The Champs vs. The Yanks
You want star power? East coast bias? Classic franchises? Intriguing match-ups? Crazy fan-bases? This World Series has got about anything you could want as a fan – unless of course you are a Mets fan.
As I said before the NLDS: Until the Phillies lose, I will not be changing the format of my previews. So, in the same format as last year’s preview, here’s my 2009 World Series rundown.
Cliff Lee / Cole Hamels
vs. CC Sabathia / A.J. Burnett
I’m going to call CC and Lee a wash. Lee has been slightly better in the playoffs (0.74 ERA vs. 1.19 ERA) and in the regular season (3.22 ERA vs. 3.37 ERA) but has been doing more of it against teams not playing a DH. They are friends and might face each other in Games 1, 4 and 7. We don’t even know who is going for the Phillies in Game 2, but chances are it will be Hamels, and it will likely be Burnett for the Yankees. Neither pitcher has been great in the post-season, but Hamels and his 6.75 ERA are in real danger of getting lit-up by this Yankees line-up. Edge to the Yankees.
Joe Blanton / Pedro Martinez / JA Happ / Cliff Lee on 3 days rest
vs. Andy Pettitte / CC Sabathia on 3-days rest
We know Pettitte will go in Game 3, and I am going to assume we will see Pedro there for us with Blanton or Happ ready in reserve. Pettitte has turned it on in the playoffs per usual (2.37 ERA) but hasn’t exactly seen a line-up quite like ours. Also, surprisingly, lefties hit 40 points higher off him than righties on the year, which helps us out as well. Pedro’s only start this postseason was brilliant, giving up only 2 hits in 7 IP in LA. Like Pettitte, he also tunes it up for the playoffs. There is some uncertainty with Pedro, but his numbers when he has pitched, in the regular season and playoffs, are better than Pettitte’s, so I’m giving him the edge.
Since the Yankees are likely to go with a 3-man rotation, CC appears here as well. However, I am going to assume that he won’t be quite as good as he was in Game 1 (see Game 2 of the NLDS last year for comparison). The Phillies could also go with the 3-man rotation, but we don’t know how Lee would perform in his first time on 3-days rest. The point here is that the Phillies have options in Lee, Blanton and Happ, while the Yankees are banking on Sabathia continuing to be sharp on 3 days rest when last year, after pitching on 3-days rest several times in a row, he was chased out in 3 2/3 innings after giving up 6 hits and 5 runs to this same Phillies team. Edge to the Phillies
Jimmy Rollins / Shane Victorino
vs. Derek Jeter / Johnny Damon
If you add defense fully into this equation, this comparison becomes drastically different, but let’s see if we can settle this on offense first. The Phillies and Yankees are unique at the top of their line-ups in that both of their top-2 guys are HR threats and run producers. Jeter has been ripping up the post-season (1.029 OPS) and after a silver slugger type regular season, he certainly get the advantage over Rollins – though I do think Rollins will step up in the spotlight, as he usually does. The difference is just as big in the 2-spot, with Victorino sporting a 1.161 OPS to Damon’s .677. Let’s see how the combined pairs playoff stats have looked to date…
The Phillies pair is slightly ahead of the Yankees duo in every category except HR. Add the fact that Rollins and Victorino are the superior baserunners and fielders, and I’m giving the slight edge to the Phillies. Hopefully that’s not too tough for some Yankees fans to deal with, as they tend to be unaware there are many other players who play well in the spotlight besides Captain Jetes.
Chase Utley / Ryan Howard / Jayson Werth
vs. Mark Teixeira / Alex Rodriguez / Jorge Posada
There is little doubt that we are dealing with the 2 best middle-of-the-orders in all of baseball. A-Rod and Ry-Ho are having historic postseasons, and you could make the argument that the 3-hole hitters on each squad are actually the better baseball players. Like the first category, let’s start by looking at the post-season stats for the trio’s so far.
Once again, the Phillies trio looks better across the board, even with A-Rod’s insane 1.516 OPS. Lost in all the A-Rod hype (and there is no denying that he has been the best player in the playoffs), is that Tex is sporting a Pedro Feliz-esque .580 OPS so far in the playoffs and that Jayson Werth (1.207 OPS) has been just as dominant as Howard. A-Rod is the best player, but for this group, the slight edge goes to the Phillies.
Raul Ibanez / Pedro Feliz / Carlos Ruiz
vs. Hideki Matsui / Robinson Cano / Melky Cabrera
Why stop now? Let’s compare the post-season stats of these guys.
I’ve got to say, I’m surprised at how mediocre the Yankees line-up has been this post-season outside of A-Rod and Jeter. The numbers for this group is pretty even, but I’m giving the slight edge to the Yankees because I’m not sure Carlos Ruiz can keep up being as good as he has been so far (1.000 OPS).
Ryan Madson / Chan Ho Park / Scott Eyre
vs. Joba Chamberlain / Phil Hughes / David Robertson
This has been a trouble spot for both teams in the regular season and the playoffs. Here are the bullpen numbers for each team in the playoffs (removing the closers).
Both squads have clearly gotten themselves out of a lot of trouble, and those comically high WHIPs infer that the ERA’s should be much higher. Again, we have a category where you could make a fully valid argument for each squad, but I am going to give the slight edge to the Yankees here because I just don’t trust our bullpen against a deep American League line-up.
vs. Mariano Rivera
This might be your key to the entire series. So far this postseason, Rivera has pitched 10.2 innings (more than 1 per game), giving up only 7 hits and 1 ER. If he is on, he is impossible to hit, and when we get down to the end of the series we could see him for 2 innings at a time. Without him, this series would have a completely different feel. Lidge’s renaissance has been great, but Rivera is the greatest ever. Edge to the Yankees.
Ben Francisco / Greg Dobbs / Matt Stairs
vs. Nick Swisher / Brett Gardner / Jerry Hairston Jr.
Obviously we will be using a DH in any games played in Yankee stadium. Hopefully it will be Ben Francisco, who has been underused by Charlie this post-season. After that, our bench has been awful. The last time Greg Dobbs got a hit was October 4th. The last time Stairs got a hit was…wait for it… September 19th. Gardner gives the Yankees a very good defensive replacement and pinch runner and Hairston gives them some pop off the bench. Edge to the Yankees.
vs. Joe Girardi
Manuel has the ring on his finger and Girardi has had the finger pointed at him for quizzical moves in many of the Yankees losses this postseason. The Angels and Twins seemed scared of the Yankees, with Charlie at the helm, you know our guys won’t be. Edge to the Phillies.
- Yankees have home field advantage
- Phillies have league’s best road record
- The Phillies have slightly better team defense
- Phillies are better baserunners as a team (0.27 vs. -0.87 EqBRR average)
- The Phillies have had a lay-off
- The pressure is on the Yankees, not the Phillies
- Once again, the majority of the “experts” have picked against the Phillies, as they have in the last 4 series the Phillies have won
- We won 2 of 3 (and should have swept) in the Bronx this summer
Once again, the Phillies are the better defensive team, and better base-running team. Slight edge to Phillies.
If this isn’t the ultimate Good vs. Evil battle, I don’t know what is. On one end, you have the scrappy Phillies team led by a group a home-grown charismatic talents and a rag-tag manager. On the other end, you have the Yankees, a team full of (mostly) bought talent, led by a player who in addition to frosting his hair, admitted to steroid use earlier this season and is cheered on by fans who (mostly) think that a World Series title is their birthright.
The Yankees are favored to win this series, and until I really looked at the numbers, I agreed. It’s an incredibly tough series to call (5 to 5 on the above categories), but here are my reasons why either team could win…
5 Reasons Why the Phillies could win
- CC don’t scare me, and he don’t scare the Phillies. Including last year’s playoff game, our players have a career .278 average against Sabathia and rocked him in the playoffs last year. He was clearly rattled in CBP. I expect him to pitch well in Game 1, but perhaps struggle in Game 4.
- Regular season numbers don’t carry over. When you look at the Yankees line-up 1-9, the regular season numbers are staggering. But as I said earlier, aside from Jeter and A-Rod, they have struggled in the playoffs against better pitching. If you take A-Rod and Jeter out of the equation, their team OPS is .660. Or the same as David Eckstein had during the regular season.
- Joba and Phil. Young, hard throwing righties who have a tendency to lose control of their pitches and can be rattled by loud crowds? Our lefties vs. these two guys in the 7th and 8th could play a big role.
- Fundamentals. The Yankees got a ton of breaks in the first 2 rounds with terrible defense and base running by the Twins and Angels (not to mention a ridiculous umpiring call or two). I don’t expect that to happen again.
- Under Pressure. The Yankees gargantuan payroll and vicious media make this a win-or-get-smeared-all-winter series for the Yankees. The Phillies meanwhile, are in a place where we are behind them no matter what.
5 Reasons Why the Yankees could win
- Rivera, Rivera, Rivera. The #1 weapon in this entire series is Mariano Rivera. The Phillies had 9th inning comebacks in both the Rockies and Dodgers series. I wouldn’t count on that again.
- The light turns on. As I said above, most of the Yankees line-up has been hitting poorly this post-season. But that doesn’t mean they will. If a couple more guys get hot, no pitching can stop their line-up.
- Home Field. I think this is a big deal, not because we can’t win on the road, but because our crowds have shown they can really shake up the opposing players in CBP. Perfect examples are the crowd willing CC Sabathia into a huge Brett Myers walk last year, and the “unnamed” Rays player telling Jayson Werth he was terrified to play in Philly during the series last year.
- Our 8th and 9th? Last year, the 8th and 9th innings were easy for the Phils, this year they have been more of an adventure, and I still think we are very vulnerable there.
- $210 million. A payroll like that usually buys you pretty good depth (but only 3 starting pitchers apparently), which the Yankees have on their bench.
I think the Yankees are being played up a little too much by the media (shocking). They beat a non-playoff team in the ALDS and had the Angels forget how to play the game in the ALCS. The Phillies will be, by far, the best team they have faced this post-season. The Yankees will also be, by far, the best team the Phillies have played.
We know that anything can happen in a 7-game series. There is no clear favorite here and a good argument can be made for either squad, as is usually the case in the playoffs. In the end, I don’t think that Yankees starters are good enough to hold us down, and our solid fundamentals won’t give them any easy wins. The Phillies are looking to become one of the greatest teams of all time, while the Yankees are simply looking to be the most recent Yanks squad to do what they are supposed to do. Phillies repeat and cement a legacy while the Bronx burns.
Final prediction: Phillies in Six