Playoff Preview: Time to Tap the Rockies – Phillies Nation
Analysis

Playoff Preview: Time to Tap the Rockies

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.

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