CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Player Profile: Nick S... (10/28)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Prospectus Today: Turn... (10/26)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Prospectus Today: Comp... (10/29)
Next Article >>
Premium Article World Series Prospectu... (10/28)

October 28, 2009

Prospectus Today

Back from the Future

by Joe Sheehan

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

That was what we needed. After the previous five World Series had been played in just two games over the minimum, the Yankees and Phillies provided nine days of baseball that put the "Classic" back in the Fall Classic. After a postseason that had been thrilling and entertaining, but also sloppy and larded with controversy, the 2009 World Series reminded us of what baseball looks like when it is played at the highest level, with the most passion, for the most valuable stakes.

I was asked on the radio earlier today what my most vivid memory from the 2009 Series would be, what play we'd be associating with this Series 30 years from now, the way Kirby Puckett at a wall is the 1991 World Series, and Joe Carter in the air is 1993, and Reggie Jackson on one knee is 1977. Truth be told, the question stumped me. Under certain circumstances, you'd remember Derek Jeter tearing around third base in the 11th inning of Game Five, carrying the winning run like he stole it, and beating Jayson Werth's throw by an eyelash to give the Yankees their first lead at 11-10. It was one of ten runs Jeter scored in the Series; his strong performance on the biggest stage gave the nation a chance to appreciate a player who has flown under the radar for so many years.

Then again, Game Five also gave us not one, but two confrontations for the ages between Ryan Howard and Mariano Rivera. The first came in the ninth, with the Phillies 90 feet away from repeating as champions, with the entire city of Philadelphia, the entire baseball world, on its feet, screaming at the top of its lungs and holding its breath at the same time. Rivera pounded cutters in on Howard for what seemed like hours in the damp Philly night, finally ending the eighth inning with his eighth pitch of the at-bat, getting the genial slugger to pop meekly to Alex Rodriguez. An hour later, the two met again, Rivera going deeper into a game than he had since he was a starting pitcher. This time, Howard worked a nine-pitch walk with two outs in the 11th that briefly extended the game before Rivera closed it out by getting Werth to fly to right. Those 17 pitches could run on a loop on ESPN Classic all winter; no one would mind.

Howard had it rough, batting .148/.303/.407 in the seven games. The matchup was tough for him, as he faced either a left-hander or Rivera in 25 of his 33 plate appearances. He did manage a long home run off of Sabathia in Game One, and his big game against A.J. Burnett was key in Game Two, but he did little after that.

Game Five was the best of the Series, but the other six provided memories as well. Shane Victorino's back-to-the-infield catch in Game Four, which snuffed out the Yankees' only real rally against Cliff Lee, was the defensive play of… well, maybe the year, much less the series. Chase Utley bounced back from his poor defensive NLDS to remind everyone that he's arguably the best defensive player in baseball, making plays from deep in the 3-4 hole all the way to the second-base bag. Mark Teixeira continued to play defense in a way that made you forget he wasn't hitting, starting a 3-6-1 double play that helped the Yankees escape a bases-loaded situation in Game Six and picking at least three bad throws out of the dirt, including a full-stretch snag that kept Game Seven tied early on.

Of course, that glove work just delayed the inevitable. Cliff Lee was too good for that. Making his third start in nine days, Lee pitched like it was his only start of the year. In fact, after a shaky Game One outing in which he allowed three home runs and failed to pitch into the seventh for the first time this month, Lee bounced back to fire 16 innings of two-run baseball in his next two starts, striking out 14 and walking just one. In both Game Four and Game Seven, Lee outpitched Sabathia, shutting down the Yankee lineup long enough for his teammates to get to the higher-priced southpaw. When Werth continued his big World Series with a two-run homer off Sabathia in the fourth last night, you could feel the air go out of the Stadium; the fans knew getting to three runs was unlikely. Lee deserved his MVP trophy, and if he lets Werth (or even Alex Rodriguez, who hit four homers, including the game-tying three-run blast in Game Five) keep it in his house about half the time, that seems appropriate.

The Series just had so many storylines. There was Pedro Martinez, back at the scene of some of his best work in Game Two, spinning not the overpowering pitches of his youth but the crafty repertoire of a baseball lion in winter. Martinez's seven shutout innings, on the heels of his NLCS start against the Dodgers, will almost certainly bring him a number of contract offers this offseason. The memory of his five shaky innings in Game Six will be overpowered by the way in which he carved up the two best offenses-well, the two best not supporting him, anyway-in the game. Andy Pettitte, the "other" great veteran starter in this series, reached back for one of his best nights ever as the Yankees faced elimination in that Game Six, throwing seven shutout innings to keep hope alive for one more night. The roar for Pettitte as he walked off the field in the seventh, clearly spent after 110 pitches, was perhaps the loudest the new park in the Bronx has heard. Rodriguez didn't lead the Yankees to a title, but he capped his amazing October by hitting .407/.485/.888 and forever shedding-please, dear god, make it so-his undeserved reputation as a player who fails in the postseason. On the other hand, A.J. Burnett combined to allow 11 runs in 8 ⅓innings in his two starts, ending a successful first season in pinstripes as one of the goats of the Series. The Phillies were never going to be a good matchup for Burnett, but the extent of the damage was unforeseen. Only a miracle comeback from six runs down in Game Five kept Burnett from becoming a curse word on the Grand Concourse.

Yankee fans are going to look back to Game Three with regret. Cole Hamels channeled 2008 by throwing eight innings, striking out nine and allowing just two baserunners. Pettitte was just as good through six, but Joe Girardi, perhaps looking ahead to a short-rest start in Game Six, pulled Pettitte in favor of Joba Chamberlain to start the seventh. Chamberlain walked Werth, and allowed a double to Raul Ibañez, and by the time the inning ended, Girardi had used four relievers to allow five runs and put the Yankees down 2-1 in the Series. There's no guarantee that Pettitte would have continued to shut down the Phillies, but the decision to use Chamberlain instead of Philip Hughes was inexplicable no matter the outcome. Girardi didn't overmanage to the extent that he did in the ALCS, but between that call and some overaggressiveness with the bench in the wild Game Five that left him short of options in extra innings, he gave his critics plenty of ammunition.

All of these things will make the highlight reel. None of them will be at the front. No, I think the first thing I'm going to remember from this World Series happened after the final game. At a little after midnight, with the rain picking up and the temperature dropping, when they might well have rushed for the exits, the disappointed Yankee Stadium crowd cheered raucously. As the Phillies' were unpiling, a couple of minutes after Brad Lidge got Melky Cabrera to pop out to end the game, the remaining fans, maybe 80 percent of the ones in attendance, let forth a roar for their conquered heroes, and for the villains from Philadelphia who had added the team in the Bronx to the one in Queens to its list of victims. It was out of place, and unexpected, and beautiful.

They weren't cheering the Yankees. They weren't cheering the Phillies. They were cheering baseball.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

Related Content:  The Who

29 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

jtrichey

Why do you hate the Phillies?

Oct 28, 2009 11:42 AM
rating: 2
 
nicopad

C'mon, Joe. Yanks are taking it. No reverse jinxes at BP.

Oct 28, 2009 11:52 AM
rating: -1
 
thenamestsam

Joe, I'm usually a big fan of your work, and there's some nice writing here, but really I come to the sight to read analysis of baseball, and while I understand that Jaffe had the main writeup of the WS matchup, I can't help but feel dissapointed to be reading fiction rather than your take on the matchup. I see what you were trying to do, but there's about two pieces of insight into what you see happening and then a lot of fairy tales.

Oct 28, 2009 11:54 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

Fine...

It's a very close matchup.

Howard vs. Rivera in a big spot is arguably the most thrilling matchup you can have. Rivera may be slightly, ever so slightly, better.

The Yankees, with Rivera and all their lefty starters, should be able to control Howard.

These are both strong defensive teams--the Yankees because they've improved by signing Teixeira and committing to Damon in left and Cabrera in center. The Phillies have been strong for three years now, and have a number of underrated defenders.

Cliff Lee is at his peak and will be an incredibly tough matchup for the Yankees.

Jayson Werth benefits from all the Yankee lefties, the opposite of Howard.

Pedro Martinez is still capable of beating good teams, just in a different way than at his peak.

This series sets up well for Andy Pettitte, who will be strong in his two starts.

A.J. Burnett and the Phillies is a mismatch. Twice.

The Phillies' bullpen will cost them at least one game, maybe two.

Joe Girardi will make a key mistake to cost a game.

Phillies in seven.

(65)

Oct 28, 2009 12:16 PM
 
thenamestsam

I wasn't trying to be a jerk. I'm sorry if it came across that way or you took it that way. Yes, I can read and I did take all those points away from your article. It's just that a World Series breakdown that can be not summed up, but entirely repeated in substance in 12 one line bullet points is not as much as I had hoped for. That was my only point, I'm sorry if it offended you in any way.

Oct 28, 2009 12:46 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

I liked the writing device he used. Then again, I read it to get Joe's prediction on the "feel" of how the series would play out and what some key events or issues might be and wasn't really holding it as some PECOTA-driven accurate prediction.

Oct 28, 2009 13:04 PM
rating: -2
 
jlefty

Why is A.J. Burnett and the Phillies a mismatch? They don't take a ton of pitches or walk very much, which could potentially minimize his greatest weakness. And he's very tough on lefties. Only 63 homers in 3102 career ABs versus lefties. Which is a sliver better than CC, and a ton better than pettitte. His OPS against lefties is also better than Pettitte's, but worse than CC's. (I know, I know, there's probably a bit of sample selection bias in there).

Or is there something else you had in mind when you called it a mismatch, besides the Phillies' lefty leaning lineup?

Oct 28, 2009 13:55 PM
rating: 0
 
Chris Thomas

Only 5 teams in baseball swung at a lower % of pitches than the Phillies - (Boston, both New York teams, Brewers, Dodgers).

Oct 28, 2009 14:04 PM
rating: 1
 
jlefty

Touche, sorta. They were very middle of the pack when it comes to swinging at balls out of the strike zone, which means they take a higher percentage of strikes.

Oct 28, 2009 15:39 PM
rating: 0
 
jlefty

Just Sayin.

Oct 29, 2009 20:35 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

What about Game 1 of the series where the umpires "blew the cycle" and missed calls at first, second, third base and home plate? I'd remember that as the key turning point towards replacing Tim McClelland with an iMac.

Oct 28, 2009 12:13 PM
rating: 7
 
ElAngelo
(942)

"There was Pedro Martinez, back at the scene of some of his best work in Game Two..."

I didn't realize they were playing the World Series in the old stadium.

Oct 28, 2009 12:24 PM
rating: 1
 
Vilica

Thanks for jinxing it Joe... now we're gonna get a 4-0 Yankees sweep where the Phillies hold a lead for like three innings the entire time.

Oct 28, 2009 12:24 PM
rating: 0
 
baserip4

Would that we get a back-and-forth series before this fall is over!

Oct 28, 2009 12:26 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

You mean you don't want to channel flip between Game 7 of the World Series and the Super Bowl?

Oct 28, 2009 12:31 PM
rating: 5
 
Richie

Sorry, Joe, but Bergstrom's material outdoes yours'.

Oh, and your last two paragraphs are just unbelievable. Rest is pretty good, tho'. Just not Bergstromian.

Oct 28, 2009 12:39 PM
rating: -2
 
Richard Bergstrom

I have a bit of a background in fiction writing so my quipping and slippery slope skills are pretty good, so it's easy to comment off the cuff... but it's harder to write something original like what Joe did.

Oct 28, 2009 13:08 PM
rating: -1
 
buffum
(458)

I actually really liked the literary device. There were easily-found trends and analytic nuggets throughout the piece (the Yankees approach to Howard, for example: whether that's what they actually do or not, Joe is saying that if they take that approach, it should bear excellent fruit), and the style was a nice contrast to other pieces available here and elsewhere.

It's hard writing the same way about the same thing every day. I just wanted Joe to know that I appreciate the change-up as a reader as well.

Oct 28, 2009 12:57 PM
rating: 6
 
timoseppa

The Yankees have a habit of hitting a pitcher better in his second start in a series. And they'll not only have two, but possibly three starts against Lee - with Lee on short rest to boot. I say Lee wins one at most, with tonight the most likely candidate. If the Yankees pull it out tonight, though, it'll be a short series.

(Kudos on your line about Girardi "manufacturing outs" during the Angels series, btw - One of my all time favorites.)

Oct 28, 2009 12:59 PM
rating: 2
 
Chris Thomas

If you're wrong, it's because the number is too high.

Oct 28, 2009 13:25 PM
rating: 1
 
AlexMcCrum

All right. I'm kind of excited for the World Series now. Which is pretty good for someone who hates the Phillies almost as much as the Yankees.

Oct 28, 2009 14:00 PM
rating: 1
 
SamHughes

Wonderfully entertaining, with some nice tongue-in-cheekers (Derek Jeter, "a player who has flown under the radar for so many years"!!!), plausibly choice details ("the decision to use Chamberlain instead of Philip Hughes was inexplicable no matter the outcome"), and of course the attempt to reverse-black-cat the Phils by going all Opposite George on us. ;-P

No matter who wins, I hope reality lives up to the promise of this imagination.

Oct 28, 2009 15:09 PM
rating: 1
 
Ray Whatley
(267)

The Yankees, with Rivera and all their lefty starters, should be able to control Howard.

That's all well and good, but as a Yankee fan, the thought of either Marte or Coke facing Howard in a game situation in the 7th inning, say, is what really scares me.

Oct 28, 2009 21:57 PM
rating: 0
 
gophils

i enjoyed it. nice work joe.

Oct 29, 2009 05:02 AM
rating: 0
 
Lyford
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.


I have no comment on the article, other than I couldn't read past the "gave the nation a chance to appreciate a player who has flown under the radar for so many years" line being applied to Derek "Most Overrated Great Player in the History of the Game" Jeter. That combination of words has no meaning in the world in which I live, but it doesn't read like sarcasm.

So I stopped.

Oct 29, 2009 09:20 AM
rating: -4
 
jlefty

Obvious sarcasm is obvious.

Oct 29, 2009 11:48 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Obviously.

Oct 29, 2009 15:29 PM
rating: 1
 
Bob1475

Damn - I missed the crowd cheering baseball at the end! Network had moved on to analysis.

Oct 29, 2009 10:08 AM
rating: 0
 
eighteen

Actually, they cut straight to the Budweiser and Viagra commercials.

Oct 29, 2009 12:10 PM
rating: 0
 
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
Player Profile: Nick S... (10/28)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Prospectus Today: Turn... (10/26)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Prospectus Today: Comp... (10/29)
Next Article >>
Premium Article World Series Prospectu... (10/28)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Baby Blue Jays Crash T...
Fantasy Article The Buyer's Guide: Ubaldo Jimenez
Premium Article The Call-Up: Austin Hedges
Premium Article Raising Aces: Postmortem: Chris Sale vs. the...
Premium Article What You Need to Know: Jake!
Premium Article Monday Morning Ten Pack: May 4, 2015
Premium Article Rubbing Mud: The Best Rivalry In Baseball (R...

MORE FROM OCTOBER 28, 2009
Premium Article World Series Prospectus: Yankees versus Phil...
Player Profile: Nick Swisher
Premium Article Changing Speeds: Smoltz, SOMA, and the Serie...
Premium Article On the Beat: World Series News
Premium Article Ahead in the Count: The Mashers and the Mash...

MORE BY JOE SHEEHAN
2009-11-01 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Game Three Recap
2009-10-30 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: A Classic Confrontation
2009-10-29 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Complete Mastery
2009-10-28 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Back from the Future
2009-10-26 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Turning the Trick in Six
2009-10-23 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Speed Up for a Showdown
2009-10-22 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Outskipper'd
More...

MORE PROSPECTUS TODAY
2009-11-01 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Game Three Recap
2009-10-30 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: A Classic Confrontation
2009-10-29 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Complete Mastery
2009-10-28 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Back from the Future
2009-10-26 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Turning the Trick in Six
2009-10-23 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Speed Up for a Showdown
2009-10-22 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Outskipper'd
More...

INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2009-10-29 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Complete Mastery