The Los Angeles Dodgers will face off with Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Championship Series beginning on Thursday. Both teams are playing well, which makes this a very interesting series.
The Dodgers looked like bums right after they were swept by the Phillies in late August, but they picked their game up and have played well enough to win the N.L. West easily.
The Phillies have been more of a consistent team, but they have their bumps. The offense was very shaky for half of the summer and was shaky in the NLDS. But pitching has stood up and protected this team.
So let's get into some in-depth previews. Let's start with the offense.
I see many similarities between these two clubs on offense. Both teams have trouble hitting on some days and explode on others. Both teams also have a few hot players but few cold players as well. But there is one big difference between these two offensive clubs: reliability.
Yes, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Pat Burrell did not hit well against the Brewers, but they are still Utley, Howard, and Burrell; three of the game's best. You can still count on them to come up with that big hit when you need it. And if you add in Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, and Jayson Werth, you have plenty of speed to get on base and a lot of power to hit 'em home.
The Dodgers don't have that depth. Manny Ramirez is their big consistent hitter, but past him, there isn't that reliable star. Rafeal Furcal is a wonderful leadoff man, but Ramirez is their only player who always has that ability to get on base.
Advantage: Philadelphia Phillies
This is a very close call. The Phillies were 12th in the league in fielding percentage, while the Dodgers were 14th (entire MLB). Both teams have great defensive catchers and solid defensive infielders.
When you look at the outfield, you see some more similarities. Both teams have two reliable outfielders and one question mark. Those question marks are Manny Ramirez and Pat Burrell. Ramirez just isn't mobile and makes many mental mistakes, but Burrell does have good mechanics; he just can't run for his life. So the outfield goes to the Phillies. But the infield and catcher are so close.
This is another close call. The Phillies have the sixth best ERA in baseball and have one of the best bullpens in baseball, even with Chad Durbin struggling. Brad Lidge has been terrific and so has J.C. Romero and Scott Erye. Ryan Madson has been a little inconsistent, but Clay Condrey has shown he can step up and get the outs he needs most of the time.
And when you go to starting pitching, it's more of the same. You have the two superstars right at the top in Cole Hamels and Brett Myers. Both are pitching great and show no signs of letting up. Then you have Jaime Moyer and Joe Blanton. Both have shown they can be reliable.
For the Dodgers, you have the second best ERA in baseball. Derek Lowe, Chad Billingsley, and Hiroki Kuroda head the Dodgers' staff. Lowe and Billingsley are pitching well and don't give up the long ball, which is a big part of the Phillies' offense. Kuroda can be inconsistent, but can be very reliable as well. The Dodgers' bullpen isn't fantastic, but it is pretty good.
Two ties and one to the Phillies. So does that mean the Phillies will win the series? Not so fast my friends.
The Dodgers' offense is playing better right now, and both pitching staffs are about even right now. To me, that spells for a Dodgers victory. As much as I hate to say it, I'm taking the Dodgers in six. Consistency wins baseball games (and gets you nicknames like Mrs. Ripken Jr. at the Holiday Inn), and the Dodgers have that.