by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
October 4, 2007
Records - Yankees 94-68, Indians
Runs Scored - Yankees 968
(1st), Indians 811 (6th)
Runs Allowed - Yankees 777 (7th), Indians 704 (3rd)
The New York Yankees have been playing some of the best baseball in the
majors over the past four months, while the Cleveland Indians have been fairly
consistent all season long. Here is how the two teams match up in this
Jorge Posada is the only catcher in baseball who had a better offensive
season than Victor Martinez. The Indians' catcher, however, has had a
resurgent year on defense. Victor shockingly threw out 32% of baserunners
against him after nailing just 18% last year. Posada has thrown out 24%
after a fluke 37% last season. Comparing the catchers over the past two or
three seasons, their offensive and defensive numbers begin to look similar.
Posada obviously has the edge in postseason experience, while Martinez has less
wear and tear on his young body.
Kelly Shoppach is good enough to start for most teams, and Jose Molina is no
liability as a backup.
Ryan Garko isn't a great hitting first baseman yet, but he's at least as good
as Shelley Duncan, who batted .200 in September, and worlds better than Doug
Mientkiewicz, who has actually had a good offensive season for him.
Remember when I wrote that the Barfield/Kouzmanoff trade would benefit both
teams? It now looks as though the Indians got fleeced. The Son of
Jesse has looked just awful on both sides of the ball, including finishing last
in the AL in Revised Zone Rating by a wide margin. Remember when I wrote
numerous derogatory things about Robinson Cano? Well, he's now proven that
he is at least a solid hitter, and though still an inconsistent fielder, he does
appear to be improving.
Jhonny Peralta and Derek Jeter are the two worst AL shortstops in RZR, though
Jhonny has recorded nearly twice as many Outs out of Zone as the statuesque
Jeter. Regardless, Peralta's post All-Star break OPS of .718 more than
negates any defensive superiority over Jeter, who is now among the best hitting
shortstops of all time.
Finally, in a really close call, Alex Rodriguez nudges out Casey Blake at
third base. I had to think about that one for a bit.
Grady Sizemore had a down year compared to 2006, but he still probably tied
Ichiro Suzuki for title of 2007's Best Leadoff Hitter.
The remainder of the Cleveland outfield is just a pastiche of serviceable
parts, however, including Kenny "Zeile"
Lofton, Franklin "Kingman"
Gutierrez, Trot "Bartman"
Nixon, and Jason "I'm not Interesting Enough to Warrant a Nickname" Michaels.
Bobby Abreu had a great four months after being one of the league's biggest
disappointments in his first two, while Johnny Damon and Melky Cabrera were
disappointments for most of the year. Hideki Matsui makes this outfield a
lot stronger when he is not playing DH.
Even after an extreme down year for Travis Hafner, you would rather have him
at the plate than Jason Giambo for sure. Hideki Matsui gets the DH start in Game
1, which matches up well with Hafner, but leaves the Yankees wanting in the
If the Indians have faith in rookie Asdrubal Cabrera over Barfield as they
did throughout September, he would give the Indians a big boost in their
starting infield. That white pearl necklace he wears may even distract a
couple of Yankees. Other than Josh and Asdrubal, the Indians don't really
have a backup infielder.
The Yankees bench has been decent all season long, and is vastly improved by
the absence of injured Andy Phillips. They've got to be kicking themselves
for releasing Josh Phelps, though. If a player's last name is Phelps, you
can bet that the Yankees will make a poor decision with him.
Apparently, neither Eric Wedge nor Joe Torre reads our site. Each
manager has extreme ground ball pitchers slated to start road games, with Chien-Ming
Wang slated to pitch Games 1 and 5 in Cleveland, and Jake Westbrook expected to
start Game 3 in New York. Everyone reading this article should know that
ground ball pitchers almost universally
perform better at home, with these two being no exception. Wang
has home/road splits of 2.75/4.91 this year, while Westbrook is at 3.94/4.78.
Now I know there's at least one silly Yankees fan out there thinking, "Sure,
Wang has a bad road ERA, but he's 9-3 away from Yankee Stadium this year, so
there's nothing to worry about." The trouble is that Wang was not facing
an offense as good as Cleveland's nor an opposing pitcher as dominant as C.C.
Sabathia for the vast majority of those games.
Because of the way the pitchers line up, the only pitching matchup that
favors the Yankees is that Game 3 contest between Westbrook and Roger Clemens,
and even that is iffy, given the Rocket's iffy hamstring. Fausto Carmona
had an ERA almost a full run lower than fellow Game 2 starter Andy Pettitte did,
and Mike Mussina is doing his best Tom Glavine 2003 impersonation this year.
He matches up against control freak Paul Byrd in Game 4.
Cleveland had the fourth best AL bullpen ERA at 3.73 despite Joe Borowski's
foundation of the
45/5 club. Rafaels
Betancourt and Perez form easily the best righty/lefty setup tandem in baseball,
while Aaron Fultz and Jensen Lewis also carried sub-3.00 earned run averages
into postseason play.
The Yankees finished 10th in the AL with a 4.35 bullpen ERA, and that does
not even factor in the absence of Scott Proctor and Mike Myers, two of their
best relievers in the first half. Yes, Joba Chamberlain is phenomenal, and
Mariano Rivera has been back to his usual self since the end of April (2.26 ERA,
29/31 in save opportunities), but none of the Yankees' starters are likely to
work seven innings in any of these games. Does Mo still have it in him to
go two in the playoffs? Will Joba Marmolize in the Division Series?
At least the Yankees won't have to worry about policing Doug Mientkiewicz to
make sure that he doesn't run off with a keepsake baseball.
Prediction: Indians in four
Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.