There it is. That is how they will finish.
Why not start a breakdown of every division with the easiest to call. Philadelphia comes into this season every bit as talented as last year. In some senses they went and got better. They now have the best in the business in Roy Halladay. He will prove a vital tool when the Phils make it back to the playoffs. Philadelphia has a bit of karma on their side by throwing geriatric hurler Jaime Moyer every fifth day, and some say the elderly are useless, puhshaw. Philadelphia has an American League type lineup with hitters one through eight and will run away with the division, if they decide to win at home this year.
The problem for prognosticators comes at second and third place. Therein lies real challengers to the wild card race.
While both the Braves and Marlins tout strong pitching staffs, the Braves get the edge with a little more depth. Even with a sophomore jinx, Tommy Hanson will be one of the best 4th starters in baseball. He should keep his ERA under 3.50 and net at least five more wins over the Marlins fourth hurler Chris Volstad.
The Mets should find a way to under utilize Johan, Beltran, Reyes, Wright, and Bay. They will suck but not in a way that anyone will notice. Which is the worst kind of suck.
The Washington Strasburgs will sell out every five days if and when their lord and savior Stephen Strasburg gets called up.
There you have it. Cliff Lee is the dominant ace the Phillies wanted and needed. In the end, though, it won’t be enough. Philadelphia has proven that they can score with the best of them. They just have trouble stopping the Yankee assault. This point was driven home last night.
As soon as Cliff Lee relinquishes the ball to another arm all assuredness goes out the window. The Phillies may have won game 5. Yet all they did was stay the execution. To win it all they have to face both Andy Pettitte and C.C. Sabathia. Both are seasoned big game hurlers. Philadelphia has a glaring problem from the mound.
The Phils send up Pedro Martinez in game 6. Unfortunately, they need him to pitch all 9 if they have a chance to force game 7. Yankee hitters proved they can get to the bullpen in a hurry. If they do play Thursday, they send up Cole Hamels, a player that indicated recently that he just wanted the series to be over. Receiving flack from teammates and the city of Philadelphia, Hamels has recently backtracked on those comments. In the end however, you need a fearless pitcher to command a game 7. The Yankees will have that in tonnage in Sabathia. The Phillies will be hoping Hamels can keep the score down enough for Cliff Lee to close out the game. That is no strategy for success.
Here we are, well into fall and on the precipice of possibly a classic World Series. If the Yankees win, I will find solace in that I won’t have to hear about the Yankees gaining retribution for not winning the title for a whopping 8 years. How the media plants a chip on the Yankees shoulder is beyond me. This is like Lakers fans getting miffed if there is no three-peat.
This series could be very close. This is a rare time when the National League team can match batters pound for pound with the American side. Both teams can hit the ball out of the yard when needed. The offenses are very similar with the speed going slightly to the Phillies.
Both teams have great defenses. When you look at each depth chart it really is hard to decipher who you would take between the positions. Teixeira and Howard are monsters at the plate but Tex may get the nod because of his fielding. Utley is arguably the best hitting second baseman in the majors right now, but Robinson Cano is not far behind, and younger.
Shortstop may go to Rollins if it weren’t October, a month Jeter dominates from both sides of the ball. The only real mismatch is at 3rd base, there ARod is a hall of famer and Pedro Feliz looks good in a hat.
The one thing that may keep this from being a tight series is the pitching. Last series the Phillies were able to get past their faults in the pen by dominating the Dodgers with their starters. In this series however, they are on the short end in both starting and relief pitching. Phillies starters are ill-equipped to face a line-up like the Yankees. Save Cliff Lee, the Phillies will be sending up questionable pitchers like Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, and for game two, Pedro Martinez.
Hamels is a ghost of his 2008 self. He is neither overpowering nor fooling anyone at this stage. Joe Blanton is a fastball pitcher that likes to start a batter by throwing balls in the dirt. He will get behind in counts to a disciplined lineup and subsequently give up a long ball or two. Pedro Martinez looked good against the Dodgers, but then again Vicente Padilla looked good for a start against the Phillies.
The Phillies will most likely have to match the Yankees run for run rather than quieting their bats. Either way Charlie Manuel will have to go to the bullpen earlier in games than he would have liked. From there Chan Ho Park will remember he is Chan Ho Park. J.A. Happ will get bombed. Ryan Madson will walk batters. And Brad Lidge will either strike out the side or give up a grand slam.
This looks to be a good one, so pop open a beer, loosen the pants, and put up your feet. This may take a while.
These playoffs have reaffirmed what I thought I already knew about baseball. A lot of times the loss goes to he who screws up first, often, or both. Either a closer will throw a changeup out over the plate, or a shortstop will flub a double play, or Matt Holiday will try to run and catch at the same time. More often than not these mistakes turn into game changing blunders. Looking to the National League match-up on Thursday, I have decided who will screw up least.
Both teams boast solid defenses. Dodger faithful may even have images of gold glove infields of yester year. Likewise, the Phillies have nary a hole to hit to. This would almost be a complete tie on defense if it weren’t for the Manny in left field. I know it’s coming. It hasn’t yet. But it will. There will be a gaffe of such epic proportions as to end the Dodger hopes in one foul swoop. Things have been too easy out there for him. Sure every fly ball looks like it wants to come out of his glove. Sure every gaper is chased at walking speeds. But a big one is coming. Set the DVR to record.
As for rotations I have to give the “most likely to get rocked” award to either Randy Wolf or Brad Lidge. One constant with Wolf is that when he takes the ball, you know the opposition will score three runs. You can take comfort in that it will not be more than that but either way he will leave the game with three runs having been scored. As for Brad Lidge, I mean, come on, even Brad Lidge was holding his breath when Brad Lidge was pitching the ninth inning on Monday. He really only had one pitch he was comfortable with and that was his slider. Lucky for Lidge, Troy Tulowitzki was fond of swinging at pretty much anything that night.
Now what hitters will go completely absent for the next week? Smart money is Pedro Feliz. This guy wasn’t exactly raking the ball against Colorado. He went 3 for 13 but still scares me. He has a Scott Brosius thing about him. He could easily go 1 for 20 in the next series but that one could be the game-winning walk off single.
So which team will screw up least to take this thing? My guess is the defending champs…then again it could be the Dodgers. I’ll let you know after I see how many fastballs Padilla can throw without Chase Utley hitting the pavilion.