Monday, October 4, 2010

Time For The Second Season

I love this time of the year. October is by far my favorite month. Nothing beats baseball's second season, the postseason. It's truly the most exciting time of the year.

I don't know about you but I for one am very happy that the Yankees finished the season as the wild card winner. I think they're better off facing the Twins than the Rangers in the ALDS. I kind of wrote about this in my last entry and with the regular season now over it makes a little sense to revisit it.

The main reason I prefer the Yankees facing the Twins is simple and it can be explained in 2 words: Cliff Lee. Had the Yankees won the East they'd be hosting the Rangers and would undoubtedly face Cliff Lee in game 1. Cliff Lee is a stud and a much better pitcher outside of Texas. Pitching in Yankee Stadium would greatly benefit Lee as Yankee Stadium plays to LHPs. The Yankees know this and that's one of the major reasons they tried to trade for him before the deadline and it's one of the biggest reasons the Yankees will go hard after Lee once the free agent market opens. It would have been tough to beat him in game 1. Real tough.

I would assume, if the Rangers were smart, that they would have started C.J. Wilson, another LHP, in game 2. The Yankees have struggled mightily in recent weeks, losing something like 9 straight games against LH starters. I say something like because I don't know the actual number. I recall hearing the stat on the radio before the last series with Boston and I'm too lazy to look it up. Anyway, point is, facing 2 decent LHPs in Yankee Stadium in a short series could be a death sentence.

I personally think the Yankees match-up much better with the Twins. They're pitching staff isn't as strong and they'll avoid facing the tough lefty, Francisco Liriano, in Yankee Stadium. I also think the Yankees are in a good position to break up their two LHPs. If the Yankees were at home to start the ALDS it would make perfect sense to start Sabathia in game 1 and Pettitte in game 2. Again, Yankee Stadium plays to LHPs. I think they would have shot themselves in the foot if they started Pettitte in game 3 had they hosted Texas. The right move now in my opinion is to start CC in game 1 and Phil Hughes in game 2. Hughes has pitched much better on the road this year and I think he'll fare rather well pitching in Target Field. Pettitte should start game 3.

The game four starter is the big question mark. Here's how I would play it. If the Yankees are up 2-1, I'd start A.J. Burnett. I don't think you can let A.J. pitch in a big game. If the Yankees were down 2-1 or tied 2-2 I'd struggle to give the ball to Burnett. If they're down 2-1 I think they need to bring CC back on short rest. The only hiccup in that plan is that they then probably need to bring Hughes back on short rest to start game 5. That's the only roadbump in my plan. Not sure I want to see them go down that road but I think it makes the most sense. I wouldn't want A.J. to pitch and I'm not sure how I feel about Pettitte pitching on short rest based on how he finished out the season. I could live with Hughes in game 5. Hopefully, it doesn't go that far.

Another plus to facing the Twins is that they don't run that much. The Twins had 68 stolen bases on the year compared to 123 for the Rangers. The Yankees ranked dead last in the AL in caught stealing percentage, stopping only 15% of would-be base-stealers. If the Twins were smart they'd run all over Posada and Cervelli. But it doesn't look like it's part if their game. Advantage Yankees.

Another thing working in the Yankees' favor is that Justin Morneau is out for the playoffs. That's pretty big. The Twins' lineup is definitely not the same without him. On the flip side, Josh Hamilton just came off the DL and returned to the Rangers' lineup. Hamilton, had he played all season, would probably win the AL MVP award. Anytime you don't have to face him, you win.

I definitely like the Yankees chances in the ALDS. They've owned the Twins in the postseason and I expect them to get past them again. If only we didn't have to wait 46 hours to get it started.

Peace, love and Pinstripes,