No, this format of comparing two teams is not some original blow-your-mind type concept, but it will do. Position by position analysis, mild analysis, but it is something.
1B Advantage: Toss-Up
Ryan Howard is a big time bat, but Pena had the better year each of the last two seasons. Howard may be the most overrated player in baseball at this point. Good, but overrated. Pena’s defense is superior, and as a hitter, in what is most likely the best division in baseball….in a very long time, Pena actually performed better, overall. One reason that Howard hits so many homers is because A) He is good B) He is playing in a park that benefits his power numbers. Granted, this matchup is very close, and either one could come through, but just bring in the lefties and both should be under control in the late innings.
2B Advantage: Phillies by a large margin
Chase Utley is the best second baseman in the game of baseball. Utley may end up going down as one of the better ones to ever play if he keeps this up. A very good defender, and a great hitting second baseman. Iwamura is decent. An ok hitter, with a solid glove, they say. But this matchup is very favorable to the Phillies.
3B Advantage: Rays by a large margin
Evan Longoria is already showing the league why the Rays gave him that extension early in the season. Talent galore. Solid defender, and already a very good hitter. Superstar shall come easy if he wants it to. If Feliz plays all the time, then there is a true void in this lineup. I don’t know, maybe he has some great Series, but as great as his glove is, he is that bad with the bat at this point.
SS Advantage: Phillies
Jimmy Rollins is a good, all around SS. Jason Bartlett is good defensively, but can’t hit much. I prefer that guy that can do well on both sides of the ball, even though Rollins wasn’t exactly dominant at the plate this season.
C Advantage: Rays
No, I cannot quantify what either does behind the plate. But Carlos Ruiz is a liability when standing at the plate, while Dioner Navarro is not. Navarro wasn’t as good as he was early in the year, but he is a better hitter than Ruiz, by far. Another black hole in the Phillies lineup.
LF Advantage: Phillies
Pat Burrell works the count, draws walks, and hits for power. Carl Crawford hits for average, plays defense and steals bases. I will take the patient hitter who can do real damage. Crawford is a nice player at this point, but Burrell is a bat that belongs in the middle of a good lineup.
CF Advantage: Rays
Shane Victorino is a nice complementary player. I suggested he be moved down in the lineup earlier in the year, and I think I might stand behind that even though he turned it on after he read my blog. But he is definitely worthy of a starting job, and is an entertaining player to watch. But BJ Upton has the real talent of the two. Upton turned it on in the postseason, and even though I think I dislike the way he plays the game, we cannot deny the talent that he has. If one of these guys is going to go off, I think I like Upton’s chances a little more.
RF Advantage: Phillies
If Rocco Baldelli were actually Joe Dimaggio, then the Rays would have won 106 games or so. But Baldelli has been sidelined his entire career it seems. If it’s Gross or whoever else out there it really doesn’t change it. I think Baldelli is the most talented option, definitely, but I will take Werth because he is more of a known quantity at this point.
SP Advantage: Rays
James Shields, Matt Garza, Scott Kazmir, Andy Sonnanstine, Edwin Jackson. All 26 or younger, and all about average, and three are well better than that. Jackson is only a bullpen option at this point, but the other four that are going to pitch are all solid. The Phillies really only have one pitcher I would be very confident in, and that of course would be Cole Hamels. Hamels may be slightly better than any one starter on the Rays, slightly. But the Rays have three guys that are significantly better than any of the Phillies other starters. Jamie Moyer overachieved and seems to have run out of gas. Brett Myers is ok. Joe Blanton is ok. And the Rays lineup has the ability to work the count and get some of these guys out of there. And that same lineup has the ability to knock the 2-3-4 starters out simply because they should be able to hit them. But it is a short series, so who knows?
Bullpen Advantage: Phillies
If Joe Maddon uses David Price as much as he can, then I think this is closer. Price could be used like Papelbon was in 05.’ And I understand a manager’s hesitance in using a 23 year old pitcher who has been in the majors for a very short amount of time, in crucial situations. But Price is nearly unhittable right now, and if used properly, he could pitch multiple innings against a lineup that has two good left-handed hitters. But overall, the depth of the Phillies pen is greater, and they have a set up man and closer who have been pitching very well all year.
I think the Rays are a far stronger team, but then again I thought the 06′ Tigers would roll over their competition too. The Phillies lineup is top heavy, while the Rays have guys up and down the lineup who are at least capable of swinging the bat, outside of Bartlett who isn’t exactly a difficult batter to retire. Cole Hamels will probably have to win both his starts if the Phillies even want to take this seven games. But the problem with that is, as good as Hamels is, he will be opposed by a good starter on the other side. Defensively, the Rays are better. Offensively, the Rays are a little better. The starting pitching of the Rays is better. The Phillies DO have the better bullpen, but I like the Rays if they have the advantage in those other areas. But after all, this is just a prediction, and doesn’t hold much water.
RAYS IN 6