Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Yankees/Phillies World Series Preview

It's about 10:15pm EST on Tuesday night. The first pitch of the 2009 World Series is a little more than 22 hours from now. I just got finished watching MLB Network's "Path To The Pennant - New York Yankees" special. If you missed it, it was basically a recap of the Yankees 2009 postseason so far. Right now I'm tuned in to MLB Tonight, the World Series preview edition. (Side note: I don't think I watched ESPN's Baseball Tonight once this year.) I'm sure all of you are pumped for tomorrow. I know I am. I can't wait to get this thing started. Happy reading. It's a long one.

Joe Girardi announced today that A.J. Burnett was going to start game 2 of the World Series. So we're looking at CC in game 1, Burnett in game 2, and Andy Pettitte in game 3. The unanswered question right now is are the Yankees going to go with a 3-man or 4-man rotation. Regardless of what they decide to do, I think CC is a guarantee to pitch games 1, 4 and 7. CC has shown before he can pitch well on 3 days rest. It's in the Yankees best interest to have him pitch as much as possible. If the series goes 7, he'll pitch 3 times. I think you can take that to the bank.

If I were running the show I'd go with the 3-man rotation. I'd also flip-flop Burnett and Pettitte. Here's my reasoning: For some reason A.J. Burnett pitches better at home and Andy Pettitte pitches better on the road. If the series goes beyond 5 games, they'd both end up pitching once at home and once on the road regardless of who started game 2. That would be a wash. I also think the Yankees would be better off if they started as many lefties as possible. 2 of the biggest offensive threats for Philly are Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard. Rollins hit .230 vs. lefties this year, with an OPS of .692. Howard hit .207 with an OPS of .653, a far drop from his 1.088 OPS versus righties. It would be huge to neutralize those 2 threats, especially Howard, for 5 games. Two of their other big boppers, Raul Ibanez and Chase Utley, are both lefties and despite their great numbers versus southpaws, I like the lefty-lefty matchup, especially when that LHP is CC Sabathia. CC owns lefties. Lefties hit .198 against CC all season and his WHIP was 0.95. LHPs also fare better in Yankee Stadium. We're also talking about the winningest postseason pitcher of all-time. Andy Pettitte has been there and done that in the postseason. I have more trust in him to pitch a great game than Burnett. I think throwing CC and Andy back-to-back is their best chance out going up 2-0 and taking a lot of momentum into Philadelphia for games 3-5.

The Yankees rotation is going to be a huge key to their success this week. With the exception of one start in the ALCS (A.J. in game 5 of the ALCS) the rotation has been pretty damn good. The trio has made 9 postseason starts, pitching 60 innings, allowing 17 earned runs on 48 hits and 16 walks. That works out to an ERA of 2.55. A.J. was the only one that got roughed up, giving up 9 earned runs in his 3 starts, with 6 of them coming in 1 game. Burnett is the wild-card for me, with "wild" being the keyword. A typical A.J. outing would be a lot of walks, a hit-batter (or two), maybe a wild pitch (or two), and very few hits and runs. A.J. allows a lot of baserunners and his low # of hits and high # of Ks often get him out of trouble, but there are times, like we saw in game 5, where it just doesn't work. Burnett's 2 starts could be what makes or breaks this series.

I don't know why I wrote all of that since Girardi has already made the decision to start A.J. in game 2. I'd go the other way, but what can you do? As for using a 3-man rotation? There are signs that it won't happen. Chad Gaudin threw a 70-80 pitch bullpen today so he could get stretched out a little bit. As I wrote above, I think it's all but a certainty that CC starts 3 times this series. Using Gaudin in game 4 would pretty much prevent that from happening as if CC starts game 5, he'll have 2 days off before game 7. Gaudin, if used as a 4th starter, would likely start game 5, meaning that Andy Pettitte would likely only make one start. If Pettitte starts game 3, he'd start game 6 on short rest. If the Yankees were going to do that, they might as well go with the 3-man rotation. The consensus out there seems to be that of the 3 Yankee starters, Pettitte is the only one who shouldn't start on short rest. By consensus, I mean Tom Verducci. I heard him on both the Michael Kay show this afternoon, and just now on MLB Tonight, mention that Pettitte's last start on short rest was 102 starts ago. That coupled with his age (37) is the only reason I can see them not wanting to use Andy on short rest. But it's the freaking World Series for crying out loud. He can do it one time. I'm sure if you ask Andy if he wants the ball, he'll take it, and he'll absolutely rock the house. I really hope they go with the 3-man rotation. Don't start Chad Gaudin.

The Yankee bullpen is also going to be a key component in this series. The only reliable once out in the pen right now is Mariano Rivera. Everyone else is shaky right now in my book. The 2 guys that need to step up and return to form are Joba and Phil Hughes. The formula for the most part is going to be the SP for as long as possible, then Joba, Phil, and Mo to close it out, with maybe a guy or two getting sprinkled in here and there to face a certain guy. Phil and Joba need to step it up. If those 2 can shut it down, the Yankees should have no problem winning this series.

The Phillies are starting Cliff Lee in game 1 and Pedro Martinez in game 2. I've heard a lot of people remark that they think the Phillies should start as many lefties as possible. As I wrote the other day, bring it on. I don't want to rehash everything I wrote the other day, so here's the short of it: the Yankees do very well against LHPs. I think it's a smart move by Charlie Manuel to throw Pedro in game 2. He's been there. He's done that. He's Pedro. But he's not the old Pedro. He could dominate or he could get shelled. The Yankees have done well against Pedro. Everyone remember "Who's Your Daddy?" You can sure as hell bet Yankee fans bust out that chant, possibly as early as the game 1 introductions. That would be funny. The Phillies pitching doesn't scare me. I would much prefer to go to battle with the Yankees rotation.

The Yankees offense of course need to score some runs. I'd like to say that it won't be a problem, but it very well could be. The Yankees squandered many an opportunity in the ALCS. They were 3-12 with RISP in game 1, 0-8 in game 2, 0-8 in game 3, 4-17 in game 4, 3-11 in game 5, and 2-8 in game 6. Tally that all up and they were 12-64 (.188) in the 6 games. That isn't going to cut it against the Phillies. They can't afford to get the first 2 hitters of an inning on only to strand them, something they did several times in the ALCS. Like with any team, they need those timely hits.

The offense needs to wake up. With the exception of A-Rod (.438 w/5 HR & 11 RBI), Jeter (.297 & 1.030 OPS) and Melky (.314), and to a lesser extent Jorge Posada (.258 &.368 OBP), everyone else is scuffling. They need the rest of the lineup to show up, especially Mark Teixeira (.205 & .581 OPS) and Johnny Damon (.238 & .273 OBP). Damon needs to improve that OBP to better set the table and Teixeira just needs to start hitting. The other sore spot is Nick "The Rally Killer' Swisher (.125 & .378 OPS). Swisher's bat is killing me. If you've read this blog long enough you know I'm not a big fan. I hope Girardi has a short leash on Swish if he continues to tank. I wouldn't mind seeing Brett Gardner get a start or two. But it likely won't happen. Why you ask? The answer is the subject of the next paragraph.

Joe Girardi better not screw this up. He's been making some questionable decisions this postseason. Many, myself included, feel some of his decisions cost the Yankees a game or two in the ALCS. I just hope Girardi doesn't mess this up. His managerial tendencies are starting to scare me. The Phillies definitely have the better manager.

The Yankees have caught a lot of breaks this postseason. Namely, bad calls by the umps (Phil Cuzzi), bad baserunning (Bobby Abreu, Nick Punto, Carlos Gomez), and poor defense (8 errors by Angels - the best defensive team in MLB). I don't see the Phillies making a lot of mistakes, if any. All things considered, the Yankees could very easily be at home right now, watching the Fall Classic on TV. Since I don't see the Phils making these mistakes, the Yanks need to play great baseball if they want to bring home their 27th world title.

This has the making to be one heck of a series. I think both teams are pretty evenly matched and I think every game is going to be a battle. I'm not going to make a prediction for fear of jinxing things, but I think you know where I stand. If the series is a classic like everyone seems to think it will be, I may get to catch part of it in person. I cashed in some credit card points to get tickets to game 7. If it goes that far, I'll definitely be in the house for that one. But as I wrote the other day, I'd be more than happy not to go (and get my points back) if it means the Yankees win it in 4, 5, or 6 games. I'm not rooting for a 7 game series. By all means Yanks, wrap it up in 4.

Wow, it took me almost an hour and 45 minutes to write this. I hope it didn't take you that long to read it, assuming of course that you did actually read it. First pitch is now about 20 hours away. I wish I could wake up and have it be 7:57pm. Speaking of waking up, the alarm clock is going off in about 6.5 hours, and that includes waking up probably around 4pm to feed the 6-month old. Why do I do this to myself? Oh yeah. I love the Yankees and I love baseball.

Peace, love and Pinstripes,