If I were a betting man (and I’m really not, despite my
interest in fantasy sports), I would place my bet on the Philadelphia Phillies
to win this year’s World Series. They won in 2008 and were runners up in 2009,
so they have had a pretty good run of success. This year, they boast the best
trio of starting pitchers (with apologies to the Giants) and should have a nice
hitting attack for balance. This team seems like it was built for the playoffs.
Let’s examine that threesome of fearsome starters. The only
incumbent is Cole Hamels but he is flanked by a pair
of Roys – Halladay and Oswalt who have been brilliant in their short Philadelphia
stays. Of the three, I’d guess that Halladay starts
the opener. In his first year in the National League, the 33-year-old has won
21 games (one off his career high) and provided a 2.44 ERA and 1.04 WHIP (his
best ratios since 2004 when he only started 19 games). In 250.2 innings, Halladay has only walked 30 batters and he has won
double-digit games before and after the All-Star break. The 6-foot-6 right
hander had no problem with the Braves this year and won all three starts
against Atlanta with a 1.44 ERA. He also held the Reds to 2.12 ERA in two
starts, but did not win either. The Giants hit Halladay
for five runs in seven innings, but that was at the end of April. Halladay has never pitched in the playoffs, but it is the
same game and he should be fine.
Oswalt has often been a second
half pitcher, but since coming to the Phillies in late July, Oswalt has been reborn. In 12 starts, he has a 1.65 ERA and
0.88 WHIP with seven wins. In September, he had a 1.12 ERA with four wins and
no losses. Unlike Halladay, Oswalt
has pitched in the playoffs and had a decent amount of success in 2004 and 2005
with four wins and no losses (again). With the Phillies, Oswalt
held the Braves to one hit in his lone start against Atlanta on September 22.
He beat San Francisco on August 17 in another quality start. He did not pitch
against the Reds as a member of Philadelphia. In his last start as an Astro, the Reds hit him hard (six runs and five innings).
The third member of the staff is Hamels
who had another fine season in the shadow of the Roys.
Hamels threw 206.2 innings and struck out 209 innings
and had a 3.09 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. Hamels was
brilliant in 2008 when he won the playoff MVP as the Phillies won the World
Series. In five starts, he had a 1.80 ERA and 0.91 WHIP with four wins. Last
year, he was not good in the playoffs (four starts, 7.58 ERA), so which Cole Hamels will it be? Hamels blanked
the Reds for 7.2 innings on July 11, but both the Giants and Braves had some
success against him.
Kyle Kendrick and Joe Blanton were starters in the regular
season, but they will likely not be called upon in the playoffs. Kendrick was
very effective (1.35 ERA) in three starts against Atlanta, and Blanton limited
the Giants to two runs in 6.2 innings on August 18. In the bullpen, Brad Lidge has bounced back nicely from a dreadful 2009 season.
He saved 27 games this season and had a 3.02 ERA. After the All-Star break, his
ERA fell to 2.17 and saved 21 games. Lidge converted
all four saves against the Braves, but was only one-for-three against the Reds
with a 9.82 ERA. Ryan Madson has a strong season as
the eighth inning bridge. He did give up three runs in three innings against
the Braves. Jose Contreras was also surprising as a middle relief option.
The surprising stat on the hitting side is that only catcher
Carlos Ruiz hit above .300 this season. Granted, they have five hitters who hit
between .276 and .298 and four of those hitters have OPS higher than .800.
Second baseman Chase Utley might be the most valuable. His stats - .276, 16
homers, 64 RBI – are not overly impressive because he missed all of July. However,
he seems to be rounding into shape in September. He hit .323 and had five
homers and 16 RBI for the month. Utley did not hit well against the Giants
(.227 in 22 at bats), but hit the Braves fairly efficiently (.283).
Ryan Howard has had an off season compared to his last four.
In each of those seasons, he had 135 or more RBI with at least 45 homers. This
season he had 31 homers and 108 RBI in 141 games. Howard had 17 RBI in 15 games
in last year’s playoffs. The splits for Howard show that he had some success
against the Giants, Braves, and Reds but did not dominate any of the three
teams. Howard did hit seven homers in September so he might be warming up just
as the temperatures get cool.
The other four hitters to keep an eye are Ruiz, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez, and Placido Polanco. Of the four, Werth has
the most, ahem, worth. The 31-year-old is hitting .294 with 26 homers and a
career-high 45 homers. Werth warmed up in the second
half and hit .311 after the All-Star break. He also hit well against the Braves
and Reds, but could not solve the Giants’ staff. Ibanez is finally showing his
age. The 38-year-old saw his average drop from 34 in 2009 to 16 this year. He
is still banging out hits and hitting .276 and has hit .313 since the All-Star
break. He has also hit the Braves quite well. Polanco
has been ailing with elbow trouble and has never shown much power, so he is a
mediocre fantasy option. He hit .355 against the Braves, but did not see the
Reds because he missed three weeks in June and July. Ruiz is a good catching
option, if your league requires it. He could outscore Joe Mauer
throughout the entire playoffs. He hit well against the Braves and Reds, but
hit just .188 against the Giants.
***All stats through October 1, 2010
Perry Missner provides content for
Fantasy Postseason. He is also
the lead writer and editor for College Fantasy Basketball
Insider, a writer for the Fantasy
Football Oasis, and the Secretary of the Fantasy
Sports Writers Association.