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.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.