The World Series matches two teams that led their respective leagues in runs, home runs and slugging percentage. Both rely heavily on the long ball but possess other skills. The Yankees led the majors in walks and on-base percentage; the Phillies, under the tutelage of first base coach Davey Lopes, stole a lot of bases while rarely getting caught. The Yankees' lineup includes no hitter worse than average. The Phillies have a drop-off at the bottom of the order and have been hampered by Jimmy Rollins's career-worst .296 OBP at the top.
By closing out the Angels on Sunday, the Yankees ensured that they could use CC Sabathia, the MVP of the ALCS, at home in Game 1 of the World Series and, on short rest, in Game 4 and Game 7 if they so desire. His availability is critical. The Yankees' expensively rebuilt rotation was a strength this season, but it is matched by the Phillies', thanks to the addition of Cliff Lee, who was an ace even before coming to the weaker league. (It was only a year ago, after all, that he won the AL Cy Young.) The Yankees' ability to start lefties in as many as five of seven games is a tactical advantage against the lefty-leaning Phillies.
The Yankees, led by Mariano Rivera and his lefty-killing cutter, have an enormous edge in the bullpen. The Phillies' pen is getting credit for righting itself during the playoffs, but it has still been shaky: 25 hits and 13 walks allowed in 25 innings. Charlie Manuel has made it work so far by turning to starters Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ for help, but danger still lurks: The Yankees advanced past the Angels in no small part by taking advantage of L.A.'s weak bullpen.
It is Manuel (above) who may be the difference. He has become a shrewd tactician who rarely makes a key mistake. Contrast that to Joe Girardi, who overmanaged throughout the ALCS. With the talent so evenly matched, it just might come down to the people pulling the strings, something that favors the defending champions. Phillies in seven.
ROBERT BECK (MANUEL)