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Thursday, October 15, 2009

NLCS Breakdown: Phillies need Hamels to step up

Here we are again, facing the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS for the second straight year. This time, however, LA has the home field advantage -- which may increase the number of knife-fights in the stands this series.


Game 1 is absolutely crucial to the Phillies, because they have a clear pitching advantage in games 2 and 3. If they win game 1 tonight, they could feasibly find themselves up 3-0 before next week. However, the Phils are facing Clayton Kershaw tonight, a young lefty who has had a better year than Cole Hamels. In fact, his L/R splits for his career are better than Hamels':

Kershaw: .275 OBP allowed vs. LHB/.335 vs. RHB; .333 SLG vs. LHB/ .334 vs. RHB
Hamels: .299/.291; .434/.406

In fairness, Kershaw has only pitched 278 career innings to Hamels' 736, and there is no question that Hamels faces tougher competition in the NL East than Kershaw in the division with the Giants, Padres, and D-Backs.

The Dodgers' lineup feasts on left-handed pitching, with an average career OBP of .375; against righties it's a more modest .355. Hamels, however, is not a typical lefty in that he prefers righthanded hitters to lefties, so this may somewhat neutralize LA's offensive attack. We saw last year what Hamels can do to this lineup.

The Phillies, on the other hand, do not feast against left-handed pitching, with an average career OBP of .342; against righties it is .348. Chase Utley and Jayson Werth are the two best hitters against left-handed pitching, and actually Jayson Werth is better than Utley. If the Phils want to pull the "upset" tonight, one of these guys has to have a monster game. Also, Kershaw has a allowed 91 walks in 171 innings this year, which is over 4.5/9 innings. That's not good. The Phils must be patient tonight even more than usual (Feliz, I'm looking at you). If Rollins pops out on a 1-0 pitch in the first inning, it's going to be a long night.

The Dodgers get on base better than the Phils, but those numbers are slightly skewed because Manny's career numbers are not indicative of his current talent. Regardless, it seems that the Dodgers have a slight edge in tonight's game, and with the home-field advantage combined with the stronger bullpen, I'm going to take the Dodgers in game one, 3-2.


The Phillies must win this game. Pedro Martinez is getting the start, but J.A. Happ and Joe Blanton will undoubtedly be on-call for Manuel if Martinez is not as sharp as expected. The Dodgers are allowing Vicente Padilla to start, which is borderline unfathomable given that he was cut by the Rangers in August. Padilla is pretty damned good against RHB in his career, allowing only a .300 OBP and a .368 SLG to righties. Against lefties? .380/.479. That's bad. If there is ever a game where Greg Dobbs should start at third base (it won't happen), this is it.

The Phils have the clear pitching edge in this game, no matter how many innings are allotted to Martinez-Happ-Blanton. All three are better pitchers than Padilla, and since the Phils lineup is stacked with lefties, they should send the Flotilla back to Earth. Phils win, 6-3.


Game three is Sunday in Philadelphia, with RHP Hiroki Kuroda facing LHP Cliff Lee. Kuroda is very good, but he's coming off a neck injury and was inactive for the NLDS. He is an extreme groundball pitcher, who shuts down righties and isn't much worse against lefties. Do not expect a big offensive showing for the Phils in this game.

Cliff Lee is pitching for the Phils. Do not be surprised if the Dodgers' bats come alive against the lefty, while Kuroda pitches true to form (his WHIP this year was 1.14). However, with the ace on the mound against a righty who is coming off an injury, I have no choice but to pick the Phils by a score of 3-1.


The Phillies have yet to announce a starter for game four. It will either be J.A. Happ or Joe Blanton. Happ has pitched better this year, but the Dodgers' prefer lefties, so it's really a toss-up as to who should start. It will probably be the one who was used the least out of the pen over the first three games.

The Dodgers have announced Randy Wolf as their starter, a lefty with a 1.31 career WHIP. This year, he posted a 1.10 WHIP, which is better than any Phillies' starter. He is very good against lefties, but somewhat susceptible to righties with a .329 OBP-against and a .429 SLG. If there is a game where Werth homers, it will be game 4 off one of Wolf's trademark curves.

I do not have a good feeling about this game. If Happ pitches, the Dodgers get to see a second consecutive lefty (and his name won't be Cliff Lee), but if Blanton pitches, the Dodgers are facing a guy with career numbers slightly worse than those of Wolf. This game is essentially a toss-up, but with the Phils facing a lefty, I'm giving the nod to LA, 5-4.


Right now I have the series tied at two, which would mean Cole Hamels would take the mound in Philly against Clayton Kershaw in a huge game. The Phillies will have seen Kershaw once already, it's veteran lineup facing a kid who was shaky last year. Hamels has much better minor-league numbers than Kershaw, even though Kershaw never pitched in AAA. Kershaw loses the rematch in front of a madhouse in game five, 4-1.


Back to LA. The starters would probably be Pedro Martinez and Vicente Padilla. Martinez will be more comfortable than in his first start, and he is going to lift the Phils to a 5-3 victory. Phils clinch in LA again.

If the series goes to 7 games, I'm not comfortable facing Kuroda in a deciding game. Though Lee will be on the mound, the Dodgers will have seen him once already, and they're a better lineup than Colorado's. LA wins, 4-3.

Enough already. Start the game.

1 comment:

Henry Rowengartner said...

It's a shame they left Myers off the roster for this series. He was great at getting under Manny's skin last year. I'm going to miss Manny screaming from the dugout "All day" after hitting a homerun, which in his native tongue apparently means "just once, and only after we're down a ton of runs."