Blog Entry

And away we go

Posted on: October 22, 2008 1:52 pm

ST. PETERSBURG -- You're going to hear a lot over these next seven-to-10 days about how the Philadelphia Phillies have an "American League-style lineup."

What that means is that they have the ability to put a lot of runs on the board in a hurry. They're deep and they're powerful. They've got speed and power atop the lineup in Jimmy Rollins. They've got a rugged middle of the lineup with Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell.

But here's my question: If the Phillies' lineup is so AL-oriented, then why did they go 4-11 in Interleague Play this season? In five series against AL teams, they didn't win one.

Two of the five AL teams they faced qualified for postseason -- Boston (against whom the Phillies were 1-2) and the Los Angeles Angels (0-3). Three were not -- Oakland (1-2), Texas (1-2) and Toronto (1-2).

This isn't a knock on the Phillies, who are playing their best baseball of the season and easily could win this series if they keep it up. It is an indictment of the NL, which simply still isn't as strong as the AL.

Tampa Bay has an AL-style lineup, too. And center fielder B.J. Upton and third baseman Evan Longoria have combined to wallop 13 home runs and collect 26 RBI so far this postseason.

It's no wonder, then, that one of the main points of the report turned in by Philadelphia scouts for the Phillies to digest going into this World Series is that the pitching staff must keep the ball in the ballpark against Rays hitters. The Phillies think they can be successful if their pitchers stay away from predictable pitch selection patterns, which would keep Longoria, Upton, Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford and the rest of the Tampa Bay hitters off-balance.

If Cole Hamels, Brett Myers and Co. can establish themselves, it's the Phillies who could win this series with the long ball. They ranked second in the majors in homers, trailing only the Chicago White Sox.

The keys to this series, for me, are these:

-- Game 1. Philadelphia has not played a game in a week. Similar layoffs did no favors for Colorado (eight days) in last year's World Series or Detroit (six days) in 2006. If the Phillies' hitters have their timing Wednesday night, that will be a terrific sign for them. If they look lost against Scott Kazmir, it could be a sign of rust, and it could be a scramble for Philadelphia to turn it around.

-- The bullpens. With complete games having gone the way of the stock market, so many postseason games turn now somewhere between the sixth and eighth innings. We know Philadelphia is air-tight late with Ryan Madson (who handles the eighth innings) and closer Brad Lidge. The wild card is Tampa Bay phenom David Price. The Phillies saw what the rest of us saw in the ALCS: Rays relievers Grant Balfour and J.P. Howell are beginning to show wear and tear. That could leave Tampa Bay vulnerable -- or it could leave an effective Price as a breakout star.

-- Jamie Moyer. Philadelphia's Game 3 starter has gotten clobbered in the postseason. In two games, against Milwaukee and the Dodgers, he's served up eight runs and 10 hits in only 5 1/3 innings. He didn't make it out of the second in his NLCS start in Los Angeles. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel says he never considered not starting Moyer in the World Series, and the soft-tossing lefty is not a charity case: He led Philadelphia's staff during the season with 16 wins. But finesse pitchers are exceptionally risky in the postseason. There are no easy outs, and if a guy's touch is off even by a little bit ... look out.

There will be a harsh glare on Tampa Bay's kids, but they've responded to every challenge this season and I think they will respond again. None of the past four World Series has lasted longer than five games, and three of them have been sweeps.

I think this goes a bit longer, and I think the AL superiority again will be evident.

Tampa Bay in 6.



Since: Oct 12, 2006
Posted on: October 23, 2008 1:15 am

And away we go

Didn't like the way the Phillies were 0-13 with runners in scoring position, but that's a tribute to TB's pitching staff. Phillies have broken home field advantage. Your blog focuses on why the Phillies can't beat the AL teams in a series based upon regular season performance. In both those series that you rag on Moyer, the Phillies also had a 2-0 lead on their opponent. While we would all like to see our favorite team eliminate everyone in the fewest possible games for a sweep, it doesn't happen that way.

It's going to be a tough series and the pitchers did well tonight, they also got a lot of help defensively. An errant throw to the plate and Phillies get more. An error or the ball hit into the hole past a 3rd baseman and TB ties, maybe even gets the win. Incredible game 1 win for baseball period without categorizing as NL or AL team winning it. The Phillies have a National League style batting lineup. They've won games with being able to drive in runs and score. I thought for the most part their pitching was shaky in the regular season and their defense committed way too many errors, especially in the first month of the season. But you know what they were neck and neck and had to fight the Mets and Marlins early in the season. So they overcame that too, they led the division with what I thought was poor pitching and defense.

When you say TB in 6, try to script each game and tell us when and where the series will turn ? That way we can rip you game by game or even tell you how smart you are if it happens that way. I was worried Philly would go home for Saturday night's game down 0-2. But the worst they can be is 1-1 and if they can find a way to drive in those stranded base runners Thursday night, TB might be facing the task ofr winning at least 2 of the 3 in Philadelphia, maybe even sweeping the Phillies on a road trip ? I figured Philly needed one of the first two and coming in rested and focused with Hamels was their best opportunity. Thursday, still expect a low scoring affair, but as good as TB has played my fear was the Phillies would be down 0-2, so at 1-0 right now, the NL team has exceeded my expectations. So in the next 5 games, which one do you feel the Phillies win ? They're only going to get 2 of them and they have one already.

Since: Mar 4, 2008
Posted on: October 23, 2008 12:57 am

And away we go

A fairly good commentary, though obviously you root for an AL team to think about AL dominance.

First, let's examine the Phils record against AL teams. Aside from that being a poor measuring stick to determine the quality of a team  (after all, the Dodgers swept the Phils in a 4 game series, suggesting they were a better team than the Phils. Then they lost 8 out of their next 9 against the Phils, thus proving that its a marathon, not a sprint), you have to consider that Brett Myers was struggling so bad at that point of the season, that they sent him down to AAA to work on his stuff and our #5 starter, Kyle Kendrick, has lost his job in the rotation, you essentially have a completely different rotation.

As for the road to the World Series, the Phillies beat the hottest pitcher in baseball, while the Rays explosive offense faced a mediocre Red Sox staff. Beckett's a stud, but not right now. Wakefield's a knuckle baller, which can be a hitter's nightmare, or batting practice. It was BP. Aside from Dice-K, the Red Sox pitching was weak this post season. All those HRs came off bad pitching. The Phillies pitchers play in stadium that is homer friendly. They know this and are built to keep the ball in the ballpark.

Finally, now that the Phillies won game 1, home field advantage has shifted to Philly, where the Rays pitchers are going to have to bat. The Phillies are only considered to be built like an AL team because they have a power hitter on the bench (Stairs) that could  DH. An advantage AL teams have is that they use a DH, while NL teams do not. It doesn't make sense to pay a ton of money for a guy of Thome's or Papi's abilities if he is just going to sit on the bench. Therefore, you tend to see guys that hit .240 or .250 with little power being used as a DH when needed giving the AL an advantage.

If the Phillies win, will you write a blog discussing NL superiority?

Phillies in 5.

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