Thoughts on the 2009 World Series
The two best teams in baseball, most home runs and runs scored in each league, plus one stat which surprised me: both the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies led their leagues in stolen base percentage, with each having an over 80 percent success rate.
Power and speed, plus a lethal starting pitcher at the top of the rotation for both teams.
The Yankees will win in five games, after taking a 3-0 series lead.
Expect both CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee to go in Games One, Four and Seven, if necessary. If the Yankees are up 3-0, then CC will not go Game Four. There is no way that Charlie Manuel throws Joe Blanton in a must-win situation, as Blanton has terrible numbers against the Yankees in his career, a 0-3 record and over 8.00 ERA.
The weather in Game One can affect a "feel" pitcher like Lee; look for the Yankees to see if he is hitting his spots early on. If he is not, the Yankees will force Lee to come over the plate with his pitches, where it will be light-up city. When Lee struggled over a couple starts in Philadelphia, he said it was because "he wasn't locating his fastball" and he got knocked around.
It will happen again in Game One.
Same thing with Pedro Martinez starting in Game Two. The Yankees will be patient with his junk stuff, and Pedro may be effective one time through the lineup. The Yankees will begin to lay off the off-speed stuff and force Pedro to come over the middle, where he is not the same Pedro that pitched at the Stadium in big games. I was there in Game Seven of the 2003 ALCS, when Martinez was masterful until the end.
Not this year. He does not have the power stuff to alleviate all the Yankee big bats.
Pettitte will not go on three days rest, as he has not done that in about three seasons. Unlike the ALCS, Gaudin will get more than a token inning on the mound.
Look for Joe Girardi to go with Sabathia in Game Four if the Yankees are up or down 2-1, but if they take a 3-0 series lead, look for Chad Gaudin to pitch Game Four and CC to come back on normal rest in a Game Five, if necessary. Then it would be Burnett in Game 6 and CC and Pettitte both available for a Game Seven.
The Yankee starting pitching will dominate the Phillies lineup and I expect the Yankees to take a 3-0 lead in the series.
Both teams have crushed the ball this year, and the team that wins the World Series will do it with slugging. Do not look for the small ball to come into play like it did for the Yankees in the ALCS. Unlike the Los Angeles Angels, who provided no power throughout the ALCS, the Phillies can put up big innings in a hurry, so look for the Yankees to "let their players play" and for Girardi to go for the big innings.
Alex Rodriguez will continue to rake and Mark Teixeira will have a big series, as he started to hit late in the ALCS and has great numbers in his career against both Lee and Cole Hamels.
The Yankees starting pitching will, for the most part, contain the Phillies' vaunted lineup. Ryan Howard has had a great postseason thus far, but does not have good numbers against the Yankees' top three starters. The two lefties in Sabathia and Andy Pettitte will neutralize the lefty bats of Howard, Chase Utley, and Raul Ibanez.
Look for Jayson Werth to have a pretty good series, as he is hot right now and has very good power to right field, great in both Yankee Stadium and Citizen's Bank Park. Jimmy Rollins (more on him later) and Shane Victorino will get their on base opportunities, but will not score much, as the big lefty boppers will falter.
Speaking of Werth, he is only a Phillie player BECAUSE of AJ Burnett. How?
In 2005, Burnett hit Werth (then a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers) in the wrist with a pitch, breaking it. Werth was not a good player in 2005 and missed most of 2006 with various wrist aliments. After two terrible years in LA, the Dodgers released Werth, who was then signed by Phillies GM Pat Gillick, who drafted Werth when Gillick ran the Toronto Blue Jays.
Interesting to see how Burnett pitches to Werth Thursday night.
Posada VS. Molina
Although Girardi is talking tough about keeping Jose Molina as Burnett's personal catcher, look for Posada to start every game in the series, even with Burnett on the mound.
First, runs will be at a premium against the Phillies, and Posada's bat is lethal in Yankee Stadium. Second, Girardi pulled Molina early in Burnett's last start, and AJ was dealing just as well with Posada behind the plate for innings five and six in Game Five out in LA.
Who cares what predictions are made? What players, especially one of Rollins' caliber (he was an MVP), doesn't think their team is going to win?
And as far as the bulletin board material, it does not work in baseball. This sport is not the same as basketball or football, as you cannot physically dominate your opponent. If Brett Favre disses the Green Bay Packers before the game this Sunday (and I think he did already), then the defense can really put extra effort into ripping his head off during the game.
In baseball, players who go on emotion often get out of their realm and do not play as well. Baseball is not an emotional game. Emotional play is a detriment and leads to overthrowing pitches and making mistakes.
The talk is good for the media because there is nothing else to talk about, but the players don't care, and nor should we.
Jimmy Rollins is a fun-loving player who does his job, didn't complain last season when Charlie Manuel benched him, and seems to play his best when the situation is most tense. His fun-loving nature and talking ability are good, but it doesn't help or hurt the Yankees.
It's just Jimmy being Jimmy.
Girardi and Manuel are polar opposites, with General Joe being more of a stat guy, with matchups and binders of stats, while Manuel is more of a gut guy, who goes on instinct and "old school" baseball thoughts. (Although I did feel that Charlie over-managed that Pedro Martinez game in Los Angeles during the NLCS and should have left Pedro in to pitch. That was my gut instinct, but I always love to leave an effective pitcher in the game.)
But I feel Girardi learned his over-managing lesson after the David Robertson fiasco (also out in LA—what is it with removing effective pitchers out in La-La Land?). He had less pitching changes in the games after that Game Three than he did before, and he was quoted after the series that "he let his players play more."
That is the key in baseball: let your players play; and the Yankees players have too much more talent than the Phillies do, both in their lineup and on the mound. Managers are more important during the regular season grind of 162 games, nursing the team through slumps and injuries, plus the little volcanoes that erupt over six months.
But the postseason is about the players. Managers need to make out the lineups and let the players play. Managers can do more harm than good during these tight contests. If managers act like a government entity and do too much, it hinders the team.
Get out the way!
Although the Phillies' pitchers (especially the relievers) were effective in the NLCS, the Dodgers' lineup is a lot different than the Yankees' lineup.
Yankees bludgeon their way to a 27th World Series title, taking the first three games before winning in five.
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