Thursday, October 15, 2009
ALCS Breakdown: NY Yankees vs. LA Angels
ALCS: NY Yankees vs. LA Angels HITTING: The Yankees had seven players with 20 or more home runs during the regular season, and that doesn't include Derek Jeter, who finished with 18, so the Yanks have legitimate power all the way through the lineup. As a team, New York led the majors with 244 home runs, and finished second overall in batting average, at an incredible .283. The team ahead of them is the Angels, at .285. Amazingly, the two teams finished tied for the most hits in the majors: 1604. Despite the home run disparity (Angels hit 173), the Yankees finished with just 20 more RBI than LA, so there isn't much of an edge at the hitting side of the plate. The big bats for New York are Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, who can put the ball out of any park. Johnny Damon is also a very dangerous hitter in the #2 slot, with ability to go yard on pulled pitches to right field. At the top of the order is Derek Jeter, who had a career year and provides a solid bat (.334) to get things going for the Yankees. Relying more on speed, timely hitting and solid baserunning instead of power, the Angels match up well with New York. The home run hitters are sprinkled through the middle of the order. Vladimir Guerrero, Torii Hunter and Kendry Morales all have good power to all fields. Juan Rivera had 25 long balls and catcher Mike Napoli pitched in 20. PITCHING: The Yankees are statistically better than the Angels, but the playoffs come down to starting pitching, middle relief and closers, and it's pretty tight. C.C. Sabathia is the best starter on either staff and he will match up against the Angels' John Lackey in the opener. on Friday night in New York. Edge to New York there, but only slightly. Lackey is as experienced as they come, with plenty of grit. The Yankee lineup does have the ability to maul him, however. In game two, A.J. Burnett goes against LA's Jered Weaver. Burnett has not lived up to his potential in NY, and Weaver is the more consistent of the two, so game 2 could easily go to the Yankees. If Weaver doesn't start game 2, Joe Saunders will, and it will be a more even match-up. In game 3, Andy Pettitte will face either Weaver or Saunders, and game 4 gets a little sketchy for New York. Depending on the scheduling (currently rain forecast for both Friday and Saturday in NY), the Yankees may try to go with a three-man rotation. Joba Chamberlain has been ineffective and the other options aren't that attractive. Phil Hughes has been a solid middle reliever, but using him as a starter could be costly in other games. Righty Alfredo Aceves will probably get the ball if there is a need for a 4th man. whoever it is, he will be facing Scott Kazmir, who is solid and has post-season experience from last season with the Rays. The Angels probably have better middle relief, and believe it or not, Brian Fuentes had more saves this season than Mariano Rivera, 48-44. Fuentes led the league in saves, but Rivera had a better season, with only two blown opportunities and a 1.76 ERA compared to Fuentes' 3.93. BOTTOM LINE: This is about as close a match-up as one could want. The Yankees have that power game, and may be able to overpower the Angels for a couple of wins, but, if it comes down to pitching, the lack of a reliable 4th starter could become a major issue. In any case, after Sabathia, the Angels may actually have the better starters. At the very least, they have four good ones. If this series doesn't go 7 games, it would be a surprise. The Yankees have traditionally had trouble with the Angels in the post-season, but they took 2 of 3 from them on their last West coast swing in September. The season series was a 5-5 tie. If there is any advantage, it's either the management edge Mike Scioscia has over Joe Girardi, or the sheer magnificence of Alex Rodriguez, who quietly had an MVP season after missing all of April and part of May, plus the determination of Jeter. When it comes down to it, the Yankees are probably more talented and want this one more (A-Rod's never won World Series), so I'll call it Yankees in 7.