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Playoff Preview: Time to Tap the Rockies

Posted by Nick "Beerman" Staskin, Tue, October 06, 2009 11:10 AM | Comments: 31
Analysis, Opinion, Posts, Projections

The real defense of the Phillies World Series crown begins Wednesday afternoon. While only one game separated the Phils and Rockies in the win/loss column this season, we decided to dig a little deeper and uncover just how close the matchup is.

The Phils finished first in the National League in runs scored with 820 or 5.06 runs per game. Colorado, however was second in the NL with 804 runs, 4.96 runs per game. Close. Some of the numbers are actually scary close.

  • Philadelphia: 1,439 Hits; 224 HR; 788 RBI; .258 BA; .334 OBP; .447 SLG; .781 OPS
  • Colorado: 1,408 Hits; 190 HR; 760 RBI; .261 BA; .343 OBP; .441 SLG; .784 OPS

While the Phillies have more star power on offense, the Rockies production is not far off.

The pitching numbers favor the Phillies, albeit by a very small advantage.

  • Philadelphia: 4.16 ERA; 44 SV; 673 ER; 489 BB; 1153 K; .265 BA Against
  • Colorado: 4.22 ERA; 45 SV; 675 ER; 528 BB; 1154 K; .251 BA Against

Looking at the fielding percentages of these two 90+ win teams and both are within .001 percentage points! Another small advantage for the Phillies – they come in as the second best defensive team in Major League Baseball with only 76 errors (fielding at a .987 clip).

Therefore, the only way to really break down this series – one that a lot of Phillies fans, myself included do not think is that close on paper – is to go through this position by position.

CATCHER

Carlos Ruiz is coming off the best offensive season of his young career. While some of his numbers in 2007 were a bit higher, this year Ruiz had his biggest impact on the Phillies lineup. Ruiz saw his numbers skyrocket after the All Star Break. Post mid-July, Chooch hit .276 with an .862 OPS with 25 RBI. By comparison, Chase Utley hit .246/.790 with 32 post All-Star Break RBIs.

In Colorado, Yorvit Torrealba started the season as the backup to Chris Iannetta. However, by the end of the season the roles were reversed. As a solid contact hitter, Torrealba can give some of the Phillies location pitchers a problem. One liability would be his arm. Carlos Ruiz throws runners out at nearly twice the rate of Torrealba which may give Phillies speedsters the opportunity to stretch singles and walks in to scoring position.

Slight Edge Phillies

INFIELD

Ryan Howard is coming off another monster season where he once again shouldered the load in August and September. While Howard’s on-base percentage still lacks for a player of his caliber, his defense improved this season, he continued to drive in runs (four straight years of 136 RBI+) and he stayed durable in season where injuries definitely maligned the Phillies.

Todd Helton is a solid player who is past his prime, but if you are putting players up against each other, he is not much of a comparison to Howard. His numbers were all down from his career averages, however at 36 years old .325/86 RBI/.416 OBP/.489 slugging is still pretty impressive.

Edge Phillies

Second base is more or less the same cakewalk for the Phillies. While Chase Utley has struggled through the month of September, I’m willing to bank on the All-Star getting it back together in October. Utley’s glove brings an intangible that can’t be measured (well it can, if you understand all those range statistics or listen to the latest podcast) and his range is second to none in my book. Rockies second baseman Clint Barmes has some pop in his bat, slugging 23 homers this year, but at a .245 clip and a 4:1 K to BB ratio, he can’t compare to Utley; not the least of which because he also tries get greedy on the base paths. In 22 attempts this year, Barmes was only successful 12 times; Utley was of course perfect in 23 attempts.

Major Edge Phillies

Shortstop is the one infield position that gives an advantage to the Rox. It’s a small one, but Troy Tulowitzki is a stud. Tulo had a season for the ages at the shortstop position that went much unnoticed. On the other hand, Jimmy Rollins had a season that was down from what we all know he is capable of. Rollins did rebound in the second half, but Tulowitzki had a very J-Roll-in-his-prime-type year, coming into the post season at .297/32 HR/92 RBI/101 R/20 SB. Furthermore, Tulowitzki is one of the only shortstops who can make the plays that Jimmy can. J-Roll’s glove was a little better this year, but this is a match-up of two of the best fielding shortstops in baseball. Don’t expect too many balls to get through up the middle this week.

Slight Edge Rockies

At third base, it’s Pedro Feliz over the combination of Ian Stewart and Chase Utley’s best man, Garret Atkins. We will probably see more of Atkins since the Phillies will be starting lefties for the majority of the series in Hamels, Lee and possibly Happ. However, both struggled to hit a combined .227 this season. Feliz was one of the Phillies who flew under the radar this season providing some pop at the bottom of the lineup along with Carlos Ruiz. His 82 RBIs provided some run support and his defensive range, while a little down this year, is still solid at the hot corner.

Slight Edge Phillies

OUTFIELD

The Phillies start three All-Stars in the outfield. The Rockies start two youngsters and Brad Hawpe. On another note, all three Rockies outfielders are left-handed. It seems we always hear a lot about the amount of left-handed bats in the Phils lineup but the trio of Hawpe, Carlos Gonzalez and Seth Smith in the outfield could be in for trouble and could lead Jim Tracy to turn to Ryan Spilborghs and Dexter Fowler.

Raul Ibanez seems to have righted his ship, while Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth coasted into the postseason. Regardless, on paper you have to play the outfield as a huge advantage to the Phillies.

One concern for the Phillies could be Werth’s inability to front constant production against right-handed pitchers. Odds are Colorado will start three righties over the course of the series. Werth struck out 123 times against RH pitchers this season and slugged .457 compared to .644 vs. lefties.

Major Edge Phillies

PITCHING

As Tuesday morning, Charlie Manuel hadn’t set a Game One starter. I’m hoping he leans towards Cole Hamels. While Lee had an amazing start to his Phillies career, over the last month-and-a-half the word pedestrian might be an over-exaggeration, as he posted an ERA over 6.00 in his last seven starts.

Hamels has been there, winning three game ones during last year’s World Series march. In what was definitely an underachieving season for the southpaw, Hamels nonetheless showed signs of what he is capable of from time to time. Whether it’s Hamels or Lee in Game One, they will be going up against Ubaldo Jimenez on Wednesday.

Whoever doesn’t get the start on Wednesday will most likely be going up against Aaron Cook in Game Two on Thursday. Cook made only nine starts after the All-Star Break, barely averaging five innings per outing while opponents hit him at a .296 pace. Any baseball expert is going with Lee and Hamels (or Hamels and Lee whichever it is) over Jimenez and Cook.

Game Three is another situation, as neither team has announced its third starter yet. However, if Jorge De La Rosa is back from injury, one would think he gets the nod.

Who Manuel tabs for Game Three is still a bit of a mystery. If the Phillies are up 2-0 in the series, I think its Joe Blanton. If the series is tied or if the Phillies find themselves trailing, I think it is J.A. Happ. While I’m a big J. Bleazy guy, he did struggle down the stretch. On the other hand, it was against the Rox that Happ put together his 10-K, complete game shutout this August. Either way, it leaves the Phillies in a good situation for a potential Game Four or Five if necessary.

Major Edge Phillies

The bullpen is a different story. The Phillies battled a combination of injuries and inabilities all season long in the bullpen. The Rockies, got as good a season out of their closer, Huston Street, as possible. Street converted 35 of 37 save opportunities this year and had a minuscule WHIP of 0.91.

There is no need to write about the struggles of Brad Lidge here, because any Phillies Nation reader is well aware of them. Interestingly enough, it sure seems like Manuel is going with Lidge when the game is on the line. As heartbreaking as all of those blown saves were this season, none will hold a candle to what a postseason blown save could feel like. Is Manuel being too loyal to last year’s team MVP? Probably, but he’s earned that right.

I’m going with the rest of the Rockies bullpen over the patchwork pen the Phillies will bring to the table when the roster is finalized. Perhaps if healthy, the Phillies would get the edge, but with Scott Eyre being the only lefty out of the pen that I trust, it is a troublesome matchup. I do like the addition of Pedro Martinez to the bullpen. Pedro is big time and in the postseason you want big time. If the game is on the line, it will be nice to have Martinez available to come in for a few innings rather than piecing it together.

Edge Rockies

SERIES PREDICTION

While the Phillies didn’t have the strongest end to the season, it is tough not to like them in this series. Philadelphia won the season series 4-2, taking both series this in 2-1 fashion. I really don’t see the Phillies losing at home with Hamels or Lee going unless it comes down to a blown save of some sort. With everything tied together, I’m going with the PHILLIES IN 4.

Avatar of Kieran-Carobine

About Nick "Beerman" Staskin

Nick Staskin has written 36 articles on Phillies Nation.

 
 
  • Posts: 0 Ed R.

    Love the article, love the creative title you gave it. Good work Nick.

     
  • Posts: 0 Stuart

    I was worried about the post season, really worried. But after reading this article I feel a lot more confident. Great article. I feel if we can get rolling against the Rockies which now after reading this I think we can then we will hvae a good chance of rolling through the playoffs to the Series and show everyone that you cantjust use millions and millions of dollars to buy a championship and knock of the Yanks.

     
  • Posts: 0 Duffie_D

    Don’t be afraid to predict the sweep, we all know that the Phils seriously outclass the Rockies.

    Phils in 3

     
  • Posts: 0 GWFightinsFan

    For some reason I think the Phillies are really gonna struggle against the Rockies….I hope i’m wrong, but I just dont have such a good feeling…

     
  • Posts: 312 Corey Seidman

    Avatar of Corey Seidman

    I agree with most of this, but I do not think the Phillies have a major edge in the starting rotation.

    Sure, Lee and Hamels are a #1 and a low-end #1, and as I’m sure I’ll be reminded, Hamels had a historic playoff run last year, but the Rockies 1-4 starters shouldn’t be dismissed.

    Before explaining why, let’s remember that Cliff Lee has been up-and-down (mostly down) since that amazing stretch he had, and Hamels has given up 13 runs in his last 16 IP.

    For Colorado, Jimenez had an exceptional year and proved that he is at WORST, a low-end No. 1/high-end No. 2. After him, you have Aaron Cook and Jason Marquis, two sinkerballers who have shut the Phillies down many a time.

    Marquis had his best ground-ball year this year, inducing GBs 56% of the time, which was third in all of MLB to Joel Pineiro and Derek Lowe.

    Even if De la Rosa cannot go in Game 3, these Rockies starters scare me. As we all know, it’s not the flame-throwers like De la Rosa and Jimenez that the Phillies struggle against, it’s the crafty sinkerballers like Cook and Marquis.

    That said, I think the rest is accurate and the Phillies will win the series.

     
  • Posts: 0 joedad

    Nice article.

    I think coming into the postseason, the Rockies have a major edge in the bullpen but I think the Phils will man up in the postseason and pitch better. I hope for Lidge’s sake he doesn’t blow any saves. It could get ugly.

    My prediction is still fo fo fo.

     
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    I think we’ll win because I think overall, we have a better TEAM

    But the Rockies didn’t win 92 games by accident… they can smash the ball with the best of them … and they know how to win at home (51 wins), so we really need to take care of business here in Philly

    Looking over the final standings..

    The Padres won 75 games!!?
    Seattle won more games than Tampa Bay !!?

    The Marlins won 87 games, with the lowest payroll in Major League Baseball… and might fire their Manager for not making the playoffs… (F the Marlins owners)

     
  • Posts: 0 PhilPhan

    Like the article, needs a few edit.

    Catcher: Edge Rockies

    Yorvit has been on fire, and has finished with much better numbers than Ruiz.

    Shortstop: Major Edge Rockies

    Tulo is the second best shortstop in the NL behind Hanley, and has been hitting .400+ for the last 2 months. Also, he has been a constant fixture on BB tonight’s top plays.

    Pitching: Toss Up

    Ubaldo has pitched incredibly in the second half, De La Rosa (if he plays) had won 9 consecutive starts at one point in the season, and left the game the other night pitching a perfect game. Aaron Cook allowed only 2 runs in as many starts since his return.

     
  • Posts: 0 Mike

    I like the optimism but the truth is that we have NO idea which Phillies team is going to show up. The problem for the Phillies is inconsistence and an overworked pitching staff. Did these days off help the problem?

    We won the NLDS, NLCS and WS last year (unbelievably) based largely on our pitching (bullpen). Last year, 7 was Romero, 8 was Madson, 9 was Lidge. A couple of weeks ago I thought 7 would be Romero or Condrey 8 would be Park and 9 would be Madson. Any idea what it will be on Wednesday?!?!

    The Rox are not as hot as they were in 2007 but where are we? The GoodPhight had a rather persuasive article showing that many WS winners finish the season weak. But what was missing from the article was the fact that those teams did not have their bullpens falling apart.

    I am not saying we don’t win this one but I think realistically this is going to be a difficult series. Of course, its the playoffs. We might sweep ‘em. But I think the assessment here is FAR too rosey.

     
  • Posts: 0 bob

    Looks like Cliff Lee is your game 1 starter.

    Was there really any doubt about this being that Hamels would have had to go on 3 days rest? Not smart to do for Game 1 of the postseason.

     
  • Posts: 0 SDO

    De La Rosa is irrelevant in this discussion if he can’t come back in time from the groin injury. Groin injuries take time to heal – even minor groin strains take a few weeks to recover. Since it occured two days ago, it doesn’t look like he’ll be back before this series is over.

    Phillies can put an all lefty rotation with Hamels, Lee, and Happ against their best sluggers — all lefties — while the Rockies only have righties to start against Rollins, Victorino, Utley, Howard, and Ibanez.

    Pitching Advantage: Phillies

     
  • Posts: 0 Manny

    The closer issue… did anyone read an article that says that Lidge is planning on using a cutter to left-handed hitters? I don’t even know what to think about that. I also read somewhere that it might be better to throw out Lidge if there’s a save situation in Game 1, because if he’s doing bad, we can bring in Madson to save the day before Lidge blows it. The other scenario (getting Madson in first and if he sucks call Lidge) might be too overwhelming –especially for Lidge– and could kill both guys for the rest of the playoffs… I don’t know, seems like a scary situation. I’m just hoping it comes down to Eyre getting the final outs with all those lefties the Rockies have.

    But if it comes down to Madson and Lidge to get a save in the 9th, assuming neither pitched in the 8th, who would you send to the mound?

    Oh man, I do not envy Charlie Manuel with all these decisions he has to make… makes choosing your #1 starter look easy!

     
  • Posts: 0 joedad

    Manny, a complete game would be even better.

     
  • Posts: 0 Jeff Y.

    The 9th innings are going to rough to watch.

     
  • Posts: 0 hotstove

    heres my pitching staff for setup roles

    starters:
    1. Lee
    2. Hamels
    3. big joe
    4. happ

    7th: pedro
    8th: myers
    9th: madson or lidge

    lefty: eyre , taschner

     
  • Posts: 0 Aaron P.

    Shortstop? Slight Edge Rockies? Are you kidding me? I’d rather have Tulo than any other SS in the National League. Maybe it is the ESPN East Coast favoritism, but the Rockies have one of the best in the game. If it weren’t for his slow start, he would have had a shot at the batting title.

     
  • Posts: 0 GWFightinsFan

    hotstove, taschner was sent home and told his services would not be needed…so he’s not an option…

     
  • Posts: 0 Jeff

    God I remember last year’s first game Cole pitched. He just picked apart the Brewers. I hope Lee can do that in his first start. Lets just become the team we know we are.

     
  • Posts: 0 Jeff

    Relax Aaron Jroll had a bad year but he is so much the better player that Tulo is. MVP BABY.

     
  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    This is just a better team, period. We will win this series at least in 4, possibly a sweep. This Phillies are also much better than the Dodgers in my opinion, especially in the heart department. The only NL team that spooks me a bit is the Cardinals because of their 1-2 punch. I predict that at the very least the Phillies will return to the World Series and recapture the NL Pennant. Theyre just better and more experienced than Colorado, they have more heart and skill than LA, and they have a better TEAM than the Cardinals – though I think a Phillies-Cardinals series would go 6 or 7 games before the Phillies prevail.

    Lets worry about the WS later, for now, I will say that the Phillies should be able to at least make it back to the WS, even if they have a tougher go around this time.

     
  • Posts: 0 Bob Kahn

    Phils in 5.
    The article overstates the value of Phils pitching – especially the bullpen and by that I mean more than just Lidge.
    Charlie has begun to show his hand – he has more confidence in his 3-4-5 pitchers than in his bullpen. Look for two of them pitching out of the bullpen in games #1 and #2 – and why not!
    I have tix for Wednesday – sounds like it will be windy which should be interesting on top of the late afternoon sun.

     
  • Posts: 0 Aaron P.

    Jeff, maybe if Jroll was younger there would be a debate. Stats baby

     
  • Posts: 0 Karen

    I think it totally depends on who goes in the game and whether they are playing like all stars or crappy players. Lidge scares me to death especially when at an away game because it is an automatic loss for us.

     
  • Posts: 0 Jack

    Aaron P- If it werent for balls, my uncle would be my aunt! Shut up… TUlowitzki is mediocre

     
  • Posts: 0 Phil

    Nick, are you f*cking insane? I’m not one to bash the writers on this board, but 1B an edge for the Phillies? SS a slight edge for the Rockies? Phillies get a major edge in SP? Did you look at numbers or just talk out of your @$$? Tulo is arguably better than Jimmy with a glove and WAY better with a bat. Helton and Howard are about equal…maybe even a slight edge to Helton because of that LARGE OBP difference. I’d call 3B equal and Bullpen a huge advantage to the Rox because they actually have a closer.

     
  • Posts: 0 ed

    phil are you crazy howard is one of the top three offensive players in the n.l. only behind pujols. he has led the league in r.b.i. how many years! and jrol flashes a way better glove he’s going to win the gold glove for the third straight year and have you seen the second half jimmy has has the man had an awful year and still hit 20 homers and scored 100 runs as a lead off hitter. go home to colorado cause it’s Roctover! Lets Go Phillies!

     
  • Posts: 0 j reed

    Tulo has 101 runs and 20 SB too boot. Pretty impressive. But keep in mind that he bats 4th with Helton before him and Hawpe behind him. I’m sure he get much better pitches to look at than Rollins.

     
  • Posts: 0 mikeB

    This first game is really going to determine how this series will go. I predict that the Phils will win this series but if the Rox should take game one, I think that the series will go five games with the Phils winning out. If Phils win tomorrrow, the series will go four games. If I remember correctly, the Phils did not face Jimenez this season. Back in the 2007 playoffs, he shut the Phils down. Is a flame thrower and can throw alot of junk. Hopefully, the Phils can get to this guy but I am afraid to say that it might take until the later stages of the game. I believe the key to this game will be whether Lee can keep the Rox off of the board in the early stages of the game until the Phils can catch up to Jimenez.

     
  • Posts: 0 Mazinman

    When the Phillies won the World Championship last season they demonstrated one thing to all of us, they never forgot that sweep in 2007. In the back of the heads of the players that were there in 2007 there has to be a cry for revenge. Its time for payback and to completely erase that memory. I’m going to predict a sweep. Rockies are a very good team but I don’t think they can deal with Lee, Hamels, and Happ all in one series.

    If the Rockies manage to win Game 1, though, I go into full panic mode.

     
  • [...] has provided 2 fine, well-worth-reading commentaries on the Phillies, Rockies NL division series here and [...]

     
  • Posts: 0 Phil

    “phil are you crazy howard is one of the top three offensive players in the n.l. only behind pujols”

    No he’s not…Howard is the most overrated hitter in baseball. Get back to me when he can get his OBP back to a respectable level.

    ” he has led the league in r.b.i. how many years!”

    I can care less. If Albert Pujols hit 4th in our line up he’d push 200 RBI’s a year. RBI’s are a team dependent stat and in no way can judge a players individual accomplishments.

    “and jrol flashes a way better glove he’s going to win the gold glove for the third straight year and have you seen the second half jimmy has has the man had an awful year and still hit 20 homers and scored 100 runs as a lead off hitter. go home to colorado cause it’s Roctover! Lets Go Phillies!”

    Actually, you’re right…I should have looked at the stats, Tulo is having a down defensive year. I’m totally shocked by that. Considering J-Roll’s vast defensive and base running advantage I’d actually give the edge to J-Roll. Tulo has a 0.0 UZR this year…even Hanley’s is better than that. For the record, I’m a Phillies fan. I just like to be objective.

     
 
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