Thursday October 15th, 2009

1. Dodgers manager Joe Torre used his closer, Jonathan Broxton, in the eighth inning to face Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols in all three games of the NLDS. He might do the same with Broxton in the NLCS if he has to get Ryan Howard in a big spot in the eighth. Though Howard is left-handed, he is 0 for 7 with five strikeouts against Broxton.

Actually, Howard has no good matchups against the Dodgers pitching staff. He has faced seven of the Dodgers' pitchers for more than two at-bats. He is hitting .111 against those pitchers with 20 strikeouts in 45 at-bats. That includes a combined 2 for 17 with seven punchouts against Game 1 starter Clayton Kershaw and Game 4 starter Randy Wolf. So forget about Torre walking Howard the way he did Pujols in any key spot. Torre will be able to use Broxton and his stable of left-handed starters and relievers (including Hong-Chih Kuo and George Sherrill) for a vast majority of Howard's at-bats in the series.

The Dodgers would seem to have the right mix of pitchers to neutralize Howard. The Phillies will have to count on Chase Utley and Jayson Werth for the big hits in the middle of the order.

2. If you're looking for an upset or an upstart in the baseball postseason, this is not your year. As much talk as there has been about parity and how unpredictable the five-game series can be, this year has been all about playing the chalk. The team with the better record went 4-0 in the Division Series, only the second time that has happened in 15 years of the wild-card era. The other time form held? That was just two years ago, in 2007.

Indeed, if you look at just the past three years, covering 18 series, the baseball postseason has been fairly predictable. You would have looked pretty smart by always picking the team that won more regular-season games than its opponents. The teams with the most wins are 13-3 in postseason series from 2007 through 09. (Both LCS matchups last year featured teams with identical regular-season records.)

If you're looking ahead to a Yankees-Dodgers World Series -- going with the teams in each LCS with the better record -- it would take something unprecedented in the wild-card era: teams with the better record going 6-0 in league playoff series. Then again, this already has been an unprecedented year for form holding. Four of the top five teams in wins have made it to the LCS. It's the first time that the final four teams have been among the top five in wins.

3. I'll share with you the inside scouting report that the Phillies have on Game 2 Dodgers starter Vicente Padilla: Look for the fastball. Padilla came out throwing smoke against the Cardinals in NLDS Game 3 -- 19 of his 21 pitches in the first inning were fastballs -- and stayed with it. Padilla threw fastballs on 78 percent of his pitches against St. Louis, slightly more than his usual steady diet of heaters -- and with good reason. Padilla's velocity was up a couple of ticks on the radar gun (he touched 97) and his movement was tremendous. Cardinals third baseman Mark DeRosa, in fact, told Dodgers third base coach Larry Bowa during the game that Padilla had such good, late movement on his fastball that L.A.'s hitters had trouble getting the barrel on the ball. That has always been the report on Padilla: He can live on fastballs because he has velocity and movement. The word on Padilla is that he can't throw a ball straight if he tried. It's been quite a turnaround for Padilla: released by the Rangers, despite Texas holding the wild-card lead at the time, to NLCS Game 2 starter with just eight starts in between.

4. Are the Yankees too good for their own good? They dispatched the Twins so quickly that they might be sending Game 1 starter CC Sabathia to the mound with too much rest. Sabathia will be pitching on eight days' rest. He has been a pitcher better suited to staying in his normal turn, or as close to it as possible. Sabathia made three starts this year with six or more days of rest. He was 1-1 with a 4.66 ERA in those games. For his career he has made 38 starts with such extended rest and is 17-10 with a 3.92 ERA -- certainly not awful, but his ERA and walk rate have been worse than normal when he gets that much rest.

Those numbers do not include postseason starts. Sabathia started Game 1 of the 2007 ALCS on seven days' rest for the Indians against Boston. He was awful, as bad as any pitcher has been in postseason history. Lasting only 4 1/3 innings, he gave up eight earned runs -- tying a postseason record -- seven hits and five walks.

5. Somehow Bobby Abreu missed playing for the Dodgers. Otherwise he has played for three of the LCS teams (Angels, Yankees and Phillies). Only three men have ever played for the Dodgers, Angels, Yankees and Phillies. Can you name them? Of course not. That's way too hard. They are Jay Johnstone, Ken Brett and Stan Javier.

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