The World Series features two teams with scant playoff histories -- the Rays have none, while the Phillies have just one brief appearance in the past 15 seasons. The two teams feature some of the best players in baseball in Chase Utley, Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton, as well as a few of the best young front-line starters in Cole Hamels, James Shields and Matt Garza. Building off the pre-playoff scouting reports on the Rays and Phillies, here are some more observations on how the teams look after two playoff series.
The Rays came into the playoffs as an average offensive club with outstanding run prevention (pitching plus defense), and perhaps a slight weakness in the bullpen. Their run prevention has still been very good, but their offense has taken the spotlight, especially their power production, as they just set an ALCS record with 16 home runs. The Rays now have 22 home runs in 11 games, and have seen Upton nearly match his regular-season total (nine) in the postseason (seven), while even unexpected power sources like Jason Bartlett and Rocco Baldelli have chipped in. Upton, whose power production was down this year due to a nagging shoulder injury, is apparently healthy, and Baldelli should get a few additional at-bats with the Phillies starting two lefties in the first four games. They're likely a better offensive team than I gave them credit for at the start of the postseason.