Chipper Jones told the AJC’s Mark Bradley that, in a seven-game playoff series against the Phillies, “I’ll take my guys over their guys. Meaning no disrespect.”
Granted, Chipper (who was just scratched from the lineup for right-knee sorness, scratched just as as I filed this) is not going to say anything otherwise about the matchup, at least not publicly. But he meant it. And if you look at it statistically, or on a position-by-position basis – at least as long as Chase Utley is out of the Phillies’ lineup – a good case can be made that the Braves are the Phillies’ equal.
And the Phillies’ superior record (25-13) over the Braves (22-19) can be attributed to – take your pick – a softer schedule for Philly and/or the Braves’ inability to consistently beat the teams they are supposed to beat.
In other words, the Phillies usually manhandle the likes of the Nationals; the Braves do not.
Before we break this down statistically – and you’ll be amazed how even the teams are, and how the Braves actually have the edge overall – I’ve got to share something that Fredi Gonzalez just said when I asked him an hour ago about the Braves-Phillies comparison.
Unsolicited, he offered a position-by-position comparison. I’m not making this up.
I’ll just give you his rundown verbatim:
“I think it’s pretty equal,” he began. “I think it comes down to the pitching, and [particularly] the bullpens. You go position by position … well, let’s do it.”
Indeed, let’s do it.
“First base, Howard and Freeman, you’d take Howard,” Gonzalez said. “[Second base] you’ve got Uggla and, who’ve they got now, Petey Orr [and others], so you take Uggla. Shortstop’s a tough one, I take Gonzo just because of the defense. Polanco-Chipper [at third base]. That’s a good one. That’s a toss-up there. I’m taking Chipper.
“Left field is Ibanez, and we have Prado; I’m taking Prado. Center field is McLouth and Victorino. Victorino. Right field is Heyward and Francisco or Mayberry. Heyward.”
Folks, I’m not making this up. He really gave us that impromptu rundown. Refreshingly candid? To say the least.
Gonzalez added, “The commander looked at the numbers the other day, and the only number that’s really skewed is stolen bases. We’re not built for stolen bases. I think we’ve got more home runs, runs scored are [similar]. So it’s fairly equal.”
The commander is bench coach Carlos Tosca, Fredi’s right-hand man and master organizer for years. And let me just say, I’d done a similar statistical breakdown before I came to the ballpark today, and would agree with Tosca that the stats are not just fairly equally. Actually, I’d say they are more than fairly equal; they’re startlingly equal.
First, let’s look at recent weeks. Since April 22, the Braves are 14-7 and the Phillies are 13-7. The Braves have a 2.78 ERA to the Phillies’ 2.90 during that stretch. The Braves have .255 batting average, 23 homers and 105 runs in 21 games during that stretch, compared to the Phillies’ .245 average, 16 homers and 78 runs in 20 games.
Statistically, the Braves have clearly been the superior team since April 22.
For the season, it’s a lot closer. The Braves (3.01) and Phillies (3.12) rank first and second in overall ERA, and their starters also rank first and second, the Braves at 3.10 to the vaunted Philly starters’ 3.19.
For the season, the Braves have outscored the Phillies 174-164, outhomered them 44-31, outslugged them .394 to .385. The Phillies have the edge in OBP, .323-.313, and batting average, .256-.243.
Entering today’s series finale, the Braves and Phillies have split eight games this season, and check out the mirror-image stats from those head-to-head matchups: The Braves have a 3.30 ERA to the Phillies’ 3.34. The Braves have a .256 batting average to the Phillies’ .238.
In the eight games, the Braves have five homers and 27 RBIs, the Phillies five homers and 29 RBIs.
Doesn’t get much more even than that, folks.
♣ Today’s matchup: It’s a beauty for today’s finale, with Roy Halladay – the best pitcher in baseball, in my opinion – facing the Braves’ Tim Hudson.
Halladay is 4-0 with a 1.26 ERA in five starts against the Braves; and no, he didn’t lose that game to Kenshin Kawakami in 2009, which a lot of people have asked me about since I put that stat up on Twitter this morning. Halladay got no decision in that 1-0 loss.
Hudson is 3-0 with a 3.48 ERA in his past three starts against the Phillies, and 7-7 with a 3.90 ERA in 19 career starts against them.
Halladay is on a roll – isn’t he always? – with a 1.38 RA and .191 opponents’ average in his psat four starts. He has 41 strikeouts and only four walks in 32-2/3 innings during that stretch, and a 3-1 record (he got a loss in his last start at Florida, despite allowing only five hits and one earned run in eight innings).
Hudson ain’t doing too badly of late, either: He’s 2-1 with a 2.20 ERA in his past four starts, with a 1.97 opponents’ average. The Braves scored six, eight and six runs while he was in those games.
♣ Prado vs. Philly: No Brave speaks with more passion about beating Philly than does Martin Prado, and he’s doing more than his share to try to make it happen.
In his last 13 games against the Phillies, Prado has hit .364 with four homers, eight RBIs, a .417 OBP and .636 slugging percentage and six multi-hit games. He led off Saturday’s 5-3 win with a homer, then added a two-run, two-out single in the sixth inning.
“That guy’s a key,” catcher David Ross said. “That’s when we started playing good last year [when Prado got hot]. He’s starting to hit. Two or three days ago, he hit a ball off the wall and I was just like, look out boys, here it comes.
“When Martin Prado gets locked in, that’s a good thing for the Atlanta Braves.”
He’s locked in. Has been for a while. Prado has hit .393 with eight extra-base hits, 17 RBIs and a 1.087 OPS in his past 14 games, including .408 with four homers and 14 RBIs in his past 11, and .478 (11-for-23) with three homers and eight RBIs during a current streak of five consecutive multi-hit games.
“I think we know who the Player of the Week is going to be this week,” Chipper Jones said. “Typical Prado fashion, he started off a bit slow, but when he gets it going you just roll with it. The bottom of the lineup’s done a good job of really setting the table for the top. I dare say Prado is probably leading all leadoff men in RBIs.
“He’s probably leading the team [in RBIs] by now. He’s had a lot of opportunities, but he’s the one guy I’d want, other than myself, up at the plate right now with some meaningful runs out there.”
Prado and Chipper share the team lead with 27 RBIs.
♣ Surging Jurrjens: When Jair Jurrjens took a no-hitter to the sixth inning Saturday and pitched 7-1/3 strong innings (three hits, two earned runs) for the win, he improved to 5-0 with a 1.66 ERA in six starts.
That made him the first Braves pitcher to start a season 5-0 with a sub-2.00 ERA since Tom Glavine in 2000.
Jurrjens also reached the qualifying standard for the 2011 pitcher rankings (before yesterday he didn’t have enough innings after starting season on the DL).
His 1.66 ERA ranks second in the majors to Josh Johnson’s 1.63. Hudson and Jurrjens are fourth and fifth, respectively, in the NL in opponents’ on-base percentage (.259 and .263).
Jurrjens (.324) and Tommy Hanson (.325) are eighth and ninth in the NL in opponents’ slugging percentage, and Hanson (.213) is sixth in opponents’ batting average.
♣ OK, gonna get this posted so you can read it before the game starts. Enjoy the series rubber match. Let’s close with a fiery cut from Irish rockers Black 47, and you can hear it by clicking here.
“JAMES CONNOLLY” by Black 47
Marchin’ down O’Connell Street with the Starry Plough on high
There goes the Citizen Army with their fists raised in the sky
Leading them is a mighty man with a mad rage in his eye
“My name is James Connolly – I didn’t come here to die
But to fight for the rights of the working man
And the small farmer too
Protect the proletariat from the bosses and their screws
So hold on to your rifles, boys, and don’t give up your dream
Of a Republic for the workin’ class, economic liberty”
Then Jem yelled out “Oh Citizens, this system is a curse
An English boss is a monster, an Irish one even worse
They’ll never lock us out again and here’s the reason why
My name is James Connolly, I didn’t come here to die…..”
And now we’re in the GPO with the bullets whizzin’ by
With Pearse and Sean McDermott biddin’ each other goodbye
Up steps our citizen leader and roars out to the sky
“My name is James Connolly, I didn’t come here to die…
Oh Lily, I don’t want to die, we’ve got so much to live for
And I know we’re all goin’ out to get slaughtered, but I just can’t take any more
Just the sight of one more child screamin’ from hunger in a Dublin slum
Or his mother slavin’ 14 hours a day for the scum
Who exploit her and take her youth and throw it on a factory floor
Oh Lily, I just can’t take any more
They’ve locked us out, they’ve banned our unions, they even treat their animals better than us
No! It’s far better to die like a man on your feet than to live forever like some slave on your knees, Lilly
But don’t let them wrap any green flag around me
And for God’s sake, don’t let them bury me in some field full of harps and shamrocks
And whatever you do, don’t let them make a martyr out of me
No! Rather raise the Starry Plough on high, sing a song of freedom
Here’s to you, Lily, the rights of man and international revolution”
We fought them to a standstill while the flames lit up the sky
‘Til a bullet pierced our leader and we gave up the fight
They shot him in Kilmainham jail but they’ll never stop his cry
My name is James Connolly, I didn’t come here to die….”