The 2009 World Series features two teams that, at least, on the surface, have similar offenses. The Phillies and Yankees, with a little help from their home fields, led their leagues in both home runs and runs scored. These are both good hitting teams with no shortage of elite hitters such as Alex Rodriguez, Mark Texeira, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth and others.
These similarities hide some interesting differences between the lineups as well, which can be seen by taking a closer look at the regular season numbers of the two teams. The Phillies longball threat is devastating, but highly concentrated. The Yankees longball threat is about the same, once league and park adjustments are made, but more dispersed. The Phillies hit 224 home runs, with Howard, Werth and Raul Ibanez combining for 115, or 51%, of those home runs. The Yankees hit more home runs, 244, but their top three home run hitters, Texeira, Rodriguez and Nick Swisher, combined for only 98 or 40%, of those home runs. Another way to see this is that five Phillies hit twenty or more home runs, while seven Phillies hit more than ten. These are impressive figures, but the Yankee figures are more impressive with seven players with more than 20 home runs and nine with more than ten. This is partly, but not entirely due to the Yankees playing with the designated hitter.
Overall, the Yankee offense is more consistent with fewer holes. Seven of the Phillie starters, had OPS+ of over 100, with only Jimmy Rollins (85) and Pedro Feliz (80) below this number. However, the Yankee offense was even more impressive as only Melky Cabrera (97) failed to reach an OPS+ of 100. Melky Cabrera is, in many respects an ordinary player, but that he is the worst hitter in the Yankee starting lineup speaks to the depth of that lineup.
While the depth of the Yankee lineup may give them a slight edge, Howard, Werth and Ibanez are sufficiently strong home run hitters to make that edge only marginal. There is, however, one more major difference between the lineups that gives a greater edge to the Yankees; and it has nothing to do with power. The top of the Yankee lineup is one of the few real advantages either team has in this series. Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon, posted on base percentages of .406 and .365 this season. These numbers dwarf those of the Phillies first two hitters Rollins (.296) and Shane Victorino (.358). In a short series, if these four players perform as they usually do, there will be a slight but unambiguous advantage for the Yankees, one that may lead to a few more runs for New York and fewer big innings for the Phillies. Ironically, in a World Series that pits the top home run hitting teams in each league against each other, it may be the top of the order that makes the difference.