Phillies-Yankees matchup: Closers

Phillies-Yankees matchup: Closers

Heading into the World Series between the Phillies and Yankees, beginning Wednesday on FOX, looks at the position-by-position matchups and dissects which team has the advantage.

Brad Lidge, Phillies
0-8, 7.21 ERA, 31/42 saves

While the regular season proved to be a monumental struggle for Lidge, the postseason has seen him revert back -- to some degree at least -- to his old, dominating self, the one that helped the Phillies win the World Series in 2008.

Lidge has been exactly what the Phillies have needed him to be in these playoffs -- consistent and reliable. He has earned three saves in three opportunities, and while he walked three, he has closed out the opposition without incident.

Lidge has been, well, almost boring. That wasn't the case in the regular season, though.

Lidge went 0-8 and his 11 blown saves were the most in the Major Leagues. He lost his job for a spell when Ryan Madson was tried in the closer's role. But these playoffs have been, as Lidge has said often, a new season, a new opportunity.

He hasn't looked the least bit like the pitcher who allowed opponents to hit .301 against him in the regular season. The 72 hits in 58 2/3 innings? That hasn't shown up, either.

"Look at Lidge," Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino said. "Everybody questioned him. I expected him to come out here and do what he did. That's why he's here. We have faith in him."

With Lidge holding down the ninth inning, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has been able to shift Madson back to the eighth inning, which allows the rest of the bullpen pieces to slide into place.

Mariano Rivera, Yankees
3-3, 1.76 ERA, 44/46 saves

Meet the new Mr. October. Rivera has recorded a Major League-record 37 saves in the postseason and his ERA in 84 postseason games is 0.77, the lowest all time among pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched.

"I don't think you can put into words how valuable he is to this team," Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain told the Los Angeles Times. "When we get to the postseason, he gets better. It's scary to say that, but it's true."

Rivera is no stranger to the most pressure-filled situations, having appeared in 20 World Series games, posting a 2-1 record and a 1.16 ERA with nine saves.

Though he is nearing his 40th birthday, Rivera has shown no signs of slowing down. This year, he was once again masterful during the regular season, converting 44 of his 46 save chances and finishing third in the American League in saves.

Rivera got even better as the season went on. In his final 40 appearances, he was 2-1 with a 0.68 ERA and converted 30 of 31 save chances.

These playoffs have been no different, as Rivera has allowed just one earned run in eight appearances, with 11 strikeouts in that 10 2/3-inning stretch.

That includes a 2 1/3-inning outing in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Angels, a game the Yankees went on to win, 4-3, in 13 innings. Rivera allowed one hit and struck out two while working longer than usual.

Experts' picks

Note: Pitcher evaluations based on a 100-point scale, factoring in all pitching statistics, experience, recent performances and moxie. Click on each expert to see all of their selections for the 2009 World Series

World Series Closer Matchup
PanelistBrad LidgeMariano RiveraExpert analysis
Mike Siano
8598I've been impressed with Lidge so far and it's a great story, but you have to think the Yankees will change that at least once -- and then what? Rivera has been ridiculous and will pitch as many innings as Girardi can cook up for him. If he can stay Mo, this series is his.
Cory Schwartz
7199Rivera is the most dominant late-innings weapon in postseason history, while Lidge struggled through a historically bad season. He may be righting himself this postseason, but any regression would put the Phillies at a major disadvantage in the late innings.
Lyle Spencer
8099Rivera has no equal. He might be the best ever in terms of how superior he is in his role. He's the closest thing to perfection, while Lidge is having one of those 'who knows?' seasons.
Jim Duquette
80100Lidge seems to have righted himself in the postseason, and is closer to last year's Lidge than he was all season. But Mariano is Mariano -- and his continued success gives the Yankees a clear edge.
Ken Gurnick
8095Rivera's the best that's ever been in the postseason and, as if he needs a tiebreaker, he's fully capable of converting the two-inning save.
Mitch Williams
MLB Network
8697Rivera is the best closer of all time.
Joe Sheehan
Baseball Prospectus
75100Rivera's track record is well-known, and his cut fastball matches up well against the Phillies' lefty lineup. Lidge hasn't given up a run in the postseason, but it's just five innings, and he's been shaky at times. He's still a major weak spot for this team.
Hal Bodley
80100No match here. Lide, who blew 11 saves during the regular season after being perfect in 2008 has been solid in the postseason. With the days off this Series it's quite likely Rivera will be used for more than one inning.
Final tally: Rivera 98.5, Lidge 80.3

Corey Brock is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.