MLB Playoff Predictions: Philadelphia Phillies vs. St. Louis Cardinals Breakdown
It’s time to put away the shorts and beach chairs; break out even MORE peanuts and crackerjacks because the Phillies are once again in the playoffs, and today I will be breaking down the Philadelphia Phillies-St. Louis Cardinals contest matchup.
The Phillies and Cardinals are no strangers to each other as they have squared off nine times this season, with St. Louis dominating the Phillies six out of those nine meetings.
This is, however, no reason to hit the panic button and inside you will see why.
The Philadelphia Phillies ended the 2011 season with a team batting average of .253 (ninth in the NL) 153 home runs (eighth in the NL) and a total of 693 RBI.
While the average is rather indicative of what we are used to seeing with Philadelphia—the Phillies were ranked 10th with a .255 average the year they won the World Series—the power numbers and RBI totals are not.
This is a problem, but not as big as it may seem since these totals are somewhat related to in-season slumps and injuries suffered throughout the year to players such as Chase Utley, Shane Victorino, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins.
The four main contributors to RBI totals and power totals.
But the Phillies MUST put all of that behind them if they are to beat a St. Louis team that is very difficult to shut down at the plate.
St. Louis Cardinals
On the other side of the ring we have the No. 1 ranked NL hitting team in St. Louis with a team average of .273 which is supported by their 162 home runs (sixth in the NL) and 726 RBI.
These numbers are World Series type numbers no doubt, and they even resemble the numbers the Phillies put up in 2008.
Much to the chagrin of the Cardinals, however, will be the loss of Matt Holliday for Game 1 (finger) of the series which is a huge void in the Cardinals lineup.
This could be a deciding factor since the series does begin in Philadelphia, and if the Phillies can get a leg up, it could work in their favor down the road.
How effective each team’s bats will be will solely rest on the shoulders of each team’s starting rotation—two rotations that are nearly equal in shutting down the opposition.
The Phillies will feature mound king Roy Halladay in Game 1 which couldn’t be a better choice as Halladay led the team this season with a 19-6 record with a stellar 2.35 ERA.
But when you add in Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt, you understand why this “dream rotation” is every bit as intimidating as any one rotation can be.
The Phillies team leading 3.02 ERA, and combined veteran leadership on the mound—postseason play included here—is going to be a very difficult nut to crack for St. Louis.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals are not devoid of solid pitchers either, but can they really matchup to what Philadelphia brings to the table?
Kyle Lohse (Game 1's starter) Edwin Jackson, Adam Wainwright and Jake Westbrook are all very talented pitchers in their own right, but are just not comparable when comparing the two sides.
The Cardinals’ team 3.77 ERA was good for 12th in the league, but they just don’t have as much experience and veteran leadership the Phillies do here, and if they have to pitch from behind, the chances of coming out on top, especially on the road, are not favorable.
The Phillies are likely to enter this contest with an interesting situation in the pen, at least for the Cardinals series.
While nothing is completely set in stone just yet, in-season starters Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick could join the bullpen which is led by Ryan Madson and his 32 collected saves, against only two blown saves.
If this is how Philadelphia approaches the series, it could be that “X” factor the Phillies need against that vaunted Cardinals lineup.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals also have an interesting situation on their hands in the respect that each of the top four members of their bullpen (Jason Motte, Fernando Salas, Octavio Dotel and Kyle McClellan) can be rotated in as either the closer, setup man, or long reliever.
But the Cardinals haven’t really found that “one guy” who they can claim as their usual closer.
Fernando Salas was the usual suspect, but he has been the victim of inconsistency all year, as had the other four mentioned players.
While the Phillies have had their own fair share of inconsistency issues in the pen, I just think the uncertainty compounded here will hamper the Cardinals’ efforts through five.
If there is one area of play the Phillies have dominated this year it has got to be defense, and it shows as Dem Phightin Phils enter the postseason as the No. 1 ranked defensive team.
The Phillies have built a solid reputation for turning the quick double play, defending the steal from the plate and incredible speed and range within the outfield.
This defense will be paramount to preventing the Cardinals from doing any extenuating damage in the NLDS.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals defense—ranked 24th in the league—has been a sort of work in progress, as the team has struggled to find itself consistently throughout the year.
Rafael Furcal’s recent hamstring injury, and Matt Holliday’s finger issue that is preventing him from playing in Game 1 are two major areas of concern for the Red Birds defensively, and it could wind up being the long-term kill shot against a team that can hit the long ball, and play small ball just as well.
The Cardinals will have to depend on a less reliable balance of players that could significantly hurt their chances of staving off the Phillies’ bats.
Both the Phillies and Cardinals, in my opinion, are dead even in this category.
If we take into account the players that have come off the bench and provided offensive support and pitching support, there really isn’t much of a dividing line.
The Phillies have enjoyed added contributions from Vance Worley, Michael Stutes, John Mayberry, Wilson Valdez and Michael Martinez, while the Cardinals have enjoyed contributions from Corey Patterson, Tyler Greene, Brandon Dickson and even Allen Craig.
Many more could be mentioned, but you get the point here.
Yes taking into account the defensive subs is just as much a reality, but in the grand scheme of things, I believe both of these teams get the final verdict of Dead Even.
Again, this is another area where I feel both of these teams are pretty much even, and what a great way to open the NLDS than to have Tony La Russa on one side and Charlie Manuel on the other.
The hardened and oft peculiar approach of Tony La Russa, versus the methodical and patient approach of fellow veteran trench-man Charlie Manuel is a baseball headline waiting to happen.
It just doesn’t get any better than this.
These two expert coaches have just about seen it all, and have a plethora of playoff experience, as well as, a solid knowledge of each other which makes this meeting even tastier.
Even Steven is my final verdict here.
There is no mistaking the Philadelphia faithfull’s presence, whether it is a game at home, or halfway across the country in Arizona, but it is at home where things begin to significantly elevate.
The Phillies are hard enough to deal with in the regular season at Citizen’s Bank Park, but in a playoff environment? Forget about it!
But it isn’t just those droves of fans that help the Phillies home-field advantage, but also it's a park that is almost equally friendly to hitters and pitchers.
Philadelphia is a difficult place to play in because of the duality mentioned, and it could be that duality that helps elevate the Phils.
St. Louis Cardinals
Do not count out the seemingly endless sea of red that will be on display for the St. Louis’ Cardinals, as these fans are easily just as supportive as the Phillies’ fans.
Busch stadium (ranked 25th with a 0.896 park total), however, is more of a pitcher’s park than a hitter’s park and it is this factor that help both teams, yes, but favors the Phillies superior rotation.
Remember, it isn’t what happened in the regular season that matters anymore, but what the greater potential in the postseason is.
Edge: Phillies, slightly.
And the Winner Is...
The St, Louis Cardinals are not a team to be taken lightly—they did beat the Phillies six out of nine this year after all—but the compounding factors against the Cardinals may be too much to overcome consistently throughout the NLDS.
The Cardinals lack the pitching support, veteran leadership and favorable intangibles that the Phillies do not.
The Cardinals can in fact beat their opponents with their bats alone, but some injury issues, lack of elite rotational pitching, and overall inferior veteran leadership provides more of a chance for the Cardinals to find themselves on the losing end of what will otherwise be a great NLDS series that is likely to go down to the wire.
There’ no hating here, but in comparison, there is no comparison.
Final Verdict: Phillies advance to the NLCS in five.