The 2008 World Champions are back in the World Series in ’09, but the club faces a huge challenge in the form of the New York Yankees, a club that boasts the largest payroll in Major League Baseball. Both clubs, though, have paid a hefty price for their success and both clubs have benefited from the free agent and trade markets.
In fact, neither Game 1 starter was with their respective teams one year ago. Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee was playing with Cleveland, while C.C. Sabathia signed with New York prior to the ’09 season as a free agent. He began ’08 with The Tribe, but was later traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. The two hurlers were teammates for six-and-a-half seasons, so you can bet each pitcher has given extensive scouting reports to their respective offense.
Both aces have been dominating throughout the season and in the post season:
Sabathia: 3.39 FIP, 7.71 K/9, .233 AVG, 6.0 WAR
Cliff Lee: 3.11 FIP, 7.03 K/9, .273 AVG, 6.6 WAR
Sabathia: 2.44 FIP, 7.94 K/9, .210 AVG, 0.79 WPA
Cliff Lee: 1.82 FIP, 7.40 K/9, .169 AVG, 0.86 WPA
Sabathia has dominated opponents with a very good fastball-changeup combination, while mixing in some average sliders. Lee, on the other hand, relies heavily on a good fastball, while mixing an assortment of average pitches and maintaining excellent control. Who has the edge? My gut says New York, mainly because the hitters have, on average, seen a lot more of Lee than Philly has seen of Sabathia.
New York has yet to announce who will pitch in Games Two and Three, but Philly will follow Lee with veteran Pedro Martinez — who has seen a lot of the Yankees during his time in Boston — and the disappointing Cole Hamels. The Phillies club has also activated pitcher Brett Myers for the World Series. The free-agent-to-be was on the NLCS roster, but he was removed for the NLDS. Utility player Miguel Cairo was deleted from the active roster.
Through the nine-game post-season, the hottest hitters for the Phillies have been:
Shane Victorino (.361/.439/.722)
Jayson Werth (.281/.395/.813)
Ryan Howard (.355/.462/.742)
Carlos Ruiz (.346/.500/.500).
In order to repeat as World Champions, Philadelphia will have to get to the Yankees’ top starters, including Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte. In the bullpen, both Mariano Rivera (eight appearances) and Joba Chamberlain (seven) have been overworked in the nine-game post-season. As well, outside of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, the offense has been inconsistent. But as any American League fan can tell you, New York’s offense is always one at-bat away from exploding.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.