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NLCS 2008 Preview

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Rain Partier

Postby LOLtron » Thu Oct 09, 2008 4:44 pm

Due to the outcry of support for a look at the LCS, I am writing not one, but two articles this week. You've already read and dissected the first, about Carlos Beltran. Here is the second, a preview of the National League Championship Series between the Dodgers and Phillies, going position by position.

Catcher:  Russell Martin is one of the top catchers in the game.  While he lost of his power this year, hitting 16 fewer extra-base hits than last year, his OBP improved, and he's a threat to steal when he reaches first. He's a top defensive catcher as well. Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste are a decent option behind the plate, but neither are really important to the Phillies offense.

EDGE: Dodgers

First Base: Given his first taste of being an every day player, James Loney produced a solid, if not unspectacular season. He managed to hit fewer homers this year than he did last year, despite playing 65 more games. Ryan Howard really came on strong in September, hitting .352 with 11 homers. He did disappear during the division series against the Brewers, hitting just .182 with no homers. He's an MVP candidate in spite of his sub .250 average.

EDGE: Phillies

Second Base: Jeff Kent is a likely Hall of Famer when he retires. Which, hopefully for his sake, will be soon, as he produced his worst year since his rookie year. At the age of 40, he's still capable of producing, just not as good as he used to. He's been booted from 2B this year by rookie Blake DeWitt, a natural third baseman. He produced a solid .344 OBP this year. On the other side, Chase Utley is the new Jeff Kent. One of these years, he'll win an MVP. Utley is a player completely capable of taking over a series, and he's my pick for a possible LCS MVP if the Phillies win it.

EDGE: Phillies

Third Base: Casey Blake was acquired in mid-July from the Indians, and has played OK. Blake is one of those guys you'd like to have, but not as an everyday player at one position. He's best served on a team that could use a semi-regular at third, first and left. Even though he came into the year with low expectations, you have to figure Pedro Feliz disappointed for the Phillies, hitting fewer homers per AB than his career mark, all the while moving the bandbox in Philly. Still, his glove gives him the edge over Blake.

EDGE: Phillies

Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins endured a disappointing follow-up to his MVP campaign, hitting closer to his career numbers in average and slugging. Nothing bad, just not an MVP type player. His speed and glove make him an asset up the middle. Rafael Furcal missed most of the year due to injury, but managed  a 1.012 OPS in 36 games. He's back in time for the playoffs, and is the fuel that makes the Dodgers go.

EDGE: Even

Left Field: Manny Ramirez's two months with the Dodgers will go down as one of the greatest two months a hitter has ever endured. 17 homers, 53 RBI's and a .396 batting average are enough for him to enter the MVP discussion, if only slightly. Pat "The Bat" Burrell just keeps on producing, hitting 30 homers for the 4th time, and drawing 100 walks again. Defensively, he makes a statue look good.

EDGE: Dodgers

Center Field: Matt Kemp was given a full-time job this year, and showed why many scouts think he's a future star, hitting 18 homers and stealing 35 bases, and playing a solid center field, amassing 10 assists in 101 games in centerfield. Shane Victorino improves a little bit every year, and is looking like a solid option for the next few years(at least while he is in his arbitration years).

EDGE: Even

Right Field: Andre Ethier really came alive with the acquisition of Ramirez, hitting 9 of his 20 homers in August and September. A solid right fielder, he did not commit an error there all year. Jayson Werth finally got a chance to be an every day player, and stepped up. The grandson of Dick Schofield, he hit 24 homers and stole 20 bases, while posting a .363 OBP. He's got good enough range to play centerfield as well.

EDGE: Phillies

Starting Pitching: A solid group of Derek Lowe, Chad Billingsley, and Hiroki Kuroda round out the Dodgers playoff rotation. Lowe has plenty of big game experience, while the other two are relative newcomers to the post-season. Greg Maddux gives them a veteran backup if they need it. The Phillies trot out Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, and Jamie Moyer. The presence of Hamels alone gives them an edge. Hamels is a young ace, who was overshadowed in 2008 by pitchers like Lincecum and Volquez, but managed to lead the NL in WHIP, and finished 6th in strikeouts and 5th in ERA. Myers is a streaky pitcher, and survived a tough September(5.23 ERA) to out duel CC Sabathia in Game 2 of the Division Series. Joe Blanton should be in the mix as well.

EDGE: Phillies

Bullpen: Takashi Saito and Jonathon Broxton might be baseball's best 1-2 bullpen punch. When Saito went down, Broxton more than capably filled in, posting a 3.00 ERA while notching 13 saves in that time. Lefty Joel Beimel figures to be huge in this series, and much may depend on his ability to get Utley and Howard out. Brad Lidge was arguably the best closer in baseball, saving 41 of 41 games and putting up a sparkling 1.95 ERA. Ryan Madson, a former starter, and JC Romero are solid set-up men.

EDGE: Dodgers

Manager/Bench: Joe Torre has been to this particular rodeo before, managing in his 9th LCS. He seems to have figured out how to deal with Manny Ramirez, which might be enough to make him Manager of the Year. His calm demeanor could help the Dodgers, or it could make him look like he doesn't care, as it appeared in years past with the Yankees. On the bench, Torre has players like Kent, Nomar Garciaparra and Andruw Jones to turn to, players whose bats have failed them this year. Charlie Manuel is in his first LCS, and it remains to be seen how he will perform. He has a bad rap from his Indians days, but some of it may be undeserved, as he has guided the Phillies to their first LCS since 1993. On the bench he has professional hitter Matt Stairs plus pinch hitting specialist Greg Dobbs.

EDGE: Even

Prediction: Hamels, Howard and Utley will just be too much for the Dodgers. Phillies in 6.


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