Previewing the Playoff Matchups: AL

With the number of games remaining for teams dwindling into a single digit territory, I thought it a decent time to evaluate the possible postseason match ups that we will be viewing this coming October. Lets start in the American League.

Three of the four playoff spots are all but fixed at this point. New York will win the East, Anaheim the West and Boston the Wild Card. Because of the rule preventing the team with the best record in the league, which will be New York, from playing the Wild Card team if said team is from their division, which Boston is, New York gets the benefit of playing the lower win totaled team that captures the AL Central crown.

Boston will face off against the Angels in the Divisional Series for the fourth time. Each previous time, 2004 (sweep), 2007 (sweep) and 2008 (3 games to 1) was won by Boston. Will the Angels be able to overcome their first round nemesis this season?

The Yankees meanwhile, who have a Divisional Series bug of themselves to boot having not advanced past the first round in their last three trips to the postseason, will face off against either the Detroit Tigers in a rematch of the 2006 ALDS or the Minnesota Twins in a rematch of the 2003 and 2004 ALDS’ which were both won by New York, who hasn’t won a Divisional Series since.

As for which team might present a tougher task to New York, the Twins and Tigers are remarkably evenly matched in value this year. I guess that’s not much of a surprise given their nearly identical records, but when you consider how often it seems the won-loss records are out of whack with the team’s underlying performances, I was interested it note the combined hitters (includes defense) + pitchers WAR for the two teams:
Tigers: 20.9 + 14.8 = 35.7
Twins: 19.2 + 15.4 = 34.6

Neither team is markedly stronger than the other and it would come down to simple matchups and which team might benefit more from the dropped 5th starter in the playoffs.




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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.


23 Responses to “Previewing the Playoff Matchups: AL”

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  1. Pat says:

    Matt,

    Not to be a jerk, but I’ve come to expect a lot more out of fangraphs. I thought there would be more to this article than simply telling me the match ups everyone knows and then saying that Boston has dominated the Angels in the playoffs of late (thank, I wasn’t quite sure) and that the Yanks haven’t made it to the LCS in a few years (thanks for the update).

    Please include an actual preview next time rather than reading off the standings for everyone.

    If this is a 5th grader submitting an article I will now feel bad. Otherwise, try harder next time.

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    • don says:

      Trapped by “small sample size”, what sort of matchup preview do you expect from Fangraphs? ESPN can talk about everything they learned from things like a 4 game series 3 months ago, but really, who cares?

      If there’s one thing that consistently amazes me about this site it’s the demeanor of the comments.

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      • Ryan says:

        Don, are you serious? You really think the only criteria that one could use to preview a series is head-to-head results? Come on. Strength of pitching match-ups, how X pitcher is likely to fare against Y line-up, etc.

        Pat’s comment may have been overly rude, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong. My reaction to this piece was one of surprise and disappointment as well.

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      • Pat says:

        Don,

        The crazy thing is that he even put at the end that it will “come down to simple matchups and which team might benefit more from the dropped 5th starter in the playoffs”. Hey, great idea! Lets analyze these “simple matchups”!

        As Ryan said, my comment was rude and over the top – I do apologize for that, but in no way do I think I am wrong in pointing out that this was a lazy, useless article.

        Titodawg did more analysis with his comment –

        “No Morneau for the twins, no verlander-type shutdown starter either, I think the Yanks would prefer minnesota”.

        Do you think Titodawg’s comments mean more in these matchups than pointing out that the Yanks played the Twins in 2003 and 2004 and the Tigers in 2006? Because I sure do.

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  2. Titodawg says:

    No Morneau for the twins, no verlander-type shutdown starter either, I think the Yanks would prefer minnesota

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    • Eric Cioe says:

      Verlander matches up with anyone in the league. But he’ll have thrown 240 innings or so before they even get to the postseason, because if he didn’t chew up those innings, the Tigers would be chasing the Twins right now. We’ll see how much he’s got in his tank after a 40 inning jump in workload. I think he’ll be fine because he’s handling a bigger workload than anyone since Livan in 2005, and his fastball has gotten harder (95.5 most of the season, 95.9 lately) once he passed 200 innings.

      And while Jackson has been out of sorts lately, he’s surely got to be a bigger concern than Nick Blackburn or whoever the Twins would throw out after Scott Baker.

      The Tigers’ pitching staff has been really top heavy all year, with Verlander and Jackson in the rotation and Lyon, Seay, and Rodney out of the pen. Everyone else has been horrible (Galarraga, Willis, etc). The only two guys in the middle of the pack are Porcello and Perry. For that reason, I think the Tigers have a better shot in the postseason. The Twins’ rotation is full of #2-4 starters, but no one who is a threat to strike out 10 and throw 8 shutout innings every time he takes the mound.

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  3. WY says:

    “Neither team is markedly stronger than the other and it would come down to simple matchups and which team might benefit more from the dropped 5th starter in the playoffs..

    It’s not just the dropped fifth starter to think about, but also (in one of the two series) a dropped fourth starter due to the extra off days.

    Also, not to be a jerk, but the punctuation and grammar in Mr. Carruth’s post (and several others of his I’ve read in the past) are pretty rough. I know it’s a blog, but even MS Word would be able to offer some suggestions that would smooth out the rough edges and make the writing read a little easier.

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  4. Wexler says:

    Great preview! So, the Angels are going to play the Red Sox in the first round. And the Yankees will play either the Tigers or Twins. While I can’t find fault with these bold predictions, I’m not exactly betting the house on them (not in this housing market anyway ;-) haha).

    I know you’re already going out on a limb by listing these two possible playoff scenarios even though they only have 99.5% chance of occurring, so consider this a nitpicky criticism, but: In the next preview, do you think you could peer into your crystal ball and maybe just state the question “Who will win one of these series?”?

    [EDIT:Duh! I see now that you’ve already done that. You actually asked- in a “preview” of the ALDS- Can the Angels beat the Red Sox? Great fuckin’ question, dude! I guess that’s as far as we can go with that one. Hell of a job here. Not quite as in depth as what the guys at the NY Post will do, but those are Mencken-like journalistic geniuses, so we wouldn’t to set the bar that high.]

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  5. Pat (different) says:

    Sorry but im with the majority here, there was absolutely nothing of value here.

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  6. Travis says:

    I enjoy whining about free content with an undeserved sense of self importance as though there were some reason that someone should write an article that not only amuses me, but that matches my theory about the same player. Should the article meet neither of those guidelines, I prefer to personally insult both the author and his content as though my opinion was one of authority, even though I am a nobody and have no right/reason to criticize something I don’t pay for.

    Oh, no wait, I’m not every other commenter on this website. My bad.

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    • Ezra says:

      I agree with Travis. Your comments just aren’t worth surfing, fans.

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    • Andrew says:

      if you’re reading this site you already know what the AL playoff matches will be. it’s pointless to devote an entire article to them.

      if you want to spur a discussion between the readers that’s fine. but as the article stands it’s stupid and wouldn’t even be published in a high school paper.

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      • Travis says:

        I enjoy whining about free content with an undeserved sense of self importance as though there were some reason that someone should write an article that not only amuses me, but that matches my theory about the same player. Should the article meet neither of those guidelines, I prefer to personally insult both the author and his content as though my opinion was one of authority, even though I am a nobody and have no right/reason to criticize something I don’t pay for.

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      • Travis says:

        In other words, go somewhere else, email Appleman directly, or ignore it and get over it. No one cares what you think, and while you think you have some right to criticize, the reality is that you are a reading free content and they can write whatever they want with or without your approval.

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  7. Nick says:

    All I have to say is, 90% of the Red Sox innings in the postseason will be pitched by Beckett, Lester, Buchholz, Matsuzaka, Wagner, Bard, Okajima and Papelbon, and I’m pretty happy about that.

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    • Judy says:

      Any reason why Saito doesn’t make the cut? I’ve been sort of hoping the Red Sox might notice he’s pretty good by playoff time.

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  8. Andrew says:

    Whoa, thanks for clearing some stuff up! I thought there were two wildcard teams?

    But what about the bye week? And you didn’t list any of the seeds (where are numbers 5-8?). So I’m still pretty confused. And what happens after this “ALCS”? It’s called the World Series right so do they play the best team from Cuba or something? Screw THOSE COMMIES btw!

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  9. noseeum says:

    Maybe there’s a little too much snark or insult, but this article was definitely mailed in.

    It’s a blog, so the best way to make this a much better post is to make it an open thread.

    Title: AL Playoffs Open Thread
    “Hey folks, here’s the matchups. Who do you think will win?” And let us have at it in the comments.

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  10. mattymatty says:

    As Travis kindly pointed out, nobody cares what I think, but I have to say, as a huge fan of Fangraphs and someone who reads the site multiple times per day (and thank you to all the authors for your generally excellent content!) this article was a disappointment to me. Not much was offered in the way of analysis, and not much much was pointed out that I as a baseball fan did not already know.

    All that said, everyone needs a mulligan from time to time and if they sold fangraphs t-shirts, I’d own one.

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  11. Justin says:

    Just months ago all these negative comments would have not surfaced. Instead people would just not comment on the article, read another, or state their own opinions on the match-ups.

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    • Teej says:

      Why would you do any of those things when you can be a dick instead? It’s the Internet! Get with it, man.

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    • noseeum says:

      Why is no comments better than criticism? What’s wrong with criticism? It’s best if it’s constructive, of course, but what’s wrong with people expecting more from fangraphs?

      I don’t really get the people who prefer a “nothing to see here” strategy. If you like the article that’s one thing, but “Yes, it’s not good, but don’t be mean and point it out?” That’s a weird stance.

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      • Teej says:

        Your point is a fair one, but is the comments section really supposed to be a referendum on the quality of each article? I’d rather talk about the topic at hand than discuss where the writer could have done better. The writers post a ton of short blurbs all week long. If one of them doesn’t do much for me, I’ll just move on, because there’s a lot more fun stuff about baseball to talk about, and focusing energy on something I’m not interested in is a waste of my time.

        For me, it’s just an attitude thing. People who feel like they’re entitled to something they didn’t do anything to earn tend to rub me the wrong way. Particularly when the criticism comes laced with sarcasm and other demeaning tones that are creating a standoffish form of dialogue everywhere on the Web. That’s what bugs me — far more than someone simply telling the writer he could do better.

        Not to mention, this isn’t THT or BP, where there are 5,000-word dissertations on a topic. It’s a blog centered on quick-hit stuff. This was a simple summary of what’s coming up, and looking at the quality of the two teams who are still in a race.

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