Also featured on Phillies Nation.
Most of the country is assuming that it will be a Phillies-Yankees World Series, even though the latter isn't there yet. The New York Yankees had a 3-1 series lead against the Los Angeles Angels, but lost to send the series back to New York. The 2004 American League Championship Series is still fresh in every body's minds; the Boston Red Sox beat the Yankees despite trailing the series 3-0. A similar comeback is possible for the Angels, but right now their backs are against the wall.
That leads to the question: who do you want the Phillies to play in the World Series? The players don't have a preference. The Angels and Yankees are each elite teams; they are playing in the ALCS for a reason. When compared head to head, the Phillies, Angels, and Yankees are closer than you think.
The mentality of facing the Yankees is to play the better team. The Yankees had the best record in baseball during the regular season (103-59). To be the best, you have to beat the best. A Phillies-Angels series may appear to be "easier" on paper, but the Angels put together a 97-65 record under Mike Scioscia.
If the Phillies were to play the Yankees, slug-fests would be expected. The Yankees scored the most runs (915) and hit the most home runs (244) in baseball. The Phillies weren't far behind, ranking first in the National League in runs scored (820) and home runs (224). In the "bandboxes" these two teams play in, high scoring games would be expected.
The Angels' offense shouldn't be taken lightly. They don't hit many home runs (173), but they play small ball effectively. The Angels crossed the plate 883 times this year. They're also a running threat, stealing 148 bases (2nd in MLB).
The Phillies had the best team ERA out of the the three (4.16). The Yankees' team ERA (4.26) was tied for third in the American League. Despite having John Lackey and acquiring Scott Kazmir, the Angels are toward the bottom of the pack in team ERA (4.45). Both the Phillies and Yankees allowed 1.25 walks and hits per innings pitched, while the Angels allowed 1.41. The Yankees (7.82 K/9) are more of a strikeout club than the other two.
It may be thought that the Phillies have the weakest bullpen of the three, but their bullpen ERA is equivalent to the Yankees' 3.91. The Angels rank much lower (4.49). With Mariano Rivera as a closer, the back end of the Yankees bullpen is automatic. The Phillies and Angels have had trouble in the ninth. Brad Lidge's story is well known, but he has been great in the postseason. Brian Fuentes led the majors in saves, but he also blew seven and allows too many base runners. He blew a save earlier in the ALCS, and came close to doing it again on Thursday.
The Phillies took two out of the three against the Yankees in May. If not for a blown save, the Phillies would have swept them. Each game was close, with the difference coming in the late innings. The Phillies last played the Angels during interleague play in 2008. The Angels swept them at Citizens Bank Park.
Game six of the ALCS will be played tonight. A New York win would end it, but a loss will send it to game seven. No matter who the Phillies play, the World Series will not be easy. Exciting? You got that right!