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2009 ALCS Preview:

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs. New York Yankees

by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
October 15, 2009


So much for baseball being 90% pitching.  The two best offenses in baseball will square off in the ALCS despite their middling pitching staffs.  The four dominant American League starters each sat at home for the postseason, so the AL crown will go to the team with the best offense.  Is that team the Angels or the Yankees?

Records - Angels 97-65, Yankees 103-59
Runs Scored - Angels 883 (2nd), Yankees 915 (1st)
Runs Allowed - Angels 761 (8th), Yankees 753 (5th)

You think you know where this is going, don't you?   You think I'm going to write that even though the Yankees scored 32 more runs than the Angels this year, that the Angels offense was better because they didn't play half of their games in the best stadium for home runs in all of baseball.  Well, I'm not.  Although New New Yankee Stadium did increase home run output by 26% over the Yankees' road games, Angel Stadium of Anaheim was second in baseball at 22%.  Moreover, both parks played about neutrally in terms of runs scored due to their suppression of doubles and triples.

Alex Rodriguez missed more than a month at the beginning of the season, so you can imagine that the Yankees would have scored more than 915 runs had he been healthy all season.  But other than that loss and the loss of Jorge Posada for most of May, the Yankees have been remarkably healthy, particularly considering that their average position player age is over 30 years.  The Angels lost both Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter for large chunks of the season, but their position players have been fairly healthy overall, particularly relative to their pitchers.


Are the Angels better at manufacturing runs than the Yankees?  Not necessarily.  Although they have stolen more bases, their success rate is far worse.  Then Yankees have actually struck out fewer times as a team and walked far more frequently.  The Angels have more successful sacrifice bunts to their credit, but we're talking 43 to 31.  In a pitcher's duel, either team is as likely to be able to scratch out a run. 

With no clear edge to either team on offense, it's time to examine run prevention.  The big stories pitching-wise are how each manager chose to assemble his starting rotation.

Pitching Probables
Game Angels Yankees
1@NYY Lackey
(11-8 3.83)
Sabathia
(19-8 3.37)
2@NYY Saunders
(16-7 4.60)
Burnett
(14-9 4.04)
3@LA Weaver
(16-8 3.75)
Pettitte
(14-8 4.16)
4@LA Kazmir
(10-9 4.89)
Sabathia
(19-8 3.37)
5@LA Lackey
(11-8 3.83)
Burnett
(14-9 4.04)
6@NYY Saunders
(16-7 4.60)
Pettitte
(14-8 4.16)
7@NYY Weaver
(16-8 3.75)
Sabathia
(19-8 3.37)

Although it's not yet official, Joe Girardi seems to be leaning heavily towards using C.C. Sabathia in games one, four, and seven, with that game four start coming on three days of rest.  He argues that because Sabathia "only" pitched 230 innings this year and had success pitching on three days of rest at the end of last season.  But there is no getting around the fact that he has pitched 750 innings over the last three years including the postseason and was shelled in his most recent start on three days rest (6 H, 4 BB, 5 ER, 3.2 IP vs. PHI last October).  Don't get me wrong; in terms of winning this LCS, pitching Sabathia over the likes of Joba Chamberlain or Chad Gaudin gives the Yankees the best chance to win.  But the Steinbrenners are slated to pay Sabathia $138 million over the next six years. If he sustains an injury in the near future, Girardi could catch a lot of heat for pushing Sabathia just to get a slightly better chance of winning one game.

Mike Scioscia was adamant about using a left-handed pitcher as his #2 starter in this series in order to create a favorable Yankee Stadium matchup despite the fact that his two aces are both right-handed.  Scott Kazmir had a 5.04 ERA in five career games at Yankee Stadium II, including 15 walks in 25 innings.  Scioscia must feel that Kazmir might lose his command in the unfriendly confines of Yankee Stadium III, because he elected to go with Joe Saunders in games two and five.

The problem with Saunders - apart from his 4.60 ERA - is that he allows a lot of home runs and a lot of balls in play.  That is going to cost him dearly against a team that slugged .490 at home this season.  Also, do you really want to rush southpaws up there against New York after they won to out of every three games against left-handed pitching this year?  Although I don't agree with Scioscia's move here, at least both Jared Weaver and John Lackey are slated to pitch twice in the series if it were to go seven games.

Furthermore, while I realize that this incarnation of Yankee Stadium has the same dimensions as the old one, it obviously isn't playing quite the same.  Scioscia should note that the left-handed Andy Pettitte has been much better on the road this season while the right-handed A.J. Burnett has fared better at Yankee Stadium.  Incidentally, this is going to work against New York in games five and six.  If Girardi does use a fourth starter, that would push Burnett back to game six at Yankee Stadium where he has been much more comfortable for whatever reason.

Both teams bullpens looked strong in their respective series sweeps.  The middle relievers are likely going to see more action in a longer series against two offenses that like to work the count.  That is going to expose two pretty sorry bullpens, although New York's does look a lot better with Joba Chamberlain available than without.  Obviously, you still give a huge edge to Mariano Rivera over Brian Fuentes at the end.  Joe Nathan, Ryan Franklin, and Huston Street each showed us that a dominant closer in the regular season is not guaranteed to be successful in the postseason.  Mariano Rivera, however, is the closest thing to a guarantee that you can get in Major League Baseball.

Series Outlook

The home team won all four Division Series last week, with the four road teams combining for just one win.  The Angels come into the LCS as the road team against the best regular season team in baseball, yet probably have confidence than they did against Boston.  Getting the Red Sox monkey off heir backs was big, and the Yankees have demons of their own to exorcise.  They haven't made it to the World Series in their last four postseasons and their string of four straight World Series appearances was snapped in 2002 by these same Angels.  Coincidentally, the last time a Yankees team won 103 games was also in 2002.

In order to win their LDS, the Yankees benefited from an absurdly terrible call from an umpire and needed to capitalize on two huge baserunning miscues from the Twins.  Minnesota actually out-hit New York 29-23 in those three games.  Meanwhile, the Angels simply outplayed a very talented Red Sox team.  They are far better than the Twins, and the Yankees aren't likely to catch as many breaks this time. 

Prediction: Angels in Six




Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at keith@baseballevolution.com.

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