The phenomenon that was the Philadelphia bullpen seems to have been forgotten as the Phillies’ ‘pen closed out the NLCS against the Dodgers last night with a 10-4 victory. The Phillies, the defending world champions, went into the postseason with probably the most inconsistent bullpen of the eight playoff teams. Brad Lidge, who was about as solid a closer as there was last year, had struggled over the course of the regular season with blown saves, bad decision making and incosistency. This was a big worry as many skeptics came about believing the Phillies would fall due to their bullpen. Those skeptics have been silenced for the time being as the Phillies bullpen has been nearly flawless throughout this postseason.
Last night’s picture of Brad Lidge pumping his fist is reminiscent of last season’s fist pumping as he closed out the World Series. Well, with only one more series to win, we could well be seeing this again very soon. But then again, we can’t forget about the Yankees.
The Yanks are on the verge of clinching a trip to the world series. With their ALCS lead, the Yanks are one win away to making one step closer to their 27th World Championship in franchise history. With phenominal pitching, the most explosive offense in the league and a consistent and solid bullpen, the Yankees are definitely the team to beat. The Phillies are a fantastic group of baseball players with some outstanding athletes up and down their roster, but the Yankees really have a group of guys that can match up with the best teams in the history of the MLB. If the Yankees beat the Angels today in their game five of the ALCS, they will advance onto the World Series and will create a matchup that is definitely not worth missing. Here’s a look at how the Yanks and Phils will matchup assuming the Yankees defeat the Angels. (No offense to the Angels of any Angels fans out there but it certainly looks as if the Yankees are going to advance to the World Series).
The two leadoff batters are certainly two guys that can lead off a game with big hit, spark a rally, or make a key defensive play. Both veterans of the league, Jeter and Rollins will top off the top two lineups in baseball.
Jeter has been a number two hitter most of his career and isn’t your typical leadoff hitter. Now, I’m not saying it’s like a usual number four hitter batting leadoff but more like a number two guy batting first. Jeter is definitely capable of producing in the leadoff spot, I’m mean look at his stats from this year. Joe Girardi’s decision to move Johnny Damon to the second spot in the lineup and move Jeter up one has proven successful as they have put up some staggering numbers.
Jimmy Rollins on the other hand is your typical leadoff guy. A guy that can get on base, run and score runs with ease. That’s what you generally think of in a leadoff guy. Not that Jeter can’t do that but Rollins fits the profile better due to the way the Phillies offense runs. Rollins came up with a big hit late in game 4 against the Dodgers where he drove in the winning run from first to pu the Phils up 3-1 in the series. J-Rol is clearly a great guy to start off your lineup with.
Johnny Damon, as I stated already, was moved down to the second spot in the lineup by Joe Girardi at the beginning of the season. The main reason for this was to let Jeter do his magic with his bat and let Damon, who can hit for power, hit in a more key spot with guys on base. Now, again, this swop can go either way but it has obviously worked out the way it is currently. Damon can hit for power, drive some guys in, and can still run better than most people think he can. Watch out for Damon, you don’t really want to underestimate him.
“The Flyin’ Hawaiin” Shane Victorino has been a solid force at the second spot in the Phillies lineup for years now. The switch hitter can hit well from both sides of the plate, can generate some power (as shown last night when he hit a bomb to left field) and can really run. This guy can really carry a team with his speed because with the guys following him in the lineup, he will most likely get to score some runs. With his speed, he can easily get into scoring position to make it easier on the guys following him.
To me, this is the most intriguing matchup of any of the players on either roster. Mark Teixeira can field, hit and has a great smile. Chase Utley, exactly the same. Both guys can hit, field and are just a great presence on their respective squads. I can’t really compare them any further, they are just so similar.
Two guys with a lot of power and good gloves at their respective positions fill up the middle of the lineup. Ryan Howard is a powerful guy that probably doesn’t think anything other than homer when coming up to the plate. Alex Rodriguez has had a great career and his play this postseason has been a sight for sore eyes. He has been phenominal. Rodriguez may have a better glove than Howard, but Howard is the next power hitting phenomenon that will hit the MLB. Rodriguez went under that category when he came up with the Mariners and now the likes of Howard, Prince Fielder and Pablo Sandoval fit that list. These two will most certainly fill a very very important role in this series.
I honestly have to give the advantage to the Phillies and Jayson Werth in this matchup. Nothing against the long time Yankee but the fact that Jayson Werth can consistently hit for a lot of power and has driven in more runs than Posada, Werth has the advantage. Posada has been such a key to the Yankees for so long. A great pitch caller who has always called great games for Yankee pitchers. He has had his great offensive games and he has had his tough ones, just like every baseball player ever to live. This matchup right now goes to Werth but just wait and see, Posada will still play a key part in this sereis.
Again, Ibanez and Matsui are a great matchup of players in the lineup. Ibanez can still play the outfield whereas Matsui has had a bad knee keeping him from playing the field. This isn’t all that big of a deal since we have had plenty of guys fill in with quality games and very successful seasons. His bat is still going and he may be getting old, but he still has plenty in his tank to put in his two cents for this series.
Ibanez has surprised everyone in the league this year with his outstanding outbreak in offensive production. He opened the season with some great power but over the season it has decreased in power. He still has a lot of power and can go off any tme which makes him so dangerous. Both these guys can go off on you and can really hurt an opposing pitcher. Watch out Phillies and Yankees pitching.
Alright, sorry I couldn’t finish today but I’ll get the rest of my matchup analysis tomorrow. Stay tuned.
Well, before I get to the Yankees-Red Sox recap, I’ve got to let my thoughts be heard on a few other things that happened yesterday around the MLB.
Most baseball fans know Chase Utley. The second baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies. He’s got that good defensive record, a strange power source from a second baseman, and a great mind for the game. Yeah, him. But he wasn’t playing in Sunday’s matchup between the Phils and Mets. Eric Bruntlett filled in for him and made his presence known in an unusual way. In a game that had so many unusual scenarios, Bruntlett made a play that only one other person has done before. But that was just the end of everything that happened yesterday.
The Phils scored six runs in the top of the first off of Oliver Perez. But Perez didn’t make it out of the first inning. He was facing Pedro Martinez, who was making his return to NY after being cut by the Mets this past off-season. Pedro had a 3-0 count and manager Jerry Manuel came out to pull Perez. An unusual happening. A pitcher getting pulled in the middle of an at bat. Strange.
Well, the Mets eventually got out of the inning. Then they had a little fun of their own. To lead off the bottom half of the inning, Angel Pagan hit a shot to the left center gap that sent Shane Victorino running to the wall. The ball got wedged under the wall and Victorino thought he could get away with calling it as a double. But the umps didn’t think it that way. The umps didn’t make the call and the left fielder picked it up and threw it in. This whole time, Pagan had been running the bases and wound up with an inside the park homer. The ball was wedged underneath the wall but it wasn’t so badly wedged that it would take some work to get it out and that it should have been a double. The umps made the right call. Strange.
Later in the game, Jeff Francoeur, the Mets’ right fielder, made a great sliding catch to rob Eric Bruntlett of all people of a base hit. At first the umps called Bruntlett safe as he went on to third as Francoeur was unaware of the call. Then the umps met and reversed the call after both Francoeur and Jerry Manuel argued the call. It was another crazy moment that was obviously a catch when the replay showed it. Strange.
Now, the biggest highlight of the game was Bruntlett’s play in the bottom of the ninth which ended the game. With runners on first and second, Jeff Francoeur (there seems to be a recurring theme of players being involved in multiple strange plays) stepped up to the plate. He hit a liner with a full count up the middle. With the runners in motion, Bruntlett had been moving to cover second base. The ball was hit right to him on a line. He snagged it, tagged second base, and tagged David Murphy who was on first at the start of the play. An unnasissted triple play to end the game, the first in the NL history, second in MLB history. Strange.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
OK so back to the Yankees-Red Sox game. Last night, the aces of the two clubs faced off in the rubber match of the series. It was set to be a great pitcher’s duel, as was Beckett’s and Burnett’s not to long ago. And it was a really good game. The Yankees opened up the game with two runs early. The first was on a Derek Jeter solo shot and the second on Hideki Matsui’s first shot of the night which was also a solo shot. The Yankees scored two more runs on the Red Sox in the third inning, neither on homers. Then, Robinson Cano homered in the fourth, and A-Rod homered in the fifth to drive in two more. Matsui hit the final Yankee homer in the eighth which was another solo shot. A home run barrage, as Yankees.com puts it, lit up the sky in Boston as the Yanks rolled to an 8-4 victory. Sweet Sweet Victory.
The Red Sox did score four runs but CC kept them at bay most of the night. The Yankees did jump on top early and that was a big advantage for them as the game went on. The Red Sox tied the score in the second but the Yankees went back ahead and never looked back. The Sox didn’t leave the yard once in the game, surprisingly. The lack of the long ball in a game dominated by the long ball is probably what did the Red Sox in.
CC finished the game with eight strikeouts as all his stuff was dominant. Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera were successful out of the ‘pen as they finished the game off. Beckett finished with five K’s on the night, not bad. He also gave up all five homers though. Not good.
So let’s take a look back at the series that was. Game One:
The Yankees score 20 runs against Brad Penny and the REd Sox. Another terrible outing for Penny who would later be pulled from the starting rotation to make room for Wakefield who is coming back soon. Another home run happy game sent many bombs flying through the Boston sky. The Red Sox had their fair share of runs too. They just weren’t able to make up for what the pitching let up. Too bad. They scored 11 runs.
The Red Sox stole the Yankees’ thunder for game two as they burst out with another 14 runs compared to the
Yankees’ Nick Swisher’s single run. Swish hit a solo shot to left to score the only run for the Yanks on the day. A very disappointing loss for the Yanks and a touche to the REd Sox was all that was in me for Saturday.
Then came game three which I just talked about. A very exciting series that was truly a back and forth one. Great to watch and I’m sure, as always, it was great to play in for both teams. No fights broke out which was good for the teams. I don’t think either could afford losing anyone right now, especially the Red Sox who are in the Wild Card race and don’t have that big of a lead anymore. It was a clean series that was fun to watch as a fan. Especially since the Yankees won.
As all of you who read my post “Final Thoughts on Final Vote” know, my picks for the final vote were Shane Victorino and Ian Kinsler. You would also know that I thought Ian Kinsler should have already been in the All Star Game starting at second base instead of the reigning MVP Dustin Pedroia. Nothin against Pedroia who is having a good year, but Kinsler is having a better one. You would all know that Shane Victorino and Pablo Sandoval were both good choices in my eyes but that I would go with “The Flyin’ Hawaiian” simply because I felt he was having a better season. Now that the final vote is over, I have some more thoughts on the two guys that finished off the AL and NL All Star rosters. Shane Victorino and Brandon Inge.
Now, Shane Victorino did all that he could over the course of the time limit for the final vote, including a walk off, some very good stats, and a continued season of full out effort. He worked for it, deserved it, and is going to St. Louis to join some of his teammates in the NL’s attempt to win the All Star game for the first time in… I don’t know how long but the AL wins it almost every year. So this pick satisfies me and I have no further comment on the NL final man. Now the AL final vote pick has me thinking.
Brandon Inge, the third baseman from the Detroit Tigers. He’s having a good season, don’t get me wrong. But out of the guys that were available in the final vote, I don’t see how so many people picked Inge. He isn’t one of those hugely popular guys who can just count on his popularity to get picked. He isn’t that kind of guy. Kinsler on the other hand, has a following, is having a better season than Dustin Pedroia. He should have at least been a backup for the second base position. Now that he is going to be absent for this midsummer classic, it will feel like there is something important missing. Almost like missing an arm or a leg. Also, another guy that I feel got snubbed was Alexei Ramirez, the White Sox shortstop. He started off the season slow, but come May, he turned it on and has been having a STELLAR season. Now, there is some tough competition at the shortstop position this year (Jeter, Bartlett) and I can see how he didn’t get in. But I thought he could have maybe gotten in anyway. He’s having a good enough season so if he got in, there would be no question from me about him deserving the spot.
Well, that’s all I can say about this. I’m kind of all thought out. ‘Til next time…
The All Star teams were announced Sunday and I was pumped to see a bunch of my favorite players make the teams. Jay-Bay, Big Tex, Tim “the Kid” Lincecum, Curtis “How Grand He is” Granderson. They all made the team and I am pumped for the game and the entire All Star weekend. It’s going to rock.
So now, with most of the spots filled, there are the final votes to think about to see who will make the final spot on the AL and NL rosters. In the AL, Ian Kinsler, Chone Figgins, Brandon Inge, Carlos Pena, and Adam Lind make up the final vote list. In the NL, Pablo Sandoval, Shane Victorino, Cristian Guzman, Matt Kemp, and Mark Reynolds line up in hope of having their All Star dreams come true. All deserving, all willing, and all worthy choices of these two spots. But only one can be picked and everyone has their own opinions on who should be in St. Louis for the game. I believe my picks are solid and I can back them up. Some may not agree with them but some will. It all depends on your point of perspective. Here’s mine.
The first thing voters have to think of when they make their votes for the entire rosters in general is how they think the game should be played. Should it be played to win or should it be played with just the top players in each league. If you think the game is to be won, you might alter your picks to make sure there is more versatility on each roster. In the AL, instead of picking Ian Kinsler, who is having a STELLAR season, you may pick Chone Figgins who can play a few different positions. He can be moved around for a switch when you need to pinch hit for a pitcher. Since the game is being played in the National League, this is a very important aspect of the game, assuming you are playing to win the game. Now, if you take the “the best players should play” route, then Ian Kinsler and Carlos Pena would most likely be at the top of most peoples’ list. They have the best stats of the five players in the AL and they are the most worthy of the spot. But again, it all depends on how you look at the game.
On the NL side, you might pick an outfielder for the final vote, Shane Victorino or Matt Kemp for instance. The outfield is the most versatile position for the All Star game and outfielders can generally move around from each of the three positions. On the other hand, if you look at who deserves it the most, Victorino and Kemp would be up there, and Pablo Sandoval would be up there. Among the five, those three have the best stats. The same for the AL goes for the NL. It all depends on how you look at the game.
Personally, the way I look at it is this… the best players should make it, regardless of their versatility. I mean, yeah some guys that deserve it more than others aren’t going to make it because there is no spot for their position on the roster left. They might not be the best at their position and they won’t make the team. Say an outfielder makes the team because there are more outfield spots on the roster than second baseman. But say the second baseman is having a better season than the outfielder. Tough break. He’s not going to make the team. That is going to happen sometimes. But the best players at the positions available should make the team. That is the whole concept of the All Star Game. All Stars are the best in the game. They are meant to be honored at the All Star game as the best of the best. Not the guys who will help the team win. That rule was only recently appointed anyway. Back in the day when the All Star game was first started, the rosters were made up of those who were the best in the league. Now that the game counts, people take on a different perspective that I think ruins the voting process. All Stars are All Stars… that’s so simple.
The two guys I would pick would be Kinsler and Victorino. Now, Kinsler doesn’t give you much versatility. Big deal. He is having a better season than the starting second baseman, Dustin Pedroia, but might not even get in because of his lack of versatility. Victorino on the other hand is an outfielder and is more valuable as a versatile tool than maybe the other guys. Sandoval is also very versatile, able to play at the catcher, third base, and first base positions. It doesn’t get much more versatile than that. And Kemp is an oufielder too. But out of the three, I think Victorino is the best and is having the best season. In this case, it all comes down to who you think is having a better season. If the player is having a good season and is also versatile, than you have a great player and an easy pick. It’s pretty simple.
Now, those are my thoughts on how the All Star voting process should go. I’m sure there are many of you out there who disagree with my whole point of view, but I really don’t care. My final thought… All Stars are All Stars.
This past off-season was highlighted with the Yankees’ shopping spree in which they signed three of the top free agents on the market; Sabathia, Burnett and Teixeira. But among all the noise that the Yankees were making, the defending champion Phillies were making their own moves, including one to bring former Seattle Mariners’ outfielder Raul Ibanez to Philly. Now, Ibanez has been very good over the last few seasons of his career. When the Phillies signed him, they were hoping he would be a good replacement for Pat Burrell, who left to the Rays as a free agent. Ibanez has proven to be more than a good replacement. He is the Phillies’ top offensive player so far this season. Here are some of his stats:
- .312 batting average
- 22 jacks
- 59 RBI
- .656 slugging percentage
- 164 total bases
This guy is just tearing it up. Now, a strained groin has him on the 15 day DL. What a kick in the groin. Ibanez’s STELLAR season so far is going to have to go on hold for a little bit. And the Phils… they lose their top offensive production. Not that they don’t have any more (Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino), but this loss is a huge misfortune for the Phitting Phils.
Being the defending world champs, they have had a lot on their shoulders, as has any other defending champion team. They have pretty much lived up to their expectations of having another good season. But this loss might end up being fatal to their championship run. With the tough NL East, the Phils will definitely have their hands full.
Ibanez was on pace to easily be in the running for MVP. Others in the NL that could make a run for it this season may be Albert Pujols, his teammate Chase Utley, David Wright and Brad Hawpe (I know a lot of you don’t know him but he’s having a really good season for Colorado).
The strained groin might keep him out for the All Star game, which he has the most votes for among NL outfielders. He is just having a great season and this injury may have ruined it. Hopefully for the Phils, he can heal quickly and they can get him back in time to continue their run for the playoffs.