ALCS Preview: Yankees/Angels

So, that was fairly easy. The mismatch that was the Twins-Yankees series played out much like expected, with the tired and undermanned Minnesota roster just not good enough to play with the best team in baseball. Had Justin Morneau been healthy or end of season schedule been a bit different, perhaps it would not have played out the same way, but given the circumstances, the Yankees essentially got a bye into the ALCS.

Unfortunately for New York, they won’t have the same advantage in their upcoming series. The Angels also made swift work of their opponents, dispatching the Red Sox in three games as well, meaning that both teams will be well rested for Game One of the ALCS on Friday. Let’s take a look at the probable pitching match-ups for the first three games of the series.

Game One, Angels at Yankees, Friday, October 16th

CC Sabathia vs John Lackey

Game Two, Angels at Yankees, Saturday, October 17th

A.J. Burnett vs Jered Weaver

Game Three, Yankees at Angels, Monday, October 19th

Andy Pettitte vs Scott Kazmir

No surprises here. Both teams will throw their top three starters, all of whom will be well rested since their appearances in the division series. The Yankees have the advantage in games one and three, while two is close to a push. New York has the advantage, but it’s not a huge one.

After those three games, though, the match-ups become a question mark, due to the off-day scheduling. There’s an off-day between the fourth and fifth games of the series, so if either team wanted to go with a three man rotation, they could do it while only having to use their #1 starter on short rest. This would line up both Sabathia and Lackey for regular rest starts in Game Seven as well.

Given the questions surrounding both Joe Saunders and Joba Chamberlain, this seems like an easy call. The expected drop-off of pitching on three days rest versus four days rest is almost certainly smaller than the expected drop-off from giving either Saunders or Chamberlain innings that would otherwise go to Sabathia or Lackey. I’d take a short rest Lackey over a full rest Saunders every day of the week, and I have to imagine so will Mike Scioscia.

So, expect both teams to go with just three starters for the ALCS, allowing them to employ larger bullpens and make more late game reliever swaps. If you’re a fan of long baseball games that go deep into the night, this ALCS should be for you – two good hitting clubs with a huge assortment of bullpen options and games that should be relatively competitive. It’s a recipe for 1 AM finishes.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


32 Responses to “ALCS Preview: Yankees/Angels”

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  1. pfavole says:

    For what it’s worth, I like Kazmir over Pettitte, though the post-season experience of Andy probably makes it wash.

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  2. Jacob Jackson says:

    Honest question: Would it make sense to switch Petitte and Burnett, so that the Yankees could throw their two left-handers at home in Game 1 and 2 and mitigate lefty power at Yankee stadium?

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  3. Logan says:

    It’s hard to get away with saying a 97-win team is over matched, but I think the Angels are really up against it here. The Yankees lineup brings the pain (so do the Angels, but not quite as much). Plus Fuentes is only a few levels better than Lidge. He could pull a Nathan.

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    • joser says:

      Didn’t Nathan pull a Franklin, who pulled a Papelbon?

      This has not been a good postseason for closers, real or imagined (Franklin at least is the latter).

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  4. Dirty Water says:

    Be patient.

    I’m still trying to figure out how the Kazmir/Pettitte is a MFY advantage. Kazmir is MFY kryptonite, Pettitte gets rocked by LAA. Maybe I’m missing something.. (like bias).

    IMO, the Weaver game is a MFY lock, the others, up in the air.

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  5. Dirty Water says:

    Oops, forgot Burnett is pitching that Weaver game. So, no locks.

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  6. Terrence Long says:

    Andy/AJ will both get 1 home and 1 away start, so its pretty moot who goes when.

    Yankees 4th starter is almost certainly Gaudin not Chamberlain. That also goes for the WS if they only go 3 in the ALCS.

    Mo Rivera, Hughes, Joba, Dave Robertson, all good K/9 pitchers, make the late pitching a big edge.

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  7. Mike says:

    I’m pretty sure Scoiscia will go with Saunders in game 4. Saunders had a rough second half, but doubt Scoiscia will pitch Lackey on short rest.

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  8. 198d says:

    The fourth game is probably highly dependent on the particulars, no? Yankees up 3-0, Lackey/Gaudin. Angels up 3-0, Saunders/CC, anything in between and likely Lackey/CC. That’d be my guess?

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    • Scott says:

      That plan works as long as the starters in games 1,2, and 3 don’t get shelled. If Burnett gives up 5 runs in 3 innings, then you have a real dilemma to either burn out the bullpen or use the alternate starter.

      It also requires not using Saunders/Joba/Gaudin in the bullpen in the earlier games.

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  9. Yoni says:

    Mike is right. Saunders comes in for game 4, then back to lackey. The angels have more switch hitters, which can make a real difference if used well in Yankee stadium

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  10. Rob in CT says:

    The Yankees choice in game 4 is between Chad Gaudin or CC on short rest. I certainly hope they pick CC.

    The lineups are basically even – slight edge in hitting to the Yanks, but the Angels baserunning closes some of that already pretty small gap. Defense appears to be pretty even as well. Starters… CC/Lacky is (very small) edge Yanks, Weaver/Burnett is, to me, edge Angels, Kazmir/Pettitte is edge Yanks, and game 4 is unknown since we don’t know what each team will do. Bullpen is edge Yanks.

    It could be a knock-down, drag-out series. Watch it end in 4. The way the playoffs have gone so far…

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    • Kevin S. says:

      The lineups are basically even – slight edge in hitting to the Yanks, but the Angels baserunning closes some of that already pretty small gap.

      I know that’s the popular line being thrown around… but it’s just not true. The Angels were third in baseball in wOBA, at .346. The Yankees were first, but they were twenty points higher. The gap between them was equal to the gap between the Angels and the 16th-place Washington Natinals. As for the baserunning, the Yanks stole at an 80% success rate, the Angels at 70%. Not sure how that gives them an edge – offensively, the Yanks were eleven wins better.

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      • Rob in CT says:

        I’m not actually talking about steals. I know the Angels got caught stealing too much. No, I mean taking the extra base. They were excellent at that.

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      • Rob in CT says:

        That said, the wOBA gap is greater than I’d remembered. The baserunning, which I do think was a strength for the Angels *in spite of* their stolen base numbers, doesn’t close that gap. So your main point is correct. Edge Yankees on offense.

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      • Kevin S. says:

        I saw that Bill James mentioned that, though I can’t see it since I don’t have a subscription. Where’d the other playoff teams grade out at taking the extra base?

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  11. Steve says:

    2 excellent teams going in a short series. Yankees might have a small edge, but i’d say this one is as close to a toss-up as it gets.

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  12. Daniel says:

    Has Scioscia really set his rotation for the first three games? I know Lackey’s going game 1, but I haven’t heard him reveal the next two starters.

    I know this sounds crazy, but if I’m Scioscia, I start Saunders in game 2. Why? First, to get Weaver into Anaheim Stadium for his first start of the series (yeah he would have to pitch in NY in game 6, but you don’t know if you’ll have to play that game). Weaver is a notorious fly ball pitcher. He’s been effective this year, but I don’t know if the Angels want him pitching in home run central if they can avoid it.

    Why Saunders over Kazmir? Saunders is a much better groundball pitcher. And it’s not like Kazmir is that much of a better pitcher, period, at this point. Both struggled early in the season, both had time on the DL, both came back and did well. But Kazmir’s velocity was down a couple MPH in Boston, and that’s scary. When you factor in the GB/FB ratio, I think Saunders is the way to go. Plus I think Kazmir would be more effective out of the bullpen than Saunders (if Scioscia went with a 3-man rotation) where he might be able to air it out for a couple innings and get a couple strikeouts.

    3-man rotation: Lackey-Saunders-Weaver-Lackey-Saunders-Weaver-Lackey
    4-man: Lackey-Saunders-Weaver-Kazmir-Lackey-Saunders-Kazmir/Weaver

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    • Kevin S. says:

      I would absolutely love for the Yanks to face the soft-tossing lefty with the 1.58 K/BB and the 5.17 FIP extra times. Saunders’ GB/FB is higher, yes, but he allows many more balls to be put into play, and the non-contact batters aren’t retired at anywhere near an acceptable rate.

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      • Daniel says:

        Good point, but Saunders isn’t “soft-tossing.” With Kazmir’s fastball losing velocity (on TBS’s amped up gun, he should have been sitting 94 – 96, instead of 91 – 93), his fastball velocity is about the same as Saunders. The Angels have one of the best defenses in the league, which is why Saunders has been successful for the times during the last couple of seasons when he hasn’t been hurt.

        At full health, I take Kazmir over Saunders. But I think Kazmir is either tiring or feeling some effects of the injury he had earlier this year. His K rate has been way down the last few starts.

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      • Daniel says:

        Looks like it will be Saunders in game 2

        http://anaheim.angels.mlb.com/news/probable_pitchers.jsp?c_id=ana

        That’s not concrete or anything, but I don’t know why they would put it up if that’s not the plan.

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      • Kevin S. says:

        Wow. Angels better hope they win Game One.

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      • Daniel says:

        Well, yeah, winning game 1 would be nice, but why do you think Saunders has less chance of winning game 2 than Weaver? He’ll have the platoon advantage against Cano, Matsui, and Damon, lefties have the advantage in Yankee Stadium, he’s got a much better GB/FB ratio (and the Angels have a good defense), and he’s been very good since he got back from the DL in August. As for Kazmir, the way he looked against Boston is not encouraging and his K rate has been way down the last few games (probably as a result of lower fastball velo).

        At WORST, I’d say it’s a toss up between the three, but all the factors seem to indicate that this is the best way to go.

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      • Kevin S. says:

        Because Cano, Matsui and Damon don’t have particularly large career splits, and Weaver is significantly better than Saunders.

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      • Daniel says:

        Weaver (career) ERA home: 3.27 ERA road: 4.17;
        Saunders (career) ERA home: 4.43 ERA road: 3.97

        Weaver (career) OPS against home: .675 OPSa road: .750
        Saunders (career) OPSa home: .768 OPSa road: .731

        Also, Saunders was better than Weaver last year, and has been just as good this year after he got back from the DL. Given those splits and the fact that Weaver just isn’t “significantly better than Saunders” (better, but not at all significant at this point in their careers), I don’t see how this is a bad decision.

        And I didn’t even mention GB/FB ratio there. Score another one for Saunders. It makes a heck of a lot of sense to save Weaver for game 3 in Anaheim Stadium.

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  13. Logan says:

    “the Yankees essentially got a bye into the ALCS”

    Except not at all. The Twins came an inning away from going back to the dome tied, and then who knows how things would have unfolded. C’mon Dave, you’re the hyperbole nazi, it was definitely a mismatch, but even a 5 game series with an inferior team holds a reasonable chance of elimination. A bye is an assured success.

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