With the beginning of the World Series only two short days away we have a lot to discuss and as the series goes along I will go through and analyze each aspect (pitching, positions, hitting even the dh). As I look at this I think the first thing we need to look at is the starting pitching. This has become one of the strongest points of debate and should set up alot of the pace for the series itself.
As assumed the Phillies are going to go with a four man rotation similar to that of the NLCS, where as, the Yankees are hoping to get lucky sticking with a three man rotation (truthfully they cant field a four man rotation because they don't have a fourth starter).
Game 1; Cliff Lee v. C.C. Sabathia
The way game one of the series is set up the Phillies will send out Cliff Lee in an attempt to enter guns blazing and try to get the series set off with a good pace. Opposing Lee is going to be the Journeyman C.C Sabathia, who just like Lee was recently a member of the lowly Cleveland Indians. Before I begin, I just want to remind Phillies fans of the last time the Phillies saw Sabathia in the post season.
Now I am not saying this is going to happen again. With full rest C.C. Sabathia is one if the most dominating pitchers in baseball this year and I figure if the phillies get crushed, (which may happen seeing as they are playing on a t-ball field in NY), it could get ugly. So lets look at the stats for the two starters so far this year.
Basically he is an animal. The Phillies are hitting .255 against him (note that Ibanez and Rollins are the only players to have more then 10 ab against C.C.). The thing that scares me is the fact that Sabathia has been dominate against lefties this season, (which the phillies have an abundant amount o,f.) and lefties are only hitting .198 against him this year. Also Sabathia has controlled his zones this year and is not a pitcher that goes deep into counts. Which is disheartening because long counts have been one of the phillies strong suits into getting to pitchers. They have had an uncanny ability to work pitchers into long counts and getting high pitch counts early in game. Phillies fans, this may be an interesting tidbit of knowledge, Sabathia has not been in a 3-0 at any point this year, he attacks opposing batters and does not walk many batters. But as dominate as Sabathia has been the Phillies have done a pretty fine job with their ace on the hill this season as well.
Lee has been the shining star for the Phillies since he was acquired from the Indians this season. He started off his career in Philadelphia 5-0 and recently has been exhibitng an incredible post season era of .74. As incredible as Lee has been we all have to accept that he is no longer facing the Rockies or Dodgers and even though he is the reigning AL Cy Young winner he has had troubles against the Yankees in his career.
When you look as the Yankees hitters you think of three names: A-Rod, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixiera. This is exactly what scares me. All three batters have been strong against Lee and none has hit below .333 against Lee. If Cliff is going to have success he will have to deal with the three headed monster that is the Yankees infielders with patience and selective pitching.
Lee only has an era of 3.00 against the Yanks and he does have a strong career at Yankee stadium (1.05 era). So in this case this pitching match-up could be a wash. I am not worried about Lee or the lack of hitting the Yankees have, its the dominance that Sabathia has shown that worries me.
Game 1 prediction- If Sabathia pitches 6 or more innings Im going to go for the Yankees, but if they can make C.C. take an early stage right the Phillies will cruise.
Game 2: A.J. Burnett v. TBA
I say TBA because I don't even think Charlie Manuel knows who is going to pitch in game two. Its going to be a toss up between Cole Hamels or Pedro Martinez. With this said I really dont think this will matter because, frankly, A.J. Burnett is terrible. The only thing the Phillies have to worry about is if they do pitch Pedro. I say this because as we have seen in history Martinez has been the Yankees bitch and if he gets rocked early it could be a rough outing.
Take this into account: no Yankees is hitting over .300 against Pedro which is a positive but that is throughout his long career. It is just a scary thing to think of Pedro in Yankees Stadium being pelted like a home run derby. The only thing that concerns me about Martinez is that he hasn't pitched in the World Series in a long time, but at the same time this could also be a good thing. As long as he can forget the terrible outings he had in Yankees Stadium as a young pitcher he could flourish, but honestly their aren't enough stats to support this one.
Just a side note: As I was thinking about Pedro against the Yankees I had to watch this video again because it is one of the best miss-match bench clearing fights in sports history thanks to Pedro Martinez.
Next we have the case of the two Cole Hamels'. It seems that Cole is either on another planet or he is having a public temper tantrum because he is no longer the Phillies ace. Hamels has struggled in his past three outings and has had a history of early exits. On paper this is a bad match up for the power hitting Phillies, especially in a hostile environment like Yankee Stadium. If, by some grace of god, the old Cole Hamels shows up (remember he was last years World Series MVP) then all worries are gone, but this is something that I am reluctant to think of.
On the other side we have A.J. Burnett who as a 7.50 era against the phillies this season and is a perfect candidate to become a whipping boy for the Fightins due to his record with long counts. Basically this will boil down to the fact that Burnett is terrible and unless he has an 0-2 count will loose it. Basically he is a Broadway Cole Hamels.
This game could turn into a bull pen battle (which the phillies will loose) and that is why there really is no clear decision on this game. It's one of those outings that you just roll the dice and hope for the best.
Game 3: Country Joe Blanton v. Andy Pettitte
This game is essentially a bulldog against a greyhound. Andy Pettite is one of the most respected post season pitchers of all time, but it has to be noted that most of his wins where under his juicing era where he was pumping in more estrogen then Lou Ferigno. Pettitte is a tough pitcher but very beatable. Just like most pitchers in the series, he can be handled easily by the Phillies. The Fightins are only hitting .233 against Pettitte lifetime with lefties hitting .282.
The upside is that Pettitte is weak in the middle of batting orders. He tends to get into trouble when it comes the middle of orders during games when he pitches over 5 innings. (I know that should like an odd stat but let me break it down). Batters hitting in the 5 and 6 spots are hitting .689 and Pettitte has allowed over 50% of his home runs to those two hitters in games where he pitches less than 7 innings (i.e.Jayson Werth beastliness).
On the other end is Joe Blanton. If you are a Phillies fan you have to love Joe Blanton. This guy is like a beaten dog who we give a bone every once in a while. (odd philly coincidence but i like it). Seriously think about this. Blanton was one of the most productive phillies pitchers yet he kept getting pushed back in the rotation. With the additions of Pedro and Cliff Lee he was left to wait and he never bitched. Hell he never flinched in his bullpen role during the NLDS or CS. Yet, when we need him we are bringing the old dog out for a shot and you better bet hes gonna show up.
He's gonna pitch at home against a fan hungry crowd on a day that everyone in the city is out for N.Y. blood. Right before Blanton takes on the Yanks the Eagles will finish with the Giants at the linc, and even though they are different sports you better believe that will motivate a guy like Blanton. He wants to succeed and does not care how he gets it. Also we will be back in a NL ballpark without a DH and for Joe Blanton that means one thing and one thing only.......
After game three it is really doing to be an assessment of the teams successes and failure so far in the series. What I mean by this is the fact that the Yankees are going with a three man rotation and could send C.C. Sabathia out three times with only three days of rest each time out. This could be a terrible melt down for the Yankees. If Sabathia is strong in game one, he should have a strong shot at winning game four. On the other hand it is funny that A.J. Burnett is pitching at all and the fact that hes pitching on three days rest is a joke. For this I chalk up two automatic wins for the Phillies. Which means all they need is get to Sabathia once and Pettitte once. And for me that is not a bad bargain.
The key to this series for the phillies is to work counts. Other then Sabathia the other two fold like small children when it comes to longer stretched at-bats and if they get lucky the bullpen match ups can be a wash accept for the closer situation. Listen I would love to see Rivera get a ball rocked into the stratosphere as bad as the next guy, but, he is the second all time career save leader for a reason. If it is a close game in the 8th or 9th inning the Phillies don't stand a chance. They have to get to the starters early. This series is going to feature a lot of long balls because both of these teams have probelems manufacturing runs, this is a fact that we just have to accept. The only question is who can draw first blood and how long it will last.
Side Note: I know were all excited about the World Series but at the same time the Sixers are opening their season against he MAGIC................... Any takers...................................................................... I thought not. Oh well.
Sixers preview to come tomorrow, not that anyone who reads this (and at this time it's only me).
Also congrats to my Millersville Fighting Marauders who won their third game of the season in a monsoon in double OT.