There’s only a few sports events I look forward to seeing every year. The Super Bowl tops the list, followed closely by the one Colts game I get to attend every year, and the start of the three major sports seasons (baseball, football, basketball). The World Series isn’t one of them. I’m thinking it might be after this one.
I’m excited to watch the games. I’m a big fantasy/video game generation guy, and seeing young studs like Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, Scott Kazmir, and David Price play will be extremely awesome and exciting, even though I’m a Red Sox fan.
There’s my rant. Onto the analysis and predictions.
Here’s how it will break down. I will go position by position, plus starting pitching, relief pitching, coaching and intangibles, giving the advantage for each team, followed by my prediction for the series.
Not one of the marquee matchups in this series. Dioner Navarro of the Rays hit .295 with 7 HR’s and 54 RBI’s in the regular season and went to the All-Star game due to that high average (for a catcher). Carlos Ruiz hit .219 in the regular season, .200 so far in the playoffs. Chris Coste actually was the better player, hitting .263 in the regular season, but with only one at-bat so far in the playoffs, this one goes to the RAYS.
Well, now we’re getting somewhere. We know Ryan Howard lead the league with 48 HR’s and 146 RBI’s, hitting .251. Carlos Pena hit 31 HR’s with 102 RBI’s and a .247 average. These are similar type guys. However, the real similarity between these sluggers lies within their strikeout totals. Howard finished second overall in MLB with 199, making him more potent strikeout wise than teammate Cole Hamels with 196. Pena whiffed 166 times, fifth overall. Pena is a Gold-Glove caliber defender, but with Howard’s slightly better (who am I kidding, he’s a monster) offensive production plus with the knowledge than big hits and homeruns can make or break a series, this one goes to the PHILLIES.
Aki Iwamura is serviceable, but Chase Utley is on pace to be an all-time great second baseman. This obviously goes to the PHILLIES. With that said, Utley is a key for Philadelphia. I have a feeling that Upton and Longoria will get huge hype early in the series for their exploits so far this October, and they will be important, but Utley and the other big Philly hitters will absolutely need to be on their game. This Rays team has momentum and some crazy possible history behind them. Philly’s hitting can stop that, and they need to. Utley’s .250 average so far in the postseason won’t cut it.
When I have to look up a team’s third basemen because I forget off the top of my head, you know this section won’t be competitive. Sorry Phillies fans. Evan Longoria can do it all, and is on his way to superstardom and becoming the face of that team, while Pedro Feliz is a borderline utility infielder. RAYS all the way here.
Jason Bartlett’s forte is supposed to be defense, which is his only shot of competing with Jimmy Rollins, but that ball he miffed late in game seven doesn’t bode him well for me. Rollins is in that group with Utley and a few other Phillies that really need to get on their game and lead this team. I think he’s got a shot to be a surprise this series and show us a flash of what he was last year. Phillies here.
This position is in stark contrast to first base. You couldn’t have two different guys here. Pat Burrell is a mashing slugger than swings at everything near that strike zone while Carl Crawford is a speedster who relies on turning base hits into doubles and triples with above average defense. This is really an even matchup. However, I’m giving the RAYS the advantage here because Crawford has played very well this postseason so far, and that team has some magic on their side that no one can compete with. I could just see him going off with a .400+ average on a bunch of slap hits and averaging a steal a game, while Burrell totally flounders. Sorry, Phillies fans.
Boy, has B.J. Upton been a surprise. During the regular season, he looked like a clone of Carl Crawford. That is, a lot less power than we thought he would have as a prospect but a real fast guy who will steal some bases and play good defense. For Upton, he has been all that plus power this postseason. 7 HR’s in 11 games? 9 HR’s in 145 games? C’mon. This guy’s firing on all cylinders. It looks like we were all wrong thinking his brother will be way better than he will. I’m sold on B.J. He looks special. Give me some RAYS.
The Rays have a platoon here, with Gabe Gross and Rocco Baldelli. Neither are special in any way. Philly uses Jayson Werth mostly and Geoff Jenkins some, and Werth actually has been pretty good this year, with 24 HR’s and 20 steals in the regular season. I’ll give the PHILLIES this one.
Philly will try to use Cole Hamels as much as possible, with him starting Wednesday and I can only assume in Game 4 and Game 7 if necessary. That’s a good strategy because I’m not sold on the rest of their guys. Brett Myers has been ok, but he’s up and down and If I were Charlie Manuel, I wouldn’t trust him. Joe Blanton will get the rest of the starts available to them, and there ok too, but nothing that would scare me.
Tampa Bay scares me. Think about facing these guys every game: Scott Kazmir, James Shields, Matt Garza (especially after Game 7). These guys are good, fireballers, and young enough not to be fazed by the bright lights of the World Series. I could definitely see one of these throwing an absolute beauty. RAYS, please.
If the Rays had any relievers, and had known David Price was ridiculously good, the Boston series would have been over by Game 5. Psst, psst, everyone listen to a this huge secret.
Brad Lidge is REALLY, REALLY good. Ryan Madson is good too.
Joe Maddon has the respect and backing of his players. So does Charlie Manuel. Manuel has his players emotionally behind him because of his mother. Maddon has them emotionally invested because of the history they could set. These are two good managers.
I know Philly hasn’t one a major championship as a city since the early 80’s, but they’ve had good teams since then that just fell short. Tampa Bay has the chance to be the biggest underdog story since the 1980 Olympic hockey “Miracle on Ice”. This is a once in a generation type story. That’s what makes it exciting and watchable. (By the way, if Tampa can pull this off, a name will pop up, akin to the aforementioned “Miracle”, to define this team. Let me throw in my suggestion. “The Bonanza at the Bay”. You know that’s good.
If you were keeping track, the teams finished 5-5-1 in my position sections. Well, that doesn’t help me.
Tampa is on the verge of history, and I’m going to be honest, I want it to happen. This will be great for the game. In an era where a crappy football game can beat a playoff baseball game in TV ratings (Not Sunday night, though), baseball needs a spark. Tampa can provide that. A team rising up in this luxury tax, pay a guy 200 million dollar era where small market teams can’t compete and the Tampa Bay “Devil” Rays win the World Series? That’s a fantastic story, no matter what way you cut it.
Tampa Bay in seven.