Anthony J. Causi/Icon SMI
1. So he's smart. What does that mean?
You'll often hear it said that the secret of a given pitcher's success is that he'll throw any pitch at any time at any count. This is usually not true. Most pitchers, even very good starters, throw only two really effective pitches, with a third that they'll use every so often just to keep hitters a bit nervous.
Pedro Martinez throws five pitches -- a rising fastball, a fastball with lateral movement, two varieties of breaking ball and a changeup -- and he really will throw any of them at any time. In Game 2 of the World Series, for example, he started off Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon with nine changeups in 12 pitches, and set both of them down swinging. The next time through the order he threw three fastballs, three changeups and a slider, and got a called strike three and a fly out. The third time he threw them two breaking balls and got two fly outs.
This is worth unpacking a bit more. It's a tribute to both Martinez's nerve and the quality of his changeup that he would throw it so often at the very beginning of a game. For most pitchers the pitch is effective just because of its timing -- a hitter expects something fast, gets something slow, and so swings badly. The way to use it is to show off the fastball and only then start changing speeds. Martinez will just throw what is effectively a batting practice pitch that flops as it nears the plate, and do well with it.
This also works as a strategy. One thing that makes the Yankee offense go is that they have two of the very best leadoff hitters in baseball atop their lineup. They work counts and get pitchers to show off what they have at the beginning of games, so other hitters can time their pitches and see which are breaking and which aren't. Martinez didn't play into this at all; in 12 pitches at the beginning of the game he showed just part of his arsenal, and so left the rest of the Yankees guessing.
These are the sort of things Martinez does to make people call him a smart pitcher, and they're why he can befuddle and embarrass hitters by throwing nothing but junk. No one is meaner on the hill and no one is more confident, and that has concrete implications. He'll throw 86 mph fastballs inside to hitters like Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, whom pitchers who throw 10 mph faster are afraid of challenging; he'll throw creampuffs over the center of the plate in hitter's counts just to get the strike; he'll catch a hitter leaning out over the plate and give him something that dives, something he can touch but not smack, and watch him hit it harmlessly.
Of course this only does so much. Martinez didn't win Game 2, after all, and even on his best night he's not going to do much to protect his Phillies from exposing their tattered bullpen. But in a Series that has seen many pitchers of infinitely more impressive physical gifts do active harm to their cause by not pitching smart baseball, it will be nice to see someone who may be beaten but won't, under any circumstances, beat himself.
2. He wants Reggie's record
Speaking of pitching strategy, one key for the Yankees as they try to stave off a Game 7 will be pitching Chase Utley, who seems incapable of hitting the ball any way but squarely right now. What you'd usually want to do is pitch down and in, but Utley has such quick hands that this doesn't necessarily do much, and all of Andy Pettitte's pitches break away from left-handed hitters anyway.
Utley probably won't get anything to hit, and he'll quite likely see the unintentional intentional walk, as Ryan Howard is in a miserable funk and can't really hit left-handers. That still leaves the issue of Jayson Werth. A very strong hitter slugging .755 this postseason and with a particular taste for balls moving in toward him is not a man you want to set up by putting a runner on first a lot.
Baseball is not basketball or soccer. One team can't take the ball away from the other. A team can't practice collective strategy. There's no way for a middling player to take advantage of an opponent over-covering a stronger one. There's no way for a better-conditioned or younger team to actually run a worse-conditioned or older one to exhaustion. So even if there weren't voluminous statistical proof that there is no such thing as momentum in baseball, there would still be no reason to credit the idea that there is. If the Phillies have momentum it wouldn't mean a thing. They'll try to score runs and not allow them, and the Yankees will do the same, and one will do these things better than the other. That's it.