What the Dodgers need to do in order to advance to the World Series.
The Phillies have two pitchers in the top 30 in the majors in K/9. Both Hamels and Myers average almost 8 strikeouts per nine innings. Jamie Moyer averages 5.64 K/9. Blanton averages a shade over 5. If the Dodgers are going to beat the Phillies, they are going to have to overcome Philly’s pitching, which has miraculously morphed from a weakenss to a strength seemingly overnight. Specifically, they’ll have to:
- Hit home runs off Brett Myers. During the first half of the season, Myers gave up 24 homers in 101 innings. After a brief minor league tour he returned and only gave up five home runs in 88 innings. Myers’ second half resurrection had everything to do with his ability to keep the ball in the park. The Dodgers need to swing for the fences.
- Make the Phils’ starters throw pitches. That’s how the Brewers beat Jamie Moyer in Game 3. I’m not sure if playoff strike zones are smaller, but it sure seemed that way to Moyer on Saturday. If the Dodgers can get to the Philadelphia bullpen early, they’re golden. The Phils’ bullpen was solid all season, but showed signs of fatigue down the stretch. Chad Durbin and Brad Lidge are running on fumes. Lidge, in particular, is building towards his own Mitch Williams moment.
- Don’t pitch to Utley. He’s so due.
- Start Clayton Kershaw. He’d be murder on the Phils’ lefty bats.
- Don’t play Juan Pierre. Ever. Not even a little.
What the Phillies need to do in order to advance to the World Series.
This should be a tough series for the Phillies. While the Phillies have a better offense on paper, the Dodgers have good starters, a good bullpen, and play solid defense, being much better than the Brewers in all of those categories.
People are saying that the Phillies should not be afraid of Manny Ramirez, and I agree. Although Manny has been a monster with the Dodgers these past two months, the Phillies have actually managed to contain him this year, holding him to a .212 average with a .333 slugging percentage and two extra-base hits and five RBIs in 10 games against them this season. The Phillies say they have a game plan for Manny, and they should stick to it, even if Manny gets a big hit early in the series. Because the Dodgers have enough good hitters to make you pay if you pitch around Manny too much - guys like Ethier, Martin, and James Loney.
Actually the Phillies would be well-advised to pound the strike zone in general against the Dodgers. With the glaring exception of Matt Kemp, who set a Dodgers team record for strikeouts this year, the Dodgers lineup is surprisingly full of patient hitters who are willing to take a walk rather than get themselves out. In addition to Manny, Rafael Furcal, Russell Martin, Andre Ethier, and Blake DeWitt all have above average command of the strike zone, as they showed in burying Ryan Dempster with 7 walks in game one of the NLDS, so the Phillies should avoid pitching too fine against these guys (Although by all means, extend the strike zone against Matt Kemp).
Finally, the Phillies need to play with confidence that they are the better team. The Dodgers’ top three starters are all groundball pitchers, which seems like a good combo to limit the home run power of the Phillies lineup, so it may be tempting for to try to mix it up and go with some small ball and try to “make things happen” to get something going against worm killers Lowe, Billingsley, and Kuroda, but this would be a mistake. As hot as the Dodgers have been since Manny arrived, going 30-25 since the trade, the Phillies were much better, going 34-21 against better competition. The Dodgers searched all year for a power bat until they finally found Manny, who hit 17 homers for them down the stretch, but the Phillies have Ryan Howard, who hit 18 homers in that same span, not to mention Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Pat Burrell, and Jayson Werth. The Dodgers may have a slight edge in starting pitching, but the Phillies would seem to have a huge edge in power hitting, which should give their pitchers some room for maneuver. The secret to the Phillies beating the Dodgers is recognizing that their is no secret and sticking to their game. Trickery is for teams that are not as good and need to find an edge. The Phillies are the better team, so they should stay within themselves and make the Dodgers adjust to them.