Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Monk: an NLCS prophet

Did I say five-game sweep or what?

Honestly, this year's Dudgers put on a worse performance in the NLCS than last year's Dudgers. Other than a freakishly good outing by Padilla last Friday, the Phils whacked the Duds starters and knocked the whole Western Blue pitching staff around -- a 35-16 aggregate run total in the Phils' favor after just a 25-20 total win last year.

Unlike the '08 NLCS, the Duds' lone win came from fortuity -- last year they smacked the Phils around in game 3 and were doing the same in game 4 before Torre stupidly lifted Derek Lowe, the Artfuls' bullpen crumbled and the team faced a 3-1 hole from which Cole Hamels would not let them dig out. This year, the Duds were whomped twice.

How exactly did the Duds lead the NL in wins and the majors in run differential? This is more Torre smoke and mirrors, for which he is well-known and rightly lauded and can work wonders with over the course of a long season in which each pitch and each at bat means far less than it does in the playoffs. Remember, this is the manager who coaxed a combined 25-8 record out of Aaron Small, Shawn Chacon and rookie Chien-Ming Wang in 2005.

The Duds lacked a starter with more than 12 wins and had only two pitchers with 10. They relied on scrap heap pickup Padilla to fortify the rotation at the end of the year (and stave off the Rockies). Their two best postseason starts were from Padilla -- only once in six other starts did the Duds' starter pitch into the 7th inning. These are the types of pitchers that the '05 Yankees relied upon. But if your team lacks pitchers with pure stuff and top-end ability (Kershaw has the former, not the latter), postseason success is difficult. The Phils' pitchers not named Lee were far from spectacular and the Dodgers couldn't even put a small roadblock in their season. Instead, Colorado-Philly was the de facto NLCS.

The LA of LA's biggest problem is development. The team is young, and its best pitchers are kids (Kershaw, Billingsley). Torre often has problems with pitchers -- look at how much better Jeff Weaver, Ted Lilly, Javy Vazquez, Kenny Rogers and Jose Contreras have done after they left the Bronx. Billingsley imploded this year, even though he has top of the rotation ability. Kuroda completely biffed in his NLCS cameo.

And the Phils look tough. This team failed to win 98-100 because the bullpen sucked during the year. In the playoffs, it's been a team strength. They have an AL quality lineup with four players who whacked 30+ homers and another with more than 20 (with an AL capable DH for the World Series in Matt Stairs). And they're a lot more intense than the Dudgers. Just ask Jonathan Broxton . . .

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