welcome to october. welcome to the playoffs.

it's here.

like christmas morning and easter and hannukkah and valentine's day all wrapped into one, but with baseball instead of stockings or candy or presents or depressing waves of loneliness and disappointment. instead, you'll be linked together to hundreds of thousands, millions of people all watching the same game, all pulling for the team just like you. 

people have observed that our culture has gotten more and more fractured, more and more compartmentalized over time. there used to be just three major television networks, so huge portions of the nation might be watching one show all at the same time (your correspondent embarrassingly recalls having televisions with a separate UHF dial, when television in st. louis was limited to ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, an independent channel 11 - dedicated at the time to showing old three stooges episodes, mostly - and religious programming on channel 24. he also recalls first watching some of the first programming on the local FOX station - then channel 30 - including the Tracy Ullman Show, which then featured a certain animated short).

with cable tv, DVDs, the internet, and a thousand other demands on the attention of the entertainment consumer, very rarely does any program capture the attention of most of everybody. the baseball playoffs, like the NFL playoffs and a handful of other sports programs, have the rare feature of being something almost everyone watches. 

not that having everybody watching the same program at the same time is necessarily a great thing; your correspondent also recalls tuning in with 83 million people to find out who shot J.R. (yes, virginia, there was a pop culture antecedent to "who shot mr. burns?"). i'm not sure that shared crap television uplifted our culture or made us forget our differences. it was just different, not necessarily better.

so, have you SEEN the roster for the playoffs? are you as OUTRAGED as i am? what were they thinking?

really, ANGEL HERNANDEZ? what the hell?

oh, yeah, i meant the UMPIRE rosters. apparently, we get saddled with angel hernandez in the NLDS. we miss the honor of having joe west and the rest of his staff (they'll be embarrassing themselves in the MIL-ARZ series), but this is sort of like holding the world championships of speedboating and inviting joseph hazelwood - apparently it's 1980's references day at VEB - to act as grand marshal. apparently, being literally the worst umpire in all of major league baseball gets you an invite to the post-season. 

this does not seem like a sign that a serious quality control program is arriving any time soon for MLB. depressing.

the cardinal roster -  based on the details leaked so far - seems more or less inoffensive. i was pleased to see kyle mcclellan not invited, while frequent doghouse inhabitant mitch boggs got the call -- this probably also means kyle has played his last game as a cardinal, which is good news as well. i am disappointed that arthur rhodes likely goes into the postseason, since he's simply useless. eduardo sanchez, notwithstanding his limited exposure this fall, looks like dynamite.

on the position player side, derrick goold just tweeted that chambers - as well as furcal and holliday - are on the roster. hopefully, this means that corey patterson and kyle mcclellan can keep each other company. i would expect holliday not to start today, and for allen craig (who now is seen in the company of milk cartons only when pouring his breakfast cereal) to start in LF. 

the rotation looks like kyle lohse (tonight), carpenter, jaime, lohse (if necessary), carpenter (if necessary).

now, the question of the week: can we beat them?

yes, we can.

it will be tough to beat a team whose rotation goes halladay, lee, hamels. but we've already beaten them this season. more importantly, the aging phillies lineup - while not a pushover in any sense - is not what it once was. the phillies actually have the worst team wOBA of any team in the postseason and have scored fewer runs than any postseason team other than the rays. with age and injury afflicting chase utley and jimmy rollins, the phillies also have a far more porous defense (not that we can criticize anyone: the only postseason defense worse than philadelphia is, uh, us) than they did three or four years ago.

know your phillies

shane victorino is the most valuable phillie.

i'm going to let that sink in.

shane victorino is the most valuable phillie. always a solid contact hitter and a decent defender in the outfield, this pint-sized chap discovered some power this year, breaking the .200 ISO barrier for the first time. right now, he's the best hitter on the team.

chase utley, limited to 103 games by injury, is still a fantastic second baseman. i'm not sure how many whole seasons of st. louis second basemen you would have to stack on top of each other to get the 3.9 wins utley was worth in his abbreviated season, but it would probably take you back to 2008 or 2009. still a good defender, his injuries have kept him from a good year at the plate, even when healthy enough to take the field. i would take his uncharacteristic .344 wOBA from our second basemen any time.

jimmy rollins is still a good shortstop, but not a star. relatively healthy, he's just in an age-related relative decline. of course his relative decline is a 3.8 win season, which i would take from our . . . .well, you get the picture.

i will, however, take yadier molina over carlos ruiz, though chooch is not a bad option at catcher at all. just a touch under three wins with the bat.

placido polanco has adapted extremely well to his third base conversion, remaining an elite defender if a subpar hitter. polanco is giving zimmerman a run for his money for best defender at third in the NL.

hunter pence is a lucky sumbitch. he's done nothing but hit in philadelphia, to the tune of a .348 BABIP. i have a hard time buying into his 2011 as anything but luck since he's only once had a wOBA better than .360 in his career. i thought the astros sold high on him, and i am ready for him to start regressing. yup, any day now would be just fine . . . .

ryan howard has a .354 wOBA at first base (which ties him for 13th best offensive performance among first basemen) and has been worth 1.6 wins this season. someone will still vote for him as MVP.

the travesty in the outfield this year has been raul ibanez. the aging slugger signed to a 3 year deal has been worth -1.3 wins, hitting a descalso-esque .306 wOBA, with atrocious defense. the more we see of him the better.

the phils stabilized the non-victorino parts of the outfield somewhat by trading for pence, but have struggled to fill the other corner. a mix of ben francisco, john mayberry, and the now-injured domonic brown have filled in. mayberry has looked pretty good in limited exposure. 

there are a lot of solid players - assuming they stay healthy - but, other than victorino, no huge stars. 

the rotation is the best in baseball - maybe one of the best there's ever been. that's the scary end of the 2011 phillies. if some balls fall our way, though, the cardinals' pretty solid offense could hang a few runs even on the hand full of aces the phillies have dealt themselves.

in any event, we're going to see some great baseball.

[edit: official roster information up - 

correction to prior statements - it appears they will aim at having westbrook or (more likely) jackson start game 4, rather than lohse again. along with starting pitchers carpenter, lohse, and garcia, the NLDS roster includes the following:

Adron Chambers was the chief beneficiary of the team's roster composition, and he'll stick as a pinch-runner, defensive replacement and super-sub for the Cardinals. The other 13 hitters will be: Yadier Molina, Gerald Laird, Albert Pujols, Skip Schumaker, Furcal, David Freese, Nick Punto, Daniel Descalso, Ryan Theriot, Holliday, Jon Jay, Lance Berkman and Allen Craig.

Right-handers Jason Motte, Fernando Salas, Octavio Dotel and Mitchell Boggs will be joined by lefties Marc Rzepczynski and Arthur Rhodes in the bullpen. Edwin Jackson and Jake Westbrook, who are not starting in the first three games, will be available in relief at least for Games 1-2.

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