The Dodgers will beat the Phillies using much of the same formula they used to beat the Cardinals. Okay, maybe they won’t get a gift drop from Raul Ibanez, but the difference in bullpens just might be enough to put the Dodgers over the top, to exact a small measure of revenge for the 2008 NLCS. Here is a table with the respective bullpens, sorted by 2009 xFIP
|Jonathan Broxton||2.10||Ryan Madson||3.24|
|Hong-Chih Kuo||3.64||Brad Lidge||4.73|
|George Sherrill||3.87||Scott Eyre||5.28|
|Ramon Troncoso||3.99||Chad Durbin||5.28|
The Dodgers’ advantage in the bullpen means that their starting pitchers don’t necessarily have to match Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels. If they can give the club five or six innings each game, I like the Dodgers’ chances.
21-year-old Clayton Kershaw has been anointed as the Game One starter, the second youngest Dodger ever to start a Game One in the playoffs. Fernando Valenzuela was 20 years, 339 days old when he started Game One of the 1981 NLCS. Kershaw hasn’t won a game since July 18, despite putting up a 2.53 ERA during that time. I’m betting on Kershaw getting at least one win this series as he continues his introduction to a national audience.
A lot will be made of whether the “old Cole Hamels” will show up this series, but I don’t think there is much difference between the 2008 and 2009 versions other than luck. Despite nearly identical numbers in HR%, UIBB%, K%, LD%, GB%, FIP, and xFIP, Hamels’ ERA has risen from 3.09 to 4.32 this year. His batting average on balls in play has increased from .262 to .321, so as always in baseball, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
The Dodgers would do well to make sure Ryan Howard sees a southpaw on the mound whenever possible. Howard is a beast against right-handers, hitting .319/.395/.691 against them this year and .307/.409/.661 for his career, but becomes an easy out when facing a lefty. Howard is hitting .207/.298/.356 against southpaws in 2009, and .226/.310/.444 all time.
Another key will be the performance of each outfield. All three Phillies—Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, and Jayson Werth—made the All-Star team, but the Dodgers trio of Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier has been just as good this season. The outfields of each team put up an sOPS+* of 119, second only to the Red Sox’ 120 sOPS+.
Another factor will be which struggling shortstop comes through. Rafael Furcal hit .330/400/.491 since the beginning of September, but more importantly he was six for seven in stolen base attempts. Furcal has had the green light to run all season, but only attempted 11 steals in the first five months of the season. That he is on the move again suggests he finally feels healthy, a great sign for the Dodgers. Furcal hit .500/.500/.667 in the NLDS against the Cardinals. Jimmy Rollins, meanwhile, has a career-low .296 on-base percentage, but part of that is bad luck; his PrOPS is .290/.331/.452 this year, which is more in line with his career numbers.
The Dodgers and Phillies are two closely matched squads, and I think have been pretty clearly the best two teams in the National League. However, the Dodgers have been just a bit better, outscoring their opponents by 169 runs compared to +111 by the Phillies. In fact, the Dodgers have even been better, in terms of run differential, since the Cliff Lee trade:
|Team||W-L||Runs Scored||Runs Allowed||Pythag W-L|
A lot has changed since the teams’ last meeting, in June. The Phillies didn’t have Lee then; the Dodgers didn’t have Manny Ramirez, Ronnie Belliard, Vicente Padilla, or Jim Thome. I’m sticking with the team that has been the best team in the National League all season long, and the one with home field
References & Resources
*sOPS+ is OPS+ of this split relative to the major league OPS for this split: 100*((split OBP/ML avg. OBP of split) + (split SLG/ML avg. SLG of split) – 1)