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Phillies Need to Reverse First-Timers Curse vs. Cleveland Tonight

Apr 30, 2013, 3:50 PM EDT

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Guest post by Matt Hammond

Cleveland starter Zach McAllister has been perfectly average so far.

He’s is 1-3 with a 3.52 ERA in four starts. His record’s a product of
his shoddy run support: he’s surrendered no more than two runs in any
of his starts, but the Indians have plated three or fewer for him
in each. (Before you feel sorry for him: McAllister’s 3.50 RS/9 would be
the second-most on the Phillies, ahead of Roy Halladay (3.40), Cliff
Lee (3.20) and John Lannan (3.00), and behind Kyle Kendrick’s 4.40.)
Though his ERA, which ranks 57 of 109 qualifying starters, is mostly on him.

But tonight against the Phillies, McAllister enters with a distinct
edge if you consider the way the Phillies have fared in such situations
so far: he’s never seen them before.

Four times have the Phillies faced a starter who’d never before seen
them in their careers. They’ve worked a composite 2.05 ERA and .195
opponent batting average. In other words: never seeing the Phillies
before apparently makes you Adam Wainwright.

The Phillies are 1-3 in such games.

First-timer’s advantage isn’t only a Phillies problem.

Minor leaguers flooding the majors after September callups, for
instance, thrive off the fact that there’s (a) so many of them and (b)
so little film on them. Same goes for the beginnings of most seasons,
with many fresh off spring training victories for starting rotation
spots. Same for this one, too, the first of expanded interleague play.

The problem for the Phillies is that they should’ve shelled nearly all of these guys.

Wade Davis is basically a glorified reliever, having cracked the
rotation only after leaving Tampa for Kansas City via trade and posting a
4.22 ERA as a starter between 2009-11, which ranked 77th of 126
qualifying starters over the span.

To their credit, the Phillies touched him up for four runs in as many innings.

But he was the only one of the four they got to.

The rest? KC’s Luis Mendoza, Miami’s Jose Fernandez and Pittsburgh’s
Jeff Locke, who’ve allowed a whole one run in 18 combined innings, for a
0.50 ERA. This, despite the fact that they’ve had a combined 3.91 ERA
this year with two individuals north of 4.50.

Two of them, by the way, were righties. The only lefty, Locke,
entered with a .389/.450/.500 line against lefties, for the sixth-worst
lefty batting average in baseball. (Not surprisingly, Locke was behind
five righties in this category.) And yet Locke still tossed six
scoreless innings to effectively outduel Cole Hamels in a 2-0 loss on
Apr. 23.

On the year, Locke has a 4.50 ERA.

McAllister doesn’t seem like a push-over. He has a decent K% (19.8)
and doesn’t walk too many batters (7.9%) and throws five pitches with a
mildly quick 91.5 m.p.h. fastball.

He’s just got no business gassing the Phillies — as his first-timer peers have so far.