World Series Matchups…..Starting Pitchers’ and Bullpens’
This World Series will probably come down to the effectiveness of these two pitching areas of the Tampa Bay Rays and the Philadelphia Phillies. Most people know that there is going to be a high scoring offensive juggernaut put up on certain nights, but a pitchers’ duel here and there might also set up a Bullpen matchup to either lead to a meltdown, or a shut down of an opposing lineup.
I am going to matchup the first 4 games with the respective pitchers going on the mound for the teams. In this way I can point out the positives’ and negatives’ of each member of the pitching staff. I will then seperate the Bullpen by righties and lefties and summarize the chance of success or failure of the segment. I will then look at the closers’, and what effect they might have on the outcome of the series.
Game 1 Starters : Cole Hamels ( L ) versus Scott Kazmir ( L ).
Cole Hamels comes into the World Series with an 3-0 record and a 1.23 ERA in the postseason. He has thrown a total of 22.0 innings and given up 6 walks while earning 22 strikeouts in the National League playoffs.
Hamels is a great fastball/changeup pitcher. His changeup is rated as one of the best in the game. He has great arm action on his pitches and it dies as it nears the plate. He can also drop in curve balls on unaware batters close up in the box. Lefties tonight will have to be aware of his late break on his curve on the outside corners.
His fastball is usually in the 87-96 m.p.h. range, while his changeup sits steady at around 77-85 m.p.h. His curve is breaking at around 73-80 m.p.h. with a great arch at the end of the pitch.
Scott Kazmir has been the Rays young gun for several years before the emergance of this pitching staff in 2008. Kazmir is the All-Time Rays leader in ERA, Strikeouts and Innings Pitched at 25 years of age. In the 2008 playoffs, Kazmir is 1-0, with a 4.02 ERA and has thrown 15.2 innings and given up 10 walks while earning 18 strikeouts.
Kazmir has a common repertoire, but has amazing stuff. He is not afraid to throw inside, particularly with his low-mid 90’s fastball. He uses it to put hitters’ on their heels before popping his slider off, or using his changeup outside fading it away from the plate. Kazmir prefers to use the slider against left-handers, and the changeup against right-handers. Kazmir has already led the American League in Strikeouts, and threw 4 straight no-hitters in Texas as a high schooler.
His fastball comes in at around 88-95 m.p.h., and his slider is timed at 80-84 m.p.h. with a sharp late break. His change up is a great out pitch for him at around 75-80 m.p.h.
ADVANTAGE: Toss Up This will be a true pitchers’ duel as both can take over a game fast and make it their own, or get into a bind early in the contest. Whoever gets to the 5th inning without alot of collateral damage will probably win this contest. I am taking Hamels if the Rays left-handers get behind early in the counts.
Game 2 Starters: Brett Myers ( R ) versus James Shields ( R )
Brett Meyers might be known more this season for the Spring Training prank pulled on fellow Phillies’ pitcher Kyle Kendrick. He was told he was traded to a Japanese team by the Phillies. But in the 2008 playoffs, Meyers has gone 2-0, with 12 innings pitched and has issued 7 walks while strking out 10 batters.
Meyers was really struggling early in 2008, enough to get a rehab assignment in the minors. Since returning, he is improved dramatically. He still has a moving fastball and a hard overhand curveball, and had relied on this combo in the 2nd half of the season. During his career he has changed from a splitter and a changeup as his off speed pitch. He currently uses both sparingly in games. He also throws a slider that has more action like a cutter than a traditional slider.
His fastball is hitting the gun at between 85-92 m.p.h. now, and his curve is breaking at 73-78 m.p.h. His slider is moving at 82-87 m.p.h.. When used, his changeup is topping out from 78-83 m.p.h., and his splitter is hitting 78-83 m.p.h. on the guns
James Shields was the Rays Opening Day starter in both the playoffs and during the ruglar season. In his second year, he has fast developed a reputation as being a big game pitcher. During this years playoffs, Shields is 1-2, with a 3.72 ERA. He has thrown 19.1 innings and giving up 6 walks to posted 13 strikeouts for the Rays.
Shields has been a huge surprise for the Rays in the last 2 seasons, quickly turning into one of the best pitchers in baseball. He throws hard, mixing his 90+ m.p.h. fastball with a razorblade cutter that breaks bats. However Shields money pitch is his sinking changeup, which is considered one of the best in the game. He also has a huge breaking curveball with good command, making him a true 4-pitch starter for the Rays.
His fastball has been clocked from 90-94 m.p.h., while his changeup tops out between 80-85 m.p.h. His cutter has been known to hit around 87-91 m.p.h., with his curve topping out at 76-77 m.p.h.
ADVANTAGE: The do not call him “Big Game” Shields for nothing. This right-hander has the kind of stuff that could hold the Phillies offense in check in Game 2. If he is in control in the first 3 innings, the night will be over quick for the Philly batters.
Game 3 Starters: Matt Garza ( R ) versus Jamie Moyer ( L )
Everyone in baseball knows about the June incident in Texas with Garza, but since that time he has shown more control and been a shut-down pitcher for the Rays. His improvements showed his true abilities as he won the American League Championship Most Valuable Player award for going 2-1, with a 3.32 ERA in 19.0 innings. He gave up 10 walks and got 13 strikeouts in the playoffs to date.
Garza has the stuff to be the next great starting pitcher in baseball. He will throw a hard fastball in the mid -90’s to go with his duo of breaking balls. He has a plus slider in the low-mid 80’s that gets great drop. It looks like a hard curve, but is deceptive in motion. He can then change up the pitch by slowing the ball down into the mid-70’s making a great 12-6 break on his curveball. His 4th pitch is a straight changeup in the low 80’s.
His fastball comes in at 90-95 mph, while his slider hits the gun at 84-88 mph. His great curve is clocked between 75-78 mph, and his changeup sits between 82-83 mph Jamie Moyer began the season in the American League with the Seattle Mariners. He is one of two members of the Phillies staff who has faced the Rays in 2008before the World Series. Moyer got his only start against the Rays at the Trop during the Rays’ first homestand of the season. He comes into the series with an 0-2 mark and a 13.50 ERA.He has had a bit of a control issue, giving up 10 hits in his 5.1 innings of work in the post season. In those innings, he has also issued 3 walks and gotten 5 strikeouts.
Moyer throws a four -pitch repertoire. He has a fastball/cutter combo that he will use to any hitter ,on both sides of the plate. His velocity on these pitches sits around 80 mph. His breaking ball is a curve that he spikes with his index finger. His fastball hits the gun at 79-83 mph, while his cutter breaks at 77-80 mph. His deceptive changeup comes over between 73-75 mph, and his curve breaks at 67-71 mph.
Advantage: Garza. There is a reason he is the ALCS MVP. He has learned to hit his spots and take no prisioners’ at the plate. He is not afraid to pitch inside and if his emotions stay in check, it will be a long night.
Game 4 Starters: Andy Sonnanstine ( R ) versus Joe Blanton ( R )
Andy Sonnanstine comes into the World Series having pitched the Rays into position to try and take the series in 5 games. He is a great pitcher who uses his off speed pitches to fool the competition. For the 2008 playoffs,Sonnanstine has a 2-0 record, with a 3.46 ERA. He has thrown for 13 innings and given up only 2 walks and gotten 5 strikeouts for the Rays.
Sonnanstine uses a cutter as his primary fastball pitch, mixing in the occasional 2-seamer to fool batters’. Both of these pitches come in approximately the same velocity, around the mid-80’s. Sonnanstine will throw the cutter over the top, giving it a slight drop, or drop his arm angle down to 3/4 which give the pitch more horizontal movement. Sonnanstine also uses a standard slider, a slow 12-6 curveball and a sinking changeup. He has the ability to throw strike with all his pitches, which keeps his walk totals extremely low and keeps him in the games.
His fastball comes in at between 87-90 mph, while his cutter hits 86-90 mph. The huge curveball breaks between 74-76 mph, and his changeup drops to around 81 mph. His occasional slider hits the gun at 80-82 mph.
Joe Blanton is the second member of the Phillies who has pitched against the Rays in 2008. He was a memeber of the Oakland A’s at the time. Blanton comes into the series with a 1-0 record, with a 3.27 ERA. He has thrown 11 innings and issued 4 walks and gotten 11 strikeouts in the postseason.
Blanton throws the four basic pitches. His round frame delivers a straight fastball. To lefties, Blanton perfers to work with his changeup as his second pitch. To righties, he uses a fastball/slider combo. He will deviate from this, but not often. Blanton’s 4th pitch is a 12-6 curveball. He prefers to work quickly and doen’t shake off his catchers. his fastball comes in at 86-91 mph, while his slider breaks the plate at 80-84 mph. His changeup come over at 80-83, and the curve is timed between 73-76 mph.
ADVANTAGE: Sonnastine. He has kept the Rays in every game he has pitched in the 2008 playoffs. He uses his deceptive arm motion to fool the batter into a lull, while working quickly. With both Blanton and Sonnastine on the mound, we might have one of the shortest games in World Series history as both do not shake off their catcher alot and want to pitch quickly to the plate.
Romero is your standard lefthanded reliever. He has an average fastball, and relies on his junk to get outs. He has a big slider and a soft changeup. The slider primarily thrown to lefties, will sweep across the hitting zone. Romero will save change up for the righties, and attempt to fade this pitch off the plate. He seems to lose more velocity each season, but has put together a couple of decent seasons with the Phillies.
Madson is a fastball/changeup pitcher, but seems to be using his cutter more and more. the cutter can get some huge movement sometimes, sliding across the hitting zone. Madson’s changeup is still his best pitch, often diving down just as it reaches the plate. His fastball is very straight and hittable. He does have a slow curve as his 4th pitch.
J A Happ
Happ shows some promise. He is 6 feet tall. lefthanded and throws a 90 mph fastball. He has consistently posted good minor league numbers and looks like he might translate it to the major league level. Happ owns a tight slider that he uses often. He likes to try and go inside on righties with it,burying it at their ankles, or throwing away from lefties. Happ will also show a changeup to righties and mix in a very slow curveball.
Eyre is your typical leftie reliever. He throws a 90 mph fastball, a sweeping slider, and an occasional changeup. He has bounced around 5 different teams and issues too many walks to stick around anywhere.
Durbin has been a reliable member of the Phillies Bullpen in 2008. His stuff looks average, but he is been getting outs. He will throw 2-seamers and a straight 4-seam fastball. He will throw alot of tight sliders in the upper-80’s. Durbin finishes his 4 pitch selection with a standard curve and a changeup.
He deals with a sinking fastball with a big slider, He also mixes in a sharp cutter at high velocity, and fades a change up away.
Phillies Closer: Brad Lidge
Lidge still throws it in the mid-90’s with a sick slider. He uses these two pitches, and that’s basically it for him. The fastball rises as it approaches home plate. Then he breaks off a hard downward breaking slider that misses bats. Lidge has experiemented with a changeup in the past, and with a cutter early in 2007. Neither pitch produced great results, but he can rack up the K’s as a closer.
J P Howell
Howell throws with alot of movement on all of his pitches. His fastball sinks, tails and/or cuts on its way to the plate. It only reaches about 88 mph, but it looks much faster these days. He mixes in a changeup that he tends to overthrow and it ends up only about 5 mph slower than his fastball. Howell’s breaking ball is in the upper-70’s and may touch the low 80’s. It has become a real weapon against all hitters’. especially lefties. The imporvement of Howell’s pitches from 2007, to 2008 is dramatic.
Miller is a lefthanded specialist that has a simple selection of pitches. He throws a fastball in the mid-upper-80’s and a weak slider off of that. His changeup doesn’t vary more than 7 or 8 mph from his fastball. However, he will never give in to hitters’, preferring to walk a batter before throwing one down the middle of the plate.
Bradford has a very slow sidearm delivery. His fastball barely touches 80 mph, but since his hand almost scrapes the mound at his release point, hitters find him difficult to pick up. He also throws a sweeping slider and shows a changeup.
Jackson throws a hard, straight fastball in the low-to-high 90’s, and a slider to counter it. He throws a straight changeup and has added a curveball in 2008. Jackson seems to be continuing to improve as a pitcher every outing for the Rays.
Balfour is an intense dude. He throws hard, challenges hitters, and swears at himslef on the mound even if things are going well. He owns a tight slider and a curveball, but he will go multiple outings without throwing anything but fastballs.
The 2007 1 overall pick, David Price has reached the major leagues in his first season of professional baseball. Price dominated the NCAA ranks with his mid-90’s fastball and tight slider, two pitches that have easily translated into the pro game. David has been working on his changeup for years, and is still in the development stages with it. He could be the secret weapon for the Rays this postseason because no teams have a book on him and he will be pitching a limited amount of innings in the playoffs.
Wheeler has never had dominant velocity, but is still able to produce as a setup man every year. He has a 90 mph moving fastball and mixes in alot of breaking pitches. His slider has slowed over the years and now site somewhere around 80 mph with a good drop. Wheeler will mix in split-fingers to lefties, a pitch that can cut drop bats. In the past, Wheeler experimented with a cutters,changeups and may still mix in the occasional 12-6 curveball. He is hittable and prone to allowing the long ball.
Rays Closer: Closer by Committee
Rays Manager, Joe Maddon has decided to go with a closer by committee aspect until someone shows they want to position. In the last game against the Red Sox, Maddon used 5 relievers in 1 inning and then gasve the ball to the rookie, David Price to save the game for the Rays. Price might be the sentimental favorite of Maddon right now. Dan Wheeler has the only other save for the Rays in the 2008 playoffs.
Advantage: Phillies by a nose.
Philadelphia has a designated closer, so they have someone who knows his role every game, every night. With the Rays going by clsoer by committee at this time, they will have to adjust their prospective nightly on who is fresh, and who has the good stuff. I am giving this solely on the merit of a closer for the Phillies.
I feel that the games will come down to the Bullpens’ to either win or lose in the World Series. If the Rays can establish and hold at least two leads for wins, that will put all the pressure on the Phillies Bullpen from then on to shut down the Rays’ offense. A single mistake could open the floodgates for either team in this series.