The NLCS begins shortly, and what an intriguing matchup we have...
The young Dodgers vs. the veteran Phillies—two different styles, two great ball clubs.
Below, I compare each player in both lineups, showing who has the advantages batting and defensively. Also, the pitching rotations and bullpens are compared.
So who has the advantage, Phillies or Dodgers? Here is how I see it, and feel free to disagree!
Batting lineup(s)—the lineups I use were in the NLDS, and though they may not be in this exact order again, you guys all get the picture.
1. Rafael Furcal vs. Jimmy Rollins
Rollins was the MVP last season, but has really struggled this season with the bat. Furcal was having an incredible season for the first few weeks until he severely injured his back and missed the next four months. He played fairly well in the NLDS and is certainly the sparkplug for the team, though, so is Rollins.
Rollins has more power but Furcal walks a ton, and is probably the best bunter in the MLB.
Both players are very talented and are each team's sparkplug. VERY close, but I give Rollins a SLIGHT edge based on his power threat.
2. Russell Martin vs. Shane Victorino
If you look at their season stats, they are oddly similar. Both players had 14 home runs; Victorino's average was 13 points higher, but Martin had 10 more RBIs. Victorino has a ton of speed, but Martin also has a lot of speed, which is shocking for a catcher.
Victorino had a great NLDS and is a true talent. Martin did not have a great NLDS but he had three huge, clutch hits that sealed the Dodgers' victory in two games.
Their stats are too similar and each player has had very clutch at-bats. Both players have an immense responsibility to their team and are exciting, young players.
3. Manny Ramirez vs. Chase Utley
I will start by saying that Chase Utley is, flat-out, a ball player, and one that I love to watch. He plays the right way and should be considered an MVP candidate every year. Having said that, there is only one Manny Ramirez, and he is the all-time leader in home runs during the postseason. He has really helped the young players in L.A. and will surely have an impact in this series.
Like I said, there is only one Manny and he is perhaps the best right-handed hitter ever—certainly in our lifetime.
4. Andre Ethier vs. Ryan Howard
Although Andre Ethier is vastly underrated and under-appreciated, Ryan Howard has been the Phillies' MVP for the last couple of months, and was the 2008 home run leader.
Howard will have his share of strikeouts, that's for sure. But, he will also have some monster shots and/or key hits in this series. Ethier will be crucial in this series because it is likely that Manny will get pitched around quite a bit; thus, it is important that Ethier makes them pay.
He has too much power and too many RBIs to overlook. He can make or break the Phillies in this series. Chances are, he will hit at least one monster homer.
5. James Loney vs. Pat Burrell
James Loney sent shock waves through the city of Chicago last week when he sent a Ryan Dempster pitch over the center field wall for a grand slam. Two games later, he had a huge RBI double down the right field line that scored two key runs.
Burrell really struggled in the NLDS until Game Four, when he hit two huge home runs. I see Burrell struggling this series off of the Dodgers' right-handed pitching staff. Loney will have tons of opportunities, again because of Manny.
Loney will have his opportunities again to make an impact and I really see Burrell struggling against the Dodgers' righties.
6. Matt Kemp vs. Jayson Werth
Once upon a time, Werth was a young and talented Dodgers' outfielder who suffered a few wrist injuries which ultimately ended his days in L.A. Ask Dodger fans and experts—they all knew Werth would go on to have a solid career. He is a great player with a ton of power and surprising base speed. I see Werth having a big impact on this series and making his former club pay.
Now, Matt Kemp, within the next few years, is going to be a habitual All Star player. Having said that, he has really been struggling this past month or so. He strikes out often but also has a superfluous amount of power and speed. Many experts say he reminds them of Dave Winfield.
He is very skilled and always seems to hurt his former team. I think he will have a big series. Kemp will have his share of hits but will also have his share of strikeouts and men left on base.
7. Blake DeWitt/Jeff Kent vs. Pedro Feliz
Kent may be starting this series, perhaps only against lefties. If he doesn't, it will be rookie Blake DeWitt in his stead. DeWitt has been a huge surprise for the Dodgers this season and played very steadily against the Cubs for his first season ever. Kent is the best hitting second baseman ever and still has a few homers left in him.
Feliz is a very solid MLB player and has historically been a Dodger's killer. I think he will have a better series than he did in the NLDS. However, between DeWitt and Kent, I think the latter is more consistent. Feliz's batting average has tailed off much this season and it doesn't seem to be changing.
It is not much of an advantage for the Dodgers, but the fact that they can match a lefty hitter vs. righty pitcher and vice versa is enough. Plus, if Kent gets hot he is tough to get out.
8. Casey Blake vs. Carlos Ruiz
This is by far the biggest advantage in the line up for the Dodgers. Casey Blake has a lot of power and, on most teams, would not hit as far down as eight. He is a No. 5 or No. 6 hitter batting eighth because of L.A.'s steady lineup. Blake is a good fit here.
Ruiz is basically a defensive specialist and is not much of a hitter. He only had four homers all year and in the NLDS he had no RBIs or homers.
As stated above, this is the biggest gap between the Dodgers' lineup and the Phillies' lineup. Blake is a much better hitter and will have a much bigger impact on his team's offense.
9. Pitcher Spot—If Brad Penny was still pitching for L.A. it might be a little closer but the Phillies' pitchers are better hitters.
Lineup Advantage—Dodgers four, Phillies four. TIE.
CONCLUSION: Dodgers have a very SMALL advantage when it comes to the batting lineups because of their quality contact. But, I would call hitting a draw.
If the Phillies power bats are hot it will not be pretty for the Dodgers. Typically, in the playoffs, teams who rely on power tend to struggle. It is almost equal, but the Dodgers put the ball in play more.
Game One: Derek Lowe vs. Cole Hamels
What a matchup this will be to start the series! Hamels has a lot of talent and a great change up that keeps hitters off-balance all day/night. Derek Lowe is a sinkerball pitcher. For a team like Philadelphia that counts on home runs, this is the last guy they want to see. Lowe is one of the best postseason pitchers and is renowned for being clutch.
Advantage—Lowe: It is a very slight advantage, but Lowe gets it for two reasons: 1. His experience, and 2. the Phillies won't hit for a ton of power against Lowe.
Game Two: Chad Billingsley vs. Brett Myers
Brett Myers pitched very well against the Brewers. He has had a very successful second half of the season. He counts on his fastball a lot, and when he spots it, he is dominant. He is an emotional guy and pitching at home will help him.
Chad Billingsley is the best pitcher that practically anybody has heard of. Billinglsey has four or five different pitches and throws his fastball between 92-96 regularly.
Advantage—Billingsley: I know some Phillies' fans won't like this but please wait until you see Billingsley pitch first. He is only 24-years old and I guarantee that if he remains healthy, he will win a Cy Young award before he is done. He pitched great in Wrigley and I consider that a tougher park to pitch in.
Game Three: Hiroki Kuroda vs. Jamie Moyer
Moyer is old, yes. But he is still consistent and can still win big games. He has a great curveball and has incredible control. Kuroda is a better-than-average pitcher and has a tremendous fastball. If Kuroda's control is on, he will not be beaten. If he is a bit wild, it could be a long night for L.A.
Advantage—Kuroda: In two games this year vs. the Phillies, Kuroda is 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA. He didn't give up a home run and he struck out 12 guys in 13 innings. Starting at home in L.A. is an advantage for him.
Game Four: Greg Maddux vs. Joe Blanton
Greg Maddux is one of the all-time greats and has some of the best control the game has ever seen. However, historically, he does not have a lot of success in the playoffs. A few days ago, Blanton pitched terrifically against the Brewers in their clinching win. I don't like Maddux facing this tough power-hitting group of lefties that the Phillies have.
Advantage—Blanton: Maddux will struggle against the Phillies' power hitting lefties and Blanton has enough to hold a lead.
Starting Rotation Advantage—three Dodgers starters; one Phillies starter. CONCLUSION— Dodgers have the advantage in starting pitching. This should not come as a surprise considering the Dodgers' starting ERA this season. It is not a huge advantage by any means, but overall the Dodgers have the better staff.
Bullpen Advantage (not including closers):
The Dodgers' bullpen has the best ERA in the MLB and the second best starting staff behind the Blue Jays. The bullpen, especially middle relief on, is a huge advantage for the Dodgers. They have lefties to match the Phillies' lefty hitters and they have right-handers like Wade and Park to match up with righty hitters like Feliz and Werth.
Jonathan Broxton/Takashi Saito vs. Brad Lidge
Broxton pitched great in the NLDS and Saito not so much. Broxton has been scary all year and not a good scary either. Ask the Dodgers' fans. Each time Broxton is in, it is a wild adventure.
The Phillies are unbeatable after eight innings. Lidge didn't blow a save all year. The closer advantage is BY FAR Brad Lidge and thus, an advantage for the Phils.
Defense: Based on the 2008 statistics, the Phillies have a little advantage defensively. The Phillies ranked fifth in the NL while the Dodgers only came in seventh.
Coaching Advantage: Joe Torre vs. Charlie Manuel
I have a lot of respect for Charlie Manuel and think he is a great manager; but I am not going to pick anyone over Joe Torre, sorry.
Joe Torre has more postseason experience than anyone.
In the Chicago series, it was quite evident how smart Torre is. He picked a great time for a squeeze bunt, two hit, and run calls, and is very smart when it comes to bullpen use. The coaching advantage goes to Joe Torre and the Dodgers.
Power Hitting—BY FAR the Phillies
Speed—Equal all around
I expect this NLCS to go six or seven games. I think the Dodgers will win in six but I would not be shocked if it went to seven, or even if the Phillies won. Based on stats and how players are playing now, I think the Dodgers ultimately have the edge.
The series will come down to clutch hitting and being able to capitalize on mistakes. October baseball is the best thing in all of sports and this series should be a huge treat—even if it is before Halloween.
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