— A: The only thing we know about the postseason right now is that the Phillies will go in as the favorites — and as you mention, the reason will be their dominant rotation.
It really will be hard to pick against a team that will run out Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and most likely, Roy Oswalt in a short series.
But we saw last October that the Phillies offense can be shut down, and upsets happen all the time. And with so much balance among the eventual eight playoff teams, the term 'upset' barely will be applicable next month.
As for who can knock off the Phillies — and speaking further to your point — I've got two words for you: Justin Verlander. Nobody is pitching better than the Tigers' ace, and as we've seen so many times in the past, it's often a great starting pitcher or two leading the way to a World Series title.
Verlander is having one of those seasons for the ages — like Tim Lincecum last year, Bob Welch in 1989, Orel Hershiser in 1988, and many, many others through the years — and the Tigers have enough pieces to go with him to win it all.
In fact, I'd argue they are a better team than their 2006 AL pennant winner that gave away the World Series with critical fielding/throwing errors by their pitchers.
From the National League, the Brewers will run out the second-deepest rotation in Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, Shawn Marcum and Randy Wolf. But in the AL, don't overlook the Rangers, who will chose from among five 13-game winners in C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando and Matt Harrison.
But at this point, we don't even know who the final couple of playoff teams will be, as the Red Sox and Braves may not be able to hang onto spots everybody thought were wrapped up a couple of weeks ago.
It's not a coincidence that both of those teams have starting pitching issues down the stretch. In fact, in terms of depth, you'd have to give the edge to the Rays' rotation over the Red Sox's, and to the Cardinals' rotation over the Braves', which is without Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson.
Q: Charlie Manuel said if he had his choice, the Phillies would play the Yankees in the World Series. Is that wise of him to wish that?
— Andy Washington, Brooklyn
A: I don't know the context of that quote, but knowing Charlie, I'm thinking he was looking at it in terms of having an opportunity to avenge the 2009 World Series loss — as opposed to thinking the Yankees are a potentially weaker opponent than the other AL playoff entrants.
Also, the Yankees in the World Series automatically makes it a bigger event, and the proximity of the two cities makes it an even more appealing match-up, in my opinion. So I see where Charlie is coming from in that respect.
But it's not hard to build a case for the Yankees being the toughest of the AL playoff teams — led by their offense and bullpen. Their formula is simple: Get a lead after the sixth inning, then turn it over to David Robertson, Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera.
But I'll continue to believe — as I have all season — that the Yankees' rotation after CC Sabathia makes them much more vulnerable in October than in the regular season, when they have out-slugged the weaker teams.
A: The raw 2011 numbers give the edge to Worley. The 'Vanimal' has been better than the veteran in terms of W/L record, ERA, hits per nine innings, strikeouts per nine innings and WHIP.
But now that Oswalt is over back problems that put him on the disabled list mid-season, you have to think he'll get the call as the Phillies' No. 4 starter in the playoffs.
Oswalt's career — which includes a 5-1-3.39 postseason line — speaks for itself. And since coming off the disabled list in August, he has gone 4-3-3.50 and 2-1-3.29 in his last four starts, including seven shutout innings against St. Louis on Saturday.
Worley has made a couple of relief appearances in his brief major-league career — and even picked up two holds this season. He also has said he'll have no problem with the shift the bullpen during what is expected to be a deep Phillies' run this October.
After winning 11 consecutive decisions, Worley has lost his last two, against Milwaukee and St. Louis — although he pitched well in both (12.2 IP, 4 earned runs). As for his role in the bullpen, it could turn out to be much more than just some middle-inning work, as depth has been an issue at times this season.
Michael Stutes and Antonio Bastardo have been worked hard, and have shown some signs of wearing down, while Brad Lidge remains at something less than 100 percent. So don't be surprised to see Worley in some crucial seventh- and eighth-inning situations.
And come to think of it, Oswalt also could be used some in relief, as he figures to make only one start per series.