There has been a lot of talk about the Yankees having the best hitting infield of all time this past week prompted mostly by A-Rod, Cano and Teixeira now all having over 100 RBI. I may be mistaken, but I think that's the first time in MLB an infield has ever had three 100 RBI guys.
There is still a lot of baseball to be play yet, but is there anyone who would be surprised at a match-up of last year's World Series participants? We did this last year, just before the World Series and I while I may be a bit premature, I think an analysis of the Yankees vs. Phillies, position by position is warranted. I know it's not a foregone conclusion that this will be the 2010 World Series match-up, but..... Oh heck, forget being politically correct, yes it is. Here we go, Yankees vs. Phillies, position by position.....
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Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Yankees - Position by Position
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Ryan Howard is one of the very best power-hitting 1st basemen in baseball. He tends to be a bit streaky and at times and can be pitched to, but in the end his numbers are there. More often than not, he comes up clutch. Howard is one of the elite defenders in the NL league at his position.
Mark Teixeira is one of the very best power-hitting 1st basemen in baseball. He tends to be a bit streaky and at times can be pitched to, but in the end his numbers are there. More often than not, he comes up Clutch. Teixeira s one of the elite defenders in the AL league at his position. No, I didn't copy and paste that. They are as interchangeable as two players can possibly be.
Six of one, half dozen of another. Flip a Coin
Chase Utley spent a considerable amount of time on the disabled list this year, but has gotten healthy and heated up at the right time. Utley is one of the better defensive 2nd basemen in the league and when it comes to the post season, there are few who come through more than him when the team needs it most. He hit five homers in the World Series last year.
Robinson Cano is having an MVP year. The Yankee 2nd baseman is batting an amazing .324 and he has belted 28 home runs. The 27-year-old brings a ton of power to the plate and covers a a lot of ground at second base. In a lineup with Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, Cano makes it much harder for pitchers.
Cano has clearly the better year, but Utley now appears healthy and his resume can't be ignored. Flip a coin.
Jimmy Rollins is having one of his more mediocre seasons, mostly due to spending 69 games on the disabled list. But when Rollins is fully healthy, he's one of the best shortstops in the majors. Unfortunately, he's only batting .245 with seven homers. I believe Rollins will be just fine when the playoffs come around.
Derek Jeter is having one of his worst years statistically. He hasn't been clutch this season and is on pace to bat 50 points below his .314 career average. Jeter, 36, is dealing with talks of being moved from shortstop in the not so distant future and the complications of a new contract for a legendary performer with declining skills. He is not a top notch defensive player however he is still Derek Jeter and deserves the respect and benefit of the doubt in the playoffs.
If Rollins were healthy here he might get the nod however, while not on the disabled list, in the heat of a pennant race, he hasn't even played since September 8th. Given that Rollins legs are such a big part of his game and the uncertainty surrounding his legs all season, the legend of Jeter gets the nod here.
Placido Polanco has been one of the most consistent hitters in the Philadelphia lineup. He has been batting around .300 for entire season, despite spending some time on the DL. He also has a pretty good glove at third base. Placido Polanco has been one of the most consistent hitters in the Philadelphia lineup. He has been batting around .300 for entire season, despite spending some time on the DL. He also has a pretty good glove at third base.
Alex Rodriguez is undoubtedly one of the best players in baseball. A-Rod has 112 RBIs and 25 home runs. Curiously enough, he's only hit .212 against lefties. Nonetheless, after what Rodriguez did in last year's playoffs, the can't-do-it-in-October theory is over. A-Rod has plenty of range at third base as well. He's one of the deadliest hitters in the major leagues.
Polanco is a wonderful player and particularly for this team getiing on base at the top of the lineup with all the punch behind him, but it's hard to give an edge to anyone in MLB over A-Rod unless your name is Albert Puljols
Carlos Ruiz is having his best season statistically. He is batting .299 and already reached a career-high in hits with 102. His on-base percentage is .400 and is a great defensive catcher. Ruiz is also batting .340 against left-handed pitchers.
Jorge Posada has struggled this year at the plate and has spent some time on the disabled list. Posada, who has 18 homers, can still provide some power at the plats and is very good defensively. But the 39-year-old hasn't been very reliable this season.
You might expect that as almost every postseason, this match-up would go to Posada and the Yankees due do his hitting prowess and clutch post seasons history, HOWEVER Carlos Ruiz is a much better defender which can make a real difference in a short series and has some recent post season success of his own. If the 38 year old Posada was 100% healthy the Yankees would get the edge here, but he's not.
Jayson Werth got off to a slow start, only hitting nine homers in the first two months. Werth has gotten back on track and remains one of the best athletes on the team. He has a great arm from right field and can be very powerful at the plate. Werth is very good at hitting it to the opposite field and has been known to be able to steal a base with a game on the line.
Nick Swisher played well enough to make it to the All-Star game this year. The switch hitter is batting .290 with 27 HR and 85 RBI. Swisher isn't a great defensive right fielder, however he's made plays when it counts.
These two players are going to end up with almost identical stats this year. Given Jayson Werth's performance the last two post seasons and his all around athletic ability, Werth gets the nod here. That's no insult to Swisher however, but it is more than a coin flip.
Shane Victorino is one of the better switch hitters in the majors. He's also one of the fastest players in the league. He covers so much ground in center field and has a cannon for an arm. Every time he is one base, he is a threat to steal and score. The flying Hawaiian can also provide some power at the plate.
Curtis Granderson is having a disappointing year. Despite hitting 21 home runs, Granderson is only batting .249. He's only batting .243 against lefties. He is a very athletic center fielder who can make incredible plays in the outfield.
Much like Werth, Victorino and his recent post season success propel him over the top.
Raul Ibanez is a solid hitter in a potent Phillies lineup. He can hit for power and he can hit to the opposite field. Ibanez is batting .301 at home and is much better against right-handed pitchers. He has 76 RBIs this season and is always a tough out to get.
Brett Gardner is a speedy left fielder with a great arm. He has improved throughout the season at gunning down base runners at home plate. He is one of the fastest players in the league and is always a threat to steal. Gardner has definitely been a pleasant surprise for the Yankees after losing Johnny Damon.
While Gardner can be a difference maker on the base paths in the late innings Ibanez' experience and veteran presence add up to quality at bats when it counts. Ones can that be game changers.
Bench / DH
Kearns, Thames, Berkman, Nunez, Cervelli
Francisco, Valdez, Sweeney, Gload, Schneider
Kearns, Thames, Berkman, Nunez, Cervelli are simply better than Francisco, Valdez, Sweeney, Gload and Schneider
Roy Halladay is easily one of the best pitchers in the major leagues. His is a dominant right-handed pitcher and reached his career-high in strikeouts this year with 210 (and counting). He's a 20-game winner with a perfect game and a 2003 A.L Cy Young award. The 12-year-veteran has an ERA of 2.49 and a WHIP of 1.07.
C.C Sabathia is having one of his best seasons. He was the first to reach 20 wins this year and has a WHIP of 1.18. When his slide is working and he is working the corners of the strike zone, he is nearly unstoppable. However, he is 1-2 against the Phillies in the playoffs.
Six of one, half dozen of another. Flip a Coin
Roy Oswalt got what he wanted, a chance to play for a World Series contender. And he must love every minute of it. He's 7-1 as a Phillie with a 1.94 ERA. His WHIP in Philadelphia is .947! He certainly looks like he will be very dangerous in the postseason. The ten year 32 year old veteran is pitching better than ever at the moment and that's saying a lot. At 150-83 with a career 3.20 ERA Roy Oswalt has been one of the very best pitchers in baseball during the last decade. Oswalt hasn't had the post season opportunities that Pettitte has had. But that doesn't mean he hasn't shines when he has. Oswalt is 4-0 in the post season with a 3.66 ERA.
Andy Pettitte who was out for two months with a strained left groin muscle has now made one start. The 38 year old savvy lefty known for his post season clutch performances is pitching well this year going 11-2 with a 2.81 ERA. Thanks to opportunity with the Yankees and Astros, Andy has had plenty of opportunity to shine in the post season. Pettitte is remarkable 18-9 in the post season and has certainly come up clutch more often than not pitching some gems. However to be fair, the extraordinary number of opportunities he's has something to do with his reputation. When one looks closely at his performances, the reality is that he has a 3.90 ERA in the post season and has had a few clunkers as well.
No knock on Pettitte and any of his previous accomplishments here but It's the fall of 2010 and the 32 year old Roy Oswalt is more dominating, consistent and reliable than the 38 year old Pettitte at this time in their careers. Oswalt would be the team Ace on more than 80% of the teams in MLB. We can't the sane for Pettitte.
Phil Hughes, A.J Burnett, Javier Vazquez
Cole Hamels is playing the best out of the three aces on the Phillies. He has won five straight games and looks like the 2008 World Series MVP again. His changeup is one of the most difficult pitches to hit. Hamels is a great strikeout pitcher who doesn't get a ton of run support, which is the main reason for his 12-10 record.
Phil Hughes, 5.37; A.J. Burnett, 5.61; Javier Vazquez, 6.20. Either one of these three has the potential to throw a game like a number one starter at any time. In fact, at times, they all have. Neither of them has been consistent this year and there just isn't any way anyone could say they have 100% confidence in what they would do.
Cole Hamels has been consistent this year and appears to have returned to his World Series MVP form. He's a more dependable option than anything the Yankees have.
4th Starter if used
Joe Blanton, Kyle Kendrick
Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett, Javier Vasquez
As stated above, Hughes, Burnett and Vasquez are all capable of throwing a gem at any time. Neither Blanton or Kendrick poses that kind of stuff.
Jose Contreras, J.C. Romero
Kerry Wood, Dave Robertson
Jose Contreras and J.C. Romero have been solid this season. Romero tends to give up walks, but doesn't give up a lot of runs. Contreras has a 3.35 ERA and has been pretty reliable as of late.
Kerry Wood and Dave Robertson both need to step it up when the postseason comes around. Robertson has been struggling lately and his ERA is gradually getting worse. Wood, however, hasn't given up a run since Aug. 3.
This one is simply too tough to call as you never know what these middle relievers will give you at any point in time.
Ryan Madson has put up great numbers this season. He has a 1.03 ERA and a 2.42 ERA. Madson has proved to be Philadelphia's most consistent relief pitcher and he can really light it up with his fastball.
Joba Chamberlin is capable of getting three quick outs. But he's also capable of pitching erratically and melting down. It's tough to feel totally comfortable with him on the mound and the game on the line.
Joba has pitched well of late, but Madson's body of work this year has been too impressive to over look.
Brad Lidge is tough to figure out. You never know what you're going to get with him. Sometimes he will be lights out. Sometimes he will walk the bases loaded. Flip a coin.
Mariano Rivera is the best closer of all time. His age isn't an issue. Period.
Charlie Manuel might not look or sound like an amazing manager, but the Phillies have reached the playoffs in three consecutive years. They have appeared in two consecutive World Series and they won it all in 2008. Translation: Manuel is a hell of a manager.
Joe Giardi is a solid manager, but he tends to have trouble with his decision-making when it comes to the bullpen. He makes questionable moves in close games too. He coached the Yankees to a World Series title last year, but I wouldn't give a lot of credit to Girardi on that one.
It's about this time where people in offices throughout the country and Yankees and Phillies fans start cursing me for getting one or more of these match-ups wrong.
Yankee fans, if your are honest with yourself and screaming at things like Cano is better than Utley, you'll also agree that Utley is the last guy you want to see up in a big spot if you are a Yankee fan. Also, you know that Ruiz is a much better defender and has been one of the Phillies best performers in the post season.
Phillies fans you know that Rollins isn't himself and no matter how much you want to see Jeter fail and how much his skills may have deteriorated, in a big spot, if you give him a chance, he'll stick a dagger in your heart.
These two teams are REALLY CLOSE in talent and it would be a shame if is wasn't the 2010 World Series match-up because they have the best two rosters. It's the match-up everyone wants to see. My crystal ball says the Phillies even the score and take the title this year which would mean that we'd have to do it all over again next year for a tie-breaker. Wouldn't that be fun. - Michael Klopman
Michael, a Penn State Graduate writes for Xtra Point Football, Around the Horn Baseball, and works on the sports page at the Huffington Post.
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