Hard to believe that we haven't played our nemesis yet. Maybe a good thing as the Phillies we are about to play are not the Phillies who worked us over the last two NLCS.
These Phillies are paying the price in 2010 for those injury free NLCS years. Some teams have injuries but the Phillies have injuries. At one time this year every single member of the infield has missed significant time. Even the tree trunk, Ryan Howard went down. Without Howard and Utley, they will be trying to win a playoff berth without all cylinders. From what I understand both players should be back by the end of August. The best prospect in the minor leagues was promoted several weeks ago but instead of wowing, he's shown that he's still a work in progress. A DaVinci for sure, but one's whose canvas still needs some fine tuning.
Since we haven't seen this team since last October:
Notable Losses: Cliff Lee, Stairs
Notable Additions: Polanco, Oswalt, Dominic Brown
Old Friends: Wilson Valdez, Werth, Baez
On The DL : Howard, Utley, Victorino, Moyer
1st Base- Ryan Howard went down, so Ross Gload / Mike Sweeney are now holding down the gig. They are a far cry from Howard, just as Podboy is a far cry from Manny. On the plus side for them is that Sweeney can mash LHP so they don't have the weak spot when a lefty is pitching that they used to. On the down side, Sweeney could just as easily hurt himself waking up leaving them with only Gload.
2nd Base - Hard to believe but old friend Wilson Valdez is the starting 2nd baseman while they wait for the Utley. Valdez is your basic AAAA utility infielder starting at 2nd base. While we lament the fact our lineup has the likes of Podboy, Ausmus, Carroll, and Theriot, the Phillie fans will not be very interested in our whining watching Valdez man 2nd base.
SS - Jimmy Rollins missed a bunch of games, and other then taking a walk at a career clip is not doing much else. He's almost doubled his walk rate to 12% but has zippo power, so basically he's become Jamey Carroll. Rollins hasn't had a slug% below .400 since he was 23 and if he doesn't improve, his .379 slug% will be the lowest of his career.
3rd Base - While all the other infield positions have been a downgrade since we last saw them, 3rd base has been an upgrade with Polanco. Not that Polanco is anything special, that was how bad Feliz was. Polanco is carrying a nifty .350 OBP but it is all batting average driven as the man simply doesn't walk (4%). He's carried that plus .300 average long enough that we know he can hit.
Catcher - Ruiz used to be only a Dodger killer but he's now doing damage to everyone as he built upon his solid 2009 season. His .360 wOBA and .824 OPS puts him among the top five NL catchers. Interesting how he's become a solid offensive contributor starting at the age of 30, after several years of offensive futility.
CF - Shane Victorino is another Phillie missing in action but he'll be returning sooner then the other disabled players, but not in time to face the Dodgers. Jayson Werth has moved from RF to CF during Victorino's absence so they are better off offensively in CF before the Victorino injury. Problem is the huge drop off in RF with Werth playing CF. Werth has picked a great year to have his best year. Werth was the talk of much trade speculation but they must be thrilled they did not pull that trigger. He simply keeps getting better and better and this will probably be his peak season. With a .923 OPS, along with his gaudy .396 wOBA Werth is simply one of the best players in the NL.
LF - Raul Ibanez was struggling headed into June, but in July/August he's on fire, with a 1.076 OPS since the All-Star break. I guess that fork they tried to stick into him in June, broke.
RF - Luckily for the Phillies they had behemoth Dominic Brown tearing up the minor leagues when Victorino went down, but for now, he's not living upto the hype. From Baseballhq.com
At 6'5" 200 pounds, he's tall, strong, and extremely athletic. Brown has all five tools in his arsenal. He's a natural hitter who battles left-handers and right-handers equally well. He's improved his ability to recognize pitches and can use the entire field. The question coming into the season was how much power he would develop - he has already established a career high in HR. His bat speed, strength, and backspin project to plus power. Not only does he hit well, but he has excellent speed. Brown likely won't steal many bases, but he is a solid baserunner and fine defender. He could use some polish with his routes and jumps, but his arm is well above average and he should become a terrific defender in time. Brown is a career .296/.373/.464 hitter in the minors.
In time he will probably be the monster they expect him to be but for now Ben Francisco looks like he's poaching some at bats. Francisco is a nice fourth outfielder to have hanging around and would probably make a great platoon mate for a team who needs a lefty masher, and he might even be able to do more if given the chance.
Bench - With all the injuries it is very thin. Schneider (back up catcher), Cody Ransom (2nd/3rd), Dobbs?. The others have been mentioned.
Starting Pitching for our Series: Couldn't have asked for a better scenario to miss Hamels and Halladay.
Game One - Kyle Kendrick - TSL .4.48/5.12/4.72 last 30 days 4.07/5.94/4.36. Gets by with a 90MPH fastball, Cutter, and change up. Doesn't K anyone, doesn't walk anyone.
Game Two - Roy Oswalt - Phillies got the prize but they have to hope "dead arm" was the only problem that Oswalt had after his last start, and that it doesn't last long. After all the deals this team would be plenty scary if the rotation was Lee, Halladay, Hamels, and anyone else, so I'm glad they decided to ditch Lee, sign Blanton, and go after Oswalt instead. No one should need an intro on Oswalt, he's good when he's healthy. Actually he's great when he's healthy.
Game Three -Joe Blanton is having an unlucky year but his luck has been changing l over the last 30 days. His TSL for the season is 5.65/4.49/4.40, while his 30 day line is 3.82/3.20/3.94.
Bullpen: Lidge is back but it is Madson who is having the biggest impact on the bullpen. Lidge gets to close and continues to rack up saves in a very rocky way, but Madson is still the best arm in the bullpen. Durbin, Contreras, and Baez make up the rest of the RH crew. JC Romero appears to be the only LH and he's been awful so maybe Andre and Loney won't be so useless when confronted with a left hander late in the game.