SportsProf

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Phillies-Dodgers Last Night

Observations:

1. The broadcast crew pulled out every cliche and wasn't always accurate (or, they were about as good on the facts as umpire Randy Marsh was with the strike zone last night). For example, in the first inning, Ron Darling said that Ryan Howard gets overshadowed by Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, his "flashier" teammates. Anyone who has watched the Phillies know that Chase Utley isn't flashy in the least; he lets his play do the talking. If Jimmy Rollins is flashy, it's because he's the vocal team leader and talks more than Utley and Howard. And, by the way, Howard's numbers and size combine to prevent him from being overshadowed.

2. I question whether Charlie Manuel teed up the right rotation. Look, Cole Hamels had a great year in 2008, but he pitched more innings that year by far than he had previously. He had some injury problems earlier this season, and hasn't been the same pitcher he was last year. He also has had a habit of throwing about 5 good innnings before the other team figures him out and puts up some good numbers. Either Charlie left him in too long last night or he shouldn't have had him as the #1 starter for the series. I realize that because of when the NLDS ended Cliff Lee couldn't have gone first, but I would have considered going with the following in order of preference: Lee, J.A. Happ (forgiving his iffy outing in the Colorado cold), Joe Blanton (the forgotten man) and Cole Hamels. Sure, Hamels had an outstanding post-season in 2008, but he's just not the same guy this year.

3. Carlos Ruiz is an unsung hero for the Phillies. I know that Baseball Prospectus has questioned his bat, but he hit over .250 in 322 at bats with 9 homers and over 40 RBI's. He's a tough out, he has the confidence of the pitchers (and more than any other catcher I've seen, he takes charge out there), and he's a power threat. And last night, the #8 hitter came up big in the clutch. That's how teams win series.

4. There's an eerie and good parallel to 2008 for the Phillies. Last season, the pundits all talked about how dominant the Cubs were, how good the Dodgers were with Manny Ramirez and how well C.C. Sabathia had pitched for the Brewers. The Phillies weren't the story. In this post-season the story has been the dominant hitting of the Yankees, the 1-2 combination of Wainwright and Carpenter for the Cardinals, how the Dodgers are a year older, have lots of come-from-behind wins and have a great bullpen, and how hot the Rockies were coming into the season. The big Phillies story? How beat up their bullpen has been and how bad a year Brad Lidge had. Could it be that despite being defending World Champions they'll fly under the radar screen and get to the World Series again? After all, the oddsmakers give the Phillies the worst chance to win the Series of the remaining teams (at least they did going into last night's game).

5. Did Joe Torre leave Clayton Kershaw in too long last night? Perhaps, but managers tend to leave their starters in for longer periods when they're struggling than they do relievers. Look, had the Phillies lost, I would have expected the Philadelphia media to have questioned why Manuel didn't relieve Hamels earlier than he did. It does seem at times that managers let their starters remain in the game for a couple of batters more than they should.

6. How clutch was Manny Ramirez's home run? The guy will hit .270 when he's 80. He looks smaller and not as robust as in past years, but he can still swing the bat. He's not my favorite player (especially because of the way he quit on the Red Sox last year), but he can flat out hit.

7. Is Brad Lidge back? I'm not as giddy as Lidge or some of the Phillies' faithful. It's not as though he's looking like Mariano Rivera out there.

At any rate, this should be one tough series. The Dodgers are a gritty team and a formidable opponent. The question is whether they have enough starting pitching to win four games. As for the Phillies, the question is whether they'll have enough pitching, period, to do the same.

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