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.
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.
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.

Yadier Molina scratched from Cardinals’ lineup

molina getty
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Yadier Molina was in the Cardinals’ initial, posted lineup for Game 4 of the NLDS this afternoon, but the injured catcher has been scratched and replaced by backup Tony Cruz.

Molina has been playing through a significant thumb injury and exited Game 3 early in obvious discomfort. He no doubt talked his way into the lineup, but manager Mike Matheny told reporters that Molina was removed due to “considerable weakness in his hand.”

Not only will the Cardinals try to stave off elimination without Molina behind the plate, if they are able to advance past the Cubs in the NLDS they could be without the seven-time All-Star catcher in the NLCS.

Robinson Cano underwent sports hernia surgery

Robinson Cano

The Mariners announced today that second baseman Robinson Cano underwent surgery on his “core muscles” today, to repair that which we more commonly refer to as a sports hernia.

Cano played through the injury during the second half of what was a below par season. Hit hit .387/.334/.486 on the year though, surprisingly, did much better in the second half, posting a line of .331/.387/.540. The hernia may have been bothersome, but it didn’t really hamper him, it would seem.

He’ll need six weeks of recovery time, but should be good to go by spring training, looking for a bounce back year.

NLDS, Game 4: Cardinals vs. Cubs lineups

John Lackey

Here are the Cardinals and Cubs lineups for Game 4 of the NLDS in Chicago:

3B Matt Carpenter
1B Stephen Piscotty
LF Matt Holliday
RF Jason Heyward
SS Jhonny Peralta
CF Randal Grichuk
2B Kolten Wong
C Yadier Molina Tony Cruz
SP John Lackey

Yadier Molina is in the lineup despite leaving Game 3 early with obvious discomfort in his injured thumb. Randal Grichuk starts in center field after Tommy Pham played there in Game 3, which is interesting because in Game 1 the Cardinals used Grichuk in right field and Jason Heyward in center field. John Lackey is starting on short rest after winning Game 1, as manager Mike Matheny bypassed Lance Lynn with the season on the line.

UPDATE: Molina has been scratched from the lineup and replaced by Tony Cruz.

CF Dexter Fowler
RF Jorge Soler
3B Kris Bryant
1B Anthony Rizzo
2B Starlin Castro
LF Kyle Schwarber
C Miguel Montero
SP Jason Hammel
SS Javier Baez

Addison Russell is out of the lineup after injuring his hamstring in Game 3, so Javier Baez is taking his place at shortstop and batting ninth behind the pitcher. Jorge Soler’s hot streak gets him another start in the No. 2 spot, with Kyle Schwarber batting sixth again. Jason Hammel makes his first start in 12 days.