Thursday, October 15, 2009

Two Thoughts On Game Two

I know Game One isn't even until tomorrow, but here are two thoughts on the two hot button issues from this post-season, both of which affect Game Two (weather permitting).

First, Mike Scioscia's decision to pitch Joe Saunders in Game Two has been widely questioned, and with good reason in my opinion. I understand Scioscia's desire to utilize a lefty in Yankee Stadium in order to neutralize the Yankee lefties and switch hitters, since Yankee Stadia have historically favored lefties.

However, this Yankee Stadium has been a launching pad of historic proportions through its first 85 games. And as I pointed out when Saunders pitched against the Yanks three weeks ago, he is particularly prone to giving up the gopher ball. Saunders surrendered 29 long balls this year, tied for second in the American League despite the fact that an August DL stint limited him to 186 IP on the year. His 1.4 HR/9 also tied for second worst in the AL. Meanwhile, fellow lefty Scott Kazmir has more experience in the new Yankee Stadium, is a better pitcher overall, and allowed just 1.0 HR/9 this year, slightly less than league average.

A further thought regarding Saunders, Yankee batters this year hit .282/.360/.476 against right handed pitching and a slightly better across the board .286/.365/.480 against left handed pitching. There's no discernible platoon advantage there. The Angels would be best off throwing their best available pitcher in Game Two, and that pitcher is not Joe Saunders.

The second issue is whether Jose Molina will again catch A.J. Burnett. The Yankees have yet to announce that decision, though I'm inclined to believe that he will. But, even if he doesn't, I think we may see a bit of Jose Molina in this series anyway. Despite ranking just 11th in the AL in SB%, the Angels ranked third in the league in stolen bases with 148. In an effort to neutralize their running game, I wouldn't be surprised to see Jose Molina behind the plate in the late innings of game if the Yankees are leading.

This happened once already this year, early in the season in this game. Afterwards, Jorge Posada left the park without addressing the media. If this were to happen in the ALCS, the media storm would dwarf the Molina-gate squall that preceded Game Two of the ALDS.

I'm not sure what to make of this one. No one is going to confuse Jorge Posada with vintage Pudge Rodriguez behind the plate. And Posada shouldn't put his ego ahead of the good of the team. But, given that the Angels were below average in SB% and that all Yankee catchers, including Posada, were above league average CS%, it might be to the Yankees' advantage to tempt the Angels to give outs away on the bases.

Furthermore, if you subtract out caught stealings attributed to the pitcher making a pickoff attempt, Jorge Posada's catcher's caught stealing percentage of 21.6% is close to the league average of 21.9% and superior to Jose Molina's 17.9%. In fact, though the sample size is relatively small, the numbers suggest that if the Yankees decide to make a running based defensive substitution behind the plate, the nod should go to Franciso Cervelli who had an off the charts catcher's caught stealing percentage of 38.1% (8 of 21) in the equivalent of about 27 games behind the dish.

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