World Series Preview: Phillies Bullpen

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.

What it was like, 59 years ago

For all of the baseball history in New York and Philadelphia, for all of the years when there were only 16 teams and the Yankees were in the World Series every year, the Yankees and the Phillies have matched up in the Fall Classic just once before. That year — 1950 — a seminal year in my life for it was the year my dad was born. The Yankees and Phillies, then, were his first World Series, and he assures me that he remembers it well.

That year, the Yankees swept the Phillies in a display of pitching. The first three games were all one-run affairs, and the teams combined to allow just 16 runs. As a team, the Yanks hit just .222/.295/.304, but their pitchers held the Phillies to a .203/.250/.266 line. Some kid The New York Times called Ed — Ed Ford, 21 and not yet Whitey — won Game Four. (For more on the games, check out Fack Youk’s excellent recaps of Games One and Two and Games Three and Four.)

Although nostalgia runs deep in baseball, this modern World Series with high-definition TV, FoxTrax and a chance to watch it streamed live over the Internet from multiple camera angles, offers up quite the contrast to the Classic played 59 years ago. A clear sign that times have changed comes to us from the Palm Beach Post. Joe Capozzi tracked down Curt Simmons for an interview about that World Series.

Simmons was one of the Phillies’ Whiz Kids at the time. Just 21 in 1950, he went 17-8 with a 3.40 ERA and would have started Game One of the series but for his military service. Simmons was called to active duty on September 4, 1950, and although the Phillies tried to get their ace out of the service, he would not return to the Majors until in 1952 after a stint in Korea.

Simmons was, in fact, the first Major Leaguer to fight in Korea, and he still thinks about that World Series. “Yeah, I’ve wondered,” Simmons, now 80, said to Capozzi. “I’m sure the Phillies would have liked to have had me.”

Simmons’ service is not the only thing that has changed. Take, for example, an article about a TV outage during Game One. The first World Series to be televised was the 1947 match-up, but still in 1950, CBS ran into some troubles. The networked paid $800,000 — or just $7.169 million in today’s dollars — to broadcast the games, and the picture went out just a few minutes into the broadcast. Coverage from Jack Gould and The Times is rather precious:

Pour old TV! After laying out $800,000 to go the world series, it was plagued at yesterday’s opening game by a number of technical mishaps, which were climaxed by Jim Britt’s determined assurances that television really was advancing. All that is needed now is someone to figure out how the darn thing works.

First to disappear was the picture portion of the program, a power failure near Shibe Park in Philadelphia, leaving the screen blank from 1:25 to 1:45. After an inning or so of just voice from the ball game, the video portion was restored. A little later the audio portion was interrupted while the video stayed on. At last reports this voice portion was “lost” somewhere between Philadelphia and the rest of the country. A lot of viewers were not sure where they were, either.

Once the game came back on, Gould questioned the announcer’s abilities to call a game. Jim Britt, the play-by-play man “was not always the best judge of where fly balls were going.” (Paging John Sterling.) Gould praised the “placement of a camera so that there was a direct, downward view of first base” and noted the use of five — five! — cameras for the broadcast. Radio, he said, had “a comparatively uneventful day. It just worked right.”

Other historical quirks abound. Brokers were selling box seats priced at $8.75 for $150 a pair. That today is the equivalent of selling $78 seats for over $1340 a pair. The Phillies’ ticket plan too broke new ground. Called “precedent-shattering” by the Associated Press, the Phillies sold single-game tickets and limited fans to just one game and two tickets to that game. Games were doled out on a first-come, first-serve basis. No longer would one fan be able to buy tickets to all four games, and the Phillies defended the move by noting that 92,000 fans instead of 23,000 fans would see the Series.

The World Series ended with each Yankee receiving a winners share of $5,737 or $51,411.38. This year, the World Series winners will earn shares of around $350,000 per player. And finally, with a victory in hand, Casey Stengel mulled retiring. He would stay on to manage the Yanks for another ten years and would win five more World Series titles. Those were the days.

Will Girardi use Robertson in key situations?

Joe Girardi faced heavy criticism in the ALCS for his bullpen management. After a season of mostly good moves, he made a few inexplicable ones this past round. They ran the gamut of possible errors: taking a guy out too soon, leaving a guy in too long, and using the wrong pitcher. Game 3 featured two such moves. First came when Girardi went to Joba Chamberlain with one out in the seventh. The other came when he removed David Robertson in the 11th.

Robertson is the connecting theme here. Girardi shouldn’t have taken him out in the 11th after he recorded two quick outs, but before that he should have used him in the seventh. It’s pretty clear that the move to the bullpen hasn’t magically turned Joba back into his 2007 version, and it’s equally clear that Robertson is the superior choice at this point. Yet not only did Girardi remove Robertson for a poor reason in Game 3, he refused to use him in Games 4, 5, and 6, despite having plenty of opportunities to do so.

What made Girardi’s decision to not use Robertson even more frustrating is that he continued to use Joba. In Games 2, 3, and 5, Joba recorded three outs but put five men on base. In Game 3 one of those hits led to the go-ahead run scoring on a sac fly. In Game 5 it forced Girardi to bring Mariano into a game where the team was trailing. All the while Robertson sat in the bullpen, wondering what he had to do for Girardi to bring him into the game.

This made Girardi’s decision to use Chamberlain with one on and one out in the seventh inning of Game 6 even more troubling. Again, Joba had faced eight batters in his previous three appearances and let five of them reach base. He ultimately succeeded in Game 6, but a bad bet that works out doesn’t suddenly turn into a good bet. It was a poor move, and Girardi got lucky that Chamberlain didn’t pull the same stunt he had in his previous ALCS appearances.

In his World Series preview, Keith Law advocates a heavier dosage of Robertson.

David Robertson should be the first righty out of the pen over Joba Chamberlain, Chad Gaudin and Alfredo Aceves; if Phil Hughes‘ struggles are more than just a fluke, I’d give Robertson important outs in the eighth. In fact, I’m not sure where I’d deploy Joba at this point; his command is poor, and his stuff isn’t blowing guys away.

In Robertson’s tiny playoff sample he’s allowed two hits in three innings. He does have two walks, which make the numbers look far worse, but both were intentional. When he’s actually pitching to hitters he gets them out — 10 of the 12 batters he’s pitched to in total so far. But that doesn’t tell the story of Robertson’s role on this Yankees team.

He went from erratic mop-up guy earlier in the year to a viable setup man by August. His 4.7 per nine innings walk rate doesn’t speak well of him, but most of that damage came in the first half. From the All-Star Break on, he walked just seven in 21 innings, a 3.00 per nine rate. He also posted excellent strikeout numbers throughout the season, 13 per nine, and that didn’t slow down much in the second half.

Robertson’s greatest asset against the Phillies is his ability to neutralize lefties with his curveball. Lefties faced him 83 times and hit just .189/.277/.324, vs. righties who hit .237/.343/.409. He also strikes out lefties more frequently, about one every 2.8 plate appearances, vs. one every 3.3 appearances against righties. This means that Robertson could pitch a full inning or more, regardless of who is due up. This is in contrast to Phil Coke and Damaso Marte, the lefties in the pen, who will likely face only Ryan Howard. The other lefties in the Phils lineup, Raul Ibanez and Chase Utley, actually hit better against lefties than righties this season.

Phil Hughes might still have a lock on the eighth inning, but at any point before that, Robertson should be the go-to guy. Unfortunately, unless someone changed Girardi’s thinking, Joba will be the first righty out of the pen. That hurts the Yankees in many ways. Robertson is the better option at this point, and considering his strikeout rate and success against lefties, there’s no one better for the Yanks to deploy in the seventh inning.

Laird draws some walks in Surprise losses

The Yanks pulled Austin Romine from the Arizona Fall League after he sustained a minor injury. They opted not to send someone to replace him, so the Rangers sent Taylor Teagarden.

AzFL Surprise (2-1 loss to Peoria Javelinas on Monday) three runs total in an AzFL game? wtf?
Colin Curtis: 3 for 5, 1 K – OPS’ing over 1.200
Brandon Laird: 1 for 2, 1 BB, 1 HBP
Grant Duff: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1-1 GB/FB – 6 of 11 pitches were strikes (54.5%)

AzFL Surprise (7-6 loss to Phoenix on Tuesday)
Brandon Laird: 0 for 3, 2 BB, 1 K

Open Thread: For those Yankee fans in Philly

Much to my surprise, it turns out there are actually some Yankee fans outside of the small municipality of New York. Yeah, I know. Who knew, right?

Well anyway, apparently some of these fans are colonizing down in Philadelphia, and are looking to get together to watch the World Series games. One emailer mentioned that he and about 15 others were meeting up at The Fieldhouse in Reading Terminal Market (linky), but this thread is a place for you guys in Philly to talk it out and figure out if/when/where you’ll meet it up.

Once you guys agree on a place to meet up, shoot me an email via the link in the far right sidebar, and I’ll toss up a post letting the masses know.

Otherwise, use this puppy as your open thread for the night. No baseball, no football, no hockey, no preseason basketball. Nada. I guess you could always catch up on some work or something. Anyway, anything goes, just be nice.

Yanks add Hinske, Bruney for WS

Update by Mike (6:17pm): Bruney’s on, Cervelli’s off.

The Yankees have until 10 a.m. tomorrow to announce their World Series roster, but early indications are that the team plans to change things up from the ALCS. Jack Curry reported earlier today via Twitter that the team has added Eric Hinske to the World Series roster in lieu of Freddy Guzman. Clearly, with action heading to the NL parks, Hinske had to be activated. The Yankees don’t need Freddy Guzman around, and it’s debatable if they even did in the first place. With pitchers hitting this weekend, the Yankees will use Hinske’s bat off the bench. He can pinch hit as needed and could even spell Nick Swisher in right field. This move was a no-brainer.

Meanwhile, according to a report in The Post this morning, Yankee brass are considering adding Brian Bruney to the World Series roster. I’m a bit bearish on Bruney right now. He hasn’t pitched in a game since Oct. 2, and throwing simulated appearances in Tampa pales in comparison to pitching in games. If the Yanks want to add him, however, they easily could do so by dropping a third catcher. After A.J. Burnett‘s showing in Anaheim last week, the Yanks probably don’t need to have Jose Molina caddy for their number two starter. Additionally, Burnett may have to start in Philadelphia, and the Yanks cannot afford to have a pitcher and Jose Molina in the same lineup. Therefore, the Yanks could drop either Molina or Francisco Cervelli and add Brian Bruney. We’ll know for sure by the morning.

The RAB World Series prediction thread, hosted by Jay-Z

With just under 30 hours under the Yankees and the Phillies start the Fall Classic, anticipation is in the air. The Yankees are just four wins away from their first World Series title since I was in high school, and the match up against the Phillies promises to be a compelling one.

As we await tomorrow night’s 7:57 first pitch, everyone and their uncles are getting in on the World Series prediction party. My favorite though is definitely this bit from a Jay-Z interview. Here’s what Shawn Carter had to say:

I actually predicted the Yankees in six with the Angels, so I think I?m like Jigga the Greek. I?m gonna say, Phillies are a bit tougher than the Angels. I?m gonna take Yankees in seven. Dramatic A-Rod walk-off at the end of the game redeeming him for all the time the papers and the media vilified him. Is that specific enough?

Personally, I’d rather not see the Yankees and Phillies go to seven games. I don’t think my baseball-loving heart could take Jigga the Greek’s prediction coming true. An A-Rod walk off would be quite dramatic, but that would mean the Yanks would either be down or losing Game 7 of the World Series.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball is a less disinterested crystal-ball gazer. Jimmy Rollins today predicted the Phillies in five, and the Yanks basically laughed in his face. I couldn’t care less about what he says, basically, because that’s not what’s going to happen,” Mariano Rivera said. “What he says and what’s going to happen is far from that. You know what I mean?” Indeed, I do know what you mean, Mo.

I’ll open up this thread, then, with my prediction. I say Yanks in six. I think the World Series plays out quite similarly to the ALCS. The Yanks will enjoy success in the new ballpark, but the Phillies will win a pair in Citizens Bank. If all goes according to plan, CC Sabathia should take home another postseason MVP award. But that’s hardly the definitive word. What do you think?

Who will win the World Series and in how many games?
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