I know it’s a bit late to put a bow on the World Series, but I was out of town at the Arizona Fall League looking at the rookies that will make their mark in the coming campaigns (you can read my thoughts in AFL Impressions). So, before we leave the 2009 baseball season and start looking toward the 2010 campaign, here are some of my closing thoughts on how things played out with the Yankees and the Phillies in the Fall Classic.
The Yankees have won 27 World Series. If you add up team’s #2-4 on the list you end up with a mere total of 26 championships – St. Louis (10), Oakland (nine) and Boston (seven). Moreover, the Yankees ended the third longest drought in franchise history at eight seasons without a championship. The two longer streaks were 17 (1979-95) and 14 (1963-76) seasons. By the way, the Nationals, Rangers, Rays, Mariners, Padres, Brewers, Astros and Rockies are still looking for their first championship.
Cliff Lee became the first pitcher since Don Newcomb in 1949 to have a game of 10 or more strikeouts and zero walks (in fact, he tossed back-to-back such outings in the NLCS and his first series start). In his two starts against the Yankees, Lee struck out 13 batters, walked just three and went 2-0.
Andy Pettitte is the all-time leader in post-season victories with 18. Pettitte also used the 2009 playoffs to become just the third pitcher in history to emerge with a victory in all three clinching games (division series, league championship and World Series). The other hurlers are Derek Lowe in 2004 and Freddy Garcia in 2005. Still, this talk that Pettitte is one of the greatest clutch pitchers of all-time is ludicrous. Sure he leads the way in the win column, but don’t overlook the fact that he has made 40 starts in front of some dominating offenses. Sample size people, look it up if you don’t understand what I’m talking about (Some People Never Learn is a good place to start).
For all this talk that Alex Rodriguez is a choke artist, it may be time to change that broken record. After all, the guy hit .365 with six homers, 18 RBI and 15 runs scored in 15 playoff games. On yeah, he was pretty good at getting on base (.500 OBP) and piling up bases as well (.808 OPS). With this amazing post-season A-Rod how owns a .302/.409/.568 line in 199 post-season at-bats, numbers that are almost an exact duplication of his career line during the regular season (.305/.390/.576).
If you want to talk about chocking under pressure, the very thought of which I find to be complete poppycock – like and MVP performer will suddenly just devolve into a sniveling morass of failure merely because it’s the playoffs – your gaze would have to fall on Ryan Howard. The big fella hit only .174 in 23 at-bats in the Series with a whopping total of 13 strikeouts, the most ever in the World Series. After striking out eight times in his first nine post-season games this year, Howard simply hit a rough patch at the absolute worst time.
Derek Jeter has played 138 post-season games in his career, basically just a bit under a full major league season. How has he done? To the surprise of no one he has been terrific with a .313 average, 20 homers, 55 RBI, 99 runs and 16 steals. Pressure, what pressure?
Hideki Matsui was awarded the World Series MVP in part because of his .615 average (8-for-13), the third highest ever in the Series (Billy Hatcher hit .750 in 1990 while Babe Ruth hit .625 in 1928). Matsui also knocked in eight runs to tie the World Series mark which was, fittingly, last reached by Reggie Jackson in 1978.
And finally I’ll close my coverage by calling on the best post-season closer in history in Mariano Rivera. The Yanks’ closer has posted an amazing 0.99 ERA in 36.1 World Series innings, and shockingly that number is merely 5th amongst guys who have tossed at least 30-innings in the Series. Here are the men who are ahead of him.
0.83 – Harry Brecheen in 32.2 IP
0.87 – Babe Ruth in 31 IP
0.89 – Sherry Smith in 30.1 IP
0.95 – Sandy Koufax in 57 IP
Rivera is tremendous, but he has a ways to go if he wants to match the dominance that Koufax showed, or that of Christy Mathewson who posted an utterly amazing 1.06 mark over 101.2 innings.
By Ray Flowers