October 22, 2008
Phillies Edge Rays
<a href=Ryan Howard" title="Ryan Howard"/>
Ryan Howard (.258/.410/.322 in 2008 postseaon)

Howard is one of the game's top power threats, but he has yet to hit a home run in the postseason. He did hit .333/.417/.798 with 15 home runs over the season's final 35 games, finishing with 48 homers 146 RBIs, and 81 walks. Caveat: he is of little value outside of the batters box.

<a href=Evan Longoria" title="Evan Longoria"/>
Carlos Pena (.333/.442/.611 in 2008 postseason)

A slick defender, Pena hit .260/.418/.561 with 17 homers after the All-Star break and has been one of the driving forces behind Tampa Bay's postseason outburst, quietly stealing three bases along the way.

Phillies Edge Rays
Chase Utley (.250/.400/.467)

Utley is the best second baseman in baseball, but he's also a splendid defender and will typically reach double-digits in steals with great efficiency. Utley led the Phillies in VORP this year by getting out to a tremendous start (.311/.392/.653 with 19 home runs through May 31), but hit "just" .281/.373/.469 with "only" 14 more dingers over the final four months of the season and struggled in the ALDS before busting out against the Dodgers in the NLCS.

Akinori Iwamura (.277/.358/.447)

Iwamura came to the States to be the Rays' third baseman last year. This year, he moved to second base to make room for Evan Longoria, and his solid defense at the keystone proved to be a key upgrade for the Rays. Iwamura is a poor basestealer and strikes out too much for a middle infielder with negligible power, but he takes his walks and serves as a reliable complimentary player.

Phillies Edge Rays
Jimmy Rollins (.243/.300/.459)

The 2007 NL MVP is a tremendous all-around talent. Though his power faded somewhat this year, he remains one of the best basestealers in baseball and an elite defensive shortstop. Compensating for his decreased pop, Rollins walked more than he struck out for the first time in his career this year, though those trends have reversed in the postseason, where he has 10 Ks, three walks and two HRs.

Jason Bartlett (.243/.282/.405)

The signature player in the Rays' off-season plan to improve their defense, Bartlett is a good-glove/no-hit shortstop from another era. The team leader in sacrifice hits on a team that doesn't bunt, Bartlett can steal a base, but he doesn't walk or hit for power (his homer in Game 6 of the ALCS matched his regular-season total of one). The defensive improvement worked, however, and has been a key to the Rays' success this year.

Phillies Edge Rays
Pedro Feliz (.192/.222/.230)

Like Bartlett, Feliz is a defense-first player, but instead of offering speed on the bases, he offers power at the plate, which also means he's not often asked to bunt. The problem is that Feliz is such a poor hitter in every other way that his power displays are limited to the occasional mistake pitch. On days that the Phillies are facing a right-hander and would rather have some extra offense than Feliz's outstanding defense, he'll be swapped out for lefty-hitting Greg Dobbs, who is 6-for-11 this postseason.

Evan Longoria (.262/.340/.762)

Longoria is actually a very similar player to Utley, an all-around threat whose tremendous production at the plate is likely to overshadow his fine defense and efficient, if infrequent basestealing. Just 22, he made his major-league debut in mid-April and missed a month down the stretch due to a fractured wrist, but has shown no ill-effects from that injury, hitting six postseason HRs.

Phillies Edge Rays
Carlos Ruiz (.200/.250/.233)

Ruiz, 29, is little more than a receiver. He doesn't strike out much and he'll take a walk, but he hit .219 with just 18 extra-base hits in 373 plate appearances this year and failed to distinguish himself in any other way either at the plate or behind it.

Dioner Navarro (.268/.318/.341)

Navarro emerged as an All-Star this year. He's nothing special at the plate, but he's made great strides on defense. Navarro threw out 38 percent of attempting basestealers this year, up from a still-strong 30 percent last year, and made just five errors behind the dish after making 14 a year ago.

Phillies Edge Rays
Jayson Werth (.243/.263/.486)

A former catching prospect, Werth shook off his platoon label, becoming the Phillies primary right fielder beginning in late June. He hit .277/.371/.496 and went 13-for-13 in steals the rest of the way. This postseason, six of his nine hits have gone for extra bases.

Gabe Gross,Rocco Baldelli

The Rays employ a platoon in right field. Acquired from the Brewers in a late-April trade, the lefty-hitting Gross hit .256/.357/.462 against right-handed pitching for the Rays this year, but has just one postseason hit. Rocco Baldelli was diagnosed with a mitochondrial disorder in the spring and spent most of the year rehabbing. After returning in early August he hit .292/.382/.500 against lefties but still lacks the stamina to play every day.

Phillies Edge Rays
Shane Victorino (.281/.378/.625)

The Flyin' Hawaiian is a speedy switch-hitter, collects a variety of extra-base hits, though without particularly gaudy totals of any one type, makes a lot of contact, can drop down a bunt or steal a base, and is an outstanding defensive center fielder. His defense is the only of his many skills that ranks among the best in the league.

B.J. Upton (.304/.365/.826)

Upton is a true five-tool star. He finally found a defensive home in center field in the middle of last season and boasts a shortstop's arm at the position, while his speed allows him to play abnormally shallow and still get to almost everything. Upton's power returned in the playoffs as he's one home run away from tying the single-postseason record of eight. Just 23, Upton could easily be a 30/30 player in the near future, has 40/40 potential, and has been playing up to that level in the playoffs.

Phillies Edge Rays
Pat Burrell (.290/.353/.581)

The longest-tenured Phillie, Pat the Bat is a three-true-outcome hitter (walks, strikeouts and home runs), who's very valuable at the plate, but a statue in left field and on the bases. A streaky hitter and an impending free agent, he's hit well this postseason, but can be reigned in by right-handed pitching.

Carl Crawford (.302/.348/.395)

The longest-tenured Ray, Crawford is an above-average fielder and one of the fastest players in the game, but at the plate his value is largely tied up in his batting average as he's never hit as many as 20 home runs nor drawn as many as 40 walks. This year, Crawford's average slipped down to .273, due largely to a .228 road mark, and his offensive value went with it.

Phillies Edge Rays

The left-handed Dobbs is a .314/.360/.526 career pinch-hitter who can play the four corners. Fellow lefty Matt Stairs is a .281/.377/.513 career pinch-hitter who can play first or the outfield corners and delivered a huge home run in the NLCS. Geoff Jenkins has barely played. He's useful as a left-handed pinch-hitter, but third in line behind Dobbs and Stairs. Eric Bruntlett can play anywhere but catcher, but is useless at the plate. So Taguchi went 3-for-33 as a pinch hitter this year and his play in the outfield diminished to the point that Bruntlett has become Burrell's defensive replacement in left field when the Phillies are winning. Backup catcher Chris Coste has been better than Ruiz this year. Not pictured: speed, defense or a right-hander to DH against Scott Kazmir, unless Charlie Manuel is willing to use Coste in that role.


Unlike the team they just beat in the ALCS, the Rays don't have a key hitter at the DH spot, so they don't lose much in NL parks. Cliff Floyd hit .275/.353/.466 as the Rays' left-handed DH this year, but hasn't played the outfield all year and has hit just .171 in his career as a pinch-hitter. Reclamation project Willy Aybar can play all around the infield and is hitting .367/.355/.633 as a near-regular in the postseason. Rookie Fernando Perez can switch hit, will take a walk and provides speed and outfield defense. Supersub Ben Zobrist can play anywhere but catcher. He also switch-hits and will take a walk, but is 0-for-12 as a pinch-hitter and can't hit at home. Backup catcher Michel Hernandez is an injury replacement labeled "break glass in case of emergency." When Gross starts in right field, Baldelli is a nice weapon from the right side.

Phillies Edge Rays
<a href=Cole Hamels" title="Cole Hamels"/>
Cole Hamels (3-0, 1.23 ERA in 2008 postseason), Brett Myers (2-0, 5.25), Jamie Moyer (0-2, 13.50), Joe Blanton (1-0, 3.27)

Hamels has been the best pitcher in this postseason, but might only start twice because the Phillies probably won't use him on three-day's rest. Myers returned from a mid-season demotion to the minors to fix his mechanics and responded by going 7-2 with a 1.80 ERA before ending the season with a pair of stinkers. Blanton is a league-average innings eater. Moyer is the ultimate junkballing lefty veteran but has been trashed in the postseason.

Scott Kazmir
Scott Kazmir (1-0, 4.02 ERA in 2008 postseason), James Shields (1-2, 3.72), Matt Garza (2-1, 3.32), Andy Sonnanstine (2-0, 3.46)

The ace entering the season, Kazmir had an off-year but is still a very talented power lefty who can dominate when he's on, as he was in Game 5 of the ALCS. He's also still the youngest of this very young quartet. Changeup artist Shields has emerged in Kazmir's place as the reliable ace, though he's better suited as a No. 2. Garza is an inconsistent righty flamethrower who dominated the Red Sox in the ALCS. Sonnanstine had a surprisingly strong season by throwing strikes and relying on his defense. He's the only member of the quartet who wasn't significantly better at home than on the road during the regular season.

Phillies Edge Rays
The Phillies had the best bullpen ERA in the National League this year and were second only to the Blue Jays in the majors. Brad Lidge is a dominant closer who hasn't blown a save all year and is 5-for-5 in the postseason. Lanky right-handed fireballer Ryan Madson has emerged as a similarly dominant set-up man. Righties Clay Condrey and journeyman Chad Durbin have been solid in the middle innings, though Durbin finished the season by posting a 5.40 ERA over the last two months. LOOGY (lefty one out guy) J.C. Romero has allowed just 10 hits to southpaws (three of them for extra bases) all year for a .102/.193/.153 split, but walks far too many right-handers. Second lefty Scott Eyre was dominant after coming over from the Cubs at the trade deadline, holding lefties to a .163/.226/.327 line and doing nearly as well against righties. Rookie lefty J.A. Happ, a starting pitcher who has made just eight relief appearances in his professional career, is around for long relief and mop-up duty.
Because manager Joe Maddon refuses to slot his pitchers in to pre-assigned roles, it's difficult to get a clear read on the Rays bullpen. Lefty J.P. Howell was outstanding all year against all comers, as was fireballing Aussie right-hander Grant Balfour, though both contributed to the Rays' meltdown in Game 5 of the ALCS and Balfour was noticeably left in the pen as Maddon used nearly everyone else in Game 7. Righty Dan Wheeler was the back-up closer to oft-injured veteran Troy Percival during the regular season, but has been used with more flexibility during the postseason. He pitched 3 1/3 valiant innings in the Rays' extra-inning Game 2 win in the ALCS and may still have a bit of a dead arm as a result. ROOGY (righty one out guy) submariner Chad Bradford, a late-season pickup from the Orioles, has been dominant when he's able to find the strike zone. LOOGY Trever Miller held lefties to a .209/.305/.308 line with just one home run in 106 plate appearances during the regular season. Edwin Jackson was a strong fifth starter during the regular season and provides value as a long-man. The wild card is first-year pro David Price, a left-hander with a dominant fastball and curve who closed out Game 7 of the ALCS and could emerge as the Francisco Rodriguez of this year's World Series before landing in next year's rotation.
Phillies Edge Rays
Charlie Manuel

Manuel is from the Lou Piniella school. A former slugger and hitting coach, he tends to play things by the book, lets his hitters hit (as well he should given his lineup), hopes he doesn't have to interact too much with his pitchers and will occasionally blow his top. The Phillies and Rays combined for just 43 sacrifice bunts by non-pitchers during the regular season, fewer than the total laid down by either the Twins or Blue Jays.

Joe Maddon

An even-tempered intellectual, Maddon is a progressive manager who has drawn attention for using philosophy and numerology to inspire his players and for largely casting aside statistically questionable strategies such as the no-doubles defense (baseball's version of the "prevent defense"), the sacrifice bunt and the designated closer. In the interest of team spirit, he has even sported a mohawk.

Phillies Edge Rays
It feels like the Phillies have been out of action for a month, but it will have actually been six days. The Rays, on the other hand, will have had just two days off. In each of the last two World Series, the team that stayed hot by playing a seven-game LCS won handily over the team that made quick work of its LCS opponent and sat around waiting, but that trend doesn't hold up over a larger sample. During the regular season, the Rays were 17 games better at home than on the road, while the Phillies' split was just four games. In the postseason, the Rays are 4-2 at home and 3-2 on the road. The Phillies are 4-0 at home and 3-2 on the road. The only Rays with World Series experience are Dan Wheeler (2005 Astros) and Cliff Floyd (1997 Marlins). The Phillies' World Series vets are Brad Lidge and Eric Bruntlett ('05 Astros), Scott Eyre and Pedro Feliz ('02 Giants) and So Taguchi ('04 and '06 Cardinals). As a team, the Phillies hit just .248/.289/.350 with the bases loaded during the regular season, but .350/.387/.528 with a runner on third and two outs late in a game.
The Rays hit .300/.381/.450 with the bases loaded, but just .189/.264/.274 with runners on the corners and .191/.327/.314 with a man on third and two outs at any point in the game. The Rays are 11-6 in extra innings this year; the Phillies are 6-7. The Phillies and Rays have just one prior championship (that of the 1980 Phillies). The last World Series to have as few or less was the 1980 fall classic between the Phillies and Royals, neither of whom had ever won one before. The Phillies have now faced every team in the AL East in the World Series (Red Sox: 1915, Yankees: 1950, Orioles: 1983, Blue Jays: 1993, Rays: 2008). They are 0-4 against AL East teams in the World Series and 1-0 against everyone else.

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