Earlier today, I compared Philadelphia’s infield to New York’s infield and, although the matchup was relatively close, I concluded that the Yankees had the better group of players, overall. Now, I’m looking at outfields and DH options.
Nick Swisher (SW): Ah, the lovable Nick Swisher, who many thought should have been benched during the latter portion of the ALCS. Swish suffered from a tough matchup in that he never hit any of the Angels well, so I’m not going to expect him to play poorly against the Phillies. What I do know, however, is that Swisher hit .249/.371/.498 during the regular season, clubbing 29 home runs (or away runs, I guess, when you consider the splits), while having the highest walk percentage of any right fielder in 2009 (16.3 %). His wOBA of .375 was also the 4th best in the AL at right. Basically, Swisher is a good offensive player, regardless of his ALCS struggles. In addition, he’s also a pretty good right fielder. Though his 0.5 UZR and -1.6 UZR/150 would have you believe that he’s merely average with the glove, Swisher’s range rating—5.5 runs above average—says otherwise. The kid can do it all, folks (3.7 WAR).
Jayson Werth (RH): To be perfectly honest, while I’m not trying to discount Ryan Howard’s talent, Jayson Werth could very well be the Phillies’ scariest all around position player behind my man crush, Chase Utley. He’s just that good. In 2009, Werth hit .268/.373/.506, with 36 home runs, 99 RBI, and a .382 wOBA (3rd best in the NL at his position). He’s both powerful and patient (91 walks), much like a Yankee. While his speed score is Ryan Howardesque at 4.8, Werth managed to swipe 20 bases this year in 23 tries. Simply put, like Swisher, the man can play. He’s also rated well by defensive metrics, as UZR has him at 6.3 (5.7 UZR/150)—tops in the NL (good arm, good range). Once you combine Werth’s offensive and defensive talent, you have a player that is worth 4.7 WAR. He is Philadelphia’s best kept secret—a 6’ 5’’ superstar that no one really knows about.
Pitching to Werth: The Yankees are going to want to stay on the outer part of the strike zone in order to limit Werth’s power. Most of his home runs this season have been to left field, meaning he likes to pull pitches. Although he can hit the ball all over the park, only 4 of his homers were hit to right field, so if they can live on the outer edge of the zone, perhaps they’ll be able to prevent some of his powerful production. Working ahead of Werth is also key as he is a strikeout candidate. In fact, he strikes out 27.3% of the time, which is the 3rd highest percentage in baseball at his position.
Winner: Werth. He’s simply a better player.
Melky Cabrera (SW): Melky is the Yankees worst hitter, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing when you’re in a lineup as deep as New York’s. He hit .274/.336/.416 this season with a .331 wOBA (9th in the league). While his offense is limited, thanks in part to the new Yankee Stadium, Melky managed to hit 13 homers and, in total, he drove in 68 runs. Plus, the Melk Man is a sleeper on the base paths. He stole 10 bases this season in 12 tries, despite a slightly below average speed score of 4.4 (5 is average). On the defensive side of things, Melky is no slouch in the outfield. He’s rated average by UZR (2.6) and most of that rating is based on his range. He also has a good arm, however, he needs to use it wisely (i.e., no overthrowing). Altogether, he’s worth 1.6 WAR, which is the third lowest value among AL center fielders.
Shane Victorino (SW): As Chad Jennings recently noted, the Yankees would probably like Austin Jackson to develop into a player like Victorino. The Flyin’ Hawaiian hit .292/.358/.445 this year with a .354 wOBA (2nd best for an NL center fielder). Surprisingly, he only hit 10 home runs when most thought he would get closer to 20 after his 14 home run campaign in 2008. For what he lacks in power, he seems to make up for in his speed, as Victorino stole 25 bases this season (though he did get caught 8 times). His speed score of 7.4 is also the 3rd highest in the NL. Moving away from offense, Victorino’s defense has been trumpeted as a significant asset, yet his UZR this year wasn’t particularly impressive. After being rated the 3rd best defender in the NL, at his position, in 2008, Victorino’s -4.2 UZR has him ranked closer to the bottom of the pack in 2009. This is primarily due to a huge decrease in Victorino’s range rating (-0.1 a year ago, -8.9 this year). He still has a plus arm, however, so runners beware. I wonder if Victorino’s disappointing rating have been influenced by the influx of defensive talent in center this season, making Victorino’s score lower than what it would have been in years past (it’s a relative stat). In the end, whatever the reasoning for Victorino’s down defensive year, he’s still worth 3.4 WAR (6th best in the NL).
Pitching to Victorino: Victorino, a switch-hitter, is better against lefties than he is against righties, an attribute that could definitely benefit him in this series (against Sabathia and Pettitte). According to pitch value data, he’s a total fastball hitter, so it would be best for the Yankees to attack him with a lot of breaking stuff or at least spot the fastball inside when he’s batting right-handed and outside when he’s batting left-handed. He’s 7.5 runs below average on changeups, and he also doesn’t hit sliders well. These are numbers that could haunt him in Game 1, when facing CC Sabathia. Don’t expect Victorino to strikeout much, though. He K’d 11.5% of the time this season, the lowest such percentage of any center fielder in the NL.
Winner: Victorino. His bat is better than Melky’s bat, plus he has real speed.
Johnny Damon (LH): Johnny Damon had a pretty nice contract year in 2009, hitting .282/.365/.489, while swatting all 24 of his home runs—a career high—over the short porch at Yankee Stadium (he had 0 opposite field home runs). Furthermore, Damon’s .376 wOBA was the 3rd highest in the AL at his respective position, and he exhibited solid plate patience, walking 11.4% of the time (2nd highest for AL left fielders). At the age of 35, the wheels are still intact, though they’re nowhere near as good as they used to be. Damon stole 12 bases in 2009, his lowest total since he debuted with the Royals in 1995. His 5.9 speed score was also the lowest of his career. In terms of his defense, Damon went from being one of the better left fielders in the game in 2008 (6.7 UZR, 11.6 UZR/150), to one of the worst in 2009 (-11.2 UZR, -11.9 UZR/150). He has looked bad in left field all year and one wonders how this will cost the team going forward. Therefore, while his offensive value is a plus, especially at Yankee Stadium, Damon’s poor defense severely impacts his overall value (2.8 WAR—the 2nd lowest value in the AL).
Raul Ibanez (LH): Ibanez is an incredible player in that he seems to get better as he gets older. In his first season with the Phillies, the 37-year old hit .272/.347/.552, drove in 93 runs, and clubbed a career high 34 homers. His wOBA of .379 was the 3rd best in the NL amongst left fielders and, amazingly, his .552 slugging percentage was the second best of any outfielder in either league (he trailed only Adam Lind in that category). The only problem with Ibanez, offensively, is that he didn’t hit much in the second half. After spending some time on the DL earlier in the year, Ibanez returned to the Philly lineup and hit .232/.326/.448 after the All-Star Break (with only 12 home runs). That would suggest that he’s still hurting. Though Ibanez’s offense this season has been above its typical level, despite the second half swoon, his defense has also been abnormally good. His UZR this season was 6.9 (8.1 UZR/150), the 3rd best in the league. In 2007-08, Ibanez was awful in the outfield, so this could very well be a statistical anomaly. This year, because of his significant offensive and defensive contributions, Ibanez was worth 4.7 WAR (2nd best value for an NL left fielder).
Pitching to Ibanez: For his career, Ibanez has hit righties better than lefties (.850 OPS versus .760 OPS). However, in 2009, the inverse was true as he did much of his damage against southpaws (.998 OPS versus .859 OPS). Most of Ibanez’s home runs were pulled to right field, so if the Yankees want to attack him appropriately, soft stuff away seems like the best route (and if you go inside, like many other pull hitters, make sure to handcuff him, don’t leave anything low and over the plate). That should prevent him from going deep over Nick Swisher’s mohawk.
Winner: I’m inclined to say Ibanez, but his second half is troubling and he hasn’t done much in the playoffs to downplay the issue (.226/.333/.387). For this reason, I’m going to have to go with Damon, who has hit safely in his last 6 playoff games (with 2 HR and 5 RBI).
Hideki Matsui (LH): This is a quick one. Matsui batted .274/.367/.509 this season. He has 28 home runs—a Yankees DH record—and 90 RBI to his name. He has had a tough postseason, thus far, but his postseason numbers have always been very good, therefore, I’m hesitant to say that the problems will carry over into the World Series (he will face two good lefties in Hamels and Lee, however). On the season, Matsui’s .378 wOBA and 2.4 WAR were 3rd best amongst designated hitters. Only Adam Lind and Jason Kubel were better (yet Kubel can’t hit lefties while Matsui can).
Matt Stairs (LH)/Ben Francisco (RH): I expect the Phillies to do a few things with the DH role. They’ll likely use Raul Ibanez as the DH and play the right-handed Ben Francisco in left field, or they could choose to go with the lefty Matt Stairs, perhaps against A.J. Burnett (he has been awful this season, however). I believe the Francisco idea is the most likely one, especially for tonight, with a lefty on the mound. If you’re wondering about Francisco, who was part of the Cliff Lee package the Cleveland Indians sent over to Philly, he hit a respectful .257/.332/.446 with 15 home runs and 14 stolen bases. Although many seem to consider him a good outfielder, in limited playing time, UZR rates Francisco rather poorly in left (-6.6, -12.9 UZR/150).
Pitching to Stairs/Francisco: If it’s Francisco, according to pitch value data, changeups and soft stuff will work, but you can certainly challenge him with fastballs (he does have some power, however). He doesn’t hit righties or lefties particularly well, which makes things easier for Joe Girardi. If the Yankees are pitching to Stairs, he’ll always have power, but at 41, he cheats to catch up to the fastball. The Yankees can probably beat him with any pitch that is located properly.
Winner: Matsui. This is the AL advantage.
In sum, while the Yankees have a better infield, the Phillies have a better outfield. Their DH candidates don’t really inspire much confidence, however, as Hideki Matsui is better than any combination of players that they could trot out on a given day (even if they use Ibanez as the DH and put Francisco in left field, I’m not sure that Francisco’s defense would make up for his weak bat). Based on the comparison I’ve provided, I think it’s safe to say that the Yankees have the better offensive team and a significant advantage at Yankee Stadium. It’ll be a much closer matchup, offensively, when the Yankees lose Matsui’s bat in Philadelphia.
Photos by Yahoo! Sports
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