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2008 NLDS Preview - Phillies vs. Brewers

by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
October 1, 2008

Records - Phillies 92-70, Brewers 90-72
Third order records -  Phillies 87-75, Brewers 86-76
Runs Scored (ML rank)
- Phillies 799 (9th), Brewers 750 (17th)
Runs Allowed (ML rank) - Phillies 680 (5th), Brewers 689 (6th)

Overview

For the first time in recent memory, the Philadelphia Phillies are stronger on defense than they are on offense.  This is true despite Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell, and Chase Utley forming as formidable of a hitting trio as you'll find in the majors.  Even if those sluggers are contained by quality postseason pitching, the Phillies can manufacture runs as the best baserunning team by far of the eight in the postseason (+114 Bases gained, more than twice what the second place Cubs have, according to The Bill James Handbook 2009).  They are an incredible 136-for-161 in stolen base attempts (84%), though Jason Kendall has somehow gone from worst-to-first in throwing out baserunners for Milwaukee.

These Brewers can match the Phillies pretty well when healthy, posting a slightly better team ERA than the Phillies while only being moderately inferior defensively.  But with Ben Sheets injured, C.C. Sabathia overworked, and Salomon Torres - their only good reliever - fading down the stretch, these Brewers are anything but healthy.  They have won six of their last seven games, albeit against lackluster or unmotivated competition, but that came after beginning September 4-15, including a four-game sweep in Philadelphia.

Prince Fielder (.998 September OPS) has been hot, but Ryan Braun (.661 September OPS) has not, despite that clutch homer against Bob Howry in the final game of the regular season.  Guys like Braun and Fielder aren't going to get to face a Bob Howry in this series, as Philadelphia has the best bullpen in the National League (3.19 ERA).  Brad Lidge is also a perfect 41-for-41 in save chances as compared with Salomon Torres' 8.53 September ERA and a trio of post-PED relievers in Eric Gagne, Guillermo Mota, and proabably David Riske pitching behind him.  To their credit, they do have Brian Shouse (.180 BAA vs LHB) as a potent weapon to use against Utley and Howard in the late innings.

The Phillies have an .808 OPS with runners in scoring position while the Brewers come in at .742.  Virtually everyone on their squad has postseason experience, while virtually no Brewers do.  The Phillies have home field advantage when the Brewers are just one game over .500 on the road.  Things just do not line up well for Milwaukee in this series.

Pitching Matchups

Game 1 - Yovani Gallardo (0-0 1.88) @ Cole Hamels (14-10 3.09)

Wow.  First Ned Yost endangers Gallardo's career by not removing him from a game in which he seriously injured himself, then Dale Sveum risks a Rick Ankielism by pitching him in Game One of the postseason.  Sure, he handled the Pirates with aplomb in his only start since April, but he probably can't go more than 75 pitches, which turns it over to Milwaukee's battered bullpen all too soon.

Big edge for the Phillies

Game 2 - C.C. Sabathia (17-10 2.70) @ Brett Myers (10-13 4.55)

Big C.C. works on short rest for the 4th straight time here.  He allowed exactly one earned run in each of his past three short rest starts, but those came against a Dunnless Cincinnati, a Bayless Pittsburgh, and a Soto/DeRosaless Chicago Cubs.  Brett Myers would win the Oliver Perez Award for Inconsistency were Oliver Perez not himself the uncontested winner every year.  He is a smart play here, because if he is the dominant Brett Myers of July 29th-September 14th (7-2 1.56), he can overmatch an exhausted Sabathia.  (That September 14th start was a one-run complete game win over these same Brewers).

Slight edge for Brewers

Game 3 - Jamie Moyer (16-7 3.71) @ Dave Bush (9-10 4.18)

A battle of two pitchers in their preferred demesne. Bush is 6-4 with a 3.50 ERA at home, which gave innivative ex-manager Ned Yost the impetus to platoon him as only their 5th starter when pitching in Miller Park earlier in the season.  Moyer is 10-3 2.92 away from Citezen's Bank Ballpark, where Moyer lives in fear of his many fly balls allowed possibly leaving the yard.  The 22-year veteran is also a career 3-1 2.43 in the postseason.

Slight edge for Phillies

Game 4 - TBD @ Jeff Suppan (10-10 4.96)

The Phillies would be wise to pitch Joe Blanton (9-12 4.69) here, since the 24-year old Cole Hamels has never worked on three days rest before, and they probably will unless they somehow face elimination.  Suppan is 0-3 6.13 in six career starts against the Phillies and has a mostly undeserved reputation as a big game pitcher (3-3 3.00 in the postseason, 0-1 5.91 in World Series play).

Moderate edge for the Phillies

Game 5 - C.C. Sabathia (17-10 2.70) @ TBD

In the unlikely event that the Brewers are still alive in Game Five, Sabathia on four days rest could be formidable indeed.  Cole Hamels would be one of a select few pitchers with a realistic shot of beating him. 

Slight edge for Brewers

Outlook

The Milwaukee Brewers have a rich history of choking and collapsing.  The only reason they are playing in October is that the Mets choked even harder.  Do not cry for the Brew Crew, because their fans should be ecstatic even if they get swept in this series.  They face the winningest Phillies team since 1993 and the most balanced Philadelphia squad since their Mike Schmidt mini-dynasty of the late 70s and early 80s.

Prediction: Phillies in four




Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at keith@baseballevolution.com or found at the Baseball Evolution Forum

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