Top 12 Things That Work to The Phillies' Advantage This Postseason

Vincent HeckCorrespondent ISeptember 30, 2010

Top 12 Things That Work to The Phillies' Advantage This Postseason

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    The Philadelphia Phillies are in a good place. It's a place most young kids, high school standouts, and college athletes covet.

    The sporting pinnacle.

    You're on a team—your own team—that you helped build with your own hands and you are enjoying success year after year.

    This is what Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and the rest of the gang are experiencing now.

    They've clinched four straight National East crowns, and they find themselves standing alone at the top of the mountain as the hottest team in the MLB.

    They've even held the league's best record for a good part of the final stretch this year.

    It's hard to bet against the Phillies right now, with so much going well for them.

    Among many different things that work in their favor, I was able to consolidate them into 12 different things, beginning with...

12. Distant History

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    In their 127-year history, anytime they've reached 95 wins or more they've made it to at least the NLCS.

    It's only happened four times, including this year. The unfortunate statistic is, none of those seasons ended with World Series rings.

    But, there's always time for first times.

    Last year was the first year the Phillies won the NLCS back-to-back. Which would make this year the first time they made the playoffs after two back-to-back WS appearances, and should they pull it off again, it would be the first time the franchise will have gone to three straight World Series.

    They'd also be the first team in NL history to do so.

11. Regular Season Injuries

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    Without these, the team, maybe, wouldn't have gotten to see more of that unique character that the leaders in the clubhouse generate.

    It rubs on anyone who is a part of it. From your Matt Stairs's, to your Aaron Rowand's, to your Wilson Valdez's.

    Wilson Valdez has come up majorly in the absence of Jimmy Rollins.

    Valdez has played in 108 games so far this season, batting .255 and scoring 33 people in that stretch. His on-base percentage is .301 and he has come home 34 times. Not bad for a fill-in.

    He will be a nice advantage off the bench in the postseason.

10. American League Competitiveness

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    These four teams—the New York Yankees, the Tampa Bay Rays, the Minnesota Twins, and the Texas Rangers—are going to beat each other up.

    The AL is up in the air with who could come out of it on top.

    I expect a good number of these games to stretch to the last game of the series, which works in the Phillies' favor if they get a tired, battered team coming into Citizens Bank Park.

9. Carlos Ruiz

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    There is no doubt this man has stepped up his game and it has helped tremendously.

    A team so stacked at the top of the order can only be enhanced if the bottom of the order steps up its game. Carlos has done that.

    Since 2008, when the Phillies won the World Series, Ruiz has increased his batting average from .219 to .298. His hits from 70 to 109. His OBP from .320 to .396 and his RBIs from 31 to 52.

    Quite the transformation in two years—it can only bode well for the Phillies.

8. Recent History

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    Only eight times since the League Championship Series was introduced has a team made an LCS appearance after two previous appearances. Only twice was it a National League team.

    Of the eight previous times a team has made two previous LCS appearances, five of the teams went on to win a third pennant the next year: the Athletics twice and the Yankees three times.

    If you're completely depending on history to give you the possibility that the Phillies would pull this off, that would leave you with a 63 percent chance that the Phils will win another pennant this year.

7. Home-Field Advantage

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    This, some people say, is overrated, but I don't think so.

    Philadelphia has arguably the most passionate fan base in America. If teams don't think it plays a factor to come into Philadelphia and see all those rowdy fans in red and white, fiercely waving those rally towels—that's ludicrous.

    It feels good to have that support—it feels even better to know you've earned it—and it feels the best, when you know you've earned it by being the best team in the league, and this will play a factor in a National League already looking up to the Phillies as it is.

6. Management

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    As much as Charlie Manuel's moves may puzzle at times, you can't help but notice his decisions have always panned out in the end.

    Charlie has the greater tools to work with to be able to out-manage Bobby Cox and Dusty Baker. Because, let's face it, your decisions look better—when you win.

5. Batting

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    This is something that in 2009 may have been No. 2 or No. 1 on this list. But let's face it, this year the bats are a bit colder.

    In 2009, the Phils led the league in home runs and runs scored, with 820 runs scored, and 224 home runs. This year, the Phils only have 163 home runs and 747 runs scored. A considerable drop-off.

    But they are still very dangerous as it's still the same lineup that put those numbers in.

    From J-Roll to Chooch, any one of them are bound to hurt you in any given at-bat.

4. September

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    This September has been a terrific one for the Phils. As a matter of fact, they were two wins away from their best month in franchise history.

    That's a good thing to take into the 2010 postseason. They've posted a 21-6 record in September, good enough for the second-best record in franchise history.

3. Competition Is Inferior

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    The NL does have good teams. But when matched up against the pitching, experience, and hitting of the Phillies, it just doesn't prevail in the least bit.

    This isn't like the NFL where a team like the New York Giants can catch the New England Patriots sleeping and knock them out while they're on their heels.

    This is three out, nine inning, five, and seven game series we're talking here. The National League teams are going to have to pull one-way out of the cellar in order to pull off an upset.

2. Starting Pitching

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    H2O. A name becoming more familiar with baseball fans across America. Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt. It's as refreshing as a cold glass of water.

    It'll be October, the weather will be cooler, and these three pitchers I'm sure will be more ready than ever. They have already shown their potential, having been lined up against the Atlanta Braves in September. Now it's time for H2O to put their money where—our—mouths are.

1. The Playoff Schedule

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    Of course, I could have consolidated this into home-field advantage, but this was too important to lump into another category.

    I figured since pitching was going to be No. 1, it made the crucial decision to start the postseason on October 6th, all the more important.

    Look at the possible lineup for the Phillies' postseason, being that they've elected to start October 6th:

    NLDS

    1. Oct. 6 - Game 1 - Halladay
    2. Oct. 7 - Off
    3. Oct. 8 - Game 2 - Hamels
    4. Oct. 9 - Off
    5. Oct. 10 - Game 3 - Oswalt
    6. Oct. 11 - Game 4 - Halladay
    7. Oct. 12 - Off
    8. Oct. 13 - Game 5 - Hamels

     

    NLCS

    1. Oct. 16 - Game 1 - Halladay
    2. Oct. 17 - Game 2 - Hamels
    3. Oct. 18 - Off
    4. Oct. 19 - Game 3 - Oswalt
    5. Oct. 20 - Game 4 - Blanton
    6. Oct. 21 - Game 5 - Halladay
    7. Oct. 22 - Off
    8. Oct. 23 - Game 6 - Hamels
    9. Oct. 24 - Game 7 - Oswalt

    World Series

    1. Oct. 27 - Game 1 - Halladay
    2. Oct. 28 - Game 2 - Hamels
    3. Oct. 29 - Off
    4. Oct. 30 - Game 3 - Oswalt
    5. Oct. 31 - Game 4 - Blanton
    6. Nov. 1 - Game 5 - Halladay
    7. Nov. 2 - Off
    8. Nov. 3 - Game 6 - Hamels
    9. Nov. 4 - Game 7 - Oswalt

    Those four pitchers combined for a record of 16-1 in September. That is a major advantage that not even the San Francisco Giants can say they have.