Check it out: Buster Olney eschewed the trite position by position matchup analysis for the World Series. Must be because he's one of the best baseball reporters working today.
Here are his main points (headers only, for his explanations go to the link in the title of this post):
- The Yankees' hitters against Cliff Lee's frantic pace. Olney says Lee works fast -- The Monk thinks the Yanks have more trouble with Lee's ability than his pace because they've been mediocre against him recently, but the Yanks kill Mark Buerhle, who is probably the fastest working pitcher in baseball.
- The Phillies' hitters versus Mariano Rivera's cutter. The only NL team to actually hit Rivera hard in the WS, ever, is the '00 Mess. And they faced the Yanks six times that year.
- The Phillies' pitchers versus the patience of the Yankees' hitters. The Monk discussed this one below. This was a huge factor in the Yanks' '99 win over the Braves
- Jayson Werth and Jorge Posada versus opportunity. Werth has not sucked, Posada has. Even a decent game from Posada would have meant a cakewalk win in game 6 of the ALCS.
- The Yankees' power pitchers against the Phillies Who Mash Fastballs. That's most of the Phils. The Phils didn't hit Sabathia well and only hit Pettitte a little back in May, but they smacked Burnett around.
- Derek Jeter versus Jimmy Rollins.
- Cole Hamels versus his recent past. Hamels worked in and out of trouble against the Yanks in May in a 6 IP no-decision. He's been slightly sharper than the average bowling ball in the playoffs this year.
- Damaso Marte versus the Phillies' left-handed hitters (that's you, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard). Good info from Olney here as he discusses how Marte has changed his slider grip and how that has improved the pitch. Marte is a momentum guy -- he pitches better when he has confidence that arises from his results. Howard's 2009 splits are amazing: .319 BA, .691 SLG, 1.086 OPS against righties, and just .207/.356/.653 against lefties. Utley's splits are quite different, good against righties and slightly better against lefties. For their careers, Howard's left-right splits are not far off from his 2009 numbers (BA dropoff is 81 points, SLG dropoff is 217 points, OPS dropoff is 316), Utley is slightly better against righties than lefties.
- The umpires versus the action. There will be no instant replay for this World Series. Hoo boy.
Other notes: the fact that the Game 1 winner has won 11 of the last 12 Series (Verducci cited this, I think) is of minimal value. After all, most "analysts" are predicting a 6-7 game series and only four of the 12 in that selection went more than five games. Of the four, the loser BLEW each one: the '97 Indians lost a lead in the bottom of the 9th in game 7, the '01 Yanks lost games 6 and 7 in Arizona, the '02 Giants completely collapsed with a 3-2 Series lead and a 5-0 lead in game 6 just nine outs away from the ring, and the '03 Yanks bonked a 2-1 Series lead when Torre let Jeff Weaver off his leash.
Only in the '03 Series did game 1 have ramifications for the rest of the contests because the Marlins broke the Yanks' record-long 10-game home winning streak in the Series that dated back to 1996 -- a crack in the Yanks' invincibility at the Stadium -- and the Fishes clinched the Series in the Bronx, which was just the third time since 1979 that a team won a World Series on the road in a game 6 (compared to the seven teams that came from 3-2 down to win in seven at home).
I also don't understand the prediction of Phils in 7 that some have made. If you think the Phils will win a close series, then it's Phils in 6, period. That's your ONLY logical pick. If you think the Yanks will win a close series, then it's Yanks in 6 or 7. Why? Because the last time a team won a game 7 on the road in the WS was 1979 (Pirates), and the roadies are 0-8 since, no matter how agonizingly close they've come ('91 Braves, '97 Indians, '01 Yanks). Then again, the '03 Yanks were the first team to come home for game 6 and lose the series since the '92 Braves (the previous six teams had won in either six or seven games), and just the second since '81 (against 10 teams that had won in six or seven games), so this team could be the one to bear the ignominy of first one to lose a WS game 7 at home in 30 years. After all, it may have four holdovers from the '96 team that beat the Braves, but it also has five holdovers from the '04 team . . .