In Part I, John S and Tim exhaustively and inconclusively dissected the Yankees and Phillies’ respective lineups. In the much-anticipated (and admittedly more concise) Part II, it’s time for the pitching staff and predictions–detailed predictions.
LEE V. SABATHIA
TIM: Everyone knows Mets fans are devastated about this series. But what about Indians fans having to watch this?
And do you expect CC to ever give up TWO runs in a playoff game?
JOHN: It’s probably especially rough for Indians fans given the trajectory of each of their careers. Both Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia were always guys who had tons of potential who couldn’t stay consistent. Then each of them put it together for a Cy Young year….and was promptly traded to a playoff team.
My confidence in CC at this point is reaching a point I’ve never reached with a starter. This is odd, given that as late as July I was wondering if he was worth the money. I’m kind of hoping for a rainout betwen Games 3 and 4, so Sabathia can pitch 3 times this series (although I guess they’d just ditch the off-day if that happened). I cannot conceive of losing a game he starts in the playoffs, despite his shaky history against Philly in the postseason. I’m adamantly for going with a 3-man rotation, something I’d always thought was a bad idea when other teams considered it.
Phillies fans, however, probably have similar confidence in Cliff Lee. I’m a little worried about Lee, despite his bad numbers vs. NYY in his career. Those are mostly from pre-2008, so it was really a different pitcher. But I know you think he’s a pretty weak ace, right?
TIM: I never said he was a “weak” ace. I did need to see some validation this year from him, and I have. The thing about Cliff Lee is that nothing he does looks very impressive. He doesn’t blow anything by anyone, he doesn’t make hitters look silly very often, and his stuff doesn’t jump off the TV screen. He’s just a very good pitcher…that I think is going to have one bad start in this series. I think he and Sabathia each have one good and one bad start, but Sabathia will be better in both (assuming they match up twice).
MARTINEZ V. BURNETT
TIM: Do you have any confidence in Burnett, and if so, why? And what do you expect to see from Pedro at the Stadium?
JOHN: Burnett isn’t the kind of pitcher you have “confidence” in. I mean, I’m happy he’s on the team and I think he should start Game 2 and all, but he’s the kind of pitcher who’s always flirting with disaster. He puts a lot of guys on base, and there’s always the chance the big inning actually happens, especially against a good lineup. But he really is a great pitcher when he’s on, and those stretches of brilliance are worth all of his stress-inducing starts.
I’m looking forward to facing Pedro again. I know he isn’t the same pitcher, but I imagine he’ll amp it up in Yankee Stadium again. I imagine he’ll be very impressive for the first half of the game, but the Yankees will get to him the second or third time through the order, inspiring Manuel to go to the mound with a three run lead; since his bullpen has been shaky all year, despite a solid run in the playoffs, he’ll leave Pedro in, and Posada will get a bloop double that ties the game. Just a hunch.
HAMELS V. PETTITTE
JOHN: I’ve gone from thinking there was a decent chance that Hamels would put it together in the postseason to wondering if the Yankees can score 10 runs on him before Manuel takes him out. Am I getting ahead of myself?
TIM: Ten seems a bit extreme. Six? I’ll give you six.
No, when I read this in April, I got really excited and terrified. Excited that Hamels would regress and terrified Mike Pelfrey would do the same. It’s really come true for both of them. And while I don’t expect Hamels to pitch particularly well in the World Series, it wouldn’t surprise me if Andy Pettitte struggled through the Phillies’ order and, oddly enough, I find Philadelphia’s bullpen better suited for the middle innings with J.A. Happ and Joe Blanton. Mark my words: At some point in this series, Joe Buck will praise the job of Joe Blanton for “keeping the Phillies within striking distance.”
TIM: That transitions well to the bullpens, where the Yankees have a sizable advantage. Now John, don’t you kind of want to trail going into the ninth to come back on Brad Lidge, just to make it especially demoralizing for Philly?
JOHN: I mean, I never WANT to trail going into the ninth, but I don’t think Lidge is much of a step-up from facing Brian Fuentes. With that said, Lidge has been reliable this postseason, and I’m not sure how much of an advantage the Yankees have before Rivera. Phil Hughes has been shaky and Joba has been totally unreliable. Girardi also seems unwilling to use David Robertson in a big situation, while he loves usuing Marte and Phil Coke. The Phillies, meanwhile, have done a good job of patching together failed starters in relief roles. I think both of these teams are in trouble if a starter gets knocked out earlier than the 7th inning.
TIM: I agree: I think there will be a lot of momentum swings late in games, up until Rivera comes in. Nothing Rivera does in this series will surprise me. He could go four, five innings and I wouldn’t blink.
TIM: I admit that I don’t feel really confident going either way. I feel like the popular perception is that the Yankees are favored, but I expect them to be knocked back a little by just how good the Phillies are and how comfortable they are in this spot. Philadelphia plays better in big spots than they do normally, and they’ve been that way for more than just the last year.
I think it goes seven wild games and rivals the 2001 World Series (but not quite the ’91 Fall Classic). I think the Yankees take Game 1 behind CC in a pitchers’ duel before losing 2 and 3. With the lead, the Phillies may decide to go with the four-man rotation, which works because Sabathia gets touched up a little in Game 4, but the Yankees come back late (not necessarily against Lidge) to tie it. Philly takes a high-scoring Game 5 with Lee pitching poorly (I don’t foresee Burnett pitching well), and the Yankees get the type of performance Pettitte gave them in Game 6 of the ALCS to even it at three.
And Game 7? Sabathia again versus Hamels? Yeah, this might be the one where Mo goes four. More likely, two, and the Yankees win something like 6-2 to take the series.
I demand an equally detailed prognosis, John.
JOHN: I mean, it all depends on what the Yankees do with the rotation. I’m confident in Sabathia on 3-days rest, but not necessarily with Pettitte or Burnett going on short rest. But it’s not like I want to start Chad Gaudin in a World Series game.
I see the Yankees taking Game 1 relatively easily behind CC, but dropping Game 2; Pedro won’t shut them down, but he’ll do enough, and Lidge will close the game in the same way Fuentes “closed” Game 5 of the LCS…barely. I think New York comes back in Game 3 and roughs up Hamels a bit, while Pettitte does enough. Game 4 is where things get interesting. If CC goes, I see the Yankees taking a 3-1 lead, but if Gaudin goes, the Phillies even it up. I doubt Girardi would risk using Gaudin in Game 4 unless the Yankees are up 3-0.
So after the Yankees win Game 4 after another CC gem, I think Lee pitches well in Game 5 to keep the Phillies alive, and Burnett probably gets roughed up a bit on short rest. I think Game 6 will be a close one. You’d have Pettitte on short rest going against Pedro. I’m tempted to say the Phillies force a Game 7 and CC has to get 3 wins in the series, but since you already took the Yankees in 7, I can’t do that. I’ll say Pettitte is good for something like 6 IP and 4 ER, and the Yankees bring Rivera into a tie game or one they’re losing. He shuts the door for a few innings, and A-Rod hits a bloop single against Lidge with the bases loaded to win Game 6 in the bottom of the ninth.
Detailed enough for you?