Will the Phillies Win the World Series?
The Phillies this week begin another post-season playing the best baseball they’ve played all year and taking their best team ever into the playoffs. So what can stop them from winning the 2010 World Series? Nothing.
Yep, I just said it. The Phillies will win the World Series.
Why? Simply because they are better than any other team in the playoffs, and that includes New York’s beloved Yankees. [SIGNUP]
Let’s take the first series first.
The Cincinnati Reds have no chance to win. The Reds are in the on-deck circle, like the Phillies were in 2007. They are an upstart team. They have some nice players. They have some nice starting pitchers. They have a bullpen guy from Cuba who can throw 105 miles per hour. But they are too raw, too green, not seasoned enough to upset the defending National League champions playing the way the Phillies are right now.
The Reds led the league in hits, batting average, home runs, and slugging percentage this year. But they didn’t do all that against the three starting pitchers they will face in this series: Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. Besides that, the Reds didn’t have a winning record against ANY of the teams in the National League playoffs this season and in fact didn’t have a winning record against any team in the NL who had a winning record. The hitting they do evidently was against bad teams. And oh by the way, they went 6-12 this year against the St. Louis Cardinals.
There is just one small formula the Reds have for eking out this five game series: the Phillies have to go brain dead offensively. Now we have seen that at times this season, where this potent Phils lineup just shuts down over an extended period of time. That circumstance would be very condensed in a five game series. The Phils don’t hit in game one or game two, they could lose a game in their home park. And then the series turns completely around. If the Phils don’t hit, and waste great pitching performances by Halladay or Oswalt or both, then that would play into Cincinnati’s strength, their bullpen. The Reds will carry four lefthanders in their pen for this series, meaning they will be able to apply those lefties in late game situations against the Phils’ lefty power hitters. And that would not be good.
Other than that, don’t worry about it.
So, my keys to this series are the following:
1. Don’t go cold. Stay flowing with the bats. The Phillies were a much more consistent offensive team from August on. And when they weren’t ringing up a 7-spot on the scoreboard, they were killing teams with timely hitting, especially from guys like Raul Ibanez and Carlos Ruiz.
2. Keep the lead. If the Phillies are ahead after six or seven innings, that kind of defeats the purpose of Reds’ lefties Arthur Rhodes, Bill Bray, and the Cuban wonder, Aroldis Chapman, to get key out in key spots.
3. Play for the big inning. The Reds are an upstart. This is their first go-round at the big dance. Blow them up early and rattle them. A young , inexperienced playoffs teams who’s pitcher yields a big number early in the game are going to start to question whey they are even here. This is especially important in the first two games, when the sellout Citizens Bank crowd waving their rally towels can really spook a young team.
The Phillies won 97 games this year. That was the most since the goofballs of 1993 won 97. It was also the best total in major league baseball this year and the first time since 1883 that the Phillies led the league in regular season wins. This is a special team that came almost from the dead in mid-season to now, where they are considered the favorite to win the whole thing in Vegas.
You can look at the obvious reasons for their efficiency. Halladay. The acquisition of Oswalt. Ryan Howard’s amazing offensive explosion down the stretch. Werth finally waking up. Ruiz. Ibanez. But here are three things that are a little under the radar, and to me, the truer reasons why the Phils are where they are today:
1. Cole Hamels. At the beginning of the season, we all wondered about Hamels and whether he could be a bona fide number two starter behind Halladay. He was that and more. In 10 of his starts this year, the Phillies scored one run or less. And all the guy did was push forward. He learned maturity and perseverance this year, perhaps because Halladay had set that kind of an example. But the people who screamed that the Phils should have traded Hamels after his season last year have to feel like fools today.
2. The resurgence of Brad Lidge. Who would have thunk that Lidge would suddenly rally from the sludge he found himself in earlier this year to have a fantastic August and September. In mid-season, he looked like an injured pitcher, one with arm ailments and leg ailments and arthritic conditions who would give you a save one night and then blow his next two. But he found some resolve and some health over the last part of the season and now we worry a lot less when he takes the mound in a save situation.
3. The Valdez factor. It was not only Wilson Valdez — the utility infielder the Phils brought up from their triple-A team this year to fill in for the likes of Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco — who saved the day, but everybody the Phils put in there. Valdez was pretty amazing, though. He fielded his positions and showed a rocket arm, and slung in a few key hits. How soon he made us forget Juan Castro. But Castro will live forever. He was the guy who fielded the final ground ball that concluded Halladay’s perfect game.
Phils in four games over Cincinnati. The Braves and Giants beat each other up in five long games. The survivor has nothing left to deal with the Phils in the NLCS. Meanwhile, in the American League, the Yankees lose to the Twins, the Rangers beat the Ray. The Rangers then beat the Twins and Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay face each other in game one of the World Series.
What a year.
Listen to MIKE MISSANELLI weekday afternoons on 97.5 The Fanatic.