Philadelphia Phillies (97-65)
The Phillies won 23 of their final 30 games to run away with the NL East title. Everything came together after the trade deadline when they acquired Roy Oswalt from the Astros. Oswalt lengthened and deepened the rotation. He protected the bullpen as he logged innings as well.
The offense came together in late August as Chase Utley further recovered from his thumb injury and Ryan Howard came back from an ankle sprain. It had been an offense that had been very inconsistent for a good part of the season. They are hitting on all cylinders now and look to defend their NL pennant. The Phils won five of the seven games the two teams played in 2010.
No club has a deeper and more impactful rotation than the Phils. Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels give the Phils three aces in their rotation. Starting pitching is usually the key to postseason success, which bodes well for the Phillies' chances.
Roy Halladay (21-10, 2.44 ERA) is the favorite to win the NL Cy Young award. He has been everything the Phillies wanted and then some. He is a workhorse. He threw nine complete games en route to accumulating 250 innings. He is that unique power control pitcher. He only walked 30 batters all season long while punching out 219. He will pitch Game 1. There is no better starting pitcher in the playoffs. He is 0-1 with a 2.56 ERA against the Reds this year.
Phillies vs. Reds | Schedule
Frankie Piliere's Scouting Reports: Phillies | Reds
Roy Oswalt (13-13, 2.76 ERA) has been amazing (7-1, 1.74 ERA) since joining the Phils. He has been very aggressive in the zone with his stuff especially at Citizens Bank Park, where he has gone 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA. He will pitch in Game 2 against the Reds in Philadelphia. In his career Oswalt is 24-3 vs the Reds although they did beat him twice this year. Oswalt is 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA against them this year. The Reds will have to make it three in a row if they are going to win the series.
Cole Hamels (12-11, 3.06 ERA) had a good first half this year and then had a great second half. He had a 3.78 ERA before the break and a 2.23 ERA afterward. He commanded his fastball extremely well as the season went along and held the opposition to a meager .214 batting average after the break. He pitched very well in his one start against the Reds, getting the win. He had an ERA below 3.00 on the road making him an attractive Game 3 starter.
The Phillies' bullpen came together as the season progressed mainly because closer Brad Lidge found himself. He had a 4.50 ERA in a first half that was hampered by injury. After the All-Star break he converted 21 of 23 saves and pitched to a 2.10 ERA. The main bridge to Lidge is Ryan Madson. Madson had a 6.55 ERA in the first half but then delivered a 1.50 ERA in the second half. It was a tale of two seasons for the Phils and a tale of two bullpens as everything came together in the last couple of months.
The good news is that now they are swinging the bats about as well as they have all season. Chase Utley, Jayson Werth and Ryan Howard all drove in more than 20 runs in September and Raul Ibanez hit .340 for the month.
Brad Lidge is critical to the Phillies. When he is right the rest of the bullpen is right. The Phillies can't waste their great starting pitching by blowing a save opportunity in the playoffs. Despite his dramatic improvement in the second half there is still something that feels fragile about Lidge mentally. If he blows a save he may unravel. So he just needs to be perfect. That's a lot to ask.
Cincinnati Reds (91-71)
The Reds are a team built around offense. They surprised us this year because it is not often that a team goes to the playoffs primarily because of its offense. Usually a team has to be among the better pitching staffs in baseball. Dusty Baker did an excellent job in working an assortment of pitchers in and out of his rotation and bullpen. The Reds play with heart and fire and never give up. They believe in themselves even though nobody else does.
The Reds' rotation is ranked 10th in ERA on the season but that doesn't tell the whole story. The Reds got better pitching as the season progressed. They have a staff of pitchers with great potential but a bit less consistency. The upside is there but every once in a while they can deliver a clunker.
Edinson Volquez (4-3, 4.31 ERA) rejoined the Reds in July after missing close to a year due to Tommy John surgery. He used July and August to get his legs under him and then put it together in September. He went 1-1 in September but had a 1.95 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 27 innings. He is returning to form. He has the potential to put zeroes up on the scoreboard when he is right and to do it with an exclamation point. But we shouldn't be surprised if he mixes in a bad outing as that inconsistency tends to creep in during the recovery process.
Bronson Arroyo (17-10, 3.88 ERA) is a quality veteran pitcher who rarely loses his composure. He is a leader and a competitor. He is one of the first at the ballpark everyday. He isn't overpowering as he pitches to contact but his ability to change speeds keeps hitters off the good part of the bat. He holds runners well, fields his position and throws strikes, all of which are necessary for success in the NL. He held right-handed hitters to a .185 BA this year.
Johnny Cueto (12-7, 3.64 ERA) is a competitive, emotional young man. He wears his emotions on his shirt sleeve. That can be good or bad depending on his emotional control that day. He has very good stuff and a feel for pitching when he is under control. He was 1-0 with a 1.20 ERA in two games started against the Phillies this year. His changeup kept the big lefty bats of the Phillies off balance.
The Reds were ranked eighth in the NL in bullpen ERA. Nick Masset from the right side and Arthur Rhodes from the left side serve as the setup men for closer Francisco Cordero. The Reds' secret weapon will be Aroldis Chapman, the young lefty Cuban defector. His 100-plus mph fastball will allow Baker the ability to shorten the game for his starting pitchers. If the Reds have the lead through six innings we could see Chapman in the seventh and eighth, bypassing Masset and Rhodes and going directly to Cordero.
The Reds have the highest-scoring offense in the NL. They led the NL in home runs, slugging percentage and runs scored. They were second in on-base percentage in the NL as well. The offense is led by MVP candidate Joey Votto but he is not alone. Including Votto they have six players who hit 18 or more home runs . Scott Rolen, Brandon Phillips and Jonny Gomes give the Reds quality veteran professional at-bats with pop, while Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs are young players who get better everyday. The Reds have a deep lineup that could surprise an opponent if they aren't careful.
Edinson Volquez has the potential to throw a gem. He needs to do so if the Reds are going to win. He is a bit risky because of the inconsistency that comes with the rehab of Tommy John surgery. The Reds need him to win Game 1 to have a legitimate chance to win the series.
PHILLIES IN FOUR.