Why the Yankees won’t beat the Indians

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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.

The Rafaels

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.

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  • Michael T

    Don’t listen to the pundits, who are calling the Yankees the “underdog” and making the Indians the fashionable pick. The smart money in Vegas has the Yankees at -180 to win this series. Eliminating the vig, that makes them a better than 3 to 2 favorite.

  • Joe

    My enduring memory of Carmona was during a game last year when he was asked to close out the Sawx @ the Paak. He struck out the 1st two batters. Then I think he walked one guy and hit two after that. The final blow was Ortiz hitting a game-winning double and I found myself cursing Carmona under my breath for not closing out the Sawx. Has he gotten THAT MUCH better between then and now?

    As for pitchers 1 and 1A I’m not as confident as this author is. Yeah sure Andy’s got two dozen post-season starts, but he’s had a few clunkers along the way. Game 6 of the ’01 Series still smarts for me. The Wanger is undoubtedly the winningest pitcher in the last 2.5 yrs, but it seems lately he’s had some control issues and his pitch count has gotten pretty high. I hope everyone with issues figures them out or it might be an early exit for the Empire.

    GO YANKS!!!!!

  • Lil Jimmy Norden

    Sir, you stink for putting that headline up there. Lets not even speak of such things.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      It’s part of evaluating a series. We can’t pretend everything’s always all rosy. The Yanks could lose. Tomorrow’s headline is”Why the Yankees will beat the Indians.”

  • http://www.overheardinnewyork.com NC Saint

    “…he’s leading an Indians offense every bit as fearsome as the Yanks.”

    Some good points are raised in this post, but that’s just unhelpful hyperbole. The Indians’ offense is a very good offense, but there’s just no sense in which it is every bit as fearsome as ours. They scored 150 fewer runs. Their OPS is almost 30 points lower. What statistic suggests that the two are equivalent?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      To tell you the truth, you’re right. That’s sloppy research on my part. The Indians ranked 7th in AVG, 5th in OBP and 5th in SLG. The Yanks were 1, 1 and 1. It’s not even close.

      While it’s true that when the Indians are on, they are a fearsome offense, the team is nowhere near as good at the plate as the Yankees are.

  • Dave

    They way Torre manages you have to think that he could go to Joba in the 6th and 7th and Mariano in the 8th and 9th so long as the game is close.

    The extra time off in between games will give the yanks a bigger edge in this regard.

    Though, I think both Wang and Pettite can give 6 innings, meaning Joba and Rivera need to patch together 3 innings.

  • marc

    all i know is this year i’m feelin good. we just gots to get the shelley-man in game one… plus experience hasta play some part in all of this… show me how goood carmona, perez and betancort are when they inherit 2nd and third one out in a two run game. or show me them if they make a mistake to arod and mashes it… ever pitch means more now, every at bat counts more..e every time asdrubal cabrera gets picked off first witht eh bases loaded and no out it counts more…

    • Relaunch

      I felt good about the Yanks going into the playoffs last year also. Which basically means we have no idea what is going to happen.

  • marc

    all i know is this… in 98 hoffman was brilliant til he met scott brosius, 96 wohlers was brilliant til he hung one to leyritz, we can say the same about Joba that he is successful until he fails but we all know Mo can blow up and come back tomorrow and be brilliant again

  • marc

    this team has almost ZERO experience… i have faith if the yanks lose game one but the indians if they lose with cc on the hill they may wilt. but you can count on the yanks not wilting, maybe they will be built but it wont be the pressure that kicks them in the ass.

  • marc

    and one last point… cc and carmona are better than what we offer but so were smoltz, maddux and glavine… you just never know.. one blown call, one big hit, whatever it is you need some magic on your side.. you need to get lucky, you need to make your own luck, work walks, put balls in play, keep the k’s low force the other team to beat you. maybe we’ll get some luck this fall. if not, i had an awsome time this season, which is why i feel good about the playoffs, i got to see ipk, Joba Phil and even edwar, andy was back, we saw Roger Clemen turn a nasty dp against detroit that hasnt happened in 50 years and we saw alex finally being what we all wished and hoped and boo’ed for. I’ve seen too much good to not enjoy these next few games.

  • donniesbetterthandoug

    perez is a lefty betencourt is the righty

  • Cam

    Thank you for the unbiased opinion. Pete Abraham and you guys are my source for everything Yanks. Thanks again!

  • Scott

    I think the pitching numbers are a little skewed when you think about the difference between the divisions. The only offensive competition equal to the AL East is Detroit. Other than that the other 3 teams round out the bottom of the league in both OPS and Runs Scored. The Yankees staff would have put up much better numbers if the played in the central. The pitching advantage for Cleveland is not what it appears to be.

  • Scott

    Just to add tack on a little more the Royals, Twins, and White Sox are in the bottom five of the entire league in both OPS and Runs Scored.

  • http://riveraveblues.com Mike A.

    C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona were a combined 38-15 with a 3.14 ERA in 656 innings.

    656 IP between 2 guys huh? I think you meant 456. ;)

    Opponents hit .187 against Perez and .183 against Betancourt.

    Digging a little deeper on Perez, the guy has given up 4 XBH to lefty batters since 2005. Four! Given all the LHB in the Yanks lineup, he’s going to a be a major factor in this series, one way or the other.

  • Barry

    i really wish hughes was pitching(rab has sound ads now? jesus.)

  • Thomas

    Carmona has pitched 3X the innings this year than he did last year on the Indians, he may???run out of steam?? Hopefully. Plus the yankees have already beat him twice. He should have won the first game, giving up only 2 runs in 6 but the bullpen blew it for him.

    Yankee batters, starters that is, are all hitting over .300 against Indian pitching this year. Even if CC had pitched, it would not have lowered it much. Our hitting has to be good and our pitching just has to keep us in the game long enough.

  • Michael T

    Scott-

    If you play on the Yankees, the AL East isn’t so tough. The in-Division teams you face are: Bosox (very good offense but well below the Tigers and Indians), DRays (average+ but undisciplined), Orioles (below average), and Blue Jays (one of the worst in the AL).

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The AL East is only THe Toughest Division to Pitch In if you aren’t on the Yankees (or Sox to a lesser extent).

  • Scott

    Michael T,

    I think runs scored and OPS and pretty good indicators of offensive strength besides DET the other three teams are in the bottom 5 in all of the majors for both stats. If you look at the AL East teams the lowest they rank in the majors is 18th for OPS and 17th in runs scored. I would consider that a significant difference in offensive power.

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