|American League Championship Breakdown|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on October 17, 2009
Well the Phillies and Dodgers put on a good show last night.¬† So now it's the American League's turn in what looks to be an outstanding match up.¬† In many ways there are a ton of parallels between the teams in this series and the one playing in the NLCS.¬† That includes more than just geographical similarities.
Strengths:¬† Power.¬† Like the Phillies the Yankees boast quite a lot of firepower in the lineup, setting an all time team record for home runs in 2009 as they parked 244 in the seats.¬† That number is certainly inflated due to park factors at the new Yankees Stadium, but the Yankees have the ability to change a game with a single swing from almost any spot in the lineup.
Strength:¬† Closer.¬† Marino is the best in the business when it comes to playoff baseball.¬† If the game comes down to the need for a ninth inning rally, the Angels will face an uphill battle.¬† However, before Rivera the Angels will have plenty of chances.
Strength:¬† Starting pitching?¬† That's right, a question mark.¬† Certainly CC Sabathia is a world class pitcher, A.J. Burnett is having the best season of his career, and Andy Pettitte has more experience than any starter on either roster when it comes to the playoffs.¬†¬† If the weather holds, Yankees manager Joe Girardi has indicated that he'll use a three man rotation, a double edged sword, for he'll use his best three pitchers, twice, or even three times in the case of Sabathia, but tired arms might well be hittable arms.¬† If the weather intervenes (as looks likely in NYC this weekend) Girardi will be forced to go to a four-man rotation.
Weakness:¬† Outfield arms.¬† The Angels will try to take advantage of the Yankees mediocre collection of outfield arms and will attempt to take the extra base at every opportunity.¬† Expect to see them going from first to third on singles, tag up on fly balls, and stretch hits by a base when the opportunity arises.
Strength:¬† Offense.¬† The Angels scored just 32 fewer runs than the Yankees in the regular season, but they actually hit for a slightly higher average and hit 71 fewer home runs. ¬†That has forced them to build runs via the big inning, rather than with a single swing.¬† Where the Angels differ from the Dodgers though is that the Angels have gotten where they have by playing small ball and relying less on the long ball.¬† Seven of their starters hit over .290 and the lowest average of the regulars belongs to catcher Mike Napoli who hit .272 with 20 home runs.
Strength:¬† Speed.¬† The Angels will push the Yankees by taking extra bases at every opportunity.¬† Running not just on the outfielders, but on Jorge Posada and Jose Molina too.
Strength:¬† Table setters.¬†¬† Chone Figgins and Bobby Abreu see more pitches than just about any hitters in the Majors.¬† They don't take bad swings, and make pitchers work hard, pushing up the pitch counts and wearing pitchers out earlier.¬† They also between them stole 72 bases and both hit over .290 with OBPs of greater than .390.¬† That level of consistency makes them terrors to opposing pitching, and puts a strain on even the best defenses.
Strength:¬† Pitching.¬† Even though the Yankees staff finished the season with an ERA almost a quarter of run better per game than the Angels staff, don't read too much into that.¬† The Angels spent much of the season with their strongest pitchers on the shelf.¬† That being said, they've converted Ervin Santana to bullpen help in this series and he could provide stopping power if the Yankees do get to a starter fairly early.
Strength:¬† Resiliency.¬† This team has been challenged all season long, dealing with issues ranging from devastating injuries to most of their pitching staff, to a shoulder problem for Vladimir Guerrero, to the death of pitcher Nick Adenhart early in the season.¬† That's forced this team to deal with adversity the whole season, and it's only been in the last two months of the season that the team has fully come together.¬† Even if the Yankees strike a big blow in the first couple of games, this Angels team isn't going to roll over and quit.
Prediction:¬† Angels in 6