Wednesday, October 22, 2008

World Series Preview (and a Non-Contest)

We're just hours away from more baseball this season, and it's the best baseball of all. It's the World Series. It's the battle between the two best teams in the entire World, provided that your team is in the United States or a large city in Ontario. Here I will unscientifically breakdown the series and attempt to predict a winner, much like your local small town newspaper that hopefully is still in business in this craptastic economy.

Philadelphia Phillies (aka the Phightin Phils?) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (aka Bay Rays)

  • Phillies - Carlos Ruiz
Ruiz is an all-field, no-hit catcher whose average and defense slipped quite a bit this season. It's fairly surprising that the Phillies made it this far with such a mediocre catcher, so one would think that Ruiz possesses those "intangibles" that television commentators are always gushing about. Maybe he just "calls a good game" and keeps his pitchers in sync.
  • Rays - Dioner Navarro
Navarro had a breakout season from the plate this year and threw out baserunners at a much-improved 38% clip. This one is a no-brainer.

Advantage: Rays

First Base:
  • Phillies - Ryan Howard
Howard will garner a good deal of MVP votes when the results come out, but despite his high HR and RBI totals his game has slipped considerably for the second season in a row. His OBP has dropped nearly 90 points since his MVP season (from .425 to .339)
  • Rays - Carlos Pena
Pena is another low average, high power guy. His OPS compares favorably to Howard's, but Howard gets more bang for his buck.

Advantage: Phillies

Second Base:
  • Phillies - Chase Utley
Utley is one of the premier players in the league, and certainly the best offensive 2B around. He may have some trouble trying to keep up with his torrid start to the season, but he has a dangerous bat at any time of the season nonetheless.
  • Rays - Akinori Iwamura
Aki made a very smooth transition this year from 3B to 2B to make way for Evan Longoria. He is much more valuable as a second baseman where his lack of power and high strikeout rate doesn't hurt as much.

Advantage: Phillies

Third Base:
  • Phillies - Pedro Feliz
Feliz has a solid glove, but doesn't provide enough with the bat to warrant a full-time third base job anymore.
  • Rays - Evan Longoria
Longoria, with less than a full season of major league baseball under his belt, is looking more like Reggie Jackson than a kid that should be wilting under the bright spotlights. The Series has yet to begin, of course.

Advantage: Rays

  • Phillies - Jimmy Rollins
Rollins was a shell of his MVP self in 2008 but homered in both playoff series and is yet another dangerous Phillies bat.
  • Rays - Jason Bartlett
Bartlett is very solid with the glove, but his towering home run in Game 6 of the ALCS was completely out of left field. Literally, in fact. Most plucky, all-glove middle infielders hit the occasional chip shot over the fences, but Bartlett really smashed it. You'll hear a lot about how his addition this season really overhauled the feeble Tampa Bay defense, but some of it had to have been addition by subtraction.

Advantage: Phillies

Right Field:
  • Phillies - Jayson Werth
Werth had a surprisingly solid season in his first opportunity to get regular playing time.
  • Rays - Gabe Gross
Gross is underwelming, but he can't hit lefties. Rocco Baldelli will certainly get some looks here, as will Fernando Perez. I don't see much of an advantage here on either side.

Advantage: Push

Center Field:
  • Phillies - Shane Victorino
Victorino almost always seems to be at the center of something: a timely steal, a game-winning rally, that pitch that almost hit his head. He steals bags, he has some pop, and he flies. Literally, he has mastered human flight.
  • Rays - B.J. Upton
Upton and Victorino are really very similar. I don't see Upton ever being a 30 HR guy, but with him on the power tear that he is now, it's hard not to give him the advantage.

Advantage: Rays

Left Field:
  • Phillies - Pat Burrell
This is a nice matchup of long tenured players with their respective teams. Burrell has prototypical star quality numbers as a corner outfielder and I'm starting to feel that he's a bit underrated.
  • Rays - Carl Crawford
Crawford had a bit of a down year. He's never been a huge offensive threat, but he normally has speed in droves. This year he only swiped 25 bases, though he's had 6 in the postseason thus far.

Advantage: Phillies

Designated Hitter:
  • Phillies - Chris Coste/Matt Stairs
Coste will probably start in the first game and Stairs in the second, per the favorable lefty/righty matchups. Both a certainly capable of catching lightning in a bottle.
  • Rays - Cliff Floyd
Floyd is 7 for 32 in the playoffs over the last 3 seasons. He isn't really any worse than Coste or Stairs, though.

Advantage: Push

  • Phillies - Coste, Eric Bruntlett, Greg Dobbs, Geoff Jenkins, Stairs, So Taguchi
There are some assets available on the Phillies bench, but they're more of the role player variety.
  • Rays - Michel Hernandez, Willy Aybar, Rocco Baldelli, Ben Zobrist, Fernando Perez
The Rays are much younger, and Rocco Baldelli alone has shown that he's a potential sparkplug.

Advantage: Rays

Starting Rotation:
  • Phillies - Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton
Hamels is better than anyone the Rays have to offer, but the skill level drops off significantly after him. Myers, Moyer and Blanton are all capable of solid outings, but I wouldn't expect any of them to pitch deep into a game.
  • Rays - Scott Kazmir, James Shields, Matt Garza, Andy Sonnanstine
The Rays four starters match up favorably over any other team's top four starters. In fact, Edwin Jackson, their fifth starter this season, could be quite a few teams' number two guy.

Advantage: Rays

  • Phillies - J.C. Romero, Chad Durbin, J.A. Happ, Scott Eyre, Brad Lidge, Clay Condrey, Ryan Madson
Hands down, this is the best bullpen in the league. The Phillies don't really have a fifth starter available as a long man in the pen, however, so they could venture into fairly shaky territory should one of their top four falter. J.A. Happ, however, did start 4 of his 8 games with the big league club this year.
  • Rays - David Price, Dan Wheeler, Edwin Jackson, J.P. Howell, Grant Balfour, Chad Bradford, Trever Miller
The Rays, on the other hand, don't really have an established closer. David Price's performance in Game 7 of the ALCS gives a lot of hope to Rays fans here, however. It's another advantage that Jackson is available out of the pen, and Joe Maddon seemed to micromanage his bullpen well when it counted. Balfour and Bradford seem shaky at this point and Miller has never really instilled fear in the hearts of anyone.

Advantage: Phillies

  • Phillies - Charlie Manuel
Manuel gets a lot of credit for getting the Phillies into the playoffs twice over the heralded Mets.
  • Rays - Joe Maddon
Maddon gets the nod here, though. When you look at the ridiculously small payroll, the spare parts he's had to utilize and just having to deal with all the young minds, it certainly makes this season's turnaround look remarkable.

Advantage: Rays

In my own incredibly unscientific way, the numbers seem to favor Tampa Bay, however so slightly. This seems to lend its hand to a Rays in 7 prediction, but I'm going to go with this: Rays in 6.

This is not a contest. But if anyone out there who manages to read this before the Series begins can forecast something particularly prescient, whether it's the number of total ejections in the series or how many home runs the Rays will hit combined, please comment below. I will make a point to send out a solid stack of free cards to anyone who can do something like this. Simply predicting that the Phillies will sweep or that Ryan Howard will have a face will not win you anything, though any and all comments on the Series are certainly welcome. Remember, this is not a contest, so there are no winners. There is nothing here at stake. In fact, I can't believe that you are still reading this. But maybe... free cards!?


csd said...

The Phillies will hit four triples. How is that for oddball?

handcollated said...

The Devil Rays 3rd base coach will be hit by two batted balls in game 3.

night owl said...

Nobody will receive a "free seasoned beef Taco" from Taco Bell because no one will steal a base.

Erin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bo said...

There will be a no-hitter.

madding said...

Whoa, beamed? As in... beamed up to outer space? That would be something to see!

dayf said...

Snotty beamed me twice last night... It was WONDERFUL.

Shane Victorino - 2008 World Series MVP.

--David said...

Gotta love SpaceBalls. :-)

Okay, I predict that by the end of the series, 12 batters will have been hit by balls... Not SpaceBalls, but BaseBalls... :-)

madding said...

Well, Night Owl is out. Erin told me she was going to delete her comment, but did not (and now I feel bad for picking on a girl that's got a cold) and remains eligible for the non-contest so long as Victorino is abducted by aliens or is the target of some Phillies-style aggression.

Erin said...

Wrong. I deleted.

No loss. Remember, I'm just "a girl that's got a cold."