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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.