We continue our seven-part look at the NLDS.
Part II : Relief Pitching
MR: Clay Condrey (3-4, 3.26 ERA, 34 K, 19 BB)
MR: Rudy Seanez (5-4, 3.53 ERA, 30 K, 25 BB)
MR: Scott Eyre (5-0, 4.21 ERA, 32 K, 7 BB)
MR: Chad Durbin (5-4, 2.87 ERA, 63 K, 35 BB)
SR: JC Romero (4-4, 2.75 ERA, 52 K, 38 BB)
SR: Ryan Madson (4-2, 3.05 ERA, 67 K, 23 BB)
CR: Brad Lidge (2-0, 41 SV, 1.95 ERA, 92 K, 35 BB)
MR: Mitch Stetter (3-1, 3.20 ERA, 31 K, 19 BB)
MR: Seth McClung (6-6, 4.02 ERA, 87 K, 55 BB)
MR: Carlos Villanueva (4-7, 4.07 ERA, 93 K, 30 BB)
MR: David Riske (1-2, 5.31 ERA, 27 K, 25 BB)
MR: Eric Gagne (4-3, 5.44 ERA, 38 K, 22 BB)
SR: Brian Shouse (5-1, 2.81 ERA, 33 K, 13 BB)
SR: Guillermo Mota (5-6, 4.11 ERA, 50 K, 28 BB)
CR: Salomon Torres (7-5, 28 SV, 3.49 ERA, 51 K, 33 BB)
Bullpens are still not completely known, but this is a raw idea.
You’d think the Brewers bullpen was horrible considering everyone is saying it’s their Achilles heel. Don’t be fooled. The Brewers’ 3.83 bullpen ERA is ninth in the majors. It isn’t the Phils’ 3.19 ERA, but it’s respectable. The Brews’ heel in the pen is at closer, where they haven’t solidified that role completely. Currently it’s Torres. The 36-year-old has struggled recently — he’s given up 12 earned runs in September.
Getting to Torres has also been a problem. Gagne just doesn’t have it, and gives up a wealth of home runs, so Phillies’ bats better be ready to pounce if he finds time. Mota gives up close to a hit per inning, and has worse than a 2:1 K:BB ratio. He’s definitely hittable. For the Brewers to succeed they’ll likely rely on the left-handed Shouse, who would pose problems for the big bats in the middle. Lefties are hitting just .180 against him in 100 at bats. Charlie Manuel may want to think about breaking up Chase Utley and Ryan Howard for Shouse alone.
Riske was a veteran risk and is now out for the season, so look for Villanueva to get considerable time if the Brewers need a sixth- or seventh-inning reliever. He piles up strikeouts with his weird delivery, which kills timing. He and McClung serve as proficient swing men, much like Durbin of the Phils. Stetter might get a spot on the playoff roster because he’s a lefty, and would serve as a middle-innings LOOGY against the big bats (lefties are .158 in 38 at bats).
The Phillies come into the series touting the National League’s top bullpen. What a difference a year makes. The main reason has been Lidge, who hasn’t shown any reason to think he’ll blow a save. As long as he’s rested — which he should be — he’ll get the job done.
Getting to Lidge has been the pen’s only real problem, and even that hasn’t been a big deal. It looks as if Madson will be the eighth inning guy, with Romero waiting to face lefties. That means, hopefully, Romero gets Fielder and any lefty pinch hitters, and it’s mainly up to Madson. Against the big-swinging Crew, I like Madson in this series.
The sixth and seventh innings go to Durbin and Eyre, who provide more ground balls than the K-happy Romero and Madson. They’re effective when they locate their pitches low in the zone. Durbin has had a bout of trouble lately, but in a short series, any trouble will mean a quick exit. And if the Phils need a big out without using the big boys, Seanez can do the trick at times. Condrey is there for mop-up work, but hopefully won’t have that opportunity. He could get a big out or two along the line.
Analysis: Obviously I like the Phils bullpen much more here. There’s an organization to it. Condrey and Seanez if need be; Durbin and Eyre for the sixth and seventh; Romero and Madson for the seventh and eighth; Lidge in the ninth. If anyone were to have trouble in the series, I’d think it’d be Romero, who might be called on to pitch to righties and lose control.
At first glance, the Brewers bullpen reminds one of last year’s Phillies bullpen. Uncertainty at closer, some mediocre veteran arms in the middle, some possibly hot pieces, but overall, an unorganized mess. Still, in a short series you can never be too nervous. If Milwaukee starters go seven innings and Dale Sveum calculates a rotation of Villanueva, Shouse and McClung before getting to Torres, it might be hairy for the Phils.
Sitll, I think the Phils could and possibly will win a game off the Brewers bullpen. It could be game one, if Yovani Gallardo is tapped for that start. I can’t necessarily see the Crew taking one of the Phils pen, but anything can happen.