The matchup has been determined.
Phillies vs. Yankees, Dynasty vs. Destiny, Broad St. vs. Broadway.
All I can say is..wow.
Ever since the Brad Lidge slider that produced a can-of-corn fly ball that clinched the Philadelphia Phillies a trip back to the World Series six days ago (feels like six months ago), Phillies fans have been left to wait.
Now, the show must finally go on, starting Wednesday night, with the first pitch slated to go on as scheduled (not without a scare from mother nature) at 7:57 PM in the Bronx.
For the Phillies, it’s a return to the promise land once again. Two trips to the World Series in as many seasons, that’s not bad for a team was predicted to exit the playoffs in the first round, both years. In 2008, the Phillies cruised through the divisional and league championship series in four and five games respectively en route to the World Series. In 2009, the Phillies did, well, the same exact thing.
Quite frankly, on paper, the Phillies are a much better team than at this point a year ago. Same nucleus of players, just an upgrade in the outfield with Raul Ibanez over Pat Burrell, and the mid-season addition of the 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner in Cliff Lee to solidify the starting rotation. Add that with a year of playoff experience, and living up to enormous expectations, this team is built to win the World Series.
On the other hand, this time around, the Phillies won’t be fortunate enough to play the Tampa Bay Rays.
No disrespect to them, but they weren’t the New York Yankees.
Now, the Phillies will have to face the team with arguably the greatest legacy in all of professional sports.
That’s without mentioning that this team has the highest payroll in baseball, had the most wins in baseball in the regular season, and have been the odds-on favorites to win the 2009 World Series since the all-star break.
Here’s a quick breakdown:
PHILLIES: Five all-stars in the middle of the order, four of those with 30+ homeruns. Not many teams, none actually, have that type of power. The Phillies overpowered teams offensively throughout the team, and that did not change once the playoffs started. On the road to the World Series, the Phillies were offensively superior to both the Colorado Rockies and and Los Angeles Dodgers, averaging over six runs a game, almost at run and a half better than they did in 2008.
YANKEES: Led by a half-healthy A-ROD and Mark Teixeira, the Bronx Bombers lived up to their nickname. They were arguably the offensively explosive team in baseball for the entire regular season, leading MLB in homeruns (seven guys with 20+ HR’s), 20 ahead of the 2nd place team in that category, the Philadelphia Phillies.
Advantage: Phillies, but ever so slightly. The Yankees have a more balanced lineup 1-9, but the Phillies are the more hot offensive team going into the World Series, and the DH in game 1 and game 2 will give them an extra bat in the lineup. Either way you look at it, this could shape up to being one of the best offensive displays in World Series history not only because of the players, but also because of the ballparks.
PHILLIES: Enter Cliff Lee. Fortunately, Lee has been more than just a breath of fresh air for this Phillies pitching rotation. 2-0 in the playoffs with around a 1.00 E.R.A, he is the unquestioned ace of this staff. Combine him with the resurrected Pedro Martinez and the ex-World Series MVP Cole Hamels in supporting actor roles as the projected starters for game 2 and game 3, the Phillies are far deeper than they were at this point last year.
YANKEES: For what Cliff Lee is to the Phillies, CC Sabathia is to the Yankees. Actually, he’s probably worth more. The 160 million dollar man for the Yankees was the ALCS MVP, and is a favorite to finish in the top-3 in the AL 2009 Cy Young Award race. Accompanying Sabathia is the enigmatic A.J Burnett in game 2, and the ageless wonder in Andy Pettitte, who is now the baseball’s all-time leader in post-season wins, for game 3.
Advantage: Slight advantage to the Yankees. I’m going to consider Lee and Sabathia as equals for this argument. A.J Burnett has the stuff to be dominant, while Pedro Martinez ironically has the mentality to be more effective, so they cancel out, with Burnett having a larger upside for a potential gem. What is big in this category is third starter. It’s crazy to think that Cole Hamels could be considered a weak link, but Pettitte, his game 3 projected opponent, has pitched much better down the stretch, especially the the LCS.
PHILLIES: What a difference the playoffs make. Aside from a game 2 meltdown against the Dodgers in the NLCS, the Phillies bullpen has been pitching much like the ’08 Phillies in this post-season, not the ’09 Phillies that in the regular season blew 16 saves. Most people will say the key to this bullpen is Brad Lidge. If the Phillies are lucky that’s the case. I believe that Chan Ho Park, Brett Myers, and Chad Durbin will play a huge role in this series, especially against a Yankees team who has a penchant of knocking starters out of games early.
YANKEES: The Yankees may not have as many quality relief pitchers as the Phillies, but the ones that they do have are very, very good. With Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, the Yankees have two potentially dominant set-up guys. Note that I say set-up. Once the games get into the 9th, the Yankees bullpen consists of one guy. Mariano Rivera.
Advantage: Not even a question. Yankees.
PREDICTION: I’m obviously bias here, so no analysis required.
Phillies in 7.