Well this is it. It’s come down to two teams. For the American League, you have the New York Yankees, the winningest team in professional sports history. For the National League, you have the Philadelphia Phillies, winners of the previous year’s World Series. It’s a good matchup, pitting two fantastic sports towns against each other in a battle for baseball’s most coveted prize. So who will win?
The short answer is that I think the Yankees will win it all this year. You can stop reading now if that’s all you came here for. The rest will just be analysis.
The Yankees domination begins with their starting pitching rotation. C. C. Sabathia and A. J. Burnett are proving time and again that they can handle the pressure of the postseason. They are both pitching extremely well, even on short rest, and it doesn’t seem like they can be beaten. So far, neither one has (they have no losses in their postseason statistcs year). Facing them four or five times in a seven game series is a scary thought, and I just don’t think the Phillies have what it takes to beat pitching that good.
As if that weren’t enough to win a World Series on its own, the Yankees also boast a terrifyingly strong lineup as well. There are simply no easy outs on this team. 1-9, they are all dangerous and patient hitters, who will grind out at bats, build up pitch counts, and wait for the inevitable mistake pitch, which they will promptly crush. We all knew Alex Rodriguez would get over his postseason jitters eventually, and now we’re seeing how powerful a player he can actually be. And when your lineup also features Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, and Robinson Cano, it starts to approach ridiculousness. That lineup is so good that I just don’t see any combination of pitchers being able to shut them down four times in seven games. The Yankees haven’t lost four out of seven in a long time, heck it’s been awhile since they even lost THREE games in a short timespan. They’re clicking offensively, defensively, and their pitching is on. I predict they win it in six games.
This is not to say the Phillies will just roll over and die, however. They feature a 1-2 punch in Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels that can dominate when they’re on their games. These will be low scoring games, which always gives either team a chance, because one or two mistakes from either side will probably be all it takes. And the Phillies have some hitters who can capitalize on mistake pitches. Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, and Chase Utley are all big-time players capable of rising to the occasion. They have plenty of World Series experience too, and that might play into their winning at least a couple of games.
The major difference between the two teams lies in the bullpen. The Yankees feature the best closer in postseason history in Mariano Rivera. He can pitch multiple innings if necessary, and he always comes through (except occasionally against the Red Sox). The Phillies counter with Brad Lidge, who I just don’t see as in the same league as Mariano Rivera. He blew 11 saves in the regular season and has had to work a fair number of innings so far this postseason. The Yankees are a scarier lineup than anything he’s ever faced before, and it might be more than he can handle. If called upon, I just don’t trust him.
All in all, the Yankees are better than the Phillies in all the important categories. The only chance I see is if the loss of the DH for the middle three games affects the Yankees enough to lose all three games there. Otherwise, I don’t see the Yankees losing two games at home, and that’s what they’ll need if the Phillies can’t sweep at home.
On a personal note, I will begin posting weekly to sportsofboston.com in an effort to share my writing with a larger audience. I will still be posting regularly to this blog however, and all blog entries to the new site will be double-posted here. Until next time!