NLDS Preview: Reds vs. Phillies

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Here at HardballTalk we pride ourselves on writing dozens of posts a
day obsessing on every single little thing possible. We’re told,
however, that some of you have lives and thus not all of you are able to
read dozens of posts a day obsessing on every single little thing
possible.  That’s a shame, but for that reason, we’ve put together a few
previews covering the broad strokes of each of the four Division Series
matchups, which will pop up between now and first pitch on Wednesday
afternoon. Let’s begin, shall we?

The Matchup: Cincinnati Reds (91-71) vs. Philadelphia Phillies (97-65)

How’ve they been doing?
The Phillies were phenomenal in the season’s last month, winning 23 of their last 30.  The Reds were below .500 over that time, losing a lot more games to not-so-great teams than they should have.

Haven’t I seen you before?
The Phillies won the season series 5-2. The Reds beat the Phillies 3-0 in the 1976 NLCS. With the exception of Jamie Moyer, however, the rosters have turned over so that shouldn’t have much bearing here.

Who’s pitching?
The Phillies are — surprise surprise — going to trot out fellas by the name of Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels. The Reds counter with Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto.  You’d think that Travis Wood — a lefty who took a perfecto into the ninth inning against the Phillies back in July — would get a look-see, but I guess not. To be fair, though, that was a very different Phillies team back in July than the one playing now, and Wood has had really only one spiffy start in the past couple of months.

The storyline which doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things
but which TBS will nonetheless beat to death

I won’t say it doesn’t matter, because it does, but the “Phillies are vulnerable to lefties” thing has less traction this year than in years past. As Ken Rosenthal noted over at FOX, Chase Utley actually did better against lefties this year than he did against righties and Ryan Howard’s splits are less extreme than they have been historically. Granted, Howard’s splits were narrowed due to a bigger dropoff against righties than an improvement against lefties, but he has done better.  I’m still looking forward to seeing Aroldis Chapman brought in to face Utley and Howard, but it won’t necessarily be the same dynamic we’re used to seeing when the Phillies face a lefty late.

Oh, and the storyline we’re going to get absolutely sick of is the “Big Three” or “H20” or whatever it is we’re calling Halladay-Hamels-Oswalt these days. But just because we’re sick of it doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. It’s basically everything in this series, I’m afraid.

The storyline which actually does matter but about which TBS won’t spend a lot of time
talking

Not saying it matters too much, but I would not be at all surprised if there is a big focus on “the battle-hardened Phillies” vs. the “wet-behind-the-ears” Reds.  Such a thing is tempting to beat into the ground, but if TBS does this, they’ll have to ignore the fact that The Reds do have playoff experience. Ramon Hernandez, Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, Orlando Cabrera, Bronson Arroyo, Jonny Gomes and Arthur Rhodes have all played in October. And, oh yeah, Dusty Baker managed a team to within one win of a World Series title himself.  These guys won’t be deer in the headlights. Roy Halladay will be the most important guy on the field in Game 1, and he’s never played in the postseason.

What’s gonna go down?
The phrase “anything can happen in a short series” is true because, yeah, anything can happen in a short series.  And just ask Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz how often being “The Big Three” ended up not mattering in the end.  But really, the Reds are outgunned here, and there’s no way to get around that fact. Sure, I can envision a scenario in which Halladay has a bad start for some reason, Manuel has to go to the bullpen early and everything gets thrown off kilter. But I kinda doubt it. 

I’ll call it the Phillies in 4 simply because it seems rude to predict a sweep, but let’s just say that I will be none too surprised if a sweep goes down.  Too many arms on the Phillies. Too many good bats. Too many of the Reds gaudy team-offensive numbers were compiled against the NL Central.  I don’t think this will be particularly close.

The Padres non-tendered RHP Tyson Ross

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 04:  Tyson Ross #38 of the San Diego Padres walks off the field as he's taken out of the game in the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on opening day at PETCO Park on April 4, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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Per a report by MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell, the Padres non-tendered right-handed starter Tyson Ross on Friday, cutting loose their top ace after three seasons with the club.

Ross, 29, was sidelined for the bulk of the season with inflammation in his right shoulder and underwent thoracic outlet surgery in October. His injuries limited him to only 5 1/3 innings in 2016, during which he gave up seven runs and struck out five in a 15-0 blowout against the Dodgers.

Prior to his lengthy stint on the disabled list, the right-hander earned 9.5 fWAR and pitched to a 3.07 ERA and 9.2 K/9 rate in three full seasons with the Padres. He avoided arbitration with a one-year, $9.625 million deal prior to the 2016 season after leading the league with 33 starts and delivering a 3.26 ERA and career-best 4.4 WARP over 196 innings in 2015.

The Padres appear open to bringing Ross back to San Diego, reported Cassavell, albeit not at such a steep cost. Cassavell quoted Padres’ GM A.J. Preller, who was reportedly in trade talks involving Ross but unable to strike a deal, likely due to the right-hander’s recent health issues. Preller denied that those same health issues factored into the club’s decision to non-tender their ace.

With the move, Ross became one of 35 major leaguers to enter free agency on Friday.

Angels’ Pujols has foot surgery, could be sidelined 4 months

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols had surgery on his right foot Friday, possibly sidelining him past opening day.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler said Pujols had the procedure Friday in North Carolina to release his plantar fascia, the ligament connecting the heel to the toes. The three-time NL MVP was bothered by plantar fasciitis repeatedly during the season, but played through the pain in arguably the strongest year of his half-decade with the Angels.

Eppler said the surgery typically prevents players from participating in baseball activities for three months, along with another month before they’re ready to resume playing in games. Opening day for Los Angeles is April 3, and the Angels hope Pujols can be ready.

“He’s at that point in his career where he’s keenly aware of what’s happening with his body,” Eppler said in a phone interview. “I don’t put the timetable on Albert like you would with your younger players. We’ll just see in Albert’s case, as he progresses, what his timetable is.”

Pujols, who turns 37 next month, batted .268 last year with 31 homers and 119 RBIs, the fourth-most in the majors – although his .780 OPS was among the worst of his career. He largely served as a designated hitter instead of playing first base due to problems with his hamstrings and feet.

Pujols heads into 2017 with 591 career homers, ranking him ninth in major league history. He is 18 homers behind Sammy Sosa for eighth place.

After playing in pain until the final week of the Angels’ disappointing season, Pujols began shock wave therapy on his foot early in the offseason, believing he wouldn’t need surgery.

But Pujols’ foot became more painful in recent weeks despite the therapy, and he huddled with the Angels’ top brass to decide on surgery after his most recent trip to see Dr. Robert Anderson in North Carolina. Continuing with conservative care would have required 10 more weeks, forcing Pujols to miss the first half of the 2017 season if he still required surgery.

“He just felt that the pain had gotten to a point where he was comfortable” having surgery, Eppler said. “If we did delay it, you’re just looking at 2 1/2 more months into the season.”

Pujols had a different type of surgery on his right foot last winter, but recovered in time for opening day. He also had plantar fasciitis in his left foot during the 2013 season, eventually forcing him out for the year when his fascia snapped.

Pujols has five years and $140 million remaining on the 10-year, $240 million free-agent contract that pried him out of St. Louis, where he won two World Series and became a nine-time NL All-Star.

The Angels haven’t won a playoff game since Pujols’ arrival and Mike Trout‘s concurrent emergence as one of baseball’s best players. They went 74-88 last season, the injury-plagued club’s worst record since 1999.