Why the Philles lost the World Series

It feels strange being on the other side of this, feeling what fans of the Brewers, Dodgers, Rays, Rockies, and Dodgers again, felt, after concluding a losing series to the Phillies. After all, my generation of Phillies followers hasn’t experienced much playoff despair.

I was four years old when the Phils lost the 1993 World Series, so aside from the 2007 sweep at the hands of the Rockies, I hadn’t been through a competitive postseason series that saw my team come up short.

But, without mincing words, the Phillies didn’t deserve to win the 2009 World Series. They failed to capitalize on a Game One win on the road, and were blatantly outplayed over the next five games. When opposing a fantasy baseball team like the Yankees, there is no margin for error. If you have runners in scoring position with less than two outs against the highest scoring team in all of major league baseball, you better knock them in.

The Phillies failed to capitalize with runners on time and time again, while their counterparts seemed to thrive in high-pressure situations. The clinching Game Six was merely a microcosm of the entire series; the Phils went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on-base, en route to a 7-3 loss.

After the NLDS and NLCS, I outlined the main reasons for the Phillies’ triumph. Several ingredients were: Ryan Howard’s transformation into a postseason monster, timely hitting at the bottom of the order, a dazzling performance by Pedro Martinez, the bullpen’s abilityto bear down and strand runners in key situations, and, not to be forgotten, intelligent decision-making from Charlie Manuel.

Aside from Carlos Ruiz hitting .333 out of the eighth and ninth spots in the lineup, none of these factors carried over into the World Series.

Howard, who looked unstoppable before the week-long layoff in between rounds, went 4-for-23, with one homer, three RBIs, and a World Series record 13 strikeouts. In Games Two through Five, he was 1-for-14 with 10 strikeouts.

The bottom of the Phillies order was absolutely dreadful in the World Series. Pedro Feliz came up big in Game Four, going 3-for-4 with a game-tying homer in the eighth, but was 1-for-19 in the other five games. Ben Francisco, who played left field in two games in New York while Raul Ibanez played DH, went 0-for-6. Ruiz was the lone bright spot, leading all Phillies with a .333 batting average and .478 OBP.

Martinez, coming off of a magnificent start in the NLCS (seven innings, three hits, zero runs,) effectively shut down eight of the nine members of the Yankees lineup. All Yankees-not-named-Hideki Matsui were 7-for-35 against the righthander. Unfortunately, Matsui was 4-for-4, with two home runs, 5 RBIs and a walk vs. Pedro, skewing his numbers drastically. The Yankees may not have proved to be Pedro’s “daddy,” but Matsui, himself, certainly did.

The Phillies bullpen wasn’t hit exceptionally hard, but the unit didn’t live up to the standards it had set during the Divisional and Championship Series. Chan Ho Park, Ryan Madson, J.A. Happ and Scott Eyre combined to give up a mere two earned runs in 12.2 innings, but Brad Lidge, Chad Durbin, and Brett Myers struggled, giving up eight runs in 3.1 innings. Durbin couldn’t stop the Yankees either time he came in, and Lidge’s meltdown in Game Four dramatically changed the series, shifting an unquantifiable amount of momentum in the favor of the Yankees.

Manuel made several strange decisions, but, as I said with Joe Torre in the NLCS, it is much more difficult to push all the right buttons when you are constantly playing from behind. Manuel probably should not have left Martinez in during the seventh inning of Game Two, and, in my opinion, should have removed him after the second inning of Game Six. It was abundantly clear that Pedro had absolutely nothing in his second start. His fastball, which had reached as high as 92 mph previously, was hovering in the 84-86 range. Every Yankees player was hitting him hard, and if not for badly placed line-drive outs, the game could have gotten ugly much faster.

This year just wasn’t the Phillies year. Despite 93 regular season wins, and nine more in the playoffs, this was a flawed team. A lack of situational hitting and any sort of bench plagued the Phillies all season, and both aspects reared their ugly heads in the World Series. But more importantly, the season-long struggles of Lidge and Cole Hamels were once again prevalent at the most inopportune of times, and the performances of those two will surely be cited as the main reasons the Phillies fell short of repeating as World Champions.

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  1. Bob Rittner said...

    I consider Tom Hanrahan right in every particular. Compare the hitters for example. True, Feliz hit poorly, but was he significantly worse than Swisher who batted in the same spot in the Yankee lineup most games and who never had quite as dramatic a game as Feliz did? And Howard was disappointing, but more so than Teixeira? Ibanez had two bad games, but so did A-Rod, while Cano was awful throughout and Ruiz was outstanding.

    If anything, the big difference in performance is at the top of the lineup where Jeter and Damon were on base a lot more than Rollins and Victorino, although both those Phillies did have some big hits. As Tom says, the real difference is that more Yankee hits fell in at the right time, not that the Phillies hit more poorly.

    Even the pitching comparison is not so stark as you suggest. True, Lidge was awful in his one key appearance, and Myers and Durbin also pitched poorly. But so did Hughes, Bruney,  Robertson and Coke. And Pedro’s one great, one poor start is mirrored by Burnett’s performance. As a matter of fact, had the Phillies been a bit luckier on hits falling in, it might be Pettitte and even Sabathia who we would now be identifying as reasons for the Yankee loss, as Pettitte struggled in both starts and Sabathia was good but not nearly as good as Lee.

    A somewhat overlooked key to the NY wins was the performance of Marte, but that might have been Eyre had the Phillies won. They were both excellent. And Madson was at least as good as Chamberlain.

    Finally, neither manager distinguished himself with his series decision making, at least not consistently. Both made smart and not so smart moves. In the end, I think Tom’s last two sentences are exactly right.

  2. Tom Hanrahan said...

    One particular instance: It can’t be only me that noticed theat VERY EASILY, Mariano’s 9th inning in game 6 could have an implosion. 7-3 lead, 3 outs to go. Stairs rips one, two, three great shots, but he gets two foul balls and a hard line out. Next guys walks. Rollins pins an OF-er to the fence. That was almost a score of 7-6, still 3 outs to go, and Mariano having already thrown 38 pitches; and they aren;t going to warm up anyone else at that point, are they now. Can he get three outs at the point? Maybe. Woulda been the biggest 9th inning lead EVER blown in a Series, no?

  3. Gilbert said...

    There used to be loads written about the great Pedro of old being vulnerable after 100 pitches or so like Mr Hyde turning back into Dr. Jekyll.  So I was surprised by his being kept out as long in game 2 as he was, but not having a sure bullpen ties the mgr’s hands somewhat.  Hadn’t thought about the “It was his game to lose” managerial comments we used to hear, like leaving in Liebrandt instead of putting in a fading Quisenberry.

    A subjective comment is that the last game seemed like Phillies vs. Toronto, when it seemed that Phi would bring in pitchers with decent numbers but the Jays would make solid contact like they knew what was coming, and a good inning was one where you stranded a couple of inevitable runners rather than 3up-3down.

  4. Paul said...

    The Phillies did have the better offensive components but outside of home runs (11 to 6 advantage) it is pretty close.  Contrary to the prior comment, the Yanks hit more doubles 12-11 (though the Phillies had a triple and the Yanks did not) and while the Phillies had a 26-18 advantage in walks, the Yanks had a 6-1 advantage in HBP.  The final breakdown was 247/326/399 (32 runs) for New York, 227/318/464 (27 runs) for Philly.  The Yankees batting average and OBP were marginally higher.  Yes, if I looked at those numbers I would expect the Phillies to score more runs, but in a small sample size like a World Series there is no guarantee.

    Because I thought it would be interesting, I computed the offensive stats for the two teams without Game 1.  No one was going to beat Cliff Lee that game unless his defense disintegrated.  In those five games the Yanks are superior 259/349/434 to the Phillies 219/306/450.  The 31-21 run advantage seems a bit out of whack for those numbers, which goes back to the more timely hitting issue, but I would still expect the Yanks to win at least 3 of those 5 games.

  5. Bob Rittner said...

    Tom, as a matter of fact, my son and I were making that exact point right after the game. Stairs smoked a number of balls before lining out hard. Then the walk and Rollins hitting it to the warning track. Rivera was not fooling anyone and his command was spotty. Even with the two outs, if Victorino gets on- and how many pitches did he make Mariano throw?-you have Utley and Howard coming up to face a laboring Rivera.

  6. Jeff Polman said...

    In my mind, Philly lost for 5 reasons:

    1. Rollins is not only overrated, but a poor choice for a leadoff hitter.

    2. Damon blew Victorino away as a second-spot hitter.  Johnny was patient and clutch, Shane a wild hacker.

    3. Howard sucked and should have been hitting no higher than 6th against lefties.

    4. As has been discussed, zero bench strength.

    5. Manuel hated J.A. Happ for some reason.  How can you not start a lefty n Yankee Little League Stadium with a 12-4, 2.93 mark and go with Pedro?  Twice!

  7. hhoran said...

    I’m a Phillies fan since 1961, but I’m not making excuses, congratulations to the Yankees, they clearly won the Series. But I’d take Hanrahan’s point a bit further—the actual margin between the two teams was much, much narrower than the result indicated. But the Yanks won because whenever presented with luck (the blown call that Utley was out in G3 to get Rivera out of a jam) or opportunity (Ruiz drops the foul tip that would have given Lidge acclaim for a great relief job), The Yankees took advantage, and the Phillies didn’t. Both teams shut down the clean up hitters, but Teixeira few hits were all critical, and Howard’s few hits were meaningless. Despite this tiny gap, the Phils felt like the losing team every moment from G2 onward. 
    And while I understand the questions about Manuel’s moves, I think his record should give him immunity from serious criticism. All year long he’s done an amazing job of balancing strategic logic with his understanding of the temperment of the players. We only see the first part, and he’s done an amazing job playing the (not always very good) cards he’s been dealt. Phillies fans need only think back to Danny Ozark. Likewise, Girardi was being questioned for the 3 day rest strategy, and if Pettitte had faltered as Burnette had, the NY media would have been up in arms. But given the cards he was dealt, it was absolutely the right strategy, whether or not it worked.

  8. David said...

    Speaking as a Yankee fan, I thought man-for-man the Phillies were stronger than the Yanks.  The difference is pitching.  Rivera is the greatest, unmatched by anyone.  And, it seemed to me that Philly lacks starting pitchers.  To use Pedro in game 2 meant he was the 2nd best starter.  But, Pedro was a crap shoot, given his age and injuries.  In short, the Phillies seem to have just one truly reliable starting pitcher.

  9. Charlie Manuel said...

    Why my boys lost the World Series:

    I insisted on ignoring Brad Lidge’s 7+ ERA and 1.8+ WHIP, giving him the ball in a crucial situation.

    I insisted on ignoring the fact that Chad Durbin is a replacement-level pitcher, and actually using him.

    I insisted on using a certain guy at leadoff all season and postseason.  This particular guy had the same OBP as Yankee backup catcher Jose Molina.

    I continue to refuse to move Ryan Howard down in the lineup against lefties.

    These were all blaringly obvious problems long before the World Series ever started.  I insisted on ignoring them.  Sorry, Philadelphia.

  10. Tom Hanrahan said...

    The Phillies lost because the didn’t have base hits fall in like the Yankees did. The Phillies drew more walks than the Yankees, struck out fewer times, hit far more doubles and home runs. Oh, and stole 1 more base. How many teams have had that combo and lost a W.S. – and in fact how were they outscored? Simply due to their line drives and deep flies and hard grounders gogi AT someone instead of beldding in beteween. They were not, I repeat, NOT outplayed (exception; the Yankees closer advantage made it more likely they woudl win tight games). The Yankees really are the better team, but this Series could very easily have gone the other way.

  11. hhoran said...

    in defense of the real Charlie Manuel—

    1. The Phillies had made a huge investment in Lidge, whose poor 2009 was partially physical (incomplete injury recovery) and partially psychological. With injuries to Myers and Romero, and non-closer performance by Madson, Manuel’s options (a) concede failure and go home (b) pull every string possible to see if he could get Lidge’s psyche back in synch. The result—3 perfectly OK playoff performances that took the heat off the rest of the bullpen and a WS game 4 performance that was a half-inch from success (a quarter-inch on the foul tip Ruiz couldn’t hold and a quarter-inch on a low strike 3 that the ump had been calling all night). A brilliant managerial job.
    2. The Phillies do not have a textbook leadoff guy on the payroll. No one on the roster would be remotely better leading off. When the Phillies stopped playing musical chairs with the leadoff position and gave the job to Rollins full time, he won MVP and that was the point where the current Phillies powerhouse really jelled. Name another leadoff guy that you’d trade Rollins for. No not even Derek Jeter. Platoons and flexible/undefined roles work with some players, but rarely with the elite ones. Manuel knows that you get the most out of players like Rollins, year-in and year-out when they have an absolutely fixed role, and know they have the manager’s full support through all the inevitable slumps.
    3. Ryan Howard—see Rollins, steady role/full support. Howard does need to work on his approach against lefties this offseason, the way he worked on his fielding last offseason. I’m sure he will.
    4. Managing marginal players is a very underrated part of managing. Most treat them as totally expendable, and then discover they’re really dependent on them in a critical situation. Players like Stairs, Bruntlett (and Lidge) had much worse seasons than Durban, but Charlie made sure all of them got playing time and real opportunities. At some point they’ll be cut loose by the front office, but until them Charlie does everything possible to get the most out of them.

    Charlie undoubtedly left Pedro in a couple batters too long, but then again players as diverse as Rollins, Utley, Howard, Victorino and Lidge would all run through walls for him. I’ll take that tradeoff any day.

  12. DMC said...

    It was a hard-fought series and the Phillies were a formidable opponent, but I think the Phillies fans that posted earlier are falling victim to some memory bias in deciding that the “hits falling in” so clearly favored the Yankees.  First, the level of certainty that this is true was a little surprising, especially given that as a fan you are more inclined to remember the fortunate bounces that hurt your team while failing to recognize those from which they benefit (misattributing your wins and runs to skill as opposed to good fortune, and the opposite for your opponent).  Second, to state unequivocally that “bad breaks” were the sole reason for the Phillies losing the series is spurious, at best.

    I don’t want to waste a lot of time and space pointing out all of the instances in which Yankee hits didn’t “fall in” (or that Phillies hits did) or that the Yankees otherwise suffered from bad breaks (or the Phillies from breaks in their favor), but here are just a few off the top of my head, to give you some flavor.  After the Yankees jumped out to a 2-0 lead in Game 4, which was probably the most important game of the series, the Phillies got a run back in the bottom of the first (big at the time) off Sabathia, after Victorino reached on a bloop double that could have easily been caught.  It was hit very softly, but it fell in.  Then in Game 6, where apparently Rivera was lucky to not have blown a 4-run lead (the only time Rivera had even given up 3 runs in the postseason was on a cheap, wind-aided 3-run HR by Jay Payton to the first row in right field in a game the Yankees were winning 6-2, but according to earlier posts he was lucky to make it through the end of Game 6 not blowing a four run lead), Alex Rodriguez gets called out on an atrocious strike three call on 3-2 with the bases loaded.  Not even close to a strike.  That saved the Phillies a run right there, and more—because if Damon had been on third base (as he should have been after what should have been a walk to Rodriguez), arguably he would have trotted home on the Matsui single and not hurt his calf (I realize this latter point is quite speculative).

    As for umpire calls, as the Utley double play from Game 2 was cited earlier, what about the line drive from Damon the inning before that Howard trapped but was ruled a catch, resulting in a double play where all runners should have been ruled safe (the throw to second being off target) and the bases should have been loaded with 1 out?  Or earlier in that game, Nick Swisher being erroneously called out for leaving early when tagging up and scoring?  (Yes, he was picked off at second in that inning and ruled safe, but pick-offs are a more difficult call for umpires because their view is impeded and close pick-off plays usually result in the default call being safe; the default call on a tag-up when the umpire did not see the play should not be out for leaving early.)

    And there are so many others.  To read the earlier posts, one would think only the Yankees had bloop hits and the only line drives that were caught were from the bats of the Phillies (look no further than Game 6 for examples of several rockets hit off a terribly ineffective Pedro in Game 6 that did not fall in for hits).  This post is already too long, so I will not go into the MUCH more important reasons for the Phillies’ losing, although the first 3 listed in the earlier post by Jeff Polman are certainly included (Utley or Werth should bat second, the top two batters in that lineup simply do not get on base enough).  And of course if the series had gone 7, I think even the most optimistic Phillies fan in the world would admit the Yankees would have had a distinct pitching advantage (yes, anything can happen in one game, especially a Game 7).

    I was very impressed with the Phillies, and I expect that they will take their solid foundation, extremely tough lineup and enormous good fortune in getting Cliff Lee for second tier prospects and be back with a deep run into the playoffs next year.  But to walk away thinking the 2009 World Series with the Yankees was an eyelash’s length from going the other way is somewhat delusional.

  13. Bob Rittner said...

    I just want to clarify that I was rooting for the Yankees. My points were in no way intended to suggest that the Phillies should have won the series or were the better team. On the contrary, I think the Yankees were the better team (just as I thought the Rays were last year), albeit not by a lot.

    My own response was to the statement that the Phillies were “blatantly outplayed over the next five games”. In no way do I think they were more unlucky than the Yankees or that the breaks were unevenly distributed. And I certainly agree that the superior play of the first two spots in the NY lineup was a significant factor. But I do not think they blatantly outplayed Philadelphia.

    To list the failures of Howard, Feliz and Francisco as well as Ibanez in two games without noting that Cano, Swisher, and Teixeira were equally bad or that A-Rod also had two terrible games misrepresents the balance between the teams. And the same goes for the pitching comparisons.

    The Yankees did not dominate the series unless one’s view is that they have some special ability to capitalize on good fortune or play clutch baseball. And I think it absolutely true that Rivera was laboring in that last inning, and that a lucky bounce might have changed the entire game and series. That is not to take anything away from him or the Yankees. He got the ground out from Victorino, and that was a great moment for him. But to that point, a slightly different trajectory for Stairs’s hit or a millimeter for Rollins contact may have been the difference in that game.

  14. Jamie said...

    funny.  i was telling other people that i work with/friends that while the phillies did get beat by the better team, it was more of a luck thing than a superior baseball ability thing. 

    cliff lee dominated
    pedro dominated that game(except against matsui)
    hamels was doing fine until he gave up a weak grounded down the line(did the ball make it to the wall?), bloop(pettitte), bloop(jeter), then the damon smash.
    blanton outpitched sabbathia.  outside of that first inning he was unbelievably good.  he was a victim of an walk/infield single/bloop to give up two more runs.
    cliff lee again(till the 8th)
    pedro got beat up and down. 

    i’d love to see the line drive percentage.  in one of the phillies losses, where utley hit a 7th inning homerun(i think the blanton game).  rollins smashes one thats caught by swisher.  victorino hammers one that finds a glove.  then utley hits a homerun.  completely different game if the hits fall in. 

    like i said, i think they got beat by a better team.  but the BABIP stuff really hurt them.

  15. Rob in CT said...

    Both teams had some hard hit balls get caught.

    Cano, in particular, hit about 5 straight line drives right at fielders.  As mentioned in the article, Pedro was getting hit hard in game 6 before Matsui took him deep.  But those liners were being caught.  You remember it more when it’s your team lining out.

    Some of that (for both teams) may have been defense.  Swisher made a couple of nice catches in RF, as I recall.  On the flipside, Damon’s awful arm gave the Phillies a run.  Ibanez failed to catch ARod’s double… maybe a guy with more range catches that ball?  Victorino was fooled by Jeter’s soft liner in game 6 (funny, Jete hits a ball really hard in the 1st and makes an out.  He hits a little looper off the end of the bat in the 3rd and gets a hit). 

    Game 4 was critical.  Lidge (with a lot of help from Damon, ARod and Posada, and maybe some from Ibanez too!) turned a tie game at home (therefore a good shot at a win) into a loss.

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