Today really sucks. Everywhere else, the playoffs begin. The Red Sox face the Angels; the Rockies and Phillies square off; and the Diamondbacks and Cubs begin their battle. But the Yankees – the only playoff team in 2006 to make it in 2007 – have to wait another 24 hours before they begin a thrilling set against the Indians.
I’m going to do a two-part playoff preview post. The first post – today’s installment – focuses around why the Yankees won’t beat the Indians. The next part – tomorrow’s bit – will discuss why the Yankees will beat the Indians. I can make compelling cases for both, and that, folks, is what makes October grand.
So powered by a pretentious sentence right here, on to the predictions:
From the “Good Pitching Beats Good Hitting” Department
There’s no denying the Yankees’ great offense, but as one of baseball’s long-time cliches holds, good pitching beats good hitting all the time. The Indians have that great pitching: C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona were a combined 38-15 with a 3.14 ERA in
656 456 innings. These two are both legitimate 1-2 starters and will make three starts between the two of them in a five-game series. If they’re on, the Yankees will not beat them.
Wang and Pettitte and Pray for Rain
Chien-Ming Wang and Andy Pettitte sure can match up with Sabathia and Carmona on any given day, but what happens next? Roger Clemens hasn’t made a start in three weeks, and Mike Mussina has a tendency to pull a Jekyll-and-Hyde routine on the mound. While the Yankees have a better option – Phil Hughes – Joe Torre has a tendency to go with the Proven Veteran in the postseason. With an Indians offense on high octane right now, Clemens and Mussina could prove to be the Yanks’ undoing.
The Bridge to Joba
How do you get from the starters to the back end of the Yankee bullpen? For much of the season, Luis Vizcaino filled that role, but in September, he reverted to early-season form, allowing 15 hits and 9 earned runs in 8 innings. Would you use Kyle Farnsworth? Ron Villone? The recently-ineffective Edwar Ramirez? We know Bruney’s out. A month ago, Viz-Joba-Mo would have turned any game into a six-inning affair. But now, the situation has become so dire that the Yankees are considering using Ross Ohlendrof in the pen, a rookie with 6 innings of MLB experience under his belt. Yikes.
Beware the Pronk
In April, when the Yanks swept the Indians, Travis Hafner went 8 for 12 against them. In August, when the Yanks swept the Indians, Hafner didn’t play. Well, Hafner went 16 for 33 during the last ten days of the season, and he’s leading an Indians offense every bit as fearsome as the Yanks. If the Bombers can’t get the pitching, the Indians offense will go to town. If you think David Ortiz kills the Yanks, watch out for Hafner, a career .333/.452/.560 against the Yankees.
Now, you probably have no idea who Rafael Perez and Rafael Betancourt are, but these guys are good. Betancourt, a righty, and Perez, a lefty, are the two aces in the Indians’ bullpen. They both sported sub-2.00 ERAs while each racking up about a strike out per inning. Opponents hit .187 against Perez and .183 against Betancourt. While the Yankees have a fairly balanced offensive attack, these guys can neutralize any hitter in baseball. With Jensen Lewis and Aaron Fultz also pitching effectively, the Indians bullpen can shorten any game.
So there it is. A lot of readers here have wondered why the Yanks are considered the underdogs in this series after going 73-39 to end the year and sweeping the Indians in their season series. These are the reasons why. Don’t count out the Indians. They are a well-built team.
Coming Tomorrow: Five reasons why the Yankees will win.