Bill Conlin: Comparing Phillies, Yankees lineups the right way

Derek Jeter (right) has the pure hitting skills and intangibles, but Jimmy Rollins (below) has his own assets that make the leadoff position a standoff.
Derek Jeter (right) has the pure hitting skills and intangibles, but Jimmy Rollins (below) has his own assets that make the leadoff position a standoff.
Posted: October 28, 2009

IN A WORLD SERIES comparison, a Tale of the Tape tradition dating to 1903 has matched the combatants by position.

While that gives a picture of relative strengths on an individual basis - third basemen Mike Schmidt and George Brett was a close matchup of 1980 Phillies and Royals stars - it ignores the roles of same-position players in the context of where they hit in the batting order.

Even the heavyweight champion Phillies and Yankees have different rules of engagement as a game unfolds. Let's look at another 1980 matchup of first basemen Pete Rose and Willie Mays Aikens. Rose, the patron saint of win-any-which-way-you-can small ball, was batting No. 2 in '80 at a position normally reserved for a power bat. Aikens, the prototypical cleanup hitter, was more the first-base business model. It was a no-brainer to give Willie a lopsided edge in a matchup with the aging Rose. He outhomered Pete by 20-1 that season, drove in 34 more runs.

Ah, but Aikens' 20 homers and 98 RBI were pedestrian numbers for a cleanup hitter. Rose lashed 185 hits, stroked 42 doubles and scored 95 runs while compiling a .352 OBP. Those are fine numbers for a table-setter whose job description is to get on base - he reached 251 times by hit and walk.

So, the edge clearly belonged to Rose when factoring in his contribution to the Phillies' lineup chemistry.

Here is one man's spin on how the Phillies and Yankees match up - not by position - but by positions in the batting order. (Using DH rules and the most recent starting lineups posted by managers Charlie Manuel and Joe Girardi. I am also assuming Raul Ibanez will DH in New York and Ben Francisco will play left. Most AL managers like to put speed in the No. 9 spot, but Carlos Ruiz runs well and I think Francisco will bat No. 7 behind Ibanez.)

Gentlemen, protect yourselves at all times and let's have a clean, hard fight.

Leadoff: Jimmy Rollins

vs. Derek Jeter

The Yankees' captain is a first- ballot Hall of Fame lock. Rollins adds to his credentials year-by-year. Both are run scorers and producers. Give Jeter the edge as a pure hitter, Rollins check marks for power from both sides and speed. Jeter's intangibles are off the charts. Rollins revels on the Big Stage.

RINGS: Rollins 1, Jeter 4.

EDGE: Even.

No. 2: Shane Victorino

vs. Johnny Damon

Victorino was depicted on the front page of the New York Post Tuesday wearing a skirt. You've gotta be pretty good to rate a spot normally reserved for "Headless Body in Topless Bar," Bernie Madoff and Jacko. Damon had a huge year for a table-setter - 107 runs, 24 homers, 82 RBI, .282 BA. Shane's numbers were solid, but his edge is in pitcher disruption - 25 stolen bases and his tremendous speed on base. Both are Red Light players.

RINGS: Victorino 1, Damon 1.

EDGE: Victorino.

No 3: Chase Utley

vs. Mark Teixeira

The media needs to get used to the idea that even Supermen have slumps. These guys play their roles as engine-room coal stokers superbly most of the time so that whenever one slumps there has to be something "wrong." Both had typically big regular seasons, but Utley had a streak of four straight 100 RBI seasons snapped, although he scored 112 runs and was 23-for-23 in steals. Both have had relatively quiet Octobers. Look for that to change. Teixeira is a Gold Glove first baseman. Chase has made two well-advertised fundamental errors turning DPs. The Phillies run much more at the top of the lineup than the Yankees - they had 79 steals at the top against 44 (30 by Jeter).

RINGS: Utley 1, Teixeira 0.

EDGE: Slim for Teixeira.

Cleanup: Ryan Howard

vs. Alex Rodriguez

This is the best heavyweight matchup in New York since Ali-Frazier I. Two monster boppers with evil intentions. Howard was the NLCS MVP with a collage of huge extra-base hits. A-Rod has pumped five homers so far. This is his eighth postseason and first World Series.

RINGS: Howard 1, A-Rod 0.

EDGE: Howard.

No. 5: Jayson Werth

vs. Jorge Posada

Werth is the main reason managers are loath to walk Howard. The 6-5 breakthrough bomber blasted 36 homers and drove in 99 runs. He also plays superb rightfield and can steal a base. The name of his game is clutch. Jorge played in just 111 games, but hit 22 homers and drove in 81 runs. I have a feeling Jorge will do a lot of hitting with A-Rod on first. (Hideki Matsui normally hits here against a righthander.)

RINGS: Werth 1, Posada 3.

EDGE: Werth.

No. 6: Raul Ibanez

vs. Hideki Matsui

The best power hitter to come out of Japan battled through injuries to have a solid year - 28 homers, 90 RBI. Ibanez was headed for MVP consideration when he suffered a nagging groin injury. He still posted career numbers and this will be one of the tightest lineup matchups. (Posada will hit in this spot against a righthander.)

RINGS: Ibanez 0, Matsui 0.

EDGE: Even.

No. 7: Ben Francisco

vs. Robinson Cano

Ben brings speed, power and a good glove to the role (and could still wind up batting No. 9) but has been lightly played since coming from Cleveland in the Cliff Lee deal. Cano is New York's Utley, a beast of an offensive second baseman with future MVP potential. He's the elephant in the Yankees' room.

RINGS: Francisco 0, Cano 0.

EDGE: Cano.

No. 8: Pedro Feliz

vs. Nick Swisher

These guys are viewed by many as the weakest links in these powerful lineups. Well, Feliz specialized in hits with runners in scoring position. Where else do you get 82 RBI from the back end of the order (Pedro normally hits No. 7 in the NL)? Where else? Swisher's 29 homers helped drive in 82 runs, as well.

RINGS: Feliz 1, Swisher 0.

EDGE: Swisher.

No. 9: Carlos Ruiz

vs. Melky Cabrera

Two of baseball's most quietly efficient players (and Chooch could still wind up No. 7), Cabrera can lead off an inning and set the table for Jeter and Damon. Ruiz can pop one in Yankee Stadium Lite.

RINGS: Ruiz 1, Cabrera 0.

EDGE: Even.

Lineup scorecard

Phillies 3, Yankees 3, Even 3.

Send e-mail to bill1chair@aol.com.

For recent columns, go to

http://go.philly.com/conlin.

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