New York Yankees vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Manager- Joe Girardi vs. Charlie Manuel
Girardi is young, inexperienced, and a classic overmanager. He tends to make the game more about his choices then the play on the field. But his team did win a major league high 103 games this season and he would stand to join a select few who have won the WS as a player and a MGR. Manuel plays the exact opposite role. He trusts his players to do the right thing, make the right choice and sometimes stands behind the wrong players for a tad too long. He is quiet and undemanding but also has experience winning last years WS. The 2008 Phillies remain mainly intact with 3 great additions in Lee, Pedro, and Ibanez for him to work with.
First Base- Mark Teixeira vs. Ryan Howard
The most difficult call of any position. Tex signed a record contract and followed it with an incredible year (.292, 39, 122), carrying the Yankees power surge for much of the season. He is an excellent switch hitter and a gold glove first baseman, which has proven huge to NY in the first two rounds. But his .181 batting average so far this postseason has been very meek although he did single handedly win an ALDS with a big walk-off. Ryan Howard had an MVP type season (.279, 45, 141) and carried a Phillies team that went wire to wire in first place behind sub par years from Utley and Rollins. His power is unparalleled as even the smallest mistake from any pitcher can land the ball in the stands. Not to mention his postseason thus far has been heroic (.354, 2, 14). His flaws are his inability to hit left-handers and his propensity to strike out often. A big dose of CC, Pettite, and Coke should slow him a bit off of his current torrid pace.
Slight Advantage: Phillies
Second Base- Robinson Cano vs. Chase Utley
Cano had an incredible rebound year after a subpar 2008 (.320, 25, 85) and provides a lot of power, average, and speed that the Phillies do not generally face in the bottom third of NL lineups. More importantly, he is a very consistent fielder with a great arm and even better instincts, reaching balls to his left that most 2b cannot. His less than stellar postseason has been coming around as of late with 2 key triples in the ALCS. Chase Utley clearly put is the best second baseman in MLB. Even on a down year, by his standards (.282, 31, 93), he outmatches Cano in almost every category. Also, not mentioned were his 23 SB. The 4 time All Star is having another solid postseason with only one major flaw; a HUGE error against the Dodgers. As the #3 hitter in the Philly lineup, expect big numbers from him if the Philly hopeful expect back-to-back WS wins.
Shortstop- Derek Jeter vs. Jimmy Rollins
Another incredibly close category. Without printing names, one is a career .317 hitter, 10 time all star, 3 time gold glove winner, and been top 10 in MVP voting 6 times. The other has a lifetime .439 SLG, averages 36 SB per year, 2 time gold glove winner, and won an MVP. Both will play pivotal roles in their teams success as they both bat leadoff and are catalysts for their offenses. Rollins is fighting a down year with an incredible second half (.250, 21, 77), as Jeter is Mr. Consistent yet again (.334, 18, 66). The big difference will always be Derek Jeter loves October. And November. And when the pinstripes are on the largest stage expect him to put up the same gaudy numbers he does every other time.
Third Base- Alex Rodriguez vs. Pedro Feliz
Arod - Lifetime .305 hitter covering 15 seasons, 583 HR, 1706 RBI.
- This postseason .438 AVG, 5 HR, 12 RBI.
Feliz - Lifetime .254 hitter covering 8 seasons, 135 HR, 558 RBI.
- This postseason .161 AVG, 1 HR, 2 RBI
The postseason demons have been exercised.
Major Advantage: Yankees
Catcher- Jorge Posada vs. Carlos Ruiz
Posada had a great year (.285, 22, 81) but has shown some signs of wear over the past two seasons landing on the DL multiple times. He is the backbone of the Yankees catching almost every game of their postseason existence since the exit of Girardi. One of the “core four” as they are known in NY, Posada joins Jeter, Pettite, and Rivera as the group who have won 4 WS titles. Ruiz is still relatively young in experience but has done magical things this postseason with the lumber (.346, 1, 4) especially since he is hitting right ahead of the pitcher. He provides a stingy bottom of the order out but still wont strike fear into the hearts of many pitchers. Also, Ruiz is a very good defensive catcher throwing out 27% of would be base stealers.
Left Field- Johnny Damon vs. Raul Ibanez
Tough call. Damon had another great year (.282, 24, 82) matching a career high with homeruns and second best RBI total. He relished in the 2nd spot of the order, and recovered after a bad DS to play great in the ALCS. His weakness is a very poor arm and often times has to be pulled late for a defensive replacement. Raul Ibanez followed up an amazing first half and incredibly gaudy numbers with his first All Star appearance and a major slowdown in production. He still finished strong (.272, 34, 93) and has posted very solid numbers in the postseason. At times a minor defensive liability, he has an above average arm. Hitting behind Utley and Howard helps immensely, but again a solid lefty mows right through the heart of their order with nothing more then dancing curveballs.
Center Field- Melky Cabrera vs. Shane Victorino
Melky started the season as the #4 outfielder but between great patience and Brett Gardner’s inability to hit the broad side of a barn, he quickly gained back his starting role and had his best season, flourishing in the #9 hole (.274, 13, 68). Melky followed that with a superb ALCS with 4 RBI. Shane Victorino is one of the more underrated players in MLB. The Flyin Hawaiian followed up two very good seasons with his best so far (.292, 10, 62) stealing 25 bases and making his first All Star team. He is a great compliment to Rollins at the top of the order and sets the plate well for their big 4 hitters to follow. Also, Victorino plays a great CF and will track down almost any ball that stays in the park.
Right Field- Nick Swisher vs. Jayson Werth
Swisher started the year at the Utility position but quickly flourished with the unavailability of Xavier Nady. He seemingly hit all 29 of his homeruns during the first month of the season then tailed off badly. He plays a very solid defensive right field and provides some potential pop from the bottom of the order. Jayson Werth was a surprise call of the year amounting career highs in HR and RBI (.268, 36, 99) while making his first All Star team and helping Howard carry the Phils through the season atop the NL East. He has been absolutely smoking the ball in the postseason (.281 5, 10) and remains red hot heading into NY.
Starting Pitching- Sabathia, Burnett, Pettite vs. Lee, Martinez, Hamels, Blanton
This is a very tough call as both teams are very deep with talent and playoff experience. Sabathia and Lee should provide a phenomenal Game 1 as both lefties have been on fire in the postseason (CC: 3-0, 1.19; Lee 2-0, 0.73). Pedro is a known Yankee killer and Hamels was the 2008 WS MVP, but Andy Pettite is a postseason hero (most wins all time in postseason- 16) with four rings to his name. This series will come down to whether AJ Burnett is effective once, and even more importantly whether he is effective the 2nd time, on three days rest, and whether Cole Hamels can find some of that magic that he had last October. Yankees pitchers need to get an early lead and get through 6 innings while the Philly pitchers feel the need to go a bit deeper. Lefties tend to pitch well against a very lefty laden Phils roster, while the Yanks play ball well against both sides with plenty of switch hitters. Pedro is not the Pedro he used to be and relies to heavily on his changeup now, which the Yankees hit very well.
Slight Advantage: Yankees
Bullpen- Rivera, Hughes, Chamberlain vs. Lidge, Happ, Madson
Not even close. Rivera has been his incredible self (44 saves, 1.76 ERA) all year with no blemishes AGAIN in the postseason gaining three saves in over 10.1 innings pitched already. Hughes and Chamberlain have proven to be formidable additions to the back end of the game but both have been a bit flawed so far this postseason getting touched up numerous times for game tying runs against the Angels ands Twins. And with all of the lefties the Phillies have, this could spell late inning trouble. The Phillies however, have been god awful. Lidge couldn’t get ANYONE out (7.21 ERA). Madson proved to be just as bad. Charlie Manuel will stick with them and pray, but that’s about as good of a guess as anyone has at this point.
DH, Bench, and Intangibles-The Tiebreaker
Hideki Matsui had another very good year but with deteriorating knees he can longer play the field and is often a late inning liability on the bases. Brett Gardner is the fastest white man alive and is perfect for exactly what the Yankees need him for; to score the winning run. The Phllies bench doesn’t offer much more that Ben Francisco or Matt Stairs who will probably DH in the AL park and can add a spark to a game in a NY minute.
Overall, the Yankees have playoff and WS experience where it matters, the heart of the order and the pitching rotation. Their “core four” has amassed more playoff experience than almost anyone in MLB history. On the other hand, the Phillies did win the World Series last year and return with a better team this season. Both sets of fans are FANATICS too! With 40 pennants, Babe, Yogi, and the Mick dangling from one stadium and 10,000 plus losses Schmidt, Ashburn, and Carlton dangling from the other it is my decree that:
Advantage Yankees (in 7)