Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Yankees-Phillies Pitching Comparisons: Part One

This is the fourth time this year I'm making one of these pitching comparison posts. The first was way back in March over at the Chuck Knoblog and things have changed big-time since then. Its a little longer than I originally anticipated and I've decided to split it up into two posts. One for the starters and one for the bullpen and my final prediction for the Series. I'd appreciate any feedback you have on this. Hope you like it.

These two teams are very evenly matched on both sides of the ball. Particularly so in the area of pitching though. Charlie Manuel decided to make the right decision (unlike Mike Scioscia) and has announced that he's going with a three man rotation of Lee-Pedro-Hamels. Whether Pedro and Hamels should be switched is another discussion entirely but that's what we have to look forward to over the next week or so. The Yanks will counter with Sabathia-Burnett-Pettitte.

Games 1, 4, and 7- Lee/Sabathia- These guys are projected to pitch up to three of the potential seven games this series and we could see some intense pitching duels when these two guys are on the hill. We all know what C.C.'s done this year. He ate up innings and was great doing it in the regular season, if slightly dissapointing. In the postseason, however, he has dominated the opposition. His first start against the Twins was great but its been overshadowed by his MVP worthy ALCS. Two straight eight inning, one run performances are impressive no matter what. When you consider the second was on short rest, its even more impressive

The reigning AL CYA winner will be going for the other side. Cliff Lee, this year, joined the long list of pitchers that made the transition from AL to NL and saw their numbers suddenly jump after his midseason trade to Philadelphia. Not that he was bad before then, his season numbers are sparkling. His FIP (3.11) is right in line with his ERA (3.22). He has a K/BB of 4.21 and his tRA of 3.97 is only a couple ticks above Sabathia's. This postseason he's also made three starts. He started things off for the Phillies with a complete game, one run performance. Most recently he threw eight shutout innings against Los Angeles in a blowout victory. Sandwhiched in between is a seven and 1/3 innings, three run performance.

Their is no clear cut favorite in these games. Both guys are legitimate aces and have few question marks about whether they can handle October baseball. I'd be shocked in they don't split these three games 2-1. My prediction is that whoever wins the majority of these matchups is going to win the World Series.

Games 2 and 5- Burnett/Martinez- For compelling storylines, it doesn't get much better than this. Forget about everything else for just a minute and you can sum these games up in a single sentence. Pedro's back in the Bronx. Pedro is going to get a chance to prove all the doubters wrong on the biggest stage on earth against his "daddy." Its been a weird year for Pedro, he sat the first half out waiting for an offer before the Phillies finally came calling. He's not nearly what he used to be, he relies much more on his control than he ever did before and he outperformed his periphereals by a mile. His FIP of 4.28 is solid and his tRA of 5.97 is dreadful. He's not the big time strikeout pitcher you want on the mound in the postseason either. However, he was fantastic in his one postseason start this year and Pedro is no stranger to the big game.

On the other hand, we have A.J. Burnett. Its his first World Series since 2003 when he basically sat on the bench for a few games. He got the huge contract in the offseason and was mostly dissapointing in the regular season. However, if you really look at the stats he turned in a typical A.J. year. He racked up the K's in huge numbers but also walked a ton and seemed to take some time to adjust to the early home run tendencies of Yankee Stadium. His ERA was a very solid 4.04 but his FIP was 4.33 and his tRA 4.74. Not what you're looking for from a guy making as much money as he is, for as long a time as he will be. The Yankees didn't bring him in for the regular season though. He's a power pitcher and figures to do better in the playoffs than most others. In the playoffs he's thrown two good games and one bad one. The bad one came most recently but it wasn't really disastrous and its hopefully just a blip on the screen.

Burnett, like Pedro, wildly outperformed his periphereals this year. At first glance, their stats may appear to be pretty comparable, as well. However, when it gets right down it, Burnett is worlds better than Pedro at this point in their careers. That difference in tRA just can't be ignored and the Yankees really should win both of these games. That said, Burnett is renowned for his inconsistency and it is possible that Pedro could pull a miracle at the end of his career. I think they split these two but the Yanks really could take both of them.

Games 3 and 6-Pettitte/Hamels-A story that hasn't gotten the attention it deserves is that this may be the last time we see Andy Pettitte pitching in the Fall Classic for the New York Yankees. We saw his periphereals dip this year and he's been talking retirement for seemingly forever. The Yankees idea of what he's worth may not be quite on the same level as Pettitte's own. I think he'll be back and I'm hoping against it, however, this could be another ugly divorce that Yankees fans really don't need. If he is back, who knows if next year's team will have what it takes to make it this far? This could be Andy's last chance to get that fifth ring and I wouldn't be surprised to see big game Andy deliver on that huge postseason reputation. His numbers this year wouldn't blow anybody away but he's been steadily above average.

This time last year, Cole Hamels was getting ready to pitch Game One of the World Series and earned his own big game reputation with a fantastic postseason. He won both the NLCS and World Series MVP awards. He went 4-0 and had a 1.80 ERA overall. The fact that he's been bumped down to Game Three is a reflection of his recent performance more than anything else. The Phillies lefty hasn't come anywhere close to replicating his dazzling 2008 October this year. He's made three starts and not one of them have been "quality starts." He also was victimized by a high BABIP in the regular season. It was about 20 points higher than his career average and about 50 points higher than what it was last year. As a result, he put up the highest ERA of his career, that was a still solid 4.32. His FIP of 3.72 and his tRA of 4.51 where right in line with his career norms and in reality he is still every bit the borderline ace that he has been in years past.

I think the Yankees definitely caught a break with Manuel making Hamels his #3 instead of his #2 guy. Hamels is a top of the line pitcher who has proven he can suceed in October baseball. He can shut an offensive down and is probably the best pitcher on either team not named Sabathia, Rivera, or Lee. Pettitte is still a damn good pitcher who can come up huge in big games but he's at the tail-end of his career. I could see Andy making the magic happen one more time but the Phillies should win these two games.

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