World Series Preview: Phillies BullpenBy
We’ve previewed the Yankees along with their opponents through the ALDS and ALCS. Instead of re-re-rehashing all of that, we’re going to stick with just the opponents this time. We’ve already looked at their starters and their infield, and now we’ll take a look at their bullpen.
As a whole, the Philadelphia bullpen posted a 3.91 ERA in 2009, exactly equal to the Yanks’ mark. The difference between the two, however, is that the Yanks’ relief corps succeeded by striking guys out while the Phillies relied more on pitching to contact and letting their defense do the work. The Phils’ bullpen did have their own reality TV show this season, and sheesh, how are the Yanks supposed to compete with that?
Let’s break it down piece by piece.
Closer: Brad Lidge
You’ve all heard the story by now. Lidge was perfect in save opportunities last year, but he struggled so badly this year that he lost his closer’s job for a while. Main stream media types have penned a few “Lidge is back on track” pieces to fill the inches during playoff downtime, but don’t let them fool you. In a whopping four innings this postseason, Lidge has put four guys on base (three walks), and no one’s impressed by retiring players like Ronnie Belliard and Mark Loretta with the bases empty.
For whatever reason, batters aren’t just making more contact against Lidge this year, they’re making more solid contact. Among relievers with at least 55 IP this year, no one allowed a greater slugging percentage against than Lidge’s .515. To put that in perspective, just 36 batters had a SLG that high in 2009. The Yankees have already mounted two comebacks off Lidge this year, and not enough has changed to suggest he’s returned to being an effective reliever, let alone a dominant closer.
Setup: Ryan Madson
The Phillies run to the World Series last year was boosted by Madson’s emergence in the second half, when he held opponents to a .592 OPS against over his final 26 appearances. He managed to maintain his late-2008 performance in 2009, holding opponents to a .251 average and striking out more than a batter per inning. Madson’s mid-90′s gas (check out his velo graph) and top-of-the-line changeup make him effective against both righties and lefties, and he’s Charlie Manuel’s go-to reliever in a tight spot.
None of the Yankees’ regulars have had more than three plate appearances against Madson in their careers, and unfamiliarity is always advantage: pitcher. Even though his playoff numbers aren’t great, Madson is the one pitcher in Philadelphia’s bullpen that is a true difference maker right now. The best way for the Yankees to neutralize him is by pounding the other pitchers on Philly’s staff, rendering Madson’s innings meaningless.
Lefties: Antonio Bastardo, Scott Eyre
Fans of DotF will surely remember Bastardo terrorizing High-A Tampa last year, and he was a bit of a surprise inclusion on the postseason roster. He’s faced a grand total of two batters in the postseason, striking out a batter in the NLDS and allowing a hit in the NLCS. In all likelihood, he’ll be the last man out of the Phillies’ bullpen, especially since he can provide length in extra innings if need be (he was a starter before moving to the pen in the postseason).
Scott Eyre, on the other hand, is the guy that will come on to face a lefty or two in a tough spot. His numbers are better than solid against lefties (.210-.269-.355), and he even holds his own against righties (.200-.356-.333), so you might see a situation were Eyre is brought in to face Hideki Matsui, then is left in to face Jorge Posada just so he could also pitch to Robinson Cano. He’s been hit around a bit in the playoffs (6 H in 2.1 IP), so he’s not exactly a lockdown reliever.
We should also add JA Happ into the LOOGY mix, because it’s unlikely he’ll get a start in the Fall Classic. He held lefties to a .216-.285-.358 batting line this season, but like everything else about his season, it came with the aid of a fluky low BABIP (.254 in this case).
Righties: Chad Durbin, Chan Ho Park, Brett Myers
Aside from Madson, Durbin might be Philadelphia’s most trustworthy reliever. He had extreme control issues during the season (47 BB in 69.2 IP), but but has been perfect in the postseason. Literally perfect, no baserunners in five appearances. Chan Ho Park, meanwhile, seems to be Philadelphia’s Al Aceves. He’ll work an inning, three innings, a third of an inning, whatever. Park has gotten some high-leverage work this postseason, but outside of one winning in the NLCS, he’s failed pretty miserably at it. Not to sound overly confident or anything, but the Yanks eat relievers like CHP for breakfast.
Believe it or not, Myers started Opening Day for the Phigtin’s this year, although he missed a big chunk of the season with a torn labrum in his hip. He was left off the NLCS roster after being used just once in the NLDS, and at this point he’s kind of like a reliever without a role. With subpar strikeout numbers and a propensity to give up the longball, it’s hard to picture Myers getting high leverage work in the World Series. He’s kinda like their Brian Bruney, except not really.
Unless he makes a start, Joe Blanton will also be available out of he bullpen for Charlie Manuel. Blanton’s already made two long relief appearances (and one start) this postseason, but like I said in the SP preview, it’s Joe Blanton, and the Yankees traditionally crush him.
Madson and Lidge are the only guys that bring premium velocity to the table this series, although CHP can dial it up occasionally. For the most part, this group will pitch themselves into trouble if you let them, so the key for the Yanks is to be patient and work favorable counts, then sit dead red on some average fastballs.