Rangers hitters present a different challenge than Twins

Kevin Long and the Home Run Drill
The Rangers' Weaknesses

The Twins and the Rangers produced similar offensive outputs this season. They scored nearly the same number of runs per game and produced almost identical triple slash numbers. But what holds true for a season does not necessarily carry into the playoffs. Justin Morneau brought up Minnesota’s season numbers, but he wasn’t there to help in the ALDS. The Rangers had a number of poor hitters suppressing their season batting totals, a few of whom aren’t present on the ALCS roster. Determining how these teams stack up takes a bit more work. We’ll have to compare the specific hitters currently on the team.

First Base

With the Yankees leaning heavily on CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte this postseason, teams will face a barrage of left-handed pitching. That worked out for the Twins in terms of production from first base. Michael Cuddyer had a poor year overall, but he did mash lefties. The Rangers have no such first baseman.

They acquired Jorge Cantu to give them some right-handed prowess at the position, but that didn’t work out. He actually hit righties a bit better, which renders him essentially useless. Ron Washington penciled him into the Game 1 lineup, but in Game 5 he went with Moreland. This creates an advantage for the Yankees, since their lefty-heavy pitching staff can take away a power position.

On the flipside, Moreland is about as good against righties as Cuddyer is against lefties. This will give the Rangers an edge in Games 2 and 4.

Second Base

Ian Kinsler had a fine season, but it was shortened by injuries. Right there is a prime example of why overall team numbers might not tell the full story. His batting eye against lefties is superb, even if his power lags a bit. He’ll present a more formidable foe than Hudson against both left- and right-handed pitching. Sabathia and Pettitte could have quite a difficult time keeping him off base.

Third Base

After his excellent 2009 season, 2010 was quite the disappointment for Michael Young. He hit lefties well, which bodes well for him in Games 1 and 3, but he didn’t hit them quite as well as young Valencia. Against righties Young is a bit better, but he still struggles to get on base. Using Hughes in Game 2 will also help offset Young’s advantage in home performance. He was much better there than on the road in 2010.

Shortstop

While the number suggest Hardy’s superiority, I’ll break with them in this instance. Andrus’s wOBA is deflated by his complete lack of power — he had just 18 extra base hits all season. But he did have a respectable .342 OBP, which goes a long way when you have speed. He’s not the best base stealer, getting caught in 15 of 47 attempts, but he’ll be making those attempts against Jorge Posada this series. So while he might not be a threat to hit more than a single, Yanks pitchers still have to be careful for him. He could be standing on third within two pitches.

Left Field

The Rangers employ an outfield platoon that involves David Murphy, Nelson Cruz, and Jeff Francoeur. As you can see, Cruz is an equal opportunity masher, producing similar numbers against both left- and right-handed pitching. He’ll play in left field against lefties and right field against righties. His platoon partner in left is David Murphy, who has done a quality job against right-handed opponents this season. This gives the Rangers a bit more balanced an attack than the Twins, who were stuck with Delmon even against righties.

Center Field

Herein lies the biggest advantage the Rangers have over the Twins. Again, the Rangers overall season numbers were held down a bit because Hamilton missed the entire month of September. But he’s back now. This might look bad for Phil Hughes, who enters the death cauldron by facing Hamilton as a righty and in Arlington. But the Rays’ righties, Matt Garza and Wade Davis, held Hamilton hitless at Arlington in the ALDS. In fact, he picked up just two hits, one in each of the first two games. His rib problems could be the great equalizer in this series. But if he starts to feel better, in the words of Ken Singleton, look out!

Right Field

The Rangers brought in Jeff Francoeur in order to hit lefties, and he has to a reasonable degree. He helps create an ideal outfield situation, wherein Murphy sits against lefties and Francoeur sits against righties. That gives them the best possible production. Frenchy presents a bit more of an on-base threat than Kubel — which is just weird to type — when facing opposite-handed pitchers, but Kubel was the bigger power threat. As long as Sabathia can handle him in Game 1, I think Pettitte will be just fine facing him in Game 3 at the Stadium.

Catcher

While the Rangers clearly have a stronger outfield, they have a complete black hole behind the plate. Molina will start against lefties because apparently he can draw a walk. Sabathia and Pettitte, though, will be stingy. But no matter how they do it, they won’t have a quality catcher at the plate. This discrepancy is on the level of the one in center field.

Designated Hitter

The Yankees did a good job of neutralizing Thome in the ALDS, though throwing two lefties certainly helped. They’ll face a similar situation with Vlad in the ALCS. He’s hit both lefties and righties well this season, but where they’ll really have to watch out is in Arlington. He has better numbers there, understandably so. Sabathia’s changeup and Phil’s high fastball will go a long way in doing to Vlad what they did to Thome.

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Kevin Long and the Home Run Drill
The Rangers' Weaknesses
  • tc

    Question: how can a player’s “against all” ISO be HIGHER than both his LHP and RHP numbers?

    • Thomas

      It can’t. Kinsler’s against all IsoP is .126 not .186.

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      Kinsler defies all numbers.

    • Sayid J.

      Kinsler? I’m guessing his ‘against all’ ISO might be off.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joe Pawlikowski

      Because I copied Kinsler’s career ISO instead of 2010. It’s fixed.

    • pat

      Because sometimes Kinsler gets crazy.

      http://tinyurl.com/256zcs2

  • CS Yankee

    Incredible article…RAB strikes again. It is amazing how many great articles roll out daily.

    It seems that Josh timing is off but his power is back. He 3/4 swinged a fastball to the warning track off of Price. It will be a big test for CC & Phil to keep him in the funk.

    Hope Pettitte has better success against Vlad (thinking back to that Angel postseason game) , I hate to see an aging power bat awaken from a deep sleep.

  • Captain Jack

    Vlad can hit anything, I don’t want to see any high fastballs to him.

    • larryf

      and he ran the bases aggressively against the Rays. We need to be alert for guys taking the extra base on us. The Rays were not.

      • pat

        They took extra bases because Pena got lazy and tossed the ball to the pitcher twice instead of taking the ball hard to the bag and keeping the runners in front of him. Tex, being the selfish defensive stat padder that he is pretty much refuses to throw the ball to the pitcher. In both cases the rays qwere screwed because the pitcher ended up with the ball and his back to third base. That doesn’t happen with Tex.

  • Captain Jack

    Regarding Andrus, I’ll disagree…control pitchers can take advantage of his lack of power…they can give him balls over the plate because it’s not like he can do anything with them anyways. He doesn’t even have Gardner’s power, his power is truly anemic. Over the course of a full season I’d say he’s better than Hardy, but for a short series with good pitching…I’ll take Hardy.

    • CS Yankee

      Hardy looked totally lost in that whole series though and Elvis owned the bases.

      • Captain Jack

        He can’t own the bases if you keep him off of them…he’ll destroy the Yanks in AJ’s start but against control pitchers I don’t think he’ll get on that much. It’s the mashers that I worry about.

      • pat

        Andrus only stole 32 bases and was caught 15 times. It’s not like he’s some speed demon.

        • http://www.twitter.com/jordan_smed JGS

          in fairness, six of those were pickoffs. That’s still good though because just having lefties (especially lefties with repuations for shutting down the running game) will make him stay closer to first.

  • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

    So, Joe, to sum it up, do you think Texas’ lineup is a lot better than the one the Twins rolled out there? If you asked me yesterday I would have said definitely yes, but after this breakdown I’m not so sure.

    First base and DH seems a wash, 2B SS LF CF seems advantage Rangers, 1B 3B RF C seem advantage Twins. I know that’s a crude way of looking at it, but I would have originally thought that the Rangers were a way-better offensive club.

    Of course, though. it all comes down to the Yankee pitchers being effective.

    • Mike HC

      Josh Hamilton alone makes them better than the Twins, if he is healthy. If he is not, they are about equals.

      • whozat

        Josh Hamilton + Bengie Molina is certainly not clearly better than Joe Mauer + Denard Span

        • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

          That. The huge advantage Hamilton has over Span is negated by the huge advantage Mauer has over the Texas catching platoon.

        • http://www.twitter.com/jordan_smed JGS

          That’s not really true.

          Hamilton + Molina, 2010 (including Molina’s time in SF, otherwise this isn’t fair because Hamilton had so many more PAs):
          .313/.361/.504/.865

          Mauer + Span, 2010:
          .292/.361/.402/.763

          The fact that most of the production from the Twins duo was from such a generally weak-hitting position makes Mauer valuable (in fact, the Minnesota duo leads in bWAR, 5.6-5.4), but distilled down to “which is better for a single game”, or even a short series, I take the better hitters.

          • whozat

            Living as I do in SF, I watched Molina’s time here…his performance was propped up by an unsustainable batting average that does not reflect his true talent.

            • ZZ

              Huh?

              Bengie Molina hit .257 with the Giants. His career BA is .274.

              He only has one other year his entire career where his full season batting average was below .257 and that was in 2002.

          • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

            Have to disagree. Those numbers are very close, but the power numbers are different which could be explained (in part) by park factors.

            • ZZ

              I don’t know why that part would be significant though. Span and Mauer have very little power between them and that has nothing really to do with the park.

              Hamilton on the other hand as a huge amount of power.

              • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

                Mauer did have 28 homers last year, if you want to consider that an outlier I couldn’t argue with you.

                In my opinion (McCarverism!) he has a ton of opposite field power that was negated by Target Field.

                • ZZ

                  That could be the case.

                  But, at the heart of the argument does that really matter? Theoretically it may.

                  But, during a playoff series in which these games are being played in these particular parks does it actually matter?

                  • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

                    No, but I think saying the gulf between Span and Hamilton is way bigger than the gap between Mauer and Molina is erroneous.

        • Mike HC

          As a hitter only, Hamilton is so ridiculously good, that a player of his caliber is a huge advantage, in my opinion. As good as Mauer is, I don’t think he is nearly as good a hitter as Hamilton is. As an overall baseball player? Maybe.

  • Januz

    Texas is a much better team than Minnesota (Yankees lucked out, not facing them). The reason is twofold. 1: They have good tight handed hitters such as Vlad, Kinsler and Young, for CC & Andy to deal with. 2: Cliff Lee.
    I still think top to bottom, Tampa is better than Texas, but Maddon may have blown the series by pitching Shields over Garza in Game 2. Of course, to their credit, they came back and won Games 3 & 4, but they still had to deal with Lee in Game 5. The Yankees are essentially in the same position as Tampa. They need to win this Series in no more than 6 Games, so they only have to face Lee once.

    • CS Yankee

      This, we all know the boys need to be home by 6. They are in trouble if it goes 7.

  • Camilo Gerardo

    From Joe Girardi’s Notebook to my eyes!

  • Guest

    Nelson Cruz hasn’t played left in several years. He plays right every night.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joe Pawlikowski

      Go look at a box score, please.