The Cove's "Beyond the Bay" preview series continues with a look at the Giants v. Phillies series that begins on Tuesday.
As you might know, the Giants bested the Phillies in the NLCS last year, and so we engaged in a little Q&A with Jason Weitzel of BeerLeaguer.com, an absolute must-read of a Phillies blog.
The Cove: Can you explain why anyone would consider the Phillies -- who have the second-best pitching staff in the NL and aren't the defending World Series champs -- the favorites to win the National League pennant in 2011? Because I can't.
Jason Weitzel: Yeah, it does seem like the Giants are getting disrespected a little, but there are a number of good reasons why people are picking the Phillies. The Phils have been a powerhouse for a couple of years and made the biggest splash of winter by bringing in Lee, so the national needle is pointing toward Philadelphia instead of San Francisco. I'm assuming you're using ERA as your measure for rating pitching staffs. The Giants are at 3.09, which is tops in the league, and the Phils are a shade under that at 3.13. The problem is the Giants play in a pitchers' park while the Phils are in a bandbox. Park-adjusted ERA says the Phils are the best. They've also surrendered the fewest runs per game (3.34). The Phillies also rate higher in offense and defense. On paper, the Phils are clearly better, but the Giants will certainly be a tough postseason draw, just as they were in 2010. In a best-of-five or best-of-seven, anything can happen.
Cove: Looking at the temperature in Philly over the next couple of days, it's going to be getting close to the 90's, which is really hot. Should the Giants pitchers be worried about wilting like delicate little flowers on the mound?
JW: No. What? Temperatures approaching 90 are like 10-15 degrees cooler than most American cities last week … (Ed. Note: I guess the Roy Halladay joke didn't come across?)
Cove: Why are you guys trying to get Carlos Beltran? Stop that. But seriously, what would you be okay with giving up to get him for the stretch run?
JW: Beltran would be a terrific boost for the postseason. The Phils are going to make the postseason without him. His postseason experience is what the Phils covet most. I can't see the Phils giving up Domonic Brown or a top pitching prospect for him. But I might be tempted to sell off rookie Vance Worley, who's pitching over his head.
Cove: Some people like to talk about the Phillies-Giants rivalry. Do you think such a rivalry exists? And if so, where does it rank in terms of the rest of baseball's rivalries?
JW: I don't sense that Giants-Phillies has reached the rivalry stage, but everyone knows it's a big series and are excited about it.
Cove: I've heard some players on the Phillies say that this series is not about revenge. That can't possibly be true, right? And if it is, do you think that fans will act like normal Philly fans and yawn indifferently when the Giants do something good?
JW: I fully expect the Phillies to place a heightened importance on this series and there's going to be a little extra juice pulsing through the seats at Citizens Bank Park. The Phils don't like to lose and have been thinking about the NLCS for months, trust me.
Cove: How many times will you and other Phillies fans make excuses about the Giants not having to face Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay in this series?
JW: Sounds like you're expecting the Giants to take the series. The Phils have been winning when Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick start, so don't count your chickens before they hatch.