WORLD SERIES PREVIEW
PHILLIES VS. YANKEES
This World Series actually is an honest pairing in that both teams were the best teams in their respective leagues. You also have the Phillies trying to repeat as champions against the last franchise to do it. Both teams led their leagues in comeback wins. Both teams have Cy Young Award winners who pitched for Cleveland — if only Grady Sizemore and Victor Martinez were here to enjoy it like they should have in 2007.
But who will win? Let’s look a little deeper.
The Phillies have the closest proximity to an American League-type lineup in the National League. It has power (Howard, Utley and Werth), speed (Rollins and Victorino) and timely hitting (Ibanez). Even catcher Carlos Ruiz, who hit .255 during the season, has contributed this postseason with 7 RBIs.
Victorino is hitting .361 in the postseason and has three home runs. He is getting on base and sparking this offense with his all-out style of play. Ruiz we mentioned but we have to add that getting production out of your No. 8 hitter is a good sign that you are doing well. He is hitting .346 in the postseason.
But the hottest of them all has been the MVP of the NLCS Ryan Howard. He is hitting .355 with two home runs and 14 RBIs in the postseason. Even though he has been walked seven times, Howard has been in the middle of most all of the Phillies postseason victories.
Jimmy Rollins had a disappointing 2009 regular season. At one point he was benched. He is also struggling a bit in the postseason with a .244 average. For a leadoff hitter he may be too aggressive because he has no walks in either series.
Raul Ibanez does have nine RBIs but he is hitting a dismal .226, which is not anything like he was during the regular season. He is the Phillies best pure hitter but he has not shown that this postseason and he begins the World Series playing with a small muscle tear in his abdomen, which could explain the .226 average.
The biggest “Phillies Phlop” has been third baseman Pedro Feliz, who is hitting a woeful .161. Feliz has been prone to prolonged slumps in the past. He has just picked a bad time to go into one. Given that the Phillies are winning despite his troubles, the team can afford to overlook it.
The Yankees offense is power-driven with its No. 8 hitter Nick Swisher hitting 29 home runs. But it also has pieces of an offense that can play “small ball” also. Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano each had 200-hit seasons. When Jorge Posada catches there is not a weak link in the lineup and they are patient hitters and love to drive starters’ pitch counts up to get them out of the game early.
It seems odd to be saying this but Alex Rodriguez has been the Yankees hottest hitter this postseason. Quite a reversal from seasons past, but A-Rod has simply been A-Rod throughout the postseason. The Yankees newest Mr. October is hitting .438 with five home runs and 12 RBIs despite being walked nine times in the first two series.
Melky Cabrera has been much like the Phillies’ Ruiz. He has been posting great numbers out of the No. 9 spot in the order, hitting .314 despite striking out 11 times. Cabrera drove in all four his runs in the Yankees 10-1 romp over the Angels in Game 4 of the ALCS.
Derek Jeter is hitting .297 with three home runs and five RBIs. Jeter, who only hit 18 home runs in the regular season, somehow has dusted off his power stroke for the playoffs. Jeter is also showing patience at the plate, walking nine times and scoring nine runs. He is the captain and he sets the tone for the Yankees offense.
It has been well-documented by TV commentators that Nick Swisher is struggling. Perhaps because he is so amped up to be in the postseason, he is showing no patience at the plate, which was his hallmark during the season. He is hitting .125 and he has struck out 11 times in 32 at-bats.
Even more disappointing for the Yankees is the fact that Mark Teixeira is also struggling. He is hitting .205 with one home run and five RBIs. However, he started showing signs of coming of his funk in the final game of the series with two hits. The Yankees hope he picks it up just in time for the World Series.
No surprise here but Robinson Cano is struggling at .229. The reason is that Cano has shown in the past that he does not hit well in cold weather. He also was the Yankees’ worst hitter with runners in scoring position during the season. It stands to reason the postseason spotlight would make him tentative at the plate and it has.
I am a Yankees fan but I do believe the Phillies offense comes in with a slight edge because so many of their hitters can hurt you. Jayson Werth wasn’t even mentioned in the “Who’s Hot” portion of the analysis and all he did was hit five home runs and drive in 10 runs!
However, there is a caveat here. Neither the Rockies or the Dodgers have a pitcher of the caliber of CC Sabathia or can boast of a more experienced postseason pitcher than Andy Pettitte. In contrast, the Yankees might struggle some with Cliff Lee but they could feast on Pedro Martinez, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton.
So the edge may go to the Phillies but it is very slight.
The Phillies actually have a starting pitcher who can match up with CC Sabathia. Cliff Lee has an ERA of 0.74 in his three postseason starts. He also beat the Yankees in inaugural game at new Yankee Stadium on April 16 as a member of the Indians.
But what is behind him is pretty scary for the Phillies. Cole Hamels has simply not been the same dominant pitcher he was in the 2008 postseason. Instead he is doing a great imitation of Dontrelle Willis. He is 1-1 but has an ERA of 6.75 in his three starts. He has been so bad that Charlie Manuel won’t pitch him until Game 3 in Philadelphia.
Pedro Martinez did pitch well in his only start in the postseason. He went seven innings in a no-decision the Phillies eventually lost to the Dodgers in Game 2. He has the ability to shut down the Yankees. But he also has been beaten many times by the Yankees in the past. Hideki Matsui, Pedro? Remember him?
Sabathia only was the MVP of the ALCS. He is 3-0 with a 1.19 ERA in his three postseason starts. The 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner has sim
ply dominated the Twins and Angels and never gave them opportunities to get into the game. The Phillies lineup may be tough but the question is can they get their offense going against Sabathia?
Pettitte was nearly as brilliant as Sabathia. Had he not given up a two-run home run to Vladimir Guerrero in Game 3 he likely would have been 3-0 with a similar ERA to Sabathia. Still, Pettitte is 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA and that is not bad.
A.J. Burnett is still looking for a postseason victory. He was brilliant in his first two starts but he faltered in Game 5 against the Angels by giving up four runs in the first inning. He then pitched five shutout innings. But — just when the Yankees rallied to take a 6-4 lead — he gave up a hit and walk to start the seventh and allowed the Angels to rally and win the game 7-6.
This has to go to the Yankees. Even if Chad Gaudin does start Game 4, the Yankees trio of Sabathia, Pettitte and Burnett has combined for a 5-0 record and a 2.55 ERA this postseason. The Phillies do not have the depth of starters to compete with the Yankees in this series.
The fact that Brad Lidge is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA and is 3-of-3 in saves this postseason is huge surprise to Phillies fans, Charlie Manuel and, likely, Brad Lidge himself. Lidge spent most of the regular season getting lit up like a Texas high school football bonfire. But the Phillies are trusting him again, though he can be beaten.
In fact, Lidge blew two saves in the series the Phillies played at Yankee Stadium in late May. The fact that the Yankees had 15 regular-season walk-off victories (one of those against Lidge and the Phillies) means the bottom of the ninth inning is no sure thing for the Phillies.
The rest of the Phillies’ bullpen is no day at the beach either. Ryan Madson has two blown saves, an ERA of 4.50 and a WHIP of 2.00. Chan Ho Park (8.10) and J.A. Happ (7.36) haven’t exactly been mysteries for hitters either. The unsung hero of this group has been Chad Durbin (2-0 and a 0.00 ERA).
The Yankees refer to Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte as the so-called ‘Core Four,” the four players from the 1996-2000 teams that won four championships.
But manager Joe Girardi has his “Core Four” pitchers too: Sabathia, Burnett, Pettitte and Rivera. They have pitched 70 2/3 innings this postseason. The rest of the pitching staff has logged only 17 innings.
Make no mistake about it. This bullpen begins and ends with Rivera and he will always be looming from the eighth inning on in this series. With good reason too. He has an ERA of 0.84 and three saves this postseason. Oh, and by the way, he also is the all-time major-league leader with 37 postseason saves.
The question is how effective will Phil Hughes be? His ERA is 5.79 and he was shaky in the ALCS against the Angels. But Girardi seems to have faith he will bounce back and will team with Joba Chamberlain (2.70 ERA) to be the bridge to Rivera.
With the number of lefty hitters the Phillies have, you would have to suspect that having lefties Phil Coke (0.00 ERA) and Damaso Marte (0.00 ERA) around will be very helpful.
By miles. Not inches but miles, the Yankees bullpen is better than the Phillies. It could be the one key reason, the Yankees are favored to win the series. The fact that only Cliff Lee can possibly give the enough length in his starts to cover up the Phillies deficiencies in the bullpen is quite telling. The Yankees simply feast off middle relievers and shaky closers. Just ask Joe Nathan of the Twins and Brian Fuentes of the Angels. I would not want to be Brad Lidge in this World Series.
The Phillies, like the Yankees, rarely have to use their bench because their starters are so good. But they do have outfielder Ben Francisco likely to start in left in Game 1 while Raul Ibanez is at DH. They also have lefty power in Matt Stairs and infield reserves Greg Dobbs and Miguel Cairo, a former Yankee. None of them has a hit this postseason so it is hard to see this as much of advantage for the Phillies.
The only bench player likely to get much use in this series will be Jose Molina. He likely will catch A.J. Burnett in the game Burnett pitches in Yankee Stadium. It may be a different story when the series shifts to Philadelphia because having Burnett and Moilna hitting in the same lineup would not be a recipe for success. Brett Gardner (.667) is valuable as a defensive replacement in centerfield and provides a speed threat. Jerry Hairston (.500) provided a key hit in Game 2 and scored the winning run. The Yankees are talking about adding Eric Hinske to the roster over Freddy Guzman. He provides lefty power off the bench and he has played in the last two World Series with Boston and Tampa Bay. So his experience could be an asset in this series.
The Yankees have a much more productive bench at this point. It is versatile and deeper than what the Phillies offer. Just having Francisco Cervelli around as a third catcher gives the Yankees a lot of versatility the Phillies can’t match. Molina and Gardner are good defensively and that mean something when you consider the Angels lost three games to the Yankees due to errors they committed in the field.
The Phillies are simply very average in the field. The strongest positions are at shortstop with Jimmy Rollins, catcher with Carlos Ruiz and with Shane Victorino in center. Rollins has a Gold Glove and Ruiz and Victorino are excellent defenders.
But the rest of team is not real good. Ryan Howard has improved at first but he is worlds removed from being Mark Teixeira at first. Chase Utley is known for his bat and that is a good thing because his play in the field is poor and his range is very limited. Pedro Feliz is not real good at third and Raul Ibanez is pretty slow afoot in left.
Jayson Werth has a great arm in right but he is not considered a great rightfielder. The Phillies may have hated Bobby Abreu but he is better than Werth in the field.
The Yankee infield boasts three Gold Glove winners and a fourth who deserves one this season. Mark Teixeira is simply the best first baseman in baseball in the field, if not with the bat. Alex Rodriguez won two Gold Gloves at short and he has had a stellar season in the field this year. Derek Jeter, with more range than he has shown in years, is likely to win his fourth Gold Glove for his work at short.
But it is Robinson Cano who has really shined this season. He has unbelievable range to his right and left, he has a cannon for an arm and his ability to range far into the outfield to snag popups is unparalleled.
Nick Swisher may not be Fred Astaire on his feet but he has improved as the season has gone on. Melky Cabrera covers a lot of ground and has arm few base-runners challenge anymore. Johnny Damon can still range around in left like a centerfielder but his arm is a big liability and expect the Phillies to test him.
Rumor is the Yankees might put Hideki Matsui in leftfield to keep his bat in the lineup in the games in Philadelphia. If that is true, I wonder who Joe Girardi will sit because if it is Nick Swisher then Damon would have to play centerfield and Yankee fans do
n’t want to see that.
By far, this goes to the Yankees. The Phillies are not awful on defense but they can have infield lapses. Just ask Cole Hamels about Chase Utley’s double play relay throw against the Rockies in Game 2. It ended up in the dugout and really cost Hamels.
The Yankees did make three errors in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Angels. But it led to no scoring by the Angels. Those are the only three errors they have made this entire postseason. Teixeira has saved his fellow infielders about four or five surefire errors with his ability to scoop, corral and rescue errant throws.
This Yankee defense is so much better than the Phillies it is not even a contest.
The Phillies have a lot going for them as a team in this World Series. They are the defending champions and they have a lot of players who went through the postseason with this team for three seasons. They have a great offense and they have 43 comeback wins this season, not to mention a few in the playoffs.
The Yankees have a great deal of postseason experience even though only four players can say they won rings with the Yankees. They are a team on a mission, having not won since 2000 and not appeared in the Fall Classic since 2003. But the biggest intangible is they have Derek Jeter, who somehow comes up with a play or a judgment that can turn a game.
The play to nail Carlos Gomez rounding second. The play that caught Nick Punto too far down the third base line. The play to catch Bobby Abreu too far off second base. These are just three examples of what Jeter can do within a game in a series without even picking up a bat. If the Phillies don’t watch out he will do it to them too. Just ask Jeremy Giambi about Jeter. He knows.
This is the Yankees’ too. As long as they have Derek Jeter, they have a chance to turn one slight mistake into a play that can turn a series. You know the Twins and Angels came into the playoffs as two of the most fundamentally sound teams in baseball. Look what happened to them. The Yankees just have a way of waiting for a team to make a mistake and jumping all over it.
The key to it all is they have NOT done it to themselves. They lost two games to the Angels but it was not because of mental or physical errors. The Phillies have lost games in this postseason that were a result of errors. They stand a good chance of doing it again in the World Series. OK, Charlie Manuel. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you.
Charlie Manuel is the perfect manager for the Phillies. He does not micro-manage. He does not show much in the way of emotion. He is just a solid baseball man capable of shaping a well-built team into championship form. He does not mess much with the pitching staff. He leaves that to pitching coach Rich Dubee. He also won’t panic and make bad moves. Manuel is just a good manager with a real good team.
Joe Girardi got better as a manager this season. He allowed the clubhouse to change and loosen up. He also handled the media much better. He also is a master of getting the most out of his bullpen without overtaxing it as the season wore on. In the playoffs, the old Girardi has appeared. His decision to take out David Robertson for Alfredo Aceves in Game 3 of the ALCS really did cost the Yankees the game. The move to put Hairston in left and lose the DH in the same game was also dubious. Girardi has to relax and let the game play out without trying to coerce results from his moves.
Manuel has the edge here. Girardi still has a lot to learn about what he can and can’t control. Manuel knows his limitations and he rarely steps on his team’s toes when things are going well. That also serves him well when things go bad. Girardi will just have to let this Yankees team play and stop trying to seek validation by making that so-called “perfect” move. The events of a game drive themselves so why is Girardi buckling his seat belt and trying to drive the events himself? Stop it, Joe. Please!
Because Lee likely will win one game and the Phillies offense can be devastating, I see them winning two. But I do not think the Phillies will be able to sustain the leads they will try to protect late and their bullpen will cost them a game or two.
THE YANKEES WIN IN SIX