Major League Baseball

Inside The Wheelhouse – NLDS Preview

Albert PujolsOctober is an amazing time of the year for sports fans. The NFL is getting into mid-swing, College Football is going through their conference games and the MLB is having their postseason. After 162 games (163 for the Tigers or Twins), we have narrowed down the field to 8 teams, 4 from each league.

By the end of November one will remain raising the all mighty World Series trophy above their heads. This is the first part of my Divisional series preview starting out with the National League and the NLDS.

NLDS:

Philadelphia Phillies vs. Colorado Rockies

This is the 2nd time in three years that the Phillies & Rockies are opening up their postseason against one another. The first go around in 2007 saw the Rockies winning the series on their way to the World Series to take on Boston. In 2008 the Rockies missed the playoffs while the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series. The Philadelphia Phillies are no doubt looking to take what they would probably consider, a small monkey off their back with a series victory over the Rockies.

The Phillies have without a doubt the best rotation out of the entire Postseason rosters in the Divisional Series. You have three veteran pitchers in Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee & Pedro Martinez who all have playoff experience, with two of the three pitchers named playing in a World Series. We talk about it every October, pitching wins Championships. Seeing the names of Hamels, Lee & Martinez rounding out your Divisional Series rotation will intimidate such a young offense like the Rockies.

While the offense of the Philadelphia Phillies mainly Utley, Rollins and Howard, make one of the better “Big 3” in all of sports (sorry Celtics). Despite bullpen issues as of late I like the Phillies chances heading into this series and they should too. They have done this once before tasted the World Series trophy and want to do it again making the first back to back franchise to win a Championship since the ’98 & ’99 New York Yankees.

The thing that the Colorado Rockies have going for them is the lack of attention they receive since they don’t play in an ESPN loving – big city market. Now before you go off and say well “Denver is a big market,” let’s be honest when you think of Colorado do you think of their Baseball team like you would in Philly, Boston or New York? No. You think of skiing and the Denver Broncos. “Rocktober” only begins when the Rockies actually play in postseason ball, then the fans come out to Coors Field to support their team.

This team has the ’97 Marlins, ’02 Angels, ’03 Marlins and ’07 Rockies aura about them. Ask the everyday once in a while Baseball fan to name one player on the Rockies and they might say Matt Holliday which should tell you how much people pay attention to this team. And that right there is what can carry that “underdog attitude” past the defending Champs. They need to show no fear against this pitching staff and that lineup to take down the Phillies.
But to me this Colorado Rockies run has been nice to watch, it’s great to see a team that you never expect to make the playoffs and crash the party. But unlike the ’07 Rockies I really don’t see this team taking down the Phillies in the NLDS. This is a different Phillies team clearly that has one thing that really defines them when it comes down to comparing these teams, Postseason experience. While it’s nice that Todd Helton, Brad Hawpe, Troy Tulowitzki and Jason Giambi (if you actually count the times he played in the Postseason as being an active participant) have Postseason experience, a good portion of the Phillies are the core team from 2008 (minus Pat Burrell).

The Phillies have the pitching to carry them beyond and despite winning the Championship last year still haven’t received any respect from sports writers or fans alike. The Phillies are still playing with a chip on their shoulder which makes them a dangerous team to play against in October baseball. I like the Phillies moving on this series taking it 3-1 with the Rockies winning one game at Coors Field thanks to a more then likely blown save from Brad Lidge.

Prediction: Phillies win series 3-1

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. St. Louis Cardinals

This is a matchup that TBS will eat up when it comes to the ratings game. You have Manny vs. Albert, Torre vs. LaRussa, and Dodgers vs. Cardinals. TBS is thanking the Baseball gods for having this matchup land on their network for the Divisional Series.

To start out the preview I first will look at the NL West Champion Los Angeles Dodgers. A team that was heavily favored in the preseason as being one of the favorites to win the entire thing in October. And frankly who could blame them for thinking that way? You had Joe Torre who has not missed the playoffs in 13 years (now 14) coming into this season and you had Manny Ramirez as preseason pick to be this season’s NL MVP. Add the young talent that makes up the Dodgers core and you have potential World Series winner written all over it.

But come May your star player is suspended for 50 games for a Performance Enhancing Drug violation and you’re left for with your back up against the wall for the beginning of the season, or so we thought. Despite not having Manny in the lineup the Dodgers still played top-notch Baseball for 50 games with Juan Pierre essentially reviving his career. Joe Torre has dealt with adversity in the past whether it is the cancer he was diagnosed with, his brother’s heart surgery or George Steinbrenner.

This Dodgers team has been compared to the 1996 New York Yankees where Joe Torre guided a fairly young team with a couple veterans on the roster to the holy grail of Baseball. The good thing that the 2009 Dodgers have going for them is they are playoff experienced now. Their cherry’s have been popped and can get used to playing in the Postseason.

But the one draw back from this Dodgers team that is alarming as you enter October baseball is that they just plain stunk in September. For most of the season they had the NL West wrapped up in a little bow while the Rockies & Giants put on a Wild Card show for Baseball fans. Come the end of the season and their 3 game series with the Rockies all of a sudden has a playoff like feel to it with the NL West Championship on the line. You do not want to enter the postseason stumbling and bumbling as Chris Berman might say during an Adrian Peterson highlight.

The Cardinals like the Phillies have tasted the glory of a World Series Championship. They have without a doubt the best player in all of Baseball with Albert Pujols and have what I consider one of the best natural born hitters in the game with Matt Holliday. Add Ryan Ludwick as well as the rest of that decent hitting lineup in St. Louis and you have a very complete team showing up to play.

To me what really puts the Cardinals ahead of the Dodgers in this one is the pitching. Like the Phillies you need that good 1-2 or 3 punch in the playoffs, just ask the ’01 Diamondbacks. Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter could be the best Game 1 and Game 2 starter in the entire playoffs. After two seasons of injury prone Baseball Chris Carpenter cemented himself back atop the NL as one of their most dominant pitchers this season. A Game 1 & 2 matchup of Carpenter vs. Wolf & Wainwright vs. Kershaw gives the Cardinals the edge without a doubt.

Pitching wins Championships great rotations, 1-2 punches and amazing bullpens win Championships. That’s where the Cardinals outmatch the Dodgers. The Dodgers offense is still young and will continue to mature into an amazing ballclub. I’m rooting for the Dodgers in this series but I have to give it to St. Louis in the full 5 games. Albert Pujols could beat team’s singlehanded and adding Matt Holliday to your lineup was the protection Pujols needed in playoff time. Their pitching outmatches the Dodgers and their hitting does as well but just barely.

Prediction: Cardinals win series 3-2

Let me know what you think of my picks for the NLDS! You can e-mail me at [email protected] or comment this blog! Coming out soon will be my ALDS preview and check out The Wheelhouse every Sunday – Thursday LIVE @ 8pm ET/5pm PT at www.blogtalkradio.com/thewheelhouse or at http://wheelhouseradio.wordpress.com.

Jeff Peck is the producer for the “Wheelhouse Radio” program that airs every Sunday – Thursday @ 8pm ET/5pm PT at http://www.wheelhouseradio.wordpress.com

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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