We all know that offense sells tickets but defense wins championships. In baseball that is clearly pitching and defense that wins championships.
So as we look at the two World Series combatants, the Phillies and the Yankees, we are certain that the Series between two great offensive teams, will be determined by which team gets the most out of its pitching. Essentially which team does the most to neutralize the offensive production of the others.
#1 Starters - CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee. Both of these guys are strong lefthanders who can do the job for their teams. Yet both have some questions heading into the World Series. Lee was atrocious early in the season, settled into a groove, was traded to Philly, and was superb early for the Phils. He's been somewhere better than mediocre recently, but the Phillies might need more. Sabathia was rocked, as a member of the Brewers, by these Phillies last year. Many point to overuse and say CC hasn't had the same type of usage this season as he did last year. I think that is fairly accurate, but his innings are very similar to where they were last year, so can he survive three games in a little more than a week if he's needed?
#2 Starters - AJ Burnett and Pedro Martinez. I think Pedro is going to go in Game 2 for the Phillies. I think they are doing that to have Hamels for Game 7 if they need him. Pedro used to be a power pitcher. Now he's just a pitcher. He's somewhat fresh having only pitched half the season. Burnett has struggled at times, but pitched well down the stretch. The Phillies have had success against him in the past.
#3 Starters - Andy Pettitte and Cole Hamels. Pettitte has the experience but Hamels was tremendous in last year's postseason. He hasn't been as good this year. But he has the type of stuff that could be dominating in a short series. I think Pettitte will give the Phillies trouble.
#4 Starters - Joba Chamberlain or Chad Gaudin and Joe Blanton or JA Happ. I don't think the Yanks are going to use a fourth starter. Philadelphia will unless it is in real trouble. Blanton has been a better pitcher in the National League than he was with Oakland in the AL, but I'm not sure how much he can be trusted in the World Series likely against Sabathia. Happ beat the Yanks earlier this year, but has been very shaky in the postseason.
Bullpens - Both pens have been creaky at best. Brad Lidge had the most dominating season of any closer ever last year. But he has struggled (to say the least) this year. Mariano Rivera is the best postseason pitcher in the history of the game. Bar none. However, bridging the starters to Rivera has been a problem for the Yankees and could easily rear its head here.
Ultimately, I think the Phillies are going to get to Sabathia at least once. But I don't see that happening in Game seven. So I think the Phils have to gain control of the Series in Philadelphia and win a Game six in the Bronx. That is the way I see the Series falling. Phils in six.