Smell that? Of course you do. Its the 2008 World Series, and an interesting one at that. For the first time in a while, two very different teams, who win two very different ways will take the headline spot. But what will it take for a win. Well I don't see Joe Carter anywhere on the Tampa Bay Ray's staff, so that is a start. If you are laughing at this point, then I would ask you to picture a young, 12 year old version of myself crying 15 years ago, when Joe Carter ruined any chance the Phil's had at a World Series. Well time heals all wounds, and dare I say, the 2008 Phillies are considered almost favorites to win this time around. But like everything else, it won't be a gimme. And here is what they will have to do on the offensive side to have any shot.
We all know the pitching line-up. The ace, Cole Hamels followed by the streaky Brett Meyers. And finishing up, the wiley vet, Moyer and Mr. Surprise, Joe Blanton. All qualified enough to do well, but they will need some support from the offensive side. The Phil's have the where-with-all and toughness to provide that support, but the pressure lands on four key batters. Rollins, Utley, Howard, and perhaps (in my opinion) the biggest wild-card, Pat Burrel. It's not that the rest of the line-up is filled with slouches. I mean lets not discount Werth and Victorino quite yet. But for the entire season, the batting line-up has lived and died by these guys coming to play. So lets break them down one by one, shall we?
Jimmy Rollins is the lead off, and perhaps one of the more important players to this line-up. We all have seen what happens when he's hot. He owns the only two play-off opening bat home-run's in franchise history. And guess what, they won those games. He is capable of going on a streak fast, and not letting go of it for 100 games or so. He is also the leader of the team, so with his success comes others success. For all accounts in purposes, when he gets off to a good start, so does the team. His .243 BA isn't cutting it now, but (and I hate saying this) he's due. His slugging pctg. is .459, so when he gets up late in the game he's been delivering.
Chase Utley is, in my opinion, the most important player in the line-up. When he is feeling it, and doing well, he wins games for the team. He isn't having the greatest post-season so far, so you have to think he is eager to rise from the depths of oblivion, and really be an asset in the Series. His BA is even lower than Rollins, but throughout the regular season he proved that he can get out of a slump just as quickly as he goes into one. And when he does get out of that slump, he produces.....a lot.
Ryan Howard will be a bigger asset in mere presence. He will be pitched around in clutch situations, which will help Burrel (more on that soon), and when he has been pitched to he has a modest .258 BA. Now here are some key "between the lines" facts. One: Still no home-runs in the post season. You HAVE to think that will end soon. Two: If Burrel gets hot (like I think he will) in the series, they will be forced to pitch to Howard who bats right before him. And three (and I know, gag me) but....he's due. He has been relatively quiet in the play-offs, and looks to come alive in the clutch down the stretch. (Honestly, how many sports-isms could I fit in that sentence).
Now, last, and most importantly...Pat Burrel. Three home runs in the play-offs. 600 slugging pctg. .364 OBP. He is heading into the World Series as I think the toughest player with a bat and a "P" on his helmet. He's come alive, and proved that although he is streaky, when he is hitting all he does in drive in runs. With Tampa's pitchers sure to pitch around Ryan Howard as much as possible, look to Pat "The Bat" Burrel to step up immensely. So far he has been up to the challenge.
The last point to make to the Phillies advantage is simple. The Tampa Bay Ray's pitching staff is pretty good. Their bull-pen...not so much. It is no secret that the Phillies are bull-pen punishers. They hit late in the game, and often when they do. The Phillies are a team that can get 6 runs in the last 3 innings easily. Just ask the Mets. They had a mediocre bull-pen that took the brunt of a Phillies offense down the stretch. Granted this is the post season, where its go hard or go home. If the Phillies live up to the promise of a damn good batting line-up, then they will be going home...with the 2008 World Series trophy.