World Series Preview: What the New York Yankees Must Do to Win it All
Well...that was fast. My night of celebration ended about 15 minutes after I posted the last piece . Immediately, my mind started to shift to the new question at hand.
Here's the game plan, in three(-ish) parts:
1. Use the Long Lineup to Tire Out Cliff Lee and the Philly Starters Early. Then, Go to Work on the Bullpen.
This has been the plan for every postseason series the Yankees have played, and it's going to become more important—and more effective—against National League pitchers who are used to eight-man lineups.
If Lee, Pedro(!), and Hamels have to throw 17-18 pitches an inning, the Yankees will have three innings each game to gut the Phillies' mediocre middle-relief.
Does anybody in Pennsylvania really want to see J.D. Durbin or Ryan Madsen try to pitch to Teixeira in the late innings? Or see Brad Lidge face Alex Rodriguez with a game on the line?
2. Counter Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Raul Ibanez With as Many Left-Handed Starts/Starters as Possible.
That picture of A.J. Burnett is my way of saying sorry...
Obviously, C.C. Sabathia is going to make three starts if this series goes the distance. Joe Girardi should take a cue from the 2001 Diamondbacks' strategy and switch Burnett and Pettitte in his rotation, with the assumption of Pettitte throwing Games Two and Six.
This is Girardi's best option because Sabathia and Pettitte are lefties, and because they're certainly the best two starters the Yankees have right now.
That leaves Burnett in Game Three, and (gulp) Chad Gaudin in Game Five. The Yankees play the percentages on winning the first two at home, then try to take at least one game of three in Philadelphia—with Pettitte (and Sabathia) waiting back in New York to close the series out if it doesn't happen.
The other option seems to be three starters on short rest, and while my heart says Burnett and Pettitte could handle it, my brain reminds me that Burnett has never pitched in October before and was shaky against the Angels, and Pettitte is 37 years old.
2A. Keep Trusting Damaso Marte and Phil Coke.
The Yankees have two left-handed relievers in their pen. Against a lineup featuring the three aforementioned lefty sluggers, both will have to be excellent in the clutch at least once this series.
3. Don't Get Too Comfortable with the Idea of Using Rivera For Six Outs.
The Yankees had the best bullpen ERA in the American League in 2009 and the best bullpen WHIP in the Majors. A hiccup from Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Alfredo Aceves in the Anaheim series is absolutely not an excuse to stop trusting the guys who brought the team to where they are now.
I absolutely expect Rivera to get the final out of this World Series. But it's going to take a total team effort from the bullpen to make sure they get there.
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