Archive for October, 2008

Hamels hoping they send him to the Galaxy Series next after Earth people prove to be amusing but a bit weak and ineffectual

I guess there’s not much to do but wait to hear from the mother ship. The waiting is the hardest part.

It sure seems like if Cole Hamels pitched enough games in the post-season one of them would have to be bad. That’s probably the case, but it hasn’t happened yet. With another brilliant start last night, Hamels pitched the Phillies to an early lead in the World Series. He’s thrown to a 1.55 ERA while going 4-0 in four starts against some of baseball’s best teams this post-season.

The Phillies needed him to be just about perfect. Their offense failed time and time again build on the slim lead Chase Utley gave them with his first inning home run. Ryan Howard had a game at the plate that stuck out like a sore thumb, and that’s saying something given that Jimmy Rollins went 0-for-5 and left five men on base.

Hamels exited after seven strong innings with the Phils clinging to a one-run lead, but they handed that lead off to the steadiest of hands. If there’s anyone on the Phillies who have been as good as Hamels this post-season, it’s the late-inning combo of Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge. After two more perfect innings last night, the pair has now been charged with two earned runs in 18 1/3 innings (0.98 ERA) in the playoffs while striking out 19.

The Phillies beat the Tampa Bay Rays last night, winning 3-2. They lead the World Series one game to none.

Hamels got the start for the Phillies and went seven innings, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks. Two of the hits went for extra-bases, a double and a home run. He struck out five.

He faced a Tampa Bay lineup that went (1) Akinori Iwamura (2B/L) (2) BJ Upton (CF/R) (3) Carlos Pena (1B/L) (4) Evan Longoria (3B/R) (5) Carl Crawford (LF/L) (6) Willy Aybar (DH/S) (7) Dioner Navarro (C/S) (8) Ben Zobrist (RF/S) (9) Jason Bartlett (SS/R). The Rays lineup pretty much stays the same one through five for righties and lefties, which means against left-handed starters they have three hitters in the first five that are weak against lefties plus Upton and Longoria. Bartlett is very good against lefties and hits ninth. Zobrist starts in right after appearing there in just two games in the regular season.

The Rays started the game with five players on their bench: Michael Hernandez (R), Rocco Baldelli (R), Fernando Perez (S), Cliff Floyd (L), Gabe Gross (L).

Hamels started the first with a 2-0 lead. Iwamura led off and hit a 3-2 pitch to first. Howard fielded it deep and Iwamura beat him to the bag for an infield single. Hamels was a little slow to cover first and Howard ran to the bag himself. Howard probably should have tossed the ball, but they may not have gotten Iwamura anyway. Upton was next and checked his swing 1-1 and hit a ground ball to second. Utley took and the Phils turned two easily to clear the bases. Pena grounded to Rollins to end the inning.

Eleven pitches in the first for Hamels.

Longoria struck out swinging 1-2 for the first out of the second. Crawford flew to center on a 2-2 pitch for the second out. Hamels struck out Aybar swinging 1-2 for the third. Fourteen pitches had Hamels at 25 for the game.

Navarro popped to first for the first out of the third. Zobrist was next and hit a 2-1 pitch past a diving Feliz for a single. Bartlett was next and he drew a five-pitch walk that put men on first and second. Iwamura singled into right on a 1-2 pitch to load the bases. Upton smashed a 1-2 pitch, but Feliz took it at third and started the double-play to end the inning. Nineteen pitches for Hamels, 44 for the game.

Very nice play by Feliz at a big time on a ball hit hard by Upton.

Second double-play in two at-bats for Upton.

Hamels started the fourth up 3-0. Pena swung at the first pitch of his at-bat and grounded to first. Longoria grounded an 0-2 pitch to third for the second out. Crawford was next and he jumped on Hamels first pitch to him, hitting it out to right to cut the lead to 3-1. Aybar flew to center for the third out. Nine pitches in the inning had Hamels at 53.

Navarro led off the fifth and struck out trying to check his swing on a ball in the dirt. Zobrist grounded to third on a 3-2 pitch for the second out. Hamels then walked Bartlett for the second time in the game and Bartlett stole second as the count went 3-1 on a high fastball to Iwamura. Iwamura delivered a double into left-center that rolled to the wall, scoring Bartlett to make it 3-2. Upton was next and he popped a 1-2 pitch foul that Howard caught reaching into the stands to end the inning. I’m guessing you probably won’t see Carlos Pena reaching into the second row to catch the ball in any of the games in Philadelphia. Nice play by Howard, though. Thirty pitches in the inning for Hamels put him at 83 for the game.

Two RBI in the game for the Rays come from two left-handed hitters, Crawford and Iwamura, hitting off of the lefty Hamels. The Phillies handled the big righties in the Rays lineup as Longoria and Upton combined to go 0-for-8, strike out four times and hit into two double-plays.

Pena was again swinging at the first pitch to start the sixth. He hit a ground ball to first that Howard booted. He recovered and threw to Hamels covering, but not in time. Pena was safe and Howard was charged with an error. With Longoria at the plate, Pena took off for second but left too early. Hamels threw to first and Howard delivered a strong throw to second. Pena would have been safe at second, but Rollins put down a fantastic tag, sweeping Pena’s leg off the base for a big first out. Huge play in the game. Hamels’ move to first was very close to a balk (it was a balk, but the Phils got the call). Howard made a great throw to second, a play he’s had an awful time with this year. Great tag by Rollins got the Phils an out. Longoria struck out looking at a 2-2 pitch on the inside corner for the second out. Crawford grounded softly to second for the third out. Just eight pitches for Hamels in the inning. Ninety-one for the game.

Aybar popped to short on a 1-2 pitch to start the seventh. Navarro waived at a 2-2 pitch for the second out. Zobrist grounded back to the mound to end the inning. With 11 pitches in the inning, Hamels was at 102 for the game.

Madson started the eighth with the Phils still up 3-2. Bartlett was first and popped a 2-1 pitch up to Howard in foul territory for the first out. Madson got ahead of Iwamura 1-2 and then delivered two straight changeups in just about the same place outside. Iwamura fouled off a pitch and then flew softly to right for the second out. Madson threw an 0-1 fastball past a swinging Upton before striking him out 2-2. Upton is right on top of the plate and is going to have to be moved if he proves unwilling to continue to strike out and hit into double-plays.

Madson fantastic again.

Lidge started the ninth up a run. Pena struck out trying to check his swing 0-2. The Phillies got the call on the appeal to third. Longoria struck out trying to check his swing 1-2 for the second out. Lidge got ahead of Crawford 1-2, but delivered two balls to run the count full. Crawford fouled off two pitches before he hit a high foul ball down the third base line. Feliz chased and took it by the Phillies bullpen, nearly falling near the warm-up home plate, to end the game.

Lidge and Madson combine to go two perfect innings for the Phils, striking out three. Madson threw 18 pitches, Lidge 15.

The Tampa Bay pen threw three scoreless innings, allowing two hits and two walks while striking out five. Balfour threw 27 pitches and Howell 19. Wheeler and Miller were both under six.

Kazmir did well to stay in the game after being on the ropes time after time. The Phils did have a bunch of bloop hits against him, but threatened to chase him early several times and failed to do so. They still force the cream of the Rays’ pen to throw three innings in a game Tampa Bay was trailing.

The Phillies lineup against lefty Scott Kazmir went (1) Rollins (2) Werth (3) Utley (4) Howard (5) Burrell (6) Victorino (7) Feliz (8) Coste (9) Ruiz. Burrell stays in left with Coste getting the nod at DH over Bruntlett or Taguchi. Victorino hits sixth with Werth in the two-hole. The switch-hitter Victorino breaks up what would have been five righties in a row for the Phils if Werth was hitting sixth.

The Phillies started the game with five players on their bench: Bruntlett (R), Taguchi (R), Dobbs (L), Stairs (L) and Jenkins (L).

Rollins took the first pitch of the game for a strike on the outside corner before lining the next offering to right for the first out. Werth got ahead 3-0, then took two called strikes before Kazmir delivered ball four. Utley was next with the Rays playing a huge shift that had nobody at third. Utley tried to bunt the first pitch of his at-bat and popped it up foul. He swung at strike two before Kazmir delivered two straight balls. Utley hit the 2-2 pitch just out to right, putting the Phils up 2-0. Howard grounded to second for the second out and Burrell went down looking at an 0-2 pitch on the inside part of the plate.

Big home run for Utley in his first World Series at-bat — Kazmir had allowed just seven extra-base hits (and just one home run) to lefties during the regular season.

Victorino started the second and hit a 2-1 pitch back through the middle. Iwamura got a glove on it behind second base, but didn’t field it cleanly and wouldn’t have gotten Victorino if he had. Feliz walked on five pitches, putting men on first and second with nobody out for Coste. Victorino was nearly picked off second on a very close play before Kazmir delivered his first pitch to Coste. Coste flew softly to right and the runners held. A walk to Ruiz loaded the bases with one out. Rollins was next and he hit a fly ball into shallow center. Upton caught it and Victorino tagged and came home. Upton’s throw was good, it reached home plate on one hop a little up the third base line. Navarro tagged out a sliding Victorino to complete the double-play.

No problem with sending Victorino there, it took a strong throw from Upton and a nice tag from Navarro to get him. Coste being unable to move the runners up with nobody out hurt the inning. Kazmir had thrown 40 pitches through two innings.

Werth led off the third and dumped a ball over Pena’s head and down the right field line for a double. Utley moved Werth to third with a ground out to second. He was stranded there, though. Howard struck out trying to check his swing 1-2 for the second out. Burrell struck out swinging 1-2.

Howard can’t bring the man in from third with one out. After failing to score with men on first and second with nobody out in the second, no run for the Phils in the third after putting a man on third with one out.

Victorino started the fourth and blooped a single into center. Upton charged but failed to glove the ball, but he was backed up nicely by Zobrist. Feliz swung at an awful 1-2 pitch before he singled into center, sending Victorino to second. Coste tried to bunt but fouled the pitch off. Victorino was running as Coste hit a slow grounder to first. Both runners moved up and the Phils had men on second and third with one out for Ruiz. Ruiz grounded a 1-1 pitch to short. Victorino scored to put the Phils up 3-0 as Feliz held second with two down. Kazmir struck Rollins out on three pitches to end the frame.

Coste did move the runners up that time and it helped the Phillies score a run. Good no-strikeout by Ruiz.

Another long inning for Kazmir, who was up to 71 for the game.

Werth flew to center to start the fifth. Utley popped a 1-2 pitch to short for the second out. Howard was next and drew a walk in a nine-pitch at-bat. Burrell was next and he had a long at-bat of his own, dribbling a 3-2 pitch towards first base. Kazmir hopped off the mound to field it with Burrell storming down the inside part of the first base line. Kazmir tossed to first, but the ball went off the heel of Pena’s glove for an error on the first baseman that put men on first and second with two outs. Victorino swung at the first pitch of his at-bat and grounded to second to leave both men stranded.

Feliz started the sixth with another bloop hit, this one into right-center. Coste popped up a 2-2 pitch to second for the first out. Five men left on base for Coste through 5 1/3 innings. Ruiz flew softly to left on a 1-0 pitch for the second out. Rollins got ahead 2-1 and lined to center, giving him five men left stranded as well.

Lefty JP Howell started the seventh for Tampa Bay and struck Werth out on four pitches for the first out with the Phils up 3-2. Utley singled back through the middle and stole second. Howell’s 1-2 delivery to Howard was wild, allowing Utley to go to third. Howell struck Howard out swinging 3-2 for the second out. The lefty Howell stayed in to pitch to the righty Burrell with two outs and a man on third. Burrell drew a walk, looking at a 3-2 pitch that was just outside. Bruntlett ran for Burrell at first. Righty Grant Balfour came in to pitch to Victorino and overpowered him, striking him out swinging 2-2.

More offensive misery from the Phils as Howard can’t bring the runner in from third with less than two outs. Fortunately for him, strikeouts don’t matter.

Running for Burrell as the run that puts you up 5-2 in the seventh is awful. Howell is great against righties, but I still think it’s a mistake to let Howell pitch to Burrell. Especially if you’re bringing a righty for the next batter anyway.

Balfour returned for the eighth and set the Phils down in order. Feliz flew to right. Coste shattered his bat grounding back to the mound. Ruiz lined an 0-2 pitch to right, but Zobrist took it there to set the Phillies down.

Balfour was back at it to start the ninth and struck out Rollins on three pitches, with Rollins going down swinging at a very high fastball. Werth was next and looked sure to strike out as well, getting behind 1-2 but then lining a 3-2 pitch into right. The ball landed near the line and bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double. The righty Balfour stayed in to walk the lefty Utley intentionally with lefty Trever Miller warming in the pen. Miller came in to pitch to Howard with one down and men on first and second. Howard saw four pitches, trying to check his swing on first offering but failing and then looking at a ball followed by a pair of strikes. Dan Wheeler came in to pitch to Bruntlett. Wheeler got ahead 0-2 and delivered a ball in the dirt as Utley and Werth pulled off a double-steal. Bruntlett popped to second for the third out.

It’s almost indefensible not to pinch-hit Dobbs or Stairs for Bruntlett against Wheeler. Don’t know what you’re saving them for. Taguchi can play left in the ninth or Jenkins can play right with Werth moving to left. Bruntlett is a career 221/286/310 hitter against righties and you’re winning by one run with a runner in scoring position. The only argument for keeping him in the game is that he is vastly superior to the other options in left, which I don’t believe is the case.

Curious that it was Miller and not lefty wunderkind David Price to pitch to Howard.

Rollins was 0-for-5, struck out twice and left five men on base. The tag he put on Pena in the sixth after Pena got picked off was a big defensive play for the Phils.

Werth was 2-for-4 with two doubles to the opposite field and a walk.

Utley 2-for-4 with a two-run homer and a walk. Stole two bases.

Howard was terrible. 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and four men left on base, failing multiple times to bring a runner in from third with less than two outs. Made an error in the field, but also made two nice defensive plays. He reached into the stands to get the Upton foul ball and made a nice throw to second after Hamels’ non-balk picked off Pena.

Burrell was 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts. Looked worse than that against the lefty starter.

Victorino was 2-for-4 and left four men on base.

Feliz 2-for-3 with a walk. First World Series hits for Feliz, who went 0-for-5 in the ’02 series when his Giants played the Angels.

Coste 0-for-4 with five men left on base. Coste looked awful, but was given a tough task after getting just one at-bat this month coming into the game. Hopefully he can find his swing and give the Phils the right-handed bat off the bench they need.

Ruiz 0-for-3 with a walk and an RBI. Nice job to make contact and bring in Victorino with a ground ball in the fourth.

The Phillies drew nine walks in the game. Four in the six innings that Kazmir pitched and five in the three innings thrown by the pen.

Brett Myers (10-13, 4.55) faces righty James Shields (14-8, 3.56) tonight in game two.

Shields doesn’t walk many hitters, surrendering just 40 walks in 215 innings on the season. Righties and lefties hit about the same against him, .253 for righties and .255 for lefties. He allowed 24 home runs on the year, 12 that were hit by righties and 12 that were hit by lefties. He both struck out and walked lefties at a slightly higher rate than righties in 2008.

His strikeout rate shrunk as the season progressed. He struck out about 7.2 batters per nine innings through June and about 6.1 batters per nine innings in his starts in July, August and September.

He has made three post-season starts for the Rays and hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any of them. In 19 1/3 innings he’s thrown to a 3.72 ERA with a 1.40 ratio. His most recent start was the worst of the three. In game six of the ALCS he allowed four runs, only three of them earned, on nine hits and three walks over 5 2/3 innings. The Red Sox hit a pair of doubles and a pair of home runs off of him.

Matt Stairs has faced Shields a lot without good results. Stairs is 3-for-20 with a home run and two walks against him. Nobody else on the Phillies has more than three at-bats against Shields.

Myers has made two starts in the post-season, pitching well against the Brewers but getting hit hard by the Dodgers. Overall he’s thrown to a 5.25 ERA with a 1.25 ratio. He’s walked seven in 12 innings.

Righties hit him hard than lefties this season. Lefties hit just 235/317/423 against Myers, righties 293/341/494. Despite the fact that righties hit him harder than lefties, Myers walked lefties at a higher rate than righties. Myers walked about 10% of the left-handed batters he faced and about 6% of the right-handed batters he faced.

Cliff Floyd has seen him a ton, going 12-for-33 (364/400/697) with two doubles and three home runs. Willy Aybar is 2-for-6 against him.

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They say you gotta stay hungry, hey baby, I’m just about starving tonight

(Bruce Springsteen).

Cole Hamels (14-10, 3.09) faces lefty Scott Kazmir (12-8, 3.49) tonight in Tampa Bay in game one of the World Series.

Kazmir struggled at the end of the regular season. He took a 3.04 ERA and a 1.17 ratio into the All-Star break, but went 5-3 with a 4.02 ERA and a 1.38 ratio in 13 starts in the second half. September was his worst month of the year, he threw to a 5.19 ERA and a 1.46 ratio in five starts. He missed about a month of the season with an elbow problem before making his first start of the year on May 4.

Opponents hit just .220 against Kazmir on the year, righties .227 and lefties .198. Righties walked at a much hitter rate, posting a .329 on-base percentage compared to .239 for lefties. He walked 63 of the 501 right-handed batters he faced this year (about 12.6%) and just seven of the 140 left-handed batters (5%). Righties slugged .461 against him, hitting 22 of the 23 home runs he allowed. Kazmir threw just 152 1/3 innings on the year, but only one American League pitcher allowed more home runs to right-handed batters than him (Glen Perkins allowed 23 for the Twins). The flip side of that is that lefties slugged just .275 against him, with just seven extra-bases hits (five doubles) all season.

Kazmir’s vulnerability to righties accentuates the Phillies flaw that has them going into the World Series without a big right-handed bat on the bench. That problem suddenly gets an upgrade to no right-handed DH. Pat Burrell was born to DH, but the options for right-handed corner outfielder are miserable as well and Manuel was curiously unwilling to DH Burrell during inter-league games in the regular season. Coste, Taguchi or Bruntlett are the extra bat the Phils will likely be choosing from in game one. Hope it’s Coste with Burrell in left, but it could be Taguchi or Bruntlett, which would be just about the worst bat you could imagine adding to your lineup in a DH game. If it is Taguchi or Bruntlett, though, I think they should be in left with Burrell as the DH. Seems like a no-brainer, but that may not be the way that Manuel goes. The options improve with the righty Shields on the mound in game two and the chance to put Stairs or Dobbs (or, less likely, Jenkins) in the lineup.

Kazmir has made three starts in the post-season, going 1-0 with a 4.02 ERA and a 1.53 ratio while striking out 13 in 15 2/3 innings. His best outing of the three was his most recent. In game five of the ALCS he held the Red Sox to a pair of singles over six shutout innings and took a 7-0 lead into the seventh. He was much worse in his first two post-season starts, throwing to a 6.52 ERA and a 1.97 ratio and not going six innings in either outing.

The Phillies and the Rays did not play each other this season. He made one start against the Phils in 2006 and allowed two runs over five innings. Sal Fasano and Abraham Nunez homered off of him in that game. No current Phillie has more than four career at-bats against him.

Cole Hamels, MVP of the NLCS, has been brilliant for the Phillies in the post-season. In three post-season starts he’s 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA and an 0.86 ratio. He has struck out 22 in 22 innings.

The long layoff and all the innings for Hamels this year are the things to worry about for the Phils. The 24-year-old Hamels was second in the NL in innings pitched this season with 227 1/3. He last started on October 15, a week ago today.

He doesn’t give up a lot of walks and doesn’t surrender walks in bunches. Including three starts in the post-season he has not walked more than three batters in a game all year. He did give up 28 home runs this season, which tied him for tenth in the NL. He gave up his share of homers to both lefties and righties. Lefties curiously slugged .471 against him, hitting 12 home runs in 228 plate appearances. Hamels was simply better overall this season against righties than against lefties — righties hit .215 against him compared to .262 for lefties. They walked and struck out at a similar rate with lefties hitting for more power.

No current Ray has ever faced him, which could be a huge advantage if Hamels and his wicked changeup are on against Tampa Bay’s young hitters.

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Howell do you do to the Rays relief corps

Tampa Bay has an excellent bullpen, third best in the AL using ERA as the measure. Even playing without a DH, only two NL teams, the Phillies and the Dodgers, threw to a lower ERA than the 3.55 posted by Rays relievers.

The Tampa Bay bullpen was not overused. They threw just 484 1/3 innings, which was ninth of the 14 AL teams. Lefty JP Howell was tied with Texas’s Josh Rupe for innings pitched as a reliever in the AL, throwing 89 1/3. Nobody else on the Rays was in the top 20.

Four righties and three lefties out of the Tampa Bay bullpen look likely to impact in the World Series. Here’s a look at what the four righties did during the regular season this year:

 
2008 Regular Season

Pitcher

IP ERA Ratio K vs L vs R
Dan Wheeler 66.1 3.12 0.99 53 215/282/387 163/230/340
Chad Bradford 59.1 2.12 1.25 17 313/380/418 255/289/295
Grant Balfour 58.1 1.54 0.89 82 120/196/169 159/260/274
Edwin Jackson 183.1 4.42 1.51 108 295/379/415 268/326/471

Wheeler and Balfour were just outstanding. Eighty-two strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings for Balfour is particularly impressive. Both were good against lefties as well. Bradford split his year between the Orioles and the Rays, throwing to a 1.42 ERA with Tampa Bay. He was not as effective as Balfour and Wheeler against righties and doesn’t strike anyone out.

Jackson started 31 of the 32 games that he appeared in this season. It appears there again will be no room for him in the rotation with Kazmir, Shields, Garza and Sonnanstine taking the starts for the Rays.

Here’s what those righties have done in the post-season:

  IP ERA Ratio K
Wheeler 6.0 6.00 1.50 6
Bradford 6.0 1.50 1.17 3
Balfour 5.2 7.94 2.12 5
Jackson 2.1 0.00 0.86 4
         
Total 20 4.50 1.50 18

Balfour and Wheeler both got hammered in game five of the ALCS. They combined to allowed seven runs in two innings. Excluding those two innings, the group has been charged with three earned runs in 18 innings this post-season (1.50 ERA). The Balfour/Wheeler duo got combined to get just two outs in games six and seven of the ALCS.

Here are the three left-handed relievers:

 
2008 Regular Season

Pitcher

IP ERA Ratio K vs L vs R
JP Howell 89.1 2.22 1.13 92 188/286/248 197/290/315
David Price 14.0 1.93 0.93 12 158/200/158 188/270/313
Trever Miller 43.1 4.15 1.36 44 209/305/308 286/383/400

The Rays relied heavily on JP Howell this season and he was fantastic. Howell faced 138 left-handed batters this season and allowed five extra-base hits against them. Price is an elite prospect that Tampa Bay took with the first pick overall in the 2007 draft. They seem pretty comfortable with him in the game, as evidenced by his presence on the mound in the ninth inning of a 3-1 contest in game seven of the ALCS. The 35-year-old Miller serves up some walks and gets hit hard by righties. Miller hasn’t seen much action this post-season — here’s what the lefties out of the pen have done for Tampa Bay:

  IP ERA Ratio K
Howell 9.2 1.86 1.03 12
Price 2.1 0.00 0.86 4
Miller 0.2 0.00 4.50 1
         
Total 12.2 1.42 1.18 17

They’ve been really good. Howell, especially, although they have called on him to throw a huge number of innings, 9 2/3, in nine appearances. I think it’s safe to say we will see Price’s role expand in the World Series.

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Hello, my name is subject to change

After beating the Red Sox 3-1 in game seven of the ALCS, it’s the Tampa Bay don’t-call-me-Devil Rays that will face the Phillies in the 2008 World Series.

I kinda miss the flying manta ray, although it did seem a little random.

Here’s a look at the offense that Tampa Bay has gotten by position this year in comparison to other teams in the AL and in MLB and at some of the players we should expect to see in the World Series:

POS OPS AL Rank MLB Rank
C .729 5 12

Switch-hitter Dioner Navarro seems likely to see most of the time behind the plate for the Rays in the World Series. Navarro hit 295/349/407 for Tampa Bay in the regular season. He is 11-for-41 (268/318/341) in the post-season, with three doubles and a pair of triples.

He was a better hitter against righties than lefties in the regular season, hitting 312/365/412 against righties and 257/314/413 against lefties.

POS OPS AL Rank MLB Rank
1B .855 5 10

Lefty Carlos Pena played just over 80% of the innings at first base for Tampa Bay in 2008. Willy Aybar played the position about 11% of the time.

Pena hit 247/377/494 in the regular season. He is 12-for-36 (333/442/611) with a double, two home runs and seven walks in the post-season.

He struggles badly against left-handed pitching. He hit 280/418/576 against righties this year and just 190/302/352 against lefties.

POS OPS AL Rank MLB Rank
2B .741 7 16

Akinori Iwamura is a fixture at second base for Tampa Bay. He played about 92% of the innings there this season. The lefty hit 274/349/380 in 627 at-bats for the season. Among the 83 AL players with at least 450 plate appearances, his .380 slugging percentage was 73rd.

He is 13-for-47 (277/358/447) in the post-season with three doubles, a triple, a home run and six walks.

The lefty Iwamura is much better against righties than lefties. In 2008 he hit 280/356/400 against righties and 260/335/333 against lefties.

POS OPS AL Rank MLB Rank
3B .863 2 5

Evan Longoria gives the Rays tremendous offense out of the third base position. Aybar has also seen some time at third this year, but the position belongs to Longoria.

Longoria is a right-handed hitter who hit 272/343/531 this season. The 22-year-old rookie pumped out 27 home runs in just 448 at-bats. He has kept his power stroke up through the post-season, going 11-for-42 (262/340/762) with three doubles and six home runs.

He hit righties better than lefties this season. 284/350/540 against righties and 242/321/508 against left-handed pitching.

POS OPS AL Rank MLB Rank
SS .712 6 16

Jason Bartlett and Ben Zobrist have shared time at short this season, with Bartlett getting the vast majority of the playing time (75% of the innings for Bartlett, 20% for Zobrist). Bartlett will almost surely get just about all the time in the World Series.

Bartlett hit 286/329/361 in 454 at-bats this season. Among the 83 AL players with at least 450 plate appearances, his .361 slugging percentage is 77th.

In the post-season he is 9-for-32 (243/317/405).

Bartlett is a right-handed hitter who is awful (248/296/301) against right-handed pitching. He fared much better against lefties, hitting 379/411/508. The switch-hitter Zobrist had just 198 at-bats for the season and hit just .239 against righties, but while batting left against right-handed pitching had 15 extra-base hits (including nine home runs) in just 134 plate appearances. He slugged .538 against righties as a left-handed hitter.

POS OPS AL Rank MLB Rank
LF .719 11 24

Carl Crawford will see just about all the time in left for Tampa Bay. Crawford had his worst offensive year since 2003, hitting 273/319/400 in 443 at-bats. Eric Hinske, who also saw time in the Rays outfield and in left, was not on the roster for the ALCS.

Crawford is 13-for-43 (302/348/395) with two doubles, a triple and six stolen bases in the post-season.

A left-handed batter, Crawford was much better this season against righties than lefties. He hit 285/330/424 against righties and just 248/293/348 against lefties. Among 62 AL players with at least 150 plate appearances against lefties, Crawford’s .641 OPS was 59th.

POS OPS AL Rank MLB Rank
CF .748 7 16

Red hot BJ Upton will be in center field for the Rays. Upton hit just 273/383/401 with nine home runs in 531 regular season at-bats, but has gone 14-for-46 (304/365/826) with a double, a triple, a walk and seven home runs in the post-season.

Upton and Longoria are a combined 25-for-88 (.284) with 13 home runs since the end of the regular season. At that rate they would hit about 74 home runs over 500 at-bats.

Upton is a right-handed hitter who hit about the same against lefties and righties this year. 275/369/400 against righties and 271/418/406 against lefties. He got on base a lot more against lefties, but hit to about the same average and slugging percentage.

25-year-old rookie Fernando Perez also saw some time in the outfield and in center in September for Tampa. Perez got just 60 at-bats on the year, hitting 250/348/433. The switch-hitter is 1-for-9 with a single in the post-season (111/111/111). If we see him in the World Series it’s a lot more likely it will be in right than in center.

POS OPS AL Rank MLB Rank
RF .771 10 18

Gabe Gross got about 52% of the innings in right for Tampa Bay this season, with Hinske and Jonny Gomes there also factors for the Rays. Hinske and Gomes probably won’t be a factor in the series, but Rocco Baldelli started in right in game seven of the ALCS and Perez is a possibility.

Gross is a left-handed hitter who can’t hit lefties and has been terrible in the post-season. He hit 238/336/414 in 345 at-bats between Milwaukee and Tampa Bay this year. He’s just 1-for-16 (063/211/063) with a single and three walks in the post-season.

He’s miserable against lefties, just 191/247/338 on the year. Much better against right-handed pitching, 249/356/433.

Baldelli could be the answer for Tampa Bay in right against lefties. Baldelli is a right-handed hitter who missed most of ’08 and hit 263/344/475 in 80 at-bats.

Baldelli is 3-for-14 (214/313/429) with a home run in the post-season. Over his career he’s hit 296/347/494 against lefties and 276/316/427 against righties.

Zobrist also made an appearance in right in the ALCS despite playing just seven innings there during the regular season.

POS OPS AL Rank MLB Rank
DH .760 8 13

Lefty Cliff Floyd likely will be getting the call when the Rays need a DH in the series. Floyd is a left-handed hitter that doesn’t do well against lefties, so Aybar or Baldelli may see time in the DH games that are started by Hamels or Moyer.

Floyd hit 268/349/455 this season. He’s 3-for-15 with a double and a home run (200/200/467) in the post-season.

He doesn’t even get a chance to hit against lefties — he had just 12 plate appearances against them this season.

Aybar is a switch-hitter who appeared most often at third for Tampa Bay this season, but also saw time at first, second and made two appearances at shortstop. He has gotten a ton of at-bats in the post-season, going 11-for-30 (367/355/633) with two doubles and two home runs (and no walks).

Aybar was better against lefties this season, hitting 266/350/444 against them and an unimpressive 245/312/390 against righties.

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A tale of one city and a large natural harbor and estuary along the Gulf of Mexico on the western coast of Florida

After coming back to win despite trailing 7-0 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh last night, the Boston Red Sox remain alive in the ALCS. Boston trails three games to two as the series heads to Florida where the Phillies’ opponent in the World Series will be determined.

Here’s a look at what the offenses for the two teams have done this season:

  R AL Rank R/G
Boston 845 2 5.22
Tampa Bay 774 9 4.78

Led by the big bats of Ortiz, Drew, Bay and Youkilis, the Red Sox can just hit. The DHless Phillies scored 799 runs this year, about 4.93 per game. Tampa Bay has had more trouble scoring runs and some trouble hitting lefties. Here’s what the teams have done against left and right-handed pitching this season:

  OPS vs
lefties
AL Rank OPS vs
righties
AL Rank
Boston 849 1 792 2
Tampa Bay 726 12 778 4

Akinori Iwamura (260/335/333 in 192 at-bats), Carlos Pena (190/302/352 in 179 AB) and Carl Crawford (248/293/348 in 141 AB) have all had problems against lefties this season for Tampa Bay.

I think Jamie Moyer is close to a sure thing to start game three regardless of who the Phillies play. It seems even a little more likely against the Devil Rays. The problems of some of the big hitters for Tampa with lefties also speaks to the importance of Romero, Eyre and Happ pitching out of the pen if the Phils wind up facing Tampa Bay.

Both teams have been very good at preventing runs, with the Rays a little better:

  Runs
allowed
AL Rank
Boston 694 4
Tampa Bay 671 2

Using ERA as the measure, the starting pitching for both teams has been fantastic with Tampa Bay pitching a little better out of the pen:

  Starter
ERA
AL Rank Pen ERA AL Rank
Boston 4.02 3 4.00 7
Tampa Bay 3.95 2 3.55 3

Overall, the Devil Rays have been a little better than the Red Sox at preventing runs. The Red Sox did however, play in a better place to hit (and a worse place to pitch).

One area where there is a difference is in the number of home runs that they have allowed to right-handed hitters. Both teams were good against righties. Right-handed hitters hit 245/312/405 (.717 OPS) against the Devil Rays and 249/319/385 (.705) against the Sox. Using OPS as the measure, the Red Sox pitchers were the second-best in the AL against righties and the Devil Rays pitchers were fourth-best.

With an assist to the Green Monster, no doubt, the Red Sox allowed just 78 home runs to righties this season (4th-best in the AL) while the Devil Rays, after leading the AL in home runs allowed to right-handed hitters in 2007, allowed 101 (3rd-worst in the AL).

The Phillies didn’t play Tampa Bay this year, but went 1-2 against the Red Sox in a June series in Philadelphia. The Phils won the first game of the series 8-2 on June 16, but dropped the June 17 game 3-0 and the June 18 game 7-4. A red-hot Ryan Howard hit two home runs and drove in four to lead the Phillies to a win in the opener. Lester dominated the Phils in game two and Kyle Kendrick was awful in game three.

The Phillies were 4-11 in inter-league play this season.

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And if someone can just tell Fonzie we’re keeping the Liberty Bell, too, I think we can call that a wrap

Henry Winkler, best known from his years on Happy Days, read the Dodgers lineup on FOX to kick off game five of the NLCS. The diehard Dodger fan ended his reading by suggesting that Philadelphia could keep the Liberty Bell, but LA was taking the game. The Fonz is a pretty cool cat, but there was nobody in the stadium cooler than Cole Hamels last night. Hamels gave the Phils his third fantastic start of the post-season, holding LA to a run over seven innings. All Police Officer Kirk could manage off of him was a solo shot in the bottom of the sixth. And Kirk never could play short.

After the heart-breaking blast that Matt Stairs delivered the Dodgers in the eighth-inning of game three, there were a lot of people who saw the Phillies finishing off the series as a formality. Jimmy Rollins got it going pretty quickly, leading off the game, like he did when the Phillies won game four of the NLDS to beat the Brewers, with a home run. The Phillies scored two more in the third and another pair of runs in a fifth inning that featured three errors by Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal.

Five runs was more than Hamels would need. And when he departed after seven strong innings, Madson and Lidge looked just as fantastic as they have all post-season. After two shutdown frames last night, they’ve combined to throw 16 1/3 playoff innings in which they allowed two earned runs (1.10 ERA) on twelve hits and four walks (0.98 ratio) while striking out 16.

The Phillies beat the Los Angeles Dodgers last night, winning 5-1 to take the NLCS four games to one. The Phils will play either the Red Sox or the Devil Rays in the World Series, which starts on Wednesday.

Hamels got the start for the Phillies and went seven innings, allowing a run on five hits and three walks. One of the hits went for extra-bases, a solo home run by Ramirez. Hamels struck out five.

Hamels has made three playoff starts for the Phillies in 2008, going 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA and an 0.82 ratio. In 22 innings he has struck out 22.

The Dodger lineup against Hamels went (1) Furcal (SS/S) (2) Ethier (RF/L) (3) Ramirez (LF/R) (4) Martin (C/R) (5) Loney (1B/L) (6) Blake (3B/R) (7) Kemp (CF/R) (8) DeWitt (2B/L). That’s the same lineup that faced Hamels in game one with Blake and Kemp switched in the six and seven holes.

The Dodgers started the game with six hitters on their bench: Kent (R), Berroa (R), Ardoin (R), Ozuna (R), Garciaparra (R) and Pierre (L).

Hamels started the first with a 1-0 lead and got Furcal to ground a 1-1 pitch to short for the first out. Ethier popped a fly ball into right for the second out before Ramirez walked on a 3-1 pitch outside. Martin grounded to third on a 2-2 pitch for the third out.

Fifteen pitches for Hamels in the first.

Loney singled into center on a 1-2 pitch to start the second. Blake flew to right for the first out before Kemp moved Loney to second with a single to right. DeWitt swung at the first pitch and hit into a double-play ball to second to end the inning. Ten pitches in the inning had Hamels at 25.

Pablo Ozuna hit for pitcher Chan Ho Park and tried to bunt for a hit, but Hamels took the ball and threw to first for the first out with the Phils up 3-0. Furcal popped to second and Ethier struck out swinging. Ten more pitches for Hamels. Thirty-five for the game.

Manny struck out the first pitch in the fourth and grounded to third. Martin grounded back to Hamels for the second out. Hamels struck Loney out on three pitches to end the inning. Just eight pitches in the inning for Hamels. 43.

Blake started the fifth with a single into center and moved to second when Kemp hit a 2-2 pitch into left field for another single. DeWitt was next and hit a 2-1 pitch hard, but right at Utley at second. Utley and Rollins turned the double-play, leaving Blake at third with two down. Kent hit for Greg Maddux and struck out swinging 0-2 to end the inning. Fifteen pitches in the inning and 58 for the game for Hamels.

Second time in the game Hamels got out of a jam by getting DeWitt to hit into a big double-play.

Furcal grounded to second for the first out of the sixth. Ethier was next and drove a 2-2 pitch to left field, but Burrell made a nice running catch near the corner for the second out. It left the bases empty for Manny and saved the Phils a run, cause Ramirez hit a 1-2 pitch out to right to cut the lead to 5-1. Martin was infuriated when he went down looking at a 3-2 pitch that may have been low. Twenty pitches for Hamels in the inning. 78.

Ramirez was 8-for-15 (533/682/1.067) in the series with two doubles, two home runs and seven walks.

Loney led off the seventh and hit an 0-1 pitch into center that Victorino took for the first out. Blake drove a ball into right center that Victorino caught just before he bumped into the wall. Hamels got ahead of Kemp 0-2, but walked him on a 3-2 pitch way low and outside. Nomar Garciaparra hit for the pitcher James McDonald and Hamels again got ahead of him 0-2 and couldn’t put him away, walking him on a high 3-2 pitch. Manuel came out to talk to Hamels and left him in the game to pitch to the righty Kent with the pitcher’s spot due to lead off the eighth for the Phils. Kent struck out looking at a 2-2 pitch on the outside corner. Twenty-six pitches in the inning for Hamels, 104 for he game.

Manuel almost never comes out to the mound without taking out the pitcher.

Madson started the eighth up 5-1. Furcal led off and shattered his bat hitting a soft liner that Utley made a diving catch on for the first out. Ethier popped a 1-0 pitch into right for the second out. Ramirez again hit with the bases empty. Madson threw a 1-0 fastball past a swinging Ramirez and then a high 1-1 fastball that Ramirez swung under. Ramirez hit a 2-2 pitch on the ground to the left of Rollins. The ball went off of Rollins’ glove and into center field for a single. Ramirez took second on defensive indifference as the count went 1-1 on Martin. Martin hit a slow check-swing roller to first. Howard took it to the bag to end the inning.

Fantastic inning for Madson, who was throwing unusually hard. Fox’s radar gun had him at 97 several times, which is way high for a guy usually topping out in the low 90′s.

Lidge started the ninth with a 5-1 lead. He got ahead of Loney 0-2 before Loney blooped a 2-2 pitch into center for a single. Blake flailed at a 1-1 slider and then flew to center on a 2-2 pitch for the first out. Kemp crushed a 2-0 pitch to straight away center, but Victorino took it just in front of the wall for the second out. Loney took second as Lidge delivered ball one to Garciaparra. Garciaparra popped a 3-2 pitch up foul down the third base line where Ruiz took it to send the Phillies to the World Series.

Two more scoreless innings for the Phillies pen. Both Madson and Lidge have a long time to rest.

Fantastic series for Phillies relievers as they allow three runs in 18 2/3 innings. One of the runs was unearned — two earned runs in 18 2/3 innings is an 0.96 ERA. They struck out 17.

Lidge and Madson carried the bulk of the weight. Madson threw five scoreless innings and Lidge didn’t allow a run in 4 1/3. Both of them looked just fantastic doing it, too. Romero, Eyre and Condrey combined to throw 4 1/3 scoreless innings as well. Romero made three appearances in which he didn’t allow a hit but walked three. Eyre made two appearances without allowing a hit but walking one while Condrey allowed a walk in 2/3 of an inning in the only game he pitched in. Happ pitched three innings in relief of Moyer in game three and allowed a run on four hits and two walks. Durbin was the guy who was hit hard. He made three appearances, allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits and two walks over two innings.

The Dodger pen pitched well again last night, holding the Phils to two unearned runs over 6 1/3 innings. They were fantastic in the series with the notable exception of game four.

The Phillies lineup against righty Chad Billingsley went (1) Rollins (2) Werth (3) Utley (4) Howard (5) Burrell (6) Victorino (7) Feliz (8) Ruiz. Feliz gets the start at third with Dobbs on the bench this time, and Victorino hits sixth with Werth hitting second. Otherwise it’s the same lineup the Phillies used against Billingsley in game two.

The Phils started the game with six players on their bench: Coste (R), Taguchi (R), Bruntlett (R), Dobbs (L), Stairs (L) and Jenkins (L).

Rollins led off the game and quickly got behind 0-2. Billingsley couldn’t put him away, though, and on the eighth pitch of the at-bat Rollins drove a 3-2 offering out to right-center to put the Phillies up 1-0. Werth followed with a walk on a 3-2 pitch that was high and outside, but Utley was next and hit a ground ball to first. Loney took it and tagged first, then threw to second. Werth went into Furcal hard, but Furcal tagged him out to complete the double-play. Furcal limped around after Werth’s slide, apparently with an injured left ankle, but stayed in the game. Howard grounded to first for the third out.

Burrell waived at an inside 1-2 pitch to start the second. Victorino followed with a strikeout of his own before Feliz lined a 2-1 pitch into left for a single. Ruiz flew to center to leave him stranded.

Hamels struck out swinging for the first out of the third. Rollins was next and he drew a walk on five pitches. Rollins stole second, just barely sliding in safely, as the count went 1-2 on Werth. Werth struck out swinging at a ball in the dirt for the second out. Utley walked on an inside 3-2 pitch to put men on first and second for Howard. Billingsley blew a 1-1 fastball past a swinging Howard, but delivered a 2-2 curveball that Howard drilled past Loney and into right field. Rollins scored from second to put the Phils up 2-0 with Utley going to third. Burrell followed and singled into right-center. Utley scored and Howard went to third with the Phils up 3-0. Billingsley’s 1-0 pitch to Victorino was in the dirt and under Martin’s glove. Howard held third and Burrell went to second. With first base now open and Victorino ahead 2-0, LA walked Victorino intentionally to load the bases for Feliz. Chan Ho Park came in to pitch to Feliz. Park got Feliz to ground to third to end the frame.

Greg Maddux started the fourth. Ruiz flew to right for the first out. Hamels struck out looking at a 2-2 pitch. Rollins struck out looking 2-2 as well to set the Phillies down.

Werth singled to left to start the fifth. Utley was next and he hit a ground ball to Loney at first. Loney would have had the double-play, but had trouble getting the ball out of his glove and his throw to second was a little slow. Werth was out at second, but Utley beat the relay and was safe at first. Howard moved Utley to second with a single to right and brought up Burrell with two men on and one out. Burrell hit a 1-2 pitch to short, where Furcal tried to backhand the ball but didn’t field it cleanly. It dropped out of his glove and onto his shoe and rolled away. Utley scored from second to make it 4-0. Furcal tracked the ball down and threw home, but his throw to the plate was wild. Two errors on the play by Furcal. Howard wound up on third and Burrell on second. Victorino was again walked intentionally, loading the bases for Feliz with one out. Feliz struck out swinging at a high 1-2 fastball for the second out. Ruiz hit a routine ground ball to short. This time Furcal fielded it fine but his throw to first was terrible, in the dirt for another error. Howard scored and it was 5-0. Just for giggles, Loney picked the ball up and threw it wildly in the direction of, well, I don’t know. It was sort of like he was torn between throwing it wildly to home and wildly into the Dodgers’ dugout and went with a tweener. Burrell had turned back to third thinking the play was over. Hamels grounded to first for the third out.

Two is too many times in a game to walk Victorino intentionally. Feliz had left six men stranded through five innings. Not a good inning for Furcal.

James McDonald started the sixth for the Dodgers. Rollins led off and tried to bunt for a hit and was thrown out by the pitcher. Werth grounded out to second for the second out. Utley struck out swinging 2-2 to end the frame.

McDonald walked Howard to start the seventh. Burrell swung at the first pitch of his at-bat and popped to third. Victorino singled into right and Howard moved to second. Just two men on for Feliz this time and he struck out. Martin threw to first after the strikeout and the ball hit Victorino in the ribs as the dove back to the base. Ruiz chopped to third to end the frame.

Eight men left on base for Feliz.

James McDonald threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings against the Phils in the series, allowing three hits and two walks while striking out seven.

Lefty Joe Beimel started the eighth. Taguchi hit for Hamels and grounded to Blake, now playing second, for the first out. Cory Wade came in to pitch to Rollins. Rollins grounded to second as well. Werth grounded to third for the third out.

The Phillies do not have a good option when it comes to a right-handed pinch-hitter off the bench, as evidenced by Taguchi leading off the eighth.

Lefty Hong-Chih Kuo started the ninth for LA. Utley struck out trying to check his swing on a 2-2 pitch that was very high. Howard singled into right on a 3-1 pitch. Bruntlett was next, having entered in the seventh to play left, and hit into a double-play to end the frame.

Rollins was 1-for-4 with a walk, a stolen base and a home run. The home run was the only extra-base hit in the game for the Phillies. 3-for-21 (.143) with a home run, two walks and eight strikeouts in the series. He on-based .217 at the top of the Phillies lineup.

Werth was 1-for-4 last night. 4-for-21 (190/227/238) with a double and a walk in the series. Struck out seven times.

Utley 0-for-4 with a walk. 6-for-17 (353/522/647) with two doubles, a home run and six walks in the series.

Howard 3-for-4 with a walk and an RBI. 6-for-20 (300/391/350) with a double and three walks in the series. Struck out just twice.

Burrell 1-for-4 with an RBI and a ground ball to Furcal in the game. 6-for-18 (333/368/500) with a home run, one walk and seven strikeouts in the series.

Victorino was 1-for-2 with two walks last night. 4-for-18 (222/300/500) with a triple, a home run and a team-high six RBI.

Feliz was 1-for-4 in the game and left eight men on base. 2-for-13 (154/214/154) with two singles in the series. He went 2-for-10 with San Francisco in the post-seasons of 2002 and 2003 and now has a career post-season line of 194/216/278 in 36 at-bats. Dobbs did not play last night but was 3-for-6 (500/571/667) with a double in the series.

Ruiz was 0-for-4 last night. 5-for-16 (313/353/375) with a double in the series. Coste was 1-for-1 in the series.

No game today. Game one of the World Series will be away for the Phillies, either in Boston or Florida.


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