Rangers hitters present a different challenge than TwinsBy
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.