The Dodgers Vs. the Phillies in the NLCS: Fuss Over Bullpens Is Bull****

October 15, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

I wouldn’t want to be a Los Angeles Dodger fan for a variety of reasons, mainly because I’ve lived in San Francisco or its suburbs for most of the last 22 years. As such, I’m a die-hard fan of the Giants and I loathe the Bums.

At this particular moment, however, I wouldn’t want to follow the beautiful Dodger blue for one, specific reason: the national media is setting them up for a fall. They’re being sacrificed at the altar of commerce and wishful thinking is taking the place of objective analysis to do the job.

Or maybe a bunch of Dodger fans have managed to force themselves into jobs as writers for FOX Sports and ESPN.

Either way, LA has become the darling of the national media and the Philadelphia Phillies must be a little peeved at the moment, but I’ll get to that in a second. First, let’s state the obvious.

Only a fool can deny the most lucrative World Series matchup would pit the Dodgers against the New York Yankees.

The markets are basically a wash since Philadelphia makes up in passion what it lacks in relative size and the Angels have somehow managed to convince the rest of the baseball world that Anaheim is really Los Angeles. Nevertheless, executive mouths must be drooling with particular anticipation over the specter of New York versus the only Major League Baseball team actually in LA.

Even I can see the allure in watching Joe Torre lead his suddenly chic California club back to the Big Apple for a showdown against the Bombers.

Nor would that be the only juicy sideshow—you’d have Manny Ramirez reprising his role as a Yankee Killer in a new uniform in addition to a nostalgic focus on the Bums’ Brooklyn roots and the revival of a one-time borough rivalry.

I understand why the networks and their mouthpieces would be rooting for los Doyers to take care of business against the Phils. I don’t even blame them for it; such is the nature of the beast.


Do NOT try to sell me on picking the Dodgers to beat the Phillies by virtue of cold, hard baseball analysis. At least not after the stuff I’ve been reading.

Understand, I’m not saying Philly will emerge victorious and LA will lose.

The team from SoCal is playing some of the best baseball I’ve seen from them all year, the bullpen is undeniably humming along, and the starting pitching has answered the bell better than anyone outside of Chavez Ravine could’ve imagined.

Meanwhile, the Phightin’s have experienced a couple bumps in the road.

Nah, the Bums have definitely looked like the better team thus far in the playoffs. That makes them the popular and convenient favorite at the moment, given the circumstances.

Don’t believe Los Angeles is the media favorite?

Just read between the lines from ESPN’s Eric Neel.

Perhaps you’d prefer FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi singing the praises of Torre, the Dodgers, and the tantalizing confrontation with New York. How about his colleague Dayn Perry, who says the starting pitching actually FAVORS the Dodgers? If a different FOX voice is more to your liking, try Mark Kriegel trotting out the party line about the ‘pen and improved youth.

I don’t say it too often, but thank the Maker for Ken Rosenthal and a sprinkling of restraint.

Again, I am NOT saying the Los Angeles Dodgers will lose the NLCS. I’m clearly rooting for that to happen and I think it will happen, but I have no crystal ball.

What I AM saying is that there is zero reason to buy the almost universal lines of tripe supporting the groundswell behind the Bums.

The movement, as far as I can tell, is based on two principles—that the firemen in the ‘pen and the extra year of experience on young talent give the Dodgers an insurmountable edge. Depending on who you ask, you’ll also hear Torre’s managerial savvy mentioned.

Mainly, though, it’s about the glittering array of arms available to the Bums in relief of their starters. Got that? The reason for all the faith in LA is the bullpen.

My apartment building has a rickety old elevator to service five floors. It lurches and protests on the way up to the top, it’s even broken down on occasion, but nothing catastrophic has ever happened because of it (to my knowledge).

Of course, that doesn’t stop me from holding my breath every time I get in it.

A Major League bullpen is precisely like that elevator. No matter how well it’s performed in the past—and the Dodger bullpen has been INCREDIBLE—the collective is always one bad day away from being a fatal liability.

The Phillies’ embattled closer, Brad Lidge, is a perfect microcosm for professional relief corps in general.

The dude was virtually unhittable for the Houston Astros and on his way to being one of the nastiest door-slammers in the business. Then, Albert Pujols crushed a devastating bomb off him in the 2005 playoffs and it took two years plus a change of scenery for Lidge to totally recompose himself.

Like flipping a switch, the closer became filthy again and was perfect for Philadelphia on the way to the 2008 ring. Then he flipped again and was suddenly abysmal in 2009—putting together arguably the worst season for a key reliever in the history of the game.

Until Brad Lidge saved two of the three wins in the NL Division Series against the Colorado Rockies—one of the hottest teams in baseball with a stout offense and a penchant for comebacks.

There is no doubt that Lidge is an extreme example, but not as extreme as he seems. Jonathan Papelbon and Joe Nathan—two of the three most calm-inspiring closers in the game—burst into flame without warning during the Division Series this year.

The comparative strength of the bullpens certainly favors the Dodgers and by a very wide margin, but it’s the most volatile element in the game. Hitting, defense, and starting pitching can all cool off and reverse course, but they don’t usually abandon you like bullpens routinely do.

Now, we’re all supposed to hop aboard a bandwagon in the postseason because of one? An over-worked group? Against the defending World Series champions? Against a team powered by blood-thirsty and/or clutch hitters like Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Raul Ibanez, Jayson Werth, and Shane Victorino (if you don’t think he deserves mention, see: Sabathia, CC)?

I don’t think so.

Not without due respect paid to the developments on Philadelphia’s side.

Cole Hamels has been struggling in 2009, but he’s dominated the Bums over his career—4 GS, 30 IP, 2-0, 1.50 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 26 K, 3 BB (2 intentional), 1 CG, 1 SHO, .208 BAA, and .531 OPSA. Those are just his regular-season numbers against the organization.

In the playoffs against the Dodgers last year, the lefty went 2-0 in two starts covering 14 innings. He whiffed 13 batters and suffered only 16 baserunners (11 hits, five walks) with three crossing the plate. Those ratios work out to a 1.93 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP against basically the same lineup.

Oh, and his wife just had their first child.

Think that dose of perspective might help settle him down? I’d say it’s pretty reasonable to argue having wife and son home, safe, and healthy will do wonders to smooth out the rough edges in Hamels’ recent performances.

What about the confidence and experience garnered by the Phillies from last year’s successful trip to the World Series?

Yes, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, James Loney, Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Russell Martin, and the rest of the young studs hailing from Dodger Stadium should theoretically benefit from another layer of experience.

So should the Phillies since theirs is more extensive.

We’ve already seen the experience manifested as confidence manifested as resilience in the rally against the Rockies during the clinching Division Series game. It’s been on display for the Dodgers, too—I’m arguing BOTH should be acknowledged.

Finally, the gents from Philly should benefit from the scintillating Cliff Lee—another stifling southpaw to make things anxious for Ethier, the Dodgers’ best splinter in ’09. The 2008 American League Cy Young has been doing his best to supplant Hamels as the Phils’ most dominant postseason starter.

Ultimately, the Philadelphia Phillies are the defending World Series Champions.

They return basically the same team that dispatched the Los Angeles Dodgers last year—minus Pat Burrell, but plus Ibanez and Lee. They have two Most Valuable Players, a Cy Young winner, a World Series/NLCS MVP, and arguably the best second baseman in Major League Baseball.

In other words, there is a lot to like from the view out Philadelphia’s window.

Yet most in the national media seem to be ignoring them in favor of Joe Torre, the promise of intriguing story lines, and a mighty bullpen. Yikes.

And don’t think a proud, classy bunch like the Phillies haven’t noticed.

Which could mean bad news for Dodger fans.

What a tragedy…



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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

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