Friday, October 16, 2009

ALCS Game 1: Who Knows?

Here we are, folks. It's the American League Championship Series; Phase Two of a possible three in the quest for ultimate baseball glory. It's been a long 5 years since the Yanks have been in those position.

There are only 6 Yankees (Jeter, A-Rod, Mo, Posada, Cano, Matsui) that were on the roster in 2004 or the last time the Yankees faced the Angels in 2005. The Angels are returning only 4 players from 2005. So while the narrative that the Angels own the Yanks in the postseason is going to be thrown out there, it's not all that relevant any more. The Red Sox supposedly had the Angels' number going into the ALDS and they are watching this one from their respective couches. (I love pointing that out...)

As Matt delved into this morning, the two teams split the season series and are quite evenly matched. The Yanks have a slight advantage when you look at the accumulation of their regular season stats, but much of that goes out the window at this point. The rosters are optimized for a short series and there's no guarantee that a 52/48 or even 55/45 edge is going to show up in a best of 7 series. The miserable weather in the Bronx to start the series could further obscure any advantages one way or another.

John Lackey gets the start for the Angels tonight, off a dominant outing against the Red Sox in the ALDS. The Angels' Ace shut down the Sox over 7 1/3 IP, holding them to 4 hits, one walk and no runs. He was also sharp in his one outing against the Yankees this year, holding them to two runs over 7 innings out in Anaheim and picking up the win in the process.

The Angels trot out a pretty formidable line up as well, one that ranked second in the AL behind the Yankees in runs scored. That's pretty impressive when you consider that they were only 3rd in OBP and 4th in slugging percentage (Yanks were first in both). Their oft-discussed running game has surely filled in some of those gaps. The always-pesky Chone Figgins will be leading off and Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, and Vlad Guerrero make up the heart of their order. Kendry Morales has put up Mark Teixeira-style numbers this year but he's only hitting 6th.

Of course, CC Sabathia will be ascending to the rubber for the Yankees and trying to wade though that line up tonight. He wasn't in his start against the Twins (which was 9 freaking days ago), but he did strike out 8 and walk none in 6 2/3 innings. He gave up 8 hits and 2 runs (one earned) and needed 113 pitches to do it, but showed that he was capable of finding his command under pressure.

He didn't fare well in either of his starts against the Angels during the regular season this year. In 13 1/3 innings of work, he gave up 9 ER, 17 hits, took the loss in both games but did strike out 11 while walking only 4. Decent peripheral numbers, but that's not much to hang your hat on. We're only interested in the bottom line from here on out.

The Yanks offense, outside of A-Rod, Jeter, Matsui and a couple timely hits by Mark Teixeira didn't look too hot against the Twins. Their batting line of .225/.288/.431 isn't going to get it done against the Angels, much less earn them a sweep.

Right now, we're still at the phase where nobody has a clue where this series is going to go. Hopefully this is going to be a great match up; an all-time classic. But what has happened this season, in the ALDSes, in 2005 or in 2002 isn't going to mean much after tonight. Hopefully the Yanks can pull it off, but who knows? Let's go Yanks.

They don't know,
Like I know,
Do you know?
They don't know,
I don't know.

You Know You've Made It In Sports Blogging When...

...Someone takes the time to FJM one of your posts.

Click over and see the hopeless homers at Halos Heaven (of SB Nation, of the Internets) misinterpret what Matt was trying to say, make a misguided attempt at mocking the title of this site, and use "words" like "fallicy" to defend their hitting coach right fielder, Bobby Abreu.

Behold this brilliant analogy comparing Abreu's influence on the Angels to a math teacher:
Once agan it comes down to LUCK. Sure. If your kid comes home from school with better math grades and tells you it's because his teacher showed him a better way to solve the equation, are you going to tell him, "No, you've just had better luck".
This would make perfect sense if A) there were varying degrees to which you could solve an equation, B) the greatest mathematician who ever lived solved equations at a 50% clip, C) the person creating the equations was doing so with the intention of making them impossible to solve and D) the teacher was somehow also the child's classmate. But other than that, it's flawless. Bobby Abreu is Mr. Dewey. Got it.

They also put together an wildly unoriginal list of reasons they hate the Yankees which we would counter if Yankees fans cared enough about the Angels to hate them. Well okay, here's one:
  1. CHONE Figgins - I've never pronounced it "Shawn" and never will. Ch-ch-ch-ch-choke on that one, Figgins!
Just because the Red Sox aren't in the ALCS doesn't mean there can't be some animosity involved. Fuck the Angels... Wooohohohohohoo!!!

Round 2: Damon v. Abreu

Yesterday's hot topic around here, Bobby Abreu just got offered a nice new deal with the Angels.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim offered Bobby Abreu a two-year extension worth about $16MM, according to's Jon Heyman (via Twitter).
As he did before this year, ol' Bobby is shooting for the stars and looking for a better deal. There's no real harm in that since he didn't sign with the Angels until mid-February this year and he has every right to find another team that's willing to pay him more than that.

Abreu is a really good hitter who would be an asset if placed in any lineup in the history of the game and he's coming off a pretty good year. But he'll be 36 years old when next season starts. He already has limited ability as a corner outfielder and will eventually transition into a part-time DH role.

Does that scenario sound familiar? That's right folks, Johnny Damon is in a nearly identical position.

Granted, the most likely scenario is that both guys stay where they are at, but let's assume the Yankees could have either of them for 2 years at $10M per. It might be a bit much, but with that offer already sitting out there for Abreu, we know it's not going to be much less.

Like we did yesterday with Nick Swisher and Abreu, let's look at the stats.

Damon batted in the two hole almost exclusively this year, while Abreu primarily hit third. This explains some of the gap in RBI, but not as well as Abreu's .354/.448/.475 line with RISP. That's great and all, but it's hardly sustainable.

On the same note, Damon set a career high for HRs this year and that is likely to regress to the mean next year as well. If Abreu were to get half of his plate appearances in Yankee Stadium in 2010, there's a pretty good chance his totals would increase, bringing the two a bit closer together.

The stolen base edge goes to Abreu, but Damon obviously could have run more and a good portion of the difference has to be the product of the strategy of the teams they play for. Defense isn't going to matter as much in the role that the Yankees are looking for since it will involve a good amount of games in the DH slot but Damon was completely terrible this year, and I don't think we can chalk off of it up to his eye issues. Although subjectively, I don't think there's any way he's that much worse than Abreu.

We're looking at two pretty similar players. Both have been extremely fortunate with their health over the years and remain productive at an advanced age. Both are risky investments and there's a fair chance that two years from now, one will look better than the other or both will look pretty bad. But based on what we know now, who ya got?

Realistically, Damon is far more likely to stick around due to real world factors like their families and such, but on paper a good case could be made for either of these guys. Think of what Abreu could do for the Yankees' approach at the plate!

Ronan Tynan: A Singer, Not A Comedian

There are plenty of people who think that playing God Bless America during the 7th inning stretch of every game is unnecessary. I would tend to agree with that sentiment, especially since the rendition by Kate Smith is awful. However, if they could get Ronan Tynan to do it every game - and maybe save the first verse for the big games - I would be totally on board.

Irish tenor Ronan Tynan sings a first-rate "God Bless America," at Yankee Stadium, but his attempt at telling a joke offended a Jewish doctor who found it to be anti-Semitic. [...]

The trouble started when Tynan, 49, bumped into a real estate agent showing an apartment in his East Side apartment building to a doctor from NYU Medical Center.

The agent told Tynan, "Don't worry, they are not Red Sox fans," according to apartment-hunter Gabrielle Gold-von Simson.

"I don't care about that, as long as they aren't Jewish," was Tynan's reply.
Yikes. That must have been awkward. "Well Mr. Tynan, they are Jewish..."

Apparently you can get away with those kind of "jokes" in Ireland. Not so much in New York. The Yankees spiked his appearance tonight as a result.

Hopefully they've secured someone else to sing God Bless America live. My buddy Joe suggested Daniel Rodriguez. It had better be someone, because Kate Smith and her gargling rendition have no place in the playoffs. If the Yankees lose tonight, it's on you, Tynan!

Are You Ready For Some Baseball?

Good morning Fackers. It's finally Friday. This is of course a good thing due to it being the end of yet another work week. But more importantly the seemingly interminable wait for another game of Yankee baseball is over - Mother Nature willing. Five whole days. And we thought the All-Star Break was long this year.

Speaking of the All-Star Break, just prior to it the Yankees had a disastrous three game series in Anaheim during which they were swept and outscored by a total of eleven runs. The end of that series marked the start of the longest hiatus the Yankees had this year - until now. The new longest break will end with a series against those same Angels, except the stakes are much higher this time.

The Yankees' 2009 regular season featured several key moments: the return of Alex Rodriguez in Baltimore; the three consecutive walk-offs against the Twins, the surprise visit from Brian Cashman in Atlanta, a momentum swinging ejection of Joe Girardi, Francisco Cervelli's first Major League home run and the early August sweep in the Bronx that finally turned the tables on the Red Sox. While all of those were positive events, it was perhaps getting swept in southern California that was the most critical turning point of the Yankee season. They exited that series at 51-37, 3 games back in the AL East. They went 52-22 the rest of the way, finishing with the best record in baseball.

Those last 74 games included four against the Angels. The Yankees went 3-1 in those games to even the season series at five apiece, but thanks to that three game set in July, they finished with a minus ten run differential against the Halos. From a Pythagorean perspective, the Yankees picked up about three quarters of win beyond what they should have, thanks in large part to three of their victories coming by a single run.

Over the course of this series, much will be made of the Yankees struggles against the Angels during Mike Scioscia's tenure, particularly in the 2002 and 2005 Division Series. While there's no denying that, it doesn't much matter. These Yankees and Angels are far removed even from last year's versions. This year they split, and while the Yanks may owe probability three fourths of a win heading into this series, they were able to carry an even larger IOU against the Twins over to 2010.

The Yankees last played a game Sunday, in the final baseball game ever played at the Metrodome. Incidentally, we thought the Yankees played their last game there way back in July. Oddly enough, the three game sweep at the hands of the Angels immediately followed. After the Angels took those three, the Yankees took three of the next four. Seven games. Four Angels wins, three Yankees wins. Let's hope those numbers reverse themselves over the next seven games. This series ought to be a good one.