Over at Baseball Digest Daily, myself and fellow BDD writers were asked to pick a World Series winner and give a brief explanation of our pick. Here's what I said,
I’ve got the Rays winning this series in four games. The American League is simply that much more superior and the best team from the AL’s best division will simply be too much for the Phillies to handle. According to Baseball Prospectus’ EQA and EQR the Rays had a superior run differential of +137 compared to the Phillies +68, a very substantial margin.Another issue, that I didn't point out in my brief blurb here, the Phillies layoff. Fellow BDD writer Brian Joseph takes an in depth look at the World Series although I believe he inaccurately compares the two clubs.
While many are expecting Hamels to get the Phillies off to a good start, I keep thinking back to how hard both Upton and Longoria hit Jon Lester in the ALCS. Additionally, the Phillies bullpen is simply bound to give up a lead-something they haven’t done to this point in the season.
The first error is when Joseph claims that the Phillies benefited from taking care of the Dodgers in a rather quick fashion. While the club did take care of the Dodgers quickly, the length of that series wouldn't have really affected how the rotation shook out for the World Series.
That is, Hamels pitched the fifth and decisive game of the series on Wednesday. There is a chance that Hamels might have come out of the bullpen had the series went to seven games, however it would have been finished on Saturday, giving Hamels another 3 full days to recover. In other words, he was pitching game one of this series whether or not the series went the distance.
Thus, the rotation for the Phil's is presumably identical. However, the Rays have had an additional 3 days of rest then they would have had the series went the distance. This rest is nice, although not absolutely ideal. Hitters like Ryan Howard and Chase Utley were just beginning to hit the ball again. If it is a timing thing, the additional layoff is going to be a negative for the clubs two most important hitters.
As for the Rays, a very raw and untested playoff team, nothing is more of a test then a game seven. Especially a game seven against the defending champs after a major let down in game five, coupled with a disappointing outing in game six. The Rays came out in game seven like veterans and played a very sound game. We also got to see David Price, whom had somewhat of a coming out party.
Another area I disagree with Brian is his comparison between two of the respective clubs starters. The first of which, he is not on his own, even MLB.com (image above) feels that Ryan Howard has the leg up on Carlos Pena. But why? Pena has far and away had the superior post season, he is the superior fielder. So why Howard over Pena?
I responded to Brian's column already, and I'll simply copy what I wrote earlier,
Howard over Pena.What I was trying to say here is that if Pena had been in Howard's position the last two seasons, he would have posted substantially superior statistical seasons. In fact, even in Howard's career year, his translated power numbers are significantly higher. Pena's nuetralized Isolated Power in 2007 was .437 compared to Howard's career high in 2006 of .348. Some hitters are fortunate to have an ISO of .100, meanwhile Pena has nearly a 100 point advantage over the hitter whom most would consider a superior power hitter.
While you did not entirely disregard the regular season, even that should not be evidence to giving Howard the leg up on Pena. Check out Howard and Pena’s neutralized statistics. Over the last two season’s, Pena has posted a .345 and .306 EQA. Over that same period, Ryan Howard’s is .311 and .289. Even Howard’s unsustainable career year is a shade below what Pena did in 2007.
Both are lefty bats and both will have the same park effects entering this series. Pena is also an incredibly slick fielder and that should certainly be considered.
The next issue I had was with Victorino over Upton. While Victorino has certainly been a catalyst for the Phillies playoff run, and he had a very nice season, Upton has had both a superior post season and regular season. Here's what I wrote in response to Brian,
I’d say, without a shadow of a doubt, Upton is a fairly superior hitter then Victorino is. I would also like to further investigate the defensive +/- but that can be saved for another time. Similar to Pena v. Howard, Upton is a substantially superior hitter. His EQA this season was 13 points higher then Victorino’s. Consider if we hacked 13 points off of Victorino’s EQA and we’d be sitting at .265 and hardly a feared bat in the lineup. That same 13 point advantage which makes Victorino a nice hitter compared to a weak one can be noted when comparing Victorino as a ‘nice’ hitter to Upton a ’solid’-'great’ one.Brian makes a decent argument for Victorino's fielding as he has been one of the best center fielders in the Majors this season. I simply don't see it of enough of an advantage over a 4-7 game series to make up for the hitting.
Lastly, I entirely disagree with Brian's claim that Blanton has a leg up over Sonnanstine. I don't get into as much detail here, stating,
While split stats are not often the most reliable measure, due to their poor sample sizes, it must be accounted for that the Rays (and Devil Rays) have absolutely smoked Blanton over his career. 57 hits in 41.2 innings. A home run per 9. Not even a 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio.Admittedly, this isn't the absolutely best argument. The first issue, as Brian points out, we are dealing with a team from as early as 2005-of which is fairly different from the Rays current roster. Another issue is the sample size. A lot can happen over a 40 inning stretch. A pitcher can simply go on a stretch where nothing goes their way.
That aside, Sonnanstine had a significantly superior season in 2008 having an FIP .61 lower then Blanton's.
I also feel as though Blanton's spot in the rotation is a mistake. Being that he is a relative soft-tosser, Blanton won't be able to take advantage of the projected cool temperatures in the same way that Brett Myers would be able to. Speaking of Myers, isn't he rather hot-headed? Why would the Phillies want him pitching a road game in one of the loudest (and annoying) ballparks in baseball? How do you think Myers reacts to a bad call and the cowbells (see below):
So there we have it, my World Series preview and prediction. Rays in 4.