2009 Yankees vs. Angels ALCS preview

Position Players

The Angels may have a better team BA which I’ve heard pointed out multiple times, but it’s only .002 points better. That’s minuscule. The smart baseball people also know that OBP is better than BA. The Yankees lead that category by .012 points. SLG is also an important stat and the Yankees lead by .037 points. A very important stat which often gets overlooked is BB/K ratio. That Yankees are much better in that category with a 0.65 BB/K while the Angels have a 0.52 BB/K. The Yankees have a BB% and K% of 10.5 and 17.9, respectively. The Angels have a 8.9 BB% and a 18.7 K%. The Yankees have a .366 wOBA as a team. That’s really good for an entire team. The Angels have a .346 wOBA as a team which is good, but no where near the Yankees. Both teams can take advantage of mistakes on the basepaths except a few players on each team. They can also both steal plenty of bases if given the chance. Both starting catchers throw out less than 30% of base runners so expect Scioscia and Girardi to give their base runners the green light when they’re behind the plate. Neither team is anything to write about on defense. The Yankees do however lead the Angels in WAR by 8.9. That’s a significant amount. The Yankees and Angels, respectively, scored the most runs in the MLB with the Yankees scoring 915 and the Angels scoring 883.

Starters

The playoff rotation for a team in a LCS is different from the one during the season because they would use 4 starters instead of 5 starters so team statistics from the season will not work. The Yankees are <A HREF=”http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/playoffs/2009/news/story?id=4556312”>leaning towards</A> using a 3-man rotation like they did in the ALDS. This would mean that CC Sabathia would have to start game 4 on 3 days rest, but AJ would start game 5 on normal rest, Andy would start game 6 on normal rest, and CC would start game 7 on normal rest. As a diehard Yankees fan I would feel much better without having to start Gaudin or Joba. This will also lengthen our already stingy bullpen. The Angels could opt to do the same thing and have Lackey pitch on short rest, but he hasn’t exactly been the epitome of health. He hasn’t started 30 games since 2007. I will show stats both ways for the Angels since nothing is set in stone.

CC Sabathia has pitched great this season showing why he was the most coveted pitcher on the FA market last year. He’s hit a few bumps in the road, but rarely do pitchers pitch outstanding in every game. He also shut all the doubters up with a great performance in game 1 of the ALDS. AJ Burnett has had a rocky season, but flashes of greatness during the season capped off by a very good performance to close out the season. He pitched very nicely in game 2 of the ALDS, but he also walked 5 in 6 innings which is a little scary against an Angels team that’s not afraid to steal a base. Andy Pettitte pitched very well for a 37 year old pitcher who was never a dominant pitcher. He also had a very good game in game 3. This season CC, AJ, and Andy combined for a 3.83 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 2.25 K/BB, 7.7 K/9, and 3.42 BB/9. I’m not really sure how to calculate FIP, but the average FIP of those 3 comes out to 3.95. CC, AJ, and Andy had a combined 12.3 WAR over the season and a 3.89 WAR/200. A 3-man rotation would also make sense because the Yankees would send out CC, easily their best starter, to start a crucial game 7 if necessary.

John Lackey hasn’t been so great this season. He has had a bunch of really good starts mixed in with some really bad ones. Looking at his game log he reminds of AJ Burnett this season. However, he’s coming off a great start against Boston in game 1. Jered Weaver had a very similar season to Lackey and pitched great in game 2. Scott Kazmir did not have a good year overall, but he was amazing with the Angels. However, he didn’t have a very good game 3 against the Red Sox. If the Angels do not feel comfortable starting Lackey on 3 days rest they could either switch up their rotation so that either Weaver or Kazmir would start on short rest or they could insert Joe Saunders into the rotation. The 3-man rotation had a 4.09 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 2.49 K/BB, 7.2 K/9, and a 2.91 BB/9. Their average FIP was 4.01. They had a combined 10.1 WAR and a 3.78 WAR/200. Let’s see what happens when Joe Saunders, who would most likely be their 4th starter, comes into the picture. The 4-man rotation had a 4.22 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 2.24 K/BB, 6.63 K/9, and 2.96 BB/9. Their average FIP would be 4.30. They had a 11.3 WAR and a 3.14 WAR/200. The obvious choice would be to go with the 3-man rotation, but the looming question is can any of the 3 pitch effectively on short rest.

Bullpen

For the bullpens I will look at each team’s closer and a few key contributors. For the Yankees I will look at Mariano Rivera, Phil Hughes, David Robertson, and Alfredo Aceves. I think these are the bullpen arms we will see most for the Yankees. I left out Joba Chamberlain because he pitch 1 game out of the bullpen even though we will see a lot of him out of the bullpen. I also left out Phil Coke because during the season he was used against righties and lefties, but in the ALCS he will be a lefty specialist. The same thing goes for Damaso Marte IF he is needed. I left out Chad Gaudin because he’s only going to show up for long relief if Alfredo Aceves is unavailable and even if he is Phil Hughes can go 2. Brian Bruney was left out because he’ll be a last resort and with at most 2 games back to back the only circumstance I see him coming in is in mop up duty or if the Yankees are down by a lot late. The 4 bullpen guys I’m looking at had a 2.49 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 4.24 K/BB, 9.93 K/9, and 2.34 BB/9. They also had a 2.84 FIP.

The Angels closer is Brian Fuentes and the key contributors to the rest of the bullpen that pitched in the ALDS are Darren Oliver, Jason Bulger, and Kevin Jepsen. I’m not too familiar with the rest of the Angels bullpen, but I’d imagine Matt Palmer gets some action and depending on which rotation they choose could put Joe Saunders in the bullpen. I left those 2 out of the equation since I am unsure whether either will see much action if they’re in the bullpen. Fuentes, Oliver, Bulger, and Jepsen had a combined 3.74 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 2.41 K/BB, 8.40 K/9, and 3.48 BB/9. They also had a 3.60 FIP.

My Prediction and Reasoning

I predict that the Yankees will win this series. My reasoning is that the Yankees have the better offense and the Angels are a little better on defense. However, WAR says that regardless of the Angels better defense the Yankees offense overpowers the difference resulting in the Yankees domination in team WAR for position players. As for the starting pitching on both teams the Yankees are a little better overall if the Angels opt to go with the 3-man rotation and much better if the Angels go with the 4-man rotation. The bullpen for the Yankees is much better even without factoring Joba into the equation. There is a 1.25 ERA difference. That’s really significant. The Yankees K/BB is also much, much better than the Halos. In my opinion this might even be more important than ERA for relievers because 1 or 2 bad outings can destroy a relievers ERA while K/BB generally will stay consistent unless there is something seriously wrong due to an injury or something like that. ERA is also somewhat reliant on defense and K/BB is not. K/BB also takes into account 2 of the 3 true outcomes for pitchers.

Update:
According to ESPN’s pitching match ups for the ALCS Saunders will pitch game 2 and 6 with Kazmir pitch game 4.

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