Wednesday, October 29, 2008

MLB: Where Rain Happens

So we finally get the conclusion of Game 5 of the World Series tonight. The game will begin at 8:37 pm EST, despite strong winds and temperatures below 40 degrees. It's an interesting situation that we begin with because the bottom of the 6th will start with Cole Hamels at the plate. Obviously Phillies manager Charlie Manuel will pinch hit. Grant Balfour is technically still on the mound, so we can expect to see Greg Dobbs or Matt Stairs to lead off for the Phillies. Most people are expecting David Price to be called upon in this situation because he can go for multiple innings, but the pitcher's spot is due up 4th for the Rays the next inning, negating Price's ability to cover multiple innings. A double switch is a possibility, but it's unlikely that Rays manager Joe Maddon would want to replace anyone in the top 5 of his batting order.

If Charlie Manuel does indeed pinch-hit either Greg Dobbs or Matt Stairs, my guess is that Maddon will opt to go with J.P. Howell. Howell is a lefty, who can also go more than one inning, but isn't as devestating as Price is. This way, if the Rays go 1-2-3 in the top half of the 7th, Howell can continue on and pitch the bottom of the 7th. But if the Rays do get a man on, Maddon can pinch hit without using up David Price. If he prefers to use a 1-inning only guy, he still has Trever Miller, who was pretty effective against lefties this year as well. The Phillies had the best bullpen ERA this year in the NL, but I think the Rays have the better bullpen in the playoffs due to their depth. Philadelphia has 3 good-to-great relievers in Madson, Romero, and Lidge with Romero being a LOOGY. Tampa Bay has Bradford to get grounders, Balfour who is effective to both sides, but better against righties, Wheeler, Howell, Miller, and Price. This doesn't include Edwin Jackson, because he has been a starter all year, and he's only pitched once this playoffs...not exactly a weapon. The Phillies do have other capable relievers such as Condrey and Eyre. I forgot to mention Chad Durbin as a good reliever in the Philly 'pen, and he deserves mentioning as he had quite a good year. However, this has been his first really good season, and Charlie Manuel has used him to get just 1 out in 2 of the games in this World Series, which doesn't exactly show a ton of confidence. I have to give the edge to the Rays in this respect because of the depth they have from both sides as well as having both groundball and strikeout specialists.

On the other hand, I must give the edge in this half-game to the Phillies simply because they have 12 outs to the Rays 9. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out, and what each manager does as both managers have displayed some pretty poor decision making so far in the series. Hope you get a chance to tune in, as this is a pretty unique situation. I know I'll be watching.

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