World Series Preview, Part 2

Let us go position by position through the World Series rosters:

(I am placing Ibanez at DH and Francisco in LF per this. All stats via Fangraphs.)
1B – Mark Teixeira vs. Ryan Howard – wOBA .402 vs. .393, OPS .948 vs. .931, UZR -2.7 vs. 2.3 (This is one of the odder findings of UZR, given that Teixeira at least looks like a very good first basemen, and Howard does not.) Advantage: Yankees, by a very little.
2B – Robinson Cano vs. Chase Utley – wOBA .370 vs. .402, OPS .871 vs. .905, UZR -6.1 vs. 12.0 Advantage: Phillies
SS – Derek Jeter vs. Jimmy Rollins – wOBA .390 vs. .316, OPS .871 vs. .719, UZR 6.4 vs. 3.1 Advantage: Yankees
3B – Alex Rodriguez vs. Pedro Feliz – wOBA .405 vs. .302, OPS .933 vs. .694, UZR -7.4 vs. 4.5 Advantage: Yankees
RF – Nick Swisher vs. Jayson Werth – wOBA .375 vs. 382, OPS .869 vs. .879, UZR 0.5 vs. 6.3 Advantage: Phillies, almost completely in fielding
CF – Melky Cabrera vs. Shane Victorino – wOBA .331 vs. .354, OPS .752 vs. .803, UZR 2.6 vs. -4.2 Advantage: Even. Victorino is distinctly the better hitter and Cabrera the better fielder. Victorino is given credited for more Wins above Replacement, but that is dependent on his extra 150 plate appearances.
LF – Johnny Damon vs. Ben Francisco – wOBA .376 vs. .340, OPS .854 vs. .779, UZR -11.2 vs. Unknown (Francisco only played CF and RF this year. He was a bad CF and a good RF) Advantage: Yankees
C- Jorge Posada vs. Carlos Ruiz – wOBA .378 vs. .337, OPS .885 vs. .780. (Fangraphs has no measures of catcher fielding. The chart introduced in the post on catching statistics ranks them as -5.9 vs. 5.4) Advantage: Yankees, though the defense makes it closer than it looks on the surface.
DH – Hideki Matsui vs. Raul Ibanez – wOba .378 vs .379, OPS .876 vs .899. Advantage: Even.
Among hitters, the Yankees have the advantage at 5 positions, the Phillies at 2, and 2 are even.
SP – CC Sabathia vs. Cliff Lee – ERA 3.37 vs. 3.22, FIP 3.39 vs. 3.11, K/9 7.71 vs. 7.03 Advantage: Phillies. This is probably the toughest call of all. Lee lower ERA is helped by pitching in the NL, but the FIP indicates that both got just about the ERA they deserved. Lee has also given up a much worse batting average on balls in play (BABIP), indicating that part of his issues are just bad luck. Sabathia’s BABIP is better than average, meaning that he has gotten a bit lucky. Of course, if the Yankees throw Sabathia 3 times and Lee only pitches twice, that evens out the advantage a lot.
SP – A.J. Burnett vs. Pedro Martinez – ERA 4.04 vs. 3.63, FIP 4.33 vs. 4.28, K/9 8.48 vs. 7.46 Advantage: Yankees. Despite Burnett’s inconsistencies, he is still a better overall pitcher than Martinez at this age. Starting Martinez in Game 2, as rumored, is foolish.
SP – Andy Pettitte vs. Cole Hamels – 4.16 vs. 4.32, FIP 4.15 vs. 3.72, K/9 6.84 vs. 7.81 Advantage: Phillies. Pettitte’s only advantage is a marginally lower ERA. It is tough to claim a postseason advantage either when you are facing off against the defending World Series MVP.
CL – Mariano Rivera vs. Brad Lidge – ERA 1.76 vs. 7.21, FIP 2.89 vs. 5.45, K/9 9.77 vs. 9.36 Advantage: Yankees. Using only this year’s stats overstates the advantage, but Rivera still has a huge advantage by any measure you can choose
The pitchers are split, with 2 advantages for the Yankees and 2 for the Phillies. If Joe Blanton pitches Game 4, as is likely, that extends the Yankee advantage even more.

Pick: The Yankees should win. They were the better team all season long, and they dominate the on-paper matchups 7-4-2. This is of course not dispositive. The Yankees can still lose easily because we are only dealing with a sample of 7 games. A short sample made Jeff Mathis look like a good hitter in the ALCS, and he is not. For one game, Don Larsen was the greatest pitcher ever to take the mound. But if I had to lay a bet, I am going with the team that looks better on paper going in. Yankees in 6.


There is my pick and reasoning.  Who do you have?

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2 Comments on “World Series Preview, Part 2”

  1. Wouter Says:

    I just have a small question about this:
    I didn’t realize FIP is adjusted for the AL/NL difference, which you seem to imply. What’s the reasoning behind that? I suppose that getting to pitch to the opposing pitcher skews the FIP components somewhat, so I can imagine an adjustment being necessary.
    Furthermore, it is somewhat incomplete to only look at BABIP in determining luck. Like you said, both pitchers got about the ERA they deserved: While Lee was unlucky on balls in play, this was somewhat negated by a somewhat more favorable strand rate and HR/FB.
    Nice roundup.

    • sportsphd Says:

      According to this, FIP is scaled to both league and park. While BABIP is not the only measure of luck, the gap between Lee’s .326 and Sabathia’s .284 seemed worthy of note. It is also something I can’t really explain by appealing to anything but luck. The Phillies ranked as the fifth best fielding team in the league, while the Yankees were third from the bottom.

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