With less than a month to go, the Philadelphia Phillies are in cruise control. There is no way they miss the playoffs at this point, so let us look forward and concentrate on what should be a very exciting playoff picture.
I present to you my "Six Bold Predictions for the Philadelphia Phillies’ 2011 Postseason."
I am smart enough to realize that a "bold prediction" today does not necessarily equate to an absolute truth. Anything is possible though.
I fully believe Roy Oswalt will be the unquestioned fourth starter chosen for the playoff rotation. Contrary to what 2011 statistics may indicate, Oswalt should be chosen over Vance Worley because of his experience in the playoffs.
However, this does not mean Oswalt will have the better postseason. Oswalt will be the weak point on the playoff rotation. Does this mean he is a horrible pitcher? No. He just will be the one that lasts the least amount of innings and gives up the most runs for the Phils.
Look for Vance Worley to come out of the pen when Oswalt begins to struggle and give the Phillies quality innings. Worley will be the guy that keeps the Phillies in games if the starters fade fast.
There is no other choice but to have Oswalt as the fourth starter. Worley will be a more reliable arm in the pen than Oswalt would be.
Small injuries have plagued the Phillies this year, but nothing so serious that it has stopped the momentum.
Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco have been up and down all season, and the playoffs will be grueling. It will be up to the bench to come in and provide relief when needed, or fill in when there is an injury.
There will be an injury.
This will require the bench to step up. In the last two months, John Mayberry, Wilson Valdez and Michael Martinez have filled in nicely when needed. It would not be shocking to see Mayberry and Valdez continue their consistency in the playoffs.
The Phillies bench is versatile and will be a big part of their success if they expect to compete for a World Series championship.
It is hard to propose that Cole Hamels will be the best Phillies pitcher in the playoffs when Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay are his teammates. I’ll do it anyway.
Hamels will be the number three pitcher in the rotation. This creates favorable matchups for him, as any pitcher that opposes him would not nearly be as talented as he is.
By being the third pitcher in the rotation, this will also cause Hamels to pitch on the road more. With a road ERA of 2.74 this season and a proven track record of success on the road in the playoffs, I see Hamels having another stellar postseason.
September has been a display of power for the starting rotation, but the bullpen has been shakier than they were earlier in the year. It has not caused many losses, but it has made games closer than they should be. Ryan Madson and Antonio Bastardo have occasionally given up unnecessary runs lately, and they are the most important arms in the bullpen.
Has the bullpen been poor? Not at all. Inconsistent would be a better description, but not as a unit. Typically when one member of the bullpen fails, someone else comes in and stops the bleeding. The bullpen as a whole has not imploded.
However, the examples have been enough lately where I raise my level of concern. In the playoffs, both starters and relievers will be overworked and there is little room for error.
I don’t think Jimmy Rollins will win an actual MVP award in the playoffs, but he will put up MVP-like numbers.
Rollins must perform down the stretch, especially in October. His contract depends on it. If he truly wants one more decent contract with the Phillies, or any team for that matter, he must show that he has something left offensively.
There is nothing to suggest that Rollins will have a hot October, as his playoff statistics offensively are nothing to brag about. It will take more than a clutch hit or two from Rollins to grab a big payoff in the offseason.
Now is the time to party like its 2007, Jimmy.
The Philadelphia Phillies have been penciled into the World Series since day one. Most fans want to just fast forward to the World Series because it is such a “lock” that the Phillies are going make it.
I just don’t see the lock everyone else does.
The Phillies are the best team in the National League. However that does not make them a lock to get to the World Series. It makes them the favorite. There is a difference.
The last time a team with the most wins in the National League made it to the World Series was in 2004. So many people are caught up with slogans about “Four Aces” and “R2C2” that we forget how much work it takes to get through the playoffs, even when you are the favorite.
For me it comes down to which Phillies show up in October: The ones making it look easy right now, or the ones who forget how to hit and may have an overworked pitching staff. This will determine how far the Phils go.
We were supposed to cruise to another World Series last year too, remember?
The starters will do their job and give you quality innings, but you cannot expect complete games every night. In the playoffs it will be a chess game of bench players being matched up against relief pitchers late in games. The Phillies cannot give up a run in tight games and pressure their offense to bail them out.
I’m not being pessimistic, I’m being realistic. Being the favorite does not mean you are privileged to get into the World Series. Any team is just one bad series from being eliminated. Even the Phillies.
Thank you for reading. This was my first written baseball article as a member of the Bleacher Report family.
These type of articles are meant to play the “what if” game. I could be right or wrong, but I stand by what I think is a possible outcome. Thank you again and I welcome your feedback.
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