ALCS Preview: Angels vs. Yankees

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After convincing sweeps in Divisional Series play, the Angels and Yankees will meet in the ALCS. It’ll be the third postseason series in eight years for the teams. They never played in the first 31 years of the Angels’ existence, but they met in the ALDS in 2002 and 2005, with the Angels winning both series. In 2002, it was a high-scoring series in which the losing team plated at least five runs in all four games. The Angels lost Game 1, then rallied to win three straight, with Troy Glaus hitting three homers in the process.
The 2005 ALDS was remarkably close, with four of the five games being decided by one or two runs. Bengie Molina and Garret Anderson starred in that one, with the former hitting three homers and the latter driving in seven runs.
This is set to be the first seven-game series for the two teams, and MLB has seemingly given the Yankees a nice advantage by spreading the series over 10 days, rather than the traditional nine. That means the teams can go with three starters throughout, with just one pitcher ever starting on short rest.
2009 ALCS Probables
Game 1: John Lackey vs. CC Sabathia
Game 2: Joe Saunders vs. A.J. Burnett
Game 3: Andy Pettitte vs. Jered Weaver
Game 4: CC Sabathia vs. Scott Kazmir
Game 5: A.J. Burnett vs. John Lackey
Game 6: Joe Saunders vs. Andy Pettitte
Game 7: Jered Weaver vs. CC Sabathia
Of course, that’s all tentative. But with ridiculously unnecessary extra day off, a pitcher can starts Games 2 and 5, Games 3 and 6 and Games 4 and 7 on normal rest. Sabathia will be going on short rest in Game 4, but he does have experience doing so.
The Angels probably wouldn’t receive the same advantage by bring Lackey back on short rest, so they’ll go with four starters. Unlike the Yankees, they’ve officially announced their starters through Game 4 as of this writing. It’s entirely possible that they’ll make a change and go with Kazmir in Game 7 if he outpitches Weaver. The Angels pushed Weaver back from Game 2 to Game 3 largely because of his excellent record at home. Game 7, though, will be back in Yankee Stadium and Kazmir would be able to start that one on normal rest.
Even with the heavy dose of CC, the rotation edge likely goes to the Angels. All of that Sabathia may not go as far as the Yankees are hoping anyway. The big left-hander lost both of his starts against the Angels this year, amassing a 6.08 ERA in the process. He’s 5-7 with a 4.72 ERA lifetime against them. Pettitte went 0-2 with a 7.88 ERA in three starts this year. Only Burnett was solid, going 1-0 with a 4.26 ERA.
Of course, the Angels starters don’t have very good ERAs against the Yankees either. The exception is Kazmir, who went 2-1 with a 3.20 ERA versus the Bombers this season. He’s 6-5 with a 2.67 ERA lifetime. It’s one more good reason to think he’ll be the Game 7 starter if it gets that far.
The offenses
It’s a matchup of the AL’s top two offenses. The Yankees led the majors in runs, homers, OBP and slugging, while the Angels came in second in runs and first in average.
New Yankee Stadium did play a role in the power numbers, but not as large was one might expect. The Yankees still outhomered the Angels 108-83 in road games and outslugged them .466-.434. The two teams hit for the same .283 average on the road.
The Angels had to be as excited to see Vladimir Guerrero come up big in the ALDS as the Yankees were with Alex Rodriguez. Still, Chone Figgins’ extreme lack of production is a concern. He went 0-for-12 with six strikeouts against the Red Sox, leaving him at .182/.214/.273 in 99 at-bats over nine career postseason series.
Howie Kendrick will be another big factor in the series. He’s hit .427 with an 11/12 K/BB ratio in 108 career at-bats against the Yankees. As the starting second baseman against left-handers, he’s due to play in five of the seven games. However, he’s been flat-out brutal in the postseason, all against the Red Sox. In three series, he’s gone 5-for-32 with no extra-base hits and a 10/0 K/BB ratio. That’s a 308 OPS. If he gets off to a poor start, he’ll probably find himself on the bench in favor of Maicer Izturis.
The Yankees weren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut versus the Twins. In fact, they were outhit 29-23 in the series, with the difference being that they outhomered the Twins 6-0 while scoring 15 runs between the three games. The important thing was that A-Rod got his groove on, going 5-for-11 with two homers. The Angels figure to try a different strategy against him than that of the Twins, who mostly opted to throw him fastballs over the heart of the plate.
Numbers
Season series tied 5-5
Angels outscored Yankees 65-55
Runs per game
Angels: 5.45
Yankees: 5.65
Runs allowed per game
Angels: 4.70
Yankees: 4.65
Bullpen ERA:
Angels: 4.49
Yankees: 3.91
Defensive efficiency
Angels: 17th in MLB
Yankees: 13th in MLB
Overrated angle
Jose Molina’s presence as the starting catcher for A.J. Burnett
As has been widely discussed, Burnett and Jorge Posada just don’t work very well together, and the Yankees opted to go with Molina as the catcher for Burnett in Game 2 of the ALDS. The pairing will be used again in the ALCS, but it shouldn’t play a huge role. Since the Yankees will keep carrying a third catcher in Francisco Cervelli, they won’t hesitate to have Posada replace Molina as soon as Burnett leaves his two starts.
The over/under for plate appearances for Molina in the ALCS is four. If he hits more than twice in either of his starts, it should mean that the Yankees have scored a bunch of runs or Burnett is working deep into the contest. He came up just once in his start against the Twins.
Underrated angle
The off day advantage for the Yankees.
The Yankees have the best starter. They have the best closer. They have the best setup man. And now they get to use all of them more than they might otherwise because MLB guaranteed itself a little extra revenue by sneaking in an extra off day between Games 4 and 5.
Prediction
Yankees in 6
The Angels should be able to claim a game in New York early with the seemingly even pitching matchups, but I can’t help but think they’ll need both if they’re going to pull off the upset. Weaver’s arsenal isn’t particularly well suited to keeping the Yankees in check, and the Yankees should have as much success against the Angels pen as they did versus Minnesota’s.
The Angels will probably need both Darren Oliver and Brian Fuentes to come up big if they’re going to have a chance. The pair threw four scoreless innings against the Red Sox, allowing just one hit in the process. However, the Yankees figure to put up better fights versus both and steal at least one game against them.

Orioles are eying Welington Castillo as their primary catcher target

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 25: Welington Castillo #7 of the Arizona Diamondbacks warms up prior to taking an at bat against the Baltimore Orioles in the second inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 25, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
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A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.

Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.

For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.

Report: Phillies agree to minor league deal with Daniel Nava

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 12:  Daniel Nava #12 of the Kansas City Royals bats during the game against the Oakland Athletics at Kauffman Stadium on September 12, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.

Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.