Game One of the National League Championship Series (NLCS) begins in Los Angeles tonight. Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels will take to the mound against the Dodgers’ young lefty Clayton Kershaw.
Hamels will look to throw the ball better than he did in his one NLDS start against Colorado. In that game, Hamels took the loss after allowing four runs on seven hits in five innings of work. If confidence plays into his success at all, Hamels should be brimming with it when facing the Dodgers. He dominated the team a year ago in the ’08 NLCS.
The offense was pretty darn successful against Colorado in the National League Division Series. Entering the ’09 NLCS, the hot hitters include the big names like Shane Victorino, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Chase Utley, and Raul Ibanez. Even Carlos Ruiz got in on the act. The one player we have yet to see break out in post-season play is shortstop Jimmy Rollins. He scored just one run in the NLDS, and posted an on-base average of just .263. Rollins did not drive in any runs, either, although, to be fair, that is not his job.
The bench – Miguel Cairo, Greg Dobbs, Matt Stairs, and Ben Francisco – was also quiet. Collectively, the quartet went 0-for-8 with one walk. That lack of production from the veterans could very easily have a much larger impact in the NLCS than it did in the NLDS.
As mentioned, these two teams faced off in the ’08 NLCS… With few major subtractions on either team, let’s have a look at the key additions for each club from one year ago.
Los Angeles has certainly had the bigger of the two face-lifts. Overall, though, you have to like the value of Philadelphia’s four additions over the eight players that LA added, based on what they collectively provided during the regular season: 12.3 vs 9.2 WAR.
On paper, it’s hard to pick a favorite to win the NLCS. Both teams have good pitching and good hitting. For the fans, this could end up being a very entertaining series. I’m also willing to bet that the bullpens and benches will play much larger roles than they did in the two division series.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.