Honestly, I could care less about the Chicago Cubs being the big story in this year's playoffs. They are obviously a good team, perhaps even great, and they have very few holes in their lineup, rotation, or bullpen. But let's forget about them for a second.
If I were to ask you to name the hottest rivalries in the National League, you would probably say Cubs/Cardinals or Giants/Dodgers. Well, neither of those scenarios are happening this postseason. The Cardinals' rotation was just too decimated to make it into the postseason, and the Giants' rotation was just too Barry Zito-d to make it either. That said, let's talk about the third big rivalry in the NL. Mets-Phillies.
This matchup is not as sexy as a Mets-Cubs NY/Chicago throwdown, nor carries the historical wallop of a Mets/Dodgers NLCS or even a Cubs/Mets matchup. But for two rabid fanbases seperated a mere 90 minutes from each other, sparks are bound to fly. It's time to break this potential NLCS matchup down (remember, since both teams are from the NL East, they cannot meet in the NLDS)
Brian Schneider (NYM) vs. Carlos Ruiz (PHI)
Both are solid defensive catchers who do not hit the ball particularly well. But Schneider (9 HR) hits it better than Ruiz (3 HR), so we'll give him the edge here. It should be noted that Chris Coste usually catches for the Phillies when Brett Myers is the starting pitcher. Coste is OK offensively but not as good defensively as Ruiz.
Carlos Delgado (NYM) vs. Ryan Howard (PHI)
If you ignore Albert Pujols' customary gargantuan numbers (and I will, thank you very much), these guys are battling it out for NL MVP as we speak. Both struggled at DEFCON 2 levels the first half of the season but have picked it up as of late. Howard leads baseball in HR and RBI, so we'll give him the edge.
Luis Castillo/Argenis Reyes/Damon Easley (NYM) vs. Chase Utley (PHI)
This is not even funny. Utley is hands-down baseball's best second baseman, even with his recent decline in power numbers. Luis Castillo is probably public enemy #1 at Shea right now (outside of the bullpen, that is).
David Wright (NYM) vs. Pedro Feliz (PHI)
Another no-brainer, this one in favor of the Mets. While Feliz is a solid defender, he is a black hole when it comes to OBP (.301). David Wright is overrated defensively, but is as good a righthanded hitter (.300, .387, .536) as there is in the NL East.
Jose Reyes (NYM) vs. Jimmy Rollins (PHI)
This is a very tough call. Both are leadoff hitters who bring a great deal of speed (52 and 46 SBs, respectively), defense, and hitting prowess to their lineups. Reyes, however, has been solid all season (71 extra-base hits), while Rollins has only picked it up in the past two months. Also, it should be noted that Rollins has had some disciplinary issues this year. Right now, I'm more inclined to favor Reyes.
Dan Murphy (NYM) vs. Pat Burrell (PHI)
The feel-good story of the Mets' season, Fernando "Elephant Ears" Tatis, is out for the season. Suffice it to say that nobody thought it would be a big blow in April, but it is now. Murphy is untested but has performed fairly well. We'll give the edge to Burrell here because of his veteran experience and the fact that he routinely kills the Mets (42 HR in 533 career ABs).
Carlos Beltran (NYM) vs. Shane Victorino (PHI)
People love to hate Beltran for some reason. Perhaps it's the large contract. Regardless, he is solid offensively (.280, .372, .497) and defensively and is definitely a dangerous hitter in the middle of the lineup. Victorino has speed on the basepaths and is a defensive asset, but does not come close to having the power bat Beltran has.
Ryan Church (NYM) vs. Jason Werth (PHI)
Church has returned to action after concussion-related issues derailed most of his season, and he has not exactly lit up the house (.216, .292, .304) since his return. Werth is a lefty-killing hitter who is now seeing significant action against RHP as well. We'll give Werth the edge because of his speed (19 SB) and solid outfield arm.
Ramon Castro, Nick Evans, Endy Chavez, Marlon Anderson, whomever's not playing at 2B (NYM)
Greg Dobbs, Matt Stairs, Eric Bruntlett, Geoff Jenkins, whomever's not at C (PHI)
Nobody jumps out on either team's bench except for Dobbs, who has set a Phils' single-season record for pinch hits. He has a knack for coming through in big spots. He alone gives the Phils an edge here.
Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez, Pedro Martinez (NYM)
Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton (PHI)
Hamels and Santana cancel each other out at the top, but after that it's all Phillies. Pedro does not have "it" anymore, Pelfrey is not playoff-tested, and Oliver Perez can implode at any minute. Not that the Phils don't have their own issues. For one, Myers is a headcase who can shut teams down or serve batting practice. Moyer and Blanton are 6 inning pitchers, and Hamels is wearing down after 230 IP. Even still, the Phils have the edge here.
Luis Ayala, Brian Stokes, Pedro Feliciano, Joe Smith, Scott Schoenweis, Aaron Heilman (NYM)
Brad Lidge, JC Romero, Ryan Madson, Scott Eyre, Chad Durbin, Rudy Seanez (PHI)
The Mets' bullpen is a train wreck on top of a plane crash surrounded by a 40-car pile up. Lidge, on the other hand, is 40 for 40 in save opportunities, and the Phils' bullpen ERA is among the lowest in the NL.
The Managing Manuels (Charlie in Philly, Jerry in NY) are both very good at keeping clubhouses loose, and both seem to use their bullpen effectively (in Jerry's case, I mean, he's trying). Not much of a difference here.
No matter what, people will bring up the Mets' 07 collapse. Even if it doesn't matter outwardly to the Mets, it will play a factor. Until the Mets beat the Phillies when it matters the most, they will have it hanging over their heads. Right now, the Phillies hold the upper hand.
PREDICTION IF THE TWO TEAMS WERE TO SOMEHOW MEET: PHILLIES IN 6.