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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Bansal predicts ‘Yankees in seven’

The Major League Baseball season is long and arduous. The regular season is 162 games long, which is about 100 games past my attention span. However, once the weather in Grinnell takes a nasty turn, camping out in a lounge to watch some postseason baseball is about as good as it gets. Or at least it should be—but this postseason has about as much drama and excitement as little league playoffs.
Sure, the New York Yankees’ 4-2 defeat of the Los Angeles Angels in the American League Championship Series was a closely contested matchup of two teams with opposite playing styles. However, no series has gone to seven games in this postseason, and the Yankees’ opponent in the World Series, the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies, have steamrolled their way to a National League Championship. But relief from the boredom has come—we are now being treated to a World Series in which the clear-cut two best teams in baseball are squaring off.
I have been waiting six seasons for a World Series to feature two teams as evenly matched as the Yankees and Phillies are this year. Both these teams have postseason experience, having combined to win three championships in the last decade. Furthermore, both teams are just loaded with talent, boasting fantastic lineups and solid starting pitching. But the gray area for both teams lies in their relievers.
The Yankees bullpen saw a lot of work this season and put up great numbers. It features young guns such as Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, and is anchored by Mariano Rivera, possibly the greatest reliever ever. However, with the exception of “Mo,” the issue for the Yankees bullpen is youth and postseason inexperience. No Yankee reliever, other than Rivera, had more than 3.2 innings of postseason pitching experience under his belt coming into these 2009 playoffs (Rivera, by comparison, has pitched 118 postseason innings). And their major debut hasn’t been very impressive. Both Chamberlain and Hughes were knocked around by the Angels in the ALCS, and Hughes had his struggles with the Minnesota Twins in the divisional round as well. That being said, the Yankees do have some strength with middle relievers David Robertson, Phil Coke and Alfredo Aceves, all who have proven they can get the job done.
The Phillies bullpen is mix-and-match to say the least. The strength of the bullpen lies in the two Phillies relievers that can throw top velocity—Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson. Philly’s closer Brad Lidge converted 41 out of 41 save opportunities during the Phillies’ 2008 Championship Season. However, Lidge struggled mightily in 2009, and he has already blown two saves against the Yankees this season. The Phils’ setup-man, Ryan Madson, has been knocked around this postseason, giving up eight hits and three earned runs in six innings of work. The rest of the Phillies bullpen is as patchy as my facial hair—Chad Durbin has struggled with control issues all year, Chan Ho Park has terrible postseason numbers throughout his long career and Brett Myers is a failed starter who lacks the velocity to succeed as a reliever.  Considering that the Yankees scored more runs from the seventh inning on than any other team in 2009, Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel should be wary. The Phillies bullpen is not awful, but this Yankees lineup can chase all of them if the hitters stay patient and work the count.
Overall, the verdict is that the Yankees have the better relief corp. The difference is that the Phillies pitched to contact and let their outstanding defense go to work, while the Yankees just struck people out. While their struggles thus far this postseason are a concern, the combined talent of Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes out of the bullpen is enormous. Brad Lidge and Chad Durbin have begun to step up this postseason, but both of these guys endured tough regular seasons and are ticking time bombs waiting to get shelled by the Yankees.

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