There’s no doubt the era of the over-developed, super-slugger has finally receded, replaced by the reign of pitchers who are more fundamentally sound, harder-throwing and capable of dominating as never before. Low-scoring games are cool again; the radar gun's the new tape measure. We saw baseball evolve before our eyes in 2010, evidenced by the six no-hitters, including Roy Halladay’s other-worldly gem against the Reds in the NLDS. -- Bob Klapisch
Roy Halladay vs. Tim Lincecum
This battle, to be waged Saturday night, is one of style vs. fury. Halladay and his perfect mechanics against the unorthodox Lincecum delivery. That’s why Lincecum's known as The Freak, because at 5-foot-9, he’s able to elongate his limbs, practically landing in the hitter’s face by the time he releases the ball. Halladay, on the other hand, repeats his delivery so fluently hitters say it’s impossible to pick up even the most subtle differences in his four pitches.
CC Sabathia vs. Cliff Lee
There’d be a personal element to this war because the two great hurlers are friends from their Indians days. That’s not to say both men wouldn’t try beat each other’s brains out –- if for no other reason than to claim bragging rights in 2011, when they'll likely be teammates again, this time in pinstripes. Their pitching styles clearly contrast: Lee moves with the precision of a trapeze artist, while Sabathia's 300 pounds of colossal force.
Roy Halladay vs. Cliff Lee
Phillies fans can only dream what it would’ve been like to see Halladay and Lee as the best 1-2 punch since ... well, maybe ever. The closest they’ll come is in the World Series, but that’s only if Lee isn’t required to pitch Game 7 in the LCS against the Yankees. Both are masters of inducing weak contact, proving why good pitching invariably beats good hitting. Halladay's pitches are harder to detect, but Lee will get more broken bats and nubbers off the end of the bat.
Tim Lincecum vs. CC Sabathia
We suspect The Freak might have a small advantage over Sabathia in this potential showdown, if only because the Yankees have never seen an arsenal such as his. There’s violence in the way Lincecum uncoils, as well as the 12 o’clock release point. The only asterisk on his side is having been exposed to the Giants before. It was just 17 innings in 2008, but at least the Giants have something to work with. No so with the Yankees against Lincecum.
Andy Pettitte vs. Cliff Lee
The curtain goes up on this matchup in Game 3 in the Bronx, but the real drama will be stitched into an extended series. If there’s a seventh game, it’ll be these two lefties going at it again. Girardi configured his rotation for this very thing. The Yankees believe Pettitte's perfect to neutralize Lee, having won more postseason games than any pitcher in history. But Pettitte has a career 5.43 ERA in Arlington. Lee was a Yankee killer in the 2009 postseason, beating them twice.
Cliff Lee vs. Tim Lincecum
A compelling study in opposites, as Lincecum and Lee's mission statements are like night and day. Lincecum's looking for strikeouts, with his curveball and change-up breaking at the last second. Lee wants hitters to put the ball in play, preferably in the first two pitches. He works the corners, changes speed, changes eye level and otherwise controls hitters’ bat speed. He could care less about the Ks. Bad contact is his idea of success.
Roy Halladay vs. CC Sabathia
Classic ace vs. ace collision, two larger than life guys who don’t need or want help from closers. This matchup would see few hits, hardly any runs and no activity in the bullpen. Halladay’s ball moves more, and Sabathia may have a slight advantage in velocity, but otherwise both use large, ponderous deliveries to hide the ball. The greatest similarity is in attitude and competitive mind-set. Whether they admit it or not, they both want this. It’s unavoidable and irresistible.