Analysis

Phillies/Reds NLDS Preview

Here is the Phillies Nation National League Division Series Preview put together by our entire writing staff:

OFFENSE:

Philadelphia Phillies, Amanda Orr:

The Phillies have established themselves as an offensive ball club. The Phillies have become one of the league’s top powerhouses offensively. It might be surprising to hear that the Reds collected better offensive stats as a whole, however the Phillies were without several of their star players over the course of the year.

From the top of the order to the bottom, the offense is now completely healthy.The Phillies scored 772 runs this year, and batted .260 as a team. They only hit 166 home runs, which is 58 fewer than last year. The lack of home run production can be blamed on Ryan Howard, who hit an career-low 31 home runs this year. The power drop-off can also be a side effect of numerous injuries. Chase Utley hit half as many home runs as he averages, but he didn’t get near as many at-bats with his injury.

The Phillies have relied on small ball this year more than ever. Even without Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies still managed to have the best stolen base percentage in the majors (84%).

Johnny Cueto will start game three, and the Phillies have rocked him. Cueto has a 5.96 ERA in his career against the Phillies.

Ryan Howard has faired well in his career against the Reds. He has a 1.030 OPS against Cincy. Chase Utley has similar success. He has a 1.078 OPS in his career against the Reds. With the exceptions of Jayson Werth and Carlos Ruiz, none of the regulars had career years. Compared to their potential, most of them had down years. That says a lot, considering that the Phillies still managed to finish with one of the league’s top offenses.

Watch out for: Ryan Howard (.921 career postseason OPS), Carlos Ruiz (.400 OBP this year, .905 career postseason OPS).

Cincinnati Reds, Paul Boye:

Phillies fans have become accustomed to seeing the red pinstripers boast one of the National League’s top offenses year after year. The Phillies have been in the top three in runs scored in the National League every year since 2004, and 2010 is no different, as the Phils posted 772 runs. That’s good for 4.77 runs per game and, surprise, the second-best total in the N.L. The only team better? The Cincinnati Reds.

The Reds put up 790 runs in 2010, and feature a number of hitters that, while mostly without glamor, are (predictably) no slouches. The most formidable among those bats is first baseman Joey Votto, a leading MVP candidate. Votto had a monster season at age 26, posting slash stats of .324/.424/.600 with 37 homers, 36 doubles and a memorable, game-tying home run off Brad Lidge in Cincy earlier this season. Votto is the anchor of the lineup, but that doesn’t mean the other seven positions are any to sleep on. Seven Cincy starters, including Votto, have OPSes of .750 or better, three bench bats with a .290 or higher AVG, and six hitters with at least 20 doubles. The Reds also rank first in the N.L. in team AVG and slugging, and second in OBP only to the Braves. Make no mistake: this is a team that can score runs.

The Phillies have the potential antidote in their heralded top of the rotation, and the heavily right-handed Reds lineup could be mostly neutralized by the right arms of Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt. Cincy’s right-handed batters hit just .265/.320/.405 against righty pitching, while Halladay and Oswalt held righties to .231 and .196 averages, respectively. They’ll need to hold true to those averages to keep runners off the bases for Votto and right fielder Jay Bruce, or the Reds may find themselves in the driver’s seat before Philly realizes what happened.

Watch out for: Votto, Bruce, Drew Stubbs (22 HR, 30-for-36 SB)

PITCHING:

Philadelphia Phillies, Kieran Carobine:

Now just in case you work nights, don’t have a television, and/or are oblivious to the whole computer machine let me catch you up on what the Phillies have in the way of pitching heading into the postseason. This three headed monster so lovingly called H20 is taking lineups by storm. Since the arrival of Roy Oswalt on July 29, the trio of the Wizard, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels have gone a combined 20-7. And if you are a Reds fan, that is the good news. In their careers against the Reds, H20 has 30 wins between them and only four losses.

Halladay, who should be the front runner for the NL Cy Young, lead the league in wins, shutouts, complete games and innings pitched. He was third in ERA, second in strikeouts and only walked 30 batters in 33 starts. Oswalt is 7-1 since joining the Phillies with a 1.74 ERA. Hamels, once again, pitched beautifully all year despite a lack of run support winning 13 games and keeping his ERA hovering around three most of the year.

Halladay has seen the Reds the fewest out of the three going 1-1 this year. Oswalt, being the NL veteran has 23 wins and 2.81 ERA against Cincinnati. Hamels has yet to record a loss (6-0) and has an ERA of 1.07 against the Reds at their home ball park, Great American Ball Park. Which happens to be where he will be starting Game 3. Oh Charlie. Hamels may also possess the best change-up in all of baseball. This is will definitely work to his advantage against the swing happy Reds.

The edge is highly in favor of the Phillies. As well as it should be throughout the playoffs. There isn’t another team in the postseason that matches up against the front three of Philadelphia.

The bullpen this season has always been of high discussion.  But overall they have done their job.  When leading after eight innings this Phillies team is an incredible 85-2.  And right at the center of it all is Brad Lidge.  After converting all 41 save opportunities in 2008, he came back last season blowing 11 games for the Phils.  This year he looked like his old self saving 27 games in 32 chances.  His slider is as good as I have seen it in a long time.  In the bullpen with Lidge will be some of the usual suspects in set-up man Ryan Madson, lefty specialist JC Romero, and long inning relief men Jose Contreras and Chad Durbin.  Manuel wanted another lefty so they brought along Antonio Bastardo as well and Joe Blanton will also be available if the need arises.

Cincinnati Reds, Pat Gallen:

One of the reasons the Reds are such a huge underdog heading into the NLDS is their inferior starting pitching. That’s not to say Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo, or Johnny Cueto aren’t good-to-very-good arms. They just can’t hold a candle to the triumvirate of Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels. That also does not mean they can’t shut down the Phillies offense which has had its ups and downs during the regular season.

Volquez is a flamethrower, but as recently as early September he was down in the minors trying to find his confidence. Volquez remembered where it was and came back with a vengeance. The Reds ace gave up just six earned runs over 27 2/3 innings in four starts during the stretch run of September. Volquez is coming in hot, which is part of the reason why Dusty Baker tabbed him as the opening game starter.

Behind him are Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto. Arroyo is the only starter with postseason experience, although it’s been a while for him. And he hasn’t been very good either. In 10 postseason appearances, Arroyo has a 7.41 ERA. Not good. But their strength comes from the backside of the pitching staff.

Along with radar gun-busting Aroldis Chapman are Arthur Rhodes, BIll Bray, and now, starter-likely-turned-reliever Travis Wood. Wood nearly no-hit the Phillies in July, although the Phillies won that game late. They have a stable of southpaws to throw at Utley, Howard, and Ibanez in late-inning situations, which gives them a bit of an advantage. The one creaky spot is Francisco Cordero as the closer. The Phils bombed him in that amazing July comeback, down six in the ninth. He’s been up and down all year, so that takes away from their strength a bit. But other than CoCo’s troubles, they are an average bullpen, ranking in the middle of the NL in many categories. But again, it’s all about those lefties.

DEFENSE:

Philadelphia Phillies, Michael Baumann:

The Phillies have long had a reputation as a premier defensive team, but that reputation might be slipping away from them. Though they finished sixth in fielding percentage (and in a virtual dead heat for first), the Phillies were 18th among major league teams in UZR. What this means is that the Phils don’t get to a whole lot of balls, but catch what they do get to.

From a certain standpoint, this shouldn’t be too surprising: 38-year-old Raul Ibanez was below-average (but not awful) in left, 34-year-old Placido Polanco didn’t get to a lot of balls at third (though to his credit, he sucked up everything he could reach, leading all third basemen in fielding percentage), and Shane Victorino’s reputation continues to write checks that his route-running can’t cash. Despite being one of the fastest players in the game, finishing second among major league center fielders in baserunner kills, and committing only two errors, the advanced metrics don’t have him as one of the 10 top center fielders in the game. Call me a downer if you like, but as good a center fielder as Victorino is, with his gifts he ought to be even better.

The good news is that the team is more or less healthy for the first time all year, and, in Carlos Ruiz, the Phillies have one of the best defensive catchers in the game.

The Reds have a clear advantage in defense, but the Phillies have been hurt by extended injuries to their two best defensive players, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, and, perhaps, some random statistical variation. But fear not, Phillies fans. Postseason lore is littered with defensive exploits, both Willie Mays-like and otherwise. But apart from those freak occurrences, fielding, over only a few games, doesn’t tend to swing a series. While the Reds are better defensively, they’re not that much better defensively, and in a best-of-five series, whatever advantage they derive will be marginal at best.

Cincinnati Reds, Michael Baumann:

Though most of the attention coming into this series has been placed on the Reds’ bats (and specifically the bat of Joey Votto), they do have a considerable amount of defensive talent. Cincinnati finished fourth in the majors in team UZR and tied for first (to three decimal places) infielding percentage. Catcher Ramon Hernandez, though a shell of his former self, still managed to throw out 18 of 53 would-be basestealers and could put the brakes on the Phillies’ running game.

The obvious first place to look is on the left side of the infield, with seven-time Gold Glove winner Scott Rolen and two-time Gold Glove winner Orlando Cabrera. Rolen and Cabrera have started to slow down–both are now 35–but even in the twilight of their respective careers, they can still field. Cabrera, who managed a paltry .657 OPS in 2010, delivered whatever value he had this season in the field, with an above-average UZR and .977 fielding percentage. Rolen, for his part, still finished third among major league third basemen in fielding percentage, eighth in double plays, and sixth in UZR–not quite the latter-day Brooks Robinson that he was with the Phillies, but still solid.Brandon Phillips, at second base, tied for second among major league second basemen in fielding percentage and finished fourth in UZR.

Another place to look is right field, where Jay Bruce, ordinarily seen as a big bat, led all major league right fielders in UZR. Granted, a single season of UZR is susceptible to sample size quirks, but he led all NL right fielders in putouts, recording 343 to Hunter Pence’s 340, despite playing 170 fewer defensive innings than Pence. Bruce also added seven baserunner kills to his resume. The Reds have their weaknesses, but defense isn’t one of them.

SUMMARY:

Overall, the Phillies have an advantage in starting pitching and a slight advantage with their bullpen. Offensively, it’s basically a wash as both teams can put up runs in heaps. Postseason experience is what puts the Phils over the edge, however. The Reds are newcomers, much the same as the 2007 Phillies were. They seem to be happy to have made it this far, but lets not discount what they can do. With Joey Votto and the offense, plus Chapman in the pen with a slew of lefties, they are dangerous. But the Phillies have seen danger before and brushed it aside, so look for them to get through this as they have in five of the last six postseason series’.

  • Pat: Phillies in 4
  • Nick: Phillies in 3
  • Kieran: Phillies in 4
  • Michael: Phillies in 4
  • Paul: Phillies in 4
  • Amanda: Phillies in 4
  • Brian: Phillies in 3

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