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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

World Series Breakdown: Essentially a coin flip

The Phillies have played 9 games thus far in the postseason, and I have correctly predicted the winner 7 of those 9 times (Niiiiiiiiiiiine times). Let's see if I can keep the ball rolling. [NOTE: I am about a tenth as confident with these picks as I was with the first two series. These teams are incredibly even.]

Game 1 will feature lefty Scott Kazmir on the mound for the Tampa Bay Rays. He has a groundball to flyball ratio of 0.59, with 166 strikeouts in 152.3 innings. His WHIP is 1.267. He is a flyball, power pitcher who walks over 4 batters per 9 innings, well above average. The Phillies have faced only one lefty starter this postseason: C.C. Sabathia, and Kazmir is a different type of pitcher. Kazmir is the first true flyball pitcher the Phils have faced this postseason, which does not bode well. Pat Burrell (.330 OBP vs. FBP) and Ryan Howard (.314) both hit significantly worse against flyball pitchers than any other type. Jayson Werth (.345 vs. FBP; .380 vs. GBP) and Shane Victorino (.357; .373) both fare worse against flyball pitchers than groundball pitchers. Rollins and Utley have insignificant splits. Pedro Feliz is god-awful against flyball pitchers, with a .227 OBP this year. Potential LF Eric Bruntlett hits lefties well (.361 OBP), but not flyball pitchers (.279 career OBP). The only Phillie who seems to benefit from facing Kazmir is Carlos Ruiz (.346 OBP vs. lefties, .343 OBP vs. flyball pitchers). I wouldn't mind seeing Ruiz bat 7th in front of Feliz and Bruntlett, but look for him in the 8- or 9-hole. The key to the Phillies offense tomorrow, even moreso than usual, is patience. They clearly do not hit pitchers like Kazmir very well, and Kazmir generally walks a ton of batters and throws a ton of pitches. There is almost no benefit to swinging first pitch against this guy, especially with nobody on base.

The Rays generally struggle against lefty pitchers. Leadoff man Akinori Iwamura, a lefty, owns a mere .330 OBP vs. lefties this year. B.J. Upton owns a .418 OBP vs. lefties this year, but only slugs .406. That high OBP is a product of many walks against lefties: Hamels, who owns righties, must attack Upton early in the count. Carlos Pena bats third, who owns a .302 OBP vs. lefties. Next up is Evan Longoria, a righty who struggles vs. lefties (.321 OBP). This is good for Hamels, a lefty who dominates righties. Carl Crawford: .293 vs. lefties. Willy Aybar gets on base at a .350 clip vs. lefties, but I expect Hamels' changeup to neutralize that even more. Dioner Navarro generally bats 7th vs. lefties, owning a .314 OBP against southpaws. Interestingly enough, the final 2 batters of the order, Rocco Baldelli and Jason Bartlett, respectively own .382 and .411 OBPs vs. lefties. Hamels must keep, or even increase, his focus against the final two batters to avoid the top of the lineup in RBI situations.

Neither lineup matches up well against the other pitcher, but the Phillies lineup matches up slightly better. Also, Hamels is unquestionably better than Kazmir. Phils win game one, 4-2.

Game 2 is a different story. Brett Myers faces righty James Shields. Myers has a 1.37 WHIP on the year, compared to 1.15 for Shields. Both are groundball pitchers, and both lineups fare better against those types. Shields is not as overpowering as Myers, however. The big difference in their games is how they attack righties: Myers allows righties to reach at a .341 clip, while Shields shuts them down at a .291 rate. If Myers can effectively shut down Longoria, Bartlett, and Upton, while Burrell and Werth hit Shields, the playing field will be evened. However, the matchup is too far in favor of Shields to pick against the Rays. Game two goes to the Rays, 5-2.

Game 3 will be the first World Series game in Philadelphia in 15 years. Phantastic. Jamie Moyer faces Matt Garza. Moyer is a lefty, and we know the Rays struggle against those. However, Moyer has a 1.33 WHIP while not owning a huge advantage over lefties (.321 OBP allowed) compared to righties (.328). Garza is a very good righty with a 1.24 WHIP on the year. Garza is essentially a neutral pitcher, but more of a flyball pitcher than anything. Moyer is essentially neutral, with a groundball edge. This is a very difficult game to predict: Moyer has been shaky, Garza is young, rain is in the forecast, and I really don't know what I'm talking about to begin with. Rays, 5-4.

Game 4 will be Joe Blanton against Andy Sonnanstine. Sonnanstine, a righty, owns a 1.288 WHIP while Blanton owns a 1.40 WHIP...but their career WHIPs are almost identical. I'm feeling a big game from the Phils offense. Shields, Garza, and Sonnanstine are all similar pitchers, and facing all 3 in a row will only help the Phils. Game four goes to the Phils, 6-3.

Game 5: Cole Hamels' final start of the season, against lefty Kazmir. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see Kazmir's high BB/9IP ratio come back to haunt him in this one. Phils learn from game one, show patience, and win 5-1 in front of the most frenzied crowd you will ever see.

Game 6: Brett Myers will face James Shields in Tampa. This is a tough one. Myers' key is, and always will be, concentration. He has been quoted numerous times as to how much he loves the closer role: well, he has a shot here to close out the series in his home state. I think he controls his curve in this game, shuts down Longoria and Pena, and wins this game 4-3.

If it goes to a game 7, Garza will outpitch Moyer and the city of Philadelphia will be broken. 6-3, Rays. Thankfully, I don't think there will be a game 7.

Overall, the Phils have outscored their opponents by 119 this year, while the Rays own a +103 run differential. But, the Rays played in perhaps the toughest division in MLB history this year, so the run differential is about a wash. Phils in six? Why not.


Anonymous said...

thoughts on moving moyer up in the rotation, keep him from pitching after an off day and keeping the yeomans bat in the order?

Andy Musser said...

its not a bad thought. if they did move him up, i wouldnt be opposed. moyer has struggled the past two games on the road...maybe a change of scenery can benefit him. they do have an extra day to prepare...but it is a travel day. if you throw moyer in game 2, it's giving them 2 straight shots against lefties, which may slightly mask their inability to hit lefties.

as for the yeoman...moyers not a bad hitter. he has better offensive numbers for his career, and actually had a better OBP than myers this year.

i wouldnt be pissed if they moved moyer up, but i dont think its a significant benefit.