NLCS Preview & Prediction
Phillies V. Giants
The Philadelphia Phillies and the San Francisco Giants will be meeting in the National League Championship Series starting this coming Saturday. I am going to give you a player-by-player breakdown and comparison to see which team holds the advantage and give you my prediction for the winner of the series.
First Base: Ryan Howard Vs. Aubrey Huff
Ryan Howard is clearly superior when it comes to power so there is no reason to even touch on this aspect. In the NLDS against the Reds, Howard hit .273 with a .385 OBP. Aubrey Huff hit an almost identical .267 with a .389 OBP in the NLDS against the Braves. This is the first time Aubrey Huff has ever been in the playoffs, not that that necessarily means anything. In 550 at-bats this season, Ryan Howard struck out 157 times and posted a .353 OBP. In 569 at-bats this season, Huff struck out only 91 times and had an OBP of .385. Howard holds the power edge here but Huff strikes out a lot less and has a much better ability to get on base.
Advantage: Aubrey Huff
Second Base: Chase Utley Vs. Freddy Sanchez
If you know baseball, you probably already know who is going to get the advantage in this match-up. Just like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley holds a clear power edge over Freddy Sanchez. In the NLDS against the Reds, Utley hit rather poorly posting a batting average of .273 but with a paltry .308 OBP. Freddy Sanchez was much worse in the NLDS against Braves hitting only .125 with a .222 OBP. For his career, Utley has hit poorly in the playoffs but excelled at getting on base with a career .391 OBP in the postseason. This is the first time Freddy Sanchez has been in the playoffs and for his career he was always a pretty good hitter but not that good at getting on base. One player I would not worry about if he were on my team is Chase Utley.
Advantage: Chase Utley
Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins Vs. Juan Uribe
Jimmy Rollins has been an outstanding baseball player for most of his career. He is just recently coming off the disabled list and has been having trouble getting into a comfortable groove. He hit an embarrassing .091 in the NLDS against the Reds with a .231 OBP. For his career, Rollins has been a poor postseason hitter as well with a .221 average and an OBP of only .292. In the NLDS against the Braves, Uribe somehow managed to hit worse than Rollins did. Uribe hit only .071 with an OBP of .133. Those are staggeringly bad numbers. For his career, Uribe has always been a pretty good power hitter but never a high average or high OBP guy. Jimmy Rollins is easily a superior player and I would expect him to bounce back before Uribe does.
Advantage: Jimmy Rollins
Third Base: Placido Polanco Vs. Pablo Sandoval
Neither of these two hit well in their NLDS match-ups. Polanco managed one hit in nine at-bats for a .111 average and a .111 OBP. Sandoval also managed only one hit, albeit in six at-bats, for a .167 average and a .286 OBP. For his career, Polanco has been a decent postseason hitter with a .278 average and a .340 OBP. For his entire career, Polanco has always been a professional hitter with a career average of .303. Sandoval was a revelation in his rookie season and everyone thought the Giants had a star on their hands. Then this season he came crashing back down to earth. Sophomore slump? Perhaps. He was not nearly as good as his rookie season but Kung Fu Panda wasn't horrible either. Seeing as this is his first postseason, and since he has been struggling this season, Sandoval might not be ready to tackle the big stage quite yet.
Advantage: Placido Polanco
Catcher: Carlos Ruiz Vs. Buster Posey
Similar to the way Pablo Sandoval broke out a couple seasons ago, Buster Posey broke out for the Giants in a big way this season and is getting rookie of the year consideration. Posey went through a small slump in September but managed to turn things around and hit a ton in the NLDS against the Braves with a .375 average and a .444 OBP. Posey hit .305 with a .357 OBP for the season so you should temper your expectations a little bit. Also consider he will be facing one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. Carlos Ruiz was also a big hit for the Phillies this season hitting .302 with a .400 OBP, albeit as a part-time player. In the NLDS against the Reds, Ruiz hit only .250 but had a fantastic OBP of .500. This is a very tough call with these two players. Not sure I can pick one of them.
Left Field: Raul Ibanez Vs. Pat Burrell
This is a comparison of two elder players, Ibanez and former Phillies player Pat Burrell. Both of these guys are way past their prime but that doesn't mean they can't swing the bat anymore. Ibanez was just ok in the NLDS against the Reds hitting .250 with a .308 OBP. On the season, Ibanez was solid hitting .275 with an OBP of .349. Burrell hit only .200 in the NLDS against the Braves with an OBP of .333. After coming over to the Giants on an in-season trade, Burrell hit well for them mashing 18 home runs while hitting .266 with a .364 OBP. One of the things to watch out for here is that the Giants have two left-handed starting pitchers they will use and Ibanez hits left-handed.
Advantage: Pat Burrell
Center Field: Shane Victorino Vs. Andres Torres
Victorino has been a Phillies mainstay player for years. At age 32, Torres just had a breakout year for the Giants this season. Can you say late-bloomer? The Flyin' Hawaiian, Victorino, did not have a great season this year and it seems to be carrying over to the postseason. In the NLDS, he hit only .231 with a .286 OBP. For his career, Victorino has been a good postseason hitter with a .273 average and a .349 OBP. As for Torres, he is in his first postseason ever which is no surprise seeing as this season was his first as a full-time player. He hit .268 with a .343 OBP to go along with 16 home runs and 26 stolen bases this season. His good season did not carry over to the NLDS where he managed only two hits in sixteen at-bats. An OBP under .200 in the NLDS was also quite underwhelming. The inexperience coupled with having to face a great pitching staff makes this an easy decision.
Advantage: Shane Victorino
Right Field: Jayson Werth Vs. Cody Ross
Looking at these two players and their regular season stats, Werth appears to be a clear favorite. Werth hit .296 with a .388 OBP to go along with 27 home runs in his contract season. Ross, after coming over to the Giants on an in-season trade, hit .288 with a .354 OBP. One set of numbers is clearly better than the other. In their respective NLDS, the numbers changed up a bit. Werth only managed to hit .167 with a .231 OBP against the Reds. However, for his career, Werth has been a solid postseason hitter with a .274 average and a .380 OBP. Cody Ross on the other hand, did well in the NLDS against the Braves hitting .286 with a .333 OBP. Like many other Giants players, this is Ross's first foray into the postseason. There is no telling if Ross will carry over his good hitting into the series with the Phils. He came through in big spots for the Giants against the Braves more than once. Can he do the same thing against Roy Halladay and company?
Advantage: Jayson Werth
Starting Pitcher #1: Roy Halladay Vs. Tim Lincecum
Both of these pitchers wowed everyone with their performances in the NLDS, but Halladay wowed everyone just a little bit more. Halladay threw a no-hitter in a playoff game for the first time since the 1950's. It was almost unprecedented. Lincecum was almost as impressive throwing a complete game 2-hit shutout against the Braves. Perhaps seeing Hallday's excellence fired Timmy up to try and match him. I can find no flaws in either of their performances in the NLDS. Halladay was his usual awesome self during the regular season as well posting a tiny 2.44 ERA in 250 innings. As I predicted in one of my earlier articles, I believe Halladay will win the Cy Young award this year. Coming into this season, we were used to seeing nothing but excellence from Tim Lincecum. After all, he won two Cy Young awards in a row. Then "The Freak" hit a rough patch this season, which made his numbers take a turn for the worse, but he did manage to right himself before the season ended. Both of them look like they are ready to battle. Very difficult to choose one over the other. Just have to go with my gut here.
Advantage: Roy Halladay
Starting Pitcher #2: Roy Oswalt Vs. Matt Cain
In their respective NLDS match-ups, it was a tale of complete opposites. Oswalt had a sub-par outing and Cain was stellar. Oswalt, who has been great since coming over to the Phillies in a mid-season trade, just didn't pitch up to snuff in his game against the Reds. He only managed to get through five innings before being taken out of the game and gave up three earned runs for an ERA of 5.40. Was he a bit nervous since he was pitching in his first postseason game since 2005? In 12 starts for the Phillies, Oswalt posted a 1.74 ERA and a 232 ERA+. He was just rolling for the Phils. For his part, Matt Cain pitched great in his outing against the Braves going 6.2 innings and giving up no runs. On the season, Cain was solid as well. Oswalt has tended to struggle in his postseason games. Because of this, I have to say Cain is the pick here.
Advantage: Matt Cain
Starting Pitcher #3: Cole Hamels Vs. Jonathan Sanchez
Both of these lefties had dominating outings in their NLDS match-ups. Sanchez went 7.1 innings and gave up only one run. Sanchez has really turned a corner this season and come into his own. This is his first foray into the postseason and after one game, it doesn't look like he is nervous about it at all. Hamels, on the other hand, is already a postseason veteran pitching in his fourth consecutive postseason this year. He has consistently put up good numbers in the postseason as well. Hamels has a career postseason ERA of 3.36 with a 1.048 WHIP. In his one NLDS game against the Reds last week, Hamels pitched a complete game shutout with 9 K's. Since he is seemingly on top of his game right now, coupled with the fact that he has a lot of postseason experience, Hamels has the advantage here.
Advantage: Cole Hamels
The Phillies swept the Reds in three games in their NLDS match-up so they didn't have to use more than these three pitchers I just wrote about. The Giants did not sweep their match-up with the Braves and used rookie left-hander Madison Bumgarner in their fourth and final game of the series. Because I do not know how the pitching will flush out and who else will be used, I am only going to write about these three.
The Phillies took most of these heads-up comparisons and have a lot more playoff experience as a team. The Giants have great pitching but their offense lacks the punch that the Phillies can put out there. Like the Giants, the Phillies also have great pitching and as my comparisons showed, the Philadelphia pitching just might be better.
After studying all the numbers and looking at each player, my prediction is that the Phillies win this series in five games.
*** I know I didn't take into account how these players perform defensively. It's not because I think defense is unimportant either. It's just that at the major league level, most of these players are all pretty competent when it comes to defense. Sure, some players are much better than others at defense, but all in all, the defense should be close for each team. For this reason, I did not include defense in my player comparisons. ***