Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Phillies vs. Rockies: NLDS Breakdown

The road to a repeat gets under way Wednesday when the Phillies take on the Rockies in the NLDS. Do the Phillies have what it takes to knock out the red-hot Rockies or will this series be just like 2007 when Colorado swept the Phils right out of the playoffs? Here is my breakdown of the two teams, position-by-position:

Starting Pitching:
Phillies: Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ (?)
Rockies: Ubaldo Jimenez, Aaron Cook, Jason Hammel (?)

The Game One and Game Two starters appear to be set, with Cliff Lee facing Ubaldo Jimenez and Cole Hamels facing Aaron Cook. From there, things are a little iffy, although Blanton is a lock in Game Three for the Phils. The Rockies best pitcher, Jorge De La Rosa, is the wild card here. De La Rosa hurt his left groin in his last start and it's unknown as to whether he will be available to pitch. If he can go, he will pitch Game Three and will give the Rockies a big advantage in that game. If not, the Rockies do have a deep rotation and can throw out either Jason Hammel or Jason Marquis. All five Rockies pitchers won at least ten games this year, so there won't be that much of a drop-off if De La Rosa can't go. Despite the Rockie depth, I have to go with the Phillies because of their top-end talent. While Hamels has been off this whole season, if he is even close to the pitcher he was in the playoffs last year, he is going to be a force once again. Lee is also an elite talent and he has to get the edge over Jimenez. While the Phillies are still unsure whether J.A. Happ or Pedro Martinez will pitch in Game Four, the overall edge has to go to Philadelphia. Edge: Phillies

Phillies: Ryan Madson, Brad Lidge, Pedro Martinez, Brett Myers
Rockies: Huston Street, Franklin Morales, Matt Herges, Rafael Betancourt

The Rockies have one of the best closers in the game right now in Huston Street. The Phillies, well, they had one of the best closers in the game last year in the playoffs but that has all changed now. The one positive for the Phillies is that they go plenty deep, with lots of quality arms that have had success in the past. Of course, it's hard to say who the Phils can count on from game to game, so we have to rely on Charlie Manuel and his gut calls. The Rockies also have a dependable 8th inning lefty in Franklin Morales who can be called upon to mow down a few of the Phillies lefty sluggers late in the game. Even if the Phillies figure out who their closer is, the Rockies are simply better in the 'pen in every way. Edge: Rockies

Phillies: Carlos Ruiz
Rockies: Yorvit Torrealba

While Torrealba has a big edge over Ruiz in the batting average department, the Phillies catcher is better in nearly every other way. Ruiz has really put it all together this season and become an even better defensive catcher to go with his usually solid offensive power numbers. Edge: Phillies

Phillies: Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Pedro Feliz
Rockies: Todd Helton, Clint Barmes, Troy Tulowitzki, Ian Stewart

Offensively, there is almost no comparison between these two infields. The Phillies power numbers put them amongst the best infields in the last decade so they have to be given the edge here. The only place where the Rockies close the gap is at shortstop, where Troy Tulowitzki has outplayed Jimmy Rollins this year. Still, two big edges at first and second and the slight edge at third give the Phillies the nod here. Edge: Phillies

Phillies: Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth
Rockies: Seth Smith, Dexter Fowler, Brad Hawpe

Once again, the Phillies have a huge edge offensively over Colorado. Defensively, despite having great throwing arms, the Phillies lag behind the Rockies a bit. The Rockies actually use a rotation in left field, with Seth Smith, Ryan Spilborghs and Carlos Gonzalez splitting time. The Rockies have better depth, but the Phillies continue to have the better top-end talent. Edge: Phillies

Phillies: Ben Francisco, Matt Stairs, Greg Dobbs
Rockies: Ryan Spilborghs, Carlos Gonzalez, Jason Giambi

This is where the Rockies have a big advantage. After Francisco, the Phillies bench really falls off and there isn't anyone they can count on. The Rockies, on the other hand, have speed in Carlos Gonzalez, power in Jason Giambi and a backup catcher in Chris Iannetta who doesn't completely suck. Edge: Rockies

Phillies: Charlie Manuel
Rockies: Jim Tracy
Charlie Manuel, while not always the brilliant tactician, has to have a major edge over Jim Tracy. Tracy has exactly 4 postseason games under his belt while Charlie can show off that World Series ring from last year. While Tracy deserves a ton of credit for helping the Rockies go on a run to finish out the year, Manuel has been here before and Tracy has not. Edge: Phillies

My prediction:
The Phillies easily win this breakdown by a score of 5-2, and because of that they should win this series. I'm going with Phillies in 4, with Philly winning the first two games, dropping the third, then winning Game Four in Colorado. This Phillies team is too focused and too talented to fall in the first round, even to a hot team like the Rockies. I expect every game to be close on the scoreboard, but I don't see the Phillies faltering unless the bullpen completely implodes, which isn't all that unlikely.

Strap in, folks, playoff baseball is as good as it gets, and we are in store for another deep run by the Phillies. Things look pretty clear in the National League for the Phils, making a return trip to the World Series a very real possibility. Of course, what happens when they get there might not be as easy as last year, but we'll just have to wait and see about that. GO PHILLIES!

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