Yankees, Quickly

I know, I know – the Yankees have not even made the World Series yet. George Steinbrenner would file a protest if somebody told him I was already picking them to beat the Phillies.

But I speak to you as a season-long skeptic about New York, who now looks at this team and believes they should’ve swept the Angels, but for some over-managing by Joe Girardi. I still think the Yankees have some holes and I wouldn’t leave my season in the hands of A.J. Burnett and I still don’t like starting CC Sabathia on short rest. 
But one set of statistics should make Phillies fans shudder: 


Those are Ryan Howard’s numbers against lefthanded pitchers, during the regular season, in Citizens Bank Park, in 2009. And it’s not a small sample, it’s 107 at bats, and he struck out in 51 of them. And no matter whether Girardi is going to push the envelope on Sabathia and try him on three days’ rest again, or play it safe, there will be two games at home in which Ryan Howard will have to face Sabathia and Andy Pettitte. He has seen nothing like them individually during the post-season, and nothing like them in tandem, conceivably in consecutive starts, during the regular season. The Phillies might as well bench him in those games over Halloween weekend.
It’s not like he’s good against lefties out-of-town, either. Howard’s line this year is 6-33-.207-.298-.356. And he will open at Yankee Stadium against Sabathia, who during the season gave up twelve hits, and no home runs, to lefthanded batters, in fourteen starts. Pettitte has been less dominant than Sabathia against lefty hitters in New York, but even he has only surrendered five homers to them at home.
The other Phillies do not fold entirely against southpaws but they become less imposing. Here are their key lefthanded or switch batters versus lefty pitchers:

Ibanez:   13-40-.285-.359*-.639*

Rollins:     7-22-.230-.266-.425*

Utley:      11-33-.288-.417-.545

Victorino:  2-12-.314*-.385*-.459*

  * better LH than RH

The problem becomes apparent when you consider the way the two ways the Yankees could set up their rotation:

Game One, Wednesday 10/28, @ New York: Sabathia*

Game Two, Thursday 10/29, @ New York: Burnett

Game Three, Saturday 10/31, @ Philadelphia: Pettitte*

Game Four, Sunday 11/1, @ Philadelphia: Sabathia* or ?

Game Five, Monday, 11/2, @ Philadelphia: Burnett, ? or Sabathia*

Game Six, Wednesday, 11/4 @ New York: Pettitte* or Burnett

Game Seven, Thursday, 11/5 @ New York: Sabathia* or Pettitte*

If the Phillies get to the seventh game, and if Joe Girardi plays it conservatively, they will have already had to face starts by three southpaws, and then beat Pettitte in the finale, with Sabathia available in the bullpen. It is absolutely plausible that Girardi will not be conservative at all, and will have already started both Sabathia and Pettitte twice each, with Sabathia gearing up for the start in the decider.

It’s a slightly more daunting task than beating the Rockies with no lefty starters, and then flummoxing a slumping Clayton Kershaw and beating, in a do-or-die game for the other team, a starter who was released by Texas two months ago and on whom you can always rely – he’ll always let you down. And they don’t have a power plug-in for the DH in The Stadium (unless Charlie Manuel were to pull a real rabbit out of his hat, like John Mayberry, Jr.).

I don’t think they can do it. Congrats on that pennant.
PS: For whatever this is worth, Howard went 2-for-14 in the three-game clash at Yankee Stadium in May. The hits were both off Sabathia, and both infield singles to the left side.


  1. unpaka27@yahoo.com

    First off, for anybody rooting for the Yankees as I am, here’s an image you might enjoy. It’s a penguin in a Yankees uniform, and I’ve posted a link because I can’t make the image show up here:
    A download link for a larger image is available on that page. It’s great for use in making a fun, simple desktop wallpaper.

    Now to the serious stuff. I agree with you, that the Phillies basically played opposing teams who barely bothered showing up. And I don’t just say that because I don’t care for the Phillies. I say it because the Rockies and the Dodgers epitomized EPIC FAIL.

    My apologies to any Angels fans who think this is premature, but I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing the Yankees put away the Phillies. It’d be icing on the cake, if the Yankees managed to pull off a sweep. Bring on the brooms, they’ll be marked down after Halloween! 😀

  2. mepreport

    I’m going to pretend that you didn’t write this post BEFORE the Yanks have clinched anything, not wanting to revive any 2004 ALCS poltergeists.

    Move along. Nothing to see here.

  3. unpaka27@yahoo.com

    Nothing to see here? Is that your way of telling Keith thanks for compiling all those statistics? You should go to eBay and see if you can bid on some gratitude. (Just kidding, LOL)

    I just found another Yankees penguin. Python fans could print one of these out, and put it on the telly.
    “What’s on the television then?” “Looks like a penguin in a Yankees uniform…!”

  4. christenhittie@yahoo.com

    I am holding my ears and singing, “Blah, blah blah.” As a confirmed Yankee-hater, I am hoping Keith is wrong! (I do , however, acknowledge, that on most topics, Keith is never wrong; hence, the childish behavior.)

    I feel statistics are guides, not predictors. We have seen exceptional playing out of what was once considered mediocre teams. The Phillies may be approaching their zenith here…

    Penguins in Yankee uniforms may qualify as abuse…lol!

  5. cohenjill@comcast.net

    I love and admire you very much, but, you haven’t been right about the Phillies at all this post season. The Phillies will win the WS. Whether it is against the Yanks or the Angels we don’t know yet. Stop counting your chickens before they hatch. Go Phils!

  6. cohenjill@comcast.net

    And another thing…if we are going by past performances who won 2 out of 3 of the games in the Phils v. Yanks this season? If memory serves my right it could have been 3 out of 3 but that was when Lidge was struggling. He isn’t struggling anymore. The regular season and the post season are 2 different animals. The Phillies are better than they were last year.

    I disagree with your analysis of the Phils v. Rockies. The Rockies were on a major role winning about 17 of their last 22 and almost taking the division from the Dodgers. The Yanks played the Twins who got into the playoffs less than 24 hours and more than 1500 miles before they had to play the Yanks. Who had the easier first game?

  7. p_trick77@yahoo.com

    With all due respect Keith, I don’t think that Ryan Howard’s regular season numbers against lefties is a good argument for the Yankees winning the world series(when/if they win the ALCS) I don’t have the stats, but Howard looked pretty comfortable against all the Dodgers lefties, including Kuo, Sherril and Wolf. Besides, every starting player drove in runs in the series. They nearly had every starting position player score a run in TWO separate games(Everyone in Game 3, only Ruiz did not cross the plate in Game 5). If Howard doesn’t get it done, there will be someone else to step up. I agree with you about the DH, that is a difficult position to play with no experience. But the Phillies won it all last year, are extremely confident and have shown that they don’t give up until the last out has been made. It should be a good series.

  8. whhw412@gmail.com

    Ok, good point about Howard; however, let’s look @ some points you neglect. The Phillies beat Sabathia in last year?s postseason, something you failed to mention. He may have been on short rest, but the Phils did it without Howard or Utley going off in the game. It was Victorino who delivered the big blow. Statistically this year Utley & Victorino have a .417 & .385 OBP against lefties, which you mention in passing. Howard may struggle, but not when men are on base in front of him this postseason. He’s been electric & you can turn on any highlight show to see his results. Then the biggest glaring issue you forgot to mention is Jayson Werth, who had a .436 OBP with a 1.080 OPS versus lefties. Howard gets the press, but it’s a team effort @ the plate. They are patient, wait for their pitch, & there is no easy out. The Yanks should pray Sabathia/Burnett/Pettite go deep in games b/c other than Rivera, your bullpen has right handers, who will undoubtedly have to go up against the Phillies? heart of the order at some point. Your only lefties are nowhere near Kuo or Sherrill. Phil Coke has a 6.85 Road ERA. Don?t get me started on Marte. I could see you going after Lidge, Hamels, or other areas the Phils have shown some kinks in their armor, but to go after this lineup is crazy. You have a 3 man rotation that will have to get it done in South Philly. CC didn?t get it done there before, so for a man so concerned with stats, why don?t you look at the most important one, which I?ll reiterate. He gave up 5 runs the last time he faced us in the postseason & lost.

    Also, Keith, why so smug? Calling out the Phillies in such a manner – ?I don’t think they can do it. Congrats on that pennant.? ? is not smart. The Phils have been doubted all year, but they are back in the World Series. I can?t name the countless talking heads who said they couldn?t beat the Dodgers and their bullpen can?t hold up. Well, why don?t you ask Torre, Broxton, & Manny about that? Lastly, this Yankees team hasn?t seen competition near the Phils. The Angels & Twins are good teams, but play small ball. The Phils pile up runs like no other. These aren?t the Yankees of old. There are more players on the Phillies with a World Series ring than the Yankees. This is an experienced team with all the tools to win everyday, who did it last year. Let?s see who holds up. Every team the Phils face has to fear them b/c they can beat you multiple ways. In fact, your post is so arrogant it sounds like a fearful diatribe as the Phillies are the only team with enough talent to stand up to the team $200 million buys you. You know it & the Yankees know it. Now, well see how good they can be against a great team.

  9. olympictrees@aol.com

    No no no no no!! You’re ALL wrong! All of you!

    The MARINERS are going to win the World Series! Really!

    Oh wait… what year is this again? 😀 Oops – never mind. They’ll take it in 2013. You heard it here first, people. Best part is, when 2013 gets here and I’m wrong, nobody will remember this!

  10. 1948braves

    As we approach the World Series and near the end of the baseball season, some blasts from the past:

    “I dunno. I never smoked any Astroturf.” – Asked for a preference of grass or Astroturf. Tug McGraw

    “Let the teachers teach English and I will teach baseball. There is a lot of people in the United States who say isn’t, and they ain’t eating.” Dizzy Dean

    “I know (Sandy) Koufax weakness. He can’t hit.” Whitey Ford

    “The beanball is one of the meanest things on Earth and no decent fellow would use it. The beanball is a potential murderer. If I were a batter and thought the pitcher really tried to bean me, I’d be inclined to wait for him outside the park with a baseball bat.” Walter Johnson

    “I’d rather be lucky than good.” Lefty Gomez

    “Less than a foot made the difference between a hero and a bum.” Grover Alexander

    “The two most important things in life: good friends and a strong bullpen.” Bob Gibson

    Best moment for me this season – Keith Olbermann’s trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame. No one can tell a story like he can. No one. Keith has this wonderful ability to tell us things that we life long baseball fans never knew. He loves the history of baseball, so evident all season long as he took us with him for a ride down baseball memory lane. One of the best feelings in the world. This is the gift his baseball blog gave to us.

    Cheers to 2009.

  11. olympictrees@aol.com

    1948braves, agreed. I’m visiting my mother, and I read her the Tug McGraw quote… she laughed out loud at that one. Good stuff – thanks.

    And yeah, Keith Olbermann has a real gift with words, as we’ve seen here and on Countdown. The Christy Mathewson story had me glued to the screen, and made me wish I had been there with Keith, looking through the archives. I can’t imagine a better guide for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

    I love baseball, but don’t know as much about it as most here seem to… I just know I enjoy watching a good game.

    Keith, if you ever write a book about baseball history, one that tells the stories of the players and the game… I’ll be in line at the bookstore, waiting for my copy.

  12. 1948braves

    olympictrees: I’m glad your mother laughed at the McGraw quote. It was funny. One of the things I always loved about baseball were the characters in the game who we all got to know over the years from either reading about them or listening to a broadcaster relay stories from the old days. Some of the players were really funny without trying to be.

    This quote is my all time favorite as told by Tim McCarver: I remember one time going out to the mound to talk with Bob Gibson. He told me to get back behind the batter; that the only thing I knew about pitching was that it was hard to hit.

    It just never gets old with me.

    The most recognized name for pitching excellence. Holds all-time records for wins 511, innings pitched 7355, games started 815, and complete games 749. In honor of his accomplishments, baseball created the Cy Young award.

    “One of the fellows called me ‘Cyclone’ but finally shortened it to ‘Cy’ and its been that ever since.” Cy Young

  13. dodge17

    Oh Olby, you homer you.

    Say, if Ryan Howard goes 2-14, with two singles to left, against the Yanks, can the Phils win 2 of 3?

    I was fine with your stats last night on Countdown, until you made the mistake of drawing a conclusion.

    I can only hope Matthews counters tonight. And, yes, the Phils will dominate. They ARE that good.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s