The Phillies live and die by Jimmy Rollins. When Rollins gets on base early and often good things happen to the Phillies. While Rollins has a higher batting average against lefties this year, his OBP is actually higher vs. righties. Once reaching base, he also recorded 36 of his 47 stolen bases against righties (overall he stole safely 47 out of 50 attempts).
Rollins will have to turn around some of his numbers from this season and get out to a hot start on the road in Tampa Bay. He was a much better player at home this year than on the road. His average at home was .314 compared to .243 on the road. Despite playing in one more road game than home games, he stole 13 more bases at home, scored 8 more runs, struck out less, and walked more. His OBP was almost 90 points higher inside the confines of Citizen’s Bank Park. To his credit Rollins did have more HR’s on the road and drove in 7 more RBI. He very well may have extra opportunities for RBI on the road. With the addition of a DH, the Phillies should be able to turn the line-up over more frequently and bring Rollins up to bat with runners on base. With the bases empty this season, Rollins hit just .255 but with runners on base (on 1st or in scoring position) he hit well over .300.
How He Matches Up:
Kazmir: Scott Kazmir, a lefty who will pitch in game 1, has been much better at home this season than he has on the road (a home ERA under 3 vs. over 4 on the road). He did however issue 20 more walks at home than he did on the road.
Kazmir fairs better against left handed batters.
*Rollins needs to be patient at the plate. With his higher average against lefties and Kazmir’s tendency to issue walks at Tropicana Field, Rollins has a good chance to reach base. A lead-off walk is as good as a hit and will really open things up for this potent offense. As a switch hitter, Rollins is one of the few right handed bats (with power potential) that the Phillies can use against this potent left-hander. Rollins hit over .350 inside domes this season…so get that into your head for game 1, Mr. Kazmir. Be afraid, be very afraid. If the Phillies face Kazmir again in Philadelphia for game 5, Rollins should be even more effective against Kazmir’s less than stellar road numbers.
Shields:James Shields, a righty who will pitch game 2, has also been a much better pitcher at home than he has away (home ERA of 2.59 vs. 4.19 on the road). Batters also hit over 40 points higher against Shields on the road.
*Rollins will turn around and bat lefty vs. Shields. This gives him a boost in OBP and also will allow him to steal more frequently when he does reach base making it all the more important that he be patient at the plate. While Shields had almost identical numbers against righties and lefties, he did issue more walks to lefties and Rollins should look to take advantage of this. A lead-off HR against Shields (as he did in game 5 in L.A.) would really set the tone for the Phillies against “Big Game” James.
Garza:Matt Garza, a righty who will pitch game 3 (in Philadelphia), is a good match up for the Phillies in Citizen’s Bank Park. Garza posted a road ERA of 4.53, while opponents hit 23 points higher against him. In 2 less road innings than home innings, he gave up more runs, hits, and HR’s.
*Rollins will once again bat lefty against Garza, which is a favorable match-up. In 10 fewer innings facing lefties (than righties this season) Garza issued more walks and allowed more HR’s. Garza throws hard but Rollins has the ability to hit the ball well to all fields as long as he doesn’t try to do too much with the pitches he sees.
Chase Utley is a stud. He led the NL all-star team in votes received. He hits for power and for average. He is every pitchers nightmare. In indoor games this year, Utley hit over .300 with an OBS over .400. Most importantly he is protected by the most dangerous power hitter in the game, Ryan Howard.
Kazmir: Utley hit a very respectable .277 vs. lefties this season and is one of the Phillies most dangerous left handed batters vs. left handed pitching. He is a patient hitter that should be able to take advantage of Kazmir’s inflating ERA (His ERA rose from 1.22 in May to 3.60 in June, into the 4’s for July and August, and eventually rose over 5 for September). If there is a game 5, Kazmir will have to pitch against Utley in Philadelphia and batters hit over 50 points higher against him in their home stadiums.
Shields:Utley hit over .300 against right handed pitchers this season. Shields issued more walks to lefties but he also struck out more lefties so Utley needs to be patient at the plate and try to get ahead in the count. While Utley’s average home and away was almost identical, he did have a higher OBP on the road where in only 9 more AB’s than he had at home he hit more doubles, triples, and walked more (while striking-out less). Patience is the name of the game.
Garza: Utley may look to utilize the long-ball against Garza in Philadelphia where he hit 7 more HR’s than he did on the road. Citizen’s Bank Park is designed for hitters, which works to the advantage of players like Utley who will be facing pitchers who have never pitched here before. It will be important for Utley to reach base to force Garza to pitch to Howard.
Ryan Howard had a very strange year. He led the NL in HR’s and RBI but batted just .251 with 199 K’s. He was instrumental in many of the Phillies “big” innings this season. Howard must do his best to not swing at pitches outside of the strike zone as he has been made to look foolish several times this season. When he is patient, and is locked in, he is a threat to go deep on every decent pitch. He has struggled in the playoffs thus far and will need to be at the top of his game and drive in runs.
Kazmir:Ryan struggled in indoor games this season where he struck out 11 times in just 27 AB’s. Maybe he has a harder time picking up the ball? Although Howard had over 140 more AB’s vs. righties than lefties, he struck out only 7 more times (against righties). This is probably not the best match-up for Howard. He will need to be patient and not swing at pitches low and inside, out of the zone (as he is known to do against lefties). This match-up might come down to one timely hit for Howard but as has been the case several times this season, one is all it might take. With the right handed Burrell protecting him, Howard may just get a few pitches to hit.
Shields:Ryan hit consistently both home and away but Shields numbers have definitely been better at home (a 9-2 record vs. a losing road record). The fact that Shields is a righty does bode well for Howard whose average rose over 40 points vs. righties. With Burrell (the righty) batting behind him, Shields may opt to walk Howard if first base is open in favor of pitching to Burrell. If this happens, he needs to make smart decisions on the base-paths as he has made a few running errors this season.
Garza: Howard has been known to CRUSH the ball out of Citizen’s Bank Park (the field of play anyway). Howard's OBP is also 70 points higher against righties than lefties (in part because he is sometimes intentionally walked to get to Burrell). Garza has a great heater and Howard needs to be smart about not swinging at breaking pitches low and away.
Pat the Bat is the most dangerous right-handed bat the Phillies have. He is a very smart hitter at the plate is known to usually take a pitch or two (at least making sure the pitcher is throwing strikes). He has, on occasion, been known to lay into a first pitch fast ball. Pat isn’t exactly speedy on the base path or in the field and is sometimes pulled late in the game for a more nimble left-fielder. For this reason, he may very well be called on to DH in this series allowing him to gain an extra AB or two at the end of games.
Kazmir:Pat hit .279 vs. lefties this year (over 40 points higher than he did against righties). His OBP against lefties was over .400 showing how patient he can be at the plate. The advantage might go to Kazmir in his first AB but once Burrell has seen a few pitches, watch out. With Utley and Howard both batting lefty ahead of him, it may be up to Burrell to come up with the big hit.
Shields:To Burrell’s credit his OBP against righties was over .350 this season. If Howard is walked to get to Burrell, it will be up to Pat to make Shields pay. He will need to be smart at the plate and look to draw a walk or advance the runners already on base. Shields struck out more lefties than righties this year and coupled with Burrell’s patient approach at the plate, this could prove to be a very important match-up.
Garza:Garza also struck out more lefties than righties which is good for the already patient Burrell. Pat needs to be smart, look for his pitch and drive it.
The Flyin' Hawaiian Shane Victorino, the hero of the Phillies post season thus far, has proven dangerous batting out of either the #2 or #6 spot. As a switch hitter who can hit for power, slap the ball to every field, and leg out an infield hit, he is a force to be reckoned with. Once reaching base he is also a threat to steal 2nd or 3rd. He scored over 100 runs this season for the Phillies.
Kazmir:Victorino had over 200 less AB’s vs. lefties than righties this season but he hit twice as many HR’s against them and drove in almost as many RBI. While his average against lefties is slightly lower, his OBP is about equal from both sides of the plate (hovering around .350). When he does reach base, it will be much harder for Victorino to steal 2nd against a lefty like Kazmir. With a DH, Shane batting out of the 6th hole would give the Phillies a legitimate 2nd lead-off hitter mid-lineup.
Shields:Victorino does hit for a better average against righties but his power numbers suffer. Hopefully other Phillies hitters will step up and take some of the pressure off of Victorino to hit the long-ball. Shields is known to walk more lefties than righties so Shane should look to take advantage of that with smart AB’s.
Garza:Victorino has shined at home in Philadelphiathis year. His home batting average of .316 dwarfs his road average of .272. His OBP at home (.391) is almost 80 points higher than on the road. With Garza’s weaker road numbers, Shane has to look get on base by any means necessary and than run, run, and run some more. I think this will be the best match-up for Victorino as his quick bat has the ability to catch up with the hard throwing Garza.
*The Phillies will face Andy Sonnanstine in game 4. He posts an ERA around 4.35
*The Rays starting pitchers all have playoff ERA’s between 3.32 and 4.02
*David Price a hard throwing left hander may be called on to try to close out games against the potent Phillies line up. The first over all pick in 2007, he recorded the final 4 outs of the ACLS with his high 90’s fastball and big time slider. No Phillies player has faced Price before which could prove an advantage for the youngster.
*Matt Stairs, who hit the game winning HR against L.A. in game 4 of the NLCS, has faced several of the Rays pitchers this season while a member of the Blue-Jays.
While the Rays have many young dynamic pitchers (as well as hitters), I think the Phillies knowledge of what it feels like to lose a playoff series (2007 vs. Rockies) will prove as extra motivation to win. There is more at stake in Philadelphia where no major sports team has won a title in 25 years. Tampa Bay has won both a Superbowl and Stanley Cup this decade alone. The Phillies know what this title and a parade down Broad Street would mean to their fans and the city of Philadelphia. Phillies in six.