It’s a little late for any of us to ask the Phillies to play like champions. They’ve been doing that for a while now — they are champions and nothing can ever take that away from this core of outstanding players. But the World Series starts tonight and with it the chance for the Phils to become something more. For this team that has passed every test over the last two years, the challenge in front of them now feels a little like some kind of monstrous mythical beast willed into being just to face them. The New York Yankees. The name just about says it all. But not quite. They are a mighty team with mighty talent, a mighty payroll, 103 wins, home field advantage and baseball history on their side. There isn’t much of a question that the Yankees have been the best team in baseball this year. The good news for the Phillies is that the year isn’t over yet, though, and if you’ve been waiting for someone to help us see just how good the Phils are you won’t have to wait much longer.

Cliff Lee faces CC Sabathia tonight in game one of the World Series.

Sabathia went 19-8 in 34 starts for the Yankees this year, throwing to a 3.37 ERA and a 1.15 ratio over 230 innings. He didn’t allow a lot of hits or home runs and he was fantastic against lefties. They hit 198/198/310 against him.

He was tied for the American League lead in wins, fourth in innings pitched, fourth in ERA and fourth in ratio.

Third in fewest hits allowed per nine innings in the AL, fourth in fewest home runs allowed per nine innings. Not quite as good at preventing walks. This year he walked 2.62 batters per nine innings. He walked about 7.4% of the right-handed batters he faced and about 6.0% of the lefties. 2.62 walks per inning isn’t a bad walk rate at all — it’s just not as good as his rates of preventing hits and home runs. There were 22 players who pitched for the Phillies this year. Fifteen of them had a walk rate that was worse than that. There were also 22 pitchers who pitched for the Yankees and 17 of them had a walk rate that was worse than Sabathia’s.

He’s had four straight years in which he’s thrown at least 190 innings with an ERA under 3.40 and a ratio under 1.20.

Sabathia made one start in the ALDS against the Twins and two starts in the ALCS against the Angels. Between the three games he pitched 22 innings, going 3-0 with a 1.19 ERA and an 0.75 ratio. He’s allowed three walks, one home run and struck out 20.

He’s pitching very well.

The Phillies faced him in game two of the 2008 NLDS when he was pitching for the Brewers. Milwaukee jumped out to a 1-0 lead with a run off of Myers in the top of the first, but the Phils scored five times off of Sabathia in the bottom of the second. Victorino hit a grand slam off of him in the inning and the Phils rolled to a 5-2 win behind seven strong innings from Myers.

Sabathia faced the Phillies on May 24 of this year and allowed three runs over eight innings. The Yankees tied the game at 3-3 with a run off of Lidge in the ninth, but the Phils got an RBI-double from Ruiz off of Tomko in the top of the eleventh and won 4-3.

Ibanez is the Phillie with the most regular season at-bats against Sabathia for his career. He’s 11-for-40 with five extra-base hits and ten strikeouts (275/326/525). Rollins 4-for-11 with two doubles and a triple. Victorino 3-for-7 with three singles, but he had the biggest hit of the game against Sabathia in game two of the NLDS last year. Utley 0-for-3. Howard 3-for-7 with a double. The Phils could sure use Werth tonight, he’s 0-for-6 with three strikeouts against Sabathia for his career. Feliz 0-for-6 with two strikeouts. Ruiz 2-for-3 with a pair of singles.

Ruiz has had a fantastic post-season so far. I’d be trying to start lefties against the Phils, too, but when you do it gives them a big weapon at the bottom of the lineup. Ruiz hit 293/370/524 against lefties this season.

Lee went 14-13 with a 3.22 ERA and a 1.24 ratio in 34 starts for the Indians and Phillies in 2009. He doesn’t walk anyone, almost literally when it comes to lefties. He walked six left-handed batters all season. Lefties hit just 241/263/320 against Lee with eleven extra-base hits for the season. Righties had a lot more luck, hitting 283/321/414.

He started games one and four against the Rockies in the NLDS and was fantastic twice. In 16 1/3 innings he pitched to a 1.10 ERA with an 0.86 ratio.

He was also great in his start in game three of the NLCS against the Dodgers. He allowed three singles over eight shutout innings in the game. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out ten.

In his three starts combined for this post-season he has thrown 24 1/3 innings with an 0.74 ERA and an 0.70 ratio.

He made two starts against the Yankees this year, both of which came while he was with Cleveland. On April 16 he allowed a run on seven hits and three walks over six innings as the Indians topped the Yankees 10-1. Posada hit a home run off of him in that game and Swisher had a double. On May 29 he allowed three runs on nine hits and two walks over six innings and the Yankees won the game 3-1. Posada doubled off of Lee in that game.

The Yankees have seen Lee a lot given how long he pitched in the AL. Jeter 11-for-27 (407/467/519). Posada 6-for-21 with two doubles and two home runs (286/273/667). Cano 4-for-18 with four singles (222/263/222). A-Rod 5-for-15 with two home runs and four walks (333/450/733). Swisher 6-for-18 with two doubles (333/458/444). Teixeira 9-for-23 with four doubles and a home run (391/462/696). Cabrera 3-for-11 with a home run. Damon 2-for-22 (091/130/091).

Here are the World Series rosters.