Monday, October 4, 2010

NLDS Preview: Phillies vs. Reds

I know what you’re thinking: “I’ve read about 37 preview articles already about this series, what the hell could you possibly tell me that I don’t already know?”

The answer: Stop complaining and read a 38th.

Anyway, our Phillies get underway at 5:07 p.m. Wednesday against the Cincinnati Reds. Yes, those same Reds that the Phils swept in a four game set right before the All-Star break. With a 5-2 record against them this year, the Phillies have certainly shown they can beat this team. Plus, the Reds were only 18-34 against winning teams this year, a record that is underwhelming to say the least. However, the Reds are probably a better team than anyone realizes, so I’m here to give you a quick rundown of everything you should know before you sit down, or stand up to watch the game on Wednesday.

Meet the Reds:

The Reds finished with 91 wins this year, their most since winning 96 in 1999 (a season where they tied the Mets for the Wild Card and promptly lost a one game playoff). This year was their first winning season in 10 years and only their third division title since 1982. Suffice it to say, they haven’t had a ton of success recently, but they are (mostly) a young team that one might consider “to be on the rise.”

Much like the Phillies, they’ve done a very good job of building from within with youth, both acquired via draft, internationally or trades. Their best player, Joey Votto (the likely NL MVP), was a second round draft pick in 2002 out of high school. Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs (their starting RF and CF) were both first round picks in 2005 and 2006, respectively. Brandon Phillips (starting 2B), while not drafted by the Reds, didn’t fully blossom as a player until after they acquired him via trade from the Indians in 2006 at age 24. Their pitching staff is full of home grown talent, as Johnny Cueto (signed as an international free agent), Travis Wood (drafted) and Mike Leake (drafted) are all home grown talents. Game 1 starter Edison Volquez was acquired via trade from the Rangers prior to the 2008 season and broke out during that same season (as did the player he was traded for, Josh Hamilton). And I’m sure you’ve heard of the Reds set-up man, Aroldis Chapman (international free agent). He can throw 105 MPH. Only seriously.

It’s obvious the Reds have done an excellent job of acquiring talent, and have built a youthful base good enough to propel them into contention. Sprinkle in some key veterans like Scott Rolen, Bronson Arroyo, Francisco Cordero, Orlando Cabrera and Arthur Rhodes and suddenly the Reds had a pretty formidable roster heading into 2010. Unlike prior years though, this mix of young talent and veterans clicked…and thus you have the 91 win team you see today.

The Pitching Matchups:

Game 1: RHP Roy Halladay (21-10, 2.44 ERA) vs. RHP Edison Volquez (4-3, 4.31 ERA)

I really don’t need to break this one down for you, but I will anyway. Roy Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball and will start the first playoff game of his career. Edison Volquez is about 15 months removed from Tommy John surgery and has been up and down since returning to the rotation in July. He’s nasty when he’s on, and he’s pitched very well in September. Still, Halladay is the best there is.

Game 2: RHP Roy Oswalt (13-13, 2.76 ERA) vs. Bronson Arroyo (17-10, 3.88 ERA)

Oswalt has been absolutely amazing since joining the Phillies, going 7-1 with a barely there 1.74 ERA. When the Phillies acquired Roy 2.0 I figured they were getting a very good pitcher. I didn’t know that they were going to get Roy Oswalt Circa 2005. It’s quite obvious that being in a pennant race energized Oswalt and that he’s still the same dominate #1-type pitcher he was with the Astros for the better part of the last decade. That begin said, Arroyo isn’t a slouch, and he’s actually the only Reds player who currently owns a World Series ring (from his 2004 Red Sox days). He doesn’t strike anyone out, but he does a good job of limiting base runners (which helps since he’s relatively homer prone at 1.2 per 9 innings). Still, he hasn’t had much career success against the Phillies, while Oswalt has pretty much owned the Reds (23-3 lifetime record).

Game 3: LHP Cole Hamels (12-11, 3.06 ERA) vs. Johnny Cueto (12-7, 3.64 ERA)

I still marvel at how good our rotation looks on paper. I know shit could hit the fan, but I’ve never been more confident in three starters in my 17 years of watching Phillies games. Hamels is officially the Phillies #3 starter and he’ll come into this game with a career 1.07 ERA in seven career starts against the Reds. That’s pretty sick. The scary thing for the opposition is that Hamels has actually been better this year than he was in 2008, and if he carries that over into the postseason, oh boy. Cueto is a good, young pitcher, but is absolutely prone to blowing up. Just a few starts ago he gave up 8 ER to the Brewers in just 1 1/3 innings and he’s the same pitcher who gave up 9 ER to the Phillies in just .2 innings last July. He isn’t consistent, but has shut down the Phillies in his two starts against them this year. This is probably the closest matchup for the Reds, but it’s still not that close.

The Lineups:

The Phillies finished second in the NL with 772 runs. Who scored the most? The Reds, at 790. One thing is for certain - the Reds can score, and score a lot. They lead the NL in every major statistical category this year, including HR (188), total bases (2432) and OPS (.774). They feature slugging All-Star first baseman Joey Votto, who hit 37 HRs, while batting .324. If there is a lineup that matches up with our Phillies, it’s theirs. Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs and Scott Rolen all hit 22+ HRs this year, and with 90 SB on the year they have enough speed that you need to respect them on the base paths. It’s a good thing we have the rotation we do, that’s for sure.

I’d discuss the Phillies lineup, but honestly there is only one thing you need to know. We have Carlos Ruiz (banged up elbow and all) and it’s October. You know what that means.

So, while I expect a good series, I’m confident the Phils can take it. The Reds won’t be easy (just like the Rockies weren’t last year) but I think our starting pitching will ultimately win out. Go Phils.

And the rest of the first round? Giants in 4, Rangers in 5, Yankees in 3. Book it.


  1. if rollins and lidge are healthy and consistent, we win. i see oswalt and cole dominating. i know halladay is the best, but i hope his adrenaline isnt too much for a first career playoff start. braves blow, giants offense sucks, we only have to hope their pitching isn't lights out. i see us winning in 4 and 5 to play the twins or rays

  2. the phillies consistently have the giants' number. they won't be a problem. i'm more worried about everyone getting AIDS before the WS from all the constant strange blowies.