Phillies, Yankees could be in trouble if these guys don't step up
Two Phils playoff underachievers are '08 heroes Cole Hamels and Jimmy Rollins
For the Yanks, relievers Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain have disappointed
Before the ALCS and NLCS, I identified the players on each of the four teams who had underperformed in the opening round of the playoffs and thus needed to step up their performance to help their teams win their respective league pennants. With another round in the books, here are the players on the two pennant winners who remain concerns heading into the World Series.
Cole Hamels: Hamels' shakey NLDS start against the Rockies put him on my LCS watch list, and though the Phillies won both of his NLCS starts, he's an even greater concern heading into the World Series. Hamels hasn't completed six innings in any of his three playoff starts this year and enters the World Series with a 6.75 postseason ERA. Worse yet, he's allowed six home runs in those three starts, five of them in his two NLCS starts. That's bad news for a pitcher facing a Yankees lineup that set a franchise record for home runs heading into a World Series that will take place in two homer-happy ballparks. Hamels seems likely to match up with Andy Pettitte in Game 3. Given the two pitchers' performances thus far this postseason, this is the matchup that favors the Yankees the most.
The Bench: The Phillies' bench is 0 for 15 with a pair of walks this postseason. That's a problem at home, where their pinch hitters are being out-hit by their pitchers (2 for 15, 2 BB, SB, thanks primarily to Cliff Lee), but is especially troublesome at the new Yankee Stadium, where that bench will have to provide the Phillies with a designated hitter in Games 1, 2, and possibly 6 and 7. That DH is likely to be Matt Stairs against righties and Ben Francisco (in left field, with Raul Ibañez as the actual DH) against lefties CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte. Stairs has the two walks, which is an encouraging sign, particularly given that he'll start against major league walks leader A.J. Burnett, against whom he has also homered twice in 12 career plate appearances. Francisco, however, has made five outs in four trips, going 0-for-4 and grounding into a double play.
Ryan Madson: The Phillies entered the postseason with a closer controversy due to Brad Lidge's nightmare season, but despite Madson getting the majority of the save opportunities down the stretch, Charlie Manuel went back to last year's Mr. Perfect in the playoffs and has been rewarded. Lidge has allowed just one hit and no runs -- neither his own nor via inherited runners -- in five appearances while picking up three saves, a win and the pennant-clinching outs. Madson, meanwhile, allowed nine of the 19 men he faced in the NLCS to reach base and blew two saves in his three appearances in the NLDS against the Rockies. That's particularly troubling because the next guy on this list is ...
Chan Ho Park: Park missed the NLDS with a sore hamstring and pitched like it in the NLCS, blowing a save in Game 2 and coughing up a run Game 5, resulting in a 8.10 ERA for the series. Park and Madson were the Phillies' top righty setup men during the regular season. Their struggles would be a concern regardless, but are particularly worrisome given Alex Rodriguez's knack for game-changing late-inning hits so far this postseason.
Jimmy Rollins: Yes, Rollins got the big double off Jonathan Broxton that won Game 4 of the NLCS, but he's hitting just .244/.279/.317 this postseason, hasn't drawn a walk and hasn't stolen a base. That performance looks a lot more like the slumping Rollins of the first half of the season (.205/.250/.319 with just 11 steals in 16 tries on July 1) than the resurgent Rollins of the second half (.288/.334/.510 with 20 steals in 23 tries). One of the reasons the Angels will be watching this Series on TV is that their leadoff hitter, Chone Figgins, posted a .200 on-base percentage and didn't steal a base this postseason. Rollins has been better than Figgins, but not by much.
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