Sep
17

No fearing the Texas two-step

By

Trying to pick a favorable playoff opponent is a fool’s errand. Prefer Detroit? Then prepare to face Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and a bullpen that has led the team to a 72-0 record when leading after 7 innings. Prefer Los Angeles? They have perhaps the best starting pitching troika in the American League in Weaver, Haren and Santana. If Texas is your cup of tea, then you’ll have to contend with groundball artist C.J. Wilson and the potent Rangers’ offense. There’s no easy first round opponent for the Yankees this year. The Twins will be sitting at home.

Despite all that, one has to imagine that the Yankees would represent the worst-case scenario in the ALDS for the Texas Rangers. Not only will the Rangers likely be facing the Yankees in New York for the first two games, instead of hosting the Red Sox or Rays, but the Yankees would also be able to blunt one of the Rangers’ biggest advantages: their two strong left-handed starters. As it stands, the likely ALDS starters for the Rangers are C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland and Matt Harrison. Wilson and Holland have been tough this year, but there’s reason to think that the Yankees can handle left-handed starting pitching with ease this October. After all, they’ve dominated left-handed pitching all year.

Should the Yankees choose to start Andruw Jones over Brett Gardner against a left-handed starter in the ALDS, seven of their nine hitters will have compiled an OPS of over .850 against left-handed pitchers this season. The two that miss the cut are Russell Martin and Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez is currently in the middle of a curious slump against left-handed pitching. Despite a career average of .947 OPS against left-handers, he’s currently batting .783 against them this year after a .755 mark in 2010. If he’s even a modicum of his former self in the playoffs, then the Yankees attack on left-handed starters will be potent.

The reason for this strength against lefties is comprised of several factors. For one, the left-handed batters have shown the ability to hit lefties consistently well. Curtis Granderson in particular stands out. Once nearly a platoon player, Granderson punishes lefties and righties with nearly equal pleasure. Robinson Cano does the same. There’s also Jesus Montero, perhaps the greatest source of offensive upside in the Yankees’ lineup. Projecting his performance is nearly impossible, but he has a minor league track record and a small major league performance to drool over. Finally there’s Andruw Jones, long the abuser of left-handed starters. Should the Yankees choose to sacrifice Gardner’s speed and defense for Jones’ offense then they’ll truly be formidable at the plate. Their two main focal points of weakness would be Russell Martin, a defensive stalwart, and Alex Rodriguez, possibly the greatest hitter of all time. Everything else is gravy.

This isn’t to guarantee a win against Wilson or Holland; they’re still very tough pitchers. But it does show that facing Wilson and Holland twice in the first three games of the American League Division Series would give give the Yankees a nice platoon advantage. At the end of the day, it’s hard to know who to cheer for as a first-round opponent. In 2006 I wanted the Tigers in the first-round, and we all remember how that turned out. Yet, should the Yankees draw Texas I won’t fear them like before. This time there’s no Cliff Lee, and this time the team will field an offense capable of bludgeoning starting pitchers, righties and lefties alike. This team may have a few questions about the rotation, but the offense couldn’t be much better.

Categories : Offense

26 Comments»

  1. Tyrion Lannister says:

    The lineup vs a lefty in the playoffs should be-

    Jeter
    Granderson
    Cano
    Rodriguez
    Teixera
    Swisher
    Jones
    Montero
    Martin

  2. Eric says:

    Agreed, the Yankees are definitely in good position to mash lefties come playoff time. The Texas rotation is definitely the least intimidating of the possible playoff contenders, though their lineup and bullpen are both quite dangerous.

  3. Mickey Scheister says:

    I think, should the NYY draw TEX should field,

    1. Jeter
    2. Swisher
    3. Granderson
    4. Cano
    5. Teixiera
    6. A-Rod
    7. Jones
    8. Montero
    9. Martin

    • Jerome S. says:

      I think we need a new meme that says “while your idea is reasonable and even better than most, it could never happen”.

      • Mickey Scheister says:

        Yeah, I know. Too much logic and reason, my “gut” tells me A-Rod HAS to bat clean-up, just like Soriano must pitch in the eigh….oh, wait. Joey G made the move after Sori’s injury, I can hope the organization gives the team the best line-up to win not just to keep individuals happy.

      • I dunno, Teixeira is smashing LHP this season (.303/.382/.573). I’d roll with a variation of today’s lineup of Jeter-Granderson-Teixeira-Cano-A-Rod-Swisher-Montero-Gardner-Martin.

      • Mickey Scheister says:

        ….“while your idea is reasonable and even better than most, it could never happen”.

        I should have dropped the #dreaming tag or a /WillNeverHappen, I know A-Rod prob won’t bat lower than 5 regardless of the situation, at least yet.

  4. Jerome S. says:

    Best team in the AL, probably the best team in baseball.

    I’ll take our odds on anyone.

  5. Sandman42 says:

    (Reposting from an earlier thread)- before we get too excited about the lineup in the playoffs, we can’t forget how bad the offense has been the last 2 post-seasons, yes offense is down against good pitching generally in the playoffs, but they seem to take it to another level, and that worries me (though martin, montero and jones weren’t on the team, so hopefully some of this changes:

    2010- Total Team offense

    ALCS Splits- .201/.300/.370

    ALDS- .314/.351/.514 (ok, obviously good, but they kill the twins and twins are not in playoffs)

    2009- Total Team Offense

    World Series – .247/.326/.399 (probably even worse if you were to take away Matsui’s .615/.643/1.385)

    ALCS- .279/.389/.446 (pretty good, but also heavily carried by Arod’s sick .429/.567/.952)

    ALDS- .225/.288/.431 (worse again without Arod’s .455/.500/1.000)

    • Jerome S. says:

      You know they won in 2009 right

    • JohnnyC says:

      This may surprise you but good pitching stops good hitting, especially in the post-season. If only the Yankees could face the pitching staff of the Royals in the playoffs.

      • Sandman42 says:

        I know, but they’ve consistently had the best offense in baseball the last 3 years, so I’m just saying that while they’re going to regress from the regular season, you’d hope they would have been at least better than they were (Which is to say, sans arod/matsui, abysmal) and hit like the best team in the playoffs.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      You’re dealing with small samples. This means that there’s going to be a lot of variability.

      There is absolutely no reason to take away strong individual performances as youu suggest doing. This is part of the variability of dealing with small samples.

    • Mickey Mantle's Outstanding Experience says:

      So their numbers will look worse when you take out the player who performed the best? This might be the greatest baseball discovery since Jerome Holtzman created the save.

  6. PaulF says:

    “and this time the team will field an offense capable of bludgeoning starting pitchers, righties and lefties alike. This team may have a few questions about the rotation, but the offense couldn’t be much better.”

    Is this talking about the Yankees or the Rangers? Because it sort of applies to both.

  7. Monteroisdinero says:

    I’ve said this before but i think the Yanks should have Freddy and Bartolo split starts in the post season. Bart can let it fly for 3-4 innings and freddy can dazzle with his off speed for 3-4 innings. Can’t see these guys going deep into post season games. It’s a different mindset and approach for a starter to only have to go 3-4 innings. It would be outside the box/binder but I can dream.

  8. Craig says:

    I’m just hoping they actually tee off Lee if they make it into the World Series….to me, that’ll make the postseason.

  9. Jesse says:

    Quick question regarding Detroit’s 72-0 record after 7 innings, where did you find that info? Was it on baseball reference? I’m just curious because I wanna look up some stats similar to that one.

  10. AC says:

    Keep Montero in lineup against lefties. Start Jones too. Romine most likely the backup C with Cervelli out.

  11. Kramerica Industries says:

    How has that blimp Valverde not blown a save yet this year?

    He has often been teetering on the brink of disaster. Meanwhile, Mo has great peripherals, only has some six or so walks all season, yet five blown saves to go with it.

    Randomness. It’s a bitch.

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