MLB Playoff Predictions: 10 Reasons the Philadelphia Phillies Will Win It All
The Phillies are more than ready to lift another trophy.
Now that the 2010 MLB regular season has been completed and the divisional playoff pairings have been decided, all of the baseball prognosticators will be out in force, attempting to give their predictions on which team will likely emerge as World Champions.
These same scribes, statisticians, former players and sabremetricians will no doubt distribute mountains of data and spew out fact-based analysis to support their arguments.
They will also undoubtedly base their findings on their own spectacular histories in correctly predicting previous winners.
MLB Network has even hired 237 additional current ballplayers who are not competing in the playoffs to provide their own analysis during the month of October.
Well, that’s a bit of a white lie, but you get my meaning.
Here at Bleacher Report, we pride ourselves on bringing our readers quality content all season long on the 4,860 games played throughout the season, logging thousands of hours in supplying scores, recaps, analysis, breakdowns and commentary.
We’ll also join the bandwagon and give you our unabashed opinion about who will win it all in 2010.
For this writer, that team is without question the Philadelphia Phillies.
Now I am not a sabremetrician, nor am I a scribe with years of experience following the Phillies. But I do know this: There are ten reasons in that I strongly believe in that leads me to make this bold prediction, and we’ll explore those reasons right now.
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It's Not Necessarily The Best Team That Wins It All, But The Hottest
The Phillies celebrate their NL East Division crown, and are ready for more...
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Normally, this statement is true. The 2007 Colorado Rockies come to mind, winning 22 of their final 23 games to roar into the playoffs as the wild-card, then sweeping both National League playoff series to reach the World Series, only to fall to the Boston Red Sox.
However, not only were the Phillies the hottest team in baseball over the last two months of the season (41-17 since August 1, best in MLB), they also finished with baseball’s best record, catching both the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees in the last week of the season.
Being the hottest team and the best team is a tough combination for any opposing team to overcome.
The Philadelphia Phillies Are Completely Healthy
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Up until early August, the Phillies were one of the most snake-bitten teams in terms of injuries. Only the Boston Red Sox could claim more players who landed on the disabled list.
At different times during the season, the Phillies were without the services of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Placido Polanco and Carlos Ruiz. They also lost Jamie Moyer for the season. At times, combinations of these players were out of the lineup together.
They finally got healthy in mid-August, with the first unit playing together for the first time all season. It’s certainly no coincidence that they happened to get hot at the same time.
Phillies Top Three Starters Are The Best in Baseball
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Hard to argue against Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt right now. Halladay not only won 21 games with a 2.44 ERA and a perfect game to his credit, he won all five games he started in September, his last start a two-hit, complete game shutout at Washington.
Oswalt has been no slouch either, winning seven of his last eight decisions and sporting a 1.65 ERA since joining the Phillies on July 29.
Hamels had also won five straight before getting shelled by the Mets last week. However, since July 1, he has dropped his ERA from 4.01 to 3.09. Since the All-Star break, Hamels has held opposing batters to a .217 average.
Even in a potential rematch with the New York Yankees in the World Series, this is a matchup that is superior. The Yankees have C.C. Sabathia, the AL Cy Young favorite, at 21 wins and a 3.18 ERA, and Phil Hughes, with 18 wins. However, beyond that the picture is indeed cloudy.
Andy Pettitte, out for two months with a groin strain, has made three starts since returning, with mixed results. He will definitely be a key for the Yankees in their hopes to reclaim the Series trophy. The other options, Javier Vazquez and A.J. Burnett, have had disastrous seasons and won’t be counted on for quality starts in the postseason. In fact, Vazquez may not be on the postseason roster at all.
Playoff Experience and The Ability to Perform in The Clutch
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The Phillies have been in the playoffs the last four seasons under Charlie Manuel, and in the World Series the last two, winning in 2008.
They are battle-tested and playoff ready, with only Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt having limited playoff experience. In fact, Halladay will be making his first appearance in the playoffs, but considering the season he has had and how hot he’s been over the last month, that shouldn’t be an issue.
The San Francisco Giants are making their first postseason appearance since 2003, and the Cincinnati Reds are entering the playoffs for the first time since 1995. Even the Braves, who were a fixture in the playoffs during most of Bobby Cox’ years as manager, haven’t been to the postseason since 2005.
Experience plays a key role during October baseball, and the current Phillies squad certainly has an abundance of it over their counterparts.
Pitching, Clutch Hitting & Defense Wins Big Games, & The Phillies Have All Three
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The Phillies in 2010 sported the 6th best fielding percentage in baseball, were second in overall putouts, and their top two pitchers, Halladay and Oswalt, were among the league leaders in runners stranded ratio.
While the Giants may sport the best ERA in the majors in September/early October (1.98 during that span), the Phillies were third with a 3.06 ERA.
The Giants however only hit .232 as a team during that span, while the Phillies hit .289, tops in the majors.
The Giants can certainly pitch, and play decent defense, but their offense was, in a word, anemic.
Ditto for the Atlanta Braves, who over the last 30 days hit .245 as a team and played sloppy defense, ranking 24th in the league in September.
Sound, fundamental baseball becomes even more important in the postseason, and heading into the playoffs, no team in the NL was better than the Phillies in stepping it up in all areas over the last month of the season.
Depth Of Bench
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The Phillies are loaded with tremendous talent sitting on the bench, waiting in the wings to make their contribution when given the opportunity. Reserve outfielder Ben Francisco has been hitting .286 since the All-Star break in his limited opportunities, Mike Sweeney is still a menacing pinch-hitting threat, and Brian Schneider is a veteran backstop who can provide punch off the bench.
Wilson Valdez proved to be a valuable commodity during Jimmy Rollins’ stints on the DL and can step in and provide great defense and a pesky bat. Valdez may prove to be the X factor if Rollins suffers setbacks with his balky right hamstring. Ross Gload will also provide depth in the outfield, hitting .281 during limited action this season.
This is a talented and deep bench for the Phillies, and veterans like Sweeney, Gload and Schneider are huge commodities in pressure-packed games.
Depth and Strength Of Bullpen
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In 2010, the Phillies bullpen was called upon for the least amount of innings of any major league team. While that speaks more to the strength of their starting rotation, it also speaks to the fact that they will have the freshest bullpen come playoff time.
Since August 1, closer Brad Lidge has been lights out, with 21 saves and a 2.17 ERA.
His setup man, Ryan Madson, has been even better, with a 1.50 ERA since the All-Star break in 44 appearances.
Lefty specialist J.C. Romero, while struggling in July and August, righted the ship in September with a 1.93 ERA.
Add to that Joe Blanton, who had an outstanding second half, with a 6-1 record and 3.33 ERA, and you have a back-end pitching staff that’s not only fresh, but pretty hot in their own right.
Home Field Advantage Throughout The Playoffs
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Don’t think that’s important? Consider this: The Braves had the best home record in all of baseball, yet were 11 games under .500 on the road. The Phillies had the next best home record in the National League.
By virtue of having the best record in MLB, and the National League winning the All-Star game, the Phillies will enjoy home field advantage in every series.
In the World Series especially, it’s been a huge factor of late, with the home team winning the last eight World Series that have gone to seven games.
The Revenge Factor
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In the book “Paradise Lost,” John Milton said, “which, if not victory, is yet revenge.”
The meaning of that is not lost on the Philadelphia Phillies. Denied of back-to-back world championships last season, this is a team that is hungry for another world championship.
With the acquisition of Halladay, Oswalt and Polanco, the Phillies’ front office showed that they wanted a team built on pitching and solid defense, and a team built for the long haul.
A victory in the World Series would not only avenge last season’s defeat, it would validate the Phillies as one of the best teams of the 21st century.
The Two-in-a-Row Factor?
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In the last sixty years, only four major league teams have lost two consecutive World Series. The 1952-53 Brooklyn Dodgers, the 1963-64 New York Yankees, the 1977-78 Los Angeles Dodgers, and the 1991-92 Atlanta Braves. History is on the Philadelphia Phillies’ side.
In fact, aside from the Yankees and Braves in recent years, very few teams have even made it to the World Series two years in a row, let alone three.
Okay, so this last one is a bit of stretch, but I think there are more than enough reasons given as to why the Philadelphia Phillies will emerge as the 2010 World Series champions.