Game 1 of the World Series is beginning here shortly, but before then I will put my prediction and thoughts on the series out there.
As far as pitching goes in this series, I definitely think that Tampa has the upper hand. While I believe that Cole Hamels is right up there when it comes to best left handers in the National League, last time I checked he can’t pitch all the games. After him it is very spotty, as you have a potentially nice #2 starter in Brett Myers, though you never know what you are going to get out of him, Jamie Moyer who never pitches well in the postseason as the ‘slow, slower, slowest’ stuff doesn’t get it done.
I think Joe Blanton is a wildcard here, as he is a guy who can give solid innings, so if he gets a chance to pitch in this series it will be worth watching to see how he fares. As far as the bullpens go, the Phillies have the advantage here by a longshot. Brad Lidge hasn’t blown a save all year, even though I tend to think that he is due. As good as the guys in Tampa were during the regular season I think they showed during that seven run debacle in Game 5 against the Sox, that they aren’t fully trustworthy. I think David Price is a sleeper though, his stuff is incredible and it seems as if the pressure doesn’t get to him. If I’m Joe Maddon I’m using him as my closer this series.
As far as the hitting I’ll give the Phillies the edge as they seem to have a million guys who can rake. They are not the best contact hitting team in the league but they can score, score and score some more. Tampa is no slouch in this category as they have several good hitters like Upton, Longoria and Crawford. I do think that Tampa’s speed adds a different element to the game.
Keys to this series:
1) Chase Utley- I know this is somewhat redundant but this guy is their best position player. For them to win he has to produce, otherwise it’s going to be a long but yet short series for Philly.
2) The Phillies have to win the games that Hamels start. He is their best pitcher, he is the only sure thing you have. If I am Manager Manuel I pitch Hamels in Games 1, 4 and 7 (if necessary). The Phils might be able to scratch one or two out with their other starters but they must win the games Hamels start.
3) The Rays youngsters- So far the brighter lights of the playoffs hasn’t affected Upton, Longoria, Garza among others. They have to continue on that path, since this team is chock full of younger players. Evan Longoria seems like he is cool and collected, and BJ Upton does everything so smoothly (I mean, the guy probably brushes his teeth in a smooth fashion for pete’s sake) so I don’t think the butterflies will be an issue.
4) The Philadelphia “lunch pail players”- While some of these guys are actually quality MLB players, most of them are the hard working, dirty work kind of players. Guys like Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth along with Jimmy Rollins to a lesser extent, bring an energy to the team, and their production has also been good for the most part. Victorino seems to be developing a power stroke as well, as he has come up with several big hits. And of course Jimmy Rollins is the heart and soul of the Phillies team.
I like both of these teams, I think they are both very good and well constructed, but when it comes down to it, I don’t think the Phillies have enough pitching to deal with Tampa. I like Philly’s core of players and I think Jimmy Rollins is one of the best leaders in the sport. Their style of play, and the kind of players they have is the only reason I give them a shot in the series. I just think Tampa is very good, and destiny is on their side.
PREDICTION: Tampa Bay in 7 games