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World Series Often Decided By Relievers, Not High-Paid Starters

Scott EisenlohrAnalyst IOctober 31, 2009

DENVER - OCTOBER 12:  Brad Lidge #54 of the Philadelphia Phillies celebrates after defeating the Colorado Rockies in Game Four of the NLDS during the 2009 MLB Playoffs at Coors Field on October 12, 2009 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Want to make money in Major League baseball and have longtime job security?

Become a world-class starter in the Major Leagues.

Guys like Cubs outfield Alfonso Soriano may get $136 for eight years, but you want more bang for the buck?

How about CC Sabathia and his six-year, $140 million contract he signed for the Yankees. Or the Yanks' A.J. Burnett, who signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract in the 2008-09 offseason.

Phillies' ace Cliff Lee is due to make $8 in 2010 before he collects a big playday in 2011. Expect the Phillies to offer him a contract extension in the offseason. They would be stupid not to.

Let me ask you: Do you think Sabathia or Burnett would have to take a cab and subway to get to Yankee Stadium like Lee did before pitching Game One of the World Series?

Please.

But let me get to my point: While the starters are the high-priced superstars, pitching to many highly paid hitters, the players who often decide the World Series and playoffs often make less than Major League pinch hitters.

How did the 1993 World Series end? I'll never forget.

Toronto Blue Jays' Joe Carter hit a walk-off, series-winning home run off Phillies closer Mitch Williams.

Who among baseball fans will forget the tragic case of Angels' pitcher Donny Moore?

In 1986, the Angels held a 3-2 lead going into Game Six of the ALCS.

With two outs and the Angels holding a slim 5-4 lead, Moore gave up the go-ahead home run to Boston's Dave Henderson in the top of the ninth.

The Angels came back to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, 6-6, but a sacrifice fly by Henderson off Moore in the 11th gave Boston a 7-6 win.

(The Red Sox went on to win the next two games in Boston and advance to the World Series.)

On July 18, 1989, after being cut by the Kansas City Royals, Moore got in an argument with his wife and fatally shot himself.

Let history show that Moore did not shoot himself because of the Henderson home run, but suffice to say that relieving is a tough job in baseball.

So despite Sabathia, Burnett, and Lee, I have a nagging feeling that the bullpens will play a big role in this 2009 World Series.

Ryan Madson, Scott Eyre, and Chan Ho Park pitched in Game Two for the Phillies, while the Yankees have use Phil Cake, Brian Bruney, David Robertson, Phil Hughes, and Mariano Rivera.

Rivera already made his impact on the series.

The All-World closer pitched two shutout innings on Thursday night to preserve the Yankees' 3-1 win in Game Two and tie the series for the Yankees.

I don't know much about the Yankees' bullpen performance this year, other than Rivera. Phil Hughes is the set up man for the Yankees.

While Rivera has a 0.71 ERA  in 12.2 innings in the 2009 postseason, Hughes sports 0-1, 9.64 ERA in 4.2 innings in the postseason.

It was no accident that Yankees manager Joe Girardi put Rivera in to pitch the eighth and ninth innings in Game Two, so the Yanks would not face an 0-2 hole going back to Philly.

However, Girardi can't pitch Rivera for two innings three out of four games, can he?

Both bullpens will have to be used as the series progresses to three games in Philadelphia.

Brad Lidge has been perfect in the 2009 postseason after a shaky regular season, where he blew 11 saves.

Lidge is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in four innings pitched.

Phillies set up man Ryan Madson has pitched reasonably well in the postseason with a 1-0 record, 3.86 ERA in seven innings.

Both team's trouble spots in the bullpen?

Top left-hander J.A. Happ, a starter during the regular season, has a 7.36 ERA in 3.2 innings.

Park, the seventh inning reliever who missed the first round of the playoffs, has pitched well at times in the post season, but has a 7.36 ERA in 3.2 innings.

For the Yankees, reliever Brian Bruney has a 54.00 ERA in 0.10 innings, and Alfredo Aceves has a 7.71 ERA in 2.1 innings pitched.

Putting stats aside, what is my feeling?

The Phillies in at least one or two games upcoming, will explode for four or five runs against the Yankees bullpen.

However, Girardi might realize this too and consider coming back with Sabathia in Game Four.

The Phillies bullpen has gotten progressively stronger as the playoffs have moved along.

However, I am not feeling secure with the Phillies holding a one-run lead going into the late innings in a game.

What I can't get out of my head is a vision of Alex Rodriguez coming up to the plate with a runner on second, two outs, a one-run Phillies lead in the bottom of the ninth.

And Brad Lidge is on the mound.

Bam.

I wake up in a cold sweat.

I can only hope that Girardi's plan to pitch his aces with three days rest blows up in his face.

And the vision of Ryan Howard at the plate against Mariano Rivera with the game on the line does not give me the same sweats as Lidge/Rodriguez.

Still, bullpen advantage Yankees, due to Rivera.

Yankees will win tonight behind Andy Pettitte, while the Phillies take the next two games to go back to New York with a 3-2 series lead.

If that happens, I won't get much sleep.

Bam.

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