Better Know a NLCS Opponent

First things first, the rest of the NLCS start times have been announced, and all of the games are starting at 5pm PST, save for Friday’s goofy 1pm start for Game 2.

Let’s start looking at the Phillies, and let me just say, I was really surprised at how some of these matchups ended up. The second set of numbers is the player’s NLDS stats.

Catcher
Russell Martin (.280/.395/.396 13hr 69rbi) (4-13 1hr 5rbi)
Carlos Ruiz (.219/.320/.300 4hr 31rbi) (1-14 0hr 0rbi)

Off to a good start for the Blue, because unlike in the NLDS against Chicago and Geovany Soto, Martin absolutely destroys Carlos Ruiz. Ruiz was 39% worse than the average NL hitter by OPS (Martin was 3% better) and was a complete black hole during the playoffs. Considering how tough the Phillies infield is, it’s nice to know that the Dodgers have a slam dunk advantage behind the plate.
Advantage: Dodgers, and it’s not even close

First Base
James Loney (.289/.338/.434 13hr 90rbi) (3-14 1hr 6rbi)
Ryan Howard (.251/.339/.543 48hr 146rbi) (2-11 0hr 1rbi)

There’s a lot not to like about Ryan Howard. There’s the 199 strikeouts, there’s the mediocre defense, and there’s the complete inability to hit lefties – his OPS of .966 against righties makes him Alex Rodriguez, but his .746 against lefties is the equivalent of Ryan Theriot. That said, pity the fool who doesn’t respect a man who led the entire sport in homers and RBI, especially against a Dodgers team that might only have Joe Beimel and Clayton Kershaw as lefties if Hong-Chih Kuo is unavailable. Sorry James; that grand slam was nice and all, but Howard’s a beast.
Advantage: Phillies

Second Base
Blake DeWitt (.264/.344/.383 9hr 52rbi) (3-11 0hr 1rbi)
Chase Utley (.292/.380/.535 33hr 104rbi) (2-15 0hr 2rbi)

Please. Everyone’s enjoying Blake DeWitt, but Chase Utley is the best second baseman in baseball, and it’s not even particularly close. Utley’s from Long Beach and grew up a Dodgers fan, but still declined to sign with them after being drafted out of high school in order to attend UCLA. Thanks, Chase! You could have been a legend in LA.
Advantage: Phillies

Shortstop
Rafael Furcal (.357/.439/.573 5hr 16rbi) (4-12 0hr 2rbi)
Jimmy Rollins (.277/.349/.437 11hr 59rbi 47sb) (6-16 1hr 1rbi)

As always, Furcal’s stats come with a disclaimer because they’re almost entirely accrued from his red-hot April before missing nearly five months with a back injury. When healthy, these are two of the best shortstops in the games, although Rollins was nowhere near as good this year as he was in his 2007 MVP year. Both were pretty effective in the NLDS, which is especially impressive for Furcal considering how little he was able to play before that. So how to choose? Simple. I won’t.
Advantage: Draw

Third Base
Casey Blake (.274/.345/.463 20hr 81rbi) (3-11 0hr 2rbi)
Pedro Feliz (.249/.302/.402 14hr 58rbi) (3-13 0hr 1rbi)

That’s not a typo – Feliz really had a .302 OBP. Believe it or not, that’s actually the second highest of his career. Sure, he’s got some pop and a reputation as a good glovesman (he’s actually played 24 games at shortstop in his career), but how does a contender get by with a player like that? It’s not like the Phillies infield was dying for power before he arrived. I’m not a really huge fan of Casey Blake, but I’d still take him over that.
Advantage: Dodgers, by default

Left Field
Manny Ramirez (.332/.430/.601 37hr 121rbi) (5-10 2hr 3rbi)
Pat Burrell (.250/.367/.507 33hr 86rbi) (3-12 2hr 4rbi)

It really says a lot about Manny Ramirez that Pat Burrell doesn’t even have a prayer here, because “Pat the Bat” had a pretty good season and a productive NLDS. Burrell gets a ton of criticism from Philly fans, and it really seems to be unfair, because other than a lousy 2003 he’s been a consistently dangerous batter for them for years. Yeah, he’s a lousy left fielder, but Manny’s hardly a Gold Glover himself. This category is going to the Dodgers, of course, because I’d have to start seeing names like “Ted Williams” before I considered anyone to be better than Manny right now, but don’t take that to mean that Burrell isn’t a threat as well.

By the way, I just discovered this stat, and I might have to repeat it every single day. Manny Ramirez is so brutal against Game 3 starter Jamie Moyer that it ought to be a crime. In 53 at-bats, Manny’s hitting .340/.417/.962 with TEN homers. That game’s in LA, so everyone in the left field bleachers may want to bring football helmets.
Advantage: Manny being Manny!

Center Field
Matt Kemp (.290/.340/.459 18hr 76rbi 35sb) (2-13 0hr 1rbi)
Shane Victorino (.293/.352/.447 14hr 58rbi 36sb) (5-14 1hr 5rbi)

What we have here are two surprisingly similar players – just look at the nearly identical stat lines, including almost equal mixes of power and speed, plus each have excellent throwing arms in center. (Yes, try not to think about the fact that the Dodgers lost a player who put up numbers comparable to uberprospect Matt Kemp in the Rule V draft… twice.) It’s almost uncanny how similar these numbers are, although the fact that Victorino is four years older and played in a much friendly hitter’s park does seem to tilt things in Kemp’s favor. However, Kemp didn’t do much during the NLDS, while Victorino had a nice series. Taking two similar players and considering park advantage plays one way while 2008 playoff performance goes the other way…
Advantage: Draw

Right Field
Andre Ethier (.305/.375/.510 20hr 77rbi) (1-10 0hr 0rbi)
Jayson Werth (.273/.363/.498 24hr 67 rbi) (5-16 1hr 1rbi)

Just as in center, a Dodgers castoff puts up an eerily similar stat line to a prized young player. Unlike Victorino, I don’t blame LA for letting Werth go because he was constantly injured. Again, though, this is a close call – Ethier holds slight edges in the triple slash stats, but Andre disappeared during the NLDS while Werth was outstanding. I have no idea how to call this, so I’m going to use this as the tiebreaker: Ethier career against Phillie pitchers is OPSing .882, while Werth against Dodger arms has .751 – a 131 point difference. Good enough for me.
Advantage: Dodgers. Barely.

Bench

C Danny Ardoin (.235/.278/.314 1hr 4rbi) (DNP)
1B/SS/3B Nomar Garciaparra (.264/.326/.466 8hr 28rbi) (DNP)
2B/1B Jeff Kent (.280/.327/.418 12hr 59rbi) (0-1 0hr 0rbi)
LF/CF Juan Pierre (.238/.327/.328 1hr 28rbi 40sb) (1-1 0hr 0rbi)
SS/2B Angel Berroa (.230/.304/.310 1hr 16rbi) (1-1 0hr 0rbi)

C Chris Coste (.263/.325/.423 9hr 36rbi) (DNP)
UT Eric Bruntlett (.217/.297/.297 2hr 15rbi) (1-1 0hr 0rbi)
3B Greg Dobbs (.301/.333/.491 9hr 40rbi) (3-5 0hr 0rbi)
RF Geoff Jenkins (.246/.301/.392 9hr 29rbi) (0-1 0hr 0rbi)
PH Matt Stairs (.252/.341/.409 13hr 49rbi) (0-2 0hr 0rbi)

This is yet another tight matchup between the two clubs. I still really like the Dodgers bench, with its nice mix of speed (Pierre), veteran hitters (Nomar, Kent), and positional flexibility (Nomar, probably Pablo Ozuna), but the Phillies can counter with the 475 homers sitting on the bench just in the form of Jenkins and Stairs. Plus, while Bruntlett can’t hit, he can play just about every position – and in Greg Dobbs, the Phillies have a guy who’s probably better than the man he’s sitting behind, Pedro Feliz. The Dodgers do have more speed coming off their bench, but with Rollins, Victorino, and Werth all stealing 20 bases or more, the Phillies might not need to look to the pine to find it. This one’s just too close to call.

Advantage: Draw. Again.

Final tally
Phillies 2 (1B, 2B)
Dodgers 4 (C, 3B, LF, RF)
Draw 3 (SS, CF, bench)

I’m not really happy with the way this turned out, because these two teams are unbelievably evenly matched, which is pretty impressive for LA when you consider how vaunted the Phillies offense is. In Philly’s favor, they have pretty massive advantages at 1B and 2B, while the Dodgers can only say that at catcher.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

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