Welcome to the 2009 MLB Postseason, Philadelphia Phillies and fans.
It's time to suppress the thoughts of revenge for 2007 and set aside the swagger that comes with the winning the 2008 World Series. The Phillies are playing October baseball for the third year and row, but every year is different.
While playoff baseball delivers a clean slate for all the participants, it's hard to ignore performances during the regular season. Based on the 162 games that led to this point, there are things the Phillies need to get past the tenacious Colorado Rockies that wasn't an issue in 2008.
Jimmy Rollins needs to continue his hot offensive performance. He was uncharacteristically cool in the entire first half of the season, but once he returned to form in the second half, the team followed.
Since July 1, the longest tenured Phillies player put up strong numbers—.285 BA, 28 doubles, 15 home runs, and 50 RBI. In that span, the team's .696 winning percentage was the highest in the National League and second highest in the Majors behind the New York Yankees (.783 percent).
In addition to a strong leader, the Phillies also need their 2008 World Series MVP to return to that level that brought about the prestigious award. In the championship year, ace Cole Hamels went 4-0 in five games. He pitched 35 innings, giving up seven runs, and striking out 30.
During the 2009 regular season, Hamels went 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA. Clearly, the Phillies need 2008 postseason Hamels to show up. The team cannot consistently put up 10+ runs to support the starting pitchers who struggle.
If it were possible for the Phillies to defeat each opponent in a blow out, that would be one way to relieve stress caused by the 2009 bullpen. This year's bullpen is definitely not the dependable 'pen of 2008.
Last year Brad "Lights Out" Lidge led the dominant bullpen with his perfect season. This year, however, the closer has blown 11 saves and the confidence many have in his abilities. In 2008, the bullpen had a 3.22 ERA, while this year they have earned a 3.91 ERA.
The inconsistency of the bullpen is what may hurt them the most—especially against the wily Rockies who are skilled in come-from-behind wins.
It's possible, however. The Philadelphia Phillies have experience. They have skill. They have confidence. If the team can harness all the elements and have them work in unison, they may be first to 11 wins.
Welcome to 2009 MLB Postseason play. May the games begin, although they will begin at the most horrible time (11:35 a.m. PT/2:35 p.m. ET).