I hate to say I told you so but I did tell you so. In my World Series preview post on Oct.28 I predicted the Yankees would win in six games. I also said they would win with their superior pitching. That prediction was an honest one and now let’s look a little deeper for the main reasons why the Yankees beat the Phillies.
No. 1: STARTING PITCHING
In my preview I wrote this:
“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.”
This is exactly what happened. Lee was 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA in the series. Hamels, Martinez and Blanton were a combined 0-3 with a 7.08 ERA. I don’t think I have seen such a great team like the Phillies get this far in the postseason with basically one competent pitcher. But they did.
The Yankees’ trio of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte were 3-2 with an ERA of 4.46. Those numbers may not seem dominant but in the games Lee did not pitch, the Yankee starters were better than the pitcher they faced.
I also wrote this about Pedro Martinez:
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?
I don’t think Pedro wants to see Hideki Matsui in the batter’s box ever again after Wednesday night.
Starting pitching is a key in any series and, though none of the three Yankees’ starters pitched great on short rest, they pitched well enough to expose the weakness in the depth of the Phillies’ starters.
No. 2: RYAN HOWARD
Someone told me there was this huge first baseman for the Phillies who hit mammoth home runs and was an MVP. I wonder what happened to him because I did not see him. I did see a big guy who hit one home run, drove in three runs and hit .174 with 13 strikeouts in 23 at-bats. But that could not have been Howard. Could it?
Unfortunately, for the Phillies, it was Howard. Though Pettitte gave up an “Oh, by the way” two-run home run to Howard in Game 6, he was MIA throughout this series because the Yankee lefties pitched him consistently outside and made Howard chase pitches out of the strike zone.
Of course, Howard was not the only problem with the Phillies’ offense. Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino combined to go 9-for-45 (.200). That is why Chase Utley hit five home but only had eight RBIs.
No. 3: THE BULLPEN
I wrote the following in my preview:
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’ bullpen gave up three earned runs in 4 2/3 innings in Game 3 and Brad Lidge absolutely imploded as I predicted in the ninth inning of Game 4. Chad Durbin did not help Martinez much by giving up three runs in one-third of an inning in Game 6. So in three of the four defeats, the Phillies’ bullpen did not get the job done.
The Yankees on the other hand got 5 1/3 scoreless innings and two saves from Mariano Rivera. Lefty specialist Damaso Marte retired all eight batters he faced. The rest of the bullpen pitched 10 2/3 innings and that was not to expose the weakness here with Phil Hughes struggling. Give manager Joe Girardi credit. He used his bullpen wisely and it was far superior to the Phillies.
No. 4: THE DH FACTOR
This is not just because Hideki Matsui was named the Series MVP and was 8-for-12 with three home runs and 12 RBIs despite not starting in half the games. Nope. This is also because Matsui was a factor in this series and Matt Stairs was not.
Stairs is another Phillies power threat from the left side. But because lefthanders Sabathia and Pettitte started four of the six games, Stairs only started Game 2 as a DH. He singled in a run in his first at-bat. But he was 0-for-7 after that and was not a factor the rest of the way.
Ben Francisco started two games and was 0-for-7. So the Phillies got absolutely nothing from their bench and Stairs was neutralized by the fact he could not hit lefties well enough to allow manager Charlie Manuel to start him.
No. 5: INTANGIBLES
I warned Manuel about this in my preview:
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.
Well, even if Manuel had read this, it would not have mattered. But the game-changing and series-changing play was the great at-bat Johnny Damon put on poor Brad Lidge in the ninth inning of Game 4 and the decision to swipe third on Pedro Feliz because the Phillies had no one covering third.
OK, quibble that it took A-Rod’s hit to score him. But, remember this: Damon’s presence at third made Lidge throw fastballs, which is his second best pitch. A-Rod got a fastball to hit because Damon’s daring dash, which could go down in history as the smartest play in World Series history, made Lidge ditch his devastating slider.
You just did not see the Yankees beating themselves at all this postseason but you sure as heck have seen them take advantage of a litany of blunders by the Twins, Angels and now the Phillies. That is no accident either. Good teams do this.
That is just five reasons why the Yankees are the 2009 world champions.