Being a baseball fan from Canada, it’s difficult to escape the debate of whom one should support in the upcoming series between the Cincinnati Reds and the Philadelphia Phillies.

If you’re cheering for the Philadelphia Phillies, you’re an idiot who hates Canada because the Reds’ Joey Votto is from Etobicoke and he bleeds maple syrup.

If you’re cheering for the Cincinnati Reds, you’re an idiot who hates Canada because the Phillies’ Roy Halladay played for the only MLB franchise in Canada, and he sweat blood and bled sweat for the Toronto Blue Jays for years.

And so the argument goes. And goes. And goes.

Personally, I’ve never been one to wave a flag.  I’ve always thought that the best part about being Canadian is that you didn’t have to partake in that nonsense.  The nonsense I prefer to get caught up in is cheering for an out and out underdog.  And the Cincinnati Reds meet that particular set of criteria more than any of the eight teams still playing baseball.

We’ll delve into what makes the Phillies so good in another post, but for now, let’s talk about the overachieving Reds coming out of the NL Central.    Led by Votto, the Reds were the offensive kingpins of the National League.  They mashed their way to victories throughout the season, which allowed them to coast in September, going 12-15, the only month they had a losing record.

While good numbers were expected from Votto and Jay Bruce, the Reds gained unexpected extra mileage from a rejuvenated Scott Rolen, a refocused Brandon Phillips and a no longer platooned Jonny Gomes.  While the Reds may have allowed more runs than any other NL playoff team, their pitching, led by Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto, was as competent as it had to be to win the NL Central.

The Competition

The Reds open the National League side of the playoff bracket against the defending NL Champion Philadelphia Phillies in the City of Brotherly Love.  The way that the schedule is laid out, it shouldn’t be a problem for either team to use a three man rotation for this round, meaning that that Philadelphia could start Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt twice this series. That’s bad news for the Reds best hitter, Joey Votto, who notoriously struggles against groundball pitchers.

The Difference Maker

When your most likely chance depends on your opposition’s best assets faltering, it’s never a good sign.  But that’s exactly where the Reds find themselves.  Their only shot at success against Philadelphia is to score a lot of runs and hope that their pitching can hold up the Phillies lineup which hasn’t really fired on all cylinders yet this season.

It can be argued that their lineups have similar to equal output, but unfortunately; the front of the Phillies rotation consists of Halladay, Oswalt and Cole Hamels who, as FanGraphs points out averaged a 3.28 FIP this year, while the Edinson Volquez, Arroyo and Cueto triumvirate averaged a 4.19 FIP.

That’s a massive difference that’s made even massiver (that’s right) in a short series.

What do the Reds have to hope for?  Philadelphia’s Big Three all pitched over 200 innings this season and if there ever was a time to push pins in the playoff inexperienced psyche of a Roy Halladay voodoo doll, it would be now.

Injuries

Jim Edmonds’ roster spot is dependent on a workout this morning.  The veteran outfielder injured his Achilles on September 21st and is still recovering. The Reds didn’t have to allow Aaron Harang to suffer the embarrassment of not being given a roster spot after the pitcher developed a blister on his finger during the final game of the season.

Strategies

Dusty Baker manages the Cincinnati Reds.  Strategy?  Good one.

Need more?  Edinson Volquez and his 1.50 WHIP is the Game One starter.

Summary

There is absolutely no reason for the Reds to win this series.  They appear to be overmatched at almost every position.  Their pitching is nowhere close to what the Phillies can put out there.  And apparently, Philadelphia’s best player, Roy Halladay is hungry, at least according to Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.

“He’s very hungry. I think he’s got a lot of hunger. I think he’s starving, all right.”

But that’s sort of what makes baseball beautiful.  It’s an overworked cliché but in a short playoff series, anything can happen and the Reds bats aren’t exactly unfamiliar with raking.  No matter the outcome, at least half of Canada will have a rooting interest in the NLCS.

Comments (5)

  1. I love the blog and good preview of the series. I will be rooting for Votto to have a great series, just not deny Roy his chance at a World Series ring.

    My bet is that Votto will be a perrenial MVP candidate and the Reds will be back here next year, and since Roy will have his ring we can cheer for him without guilt.

    If you’re interested I preivewed the Divisional serieses (working on the Giants-Braves) on my blog too:

    http://route19.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/2010-mlb-playoffs/

  2. I’m not feeling the Halladay love like others. It was great watching him while he was here, but the way fans deify him kind of turns me off.

  3. Good read Jacky!

  4. “My bet is that Votto will be a perrenial MVP candidate and the Reds will be back here next year, and since Roy will have his ring we can cheer for him without guilt.”

    this. there is no ‘debate’ here – Votto is a kid entering his prime, and this is the Doc’s best chance (Philly’s not going to start to suck or anything, but how often are they going to have the best record in baseball + NL won the allstar game?)

  5. There’s no question about Votto. This is only his third full season and he still has more than 500 hits and almost 100 HRs. His lowest OPS was his rookie year and that was .874.

    As for the Phillies, we’ll be getting to them shortly.

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