Now that we have had some time to let the World Series and the Tampa Bay Rays sink in, it's time to look at the keys to attaining our first World Series since 1980 and the second overall. Many apologies to those Philadelphians who past away in 1979. You were the true victims. Anyway, the Rays are certainly an interesting team. Very young and they have certain players that fill roles very nicely on their team.
Here is a brief team comparison:
Phillies: 4.93 R/G 103 OPS+
Rays: 4.78 R/G 103 OPS+
Phillies: 4.20 R/G 115 ERA+
Rays: 4.14 R/G 114 ERA+
Which team is which again? Both teams played almost identical to each other with respect to their leagues. The Phillies look like they had a better offense (factoring the DH), but they also played in a more hitter friendly field. The same goes for the pitching.
On to the keys...
1. The most important key and what I think is the biggest disadvantage for National League teams is the fact that they do not have a DH. AL teams have factored in a big bat no glove player into their budget to just hit the ball hard. NL teams do not have that luxury and have to play somebody who generally has less than 250 ABs in a season. What may be most beneficial is for an NL team to have a platoon or two and just start the other member of the platoon hoping he can hit pitchers the same hand he is. The key for the Phillies is likely to DH Stairs against righties and Coste against lefties. I'd consider just leaving Stairs in against both because of his patience, but Coste does hit lefties well. I think the mistake is to put Burrell as the DH and play Bruntlett who can't hit and isn't that GREAT of a fielder. I mean, if you had a superstar speed demon to caddy for Burrell, I could see making that move. But not for Eric Bruntlett.
2. Key #2 is pretty simple as well: Brett Myers. Can Brett keep the ball in the park? This is huge for the Phillies. Factor in that Brett has much better numbers at home than on the road, it makes it even more of a key (he'd be starting both times at the Trop). I think Brett feeds off of the fans here pretty well and is capable of harnessing his inner chi. On the road, I think he feels like everyone is against him. I am not into the psychology of the game as much as the average guy, but if there is someone who needs to be put in the right place at the right time, it is Brett Myers. I'd consider starting him in game 3 for this very reason, especially if the Phillies win game 1. Simply tell Brett that you want him on the mound for the home WS opener and I think he salivates at the idea.
3. Ryan Howard is key #3. The Rays are going to throw 4 starters at us, the only lefty is Scott Kazmir who, while has nasty stuff, is a 6 inning pitcher. That means that Burrell and more likely Werth, will find themselves at a disadvantage. I think Howard will be able to tee off on Garza and Sonnanstine as neither are strikeout pitchers. He has to make sure he swings at the strikes. He can swing and miss at the balls, but the key is to hit the strikes and hit them far.
4. Key #4 is Blanton and Moyer. They have 3 starts between them and all Iask for is 5 innings and keeping the Phils within 2 runs. I think Happ plays a little bit of a bigger role as Blanton and Moyer will likely be on a short leash, but I'll take 1-1 and getting me to the later innings with these guys. Moyer needs to keep the ball away and close to the strikezone and Blanton has to throw strikes.
5. Brad Lidge. Don't fail me now superman, this is when I need you the most.