A split in Baltimore for the first two games of the ALDS wasn’t ideal, but it’s far from the worst case scenario. The final three games of the series will be played in Yankee Stadium, which I consider advantage Yankees even though the Orioles won six of nine there this season. We’ve been through this “Team A did this against Team B in the regular season and therefore have the advantage in a playoff series” dance how many times in the last few years now?
1. The ALDS is now a best-of-three and it’s great that all three games will be in the Bronx, but the playoff schedule this year is such a mess. If this series happens to go five games, the winner will have to use their fifth starter in the ALCS because Games One and Two of that series immediately follow Game Five of this one. How ridiculous is that? Finish with the best record in the league and that’s the reward? The new playoff system was rushed into place this year and the schedule is a nightmare. I wish they would have just waited until the Astros moved to AL next season and made all the changes at once. I guess the teams and the league stood to make too much money by implementing it this year, half-assed or not.
2. As our Bullpen Workload page shows, pretty much every reliever on the ALDS roster other than David Robertson will have had a full week of rest going into Game Three. That’s a good thing because for a long time those guys were really getting worked hard, but a full week off is entering the danger zone of being rusty (poor location) when they finally do get into a game. They’ll need all the rest they can get because playing five games in the next five days is a very real possibility, but there was so much time off between the end of the regular season and the start of the ALDS that these guys might need an inning or two to regain their feel.
3. While on the bullpen subject, you ready for a weird stat? The Yankees haven’t had a save opportunity in the playoffs since Game One of the 2010 ALCS. They won Game Five of that series in a blowout, won Games One and Four of the 2011 ALDS in blowouts, and won Game One of this series in a blowout. Twelve games since their last postseason save chance. Weird.
4. What the hell happened to the routine play? Derek Jeter threw away a ball while Mark Teixeira and J.J. Hardy let ground balls get through their legs in last night’s game, but it’s not just that. Routine plays are being botched all around the postseason — pop-ups are falling in, pitchers are throwing away bunts, all that stuff. Basic plays you practice on the first day of Spring Training. It’s just unbelievable to watch all these easy routine plays turn into game-changing mistakes. The World Series is going to come down to whoever turns the most routine plays into outs, I guess.
5. The Yankees have to do a better job against the Orioles’ left-handed hitters, specifically Nate McLouth and Chris Davis. Those two are a combined 6-for-16 (.375) in the series with a two-run single in each game so far, and that’s against New York’s top two left-handed starters in CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte. They’ve kept Adam Jones and Matt Wieters in check while keeping Mark Reynolds in the park, so those guy aren’t killing them. McLouth, who was on the verge of playing in an independent league a few months, and Davis are. Those two are going to bat first and third in every game of the series forward and the Yankees have to do a better job of keeping them off base and more importantly, doing damage when there are runners on base.
6. Total homers hit in the postseason so far: ten in ten games (counting the two wildcard play-in games), so one per game. All of those have come against the supposed numbers one and two starters of team, right? No one started their number four or five guy out of necessity. Even when Johnny Cueto got hurt in the first inning of Game One, Mat Latos come in to pitch in long relief. The MLB average this year was 0.94 homers per game. Runs per game in general are down — 8.57 runs per game in the regular season to 7.25 in the playoffs — and you know why that it is? Because stringing together a rally with multiple hits against top pitchers is much harder than hitting homers off them. Good pitchers make fewer mistakes, and when you get a mistake you have to make it count. I will fight the ridiculous “you can’t hit homers off good pitching in the playoffs” narrative ’til the death, right after I finish watching this Edgar Renteria highlight.