizable portion of which probably went to college in the Boston area and is rooting for the Sox, and failing to win the hearts and minds of the local citizenry.

Just one more example of failing to deliver in the clutch. And let the record show there are years if not decades from which to sample that tendency.

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