Monday, October 26, 2009

World Series Match-Up: Outfield

The outfield, between the Phillies and the Yankees, is patrolled by emerging stars and aging veterans. All three members of Philadelphia’s outfield were elected to the 2009 all-star game, quite an accomplishment for a team with so much punch in the infield.

Left Field:
Raul Ibanez started his Phillies’ career with a bang, carrying the team on his back through stretches of April and May until an injury caused him to miss significant at bats. He hasn’t been the same since his injury, but “Rauuuuullll” as he’s affectionately referred to by Phils’ fans, has still been a tremendous pickup and a very good middle of the lineup player for the team. Ibanez finished third on the team with 34 home runs while knocking in 93. He finished the season batting .272 with a .552 slugging percentage. Ibanez was the best hitter in Major League Baseball throughout the first two months, and still ended up as one of the most productive players in the league. His postseason has not been quite as strong. He maintained a high average in the NLDS, but struggled against the Dodgers. He’s hitting just .226 with one home run and nine RBI. He’ll need to improve upon those numbers if the lineup is going to succeed against New York, but he is one player that a week off should benefit greatly as stories emerged that Ibanez may need the same off-season surgery that Chase Utley required after the 2008 season. Ibanez will likely be used in some games as a DH with Ben Francisco in left.

Johnny Damon has more playoff experience, helping Boston beat the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS with two big home runs in Game 7 as New York blew a 3-0 series lead. Damon has been a decent player at the top of New York’s lineup along with Derek Jeter. He hit .282 with 24 home runs and 82 RBI. New York’s very short porch in right aided Damon in some of those home runs as balls were flying out of Yankee Stadium in that area all season, with that area also being Damon’s primary power location. Damon also stole 12 bases without being caught and may try to test Carlos Ruiz once on the base paths. Damon is a good player, but doesn’t have a strong arm at all. Damon and Ibanez could both be subtracted from games in the late innings for defensive purposes. Ibanez has a better arm but less range. Damon, in the postseason, is hitting just .238 but has two home runs. Both Damon and Ibanez need to improve upon their postseason to have a positive impact on their respective clubs.


Center Field:
Shane Victorino is once again doing it all for the Phils. He is a gold glove center fielder, gets on base and makes things happen while on the bases and just generally wreaks havoc on opposing teams. He’s also a very clutch hitter. He hit .292 with ten homers, 62 RBI, 39 doubles, 13 triples and 25 stolen bases; all while patrolling the outfield excellently with a cannon for an arm. Victorino was a key contributor in the 2008 postseason, as Yankees’ Game 1 starter CC Sabathia remembers after surrendering a key grand slam to Victorino in Game 2 of the NLDS. This postseason is no different for Victorino, who’s hit .361 with three home runs, 7 RBI, two doubles, one triple, two stolen bases and a remarkable .722 slugging percentage through the first two rounds. Victorino is a high energy guy for the team, and he is the complete package, a five-tool player.

Melky Cabrera is merging into a nice player for the Yankees. After struggling throughout most of 2008, Cabrera turned it around and had a decent season, hitting .274 with 13 home runs and 68 RBI while playing a solid center fielder. He’s a decent bottom of the lineup producer but isn’t much of a game changer. He has a far less impact on his team than Victorino has on the Phillies, but Cabrera is still in the maturing process and could develop himself into a top of the rotation player in the next few years. Melky has been getting on base for the Yankees in this postseason, improving his average to .314; but he’s struck out 11 times while walking just three times. He is a decent player, but an afterthought in their lineup.


Right Field:
Jayson Werth has developed into one of the league’s elite hitters, just a season removed from sharing playing time with Geoff Jenkins. What a find Werth has turned out to be for the Phils. With a career high 36 home runs and 99 driven in, accompanying a .268 batting average and 20 stolen bases, Werth is an all around excellent hitter. He’s also a well above average fielder with a great arm and he’s done a fine job in both center and right field for the Phillies. He worked his way into the five hole and is Ryan Howard’s backup in the lineup, forcing opposing pitchers to face Howard merely because of his presence in the on deck circle. Werth is having a tremendous postseason, hitting .281 while leading the team with five home runs and is second to just Howard in RBI with ten. He could have easily taken MVP honors in the NLCS, if not for his slow start through the first two games, and likely would have taken it in the NLDS if such an award existed. Werth has made himself a household name and will be a perennial all-star and MVP candidate in the league.

Nick Swisher has been a decent player for the Yankees. While hitting just .249, Swish hit 29 home runs and drove in 82, but he led the team in strikeouts. He was adequate in the field while committing five errors, but his glove is nothing to write home about. Swisher has been terrible in the playoffs. He’s hitting just .125 and has knocked in one run without a homer. He, like Cabrera, has struck out 11 times to lead the team while walking on just three occasions. The Yankees have enough weapons that anything Swisher does for them can be considered a bonus, because he hasn’t had an impact on all that many games for them. He’s filled in nicely, but he is not a premier player or one that is counted on primarily in that lineup.


Designated Hitter:
Tough spot to judge for the Phillies. Even though Ibanez will likely fill in with Francisco getting a few starts in left against tough left handed pitching, Ibanez is still the team’s left fielder so Francisco will supplement him in this comparison. Matt Stairs is likely to DH against AJ Burnett, or Greg Dobbs could see some time. Francisco is a nice player that could make some good things happen with the bat and in the outfield, while Dobbs has been struggling all season after being one of the league’s best pinch hitters last season. Stairs has struggled this year as well, but jacked five homers off the bench and could put a charge into a ball at any time. He’s singlehandedly won a few games for the Phillies in the past, most notably Game 5 of the 2008 NLCS, and he could make a positive impact letting it rip against Burnett’s power fastball.

Hideki Matsui has been around for a long time now, and while never living up to his “Godzilla” nickname, Matsui has been a rather good player for the Yankees despite a few down stretches. He had a good year, hitting .274 with 28 homers and 90 driven in, while not playing in the field at all for the first time in his MLB career. The extra focus on offense allowed him to increase him home run total which was nine in 2008. Matsui hasn’t had a great postseason to this point (.233 1, 5), but he’s been here before and he knows how to put the ball in play which makes good things happen. Matsui is in much better game shape than anyone on the Phillies, as all of their players have been sitting on the bench, only seeing occasional playing time and at bats.


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