From Necessary Roughness
National League Playoff Preview
After about a month of being off of our radar because of the NFL, our attention, at least during the work week, will shift back to the MLB as the playoffs begin on Wednesday (Tuesday if you live in Minnesota or Michigan).
When it comes to playoff baseball, pitching rules and St. Louis has the edge on pretty much everyone in the National League in terms of pitching. Of the three finalist for the NL Cy Young award, two are members of the St. Louis Cardinals staff; Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. The two have combined for a 36-12 record, and 19-4 in the second half, and are 3-0 against the LA Dodgers. On the year, St. Louis won the series against the Dodgers 5-2.
On offense, we know that Albert Pujlos and Matt Holliday are one of the best three and four hitters in the majors.
The main question for the Cardinals is the closer spot. Ryan Franklin saved 43 games and had a 1.43 ERA, however he struggled in September, with three blown saves and a 7.56 ERA, resulting in the Cardinals slow finish on the year. Closing games in the post season is not like closing in June and July, so St. Louis will need Franklin to be mentally ready.
As for the Dodgers, the story has been a struggling offense in the second half of the season, including a struggling Manny Ramirez. Manny hit .355 in the first half of the season and just .260 in the second half. The Dodgers will not be able to win this series if Manny struggles. However, we know that Manny is Manny in the playoffs, so don't expect him to continue his slump in October.
The Dodgers rotation has some questions as well. With three solid, but inconsistent arms; Randy Wolf, Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley, manager Joe Torre must decide how to position these three to give LA the best chance of winning. Kershaw ended the season strong, but it looks like Wolf will start game one due him being the most consistent of the three.
In the end, St. Louis will be able to start Carpenter and Wainwright two times each, should this series go five. With that being said, St. Louis will win 3 of these four starts and win this series in 5. St. Louis is good enough to win this in four, however, expect the Dodgers offense to break out of their slump and push this to five.
St. Louis wins the series 3-2.
The defending World Series champions come into this series with more questions than the streaking Rockies who come into this series off a hot second half.
The Phillies have questions all over their pitching staff.
Who shouldstart game 1? Cliff Lee who has never pitched in the playoffs before or Cole Hamels (who is starting game 1) who is not the same pitcher we saw win the MVP of the 2008 World Series.
Who will close games? Brad Lidge who has 11 blown saves on the year? Or will they piece together the 8th and 9th inning using Lidge, Happ, Madson and Eyre? Brad Lidge was perfect last year, but this year he has been anything but.
How will the Phillies use Pedro? He has been solid on the year, but shaky as of late. He also has valuable playoff experience that would help the Phillies. They have him slated for game four, (as of the morning of 10/6/09 - subject to change), but maybe getting him in a pivotal game three may be a better idea than Joe Blanton.
As for The Rockies, they do not have as many potential sure things like the Phillies, but they also do not have as many potential busts like the Phillies. The Rockies do not have a true ace, but do have five pitchers with ten or more wins. They will be able to go with Aaron Cook, Ubaldo Jimenez and Jason Marquis in their first three games, and probably be able to repeat that rotation should this go five, as these are the best three options they have.
Home field advantage is not as pivotal in Baseball as in other sports, however these are two of the toughest places to play, in terms of crowd factor. Colorado has its loud "Rocktober" crowd, and The Phillies have their white towels waving. Which one will have more of an effect on the opposition is to be determined.
In the end, although The Phillies are the favorites and have more talent all around, I think the Rockies are the more consistent all around. They don't have one pitcher who is better than anyone on the Phillies, but as a whole, their staff is more consistent and has proven they can all get it done, when given the opportunity.
The Rockies steal one of the first two in Philly and go on to win in four!
NLCS - The Colorado Rockies vs. The St. Louis Cardinals
This will be a match-up of two of the most consistent teams in the National League, especially in the second half.
In this series, The Rockies again face a team with more talent all around, however The Cardinals have less question marks than the Phillies.
Although the Rockies won the season series 6-1, they only faced Wainwright and Carpenter in 3 of those games. Wainwright went 1-1 in his two starts, and Carpenter got a no decision after an impressive 7 inning, 5 hit, and 1 earned run outing that was then lost by the bullpen.
In this series, if it goes the distance, The Rockies will face that one-two punch up to four times, and they do not have enough firepower to overcome these two arms.
In addition, four of those six wins during the regular season came in the first half of the season, before The Cardinals added Matt Holliday who has been a huge addition to that line up.
The Rockies run ends in the NLCS as they lose this series in 6.
NL Champs - St. Louis Cardinals.
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