Phillies vs. Yankees vs. Red Sox: Which Evil Empire Wins?

Sam RuckyCorrespondent IIIAugust 22, 2011

Phillies vs. Yankees vs. Red Sox: Which Evil Empire Wins?

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    The Yankees were the original "Evil Empire"—the organization that threw money around like it was going out of style until yet another World Series Title fell into its arms.

    Then came the Red Sox—the lovable losers of the AL who decided to follow the Yankee business model. They too poured money into their on-field product until they captured another World Series ring.

    Finally, the Fightin' Phillies. The team that finally seemed like it was "winning the right way": homegrown stars, a loyal fanbase, a relatively moderate payroll (compared to the Yankees and Red Sox). Well, that all changed. They too joined the free-agent frenzy and walked away with one of the greatest rotations in history. 

    All three organizations have become modern day "Evil Empires"—teams that throw money at problems rather than developing solutions, that deplete their farm system to acquire a much-hyped player at the trade deadline, that mortgage tomorrow for today. 

    But which spectacle of overpayment has paid the most dividends? Which Evil Empire Reigns Supreme? Read on to find out. The scoring is as follows:

    First = five points

    Second = three points

    Third = one point 

Category No. 1: Hitting for Power

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    In the power department, the advantage clearly belongs to the Yankees and their MLB-leading 165 (and counting) HRs. The Bronx Bombers feature seven players with more than 10 home runs, three with more than 20 (C. Granderson, M. Teixeira, and R. Cano) and two with more than 33 as of this writing.

    Top to bottom, the Yankees are the most dangerous team when it comes to putting up runs quickly. As a matter of fact, the Yankees are the best team in baseball at putting up runs, period. And they've been doing it without one of their best offensive players in Alex Rodriguez, who is finally slated to return from the DL later this week. Scary.

    The Red Sox are a half step behind the Yankees in the power hitting department, notching 151 HRs and 637 runs as of this writing. The Sox also boast seven players with more than 10 home runs, but only two with more than 20 and none with more than 25. The Red Sox are certainly capable of hitting the ball, as evidenced by their 0.452 SLG and 664 runs scored. But they aren't quite the Yankees.

    Bringing up the rear are the Phillies, they of 116 total home runs—49 fewer than the Yankees. The Phillies boast five players with 10 HRs or more and one player with more than 20. All in all, the Phillies are a middle-of-the-road offensive team with 552 runs scored and a pedestrian 0.397 SLG. The team has performed better offensively in recent weeks, especially following the acquisition of Hunter Pence, but they are not in the same league as the Yankees or Red Sox.

    First Place: Yankees

    Second Place: Red Sox

    Third Place: Phillies 

Category No. 2: Hitting for Average

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    The Red Sox have been exceptionally good at getting on base and generating offense. The team leads the majors with a stellar 0.349 OBP and is second in total hits with 1,217. The Red Sox have four regulars batting over 0.300 as well as the highest team BA in the major leagues with 0.278. 

    The Yankees are a close second to the Red Sox in this department, with a team batting average of 0.269, good for fourth in MLB. The Yankees have only one regular batting over 0.300 (Robinson Cano), but do have two others within striking distance (Jeter at 0.291, A-Rod at 0.295). 

    Once again, the Phillies are bringing up the rear in the hitting department. The team is batting a mediocre 0.253, good for 17th in the major leagues. The Phillies do have two regulars hitting over .300 (Shane Victorino and the newly-acquired Hunter Pence). While the Phillies are also improving in this department since the acquisition of Pence, they are still not in the same class as either the Yankees or Red Sox.

    First Place: Red Sox

    Second Place: Yankees

    Third Place: Phillies

Category No. 3: Small Ball

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    This category might need a bit of clarification. By the term "small ball", I'm referring to a team's ability to generate offense through the drawing of bases on balls (walks), stolen bases, sacrifices and hit-and-run plays. Teams that are able to consistently put runners in scoring position without relying on extra base hits possess a significant advantage in the postseason. 

    Ironically, it has been the Yankees that have played the best "small ball" of the three teams. They have generated a MLB-leading 476 bases on balls, stolen an AL-leading 121 bases and notched 43 sacrifice flies, good for third in the AL and fourth in the major leagues. As strange as it sounds, the Bronx Bombers have added a methodical approach to their game. 

    The Red Sox have also been surprisingly good at playing small ball, drawing a total of 457 walks (second in MLB) and stealing 88 bases. The Sox have also recorded a solid 39 sac flys and 20 sacrifices. The Red Sox have effectively combined their ability to put the ball in play with their plate discipline to generate a ton of runs—something that has a definite link to playoff success. 

    This is probably the most surprising last-place finish for the Phillies. For a team with as good of a pitching staff as the Phillies have, it is to be expected that the team is able to play small ball. They should be able to manufacture a few runs and ride their phenomenal starting pitching to wins left and right. The Phillies have drawn 417 walks and recorded 82 stolen bases, but neither of those totals are especially impressive in comparison to what the Yankees and Red Sox have been able to achieve. 

    First Place: Yankees

    Second Place: Red Sox

    Third Place: Phillies

Category No. 4: Starting Pitching

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    As stated in the previous slide, the Phillies boast the best starting rotation in the major leagues, bar none. Their top three pitchers—Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels— would all be the ace of just about every staff in baseball today. Each of the big three has a sub-3.00 ERA and stellar WHIP. 

    The Phillies team ERA of 3.08 is stellar, and made more impressive by the fact that they play home games at the launching pad known as Citizens Bank Park. Beyond those three, the Phillies have another ace, Roy Oswalt and emerging star Vance Worley. Hands down, this is the best Evil Empire starting rotation. 

    The Yankees' rotation, long a source of concern for the team, has been bolstered by a host of pitchers reclaimed from the scrap heap. Ace CC Sabathia has been his usual dominant self, recording 17 wins and posting a sub-3.00 ERA. The surprises come in the form of Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon, both of whom have managed to string together superb seasons. Both pitchers have stellar ERAs (3.16 and 3.54, respectively) and acceptable WHIPs (1.26 and 1.31, respectively) despite being picked off of the junk pile by Yankee GM Brian Cashman. Youngsters Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes have been pitching well down the stretch. AJ Burnett has been awful, to put it mildly. 

    The Red Sox pitching hasn't been awful by any stretch of the imagination. Ace Josh Beckett has rebounded from a less-than-stellar 2010 campaign by posting a 10-5 record with a sparkling 2.46 ERA. John Lester has been equally good, posting a very respectable 3.22 ERA and notching 12 wins. Tim Wakefield and John Lackey have been disappointing, posting ERAs of 4.97 and 6.02, respectively. The staff has been hurt by the injury to Clay Buchholz, who was having a magnificent season. The acquisition of Erik Bedard should provide some support, provided he can re-acclimate himself to playing in the not-so-friendly AL East. 

    First Place: Phillies

    Second Place: Yankees

    Third Place: Red Sox

Category No. 5: Relief Pitching

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    The Yankees, despite all of their injuries, still manage to have the best bullpen of the three. It all starts with the ageless Mariano Rivera, the Yankee's closer. Somehow, someway, Mo continues to get the job done better than anyone else in the league (really, if it was Game 7 of the world series, would you want anyone else pitching the 9th?).

    Rafael Soriano, Boone Logan, David Robertson, Luis Ayala and Hector Noesi continue to provide solid relief. Pedro Feliciano hopes to return from the DL shortly to provide  the team with yet another option out of the bullpen. 

    The Red Sox have a shutdown closer of their own in Jonathan Papelbon. While the Sox's closer is far more fiery than Rivera, he's equally effective when it comes to protecting leads in the ninth inning. Matt Albers, Daniel Bard, Alfredo Aceves and Dan Wheeler provide quality relief on a regular basis. The Sox are only a step behind the Yanks once the starters leave. 

    The good news for the Phillies is that their starters are workhorses, capable of pitching plenty of complete games. The bad news is that the Phillies' Big Three has already thrown 14 complete games in 2011, double the combined total of the Yankees' and Red Sox's entire staffs. The Phillies bullpen is in shambles, to be charitable. The lone bright spot has been the play of Antonio Bastardo. Mike Stutes has been solid, but not spectacular. And Brad Lidge is injured...again. 

    First Place: Yankees

    Second Place: Red Sox

    Third Place: Phillies

Category No. 6: Defense

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    The Phillies have been one of the better defensive teams in baseball all season, recording only 53 errors and posting an impressive 0.989 fielding percentage. They've been excellent behind their starting pitching all season long. The old adage is that defense wins championships. If that's true, the Phillies will be the Evil Empire most likely to be hosting a World Series Trophy come October. 

    The boys from Boston have been superb in the field all season, recording only 61 errors to go with a 0.987 fielding percentage and 1,154 assists. Excellent production all around. New additions Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford have been excellent in the defensive aspects of the game, posting only four errors combined. Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury continue to demonstrate why they are two of the top defenders at their respective positions.

    The Yankees' defense hasn't been up to snuff all season. The team has recorded 74 errors and posted a mediocre 0.984 fielding percentage. Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner have all been exceptional, but Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter and Eduardo Nunez all must improve their defensive game.

    First Place: Phillies

    Second Place: Red Sox

    Third Place: Yankees 

The Final Tally

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    Hitting for Power: Yankees 5, Red Sox 3, Phillies 1

    Hitting for Average: Red Sox 5, Yankees 3, Phillies 1

    Small Ball: Yankees 5, Red Sox 3, Phillies 1

    Starting Pitching: Phillies 5, Yankees 3, Red Sox 1

    Relief Pitching: Yankees 5, Red Sox 3, Phillies 1

    Defense: Phillies 5, Red Sox 3, Yankees 1


    Yankees 22

    Red Sox 18

    Phillies 14

    According to this estimation, the original Evil Empire is still the best Evil Empire. The Red Sox finish second, and the Phillies third (despite their overall lead in the standings).