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NLDS Preview: Phillies vs. Rockies

Oct 6, 2009, 11:58 PM EDT

phillies_091006.jpgThe good news for fans of the Colorado Rockies is that their team — on the strength of their big 2007-esque second-half surge — is once again baseball’s feel-good story.

The bad news? The Phillies don’t really care.

Since firing manager Clint Hurdle and replacing him with Jim Tracy, the Rockies have gone 74-41 (.643) to go from last place in the NL West to within three games of catching the division champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

The NL wild card entrant scored the second most runs in the National League, were second in home runs, second in on-base percentage, second in slugging and fifth in stolen bases.

Even the pitching was improved with solid seasons from Ubaldo Jimenez and Jason Marquis, plus the emergence of Jorge De La Rosa (16-9), who finished 16-9 after losing his first six starts.

But now the bad news: De La Rosa will be a non-factor, as his injured groin will keep him out at least until the NLCS, should the Rockies manage to advance that far.

Also, the Phillies are simply a terrible matchup for Colorado.

2009 NLDS Probables
Game 1: Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Cliff Lee
Game 2: Aaron Cook vs. Cole Hamels

Game 3: J.A. Happ or Joe Blanton or Pedro Martinez vs. Jason Hammel
Game 4: Whoever is left vs. Jason Marquis

Game 5: Jimenez vs. Lee

The Phillies appear to have the edge in starting pitching, though maybe not as big an edge as it appears at first glance. Lee started hot after joining Philly at midseason, but had mixed results down the stretch, including a six-inning, seven-run outing against the Brewers on Sept. 25, and a three-inning, six-run outing against the Astros on Sept. 4.

2008 playoff hero Hamels was spotty all season, a maddening occurrence that continued into September. And Happ, the Phillies’ most consistent pitcher over the course of the season, faces — against all logic — an uncertain role.

On the Rockies’ side of things, Jimenez has blossomed this season , and Cook and Hammel have been solid. But without De La Rosa, and with Marquis coming back to Earth after a dazzling first half, the edge has to go to the Phillies.

As mentioned above, the Rockies have been a run-scoring machine this season despite the loss of Matt Holliday in an offseason trade. Troy Tulowitzki has been the star, reverting to 2007 form (better, actually) after a 2008 season hampered by injuries. His .297/.377/.552 line makes him the big threat in a solid Rockies lineup.

The problem is the Phillies’ offense is even better. Put together a powerful lineup with stalwarts Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth, throw in a career season from Raul Ibanez, and you have a force to be reckoned with.

The Phillies led the NL in doubles, home runs, slugging percentage, RBIs and runs scored. They were also second in stolen bases, with Utley, Werth, Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino each swiping at least 20 bags. Once again, edge goes to the Phillies.

Phillies won season series 4-2
Phillies outscored Rockies 31-28 

Runs per game
Phillies: 5.06
Rockies: 4.96

Runs allowed per game
Phillies: 4.38
Rockies: 4.41

Overrated angle
The Phillies bullpen:
Yes Brad Lidge has had an awful season. Yes Ryan Madson has had moments where he has struggled. But this is a short series with two off days (if it goes to a fifth game), and the Phillies have a wealth of starting pitching. Some combination of Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ and Pedro Martinez could be available in relief, taking pressure off the back end guys. And Lidge finished the season with three scoreless outings. I’m not saying he’s anywhere near 2008 form, but that’s gotta be a good sign right?

Underrated angle
The lefty-righty matchups:
With De La Rosa out, the Rockies have no left-handed starters to face a Phillies lineup dominated by lefties (Ibanez, Howard, Utley) and switch hitters (Rollins, Victorino). On the other side of things, the Phillies are loaded with left-handed starters (Hamels, Happ, Lee) to face a Rockies lineup dominated by left-handed hitters. This will give Philly a huge edge.

Despite the matchup problems, the Rockies — led by Tulowitzki — should be able to score some runs on the Phillies. The problem is Colorado’s pitchers should struggle against that dominant Phillies lineup. And when you consider the Rockies’ home/road splits (51-30 in Denver/41-40 away from Denver) the Rockies really needed homefield advantage to make this happen.

Phillies in 4.

  1. GoPhils20 - Oct 7, 2009 at 1:23 PM

    So where does that put Denver baseball on the respect level if you want to bring up all of this history?
    – Minor league baseball city for most of the history of organized baseball.
    – 2 championships is still greater than 0 championships – even with that there new fangled new math they do that thar in the mountains.
    – No West Division titles in their ENTIRE 16 year history…really not one? – Phils have 4 since 1993 and 3 in the last 3 years.
    Don’t let the air being rare in Colorado/Denver get you all light headed about this whole respect thing.
    What did you say – sorry I was all distracted looking at my ticket from Game 5 of the 2009 WS. You got a WS ticket from the series-winning game to look at?

  2. BILL - Oct 7, 2009 at 1:37 PM


  3. Phils - Oct 7, 2009 at 2:27 PM

    Let’s be objective here. There isn’t anyone on the Rockies that could break into the Phillies starting lineup. Go down the list.
    Rollins — MVP, best defensive Short stop in the league — Hall of Famer
    Utley — Best second basemen of all time, Hall of famer
    Howard — MVP, one of the best power hitters ever – Hall of famer
    Felix — Best defensive third basemen in the NL, solid 7 hole hitter
    Ibanez — starting all-star, numbers speak for themselves
    Victorino — starting all-star, gold glover, world class speed — no contest
    Werth — all-star, monster power numbers — no contest
    Ruiz — great catcher, close by I’ll take Ruiz
    Cliff Lee — 2 time Cy Young winner, Hall of famer
    Hamels — World series MVP — Hall of Famer
    Happ — Rookie of the year, best #3 in baseball
    Blanton — Best #4 in baseball
    Am I missing something? Noboyd on the Rockies could crack the Phillies lineup or starting 4. This is the biggest mismatch in the post season

  4. Andrea - Oct 7, 2009 at 2:51 PM

    You can NEVER EVER count the Rockies out!! I don’t care about stats!!

  5. NF - Oct 7, 2009 at 3:14 PM

    Hmmm… yeah. Rox lineup can’t do ANYTHING. Except three hits in the first two innings. Mismatch??? Puhleeze. In your dreams.

  6. Phils - Oct 7, 2009 at 4:37 PM

    The Rocks can’t do anything against left-handed pitching. Please admit that nobody on the Rockies could suit up for the all-star/Hall of Famer Philly lineup.

  7. magic of making up - Jan 6, 2010 at 10:34 AM

    As a Newbie to the internet, I am always searching online for stuff that can help me. Thank you for your help.

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