Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Quick n' Dirty World Series Prediction

Philadelphia Phillies vs. Tampa Bay Rays

Myth: After being wrong about the Rays in the ALDS and the ALCS, Aaron is ready to concede the world championship to Tampa Bay.

NEVER! Look, there are a number of angles to explore here. Will the Phillies be rusty after a week-long layoff? Did the seven-game split-decision with the Red Sox sap the Rays dry? Do the Rays have any answer for the Cole Hamels Express? Which Phillies offense will show up: the flaccid squad that couldn't hit the Brewers or the not-as-impotent troupe that defeated the Dodgers?

Tampa Bay is simply a better team than Philadelphia. While the Phillies' "O" is stronger at the top, the Rays feature more balance throughout. The same could probably be said about the starting pitching staffs. So, how am I going to talk myself into picking the Phillies?

Cole Hamels had better start the first, fourth and – if necessary – seventh games of the Series. He's so much better than anyone else on the Phillies staff that 85% of Hamels on three days rest is a surer thing that 110% of Fat Blanton and Jurassic Moyer.

Offensively, the Phillies can't afford to fall into the National League trap of playing for one run with small ball tactics. They've gotten to this point with mostly one huge inning in every playoff win. Notwithstanding, while their bench stinks, Charlie Manuel had better be sure that a one-run game doesn't end with either Matt Stairs or Greg Dobbs on the bench. Either one is better than nearly half of their starting lineup.

The Rays – save for their sleepwalk job through game six of the ALCS – have looked fresher than either of the two teams they've faced. If this goes the distance, Tampa Bay might simply be the last team standing. Philadelphia is going to have to take both of the first two games in Tampa to have any shot here. I think they'll do it.

And, they won't be coming back.

Prediction: Phillies in 5

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