Friday, October 15, 2010

Phillies vs. Giants: NLCS breakdown

With the NLCS finally set to start tomorrow, it's time to take a closer look at how the Giants stack up against the Phillies. We all know about the Giants pitching but do they have enough bats to keep up with the Phillies? Here is my breakdown of the two teams, position-by-position:

Starting Pitching:
Phillies: Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton
Giants: Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner

The strength of both teams lie in their starting rotations. Against any other team in the league, each of these teams would have a huge advantage over the opposition but when compared to one another, it's pretty much a wash. Right off the bat, the first game figures to be an epic showdown that features the 2009 NL Cy Young winner against the presumptive 2010 Cy Young winner. Trying to discern who is better between Halladay and Lincecum is a pointless exercise; they are both ridiculously good and will be mowing everyone down in Game 1. As for Game 2, a case can be made that Sanchez, a lefty who has stymied the Phillies in the past, is actually better than Oswalt, who struggled against the Giants this year. With the way Hamels has been pitching lately, I don't think many can ague that he's better than Cain, though the gap isn't really that wide. That leaves things even heading into Game 4, where Blanton and Bumgarner are the starters for now, although that could change depending on where the series stands at that point. While Bumgarner will probably be the better pitcher in the long run, right now, it's hard to say he's better than Blanton, who has come up big in the postseason in the past. It's almost impossible to definitively say one team has better starting pitching than the other. Edge: Even

Bullpen:
Phillies: Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, Jose Contreras, Chad Durbin
Giants: Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Ramon Ramirez, Javier Lopez

The Phillies bullpen basically got to nap through the first round but you can bet they will be put to the test in this longer series. This is still the Phillies biggest weakness, given that there are still plenty of questions as to whether Lidge will be able to hold things down in the 9th. Just about the only bullpen piece that no one questions is Madson, who is dependable night in and night out. As for the Giants, they have an incredibly deep pen that did struggle at times against the Braves in the NLDS but they came through in the series clincher. Although Wilson doesn't exactly scare anyone, the Giants do have plenty of hard throwers and lefty options like Lopez and Jeremy Affedlt that should give Ryan Howard and the Phillies lefty bats fits. Edge: Giants

Catcher:
Phillies: Carlos Ruiz
Giants: Buster Posey

Posey is quickly establishing himself as one of the best hitting catchers in the league while Ruiz continues to be the best number 8 hitter I can think of and is still very reliable behind the plate. While Posey is certainly the more talented player, Ruiz makes things even with his defense and his penchant for coming up with big hits in the playoffs. Edge: Even

Infield:
Phillies: Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco
Giants: Aubrey Huff, Freddy Sanchez, Juan Uribe, Pablo Sandoval

As a whole, both infields are solid defensively but when you start looking at the bats, the Phillies clearly have the edge. At first base, Howard didn't have his best year this year but he's still a more dangerous hitter than Huff, who may be the Giants best hitter. At second base, there is no one better than Utley when he is healthy and Sanchez is no exception. If Sanchez still produced like he did back in 2006 and 2007 when he was with the Pirates, there would be more of an argument to be made. As for the shortstops, while Uribe does have some pop in his bat, even in his best year he's still not much better than a hobbled Rollins, who jumps way ahead of him when you take into account his defense. Finally, at third, the Giants will probably use both Sandoval and Mike Fontenot, which tells you a lot about how far the Kung Fu Panda has fallen after his breakthrough season last year. Polanco is much better with the bat than either option. The Phillies big advantage over the Giants in the infield could be their key to winning the series. Edge: Phillies

Outfield:
Phillies: Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth
Giants: Pat Burrell, Andres Torres, Cody Ross

None of the names in the Giants outfield scare anyone, from cast-offs like Burrell and Ross to Torres, who had a great season but isn't exactly someone you are afraid of when he steps to the plate. At best, Burrell is just about as good as Ibanez and Torres and Victorino are a wash, but no matter how you look at the right field situation, the Phillies come out way ahead with Werth. Factor in defense, where Burrell and Ross don't cover much ground in the corners, and the Phillies have another pretty solid advantage. Edge: Phillies

Bench:

Phillies: Ross Gload, Ben Francisco, Wilson Valdez
Giants: Mike Fontenot, Edgar Renteria, Aaron Rowand, Travis Ishikawa

Neither team has much to brag about on the bench, though the Giants will actually start some of these guys in a game or two. While some Phillies fans might be excited to see our old friend Aaron Rowand in the series, keep in mind he's just a shell of his former self and he won't be running into walls any time soon. Don't expect anything more than a few pinch hit at-bats from the Phillies bench. Edge: Giants

Manager:
Phillies: Charlie Manuel
Giants: Bruce Bochy

Bochy has done a fine job to get a very one-dimensional team this far into the playoffs but he might not have enough weapons at his disposal to manage his way past the Phillies. As for Manuel, he seems to step his game up in the playoffs and has yet to make a bad decision, though he really hasn't had to do much yet. As always, the edge has to go to the guy with the ring. Edge: Phillies

My prediction:

On paper, the Phillies have the advantage in this series at the plate, where they have a lineup that goes eight deep and can put up runs against any pitcher. While the Giants may have a slight advantage in the pitching department, when you look at their lineup, it's hard to fathom how they are going to get any run production against the Phillies three aces. Since 3 runs might be all you need to win a game in this series, I have to go with the Phillies in 6, since their offense is capable of exploding at any time. As for how the series plays out, I like the Phillies to win Game 1, lose Game 2, win Game 3, lose Game 4 and then win Game 5 before wrapping up the series at home in Game 6.

We are just four wins away from a third straight trip to the World Series for the Phillies. In the modern era, it's extremely difficult for a team to get to the World Series in two straight years, so the fact that the Phillies have put themselves in a position for a third trip speaks to the dynasty that they might be building. It's safe to say that there has never been a better time to be a Phillies fan.

1 comment:

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