NLCS Coverage: The World Series Returns to Philly

The Philadelphia Phillies are headed back to the World Series. On Wednesday night, the Phillies clinched the National League Championship Series (NLCS) title with a 10-4 drubbing of the National League West’s best club. The reigning world champions defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games.

The Dodgers pitching staff was unable to contain what is, arguably, the most potent offense in the National League, which was described in last night’s broadcast as an “American League offense playing in the National League.” On the flip side, Los Angeles struggled to score runs.

Offensive MVP: Ryan Howard
The National League Division Series MVP (according to Fangraphs) repeats as the NLCS champion. In the series, Howard posted WPAs of: .154, .156, .155, .098, and .025 with five runs scored and eight RBI.

Honorable Mention: Shane Victorino
Quiet for the first two games of the series, the Flyin’ Hawaiian posted WPAs of .040, .170, and .086 through the last three games. He scored four runs and drove in six during that three-game span.

Pitching MVP: Cliff Lee
The momentum in the series came dangerously close to shifting after Hamels struggled in Game 1 and then LA came through with a late-game win in Game 2. Lee, though, slammed the door on the LA club with eight shutout innings in Game 3. Other pitchers worth praising for their contributions in the series include Pedro Martinez, Chad Durbin and Brad Lidge.

Let’s break down the series a little more.

What Philly Did Poorly:
Cole Hamels, who is supposed to be Philly’s best pitcher, has looked very ordinary in the post-season. He’s not going to have much luck against New York (assuming that will be the match-up) by throwing 80% fastballs.

It’s nitpicking, but the bench didn’t get much work in the NLCS and they might be called on during some key moments in the World Series.

What LA Did Poorly:
Why did Ronnie Belliard get every start at second base during the playoffs? As Dave Cameron wrote weeks ago, Orlando Hudson is the far superior hitter and fielder – even when he’s not 100% healthy. The feeling was that Belliard has more pop in his bat, thanks to a small-sample size performance after coming to LA… But he failed to get an extra-base hit in the entire post-season. Ironically, Hudson hit a pinch-hit homer in Game 5. And why did Jim Thome only have two at-bats in the NLCS?

I questioned the decision to start Padilla in Game 5… and he looked terrible. In the first inning, 22 of his 23 pitches were fastballs, according to Gameday. Against the Phillies lineup?! The Hiroki Kuroda start was yet another gamble that Torre lost.

As a whole, LA’s veteran hitters were pretty well neutered in the series. Rafael Furcal hit .143, Casey Blake hit .105, Manny Ramirez hit .263 with one extra base hit.

What Philly Did Well:
The pitching staff was able to contain Manny Ramirez, who had his quietest post-season since 1999 with Cleveland. In eight games, Ramirez drove in just four runs and showed little fire (especially compared to the 2007 and 2008 post-seasons).

The offense scored 35 runs in five games. Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, and Carlos Ruiz were red-hot in the NLCS. Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Jayson Werth were not as consistent, but they all had key hits in the series.

Closer Brad Lidge put a bad regular season behind him and did not allow a run against LA in three games (2.2 innings). He’s 3-for-3 in save opportunities and he’s allowed just one hit in four innings throughout the playoffs.

Cliff Lee was the dominating starter that every team needs to roll through the playoffs. In 24.1 playoff innings (the first post-season of his career), Lee has allowed just 14 hits and three walks. It’s really difficult to give up a big inning if you don’t have men on base.

What LA Did Well:
On offense, Andre Ethier showed why he is one of the best young hitters in the National League – although he hit better in the NLDS than he did in the NLCS. James Loney also had a nice NLCS series.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

18 Responses to “NLCS Coverage: The World Series Returns to Philly”

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  1. rolo says:

    Another aspect in the “LA did poorly” section would be around base on balls, I don’t have the numbers in front of me but they gave out way too many walks to Phils hitters. This seemed true for both startes and the bull pen.

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  2. Richie Abernathy says:

    “(Ramirez) …showed little fire.” I hope you’re not alluding to some mystical, emotional trait by exemplified by David Eckstein because this ain’t football and Manny has the same facial expression when he hits a bomb as when he strikes out. If you’re saying he didn’t hit so well as we have become accustomed to, then I would agree with that.

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    • Knox says:

      I inferred from that sentence that the word choice of “fire” was more a ‘result’ oriented description as opposed to an emotional state of being. Supporting my view that “fire” was intended to describe Manny’s results is that I didn’t see any difference in Manny’s personality over the last three years and the writer is explicitly comparing 2009 to 2008,2007. So to summarize, when I read that sentence I thought I could replace the word ‘power’ for ‘fire’ and get to the sameplace the author intended.

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  3. Chris says:

    Thank God the Phillies made it. They are the only NL team with a modicum of a chance against the Yanks. They gotta keep hitting and somehow find a way to keep the Yanks in the park. Should be a great, high scoring series.

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  4. Bob R. says:

    “I questioned the decision to start Padilla in Game 5… and he looked terrible. In the first inning, 22 of his 23 pitches were fastballs, according to Gameday. Against the Phillies lineup?! The Hiroki Kuroda start was yet another gamble that Torre lost.”
    This is true as far as it goes. But if we are questioning Torre’s decisions to start Padilla twice and Kuroda once, what alternatives were better? Kershaw was lousy in his start and ineffective again in relief. Billingsley continued his late season slide showing little when he did pitch. Who else could Torre have selected? It does not appear that his two best pitchers were going to be effective.

    I suppose we might speculate that given an opportunity to start they would have performed better, but that is an awful shaky assumption on which to base a critique. I do not see how, given the mediocre to poor performances of all the starters on LA, that any choices would have clearly been better.

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    • Wally says:

      Bob, I find it rather disingenuous to only use the NLCS data to determine which pitchers would have been best suited to start. While its true Kershaw and Billinglsey did not impress, they were both forced to pitch out of the bullpen Kershaw for 2 of his total 6 2/3 IP, where he gave up 2 runs), something neither of them is used to. Second, why only look at the roughly 3, 6 and 10 IP samples from Billinglsey, Kershaw and Padilla to make a comparison? Kershaw had a 3.08 FIP this year, and Padilla had a 4.45 FIP. If we swapped Kershaw for Padilla in that 4 IP difference between them, we would expect him to preform better than Padilla. And even if we just look at Billingsley’s second half FIP, he does better than Padilla over the entire season with a 4.28. And all this ignores the platoon splits. Padilla is horrific against left handed batters with an .837 OPS against. Billingsley has a .712, and Kershaw a .486. Plus, you also set up a false choice. Wolf was yet another pitcher that could have been used twice instead of once.

      Giving so many innings to Padilla was a mistake. He succeeded in one game, but pretty much completely lost another game all by himself. And just looking at what the players did in the rolls they were assigned does not tell us what would have happened had things been different. But I’m going to say that it most likely things would have been better for the dodgers if the better pitchers had thrown more innings.

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  5. Calculator says:

    My impression was that the Phils were unnecessarily ginger with Belliard especially when he was hitting in front of Ethier and he worked some counts and got on base a bit. But, I looked at the numbers and he only got on base at like a .280 clip, sooo I guess I was wrong. I don’t recall his defense really costing them anything, though.

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    • Wally says:

      Not that it would have really changed much, but he botch a double play by first acting like he was going to flip it to Furcal but then deciding to take it himself. At that however, Furcal was in the way. It didn’t end up costing a run (if I remember right), but it was an out you didn’t get, meaning the pitcher is going to have to work harder and it just gets the big bats up faster.

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  6. phanatic says:

    why does no one attribute the fact that manny can’t hit the inside fastball due to age and lack of perform enhancers.

    i’m well aware of the studies showing performance enhancers show negligible effects on performance, but i firmly believe that manny’s age is all of a sudden catching up with him due to his drug bust earlier this year.

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    • phanatic says:

      i should say “due in part” clearly age could have caught up with him regardless if he was still cheating. i just don’t think it is a coincidence.

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  7. Joe R says:

    Has no one made reference to that fact that Torre gets paid 4x the league average to manage a ballclub, and for this money, he benches Orlando Hudson for Ronnie Belliard and puts a pitcher who’s been historically bad in his career vs. lefties against the Phillies lineup based on a miniscule snapshot of games relative to his career numbers?

    I miss Torre and his occasionally mind boggling decisions. Now Red Sox fans have to watch a sane, rational man in Joe Girardi operate, who doesn’t insert Chad Gaudin into the starting rotation in the postseason because of going 1-0 with a 3.71 ERA in September.

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    • Joe R says:

      and I take this back, I obviously missed out on Girardi’s pinch running stunt.

      I was out, I have an excuse.

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