Anyone else really excited for this afternoon? I sure am. Watching three other games yesterday was fairly torturous. And as a side note, to everyone praising Josh Beckett, we Yankee fans can attest to the fact that Beckett’s done that before on a bigger stage. It’s not a surprise, and great baseball is a pleasure to watch no matter who’s playing.
But enough about Them up in Boston. Let’s get on to the preview. Yesterday, I looked pessimistically at why the Yankees won’t beat the Indians. Today, we get the opposite: Why the Yankees will beat the Indians. The preview and my series prediction after the jump.
For most players, a .290/.366/.463 season is a career year. But that’s what the Yankees offense put up this year as a team. They had a team OPS of .829, nearly .070 points higher than league average. Soak it in for a second. And then tell me how to shut down an offense that’s scary good. Even good pitching has it’s limits.
Eleven years ago, the Yankees had the young Mariano Rivera setting up for a shaky John Wetteland. This dynamic duo helped cut games to 6 or 7 innings. Opponents knew that if they weren’t ahead by then, the last two innings would be an uphill battle. This year, the Yankees have the young Joba Chamberlain setting up for a Mariano Rivera who has appeared mortal this year. But no matter; all the Yankees starters have to do is get through 6 or 7 innings before turning the ball over to Joba and Mariano. And then game over. Don’t underestimate shorter games.
The Joe Borowski Factor
While the Indians have a great set-up corps, their closer is anything but a sure thing. This season, Borowski threw 0.2 innings against the Yanks and was utterly shelled. In his career, he’s thrown 7.0 innings, giving up 15 hits, 12 earned runs and 5 HR. Despite nailing 45 saves this season, his numbers – 5.07 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, .289 BAA – are hardly pretty. While the Yanks can shorten their games with the right bullpen combination, the Indians and their fans are generally on pins and needles when Borowski pitches, and as Jose Mesa proved to the Indians in 1997, it’s hard to get through October with a bad closer.
The Kids and Old Men Are Alright
The Yankees have six rookies on their postseason roster and a few other guys under 26. It’s a veritable youth movement in the Bronx, and these kids are good enough to win. The only question is: Who’s going to step up big in the right spot? Melky? Shelley? Ross Ohlendorf? We’ll find out. Meanwhile, on the other side of the spectrum are Roger Clemens and Mike Mussina. We can debate for hours whether or not Phil Hughes is a better fit for the rotation (he is), but Clemens and Mussina are what we have. It’s a last gasp for both of them, and they’ll want to win – again for Clemens and for the first time for Mussina. Sure, this is an intangible, but I’ll take it.
The A-Rod Factor
While the Indians have their hot Pronk, the Yankees have the best player in the Majors. It’s almost unnecessary to repeat the numbers, but take a look: .314/.422/.645-54-156. He pulled down a VORP of 96.6 and carried the Yanks through thick and thin this year. This postseason, it’s all about A-Rod, and this will be the year – other than the first three games of the 2004 ALCS – he steps up and delivers. Plus, if the Indians pitch around A-Rod, they’ll have to deal with Jorge Posada who would have been the MVP any other year. Or Robinson Cano. Or…well, you get the point.
So there you have it. The Yankees head into this series knowing they can beat the Indians. They’ve done it six times already this year. And I think they’ll do it again. The Indians are a well-rounded team, but they’re not perfect. I’m not confident the Yankees will win tonight, but I think tonight will be the only game the Indians win.
Yankees in 4