Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My thoughts on the 2009 Yankees chances vs the Phillies in WS

What is shaping up as the best match-up in recent World Series history, the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies are looking to do something that hasn't been done in 30 years: repeat as World Series champions coming out of the National League. The last NL team to do so was the 1975-76 Cincinnati Reds. Since then, the American League has seen the Toronto Blue Jays (1992-93) and the Yankees (1998, 99, 00) have the privilege to repeat in winning the Fall Classic.

Before I give my prediction, here's how the Yankees and Phillies matched up the 3 times they met earlier this year:

Game 1: Friday May 22nd - Philadephia visits Yankee Stadium on what some figured could be a preview of the World Series. A.J. Burnett gave up 5 runs in 6 innings. Chien-Ming Wang gave up 3 runs in 3 innings of relief. Phillies' Myers held the Yankees to 3 runs in 8 innings. Notable contributions for Yankees: Jeter, Teixeira, Arod HR off of Myers. Contributions for Phillies: Rollins, Ruiz, Werth HR off of Burnett, Ibanez HR off of Wang. Final: 7-3 Phillies.

Game 2: Saturday May 23rd - Yankees won in walk-off fashion when they entered the 9th inning down 4-2. Damon's walk preceded Arod's game-tying HR. Cano singles, steals second and scores on Melky's hit for the 5-4 come-from-behind win. One of many during the season, especially in the month of May. In this game, Pettitte gave up 4 runs over 6 innings while the Phillies' starter Happ gave up 2 runs over 6 innings. Phils closer Lidge gave up the 3 runs in the Yanks 9th. Notable contributions for Phillies: Ibanez and Mayberry homer of Pettitte. For Yankees: Jeter HR off of Happ, Arod HR off of Lidge. Final: 5-4 Yankees.

Game 3: Sunday May 24th - Phillies' Hamels holds the Yankees to 2 runs over 6 innings while Sabathia yields 3 runs in 8 innings. Lidge blows another save opportunity when he allows Melky to tie the game in the 9th. Phillies score one in the 11th but the Yanks can't stage another comeback. Notable Yankees contributions: Teixeira HR off of Hamels, Jeter and Melky each get 3 hits. Contributions for the Phillies: Victorino and Ruiz each get 3 hits. Final: 4-3 Phillies.

So here's my view. First half of the season, Yankees fall to the Phillies 2 out of 3 games. This is also the same half that sees the Yankees losing the first 8 games to the Red Sox and going 2-4 against the Angels. Somewhere along the way, they managed to lose 2 out of 3 to the lowly Nationals. The way the Yankees were playing, it didn't surprise me. And going into the All-Star break, the Yankees were swept by the Angels in Anaheim ending the first half with a 51-37 record. To say they needed that break is an understatement. When they returned, however, they were a different team.

They won 8 in row and ended up going 52-22 the rest of the way including 9-1 versus Boston and 3-1 versus the Angels. Also impressive is that they went 31-8 at home and 21-14 on the road over that span. Now, I'm not saying that the Phillies aren't good or that they can't hang with the Yankees. Hell, they're in the WS so they're definitely good but they were consistently good all year. My point is that this Yankees team isn't the same that faced the Phillies in May. They're on another level since the All-Star break and have carried it over into the play-offs. The Phillies, outside of Lidge, are the basically just as good as they had been earlier in the season.

In reading and listening to all the media since the Phillies won the Pennant over the Dodgers last week, I've been in agreement with all of the comments regarding how great this WS can be having two powerhouse teams facing each other. One comment, however, has me confused. It's been said that the Yankees will be facing a NL team with an AL line-up particularly in the power department. I'm not disagreeing with this so much as why anyone would think this would be a conundrum for the Yankees. So the Yankees have to face a team with a potent line-up. An AL-type of lineup. Um, ok. Hey people, guess where the Yankees come from.... the American League. The Yankees have been facing AL line-ups all year. Have the Phillies? I think not. Some stats to support this are:

  • Out of the top teams leading the ML in batting average, the Dodgers (#5) were the only NL team in the top 5. The Yankees ranked #2 behind the Angels with a .283 average. The Phillies ranked #23 with a .258 average.

  • Out of the top teams leading the ML in homeruns, the Phillies (#3) were the only NL team in the top 5. They had 224. Yankees ranked #1 with 244.

  • Out of the top teams leading the ML in runs batted in, the Phillies (#4) were the only NL team in the top 5 with 788. Yankees were ranked #1 with 881.

  • Out of the top teams leading the ML in total hits, the Dodgers (#5) were the only NL team in the top 5. Yankees were tied for #1 with the Angels with 1604 hits. The Phillies ranked #15 with 1439 hits.

  • Out of the top teams leading the ML in total bases, the Phillies (#4) were the only NL team in the top 5. They had 2493 total bases. The Yankees ranked #1 with 2703.

  • Out of the top teams leading the ML in on-base percentage, the Dodgers (#4) were the only NL team in the top 5. Phillies ranked #14 with .334 OBP while the Yankees ranked #1 with a .362 OBP.

So all this talk of the Yankees having to deal with an AL-style power-hitting team. They've been doing that all year whenever they faced the likes of the Red Sox, Rangers, Blue Jays, Tigers, White Sox, etc. The Phillies have not had to face many teams of that ilk. And definitely none as potent as the Yankees.

When it comes to everything else, they match up pretty closely:
  • Stolen Bases: Phillies 119, Yankees 111

  • Slugging: Phillies .447, Yankees .478

  • Team ERA: Phillies 4.16, Yankees 4.26

  • Hits Allowed: Phillies 1479, Yankees 1386

  • HR Allowed: Phillies 189, Yankees 181

  • Runs Allowed: Phillies 709, Yankees 753 (the biggest difference of all the non-offensive stats)

  • Strikeouts: Phillies 1153, Yankees 1260

  • Saves: Phillies 44, Yankees 51

  • Fielding PCT: Phillies .987, Yankees .985

The biggest difference in the match-up, and where the Phillies have an advantage, is in the managers. Neither Girardi or any of his coaches are experienced in the post-season. Before this year, of course. :)

Also, I don't want to ignore the importance of Cliff Lee. While Lee has a lifetime record of 4-4 with a 5.02 ERA in 9 career starts versus the Yankees, he is 2-1 with a 1.89 ERA in his last three against them included a 10-2 victory in the opening of the new Yankee Stadium on April 16 this year while still a member of the Cleveland Indians. Sabathia will have to match up with Lee and hope the Yankees can get into Philadelphia's bullpen.

I want to add that the Yankees have added Eric Hinske and Brian Bruney to the roster and have left Cervelli and Guzman off. With no DH in the NL park, adding Hinske will prove invaluable when the Yanks need pinch hitters coming off the bench when the pitchers spot comes up in the lineup.

So, here it is. My prediction. I predicted Yankees in 4 over the Twins. They won in 3. I had the Yankees in 6 over the Angels, so did the Yankees. :)

Yankees in 6.