Phillies vs. Yankees: a World Series breakdown

The culmination of another long season of baseball commences tonight when the World Series gets under way in the Bronx, N.Y. While most Champaign-Urbana residents aren’t fans of the New York Yankees or the Philadelphia Phillies, as baseball fans we should all sit back and enjoy this World Series. The Yankees’ mystique and aura will clash with the mojo of the defending champion Phillies. Most fans will agree that baseball’s two best teams are facing each other on the game’s biggest stage, something that doesn’t always happen. On top of all that, these two teams might be the best all-around squads to play in the World Series since the Yankees dynasty of the late ’90s. So grab a seat if you love baseball, and while you’re at it, take a look at Daily Illini sports editor Cody Westerlund’s World Series breakdown and prediction.

Starting pitching

The Yankees and Phillies boast two of the best starting staffs in baseball, and it begins at the top for each team. New York ace CC Sabathia will take the ball in Game 1, while Philadelphia will counter with Cliff Lee, who has been nearly unhittable in the playoffs, compiling a 0.74 ERA in three starts. Sabathia and Lee are former Cleveland teammates and have won the last two AL Cy Young awards (Sabathia in ’07 with the Indians, Lee in ’08). A.J. Burnett is a talented, hard-throwing No. 2 for the Yankees but can be inconsistent, as evidenced by a rough Game 5 outing in the ALCS against the Angels. Postseason veteran Andy Pettitte rounds out a solid staff for the Yankees, but the Phillies have an advantage with their No. 2 man, Cole Hamels. Despite struggling this postseason, Hamels has big-game experience as last season’s World Series MVP. Also, a rejuvenated Pedro Martinez has showed signs of his old self, giving the Phillies another weapon.

Verdict: slight edge to Phillies

Bullpen

This isn’t even a contest. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is widely regarded as the greatest postseason pitcher ever, while Phillies closer Brad Lidge always seems one batter away from imploding. In Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, the Yankees also have the power pitching that becomes more important in the postseason against great offenses. The Phillies, on the other hand, have the likes of Chan Ho Park, rookie J.A. Happ, Ryan Madson and Chad Durbin to rely on late in games. Don’t be surprised when the Phillies let a late lead get away and lose a game they shouldn’t.

Verdict: big edge to Yankees

Hitting

While one could argue the World Series participants have the best starting rotations in baseball, this is a not debatable: The Yankees and Phillies have the two top offenses the big leagues.

The star power in the lineups is off the charts. Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira are the big-name sluggers, but the scary part is every hitter in each team’s lineup is talented enough to have a huge game and come up with a big hit.

The two teams are apt to hit the long ball, as the Yankees and the Phillies were Nos. 1 and 2 in the majors this season in home runs, with 244 and 224, respectively.

This is a toss-up, but in the interest of not taking the easy way out, let’s make a pick and not call it even.

Verdict: slight edge to Yankees (courtesy of A-Rod’s tear at the plate)

Defense

Seeing as defense can be hard to gauge, I’ll turn it over to ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian for a little help:

“They both play very good defense. The Phillies are even better this year, given the improvement of Howard at first base. First baseman Mark Teixeira has changed the infield defense for the Yankees … from average to exceptional. And the one thing we’ve learned is that bad defense almost never wins in the postseason.”

So there you go, they both have great defenses. However, let’s give the nod to the Phillies, keeping in mind that the Yankees have Johnny Damon in left field and a catcher, Jorge Posada, who sometimes has trouble behind the plate.

Verdict: edge to Phillies

Intangibles

This category entails everything one can’t see in the box score, such as playoff experience, managers, team speed and ability in the clutch. Both teams pass those categories with flying colors, boasting a plethora of postseason experience, good managers and a comfort in the October spotlight. However, the Yankees one-up the Phillies with their home-field advantage.

Verdict: slight edge to Yankees

Expect an exciting series, but in the end, look for a champion to emerge once again in New York.

Prediction: Yankees in 6