Fond memories: NLDS Preview
I won’t bore you with a narrative as I did with the NLDS preview. Just the facts, ma’am.
This is a quick and easy look at how the teams compare with their key position players — excepting the catcher — in terms of hitting, fielding, and base running. The batting and fielding metrics are in terms of runs as per FanGraphs, and the running metric is EQBRR from Baseball Prospectus.
Here’s the same table, only with the advantages denoted by x’s for your convenience.
It’s very evenly matched in terms of individual match-ups, but on the whole, the Phillies are a significantly better hitting, fielding, and running team.
If I had told you that, in 2009, Carlos Ruiz would have been superior to Russell Martin in terms of offensive production, you would have looked at me like I was from Neptune. You would have taken me in for psychiatric evaluation. And yet, Ruiz did out-perform Martin offensively, .337 to .307 in terms of wOBA.
The success has continued in the post-season. Ruiz went 3-for-9 with three singles, two walks, and three RBI in the NLDS against the Rockies. Martin, meanwhile, went 1-for-9 with a single, three walks, and only one RBI against the Cardinals.
Defensively, Martin appears to be slightly ahead of Ruiz in terms of throwing out base-stealers. Martin has thrown out just over 25% while Ruiz has nailed about 20% according to The Hardball Times. Bill James Online also gives Martin the edge in terms of range factor. Perhaps more importantly, however, Ruiz is the best among all qualified catchers in the Majors at blocking balls in the dirt, averaging about one passed ball or wild pitch every five games; Martin averages one PB or WP every two games and was the worst among qualified catchers in this department.
Update: Clayton Kershaw will start Game One for the Dodgers.
Generally speaking, the Dodgers have an advantage over the Phillies in this area. Wolf, Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, and Vicente Padilla have all pitched well for the Dodgers this season. On the other hand, the Phillies can really only hang their hat on the pitching arm of Cliff Lee, who likely won’t start until Game Three. Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton have had Jekyll and Hyde seasons, J.A. Happ didn’t look sharp in his Game 3 start in Colorado, and no one knows what can be gotten out of Pedro Martinez.
Phillies starters had a 4.29 ERA and opponents hit for a .781 OPS during the regular season. Dodgers starters had an impressive 3.58 ERA and .684 opponent OPS. The good news is that while Dodgers starters strike out more hitters, they also walk more — 3.45 per nine innings to the Phillies’ 2.48. We learned in the NLDS in Colorado just how important working the count and drawing walks can be.
Despite Brad Lidge not blowing either of his post-season save opportunities, it’s a fairly easy call to give the Dodgers a vast edge in the bullpen area. It’s a far cry from last year, when both teams matched up rather evenly, and the Dodgers’ pen had to answer to Shane Victorino and Matt Stairs.
Here’s a comparison of the team’s relievers, using WXRL from Baseball Prospectus.
Some of the names may change as teams can change their rosters between the NLDS and NLCS. For instance, Antonio Bastardo may be left off in favor of Chan Ho Park, if he is healthy enough.
At any rate, the statistics bear out what we already knew: the Dodgers have a good bullpen. To make things worse, check out their lefty specialists:
- George Sherrill: LH batters have a .342 OPS
- Hong-Chih Kuo: .524 OPS
Fortunately, Jayson Werth has been hitting well, so Charlie Manuel will have no issue using him to split up Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez in the lineup.
Speaking of splits…
Unfortunately for the Phillies, the Dodgers handle left-handed pitchers well. During the regular season, they hit for a .786 OPS against left-handers as opposed to .748 against right-handers. The Phillies are equal opportunists, with a much more even split of .787 against lefties and .779 against righties. Specifically:
- Dodgers LH batters vs. LH pitchers: .664 OPS
- Dodgers LH batters vs. RH pitchers: .849
- Dodgers RH batters vs. RH pitchers: .742
- Dodgers RH batters vs. LH pitchers: .755
- Phillies LH batters vs. LH pitchers: .793 OPS
- Phillies LH batters vs. RH pitchers: .783
- Phillies RH batters vs. RH pitchers: .717
- Phillies RH batters vs. LH pitchers: .814
Manny Ramirez, Ronnie Belliard, Casey Blake, and Matt Kemp all have a .780 OPS or better against lefties. Belliard’s production, of course, is in a small sample, but it holds up as his career OPS against LHP is 100 points higher than against RHP.
- Offense: Advantage Phillies
- Fielding: Advantage Phillies
- Base running: Advantage Phillies
- Starting pitching: Advantage Dodgers
- Relief pitching: Advantage Dodgers
Once we know who will definitely start, we’ll go over some “scouting reports”. For now, hopefully you have a better idea as to where the teams stand heading into the NLCS.