Phillies Continue to Offer Value
by Harry Brewer - 05/30/2007
When parity shows up, the most informed take advantage. In the case of the Philadelphia Phillies, there is value to be had at the betting window.
If you simply looked at standings and pitchers when placing a bet, you would be making a mistake. I assume you know that if you keep backing stud pitchers and front running teams you will quickly lose all your money. Those are public plays and all the value is tapped out of those options by bookies that know they will get one-sided action. The books know all to well that as long as the wallets continue to open for -180 favorites there will be plenty of major chalk on the board every night.
By the same token, huge underdogs that lie on the other side of the favorite can also take all of your money. Just at a different rate. These big dogs are getting so much juice for a reason - they generally stink.
This leads us to the middle-of-the-road teams that are good, but not really on the radar of the public bettors. The Phillies are one of those teams. If you looked at the odds on any given night and focused on the starting pitchers, then glanced at injuries, you might miss the value in this team. Reigning MVP Ryan Howard has just returned from the DL this past weekend. Tom "Flash" Gordon (5 saves 3 blown) is on the DL, and Pat Burrell is your classic underachiever.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel tried to address the closer situation by sending talented Brett Myers to the bullpen. Myers took well to being a closer, quickly accumulating six saves (one blown). This stabilized the team until Manuel decided to play him two nights in a row against Florida. Not what I consider overworking, but the second game was not a save situation. Myers promptly went down with a strained shoulder after giving up a fistful of runs. He is now on the DL.
As you read this piece you may wonder why I am even suggesting value. The answer is easy; they are winning. While the betting world scrambles to look for starters with big names and low E.R.A., they sometimes forget that the team must win in order to collect. What good is lights out pitching for seven innings followed by bullpen blunders? You basically risk big bucks to secure two thirds of a ballgame, then lose all that cash if the pen isn't right.
The Phillies are hovering just above .500 after a miserable start. At one point they were 4-11. This means they are playing good ball of late. They recently cooled off a hot Brewers team, taking three of four from them and they just swept the Braves on the road for the first time since 1995!
They are an athletic team with a good lineup and a great mix of veterans and young players. The nucleus is in place and has been there for a couple of years now. Rollins, Utley, Burrell and Rowan are all good vets. Victorino, Nunez, Dobbs, Werth, Helms and Ruiz are all good young talents that have all found a way to contribute. Ryan Howard of course, is the big bat that the rest of the offense revolves around. He may even get Burrell's numbers up. They are a problem for even the best of pitchers with a mix of power, average and speed. There are not many holes in the lineup so you have to throw them strikes.
The pitching is not as bad as it looks on paper. Moyer is 5-3 and playing consistent ball. The young Cole Hamels is 7-2 with a 3.74 E.R.A. and is a strikeout oriented hurler. Freddy Garcia is playing his way back to form after starting the season hurt and Adam Eaton is struggling along early. John Lieber is 2-2 with a 3.45 E.R.A. There is a constant mix in the bullpen and that is currently their biggest problem. With no true closer, it is a good thing that they can hit and play defense with the best of them. It is currently closer by committee with Alfonseca on the inside track. He is the only pitcher on the roster right now with a save (one).
Another overlooked value is the road and home records. They are 13-11 at home and 13-14 away. This makes for a good road wager on the right night. They may even be a better road value because their newer hurlers will take awhile adjusting to that home run derby of a park in Philadelphia.
Overall, this is a good team with an average record. They will be in the wild card hunt at the end. They have been injured early but have found a way to survive. In other words, they are playing team baseball. They will score all year but will lose many games late due to the bullpen. They are also their own worst enemy. Base running mistakes and a lack of true discipline are not helping. Charlie Manuel is not likely to instill that discipline anytime soon. He is not that kind of manager. He will however, "let 'em play". Remember that this team was one game away from a wildcard two years ago and three games away last year and if they learned anything, they should be able to grab it this year. And they may be able to make you a few extra bucks in the process.