World Series Preview: Phillies Starters

Pettitte: 'I wasn't real happy with the contract'
Hello, Phillies. We've met before, haven't we?

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.

The Phillies haven’t officially announced their full World Series rotation yet, but they have said that trade deadline pickup Cliff Lee will get the ball in Game One. Earlier today Jon Heyman said the team is leaning towards starting Pedro Martinez in Game Two and Cole Hamels in Game Three, before bringing Lee back on short rest in Games Four and Seven. That leaves Games Five and Six still up in the air.

As a team, the Philadelphia starters have put up a 3.11 ERA (3.69 FIP) this postseason, second only to Yanks. Their 6.71 K/9 in October mirrors their 6.87 regular season mark, however they’ve excelled at avoiding the free pass (1.47 BB/9) despite throwing 4.09 pitches per batter, well above the Major League average of 3.80. The Phillies’ rotation has certainly gotten the job done this postseason, so let’s meet the cast of characters.

Cliff Lee
The 2009 edition of the World Series really couldn’t start with a better pitching matchup. You’ve got the last two American League Cy Young Award winners, two former Cleveland Indians that have since moved on to greener pastures. Unlike CC Sabathia, who’s career progressed year after year in textbook fashion, Lee has had his ups and downs. While Sabathia was busy winning the Cy in 2007, Lee was struggling so badly that he was sent back to the minors.

However, Lee has been as good as any pitcher in baseball the last two years, and 75% of that time was spent in the big boy league. In his three postseason starts (the first three of his career), Lee’s recorded 73 of 81 possible outs, and put just 17 runners on base. As good as Sabathia has been in his three postseason starts, Cliff Lee’s actually been better. Of course, Sabathia didn’t get to pitch in the AAAA League, but you can only pitch against the competition you’re scheduled to face.

If you want a reason to be optimistic, then you should know that some of the Yankee regulars have really, really good numbers against Lee in their careers. Derek Jeter‘s hit .407-.467-.519 in his career off Lee, Mark Teixeira .391-.462-.696, A-Rod .333-.450-.733, Jorge Posada .286-.273-.667, and Nick Swisher .333-.458-.444. These aren’t the biggest of sample sizes (all around 25 at-bats), but it’s what we got.

Pedro Martinez
Pedro is certainly no stranger to the Yankees, and vice versa. Now, this obviously isn’t the same Pedro Martinez that tore apart baseball a decade ago, but he’s still been effective for the Phillies. His strong, but abbreviated, regular season was propped up by an unsustainably high 83.7% strand rate (league average is 71.9%), something a patient and powerful team like the Yankees could correct in a hurry.

In his one playoff start, Pedro held the Dodgers to just two hits and zero runs in seven innings, but got just four swinging strikes out of 87 pitches. He’s a contact pitcher with extreme fly-ball tendencies (0.67 GB/FB), and again, that plays right into the Yankees’ strengths.

As a Yankee fan, I hope and pray we see Pedro start Game Two of the World Series. Not because I want to chant “Who’s Your Daddy?” or anything like that, but because he’s probably the least equipped member of the Phightin’s rotation to combat the Yankees.

Cole Hamels
Last year’s Philadelphia playoff hero suffered through a down season in 2009, but upon further inspection, you can see that his performance really didn’t drop off all that much. Check it out:

2008 2009
K/9 7.76 7.81
BB/9 2.10 2.00
HR/9 1.11 1.12
GB/FB 1.02 1.04
Contact Rate 76.9% 75.2%
1st Pitch Strikes 61.6% 60.7%
FIP 3.72 3.72
tRA 4.63 4.51

Well look at that, everything’s practically identical!

So why was Hamels’ ERA nearly a run and a quarter higher this year than last? Well, most of it has to do with a unluckiness. His BABIP was 55 pts higher this year, and he stranded about 4% fewer runners as well. More balls dropping in means more runs cross the plate, it’s that simple. The Phillies as a team went from a +14.8 UZR/150 to just +5.8 this year, so Hamels was working with a lesser defense. The peripherals indicate that the lefty from San Diego who was drafted one spot after Nick Swisher in 2002 is still a world class pitcher.

After all that, why does it appear that the Phillies will push Hamels back to Game Three instead of getting him out there as early as possible? Well, Hamels was considerably worse on the road this year, so they probably want him pitching in the comfort of home. Just check out the splits. At home he’s Yovani Gallardo, on the road he’s Mike Pelfrey.

Hamels has made three starts already this postseason, one against Colorado and two against the Dodgers. Opponents have tagged him for a .328-.344-.672 batting line in 14.2 IP, and the damage is pretty spread out. It’s not like one clunker did him in. Ironically enough, the best of those three starts came on the road. Go figure.

Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ
Both Blanton and Happ have made one start each for the Phillies this postseason; Blanton was on the hook for the loss in Game Four of the NLCS until Jimmy Rollins walked off, and Happ lasted just three innings in Game Three of the NLDS. Blanton’s made a pair of long relief appearances this postseason, and Happ’s done the LOOGY thing a few times.

Blanton, Swisher’s roommate in Oakland, has made four starts against the Bombers over the years, and they pretty much owned him: 20 runs in 22 IP and an .814 OPS against. Happ made one start in the Bronx earlier this year, holding the Matsui and Posada-less Yanks to two runs over six innings. Unless he’s needed in long relief at some point early in the series, I suspect Blanton would get a World Series start if needed. Happ hasn’t thrown more than 76 pitches in a month, and he just might not be physically up to making a start in the playoffs.

Outside of Cliff Lee, the Phillies don’t have a pitcher that they can count on for a quality start. None of the above guys feature above average velocity, and it’s been proven time and time again that power pitching wins in the playoffs. Sure, Hamels has a chance to be great, but he’s been mediocre in the playoffs and can’t be expected to shut down the best offense in the majors.

Pettitte: 'I wasn't real happy with the contract'
Hello, Phillies. We've met before, haven't we?
  • JSquared

    Cliff Lee has those nice NL Stats, but i don’t see the Yankees not scoring off of him. Hamels is not 2008, the rest are self explanatory.

    • Chris C.

      Oh, c’mon. Of course I can see the Yankees not scoring off him. Stop acting like Lee never did anything until he got to the Phillies.
      The guy was an AL Cy Young winner, for cryin out loud.

  • aje

    The buzz is that Cliff Lee goes game 1, 4 and 7.

    • whozat

      …yes, which is why Mike said “before bringing Lee back on short rest in Games Four and Seven”

  • Salty Buggah

    Well, I hope the pitching matchups play out like they do on paper so far. I just hope we show everyone who their daddies are.

  • Dela G

    don’t forget cliff lee’s era against the yankees in his career?

    5.02 (if my memory serves me right)

    • Salty Buggah

      Your memory does serve you right. I checked this evening and that’s the ERA (Though I don’t trust my memory much).

    • Tony

      More importantly, his ERA vs. the Yankees since 2006 has been 1.90


    • Chris C.

      Uugghh. Throw all that out the window.

      Do you really want to add relevence to what the Phillies did to Sabathia in the postseason last year? It was real ugly.

  • Salty Buggah

    Hmmm, Pedro threw 50 pitches today in a simulated game. Does this perhaps affect him starting in game 2?,0,6919655.story

    • Mike bk

      no…it is like a normal throw day but instead of just a bullpen toss he threw a simulated game, no big difference.

  • Free Mike Vick

    i find it interesting that Maunel could be going to Cliff Lee twice on 3 days rest this series….Cliff Lee has never pitched on 3 days rest in his entire career.

    and i also agree so much with you mike…i’m so wanting to see pedro in game 2. Good God the yankees would eat him up and then spit out the bones that are left.

    • Dela G

      nice of them to have him pitch on 3 days rest in our clinching game 4 ;)

    • Salty Buggah

      Eh, I don’t think starting in 3 days for the 1st time will have an affect (at least not a significant one) on Lee. The 2nd game though, it might because his velocity won’t be high and it’s not so high already.

      • Bo

        Why wouldnt he go to Lee? Hes the same manager who used every starter in relief because he didnt trust his relivers. He’ll go with his top guys as much as possible.

  • KG Sturnz0r

    blanton and hamels can still get to us the way that mazarro and david hernandez have this yr. I just don’t want our batters pressing.

    we are confident with our numbers vs cy lee, and they recall hitting sabathia in last yr’s nlds. something’s got to give

    • Salty Buggah

      We usually get to those types of pitchers the 2nd time through if not the 1st time.

      Mazzaro’s ERA against Yanks this year (his rookie year): 6.75

      We didn’t get anything off of him the 1st 2-3 innings but then BOOM! There’s a bunch of runs.

    • pat

      Even after three dominanting postseason starts CC is still a third of an inning below his regular season total from last year. He’s a metric shit ton more rested than last year.

    • Bo

      You might be the only guy ever to use and bring up the names Mazzaro and David Hernandez when talking World Series. Relax.

  • DSFC

    The Phillies don’t have any power pitchers, but the Yankees have seemed to have more trouble with slop throwers than fireballers.

  • Kiersten

    Pedro in Yankee Stadium in the postseason is going to be fun. Just for old time’s sake.

  • Benjamin Kabak

    I don’t understand why, when they made this t-shirt, they couldn’t say “Hey Pedro” instead of “Hey Red Sox.” Then, it would still be valid and not some relic of another age.

    • Tom Zig

      I’ve been trying to find that t-shirt for sale online for the longest time.

      • Benjamin Kabak

        MLB and the Yanks shut down sales of it after they realized it wasn’t in the best of tastes. I saved the image because I figured that might happen.

        • Mr Feeny

          I went to game 1 of the 04 ALCS, and they didn’t allow “whos your daddy” shirts into the Bleacher entrance. No red sox suck t-shirts either. I immediately thought of how different it was in YS than fenway…where the “clever boston faithful” had shirts listing every player on the 25 man roster with the words “sucks” next to it; except Jeter, who had…swallows. Classy.

    • Dela G

      how do you guys imbed images like that?

      is it only something you, mike, and joePa can do?

      • Benjamin Kabak

        Yup. We have special powers and abilities. Only the three of us.

        • Dela G

          pretty awesome

          i wish i was an internet deity like Mo, JoePa, BenK, and AX-EE-SA

    • Nana

      I had this tshirt and my brother threw it out! Is there a place where I can find it?!!!! It was my favorite tshirt ever!

  • Tank Foster

    I think the Yankees are going to get to Lee. Watching these games this postseason, even with the Yankees struggling a bit offensively, you can just see the pressure their lineup puts on opposing pitchers. I do think the Phillies have a pretty stout lineup themselves, but while superficially it appears to compare well to the Yankees’, I think they are inferior and Yankee pitchers will handle them. I really think it will be a quick series.

    • Chris C.

      It’s unbelievable the amount of disrespect the defensing WS champion is getting from Yankee fans.

      The line-up just “appears” to compare well to the Yankees??C,mon now. It DOES compare well to the Yankees offense.

      The Yankees haven’t had a one year hiccup, dude……..they haven’t won in 9 years! So this “birthright to the throne” attitude, which was fine in the early part of the decade, is pretty much unwarrented now.

  • steve s

    Regarding the Phillies pitching, they ain’t the 01 Diamondbacks or the 03 Marlins or the 09 Giants (which would have been a scarier match-up for the Yanks if they had made it in and through the playoffs somehow). With the good fortune of having avoided Verlander in the first round and Sox in the second round, the Yanks have not faced (and will not face) the top caliber kind of hard-throwers in this post-season that could potentially stop them cold and have stopped similarly built Yankee teams in the recent past. That doesn’t mean the Phillie offense won’t muscle-up and win a few but the Phillies getting to 4 more wins before the Yanks do is IMO a longshot expressly due to their pitching.

    • Chris C.

      “Regarding the Phillies pitching, they ain’t the 01 Diamondbacks or the 03 Marlins or the 09 Giants”

      Neither were the staffs of the 02 Angels, the 04 Red Sox, or the 07 Indians. But they beat the Yankees anyway.

      “With the good fortune of having avoided Verlander in the first round and Sox in the second round, the Yanks have not faced (and will not face) the top caliber kind of hard-throwers in this post-season that could potentially stop them cold and have stopped similarly built Yankee teams in the recent past.”

      What a complete load of shit. Anybody who knows these Yankee hitters knows full well that they’re just as likely to be baffled by junkballers as they are by fireballers. The key to beating the Yankees is locating well, and getting ahead in the count.

      “That doesn’t mean the Phillie offense won’t muscle-up and win a few but the Phillies getting to 4 more wins before the Yanks do is IMO a longshot expressly due to their pitching.”

      Well, aside from Sabathia, Pettitte, and Rivera, I didn’t see any other Yankee pitcher in the first two rounds that gave me any type of hard-core confidence at all. And if you do find another guy, Girardi will be sure to give him a quick hook.
      So the WS champion Phillies, who ADDED the AL Cy Young winner to their club, is now a longshot. Sheeesh! What onions!

  • Rose

    What makes Cliff Lee so good lately?? He was never really THAT great before his Cy Young season. The year before he had a horrendous 6.29 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP. Sure they pulled a Boston/Dice K move and perhaps faked an injury to get him out of the rotation but it was real bad. Before that he was an extremely mediocre 4.40 ERA and 1.405 WHIP (albeit with over 200 IP). In 2005 he was decent but in 2004, he was again really really bad.

    He went from a guy I always looked forward to facing…to a dominant guy I don’t feel as comfortable facing. And saying this, can’t we kind of throw out the “numbers against” with our position players because he’s seemingly an entirely new pitcher lately??

    Funny note: I used to argue jokingly with Boston fans saying that Lester will (AT BEST) be just another Cliff Lee…said that at the beginning of the 2008 season. That year they both had dominant seasons obviously. I ate my hat in other words…nothing out of the ordinary…

  • Matt ACTY/BBD

    I have been saying that Hamels thing to every casual Phils fan I’ve run into this season. Hopefully, the correction doesn’t come in the World Series.

  • Nady Nation

    Our son is starting Game 2. Oh boy.

  • Bo

    We can set the tone early if we beat Lee.

    • Matt ACTY/BBD

      Yeah, that’d be pretty fantastic. Obviously, when the starters are as good as they are in Game One, the game has ‘battle of the bullpens’ written all over it. It’d be nice for the Yankees to be able to push across a run in the first or second, before Lee gets into some sort of a rhythm.

      • Kiersten

        If it comes down to the pens (as it probably will), I like our chances.

  • Mike bk

    i would guess that Blanton would start game 5 and then either Pedro would come back normal or Hamels would come back short for game 6.

    CC vs Lee
    AJ vs Pedro
    Andy vs Hamels
    CC vs Lee
    AJ vs Blanton
    Andy vs Hamels
    CC vs Lee

    that’s how i would expect to see it even though it wont go that far.

    • Jon

      not that i would ever want to see this happen

      but game 7 cc vs lee would be so epic

  • themgmt

    Was Cole Hamels unlucky this year or lucky last year?

    I’d say it’s more both than one or the other. His location has been terrible in the playoffs though, he should be hit around.

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