The Big Question: Tampa or Texas?


The Yankees wrapped up their ALDS matchup with the Twins more than two full days ago now, but they’re still waiting on an opponent. The Rangers grabbed the first two games of their series against the Rays in Florida, but Tampa Bay rebounded to win the pair in Texas. Thus, we get to enjoy a Game Five tonight. The Yanks benefit from this long series in a big way; they won’t have to face Cliff Lee/David Price until Game Two of the ALCS at the absolute earliest. More likely, the Bombers’ ALCS opponent with throw its ace in Game Three.

As we await tonight’s do-or-die affair, the big question on everyone’s mind concerns the Yanks’ opponent. Who is the better matchup for New York? Ben and I are going to sort that out. I’ve got the Rangers; he’s got the Rays. We’ll wrap with a poll.

The Case For Texas

The 2010 season marks the Rangers’ first trip to the postseason since 1999 when the eventual World Champion Yankees swept them in the ALDS. The Yanks also swept them in the 1998 ALDS and beat them 3-1 in the best-of-five series in 1996. Not only have the Rangers never won a playoff series, they’ve also never a playoff game in their home ballpark. By my rough count, just three of their regulars (Vlad Guerrero, Bengie Molina, Jeff Francoeur) and two of their pitchers (Cliff Lee, Darren Oliver) have played in the postseason before this month. The massive edge in experience is nice, but it’s certainly not everything.

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

As it tends to do, it all comes down the the pitching. Lee is an absolute stud, capable of beating any team at any time, so there’s nothing we can do about that. The Yanks smacked C.J. Wilson around all three times they faced him this year (14.1 IP, 18 H, 11 R, 9 BB, 15 K) and he’s exactly the kind of pitcher they’re capable of punishing because he will start a rally by himself with walks (led the league with 93  free passes this year). Same deal with Tommy Hunter, who held the Yanks to two runs in five innings in his only start against them this year. He’s cut from the Yankee-friendly “pitch-to-contact and don’t strike guys out” cloth. Colby Lewis had a fine season (3.55 FIP) and didn’t face the Yanks at all this season, but it’s not like he’s another Cliff Lee. The Rays were able to do some damage against him and the Yankees can too.

On the other side of the coin, Texas hasn’t faced CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte since April, and they didn’t see Phil Hughes at all this season (save for a one inning relief appearance). When they beat the Yanks four times in their last five meetings, the opposing starters were A.J. Burnett twice, Javy Vazquez twice, and Dustin Moseley. Burnett will start a game in the ALCS, but just one of the potential seven. That unfamiliarity works to the Yanks’ advantage.

Offensively, Josh Hamilton is still battling rib trouble and hasn’t hit a lick in the playoffs (.143/.250/.143). Nelson Cruz and Vlad Guerrero are big time power threats, but also prone to getting themselves out on pitches out of the zone. They rely on the money-making half of the power and patience combo. Guys like Molina (.297 OBP) and Francoeur (.300) are essentially automatic outs while Elvis Andrus hits for zero power (.036 ISO (!!!)). They also don’t employ the running game nearly as much as Tampa, a big-time help to the Yankees and Jorge Posada.

Texas does have a good bullpen featuring power arm after power arm, but they lack experience beyond Oliver. Rookie closer Neftali Feliz has already blown one save this postseason and put five of nine men he’s faced on base (three walks). The Darrens – O’Day and Oliver – are a ROOGY and LOOGY, respectively, and both Alexi Ogando and Derek Holland are just as like to melt down as they are to shut down. Beyond Lee, the pitching staff is solid but hardly overwhelming. I’ll take that every day of the week.

The Case For Tampa

The Yankees and the Rays know each other well. They played each other 18 teams this year, and while the Rays won the season series, the games were close. The Yanks lost 10 and won eight against Tampa Bay, and now they’re nine innings and a Tampa Bay win from facing off against their division rival on the road to the World Series.

After watching Tampa Bay for 18 contests this year, it’s tough to say I’d rather see the Yanks face the Rays. The kids from Tampa Bay feature a solid front-line pitcher, some shut-down relievers and a few fearsome hitters. With a triple-slash line of .316/.395/.492 in their nine games at Yankee Stadium, the Rays seem built for a late-season match-up with the Yankees. Still, the team is far from perfect.

(AP Photo/David Richard)

Despite the nine-game sample from their contests in the Bronx, the Tampa Bay Rays are not a well-rounded offensive club. Overall, they hit just .247/.333/.403 on the season, ranking 13th, sixth and eighth, respectively, in the American League. Their team wOBA of .328 was just the eighth best mark in the Junior Circuit. They can be stopped from scoring runs. The Rays offense as a whole doesn’t show significant differences in their splits against either lefties or righties.

Beyond their lineup, the Rays’ pitching has had its fair share of troubles against the Yanks. Matt Garza, who figures to start Game 2, allowed 15 earned runs in 16.2 innings against the Yanks. He gave up five dingers to the Yanks’ bats. David Price struck out 21 Yanks in 26.2 innings but still allowed 38 base runners with an ERA of 4.39. The Yanks hit 24 home runs against Tampa’s pitching this year, and James Shields hasn’t been nearly as effective recently as he was earlier this year. As Jay Jaffe notes at the Pinstriped Bible today, the Rays’ pitching woes should tilt our preferences toward Tampa Bay.

Finally, the Yanks match up well against the Rays’ bullpen as well. Rafael Soriano may be a shut-down closer, and Joaquin Benoit pitched quite well against the Yanks. Yet, the team has just one lefty reliever, and it’s one the Yanks have beaten repeatedly. In eight appearances against the Yanks this year, Randy Choate faced 20 batters, and he retired just six of them. He allowed 2 walks and 12 hits while the Yanks tagged him for 10 earned runs. When the Yanks’ lefties come up in key spots, they’ll either be facing a pitcher they’ve tattooed or a right-hander. That a match-up sounds good to me.

* * *

So there you have it. The Yanks probably would have an easier go of it against the Rangers but not by much. Both clubs will play them tough, and the Yanks will have to earn their trip to the World Series. Let’s wrap this baby up with a poll.

Which team would you prefer to see the Yanks face in the ALCS?
View Results
Categories : Playoffs


  1. infernoscurse says:

    the rangers, the rays style of play owns the yankees, the yanks cant handle fast paced teams like them plus they have good pitching, texas is beatable with good pitching and with AJ being the only weak link id take my chances vs the rangers pitching which our team would play well against, not only that they both play in hitter friendly teams that aid our team, if hughes and andy can repeat their performances we can beat the rangers very easy

  2. Kiersten says:

    Tampa because, as you all know, I’m biased and I REAAAAAAAALLY wanna go to the game on Friday. I think we’ll beat either though, honestly, although Texas might be a little easier.

  3. Yank the Frank says:

    Neither team scares me. I think we match up well against either team. If our pitching in the ALCS is like it was in the ALDS we should have no problems.

    • Evan in NYC says:

      As a product of that, good pitching beats good hitting. If the Rays starting staff can rise to the occasion, which they have vs the Yankees this year, then our offense could slip back into a slide. I like Texas because we won’t have to get Lee until at least game two (hopefully game three), and their other starters are nothing to write home about. I think we will have an easier time handling Texas than Tampa.

  4. yankthemike says:

    would the rays really start with Shields over Garza?

  5. LGY says:

    I’ll take the deflating Rangers for one trip to the World Series please.

    • Evan in NYC says:

      Agreed. I also don’t like Tampa Bay closing this series out on their home turf, coming back from a 0-2 deficit. The last thing we need going into a series with them is the momentum on their side.

  6. I’m offended that the poll didn’t give me the option to write in “It doesn’t f#$%&g matter, we’ll kill ‘em both”.

  7. Sam says:

    For the record I like the Yankees chances against either, but lean towards playing Texas because they have a lot more crappy OBP guys in their starting 9, plus the back end of their rotation and bullpen isn’t as strong as Tampa’s. I’m also worried the Jewish conspiracy wants to see James Shields pitch in the World Series again.

  8. dkidd in sunny los angeles says:


    think of the “gritty little lone star team built in nolan ryan’s image against the evil corporate big city yankees” narratives we’d be subjected to if the rangers win

  9. Laurie says:

    The Yankees have not fielded their best team since July 31st except for their playoff clinching game against Toronto. This may not be exactly accurate but these two teams did not face the best of the Yankees which makes the wins look a little better for the opposition. Would the Yankees have lost the last two games against the Rays at Yankee Stadium during the last series with the team they’ll be putting on the field for the ALCS?

  10. ecks says:

    The Phillies.

    /too soon?

  11. MJJ says:

    The Rays style of play poses a much bigger threat to the way our club is built. Jorge will have a nightmare of a time keeping the Rays from running. Conversely, I will take my chances with our power pitching against the Rangers all or nothing hitters.

  12. nsalem says:

    No difference.

  13. ecks says:

    In all seriousness though, the Rangers. Although in both cases, we’ll only see Lee/Price twice (and that’s if it goes 7 games), so I hope it won’t matter.

    I wonder what the narratives will be? If Tampa wins, they’ll coming off of 3 straight wins, so maybe the media will play that card (of course, we’re coming off of 3 straight wins as well!); if the Rangers win they’ll have “grown up in such a short time, having the mental discipline and the maturity to avoid a playoff collapse”.

    Whatever happens, we’ll have the better team on the field. Go Yankees!

  14. vin says:

    I think the Rangers would be the tougher opponent. They have a better offense, a more dominant ace (but not by much), and plenty of good right-handed hitters.

    The Yankees will probably throw lefties 5 times in the 7 games. That’s less of an advantage against the Rangers (Young, Kinsler, Cruz, Guerrerro are 4 of their 5 or 6 best hitters).

    Against the Rays, you can neutralize Crawford, Pena, Jaso, Johnson, Joyce. That leaves Longoria, Upton, and Zobrist as their primary weapons.

    On a whole, I do think the Rays pitching is better 2-4, but I will continue to consider Cliff Lee to be money until he proves me otherwise.

    In the end, it doesn’t matter. I’ve learned my lesson in years’ past – never root to play against one team over another. Especially when the Yankees are the superior team to begin with.

    • nsalem says:

      You are correct. In 2006 we wound up with the Tigers who were playing for their playoff lives
      in the last 6 games. They were swept by the Jays and then the 62-100 Kansas City Royals. Won the fist game and were up by 3
      in the second game after 4 or 5 innings. Marcus got a big hit in the Game 2 comeback.

  15. Chris says:

    I’d rather see the Yankees play the Rays. I have a feeling a Yankees-Rangers ALCS could look a lot like a Yankees-Twins ALDS. As a Yankee fan, I would enjoy a Yankees-Rangers series, but as a baseball fan, I think the far more compelling matchup would be pitting the two best teams in the AL against each other.

    • Ghost of Scott Brosius says:

      So you’d rather see the Yankees challenged in a long series they might lose than see them win easily? Yikes.

  16. Yank the Frank says:

    I don’t know which would be worse to look at. Ron Washington’s bulbous coke ingesting nose or Maddon’s Drew Carey old man face.

  17. larryf says:

    Just grateful Washington can’t use 20 pitchers in one game this time.

  18. candyforstalin says:

    texas. i don’t like tropicana field.

  19. Dream of Electric Sheep/ still haven't register /too lazy says:

    Texas. But I take either really. I rather face their secondary pitching and BP than Tampa.

  20. I’d rather face Tampa. I feel more confident against Price/Shields/Garza than I do against Lee/Wilson/Hunter. The former have been less sharp than the latter.

    Also, the middle of Texas’ lineup is a lot more scary than Tampa’s. Kinsler, Cruz, and Vladdy are power righty bats that could give our lefties trouble. Tampa’s big offensive weapons – Crawford and Pena – are neutralized by our lefties. Plus, Longoria has basically been playing on one leg.

  21. larryf says:

    Texas. I will enjoy watching the smirk disappear from Dubya’s face.

  22. Kiersten says:

    Also, I’d like to see the whole “Rangers are the only franchise to never win a playoff series” thing continue, just cause it’s funny.

  23. Chris says:

    I’ll take the Rangers. As much as I would not like to see Cliff Lee on the mound, they did do some damage against him in Game 5 last year. So, he wasn’t as perfect as people seem to recall. The Yanks lost because Bad (Typical?) AJ was on the hill.

  24. Tom Zig says:

    I vote the Rays because as I’ve said multiple times that it is of my opinion that if Texas loses in the first round it increases our chances (even greater than they already are) of signing Cliff Lee. Cliff Lee wants to play for a winner. Texas losing in the first round makes them not a winner.

    • Thomas says:

      Couldn’t you argue that if Lee loses to the Yankees, his chances of leaving are even greater having been beaten by the same team?

  25. rek4gehrig says:

    Texas…too much speed on that Rays team

    • Texas, 2010: .276/.338/.419
      Tampa Bay, 2010: .247/.333/.403

      That’s more than enough to make up for some small speed advantage that Tampa has.

      Texas’s hitting ability >>>>>>>>>>>>> Tampa Bay’s speed

      • rek4gehrig says:

        Not sure about that. Speed is very disruptive to the pitchers. Rays runners going from 1st to 3rd as often as they do kinda makes up for difference. I think so anywayz

      • CS Yankee says:

        Do you numbers include the hitter’s heaven in Texas, or adjust for Josh (Evan as well) being a shell of himself?

        Tampa is the better club overall & Texas is unproven. Either way, we roll into the WS after 6.

      • Captain Jack says:

        Tampa’s faced better hitting and Texas (likely) has a big BABIP advantage. Not to mention the home park differences five points of OBP and 16 points of slugging isn’t as big as you think when there’s a 29 point difference in batting average ESPECIALLY with a hitters park like they have in Arlington.

  26. CBean says:

    From Chad Jennings on LoHud:

    The Yankees have not announced a rotation for the ALCS, but it sounds like they don’t want CC Sabathia pitching on three days rest twice. That means Burnett will pitch Game 4 at Yankee Stadium. Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes — in some order — will pitch Games 2 and 3. Pitching coach Dave Eiland said the Yankees have a Game 2 starter in mind, but they aren’t going to make it official until they have their staff meetings tomorrow.

    • CS Yankee says:

      If that’s the case, he wouldn’t pitch but twice in the series and not on short rest either…or am I’m missing something?

      G1 & G5…he would not start in G7 on a couple of days rest.
      G1 & G4…he would go 3 days rest twice if needed in G7.

  27. NoMaas had the same poll running and 64% there chose the Rangers.

    They also had another poll on who you would rather have: Suzyn Waldman or Kevin Long. Long got 76% of the vote.

  28. Captain Jack says:

    Which ever match up gives them a better chance of signing Cliff Lee…I think they’re two pretty evenly matched teams, Tampa being deeper…Texas having more top end talent…maybe an ever so slight edge to Texas; though I’d rather have Hughes pitch in the Trop than in Arlington.

  29. JM says:

    I don’t get the whole “whoever gives them a better chance at Lee” thing. All signing Lee would do would be increasing their chances of a World Series, so what the REAL factor should be who the “easier” opponent is. I picked Texas if that adds anything to the comment.

  30. jim p says:

    Didn’t really pay attention to Texas’ starting pitching this year, except for Lee. Does anyone know if last year’s experiment in ignoring pitch counts show any ill effects this year? Or not.

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