Tuesdays with Smitty- Breaking down the Fall Classic

Now that I am over my mourning of the end of the Red Sox season. Actually there wasn’t any mourning. It was a “Ahh, well we gave it a good shot, just came up a little short”, turned off the lights and went to sleep. I actually thought I would have been more broken up about it, but in the end I really believe that considering the injuries and turmoil – the Red Sox overachieved this year. But that is a different conversation. The World Series starts tomorrow and we need to break this down right – Smitty style. Ahh yeah, that Philadelphia fan is here again and he has the same chair – so I am going to be careful. But lets break it down position by position starting with..

Catcher– Dioner Navarro vs. Carlos Ruiz – Both catchers are excellent defensively and probably save more runs then they drive in. Navarro has the better bat of the two, but Ruiz has been swinging the bat well in the playoffs. Both catchers are handling their pitching staffs well. Advantage: Even

1st Base– Carlos Pena vs. Ryan Howard – Pena has had the better playoffs so far, but Howard has the ability to get hot. If Howard gets hot, the Rays could be in big trouble. Pena has the edge defensively and right now – is having a better playoffs. Advantage: Rays

2nd Base – Akinori Iwamura vs. Chase Utley – Both players are excellent defensively and are keys in their lineup. Iwamura is right par with the playoff and regular season hitting wise. Utley is having a great playoffs so far, but power numbers are down. Still, Utley hit a key home run in Game 1 and doesn’t seem to have a problem hitting in the clutch. Iwamura went cold in the last 3 games of the Red Sox series. If he is cold, that becomes a problem for the Rays lineup as he isn’t setting the table for Longoria and Pena. Advantage: Phillies

Shortstop – Jason Bartlett vs. Jimmy Rollins – The Rays’ captain of their defense against the reigning MVP. When Rollins hits and he can – the Phillies’ O becomes a freight train. Bartlett came up with a couple of clutch hits in the Red Sox series, but is really counted on for defense. A couple of errors in the Red Sox series really hurt the Rays. Advantage: Phililes

3rd base – Evan Longoria vs. Pedro Feliz/Greg Dobbs – Do I get into this one? It is like comparing Mike Schmidt against Shea Hillebrand. No contest. Longoria’s hit in Game 2 off Beckett re-established the Rays in the series. Feliz has been serviceable at the plate, but is mostly for his glove. Vice versa for Dobbs. Advantage: Phillies… just kidding – Rays

Left Field – Pat Burrell vs. Carl Crawford – Burrell has been a hitting machine for the Phillies, while Crawford seems to be still looking for his timing since coming off the DL in September. Burrell isn’t known for his defense, but doesn’t do things to put you in a bad position. If Crawford can get on base, he is definitely a threat to steal. Advantage – Phillies

Center Field – B.J. Upton vs. Shane Victorino – Poor Shane Victorino in this one. You want to play as well as you can in the playoffs and not count as an advantage for your team. Look no further then Shane Victorino. Both are above average defensively. Upton takes away a lot of hits and has great range. Will Citizens Park’s weird configurations in center give him problems? Victorino has been hitting the ball, but Upton has been Ruthian in these playoffs. Do you even pitch to the guy? Seriously, he has another round of playoffs to go and is one home run away for the most in a one post season. Can Upton keep up this torrid pace? Advantage: Rays

Right Field – Greg Gross vs. Jayson Werth – Both are role players for their respective teams. Werth helped his team against the Dodgers, where Gross looked lost at the plate. Not sure if there is an advantage to have on this one. Advantage: Even

Starting Pitching – Not listing them all, but I do have one bone to pick. Don’t call yourself “Big Game” anything – until you pitch in a BIG GAME.. That being said Hamels will probably pitch twice, maybe 3 times in this series. As Buck Martinez said 500 times in the ALCS – if you don’t know the Rays staff now, you will by the end of the series. And Shields, Kazmir, Garza and Sonnastine are pretty good. Which Garza shows up this series? Which Kazmir shows up – Game 2 Kazmir or Game 5 Kazmir? Does Moyer have anything left? Can Blanton and Brett Myers give better pitching performances ? Advantage: Rays

Bullpen – Brad Lidge gives the Phillies a solid go to guy at the end of games. The Rays may have a guy in “New Toy” David Price. But does Price hold up on the biggest stage? Romero, Durbin and Madson are solid. Rays bullpen has been solid all year, but Balfour looked tired in the ALCS. I have concerns about the Rays bullpen. It is showing cracks right now.. Can it hold up? Advantage: Phillies

Manager – Joe Maddon vs. Charlie Manuel – Hard to compare this one. Maddon is an innovator, unconventional manager that has his team believing they can win. Manuel has been a player’s coach and earned his players’ respect when he benched Rollins during a game for not hustling. Both have gotten their teams to the World Series and should be commended for it. That being said – Advantage: Rays

So in looking at everything, weighing my options, my gut feeling, that chair that right behind me – and the decision is:

Smitty’s World Series Champion – Philadelphia Phillies in 6.

Enjoy the Series everyone – it has been a great summer of baseball.

6 Responses to "Tuesdays with Smitty- Breaking down the Fall Classic"

  1. Wally   October 22, 2008 at 12:57 am

    Smitty —
    Nice breakdown and analysis … except for one thing … the conclusion. My heart says Phillies in 7 … but my brain says Rays in 6. It’s the homefield advantage at Tropicana, plus the Rays can play small ball probably better than Phillies and can power up as well. I also think the Rays have a better bullpen than they get credit for, esp if Price’s gutsy performance to close out the Saux is indicative of what he can do. All in all, I just hope it’s close and exciting.

  2. Chas   October 22, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Nice job, Smitty. While I didn’t agree with all of your matchup assessments, I thought you did a good job of making your case for each guy. You didn’t say anything about DH, though, and Gabe Gross is only a platoon in right field. Jayson Werth is better than you give him credit for, though.

    I don’t agree with your prediction either. I don’t think Casey will mind if I do this, since I’m a frequent commenter, but here’s mine:

    http://seamheads.com/blog/2008/10/22/9108-the-2008-tampa-bay-rays-improbable-run-to-the-world-series/

  3. Casey   October 22, 2008 at 11:27 am

    Chas – of course I don’t mind. I wish you would post your links more often.

    🙂

  4. Smitty   October 22, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    Chas,

    You are right actually.. Afterwards I wish I had done a comparison of benches, where I think that the Rays have distinctive edge with Cliff Floyd, Rocco Baldelli and Zobrist.

    Wally – Tampa’s bullpen has been a strength all year, but they really showed some cracks during the ALCS. Is that a product of facing the Red Sox about 50 times this year (yes, I am exaggerating) or a sign that they are wearing down. Price could be the key in the end if he continues to close.

    It should be a fun series.

  5. Smitty   October 22, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    My thoughts on Kazmir and lefties depend on the Kazmir that shows up.. Game 2/September Kazmir or the Game 5. If he pitches like the Game 2/September game I saw him pitch in, he was ineffective against everyone including lefties. Game 5 he was nasty.

    He is not throwing his slider as much this late in the year. Either from a lack a confidence or his elbow is still bothering him. To me that is the pitch he is lethal on against the lefties. Right now I am not sold on Kazmir and if he has that deer in the headlights look, this could be a 1-0 Phillies lead. Write that down – Van Wilder style.

  6. Red Sox Fan   October 22, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    Hmm…enjoy it while you’ve got the chance, Tampa Bay…Sox will be back next year…

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