10/02/07 7:58 PM ET
Speed an added dimension for Phils
NL East champs thrive on basepaths as well as at plate
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
From brash leadoff hitter Jimmy Rollins to the power of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, the Phillies feel like they can slug it out with anyone. They bring the most prolific offense in the National League into the playoffs.
When the Phillies begin their National League Division Series on Wednesday, they'll be facing a team nearly as high-powered as themselves in the Colorado Rockies. But there is something the Phillies have that the Rockies do not:
"Offensively, there is definitely a lot of similarities, and also personnel-wise," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "I think we've got a little more speed, especially with Jimmy Rollins, [Shane] Victorino, [Michael] Bourn and Utley. But at the same time, we've got to get that speed on base."
The NL's highest scoring team with 892 runs, the Phillies finished 32 runs ahead of the Rockies, who ranked second. With 138 stolen bases, Philadelphia is second in that category, but they've been caught stealing a league-fewest 19 times.
As for getting on base, the Phillies have shown they will do whatever it takes to reach safely. They were hit by pitches an NL-most 90 times, compared to 58 for the Rockies. And Philadelphia is tied with San Francisco in receiving the most intentional walks in the NL (74).
The threat of the long ball is spread throughout the lineup, but Manuel adds the importance of being able to execute offensively.
"Situational hitting is big in every game," Manuel said. "Of course it's big in the postseason. When we can manufacture runs, that's where our speed on the bases definitely comes into play.
"[We try to] play the game right, and right is moving the runners and always putting them in position where you can score the most in the easiest possible way."
Three Phillies scored 100 or more runs: Rollins (139), Aaron Rowand (105) and Utley (104). And five Philadelphia players finished with more than 20 homers: Howard (47), Burrell (30), Rollins (30), Rowand (27) and Utley (22).
The Phillies also have the benefit of playing in the most homer-friendly ballpark in the entire Major Leagues. Citizens Bank Park was home to an MLB-high 241 homers.
While the Rockies play in hitter-friendly Coors Field, their home rated ninth overall in long balls with 185.
"I've always said that when you hit a ball and it's a home run, it doesn't matter where you are playing," Rollins said. "When you hit a ball here and it's 10 rows deep, it's going to be out of any ballpark anywhere."
As much as hitting has the potential to dominate the series, the elements are expected to play a factor on Wednesday. That's because with the 3 p.m. ET start time, the afternoon glare and shadows have traditionally made it tougher for hitters to pick up the pitches.
"It's definitely tough when you play with shadows," Howard said. "Early on in the game, I think it's going to be pretty much a factor. The team that can get over it will probably come out on top."
Rollins says he has a strategy to help his team deal with the conditions.
"I am going to share a little secret with some of my teammates to help them get through it," Rollins said grinning.
While he didn't give specifics, he smiled when asked if sunglasses are an option.
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.