ALDS: Tigers/Yanks Comparoo

When the ALDS opens tonight at Yankee
Stadium, the American League player of the month for September and
second runner-up for the batting title will bat ninth for New
York Yankees
.  The reigning AL MVP, who finished with 35 dingers,
121 RBIs, and 113 runs, will bat sixth.  There is some discussion
about what kind of message is being sent by Joe
Torre
to Álex
Rodríguez
by moving him to the sixth spot in the order.  I
think the message is not to ARod, but to Jim
Leyland
and the Detroit
Tigers
.  If your pitcher doesn’t have his A-game, it’s going to
be a long, long night.  Such is the lineup of New York where cleanup
doesn’t mean the same thing anything anymore.

Last week, Baltimore paid the price the
first time this battery played in concert, albeit with a slightly
different order.  However, Torre advised that good pitching beats
hitting, and the Yankees (minus Derek
Jeter
and ARod) obliged Daniel
Cabrera’s
pitching gem and Torre’s tempered admonishment by being
one-hit the following night.

The Tigers are a team that is reeling
and stumbled into the post-season.  Their truly phenomenal pre-break
record and the lack of a run by Anaheim or Chicago assured the team
of a playoff spot.  Thirty games over .500 at the break, they
finished the season twenty-eight games above the waterline including
a 19-31 swoon down the stretch to see their hold on the central
evaporate.

New York held a 5-2 record in regular
season play over Detroit.  However, it’s time for the short series
that is the ALDS where every game is one-third the price of admission
to the next round.  Read on for yet another comparison of these two
teams.

I did my best to avoid reading blogs and professional writer’s opinions before and while
constructing this post.  Outside of the raw numbers taken from MLB.com, what you
read here in the way of misshapen opinion is my own, two-cent perspective
that’s probably worth about 0.3 cents when purchased in bulk.  With that caveat out
of the way, away we go.

Starting
Pitching

Game
one:
Nate
Robertson
(3.84 ERA, 1.31 WHIP) vs. Chien-Ming
Wang
(3.63 ERA, 1.31 WHIP)

Robertson’s record suffered from lack
of run support. edit: this is wrong and misinformed. Don’t know what I was looking at when I typed it. When he lost, he flat-out lost.  At 13-13 on the year, his WHIP, ERA, and BAA
compare favorably to the more heralded trio of Rogers, Bonderman and
Verlander.  Robertson is tough on lefties (.72 WHIP, .181 BAA) but
does have a propensity to give up the long ball to righties (27 HR).

Wang’s breakout season was, despite the
chagrin of many stat-heads that he doesn’t have an "out pitch",
a thing of beauty.  He has remarkably similar numbers facing lefty
and righty batters.  His sinking fastball, when working well, seldom
gets out of the infield, and oft-times can’t get past the mound.  He
has slightly better numbers at home than Robertson (who has been
better in away games this season) does on the road.

Game
one starting advantage: New York

Game
two:
Justin
Verlander
(3.63 ERA, 1.33 WHIP) vs. Mike
Mussina
(3.51 ERA, 1.11 WHIP)

Verlander appeared in two games last
year for Detroit and got shelled.  Still, in 2004, when they drafted
second him overall, the Tigers were convinced they were getting an
ace in the making.  On August first, Verlander’s record sat at 14-4
and had an ERA of 2.79.  Over the rest of the season, Verlander
started nine more games, five of which he lost, three of which he
won, and one no-decision which should have been a victory blown by
the pen. His ERA rose to 3.63 and the glow of his rookie season
dimmed somewhat.

Mussina looked solid in his last start,
and his excellent season would sport a better win record would that he
had received better run support (10 no decisions in 32 starts).
Perhaps he should had taken the month of August off.  Moose has been
a better pitcher at home this year than on the road, and threw one of
his finer games of the season against Detroit in May, a one-run
complete game.  A strained groin and arm soreness have been issues
for Moose this season, but there have been no reports of issues with
those former aggravations.

Game
two starting pitching Advantage:  New York

Game
three:
Kenny
Rogers
(3.84 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) vs. Randy
Johnson
(5.00 ERA, 1.24 WHIP)

These forty-something pitchers have more in
common than their frosty relationship with cameramen.  They have
remarkably similar pitching lines, the big difference being that
Johnson has far more strikeouts, and has allowed quite a few more
runs.  When things go south for Randy, they do so in a hurry.
Compare these numbers (KR, RJ):  Hits (195, 194) ER (87, 114) HR (23,
28) BB (62, 60) K (99, 172) IP (204, 205).  Randy’s back hurts, but
the Yankees have seen Kenny combust in October first-hand.  Rogers is
one of the best fielding pitchers of his generation. Therefore:

Game
three starting pitching advantage: Edge Detroit

Game
four:
Jeremy
Bonderman
(4.08 ERA, 1.30 WHIP) vs. Jaret
Wright
(4.49 ERA, 1.52 WHIP)

Jeremy Bonderman was the horse of the
Detroit rotation this year, logging 214 innings.  He gave up 214 hits
and 64 walks, and his 202 strikeouts were second in the league.  he
won three of his last four starts, and his home run total (18) is the
lowest of his four-year career.

Jaret Wright was the brunt of much
abuse for being a four-inning pitcher for much of the season.  He
shook off that mantle, logging four straight quality starts in August
and September.  He has pitched decently against Detroit in his
career, with a 3.39 ERA in 66 innings.

Game
four starting pitching advantage: Detroit

Overall
starting pitching advantage: Edge New York

This holds only through three games. It’s a
push if it goes to four or more.

Relief
Pitching

Joel
Zumaya
(1.94, 1.18) with his 100 mph heaters had 97 ks in 72
innings, and 29 holds for the season.  Fernando
Rodney
(3.52, 1.19) has 17 holds on the year; opponents are
hitting .196 off the reliever.  Zach
Miner
(4.84, 1.42), who may show up in long relief, has been
involved in only three winning contests in his last ten appearances.
Jamie
Walker
(2.81, 1.15) appeared in 56 games, logging 48 innings and
has only one loss.  Todd
Jones
(3.94, 1.40) blew his last two saves and was rocked for
five runs in 1.2 innings in his last game against New York.  The
Tigers pen is deep, and it is solid.  Only one reliever with more
than 20 appearances has an ERA north of four.

Scott
Proctor
(3.52, 1.19) logged 102.1 innings with 26 holds and
allowed three runs in his last 10 appearances.  Brian
Bruney
has been a great find.  Lefty specialist Mike
Myers
(3.23, 1.43) lost his last appearance against Toronto, and
blew a save against Boston in mid-September but has done a
respectable job over the last two months; he also gave up three home
runs on the season.  Kyle
Farnsworth
(4.36, 1.36) suffered two losses in the last month of
play but also saved four games; box of chocolates.  Jeff
Karstens
worked eight games since his August call-up, logging 43
innings and achieving a 2-1 record.  Karstens, along with Corey
Lidle
(shaky but victorious in his last start against Baltimore)
and Darrell
Rasner
(roughed up in 2.1 innings in that same series) are
available as emergency starters and long relievers.  Ron
Villone
(5.04, 1.57) says he feels great.  Everyone in the
organization says Mariano Rivera’s (1.80, .96) arm is just fine.
Most importantly, Mo says it is fine, and Mo Knows.

Relief
Pitching Advantage: Detroit prior to the ninth, New York in the ninth

Overall
Pitching: Slight Edge to New York

I make this call mostly because of the
edge in post-season experience and because game one and two look
favorable for New York.  If the Detroit battery knocks either of the
first two starters around, the see-saw can quickly dip in Detroit’s
favor.

Position
Comparison

Catcher:
Iván
Rodríguez
vs. Jorge
Posada

Pudge is hitting .300, but Jorge at
.277 has better power, hits switch, and is far more likely to work a
walk.  Pudge would probably make the hall on his stellar defense
alone, but Posada is no slouch behind the plate.  Memory makes me
think that Pudge comes up with the big hits against New York, but
statistics don’t bear that out.  His slugging is lower against New
York vs. his career.  Posada hits well against Detroit.  Second
String: Vance
Wilson
hits sometimes, Sal
Fasano
seldomly.

Advantage:
Push

First
Base:
Sean
Casey
vs. Gary
Sheffield

The well-travelled Casey has only two
miscues in 483 chances at first this year.  Sheff was an unknown
factor at first but seems to be taking to it quite naturally and
already looks more at ease than his counterpart on the roster for
that position.  More importantly, in the last few games he started
pulling the ball with malice and intent to harm, and boy-howdy is
that great to see.

Advantage:
New York

Second Base: Plácido
Polanco
vs. Robinson
Canó

Polanco hit .295 this year in 110
games.  He has little power and is not a threat to steal.  The one
knock someone might make against Robi is that he doesn’t take enough
pitches.  He sees the fewest pitches at 3.7 per plate appearance out
of the Yankee nine.   He also is second in
slugging percentage on the roster, behind only Jason Giambi.  Swing
away, Robi.

Advantage:
Huge to New York

Third
Base:
Brandon
Inge
vs. Álex
Rodríguez

Inge hits for decent power and can
steal a base when called upon.  ARod had 24 errors, Inge 22; they K
at about the same rate.  However, ARod had the best worst offensive
season I can recall with 35 dingers, 121 RBIs.  ARod’s OPS is almost
140 points higher than Inge.  No brainer.

Advantage:
New York

Short
Stop:
Carlos
Guillén
vs. Derek
Jeter

The switch-hitting Guillén had a
fine year for Detroit, hitting at a .320 clip with an OPS of .920,
thanks to 41 doubles and 19 homers.  He stole 20 bases but was caught
nine times.  Jeter hit for higher average, stole more bases at a
better success rate, and gets the nod defensively but was slightly
behind in power numbers (39 doubles, 15 homers).  Plus, he’s Derek
Jeter.

Advantage:
New York

Left
Field:
Craig
Monroe
/Marcus
Thames
vs. Hideki
Matsui

When Monroe hits the ball, he hits it
hard.  The rest of the time he strikes out.  That’s why his slugging
percentage has hovered just below .500 while his average is down near
.250; his 126 strikeouts this year are a season high.  Thames is a
similar hitter; both of these players can play anywhere in the
outfield.  Outside of home run power, Matsui is better all around
offensively and seems to have answered any and all questions
regarding his wrist with 23 hits in 53 at bats since returning
September 12th.

Advantage:
New York

Center
Field:
Curtis
Granderson
vs. Johnny
Damon

Granderson is slightly above average
offensively with some power (19 home runs).   Damon’s OPS is 50
points above his career average and has better speed on the bases.
JD has brought everything to the Yankees they expected he would, and
then some.  Damon’s much ballyhooed arm is offset by his sheer drive
and determination to get to every ball, regardless of the effect on
his body.  Damon has played the role of post-season hero
spectacularly, much to the Yankees’ chagrin in the past.  Good to
have him on our side this time.

Advantage:
New York

Right
Field:
Magglio
Ordóñez
vs. Bobby
Abreu

Power-wise and defensively, these
players stack up well against each other.  Abreu easily distances
himself by virtue of his phenomenal plate discipline and superior
speed on the base paths.

Advantage:
New York

Designated
Hitter:
Craig Monroe/Marcus Thames vs. Jason
Giambi

Giambi slumped in September as he
suffered from pain in his wrist.  His only home run came in the 16-5
blowout against Baltimore while he drove in only seven runs for the
month.  It’s a concern.

Advantage:
Slight Edge New York

Bench:

Omar
Infante
, Neifi
Pérez
, Alexis
Gómez
.

… or …

You know it: Melky!

Bernie
Williams
and Miguel
Cairo
bring a world of post-season experience.  Easy one here.

Melky!

Advantage:
New York

Coaching:
Jim Leyland vs. Joe Torre

Jim Leyland did the impossible with the
Tigers this year, especially in the first two-thirds of the season,
taking a team that was 20 games under .500 last year to a team that
was at one point 40 games over .500.  Joe Torre did the highly
improbable with the Yankees in the first half, keeping the Yankees
relatively close while waiting for the roster to get healthy, and for
The Boss and Cashman to make the deal for Abreu.  Both of these
managers have seen just about everything baseball can throw at you,
both have won the big one, and both have the utmost respect of their
players.  Was the collapse of the last 50 games merely Detroit
returning to earth, or is something else going on in the clubhouse?

Advantage:
New York

I usually don’t feel confident when
making series predictions.  However, New York should have been 7-0 on
the season against Detroit, and the Yanks are a better team now than
they have been at any other point in the year, while Detroit has
looked rudderless for over a month.  Yanks sweep.

31 comments… add one
  • I give Posada the clear edge at catcher and Giambi a bigger edge at DH, but otherwise I agree with your breakdown. Nice stuff.

    Nick-YF October 3, 2006, 1:24 pm
  • I can see giving New York the slight edge at catcher since Jorge is more valuable offensively, but Vance Wilson is so much better than Sal Fasano it’s not even funny. New York is one hard slide or one foul tip away from losing four at bats a game.
    My gut reaction was to give a bigger edge to Giambi, but his numbers since mid August don’t bear it out that he is that much better than his opponents right now, and he’s a clog on the basepaths. j/k.

    attackgerbil October 3, 2006, 1:37 pm
  • Incredible work Gerb. For my money, this is the best preview I’ve seen in the blogosphere. I’m proud it’s here.
    As for the pitching matchups, I feel comfortable with Wang in game 1, but think game 2 is a big mystery. Who knows what we’re going to get from Moose; if Verlander is throwing 100mph smoke, with his repertoirte, he’s going to be tough to hit. I wouldn’t give Kenny Rogers the nod against the Yankee lineup. He’s a nibbler. The Yanks don’t bite. He’s as vulnerable as any pitcher on Detroit to the Yankee offense. Well….I’d also be nervous about Todd Jones if I were a TIger fan. The Yanks beat him once this year, and he doesn’t throw hard. After seeing a flamethrower like Zumaya, it must be a relief to face that guy, even if he looks like Goose Gossage’s tubby nephew.
    The Yankee defense is also going to be dicey. Sheff is out of position. The outfield arms are weak. We could see some extra outs in this series.

    YF October 3, 2006, 1:58 pm
  • I’m actually really confident in Moose. His last start was sharp, and he carved up the Tigers earlier this year. I’m more concerned about Wang, and Robertson for that matter.
    I think Yanks in 4.

    Rob (Middletown, CT) October 3, 2006, 2:04 pm
  • If Detroit can take the game tonight, or game 2, it will be interesting to see how the Yankees play with a little pressure going into the road games. They haven’t exactly stepped up to the challenge in the last 2 postseasons.

    airk October 3, 2006, 2:23 pm
  • Thanks, YF. It was a fun project to take on.
    I was completely wrong on Bonderman regarding run support. I think I must have been looking at Mussina’s stats while researching that part, but I don’t know what I was looking at. I have made an edit in the parent to note that fact. He did not suffer from lack of run support.
    I’m curious how Verlander will perform. His last 10 starts definitely knock a bit of the shine off his wunderkind crown. It may be that he an Moose will turn in the best head-to-head of the series, but

    attackgerbil October 3, 2006, 2:33 pm
  • … but… New York smacked him around when they faced him. We needed Farnsworth’s help to lose that game.

    attackgerbil October 3, 2006, 2:39 pm
  • Wasn’t that the game where he cut his finger and was bleeding on the mound? Or am I thinking of a different game?
    I think Wang-Robertson might be the best pitching matchup… Robertson may be the Tigers best pitcher right now, and Wang is the co-ace of the Yanks w/Moose.

    Rob (Middletown, CT) October 3, 2006, 2:52 pm
  • GO TIGERS!!!!
    (nothing wrong with that, YF, right? I mean, the Tigers are in the AL. Or do I have to root for my division, too?)
    And now back to your regularly scheduled programming, which will consist of an in-depth summary of why the Yankees are better at everything than the Tigers, including post-game clubhouse smorgasboards, ball-mudrubbers, shoeshine guys, and helmet polishers.
    (and P.S. I pretty much agree with Gerb on all of this, for the record.)

    SF October 3, 2006, 3:00 pm
  • SF: go rub some mud on your balls and polish your helmet!

    YF October 3, 2006, 3:08 pm
  • PS: Okay. Sorry about that one. Must have been channeling Mark Foley. But then, SF is more than 16. Times 2.

    YF October 3, 2006, 3:10 pm
  • You left out mossy fragrances for men, green tea, and that NY’s long-term DL guys work the system far better than Detroit’s: Carl Pavano gets paid far more to not pitch than Troy Percival does not to.

    attackgerbil October 3, 2006, 3:12 pm
  • Just had a chance to check out the Twin’s/A’s. I love it, the mighty Johan might very well lose his first game of the playoffs. I posted last week how I was sick of everyone hyping the Twins. Here’s to hoping the Twinkies, their Pirahnas, and their shit-talking owner are watching the playoffs via TV next week.

    bloodyank78 October 3, 2006, 3:20 pm
  • Frank Thomas is making life miserable for Minnesota.

    attackgerbil October 3, 2006, 3:21 pm
  • Now Cuddyer leads off with a triple in the bottom of the ninth. No outs to Morneau. He lines out to right, Cuddyer holds, up comes Hunter.

    attackgerbil October 3, 2006, 3:29 pm
  • Hunter grounds out 4-3 and scores Cuddyer. 3-2 A’s. Rondell White is the last out. Fly-out to center. A’s win.

    attackgerbil October 3, 2006, 3:30 pm
  • Good. The As are due.

    Rob (Middletown, CT) October 3, 2006, 3:31 pm
  • it’s funny how much is lost between generations. my 15 year old brother says to me “they have the best lineup every year, but they’ll disappear in the playoffs like they always do.” part of me chuckeled inside. in his frame of baseball context, he’s right. that’s all he’s ever seen. so here’s to hoping tradition continues (at least according to my brother).

    sf rod October 3, 2006, 3:58 pm
  • sf rod – that’s pretty funny. my younger brother said the same thing. he’s a cardinals fan.
    it always makes me nervous when every “expert” predicts the yankees to win it. this never used to, but with the recent postseason failures, i’m a mess inside. all weekend i kept thinking of all the ways for the yanks to blow it, but…Gerb’s preview made me feel better. i’m not sure why. it just felt very rational.
    thanks gerb.

    m.g. yanks fan October 3, 2006, 4:46 pm
  • You’re welcome; it was my pleasure, mg. sf rod plucked a familiar cord in me as well.

    attackgerbil October 3, 2006, 4:54 pm
  • I only wish I had triple fact-checked that Robertson game log regarding run support on his losses before I posted, and then fact-checked by correction comment to say Robertson instead of Bonderman. Oh well. That’s what I get for getting up at 4am to write the thing.
    The sorriest part is that I am likely to miss the game tonight. :)

    attackgerbil October 3, 2006, 5:14 pm
  • Well, let’s go Tigers.

    Hudson October 3, 2006, 5:45 pm
  • Love the preview, Gerb. I was struck most by how similar Robertson and Wang actually are. The wins aren’t there for Robertson, but his ERA and WHIP are essentially identical to Wang. Seems that game might be closer than I (and a lot of yfs) might have believed.

    Paul SF October 3, 2006, 6:13 pm
  • …nice job gerb…i hope your prognostications are correct….

    dc October 3, 2006, 6:32 pm
  • Paul, that was surprising to me as well. It just shows how talented the Detroit staff is, where their 13-13 guy looks good lined up against the Yankees 19-6 guy.
    The other thing that made me look twice and then a third time was that Cano’s slugging better than anyone for NY except Giambi. It’s because he was hitting double at a higher frequency/AB than anyone in the AL. A couple guys were hitting them at a better clip in the NL including Rolen, Gonzo, Miggy, and.. wait for it, sf rod.. Freddy Sanchez.

    attackgerbil October 3, 2006, 6:51 pm
  • my boy!!!!

    sf rod October 3, 2006, 7:35 pm
  • Scarily, I have to agree with most everything here. However, I’ve always thought Leyland was the better game strategist (though he didn’t help me too much in that belief tonight). I think you’ve gotta say manager-wise that it’s at least a push, especially given Torre’s love for using, re-using, re-using, re-using…relievers that he’s already used too much already.

    Quo October 4, 2006, 2:51 am
  • hindsight is a bitch. looking back now, i think ag was drunk on this one.
    best line: “Plácido Polanco vs. Robinson Canó – huge advantage new york”
    polanco hit .412 with 3 runs, 2 rbi, and a walk while cano hit .133 with no runs, no rbi, and no walks.
    runner up for best line: “Overall Pitching: Slight Edge to New York”

    sf rod October 8, 2006, 2:57 pm
  • …lighten up a bit on ag sf rod…as you said, hindsight is a b—-…geez, even you thought the sox would do better this year, or did you predict 3rd?…i’ll bet we could dig up some awesomely funny lines that sox fans and journalists wrote earlier this year, like shilling and beckett will compete 1/2 for cy young….like yours, ag’s analysis was not bad until they played the games…that’s what makes it fun…who knows, we may have another wild-card win the series…who’d have thunk that?…

    dc October 8, 2006, 5:23 pm
  • Offensively, AG had every reason to think Cano would be > Polanco. Polanco was out with a shoulder injury for six weeks while Cano was hotter than most everyone else in the league down the stretch. Of course, Polanco is clearly the better defender (probably would get GG consideration along with Mark Ellis if he hadn’t missed all that time), and I’ve got no problem with the fact that AG was wrong about it, but it didn’t seem like he would be.

    Quo October 9, 2006, 2:27 am
  • Sadly, I wish I had been drunk. It would have been easier to forget.

    attackgerbil October 9, 2006, 8:05 am

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