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Yanks Tough First Round Test Starts Tonight
2005-10-04 05:00
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

There are previews galore in the papers this morning, but with all due respect to the analytical acumen of the print media, there isn't anybody's take on the Angels that interests me more than that of my pal Rich Lederer. Lederer, who co-runs the fine Baseball Analysts site with Bryan Smith, was born and raised in Long Beach, California and has followed the Angels forever. He was kind enough to burn the midnight oil last night to provide us with his scouting report on the ALDS series between the Bombers and the Halos. Here it goes:

ALDS Preview

By Rich Lederer

Hitting: The Yankees can flat out hit. Outside of Vladimir Guerrero, the Angels can not hit. The Bronx Bombers slugged 82 more home runs this year than the Angels. That's two extra dingers in a four or five-game series. Although the team batting averages are nearly the same, the Yankees have a much better on-base percentage, thanks to almost 200 more walks during the regular season. Yes, the NYY drew 44% more BB than the LAA in 2005. Garret Anderson is a shell of what he once was and is nothing more than a guess hitter who can look good when he's right or bad when he's wrong. If I'm the Yankees, I don't let Guerrero beat me. Treat him like Barry Bonds. Make someone else get the big hit. Unlike Bonds, Guerrero lacks patience and may get overanxious from time to time, particularly in a playoff situation. The AL MVP in 2004 was 2-for-12 with 4 SO against the Boston Red Sox in last year's ALDS. Vladi is a very dangerous hitter, but he can be had. I just don't know if the Yankees have the type of pitching that can neutralize him.

The Angels led the majors in stolen bases but their SB percentage was lower than the Yankees. Mike Scioscia's club can and will run with Chone Figgins leading the way. They will also try to take extra bases, if and when they can.

Fielding: The Angels are strong up the middle with Bengie Molina at catcher, Orlando Cabrera at short, and Adam Kennedy at second. Steve Finley is no longer a Gold Glove CF although he shines out there in comparison to Bernie Williams, who could well be a big liability out there against the Angels. Darin Erstad is heads and shoulders better than Jason Giambi at first base, not only in terms of range but watch him dig out balls in the dirt. He does that better than anyone in the game. Guerrero has one of the strongest and most respected outfield arms in all of baseball. Alex Rodriguez is better than anyone the Angels can put at third, but I don't think the Angels would necessarily take a backseat to any other matchup defensively.

Starting Pitching: What can you say when Kelvim Escobar can't even make your five-man rotation? Bartolo Colon and Kevin Lackey are about as good of a 1-2 punch in the AL as any other tandem. Colon is a bulldog and Lackey is one of the most underrated pitchers in the league. The Angels appear to be undecided about who they will start in games three and four. Jarrod Washburn just might be the odd man out. Yes, the lefty with the fourth-best ERA in the AL may not get a chance to start in this series. Instead, he may be relegated to the bullpen--a role I don't think he is well-suited for--to give the Angels a long reliever or a LOOGY, if need be.

The Angels, believe it or not, actually have four starters with better ERAs than Randy Johnson. That said, I would take the Big Unit over all of 'em if I could only pick one starter out of the bunch to win a game. The problem for the Yankees, though, is that Johnson isn't scheduled to start until Game Three on Friday. He will be well rested, but I'm afraid the New Yorkers may be down 0-2 going into that tilt. Colon and Lackey have to be heavy favorites to beat the Yankees in Anaheim in Games One and Two. Let's face it, Joe Torre has no idea what he is going to get when Mike Mussina takes the mound tonight. A victory in Game One would give the Yankees the home-field edge as well as the confidence and momentum to take the series.

Ervin Santana may be asked to start on Friday or Saturday in New York. I would hand him the ball in Game Three against Johnson and, as an up and down type pitcher, hope he comes through because he has the stuff, if not the experience. The Yankees, however, would be prohibitive favorites in a game featuring Johnson at home vs. Santana. The rookie has been nothing short of awful on the road this year. [Ed: As it turns out Paul Byrd will start Game Three, while Washburn gets the nod in Game Four.]

Colon in Anaheim in a potential Game Five matches up well to any pitcher not named Johnson. The Yankees can only hope they clinch it in four games or less because the odds of beating the man who may wind up winning the Cy Young Award in the rubber match will be long at best.

Bullpen: With Mariano Rivera on their side, Yankees fans may not want to hear--much less believe--that the Angels have a decidely better bullpen. The AL West champs simply have better depth than the Yankees. Look for Scioscia to go to Scott Shields in the eighth inning and Frankie Rodriguez in the ninth almost every chance he gets. Escobar could be a difference maker. He gives the Angels another power arm out of the 'pen. Torre doesn't have the luxury of going to an Escobar. What it comes down to is that the Angels' bridge between their starters and closer is much stronger than what Torre can put out there.

Rodriguez has been relying more and more on his big breaking ball in crucial situations. He only throws his once unhittable fastball about half the time now. The key is not to go fishing for his nasty sliders that, more often than not, end up low and/or outside. Rest assured that K-Rod will face A-Rod at least once with the game on the line in the ninth inning.

Manager: Two of the best. Distinctly different styles. Yankees players and fans rightfully love Torre. Angels players and fans admire Scioscia. Torre will probably be questioned for who he does or doesn't start, while Scioscia will more likely be second-guessed if the Angels run into outs on the basepaths or use up outs by playing small ball. Call it a draw. Both of these guys have won it all and want nothing more than to win another one.

Keys for the Angels to win: Not letting Mussina beat them in Game One. A second or third bat (Casey Kotchman or Juan Rivera, anyone?) to step up and take some of the load off Guerrero. Beating Randy Johnson.

Keys for the Yankees to win: Winning Game One. Getting quality starts from each of their starters. A healthy Jason Giambi throughout the series.

Thanks Rich, much obliged.

Meanwhile, over at Baseball Prospectus, check out Christina Kahrl's preview. If you aren't a BP subscriber, here is her prediction:

I don't see a re-enactment of last year's ALCS, or even the 2002 ALDS between the two teams, where K-Rod was the hero of the hour. The Yankees don't have the rotation to reliably get them through the first seven innings, while the Angels' starting pitching should be good at keeping games tight. The Yankees don't have the pen or the bench to give them any additional benefits in a tight game, while the Angels do. Torre's tactical laziness in recent postseasons contrasts unfavorably with Scioscia's willingness to use his bench to compensate for a weak lineup. I'm sure the series will involve lots of hat-gnawing in the Apple and "hero of the day" Rally Monkey heroics across the entire Angels roster. Basically, I see a lot of the key moments coming in the seventh inning on a nightly basis, and on that basis, I'm picking the Angels of Los Angeles of Anaheim in five, with the Yankees scoring at least one last home blowout in either Game Three or Four before losing the final matchup.

Joe Sheehan adds:

I think the Angels are in good shape. The Angels still put a lot of balls in play, and the Yankees still don't catch them. There's an excellent chance that the Angels will get to hit off the soft underbelly of the Yankees' staff at least once in the series, and when that happened in the regular season, teams were often able to name the score. The Yankees can score with anyone, and you'd normally like their chances in a series played at six and seven runs and higher. The Angels are one of the few teams, though, that can take away a key strength of this Yankee lineup--walks--by throwing strikes and forcing the Yankees to bring the Angels' strong defense into play.

The Yankees might hit a dozen homers in the series and not get to 25 runs, so unless the expensive version of Mike Mussina shows up twice, they're not going to be able to pull it out. Angels in five.

The Angels play the Yankees with a cockiness which borders on arrogance. They aren't only unafraid of the Yankees, they act as if they are simply the better team. It is one of the reasons why, aside from the Red Sox, the Angels are the American League team I dislike most. The Bombers need to split out there in La La Land, and as dominant as Colon can be, Lackey is the guy that scares me. And I know this is stating the obvious, but man do they ever need to keep that lil' sombitch Figgins off the bases. I don't really have any predictions, other than Colon will do just fine against Alex Rodriguez tonight, especially after they replay that three-home run night seventeen thousand times.

But regardless of my little superstitions, I hope the team goes out there and plays well.

Let's Go Yan-Kees!

Comments
2005-10-04 06:16:55
1.   atc
From Joel Sherman this morning: "Posada is the one long-term Yankee who does not have a signature moment in the postseason." Um, Joel, game 7, red sox, 2003, pretty big hit off Pedro to tie the game in the 8th.
2005-10-04 06:17:31
2.   Beth
//they act as if they simply the better team. It is one of the reasons why, aside from the Red Sox, the Angels are the American League team I dislike most.//

::boggles::

i love you, alex, but...nobody's allowed to think they're a better team than the yankees?

after all that analysis you just posted of their bullpen, rotation, etc. advantages, you can't see where they get that idea?

i mean...wha...?

2005-10-04 06:26:31
3.   Yanks in NH
Wow, the Yank's offense seems to be getting quite the short shrift. Our guys need to read these previews and go out there with something to prove. Combine that with the big game Mussina (please, I'm hoping and praying) and we can pull off a key upset tonight!
2005-10-04 06:30:12
4.   Yanks in NH
In my usual twisted optimism, my prediction is that we will go to our middle, long relief often and they will defy all the negative criticism and combine to be the MVP of the series!
2005-10-04 06:30:51
5.   Nick from Washington Heights
I don't know, Beth. The Yanks spent years like 1998 being much better than the rest of the league and they didn't come near the cockiness that a K-Rod jig at the pitcher's mound shows.
2005-10-04 06:39:08
6.   Beth
Nick, I'd respond to that, but I'm too busy LAUGHING MY ASS OFF.
2005-10-04 06:42:53
7.   Alex Belth
Beth, I'm not suggesting that they aren't the better team or that they don't have a right to act as if they are whether they are or not. I'm just saying it makes them easy to dislike. And I also don't get your reference to Nick. The 98 Yankees were about the least arrogant great team ever, although the 01 M's were pretty tame too.
2005-10-04 06:44:14
8.   bp1
atc,

re: Posada. My thoughts exactly. If his double fist clench scream at 2nd base isn't a signature moment, I don't know what is. Every time I watch that game, that moment gives me chills.

Yankees as underdogs? Who'd a thunk it. I'll put our roster up against anyone's. Bring it on.

BP

2005-10-04 06:47:15
9.   Beth
i'm sorry, you guys, obviously we're going to have to agree to disagree here. the yankees of the dynasty era (yes, including 1998) have been the most arrogant teams in HISTORY. i mean...there are plenty of reasons for you to be yankees fans, and plenty of reasons to legitimately dislike the angels, but please. don't you find the "arrogance factor" just a LITTLE disingenuous?

another thing...why is it always about "character issues" with yankees fans? you don't like the red sox / red sox fans because we're "classless". you don't like the angels / angels fans because they're "arrogant." seems a dangerous thing to me when, with your team, you're in a glass house with both in many instances. i mean, why even bring it to that level?

anyways, i've already said too much here. i've tried v. hard to be a "classy" red sox fan this season, and getting into another scuffling match w/ you guys when we're both stressed about our respective DS isn't productive. so...i've said my piece, i'll hush now.

2005-10-04 06:51:52
10.   Dan M
Especially when you consider the history b/w Posada and Pedro, including just days earlier when Petey screamed at Jorge from the mound, pointing to his head. To have Jorge best him at that moment was huge.

Beth, you're confusing arrogant Yankees FANS with humble Yankees PLAYERS. If you really think the players are arrogant, please provide some evidence (as Nick has).

2005-10-04 07:17:30
11.   sam2175
9

Beth, the peace offer is well appreciated, but it would help if you could put evidence rather than assertion more often into your statements (that claim regarding HISTORY seems to be a little, errr, bold itself. Care to back it up?). It is not about you being a Sox fan, it is about you being prejudicial about a very highly successful team in sports.

So, once again, why/when/how often were they arrogant? And who were the candidates? O'Neill? Girardi? Jeter? Rivera? Pettitte? Cone? Wells? Williams? Posada?

That said, your point about character issues are well taken. I personally think it works both ways: in any Red Sox message board, you usually get the great wisdom of "Yankees suck" or people falling all over themselves to assert how much they hate the Yankees. And in Yankee boards, you see the Yankees tirelessly bringing up the class issue. Both of them are pretty hackneyed and tiring, and both fan bases should just get over it and enjoy baseball rather than taking it as an excuse for baying for opponents humiliation. For example, I find it awesome to see a gigantic Manny Ramirez (or Barry Bonds) HR, regardless of the antics after it. I am not sure if most (my belief is there are indeed some Sox fans who does) Red Sox fans can truly appreciate the effortlessness of an Alex Rodriguez swing without bringing extra-curricular things in mind. But these are players in the game that make it so enjoyable to watch, so sometimes maybe just appreciating the players for their skills is a better way to appreciate the game, even when you profess your allegiance towards a certain team.

2005-10-04 07:31:46
12.   Ben
For most of the year I felt this team was pretty wishy-washy in terms of character. In the last month however, they have shown an ability to win games despite there weak defense, inconsistent pitching and sporadic hitting. They have been grinders. With that in mind, crunch all the numbers, do all the position by position comparisons, the fact is wining a five game series is about elevating your game. These two teams seem equally up to the task, but please! The Yankees have Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. Mad ups. Going into the series, Yankee fans should be nothing but very very excited to watch to heroics unfold.

Beth, interesting point of view. I always though the Yanks of 96' -2001 were some of the most humble ball players I've seen. But then again, I am a fan. I guess things just look different from Red Sox fan perspective.

2005-10-04 07:35:19
13.   Shaun P
Bubba playing CF and Bernie DHing tonight give me hope about this series, and the future - maybe Torre has learned something after all!

Also, for anyone who hasn't read all of Christina Kahrl's prediction, it seems there's a chance that Garrett Anderson might have to DH. Presuming that Erstad stays at 1B, that pushes Casey Kotchman (.278/.352/.484) to the bench and throws either Juan Rivera (.271/.316/.454) or Jeff DeVanon (.231/.347/.311) into LF. That could be a big advantage for the Yanks.

Notice also that Anderson hits a lot better playing the field (.314/.337/.493) than DHing (.199/.228/.272). Not sure if that's because of his injury problems this year or not - he's never shown such a Giambi-like split before.

2005-10-04 07:45:13
14.   KJC
"Um, Joel, game 7, red sox, 2003, pretty big hit off Pedro to tie the game in the 8th."

Arg! Grady Little flashbacks!!!

2005-10-04 08:10:36
15.   Schteeve
I liked Rich's analysis, except for the fact that while saying that Colon has to be a "heavy favorite to beat the Yankees" he blithely doesn't mention that Colon's ERA against the Yankees this season was more than 8.00, and the BAA was close to .300.

So, yeah, I mean Colon is terrific and whatever. But it's not like the Yankees are sporting a lineup full of Tony Womacks.

2005-10-04 08:19:31
16.   rsmith51
Lot of "experts" are picking the Halos. Of course, those same experts probably picked the Yanks in 2002. I foresee a game 5.
2005-10-04 08:20:45
17.   Schteeve
Also the cume OBP for the "Fab 5," (Jeter, A-Rod, Sheff, Matsui, and Giambi) against Colon is .411. These guys ain't no easy ho-slaps.
2005-10-04 08:34:49
18.   debris
One of the reasons I like this board is that I find most of the Yankee fans here to reasoned and intelligent and there's little name calling.

I find myself disagreeing with Beth. With the exceptions of Paul O'Neill and Derek Jeter, I never found this to be an arrogant team. In fact, if they weren't wearing pin-stripes, a reasonable person could actually like them.

On another note, on a different subject, let's not forget that today is the 50th Anniversary of the Brooklyn Dodgers World Championship. One of the great thrills of my life was watching Roy Campanella mug Johnny Podres in the middle of the big ballyard in the Bronx.

2005-10-04 08:38:23
19.   Peter
#13: Is it definite that Bubba starts in CF and Bernie DH's? If so I'm suddenly feeling much better about this series.
2005-10-04 08:38:43
20.   Yankee Fan in Chicago
The Angels are the anti-Yankees. Speed, no power, good fielding, few bbs by the hitters, consistent pitching, and most dangerously, very efficient once they have men in scoring position.

For example, w/ runners in scoring position at 2 out, the Halos hit a major league best .279, versus our pathetic .233 -- which is 2nd worst in the AL, only ahead of Seattle's .222.

Unless we change that number and become more efficient, I think we're in big big trouble in this series. All the walks and all the base-runners won't matter if we can't plate them.

2005-10-04 08:43:44
21.   Zack
debris, it all makes sense now! So you are a former Dodgers fan? When did you turn to the Sox, immediatly, or some time to recover?
2005-10-04 08:44:04
22.   Murray
Jesus, do the Red Sox fans have to come here and taunt us for not loving their favorite baseball team on the eve of a playoff series with a different opponent? Go bother William Ligue or something.

My biggest fear for this evening is that the Mussina who throws hits shows up and gives up lots of them.

2005-10-04 08:44:55
23.   Yankee Fan in Chicago
Is Debris actually Doris Kearns Goodwin? (or whatever her name is)? Fes up D.
2005-10-04 08:47:07
24.   Schteeve
Debris, that sure seemed like a calculated dig saying "other than Jeter they aren't arrogant." Cause Jeter's really an ass right? Whatever. As long as Schilling plays for the Red Sox I have a really hard time taking any of this "arrogant Yankees," stuff seriously.
2005-10-04 08:47:29
25.   Max
I don't think even Doris Kearns Goodwin would propose that David Ortiz is a better defensive player than A-Rod.
2005-10-04 09:07:20
26.   Shaun P
Peter, re: 19 - that's the word on the street! Check out comment 48 in yesterday's thread:

http://bronxbanter.baseballtoaster.com/archives/268955.html#48

(with thanks to KYK)

2005-10-04 09:09:25
27.   Jen
There's a difference between arrogance and confidence. Sometimes it's just a matter of perception.
2005-10-04 09:13:18
28.   Knuckles
I've found that no matter where you go in life, there's always a couple Sox fans hanging around, more than happy to play the role of the turd in the punchbowl.

The Yanks can hit Colon tonight, and play damage control with Chacon following Moose if necessary. Bubba in CF calms some of my defensive fears, and I have a hunch that Robby Cano is going to impact the series in a positive way, probably with his bat. The Yanks need to be patient, and make their OBP advantage pay dividends.

7.5 hours and counting.

Go Yanks.

2005-10-04 09:21:02
29.   jdsarduy
good break down by Rich Lederer.
I too think Bartolo Colon is one of the best in the AL and I wish the Yanks signed him a few years ago. But I can't say he's a lock to beat the Yanks b/c he's gotten hit hard by the Yanks this yr. Even if Moose gives up 4-5 runs we might just score those off of Colon, we've done it before.
Kevin Brown and Al Lieter have 3 losses against the Angels this season and fortunately for us, they won't start any of these games.
Angels have handled Tom Gordon very well.
2005-10-04 09:21:30
30.   sam2175
21, 23, 25.

It is an interesting thing. I think many fans are there who probably are fans of two (or more than one) teams. The most prominent one is probably Jay Jaffe, who I believe is a Dodgers fan first, and Yankee fan second.

But regardless, debris' opinions count the same, regardless of which team(s) he/she is a fan of.

2005-10-04 09:28:07
31.   Nick from Washington Heights
Still waiting on instances of arrogance and cockiness from the Yankee dynasty era. When Beth finishes laughing her ass off I guess we'll get examples.

But to find fault in Yanks fans waxing nostalgic about those great teams, especially about the way they handled themselves on the field, seems pretty harsh to me. Maybe it's jealousy. Because it's not just Yanks fans who found that one of salient characteristics of that team was how respectful they were when they played. Buster Olney's "Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty", a book which takes management to task, gives the example of the Royals manager (whose name escapes me at this moment) speaking about how his players and him couldn't help but like the way the Yanks played the team. Because despite the fact that KC sucked, the Yankees didn't play as if they stunk. They were confident but they never disrespected players much worse than them. For instance, they didn't do some version of the electric slide after recording the final out; they didn't stand for a minute in the batter's box admiring their moonshot. You get the point. Heck, even Curt Schilling spoke about how A-Rod didn't fit the mold of true Yankeeness. And as Yankee fans, it's not arrogant or misguided of us to think that the Yankee dynasty's appeal drew from more than it's excellent record. It was a very likeable team, and it played the game with respect. What's so bad about saying that.

2005-10-04 09:45:25
32.   rbj
Good analysis by Rich. I think the other two are giving short schrift to our rotation. Which mystery Moose shows up tonight? I think he'll be ok, not spectacular. 6 IP, 3 runs. Small for the 7th, then GorMo.
2005-10-04 10:01:07
33.   debris
Zack,

I bailed on the Dodgers when I found that I couldn't root for a team with Rick Monday on it.

Turned to the Sox in '75. I've had trouble with them over the years, though, due less to heartbreak than to the difficulty of rootiing for a team that takes 25 cabs from the hotel to the yard and their ugly history with racism. In the end, though, the simple fact that they aren't the Yankees ;-) trumps all.

Schteeve, no defense of Schilling from me. For all his faults, however, I've never seen him try to bitch-slap the ball out of an opponent's glove.

Over-under on tonight's game is 23. Yanks have Colon's number; once Mussina's gone, the Angels, as Sheehan so eloquently put it, can name their score. I could be wrong.

2005-10-04 10:07:33
34.   Faithson
Re comment 18 from Debris, exulting in the 50th anniversary of the Dodgers beating the Yankees: What is this alien doing in Yankee territory? I, too, remember that day. After the glory-day championships of 1949-1953 and the unbelievable 1954, when the Yankees won 103 games (in the days when they played 154, as God intended), only to lose the pennant by eight (!) games to the Cleveland Indians, it seemed that things were returning to normal in 1955. But somehow the Dodgers, who always lost to the Yankees, prevailed in game 7, a kind of preshadowing of 2004. Yankee fans should wear a black armband on this sad anniversary, as we surely will on October 20, 20054.
2005-10-04 10:17:35
35.   debris
Faithson,

I assume that 20054 was a Freudian slip? Did you mean 2004? Or 2005? Or did your finger hit a pebble and take a bad hop?

2005-10-04 10:33:41
36.   Yankee Fan in Chicago
Why no Rick Monday?

I hope it has nothing to do with the flag incident.

2005-10-04 11:01:19
37.   Schteeve
Debris, is slapping the ball out of Arroyo's glove arrogance? Or is it just competitiveness run amok?
2005-10-04 11:14:48
38.   rbj
I've always viewed A-Rod's slap as a desperation move to get something going. Yankees were about to be eliminated, and hadn't gotten anything going that day. Do something to get a runner on. It just wasn't a very good move.
2005-10-04 11:23:37
39.   Yanks in NH
Bravo #28 - I couldn't say it any better, so I'll just copy it below!!!

Knuckles
"I've found that no matter where you go in life, there's always a couple Sox fans hanging around, more than happy to play the role of the turd in the punchbowl."

2005-10-04 11:35:43
40.   debris
Hmm, never seen a turd in a punchbowl. Must be a New Yawk thing.
2005-10-04 11:51:34
41.   Knuckles
Debris...

"Here's the thing. If you can't spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker."

2005-10-04 11:55:06
42.   Cliff Corcoran
Alright, alright, cool it with the trash talking folks. As someone said up top, the Yanks and Sox aren't even playing each other in this round.

How about them Angels. Or better yet, move up two posts and explain to me what the heck happened to Jake Peavy today.

2005-10-04 11:57:15
43.   Yanks in NH
For all the flak about A-Rod hitting the ball out of Arroyo's hand, it was simply competitive zeal getting the best of him and a poor understanding of the rules. And, it's not like they weren't penalized and heavy at that - A-Rod out and Jeter back to first!

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