Saturday, October 31, 2009

World Series Game 3: Ghost Riders In The Sky

Although both teams took the train to Philly yesterday, the World Series officially shifts to the City of Brotherly Love tonight. After dropping the Game 1 to Cliff Lee, the Yankees are lucky to be tied at this point and will need to take at least one of the games at Citizen's Bank Park to bring the Series back to the Bronx. Take all three and they won't need their last two home games.

With a struggling Cole Hamels on the mound, the Yankees are in good position to take the game tonight. After throwing 227 innings to a 3.09 ERA and winning both the NCLS and World Series MVPs last year, Hamels has returned to Earth in 2009. Perhaps the fact that, including the postseason, the pitched 262 innings - almost 80 more than in 2008 - has taken a bit of a toll on Hamels' arm.

So far this October, Hamels has made three starts, given up 11 earned runs and failed to make it out of the 6th inning in any of them. He's only walked two batters but has allowed 20 hits - six of which were home runs - in 14 2/3 innings. The fact that 6 of the 32 flyballs he's allowed have left the yard is a bit fluky but there isn't a whole of of time for a regression to the mean. And with the game time weather in Philly projected to be in the high sixties with high winds, the balls should be flying off the bats a bit farther than they were in Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees turn to Andy Pettitte tonight in hopes that he can tune out the raucous Philadelphia phaithful and keep the explosive Phillies offense at bay. In each his three starts this postseason, Pettitte has pitched 6 1/3 innings. Joe Girardi has been quick with the hook as the games have worn on but Andy has given up only 4 ER in those 19 innings (2.37 ERA). Dominant isn't a word typically ascribed to Pettitte but in two of those starts, he's allowed one run and walked away with the win. He will of course have the added benefit of having a pitcher in the opposing line up tonight.

Citizen's Bank Park has the reputation of being a bandbox, but the Phillies actually hit more home runs on the road this year (116) then at home (108). Although the middle of their line up is heavy with lefties Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez, the Phillies hit righties and lefties with equal

With Cliff Lee waiting in Game 5, it's important that the Yankees win tonight. Their offense has been waiting to explode and Hamels has not been pitching well. He could easily come up with a big start as he did in the World Series twice last year, but it would be a missed opportunity for the Yanks should they stuggle at the plate again in Game 3.

We got our Halloween partying out of the way last night, so tonight I will be dressing up as a baseball fan and sitting in front of the TV. This song choice is about as festive as we're gonna get around here.

Go Yanks.

Their faces gaunt, their eyes were blurred, their shirts all soaked with sweat,
He's riding hard to catch that herd, but he ain't caught 'em yet,
'Cause they've got to ride forever on that range up in the sky,
On horses snorting fire, as they ride on hear their cry.

As the riders loped on by him he heard one call his name,
If you want to save your soul from Hell a-riding on our range,
Then cowboy change your ways today or with us you will ride,
Trying to catch the Devil's herd, across these endless skies.

Some Saturday Reading

Joe P from RAB breaks down how the Yankees might use the double switch while in Philly.

If Hideki Matsui makes a start in the outfield at Citizen's Bank Park, I may lose my mind.

Great story from Bob Klapisch:
"I’m Shawn Carter," said the youngish guy who showed up at my door with a real estate agent. "You don’t know who I am, but you will."

I thought Carter – Jay-Z – was a polite, soft-spoken guy who looked a lot like Dwight Gooden. Indeed, he said he was a Mets fan (back then). Jay-Z was such an easy-going guy he decided to buy my townhouse at full asking price, with no negotiating.
I'm not sure what was less surprising: The fact that Joe Posnanski wrote 2,500 words on Derek Jeter's failed two strike bunt attempt, or the fact that it was immensely enjoyable to read.

Wezen-Ball provides some historical perspective on poor postseason umpiring.

Alex from Bronx Banter does the same for idea that the crowd was quiet during the first two games of the World Series because the fans are too rich.

Is the curveball just an illusion?

Tommy Craggs at Deadspin finally arrived at the palace in the Bronx in the "Why Your Stadium Sucks" series. According those who contributed to the post, the Stadium is a "travesty", "ugly", and "profoundly un-American". If there's a problem with the New Yankee Stadium, in my opinion, it's that it reflects (corporate) America a little too well.

And finally, this isn't reading but here's Bill Simmons' interview with Steven Colbert. Not that I would ever have this choice, but there's no way I would do an interview with Colbert. It's hard enough to not seem like an idiot when promoting something, let alone when you are doing an interview with a fake character whose shtick it to say the opposite of a good interviewer would.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sweet Home Chicago

Earlier this year, as the Braves and Yankees met in an interleague series, Jay and I decided to revisit both the 1996 and 1999 World Series between the two clubs, much like we did earlier this week with the 1950 Yanks-Phils World Series. In addition to recaps of each of the six games in the '96 Series, I tacked on an additional entry summarizing my personal memories of that Series.

In short, I was pumped that the Yankees were back in the World Series for the first time since I was a year old. Games One and Two were in New York, and the Yankees dropped them both. Game One was postponed a day by rain, but was a total beat down when played, with Andruw Jones knocking two out of the park. The morning of Game Three I boarded a plane, flew to Washington D.C. for a conference, and spent the remainder of the World Series there. I returned the following Sunday, the day of a potential Game Seven that wasn't be necessary. While in D.C. I didn't get to watch the games as closely as I wanted to, but the Yankees didn't lose again, taking home their first Championship in my lifetime.

I thought of those days quite often this week. The Phillies entered this Series as the defending World Champions, the first NL club to do so since those '96 Braves. They defeated the Yankees convincingly in a rainy Game One, with Chase Utley hitting two home runs. Thankfully Game Two went a little different this time around.

Tomorrow afternoon I'm going to hop on a plane again. I'm heading to Chicago, and I'll remain there until Thursday morning, the day of a potential Game Seven. Thanks to work obligations, I likely will miss the early innings of at least Games Four and Five.

This trip has been scheduled for quite some time. There's no getting out of it. At some point maybe two months ago, I realized that it would be happening smack dab in the middle of the World Series, and that it could have a negative impact on my watching my favorite team in the Series. A few weeks ago I had a sit down with my boss, who is British and does not like baseball at all. I explained my potential conundrum, and thankfully he lent a sympathetic ear. I'm hopeful I'll be given a bit of leeway next week so that I can watch the games in their entirety.

And yet, part of me isn't worried. In an old Simpsons episode, Lisa walks by Bart's room, and overhears him praying for a snowstorm to postpone the test for which he is not prepared. "Prayer," she says to herself, "the last refuge of a scoundrel". I like to think of myself as a bit better than a scoundrel, and I don't believe that the folks who answer prayers are particularly interested in baseball. But the tension of the post-season does have the ability to turn my usually rational self into a bit of a superstitious being.

I've never been in my home state of Connecticut when the Yankees have won the World Series. I was in D.C. in '96 and away at college in '98, '99, in '00. A good part of me can't wait to get on that plane tomorrow; I'm hoping it'll play out like the previous times I've been away from home during Yankee World Series appearances. For strictly superstitious reasons, I'm looking forward to calling Chicago my sweet home for the next five days.

What If George Steinbrenner Bought The Buccaneers?

One of the several big media stories Wednesday was that George Steinbrenner would be at Yankee Stadium for Game One of the World Series. Now 79 years old, The Boss's health has reportedly been in decline for some time. His public appearances have been few and far between, and the man who was once a daily quote machine for the New York tabloids now speaks only through rare and bland statements released through his public relations man. But without George and his dedication to expending every possible resource to win, it's unlikely there would be a new Yankee Stadium to visit, and equally unlikely there would be a World Series Game One to attend.

Thursday, a seemingly unrelated story broke. Tampa radio station WDAE reported that the Glazer family was putting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers up for sale, citing the family's reported two billion dollar debt as owners of the English Premier League's Manchester United as the cause for the Bucs hitting the market. The Glazers denied the report later Thursday afternoon.

The two stories falling on successive days made me think back to the mid-nineties, the last time the Bucs were up for sale. Original owner Hugh Culverhouse died August 26, 1994, and his estate decided to sell the team. Long the laughingstock of the league and playing in dilapidated Tampa Stadium, the franchise was ripe for relocation.

The Rams and Raiders were a year away from leaving Los Angeles, with the Raiders returning to Oakland and the Rams heading to St. Louis, which the Cardinals had vacated six years earlier. The Colts had moved to Indianapolis from Baltimore ten years earlier, and the Charm City was two years away from poaching the Browns from Cleveland to replace them. The Oilers were three years away from leaving Houston for Tennessee. In other words, plenty of cities were in the market for an NFL franchise.

As the bidders lined up for the Bucs, several potential ownership groups hung their hat on a promise to keep the team in Tampa. One such bidder was a Tampa resident with an extensive history as a sportsman in football, basketball, horse racing, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and baseball: George M. Steinbrenner III.

On January 17, 1995 the team was sold to Malcolm Glazer, another bidder who promised to keep the team in Tampa. Glazer's offer exceeded Steinbrenner's by about $12M and the sale included a provision for a $35M penalty if the franchise was moved within 10 years. Three years later the Bucs opened state-of-the-art Raymond James Stadium, less than a mile from the Yankees Spring Training complex and what is now George M. Steinbrenner Field. In his eighth season as owner, Glazer hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, a far cry from his team's current 0-7 state.

As the Yankees chase their seventh World Championship of the Steinbrenner Era, I can't help but wonder how the past 15 years of Yankee history would have unfolded had Steinbrenner bought the Bucs. At the time of the sale, baseball was embroiled in the worst labor dispute in its history. Steinbrenner was less than two years removed from returning from his second suspension at the hands of Major League Baseball, and since his return had taken a less active/disruptive role than he had in his heyday. He had owned the Yankees for more than twenty years at that point, and had often been criticized for running the franchise like a football team, likely stemming from his time as a graduate assistant at Ohio St and as an assistant coach at Purdue and then Northwestern in the 1950s.

At the time of the sale, the NFL had a bylaw prohibiting its owners from owning other sports franchises. Less than two years earlier, Wayne Huizenga, who already owned the Florida Marlins and the NHL's Florida Panthers, upped his minority share in the Miami Dolphins to a majority share. As a result of the NFL's bylaw, Huizenga was forced to place his Dolphins ownership stake into a trust until the league evaluated the situation. They eventually rescinded the bylaw, but not before Huizenga spent four years as an absentee owner.

No sooner did the NFL allow Huizenga to keep all three teams, the financial strain forced him to begin selling. His Marlins won the World Series seven months after the ruling came down, but he immediately gutted the team and the next year sold them to current Red Sox owner John Henry. Three years after that he divested himself of the Panthers as well.

We'll never know what would have happened had Steinbrenner bought the Buccaneers. But we do know that in light of the Huizenga situation he would have entered the purchase eyes wide open, knowing his ownership of the Yankees would have posed a problem to the NFL. Would Steinbrenner, a notorious control freak, have had the self-restraint to put his $180M investment in a trust for two years? Or would he have wanted to return to the sport that was his first love and play with his new toy right away? Steinbrenner had reduced his level of control with the Yankees and was already making threats about moving in his quest for a new stadium. Had he purchased the Bucs might he have put the Yankees up for sale? Or, if he kept them both would he have been forced to sell at some point, as Huizenga was? Would his sizeable investment in an NFL franchise have prevented the Yankees payroll from expanding year after year?

Thankfully we never had to discover the answers to those questions. In the fifteen years since Steinbrenner lost out to Glazer, the Steinbrenner Family has reaffirmed its commitment to the New York Yankees. They've captured seven pennants and four Championships, with a fifth just three wins away. They've built a brand new stadium in the Bronx and have invested close to two billion dollars in player payroll since then. Though George has faded to the background, his children have shown no signs of changing things. The organization appears to be in good shape for years to come.

Quotes From Last Night: Game 2 Edition

Presented without comment. Please react in the comments as you see fit:
Jerry Davis (in reference to Brian Gorman's call on Ryan Howard's play in the 7th): "The objective is to get it right, we asked each other what we had seen and the replay confirmed we got it right"

Ryan Howard: “Did I catch it? Well, they called him out. [winks]”

Dave Cameron: The first two Jeter bunt attempts will be criticized by members of the statistical community as part of the reflexive don’t-bunt-ever strategy that has gained too much popularity, but they were the right play. The two-strike bunt attempt really was a bad idea (the additional cost of a foul turning into an out reduces the odds enough to make swinging away more likely to produce a single run, which was the original goal), but the first two stabs at it, Jeter was making the right play.

Jimmy Rollins (via The Fightins): "I was expecting some of that [Philadelphia rowdiness] here, but it was very tame and civilized, really. "You only had one big cheer, and that was on home runs."

Rollins was asked if this feels "more like a World Series" than last year's Series with Tampa Bay.

"When we get to Philly, it will," he said. Because the atmosphere will be so different? "Exactly."

Ken Rosenthal: Is it too late to reopen the old Yankee Stadium one more time?

Pedro Martinez was in the house Thursday night — Pedro Martinez, the old Boston devil. The crowd of 50,181 mustered a few spontaneous, "Who's your daddy?" chants. But more often than not, the fans needed a prompt from the stadium organ to get going.

Bob Raissman: Wonder how they felt about Fox's Tim McCarver and Joe Buck basically saying the joint had all the audio ambiance of a morgue. The voices were not talking about the building's acoustics. During Game 2 of World Series Thursday night, they were talking about Yankee fans (at least the ones who can still afford a ticket) who checked their mouths at the door.

John Gonzalez, Philly Inquirer: Scariest looking guy in the entire park, though, was A.J. Burnett. When did he remember how to pitch?

I got a text from my buddy Fearce before the eighth inning that pretty much summed up what I was thinking: "I don't know what to do when I can't really complain about bad calls or the announcers hating Philly. Feels weird."

Charlie Manuel: "We can hit Rivera. We've proved that. He's good. He's one of the best closers in baseball, if not the best. He's very good. But I've seen our team handle good pitching, and we're definitely capable of scoring runs late in the game."

Pedro Martinez
(via The 700 Level): "I didn't feel strong. I've been under the weather the last couple of days. That's not an excuse. I felt good enough to make pitches and that's what I told them and they trusted me. But I was going to take this start. When I chose this team it was to pitch in the World Series. I'm extremely happy to have had the opportunity."

All's Well That Ends Well

Good morning, Fackers. We can all exhale a bit as the Yankees did what they had to do last night in order to even the series on the way to Philly. The outcome was on the line until the very last at bat, and there were a lot of people that were acquitted of some bad decision making when Matt Stairs went down swinging.

Joe Girardi made a couple less-than-optimal line up choices, Derek Jeter made a terrible, inadvisable bunt attempt with an 0-2 count, and the umpires made two incorrect calls on double plays within an inning of each other. Fortunately, the two guys that Girardi inserted both responded with positive contributions, and the mistakes by Jeter and the umpires were saved from more intense scrutiny by Mariano Rivera's two inning save.

Most importantly, A.J. Burnett came up with a dominant performance and saved Girardi's hide from the most obvious backlash. Burnett needs to pitch well in every game Molina catches him or else it becomes a bad decision in hindsight. Molina did a good job of corralling the breaking balls he bounced in the dirt and they seemed to be on the same page in terms of pitch selection for the most part.

As far as his offensive contributions go, Jose Molina was never in real danger of getting a hit in his first at bat as he took six pitches and fouled one back from Pedro Martinez on the way to working a walk. He grounded out to weakly to third in his only other plate appearance.

The one play where Molina truly made his presence felt was on a snap throw to first, just inches behind Raul Ibanez's head, to erase Jayson Werth's lead off single in the fourth. You can debate the merits of having Molina behind the plate in terms of pitch calling, but it's inarguable that Molina's throwing arm is a tremendous asset. Posada simply never makes that play.

Surprisingly, with Philly's lefty-heavy line up and two righties in Burnett and Rivera on the mound, Jerry Hairston's defense didn't really come into play. He didn't make any great plays nor did he miss any by a couple of feet. What he did do was come up with a big base hit to lead off the 7th inning against Pedro and Brett Gardner (who replaced him as a pinch runner) came around to score an important insurance run.

The end goal of a manager's moves should be to put the best team on the field with the information available at the time. Joe Girardi's two decisions worked out well for him, but doesn't mean that they were the right ones. Girardi got away with those calls, but Derek Jeter wasn't so fortune with the choice he made.

With two men on, no one and a run already under their belts in the 7th inning, the Yankees looked as if they were poised to break the game open. Against Chan Ho Park, Jeter showed bunt and took a strike on the first pitch. He watched another fastball go past for the second strike. Before the third pitch, Tim McCarver boldly stated that "there's no way Jeter's bunting again", which seemed like a mind-numbingly obvious point at the time, but Jeter actually did bunt.

Bunting with one or no strikes in this spot with a hitter as good as Jeter at the plate is a bad decision. Bunting with two strikes - where the most likely scenario is giving away an out to move the runners over and the second most likely one is to bunt foul and give away an out for nothing - is inexcusable. Jeter would have to have gotten that bunt down something like 80 or 90% of the time (which is clearly much higher than even the best bunter's success rate) for that to be a defensible play. He admitted that it was a "stupid decision" during the postgame press conference but had the luxury of a win to cover up his impulsive and foolish move.

Brian Gorman was similarly left off the hook by the result of the game. He made two wrong calls at a very crucial part of the contest but luckily the one that was the biggest rally killer was called against the team that was already leading. The difference between having the bases loaded and being out of the inning like the Yankees would have been had Gorman saw the ball hit the ground ebfore Ryan Howard's glove is 1.65 runs on average. Had Gorman got the play at first involving Utley in the top of the 8th, it would have been the difference of .538 runs. So please don't tell me "we're even" because the calls went both ways.

Gorman was not in a great position to see the ball on the play by Howard, but the first baseman had to reach across his body and glove the ball thumb down to make the play; more likely the way to catch a short hop than a ball on the fly. Howard reacted as if he didn't catch the ball when he fired it wildly to second base but Gorman had already made the call. It might not have been his fault, but that's all the more reason to institute replay; to examine plays that the umpire could not have made correctly with any level of certainty.

Flying under the radar in all of this is Alex Rodriguez, who went 0-4 with three strikeouts last night and is now 0-8 with 6 Ks in the series. Luckily for him, there are other things to make a big deal out of.

The reactions to a win are always going to be softened by the enjoyment of the victory. We should be thankful that the Yanks came away on top because if they had lost last night, it would have left a bitter taste for a long, long time.

Back To Even

For all the complaining that we did about Joe Girardi's managerial decisions before the game, the difference between having not having Jorge Posada and Gardner/Hinske/Swisher in the line up was not that big in terms of run expectancy. When the tires met the road in the Bronx last night, the most critical factor to the Yankees' success was the performance of their starting pitcher.

We had already seen both sides of A.J. Burnett this postseason, the good in the Game 2 of the ALDS & ALCS and the bad out in Game 5 in Anaheim. He was probably the cause for the most concern heading into the game, but the moves Girardi made with the line up temporarily put that aside.

What we got from Burnett last night was his best start of this postseason in the biggest spot he's been asked to pitch. He allowed the Phillies to score first when, after he had recorded two outs, they stacked up a ground rule double by Raul Ibanez and a single by Matt Stairs to go ahead 1-0.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were making Pedro Martinez throw a lot of pitches but not getting much out of it. Through three innings, Pedro had thrown 60 pitches but the Yankees had managed only two baserunners and no runs. Surprisingly, Jose Molina was one of the ones who reached base and did so via a 7 pitch at bat ending in a walk.

Leading off the 4th inning the Yanks finally broke through. Pedro threw Mark Teixeira two back to back change ups - both out of the zone - but Teixeira extended his bat to the second one, reaching out to redirect it into the Yankees' bullpen and tie the game at 1.

Both pitchers continued to deal through the middle innings. After the run in the second inning Burnett shut down the Phillies, allowing only 4 men to reach base in the next 5 innings, one of whom (Jayson Werth) was picked off by a Jose Molina snap throw. He ended with a flourish as he struck out Raul Ibanez and Matt Stairs both looking - the duo who had combined for the Phillies only run - on the way to a 1-2-3 7th inning.

His final line was 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9K. Thanks in part to delivering first pitch strikes to 22 of the 29 batters he faced, Burnett limited his walks and needed 108 pitches to get through those seven frames.

Pedro settled down after the homer from Teixeira and struck out both Teix and A-Rod to begin the sixth inning. Hideki Matsui came to the plate and immediately fell behind 0-2. Still behind 1-2 three pitches later, Matsui swung at a breaking ball well below the strikezone and lifted it out over the right field wall, giving the Yankees their first lead of the World Series.

In between the sixth and seventh inning, FOX showed a shot of Charlie Manuel talking to Pedro in the dugout, seemingly asking him if he was okay to go out to the mound for the 7th inning. He had thrown 99 pitches and given up a home run in the last inning, so it seemed like a good time to yank him. However, Pedro nodded and sure enough, took the mound when the 7th inning began.

First up was Jerry Hairston, Jr., who fell behind in the count 0-2. He took a ball and fouled off three more pitches before chipping a curveball to right field for a single. Melky strode to the plate next and showed bunt on the first pitch. It was just a decoy as the Yanks put on the hit and run and the next one and Melky jerked a single to right of his own.

This brought up Jose Molina's spot in the line up and Posada was called to pinch hit. Manuel, probably trying to avoid a Grady Little-type situation (1st & 3rd, Posada up, leaving Pedro in too long), went to his bullpen for Chan Ho Park. Perdo was obligatorily taunted on his way back to the dugout but put up a respectable performance, striking out 8 in 6 innings while giving up 3 runs, 6 hits and two walks.

Off of Park, Posada notched the third straight single of the inning, driving home a run. Up next, Derek Jeter bunted the first pitch foul and took the next one for a strike. Next, in a move that was certainly not called by the bench, Jeter attempted to bunt with two strikes but it went foul for an out. Why a hitter as good as Jeter would choose to bunt with an 0-2 count there is beyond comprehension. But wasn't the costliest error of the inning to the Yanks.

That would belong to first base umpire Brian Gorman. Against a new pitcher, Scott Eyre, Johnny Damon looped a ball towards an approaching Ryan Howard at first base. At full speed the first time through, I assumed the ball had bounced. I think Ryan Howard did do as it whipped the ball towards second base to try to get the advancing Posada instead if simply walking to first to tag the base. However, Gorman called the ball a catch and the Phillies got a double play. Instead of having the bases loaded with one out, the Yanks were out of the inning.

Since the Yankees only had a two run lead, Mariano Rivera was summoned for another two inning save. The Phillies worked him in the 8th, putting two men on base and making Mo throw 23 pitches despite inducing an inning ending double play to Chase Utley. Replays showed that Utley was safe by a fraction at first. C.B. Bucknor and Phill Cuzzi have already mailed their thank you cards to Gorman.

In the top of the 9th, Rivera allowed a two out double to Ibanez but struck out Matt Stairs swinging to end the game. The Yanks won 3-1 and the terrible managerial decisions before the game and umpiring mistakes within it won't be as tough to swallow. Molina and Hairston both made significant positive contributions. The Yanks didn't need those extra insurance runs. The Series is all square and headed to Philly.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

World Series Game 2: Idiot Wind

Here's a new one guys, Joe Girardi is driving us insane before the game even starts!

When Francisco Cervelli was dropped from the World Series roster, I said that we could "almost certainly infer" that Jorge Posada would be catching A.J. Burnett in Game 2. Earlier today I threw out the option of benching Nick Swisher and starting Brett Gardner in center field but said that I was "certain Joe Girardi won't do it".

Well friends, Joe Girardi certainly did remove Nick Swisher from the line up, but in favor of Jerry Hairston, Jr., not Gardner. Why, you might ask? Because Hairston totally crushes Pedro! In 31 career plate appearances, he has a line of .370/.433/.519. Pretty awesome, right?

/touches earpiece

What's that? Ah, I've just been told that the last time Hairston faced him was in two thousand fucking four when Pedro was a completely different pitcher. Since then, Hairston made over 1606 plate appearances for four different teams. But don't worry, those 31 PAs are totally relevant.

Hairston's a pretty good defender, but he's not about to take over center field and allow Melky Cabrera to play right, thereby shoring up two positions like a certain gritty, guttier option would have. (By the way, Hairston has only started one game in RF all year). He's not going to steal bases like Gardner theoretically could either. He's also 10 for his last 65, for what it's worth.

I was semi-in-favor-of benching Swish this morning so I guess I can't complain too much. But to do it in favor Hairston doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Even Eric Hinske, who figures to get some ABs in Philly and might benefit from a tune up would be a better choice. The Molina decision, on the other hand, doesn't make any fucking sense at all.

One might have thought that after the first inning of Game 5 in Anaheim, the sacred union of Burnett and Molina would have been all but dissolved. After all, Burnett gave up 4 runs in the first frame without recording an out and with Molina catching him. After Posada pinch hit for Molina, he and Burnett worked well enough to record two scoreless innings. A.J. gave up two baserunners in the seventh inning who eventually came around to score, but some of that falls on the relievers. Or at the very least, you could conclude that the catcher isn't the problem, it's Burnett. And then simply insert the better offensive option behind the plate.

Now everyone enters the game with a prepackaged scapegoat. If Burnett fares poorly, Girardi should have had Posada behind the plate. If the offense is dead and Jerry Hairston goes 0-4 with 3 Ks, Joe should have left Swisher in. He's inadvertently putting more pressure on his players because they now have to come up big to validate his inexplicable gutsy decisions. Ask Joe Torre how moving A-Rod down to 8th in the order worked out for him.

Oh yeah, Pedro is starting for the Phillies, but we already went over that.

As Jorge Posada said before Game 2 of the ALDS "we'd better win". Because if the Yankees don't, the blame is going to be aimed squarely at Joe Girardi. No pressure, Yanks.

People see me all the time and they just can't remember how to act,
Their minds are filled with big ideas, images and distorted facts.
Even you, yesterday you had to ask me where it was at,
I couldn't believe after all these years, you didn't know me better than that.

Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your mouth,
Blowing down the backroads headin' south.
Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth,
You're an idiot, babe.
It's a wonder that you still know how to breathe.

Who's Afraid Of Pedro Martinez?

Let's be honest, a lot more of us than would be had the Yankees won last night. Even the people who aren't worried at least realize the possibility that Pedro could come up with a resplendent performance against the Yanks at a very inopportune time for them.

Pedro has always been a bit of an enigma. A hot-headed, head-hunting control pitcher. A strikeout artist who rarely walks guys. A power pitcher with great feel. A little guy with a big arm.

The Yankees know him all to well, as they saw the most of Pedro when he was at his best. Save for this last year in Montreal and his first in Flushing, Pedro's prime fell squarely during his time with the Red Sox. From 1998-2004, which also nicely encapsulates the height of the so-called Steroid Era, Pedro had an ERA of 2.52 (190 ERA+) and struck out nearly 11 batters per nine innings while walking only 2, good for an otherworldly K/BB ratio of 5.45.

During that time, he threw 189 regular season innings against the Yankees - when they were also quite excellent - to a 3.20 ERA and 11-11 record. He faced them 6 times in the postseason (5 starts) and in 34.1 IP, he had a 5.01 ERA and gave up 32 hits and 13 walks while striking out 42. Like the regular season, he had as many losses as wins (3-3).

Of course, that was a pretty long time ago. Since then, Pedro moved to New York but has only pitched against the Yankees four times in four years. We could look at those 27 2/3 innings but they aren't going to tell us anymore about what he's likely to do against the Yankees tonight than his numbers against them with the Red Sox. Those four outings came against mostly different hitters and were separated by weeks, months, years, shoulder surgeries, and cockfights in the Dominican Republic.

His numbers this regular season were reasonably good but Will from IIATMS thinks that he might have gotten a little lucky to have so few line drives end up as hits and to leave so many runners on base. The biggest cause for concern is that Pedro had an excellent start against the Dodgers in the NLCS, which, according to game score was the second best postseason start of his career. He threw 7 innings of two hit, no walk ball while striking out three and needed only 87 pitches to pull it off. But as previously mentioned, that was in Southern California under perfect conditions, against an already inferior line up with a pitcher in it.

Pedro no longer has a dominant fastball, but still throws it 60% of the time. He's got a curveball and a change up that he mixes in, but neither are particularly formidable. The man from Manoguayabo survives mostly on smoke and mirrors, changing speeds and locations. That's how Cliff Lee did it last night, but Pedro will be working with far less in the way of velocity and movement.

Perhaps facing Pedro will seem easy after having to deal with Lee last night. Or maybe the Yankees will again be baffled by someone who is able to throw one of several pitches basically anywhere in the count. Time will tell.

Anyone afraid?

This Is Not The Regular Season!

As we covered in yesterday's roster changes, Francisco Cervelli was removed from the Yankees roster for the World Series, leaving the Yankees with a more conventional two catcher roster construction. Given the impact this move has on the Yankees' roster flexibility, we assumed that Jorge Posada would now be catching A.J. Burnett. Then came Joe Girardi's pre-game media session yesterday:
“It’s something (catching Molina) that we’ll discuss,” he said. “But as I’ve said all along, it’s worked pretty well. And in the course of the season you go with two catchers all the time. I’m still comfortable using Molina, and if I have to, pinch hit Jorge.”
/holds breath
//counts to ten

Where to begin on this one? Joe Girardi did some things this regular season that pissed me off. He has made some decisions this post-season that I thought were the wrong ones to make. At the same time, he's taken some heat that he probably didn't deserve. This latest comment has got my blood up again.

Here are some other things that you do in the course of the season:
  • You use five starters, but I haven't seen Joba Chamberlain before the seventh inning, Chad Gaudin in anything but mop up duty, or Sergio Mitre anywhere in the tri-state area during the post-season.

  • You (supposedly) give A-Rod a day off once a week. But he's played every inning of every post-season game, including the one that was safe enough for Chad Gaudin to pitch.

  • You give injury prone veterans like Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui a day off every so often to keep them fresh, but they've started every game of the playoffs.

  • You keep Matsui and his balky knees out of the field all season long, but you don't rule out using him in the field in Games Three through Five.

  • You give a slumping player like Nick Swisher a day off when he's in a four for thirty two slump, but he too has started every game.

  • You don't use Mariano Rivera for 4+ out saves everyday, but he's averaging four outs per appearance in the post-season and has two outings of two plus innings.
And I'm not remotely suggesting that Girardi should have done otherwise on any of the six above points. What I am trying to say is that when it comes to line ups or certain pitching moves in the post-season, the decision making process is often quite different than in the regular season. Just because Jose Molina would get a start each time through the rotation in the regular season does not mean he should do so in the World Series.

The Yankees are in an 0-1 hole; starting Molina tonight would be borderline suicidal. Yet Girardi was non-committal about who would catch when making his post-game comments last night.

I was dubious of Molina's ability to coax a better game out of A.J. Burnett to begin with. Burnett's performance in Game Five of the ALDS only shoots more holes in that logic. At this point, I'm diametrically opposed to the idea of Molina behind the plate at any point unless it's in the event of an injury or a blow out. If the Yankees choose to go with a three man rotation, Burnett's second start would be at Citizens Bank Park. If Molina were to start that game the Yankees line up would feature what amounts to two automatic outs at the bottom of the order.

Part of me feels bad to hammer on points like this with the Yankees being in the World Series, but poor decisions like these can be the difference between winning and losing. Girardi is free to make whichever choices he wishes, but please don't insult my intelligence by trying to defend an unorthodox move as something that would be done in the regular season.

Nick Swisher Futility Update

In some ways it's a little unfair to single one person out after and impotent offensive output like last night, but this has been a long time coming for Nick Swisher.

It's not that Swish is having bad luck at the plate, hitting balls hard but having them find defenders. He's having poor at bats, not working walks and missing hittable pitches. In his three at bats last night, he popped out softly to first, flew out softly to right and struck out looking on a change up right down the middle in the 8th inning.

In the first two at bats, Lee threw a lot of tough pitches, staying away from Swisher or keeping it below his knees. But in the third one, six out of the seven pitches he threw were directly in the middle of the strikezone (follow the link for higher resolution):

Swish was even given a generous ball on the second pitch of the at bat - the green square which was clearly high enough and right down the pike. So what did Swisher do with the five (really 6) pitches that were in his - or Major League hitter's - wheelhouse? He took three for strikes (and one for a ball) and fouled the other two off.

You don't take three four strikes in those respective locations in one at bat unless you are completely lost at the plate and are simply resorting to guessing. You don't foul the other two off unless your rhythm and timing are out of whack.

It was as if Lee & Ruiz had figured out that Swisher wasn't going to hit the ball no matter where it was and decided to just lay it right down the middle.

Yes, it's one at bat, but it's emblematic of how awful Swisher has been since Game 2 of the ALDS. He got a great pitch to hit in the last at bat of Game 5 out in Anaheim from Brain Fuentes and couldn't do anything with that either. He's hitting .114/.205/.143 this postseason and still starting every game. He's walked three times and struck out 12. He has four hits in 40 plate appearances, only one of which has gone for extra bases.

Swisher is prone to extended slumps and he picked a pretty terrible time to have one of his worst of the year. The sporadic schedule has probably negatively affected as a switch hitter since he has two swings that he needs to keep working and both have seemingly fallen into a state of disrepair.

I'm well aware that this is going to sound stupid and I'm certain Joe Girardi won't do it, but what has to happen for Brett Gardner to start in center field and Melky Cabrera in right? How bad does Swisher have to be before you give him the night off? Because I don't think he could get much worse. At least the alternative would provide a significant defensive upgrade in the outfield, something that's not nearly as hit or miss from game to game.

With Pedro starting in Game 2, Swisher is going to have to spin around and hit from the left side of the plate. He hasn't batted lefty since Game 5 in Anaheim which was a full week ago, but again, pretty much anything would be an improvement over how he looked last night. In his career, he tends to get one base a little better against lefties and hit for power more successfully against RHP. Either of those things would be fantastic.

I would love for Swisher to go out tonight and jack a homer or drive in a couple of runs and shut me and his other critics up. But there are absolutely no signs that he will. You can say he's due, but that's not what his at bats are saying.

Please Nick, do something, anything before the postseason is over. Bad Octobers make for long offseasons. And it's going to be a couple days longer if you don't get it going soon.

Put To S-Lee-p

Good morning, Fackers. Probably safe to say that last night's game was not the note we were hoping to start the World Series on. If you were nodding off in the ninth inning, don't worry, you weren't alone. For the first time this postseason the Yankees are trailing in a series which, surprisingly, doesn't feel so good. Who knew?

It's one thing to scratch across a couple of runs and lose a tightly contested game. It's quite another to get smothered to death by a guy who, for all intents and purposes, threw a complete game shutout. Sure, the Yanks scratched a run in the ninth inning but it scored on a throwing error. I don't think we have to go too far out on the limb to give him credit for the ol' CG SHO.

The most aggravating thing was that Cliff Lee made it look so damn easy. CC Sabathia didn't pitch poorly last night after his rocky first inning, finishing with 2 runs in 7 frames. He made two mistakes to Chase Utley, but otherwise kept the Phillies in check.

However, up against Lee, Sabathia looked sloppy and inefficient. Anyone would have, really. Before the 9th inning, Lee gave up only four hits (Jeter's double in the third the one for extra bases) while striking out 8 and walking none. As Matt noted earlier, only three batters worked a three ball count against him all night. Sabathia had three in the first inning.

Lee was under control at all times last night, not so much pounding the strike zone as chipping away at the perimeter. It's an overused pitching cliche but I'm not sure there's a better way to describe Lee's performance last night than "sharp". He was locating with ease, snapping off filthy breaking balls and keeping batters off balance with a change up that sat about 11-12-13 MPH below his fastball.

Even with his historically great performance on the mound and the 10 strikeouts and no walks, the two lasting images from last night are going to be plays that he made in the field. In the 7th inning with Derek Jeter standing on first base, he caught a soft pop up from Johnny Damon with a limp wrist and didn't even look it into his glove, as if it had been thrown back to him by the catcher.

Whether that was contrived or not, at that moment, he looked like the most relaxed person in the stadium. I doubt it was designed to look to nonchalant, but it almost came across as smugly showing the Yankees up. Like he was their older brother and decided not to take it easy on them for once. "(Yawn) Are you guys going to start trying anytime soon?" Fine, act like it's a cakewalk, but remember that this is baseball and what looks easy today might look impossible the next time around.

That delicate little fluffy pop up by Damon was the culmination of 7 pitch at bat in which Johnny got ahead 2-0 but never got to that elusive three ball count. He fouled off three tough pitches and even when he was ahead in the count, it looked like he was behind. The Yankees were one swing away from tying the game but the way Lee was dealing, it felt like it would have had to been thrown by someone else.

The other memorable play came when Robinson Cano led off the 8th inning. The Phillies had just tacked on two more runs and led 4-0. Cano smoked the first pitch he saw right back up the middle but it hovered right a belt level for Lee, who nabbed it behind his back.

At that point, I think a lot of people realized it just wasn't the Yankees' night. A little higher or lower and Lee doesn't make that play. A little left or right and that's probably a base hit. But it bounced right into his glove.

With Lee's pitch count where it was, the Yankees were going to have to score at least 4 runs before making 5 outs against a guy that had shut them down all game. It wasn't happening. When a pitcher is throwing the ball like Lee was last night and having plays like that fall into place, there's not much you can do.

Tip your caps and all that. But Phillie fans, this is freaking creepy. And unless you are his mother, please don't refer to him my his full first, middle and last name. The dude's been on your team for like three months. Little weird. Just saying.

At least today isn't an off day.

Lee, Utley Spur Phils To Victory

Through the first seven innings, Game One unfolded like the pitchers' duel it promised to be. CC Sabathia needed just five pitches to retire the game's first two batters. The next two plate appearances however would foreshadow things to come. Sabathia got ahead of Chase Utley 1-2, but continued to pitch carefully to the Phillies' dangerous number three hitter. Utley worked a walk, then moved to third when Ryan Howard ripped a double on a fastball that was supposed to be outside, but caught too much of the plate. With first base open, Sabathia elected to be cautious with Jayson Werth, issuing a free pass to him as well. The Big Fella escaped the jam by getting Raul Ibanez to ground out, but the heart of the Phillies' order forced Sabathia to throw 19 pitches between the second and third outs.

CC cruised through the bottom of the Philadelphia order in the second, retiring the side on seven pitches. In the third, eleven more pitches got him two outs against the top of the order. Then Utley stepped to the plate for the second time. Again Sabathia jumped ahead 1-2, but Utley fought off three tough pitcher's pitches and worked the count full. On the ninth pitch of the at bat, a Sabathia fastball ticketed for the outside corner caught too much plate, just like against Howard in the first. This time Utley lofted it into the right field stands to give the Phils a one run lead.

Meanwhile, Cliff Lee was dealing. He surrendered only a single to Jorge Posada the first time through the order, and stranded Derek Jeter after his two out double in the third. After a perfect fourth, Lee faced the minimum in the fifth. Hideki Matsui led off with a single, but thanks a bit of a baserunning blunder on his part and an astute play by Jimmy Rollins at short, he was erased on a double play.

Heading into the sixth, Sabathia had retired seven consecutive Phillies following the Utley HR, four by strikeout. Shane Victorino flew out to lead off the sixth, running Sabathia's streak to eight batters as Utley stepped back into the box. Once again CC got ahead, this time 0-2. Once again, Utley fought off a tough pitch, fouling away a 94 MPH fastball coming up and in on him. Sabathia came back with another heater, but left it over the heart of the plate and Utley absolutely destroyed it, depositing the ball in the right field bleachers for his second solo shot of the night.

By the time Sabathia exited the game following the seventh inning, he had surrendered just four hits and three walks while striking out six. But the two Utley home runs left CC and the Yanks down 2-0. They were still in the game, but Lee's continued dominance and a shaky pair of innings from the Yankee pen dug the hole deeper.

Phil Hughes began the eighth. Facing the top of the Phillies' order he issued back-to-back free passes to Rollins and Victorino. With the two big lefties due and Damaso Marte ready that was it for Hughes. As he departed he had a few choice words for home plate umpire Gerry Davis, and Pitch FX seems to indicate he had a legitimate gripe. Marte did his job, using a K to finally retire Utley then getting Howard to fly out. Marte gave way to David Robertson, who walked Jayson Werth with the aid of more questionable calls. With two outs and the bases loaded, Ibanez put a seeing eye single between Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira, making it 4-0.

Inexplicably, Brian Bruney was on the mound to begin the ninth. In his first appearance in twenty six days Bruney got a quick out, gave up a double, an infield single, and an RBI single to run it to 5-0. With Chase Utley coming up again Joe Girardi decided to either A). get Phil Coke some work or B). go back to matching up despite allowing the designated mop up man to start the inning. Coke got Utley to fly out, but a Ryan Howard double played the sixth run before Victorino got gunned down at the plate to end the inning.

The poor relief pitching and a few questionable calls from Davis didn't really matter. Cliff Lee was that good. He went the distance on just 122 pitches, scattered six hits - just one for extra bases, walked no one, and stuck out nine - eight swinging. He never threw more than 16 pitches in an inning, went to a three ball count on just three batters, and the only run he allowed was unearned thanks to an error on a would-be double play ball in the ninth.

The Yankee bats have been prone to periods of silence this post-season; the bullpen hasn't pitched the way most thought it would, and the Phillies have just captured home field advantage. Before anyone starts claiming the sky is falling, let's give credit where it's due. The Phillies are a good team. Chase Utley is one of the top hitters in baseball; Cliff Lee is one of the top pitchers. Sometimes you just get it handed to you. The good news is it's only one game, the first game at that, and that the Yankees are just as capable of doing tomorrow what the Phillies did today. We'll see you then.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

World Series Game 1: The Best Is Yet To Come

It's been a great season for the Yankees to this point. They opened the New Stadium which, despite being met with some outspoken opposition at first, has treated them awfully well.In the first 29 games (without A-Rod) they went 14-15, but has gone 97-46 since then, including the postseaon. It's been almost 7 full months loaded with affirmative answers to questions people had about the team coming in.

There were resurgences of Robinson Cano, Jorge Posada, and Derek Jeter's defense. The smooth transitions for Nick Swisher, A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia. A-Rod's recovery from offseason hip surgery and avoidance of bad press. Brett Gardner's development into a useful Major League player. Johnny Damon's power surge. Mariano Rivera's continued dominance. The sustained health of the team. Some small but important acquisitions during the season. All the walkoffs and pies in the face. The AL East title and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Wins over Anaheim in Minnesota thus far in the postseason.

As fans of the Pinstripes, we've been treated to pretty much all we could ask for to this point. But we're not done yet. The Yankees will face the best and most complete team they've been this postseason and the series will start with the best possible pitching match-up featuring, coincidentally, the previous two AL Cy Young winners and former teammates on the Cleveland Indians.

After coming to the Phillies at the trade deadline, Cliff Lee went 8-4 with 3 complete games, a 3.39 ERA and struck out 74 batters while walking only 10. He only made three poor starts, but those were pretty awful, accounting for 19 of his 30 earned runs with the Phillies. In his other 9 outings, he was 8-1 with a 1.50 ERA.

You might say I'm cherry picking those numbers, but Lee's been even better than that this postseason. In his three starts (two in the NLDS), he's pitched 24 1/3 innings, given up 14 hits, 2 ER (0.74 ERA), and is sporting a strikeout to walk ratio of 20:3. The only weakness in his game over that time is that he's got most of his outs in air (39) as opposed to on the ground (26) or by strikeout (20). As we know, once balls get up in the air at Yankee Stadium they can find the seats in a hurry.

The pitcher with the second best resume this postseason will be taking the hill for the Yankees. After getting past the Twins with 6 2/3 innings of one run ball, CC Sabathia picked up the ALCS MVP for his work against the Angels. Sabathia was great in Game 1, going 8 innings and allowing one run, but was just as good or better on short rest in Game 4. His only mistake came on a home run to Kendry Morales and he needed only 101 pitches to rip through those 8 frames.

Like Lee, Sabathia has only walked three batters this postseason. Postseason games are notorious for their interminable durations but with these two guys on the mound, this one could be over relatively quickly.

As good as the Yankees have been this year, there is reason to believe that the best is yet to come. Along with most of you, I'm guessing, I feel like the Yankees are going to win this thing. It's not us just being biased homers, people who cover baseball for a living overwhelmingly agree. Those predictions don't mean a thing, but they do reflect who the best team is coming into this series.

We don't like to break him out very often, but we would have been remiss not to go with Frank Sinatra to start the World Series. The last time we called on Ol' Blue Eyes, this is what happened in the next 4 games. Past performances don't guarantee future results, but it doesn't hurt to try.

Let's go Yanks.

Out of the tree of life, I just picked me a plum,
You came along and everything started to hum,
Still it's a real good bet, the best is yet to come.

The best is yet to come, and baby won't it be fine.
You think you've seen the sun, but you ain't seen it shine.

Final Pre-World Series News And Notes

T-Minus five hours and counting, folks.

Predictions for the World Series abound. Keith Law thinks Joe Girardi's moves could make the different and goes with the Yanks in six. Walkoff Walk collected 9 guesses and six went with the Phillies. Here's the data from RAB's poll. The Star-Ledger staff offers some "outlandish" ones.

Matthew Pouliot from Circling the Bases weights in with a full-on preivew. As does David Pinto from Baseball Musings. And Dave Cameron from FanGraphs. And Cliff from Bronx Banter.

Jason and his crew have a position by position breakdown of the two teams.

A graphical comparison of the two offenses using wOBA from Beyond the Boxscore.

Want to know the real reason Jay-Z isn't playing before Game 1 tonight? He was scheduled to perform in Colombus, Ohio.

How can you not enjoy the quality GIF work of LSUFreek?

PeteAbe had some observations on yesterday's media circus.

An Indians fan gives some (angry) Midwestern perspective on the match up between CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee.

Tim Marchman thinks Joe Girardi is too smart for his own good. Moshe Mandel at The Yankee Universe thinks Marchman contradicts himself and laments the fact that picking Joe Girardi has suddenly become the cool thing to do.

Joel Sherman's World Series chat is starting right about... now. Jay Jaffe's at Baseball Prospectus probably just wrapped up.

And finally, Jon Lewin at Subway Squawkers offers some alternative viewing for Mets fans tonight.

New York By A Landslide

This Yankee postseason run has meant good things for this here blogosite, most notably some prominent links being tossed our way and a sizable increase in traffic. Most recently, we were asked to contribute to a New York vs. Philly cultural breakdown for the Sporting News' Sporting Blog.

Along with Dan Levy from the excellent On The DL Podcast, Rob Iracane from the irreverent Walk Off Walk and Meech from the hilarious Phillies blog The Fightins, we discussed the relative merits of the Lobel's Steak Sandwich vs. the Schmitter, Freddy Guzman vs. Andy Tracy, New Yankee Stadium vs. Citizens Bank Park, the MoMA vs. the Mutter, Statue of Liberty vs. Liberty Bell, MTA vs. SEPTA, and Yogi Berra vs. the Phanatic.

Levy and Meech will never admit it, but I think Iracane and I put the smackdown on the boys from Philly. You be the judge.

World Series Roster Update

Yesterday, the Yankees announced their World Series roster. Eric Hinske and blog favorite Brian Bruney have been added at the expense of Freddy Guzman and Francisco Cervelli.

The first swap was obvious. With the need for a pinch hitter in the National League park, Hinske became necessary and Guzman, functioning solely as a pinch runner, was the most expendable part. With Hideki Matsui coming off the bench in Philly as well, Hinkse will be the second best pinch hitting option, but still should see some action.

The absence of Guzman probably means that Brett Gardner won't be getting his first postseason start this series as Girardi will most likely keep him on the bench as a pinch running option. Jerry Hairston Jr. is a viable candidate for that role but is hardly a stolen base threat (only 7 for 11 this year) and therefore not much of a weapon.

Given the elimination of Cervelli, we can almost certainly infer that Jorge Posada will be catching A.J. Burnett in Game 2 (and presumably again if necessary), thus making having a third catcher on the roster superfluous. I was in favor of having Molina catch Burnett at the outset of the postseason, but it seems like the right move to let Posada catch him now. Burnett blew up with Molina behind the dish in Game 5 of the ALCS and worked well with Posada after he entered the game as a pinch hitter.

Bruney pitched in the instructional league down in Tampa during the ALDS but hasn't faced Major League hitting since October 2nd. The only frightening aspect of this move is that Girardi might try to use him for a fraction of an inning when it counts instead of relegating him strictly to mop-up duty. With Chad Gaudin unavailable for Games 1 & 2 after throwing an extended bullpen session yesterday, it seems likely that Bruney would be the last man out of the 'pen.

The Phillies made a move and an announcement of their own. Consummate gentleman and class act Brett Myers has been added to the roster - after recovering from a strained lat muscle - at the expense of utility man and former Yankee Miguel Cairo - a move Joe Torre is certainly frowning upon from afar for a couple of reasons. Charlie Manuel also declared that Pedro Martinez will be starting Game 2 at Yankee Stadium.

Pedro was chosen over Cole Hamels, who had an average season at best and has been shaky in 3 postseason starts (14.2 IP, 6.75 ERA). Pedro has pitched once since September 30th, was brilliant against the Dodgers in Game 2 of the NLCS, allowing two hits and no walks in 7 innings. But that was in Southern California in a pitcher's park against a National League line-up.

It will make for a quite the interesting dynamic. I wouldn't be surprised if Pedro was excellent or if he got bounced in the third inning. One way or another the familiar refrain offered by the Yankee Stadium faithful will be chanted ad nauseum when he's on the mound. Should be good theater either way.

World Series Q&A: The 700 Level

Since the Yankees and Phillies haven't met since May and I don't generally watch
Minor National League baseball, we've decided to bring in a little outsider perspective for the World Series. We turned to Enrico and Matt over at The 700 Level to give us a little insight on their club. Sure they're Phillies fans, but Enrico is a fellow BC guy so they can't be all bad. Our thanks to them for agreeing to participate.

Sadly, there were no photoshop jobs trying to embarrass the competition nor were there any wagers involving cheese cakes, cheese steaks, or a even a milksteak (with a side of raw jelly beans). There was however a question and answer exchange in an effort to know thy enemy. Our answers to their questions are up at The 700 Level. Here are their answers to ours:

Fack Youk: The Phillie bats have been very hot this post-season while the Yankees have gotten by largely on the strength of their pitching. Something's gotta give here. Who has the advantage on this one?

The 700 Level: It's tough to keep the Phillies' bats silent for long. They also have a fairly decent track record against CC and hit Burnett pretty well the one time they faced him this season. At this point, I have no reason to doubt the Phillies' bats.

FY: Ryan Howard has been on fire throughout the NLDS and NLCS. Should the Yankees even pitch to him, and if so, how? Or should they be more concerned about the powers of Chooch-tober?

700: I think you pitch to Ryan Howard very carefully. The thing that is most amazing about his post season thus far has been his plate discipline. He's been able to layoff some of the breaking stuff that he'd typically strike out on in the regular season. Carlos Ruiz is more of a silent killer. He comes out of nowhere when you least expect it. Ryan's the guy you have to be very careful with.

FY: What do you see the Phillies benefiting from more: being able to DH Ibanez and play Ben Francisco in left field at Yankee Stadium or getting Hideki Matsui's bat out of the line up a Citizens Bank Park?

700: The Yankees being forced to send their pitcher to the plate in Philadelphia should help the Phillies a bit more. I mean, have you seen Joe Blanton and Cliff Lee's batting numbers in the playoffs? Francisco did make a ridiculous catch in the NLCS during a late inning replacement of Ibanez that I don't think Raul could have made. So his defense in left will help us, but Raul's bat will be in the line up regardless.

Cole Hamels was dominant in the 2008 post-season, being named MVP of both the NLCS and the World Series. His numbers took a dip this season and he has pitched poorly in his three post-season starts. Which Hamels do you expect to see in the World Series? Do you prefer him or Pedro in Game Two? (editor's note: question exchange was done prior to the announcement that Pedro would start Game Two)

700: Hamels is a head-scratcher. I'd say his ego and temperament is a bit more fragile than Pedro's so I'd like to see Hamels throw at home in Philly. Pedro is one confident guy. He eats this stuff up. I think Hamels will pitch fine in his first outing, keep the Phillies in the game. I could see him being the hero if he goes in game seven though.

FY: What is the state of the bullpen these days? How confident are you in Brad Lidge? If you need an out in a big spot, who are you calling in from the pen?

700: The Phillies pen has kind of morphed back into their typical roles during the playoffs after being kind of a mess for most of the season. Chan Ho Park has stepped in as a 7th inning guy with Madson and Lidge going in the eighth and ninth. That said, I think Madson is Charlie's go to guy for one big out.

FY: Lastly, if you were going to send some chick to run out on the field and hand off a note you authored to your favorite Phillies player, expressing your admiration and your desire to play catch with him, which player would it be?

700: Just like Mac in "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," I'd pick Chase Utley. But it'd be after they beat the Yankees in the '09 World Series and it'd say "Thanks for another World Fucking Championship."

FY: That remains to be seen, and as you know, we frown upon vulgarity here. So what's your prediction for the Series?

700: Should be a great series featuring the two best teams in baseball. While the Yankees are stacked and are most definitely the best team the Phillies will face this season, I find it impossible to pick against our Fightin' Phils. This team has amazing character and intangibles. I'll go Phils in six with Chase Utley stepping up big for the first time this postseason and bringing home the hardware.