The Commish Online www.thecommishonline.com
October 8, 2008
As expected, Philadelphia was a little too much for Milwaukee to handle, but nobody told the Chicago Cubs that the playoffs started last week, so Los Angeles took advantage and manhandled the North Siders en route to the Division Series' only sweep.
Give credit to the Dodgers for pitching well and hitting well with runners in scoring position. That's easy to do when you fill the bases for the middle of the order (the first 3 batters in the order hit .371 in the NLDS). As for Philadelphia, they got some quality pitching out of Myers and Blanton (yes, Joe Blanton). If that happens again, the Phillies will continue to roll because the offense should take care of itself. That's a big "if" however. Let's look at the NLCS matchup a little closer and see who will be awaiting the Rays or Red Sox.
Los Angeles vs. Philadelphia
Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell are a threat to go deep any time they step to the plate, and Rollins, Utley, and Victorino are a threat to do just about anything at anytime, be it stealing a base, leaning into a pitch to reach base, moving a runner over, hitting a gapper or a home run, etc. Throw in Jayson Werth's 24 home runs, and nothing will come easy for the opposing pitchers.
LA can counter with Manny Ramirez, a bigger threat than any of them, but his sidekicks fall just a little short. Because the Dodgers don't have as many long ball threats, they will have to rely on more "mini" rallies where they can get as many hitters on base as possible and execute the small things to get runs across. Unfortunately, LA's season OBP is only .001 higher than Philadelphia's, so the Phillies possess the same ability to get on base AND a better knack for knocking them in. In short, the Phillies have an obvious advantage on offense even with Ramirez in LA.
The pitching is a different story. The Cubs and Angels have proven that a glut of solid pitching doesn't guarantee playoff success anymore, but it still doesn't hurt to have those dominant arms available lower in the rotation. With Moyer and Blanton as Philly's number 3 and 4 pitchers, they clearly lack the depth needed for a long series. Madson, Romero, Durbin, and others have done a great job of bridging the gap to Brad Lidge, but despite Jamie Moyer's success in 2008 and his savvy on the mound, I don't see him winning a ball game in this series.
LA counters with playoff proven Derek Lowe and young-but-talented Chad Billingsley. After that, Kuroda's numbers are very similar to Moyer's and Torre seems a little reluctant to go with Kershaw or Maddux as a starter this postseason. In other words, the Dodgers are in no better shape than the Phillies on the mound.
I preached the other day that I was going to go with my gut from now on after picking the Cubs and Angels in the Division Series. So, despite the numbers telling me that I should be leaning slightly toward the Phillies, I am going with Dodger Blue in this series. I foresee Cole Hamels winning the first game only to see LA come back in the middle of the series. Then, look for Derek Lowe to play a pivotal role in Game 7 to win the Dodgers the pennant, giving Manny Ramirez the chance at possible revenge (if that's what he wants to call it) against his former team.
Prediction: Los Angeles in 7