A Phillies and Dodgers NLDS matchup may be the only one in baseball that is preferred by each team. It would be fair to say that the Phillies and Dodgers are as glad to face each other as John McCain is not running against Hillary Clinton.
One week ago, I would have said that no one, not even the Gas-House Cubs, would have wanted to face this Phillies ballclub. Two aces, steady middle relief, and a lights-out closer, combined with the big bats make this team scary.
But I’ve seen this routine all season long...The highs aren’t too high, and the low aren’t too low. But if Cole Hamels and Brett Myers continue to pitch badly, and the offense is ready for another week-off, then the Fightins will be in for another short postseason stint. It will depend on which pitchers and hitters arrive at the ballpark.
The Dodgers are undoubtedly the weakest team in the playoffs. They have played more up to their potential lately mostly because of better pitching, clutch hitting, and taking care of beating teams in their own division—the worst in baseball. But they are in the playoffs and anything can happen.
And they are here mainly because of the steady progress of their youngsters like Matt Kemp and Andre Either, mid-season additions like Manny Ramirez and Casey Blake, and in spite of bank robbers like Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones. They certainly have enough pitching in a short series, but the bullpen is sketchy and over-worked.
So, who has the advantages, or the least amount of disadvantages?
The Phillies have a few players that are hitting better in the last few weeks than Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. They also have a few mashers that have been outrageously good in MVP hopefully Ryan Howard and MUP (Most Underrated Player) Shane Victorino.
And of course, they have holes were Pat Burrell, Pedro Feliz, and Jason Werth are suppose to be.
The Dodgers have Manny Ramirez and a few fairly decent table setters. If Nomar Garciaparra can some how go injury-free for five consecutive games, I think that he could have a huge impact on the Dodgers' lineup and give them a much better chance to win.
Greg Dobbs is simply the best pinch-hitter in the game. The problem is that with the Feliz in a year-long slump, the Phillies’ manager, Charlie Manuel, is sacrificing Pedro’s stellar glove for Dobbs' clutch hits. This makes the lineup better, but the defense and bench weaker.
This was a strength for the 2007 Phillies, but not as much this year.
The Dodgers are loaded with duds on a bench that is as helpful as Sarah Palin at a foreign-affairs press conference.
Least Disadvantaged: PHILLIES
The Phillies have potentially the best one-two punch in the entire major leagues in Cole Hamels and Brett Myers. The problem is that the most consistent starter on the staff is 45-year old Jamie Moyer.
Myers is the biggest cause for concern, but Hamels looks tired as well. This is Cole's first full (and injury free) season in the bigs and it's showing. Don’t be surprised to see Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ get quite a few postseason innings if Hamels and Myers continue to struggle.
In the blue corner, Derek Lowe has been nothing short of spectacular in his last four starts and will go into the playoffs with a few days of extra rest, as will starters Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda.
This will be a tough five-game rotation that Joe Torre hopes will eat a lot on innings.
Both teams have great closers, if Takashi Saito is back to form and Brad Lidge doesn’t change a thing. The success of each team's middle will relief will ultimately come down to how deep the starters can go.
Also remember that with a short rotation, each manger will have two more arms in longer, middle-relief situations. Because they have been good all year, I’m going to have to say...
If the Phillies' offense sputters, then defense will be very important in this series because runs will be at a premium. If the Phils deliver offensively, then it probably won’t matter.
Howard and Ramirez will get their big hits, but the team that minimizes errors and keeps runners off the bases will be able to make those bombs as meaningless as a Joe Biden campaign stop.
Charlie Manuel is as likely to win this category as Barack Obama is to win the majority of votes from lipstick-clad hockey moms. Four World Championships, 13 straight playoff appearances, and surviving the Steinbrenners for over a decade. Since we can’t give Torre what he really deserves—The Congressional Medal of Honor—he will have to settle for this:
Advantage: DODGERS (Sorry, Charlie)
Dodgers stadium is a classic ballpark, but their attendance is worse than a John McCain rally without Sarah Palin. Citizen Bank Park is quickly becoming a great place to watch meaningful baseball.
Prediction: Phillies in five.