October 28, 2009
SI.com's resident experts provide their picks for the 2009 World Series.
Yankees vs. Phillies
Tom Verducci
Baseball really needs a Game 7. Over the past six years, there have been 28 World Series games, just four over the minimum. Not since 1913-1918 has there been six straight World Series played without a Game 7, and one more year without one would be a record drought. We have the right teams to go the limit: tough-minded, battle-tested ballclubs that bounce back well from deficits and losses. The Yankees have what matters most in a close series: home-field advantage and Mariano Rivera.
Jon Heyman
The Phillies are one tough bunch, but the Yankees have a few slight edges. On the biggest stuff, it's a draw: Cliff Lee is pitching just as superbly as CC Sabathia, and the Phillies' everyday lineup is the only one in baseball that can match the Yankees' lineup. But here are the small advantages: 1) A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte over Pedro Martinez, a struggling Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton; 2) home field, 3) the great Mariano Rivera over the resurgent Brad Lidge.
Ted Keith
The teams are evenly matched in so many key ways, from the pair of expat Indians lefties to their slugging corner infielders on historic hot streaks this month to the fact that the Yankees had the game's best home record and the Phillies had the best road record, that it seems hard to imagine this being anything other than a seven-game classic. The Phillies have power and speed to spare and might run wild, plus a better defense. The Yankees have a slightly more dangerous lineup, a better bench and Mariano Rivera. He'll be the difference-maker.
Joe Posnanski
My very talkative cab driver is worried, but he thinks the Yankees' bullpen will make the difference. Who am I to argue with my cab driver? The Yankees are too tough at home and in the late innings.
Lee Jenkins
There are a lot of reasons to pick the Yankees. But the Phillies are the rare team -- especially in the National League -- that can match lineups with them. Their pitching staff is not as deep, but Cliff Lee has emerged as a true ace, and their bullpen has found its groove at the right time. If the Phillies can keep the series close, their home-park advantage (11-1 at Citizens Bank Park in the last two post-seasons) and the experience they gained in last year's World Series will lead them to a repeat.
Ben Reiter
The Phillies can almost match the Yankees' power, and thanks to the brilliant in-season acquisitions by first-year GM Ruben Amaro of Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez they can almost match their starting pitching. "Almost" will be good enough for the Phillies to win a couple of games (at least one of which should come from Lee, who went 2-1 against the Yanks in three starts over the past two seasons, holding the Bombers to four earned runs in 19 innings), but likely not four.
Joe Lemire
So much has been made of each team's potent lineup, but they are essentially even. The Yankees have a slight edge in the brute-force department -- they're a little better across the board in homers (a lead of 20), on-base percentage (28 points higher) and slugging (41 points) -- but the Phillies even it with historically good baserunning (119 steals, only 28 times getting caught). The Yankees, however, have the better pitching staff. Even if former Indians rotation mates CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee pitch to a draw, the Yankees have a slight edge with the rest of the rotation; A.J. Burnett, Cole Hamels and Pedro Martinez have had their inconsistencies, but seasoned playoff veteran Andy Pettitte has been a rock for New York. And Mariano Rivera's ability to go up to two innings can mask some of the shortcomings in the rest of the Yankees' bullpen.
David Sabino
These teams are the opposite league's version of each other, featuring historically productive infields, outstanding starting pitching with two lefties in each rotation, plenty of postseason experience and players who step up when the lights are brightest. The much-maligned Phillies bullpen evened the gap between itself and the Yankees with Brad Lidge's bounceback and the struggles of Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Alfredo Aceves. In the end, it'll come down to New York's home-field advantage to separate these two teams of destiny, and in the end the Yankees emerge from an eight-year championship drought.
Cliff Corcoran
These two teams are so evenly matched -- particularly with Nick Swisher (a career .161/.319/.214 hitter in 70 postseason plate appearances) and the Yankees' setup relievers struggling, and Carlos Ruiz (a career .296/.406/.432 hitter in 96 postseason PA) and Brad Lidge (zero runs, one hit this postseason) thriving -- that one misstep by either team could tip the balance. The only pitching matchup that really favors either team is Andy Pettitte over a struggling Cole Hamels in Game 3, and I'd rather have CC Sabathia doubling up on three days' rest in Game 7 than Cliff Lee, but the only result that would surprise me is a series that fails to go at least six games.
Jonah Freedman
Is winning a second straight title as near-impossible as they say? Over the last 20 years, the Fall Classic winner is three for six in return trips the following October. So I don't buy the conventional wisdom, and the Phils have the mental makeup and togetherness to win it again. Still, with the Yanks closer than they have been since '03, you get the sense that A-Rod and Bombers have their phasers set on kill. This has the makings of the greatest World Series in a quarter-century. Shame on you if you're tuning it out.
Albert Chen
A slugfest, anyone? For only the third time in history, the teams that ranked first and second in home runs face off in the World Series. Joe Girardi's decision to start Pettitte over CC in Game 6 against the Angels pays of huge now, as Sabathia can go three times in the Turnpike Series. And that's one big, 290-pound reason why the Yankees have an edge in the series. Another reason: The Phillies bullpen hasn't seen anything quite like this Yankee lineup. In other words, if we see Brad Lidge as often as Kate Hudson, Philly's toast.
Melissa Segura
I looked on the mound and in the bullpens. I scoured through the lineups and doubled-checked the benches. You know what? I could find no bankable advantage for either team. The bullpens will once again factor heavily into this series, with Philly fans wondering which Brad Lidge will show up while New York will hold its collective breath as it crosses the Chamberlain/Hughes bridge to Mariano Rivera.

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