Thursday, October 14, 2010
Breaking down the ALCSPosted by Jeffrey Gross
I was wrong on who would emerge from the Rangers-Rays series (Evan Longoria did to my prediction what Garrett Atkins and Matt Wieters did to Baseball Prospectus's 2009 fantasy projections), but I stand behind my statement that those were the two most balanced teams in the AL and that whoever won that match-up would end up in the World Series.
With a Yankees-Rangers series before us, I refuse to change my position. Name me a Yankee and I can name you an equally good Ranger. Mark Teixeira (.367 wOBA)? Try AL MVP front-runner Josh Hamilton (.447 wOBA). Robinson Cano (.389 wOBA)? Try Nelson Cruz (.408 wOBA). Nick Swisher (.377 wOBA)? Try Big Daddy Vladdy (.360 wOBA). A-Rod (.363 wOBA)? Try Ian Kinsler (.357 wOBA). Brett Gardner (.363 wOBA)/Jorge Posada (.357 wOBA)/Curtis Granderson (.346 wOBA)? I counter with Da vid Murphy (.358 wOBA)/Mitch Moreland (.357 wOBA)/Michael Young (.335 wOBA).
True, the Yankees' 7-8-9 combo inevitably involving Derek Jeter (.320 wOBA) and Lance Berkman (.314 wOBA in New York) is better than the bottom three guys of the Rangers' lineup (nobody among Elvis Andrus, Julio Borbon and Bengie Molina has a wOBA of even .300). However, it is not exactly like the bottom third of the Yankees' lineup is particularly threatening. I'd call the bottom third of both lineups "a push of generally conceded outs, advantage Yankees."
Noting that the offenses are relatively congruent, the Rangers have both the pitching and defensive advantage.
Give me Cliff Lee (3.23 xFIP, 2.65 tRA), Colby Lewis (3.93 xFIP. 3.52 tRA) and C.J. Wilson (4.20 xFIP, 3.81 tRA) over CC Sabathia (3.78 xFIP, 3.44 tRA), Andy Pettitte (4.05 xFIP, 4.04 tRA) and Phil Hughes (4.33 xFIP, 4.11 tRA). The Rangers could even trust a four-man rotation if they pass the ball to Derek Holland (3.85 tRA, 3.57 MiLB FIP this season), whereas Yankees fans everywhere would (justifiably) cringe at the thought of relying on A.J. Burnett (4.66 xFIP, 4.93 tRA) or Javier Vazquez (4.90 xFIP, 5.56 tRA). Sure, the Yankees have postseason deity Old Man Rivera (3.65 xFIP/2.71 tRA with a career-second worst K/9 showing), but the Rangers have the comparably capable Neftali Feliz (3.65 xFIP/2.66 tRA).
Defensively speaking, the Rangers and Yankees have similar team UZR/150 ratings, but the Yankees have almost all of their defensive chips in one basket (Gardner/Granderson, with a sprinkle of Mark Teixeira on the side). The Rangers' lineup is evenly distributed with plus-defensive starters (Borbon, Hamilton, Cruz, Kinsler, Andrus, Moreland and Murphy have above-average defensive ratings).
All in all, the series should be exciting and close, but I think the Rangers edge out the Bronx Bombers. Still, it is only a five-to-seven game series, and I've been wrong before...
Jeffrey Gross is an attorney (and die-hard Cubs fan) who currently resides in Green Bay, Wisconsin. In addition to writing for The Hardball Times, he also reviews tasty adult beverages as part of a side project titled "saBEERmetrics." He previously worked for The Daily Illini and Northern Star newspapers as a film critic and sportswriter (respectively). You can reach him by email at saBEERmetrics AT gmail DOT com.