MLB Playoff Preview – Philadelphia Phillies
By Jeff Dickson, Director of Food & Beverage
The Philadelphia Phillies are now the five time defending NL East Champions and are a franchise in unfamiliar territory as perennial World Series favorite. However, they have a combination of arms and experience that would make anything short of a ring a bit of a disappointment. After winning the World Series in 2008 behind timely hitting and the 1-2 punch of starter Cole Hamels and closer Brad Lidge, the Phillies took a bit of step back each of the last two years with losses to the Yankees in the World Series and Giants in the NLCS in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
The Phillies are doing things differently this season even if the results are similar, if not better, than the previous four seasons. For the first four years of this run they ended the season either first or second in the National League in runs scored behind stellar seasons from Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, among others. This season, however, the offense is sixth in the league in runs scored and has gone through some prolonged slumps both from a team perspective and also from individuals. How, then, is this the Phillies team that is chasing the franchise record of 101 regular season wins and not those offense powerhouses? In a word: Aces.
The starting rotation in Philadelphia is one for the ages, led by three legitimate aces and Cy Young candidates in Roy Halladay (reigning Cy Young award winner, 18-6, 2.41 ERA), Cliff Lee (16-7, 2.38) and Cole Hamels (14-9, 2.80). The team also features a would be ace in Roy Oswalt had he stayed healthy and pitched a full season, but who is back and appearing ready to be the number four man in the playoff rotation.
The bullpen has taken a backseat to the starters for the most part, and has had some recent hiccups, but is still one of the better ‘pens the Phillies have had this last half decade. Led by closer Ryan Madson (31 saves, 2.54 ERA) the bullpen is mostly comprised of youngsters with high upside who have yet to be truly tested in a playoff atmosphere, and Lidge who has pitched well in a limited role after missing most of the season with various injuries. This group could be the X -factor for the team if the starters are to falter at all; how well they hold up could make or break the Phillies hopes of another championship.
How the Phillies can lose:
If the Phillies are to be knocked out at any point it very well may resemble how they lost to the Giants in the NLCS last season. In that series the offense struggled against top notch pitching and the starters were not able to hold down the Giants offense enough. If there is a game or two each series when the starter doesn’t deliver a typical ace performance and the offense isn’t able to rekindle that old firepower then it could be a disappointing end to Philadelphia’s season.
How the Phillies can win:
Building off of the momentum from the regular season, the Phillies will count on the starters to dominate postseason play. If they can get 7-9 great innings a game from the rotation and the bullpen holds up while the offense does just enough, much like the recipe all season long, then we could see another parade down Broad Street this fall.
Jeff is entering his second season with the ‘Dads and first as the director of food & beverage. The Oneonta, NY native joined the Crawdads in 2011 as a concessions assistant, and has previously worked with the Oneonta Outlaws as a sports marketing intern. Jeff is a die-hard fan of the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Giants.