Manager: Mike Scioscia General Manager: Bill Stoneman
Ballpark (2004 park factors): Angel Stadium (99/99)
1B Darin Erstad
2B Adam Kennedy
SS Orlando Cabrera
3B Chone Figgins
C Bengie Molina
RF Vladimir Guerrero
CF Steve Finley
LF Garret Anderson
DH Juan Rivera
L - Casey Kotchman (1B)
S Jeff DaVanon (OF)
S Maicer Izturis (IF)
R Robb Quinlan (3B/1B)
R - Jose Molina (C)
R Josh Paul (C)
R Bartolo Colon
R John Lackey
R Paul Byrd
L Jarrod Washburn
R Francisco Rodriguez
R Scot Shields
R Brendan Donnelly
R Kelvim Escobar
R Kevin Gregg
R - Ervin Santana
L - Dallas McPherson (3B) (60-day)
R Matt Hensley (60-day)
R Tim Salmon (OF) (60-day)
S Chone Figgins (3B)
R Orlando Cabrera (SS)
L Garret Anderson (LF)
R Vladimir Guerrero (RF)
L Darin Erstad (1B)
R Bengie Molina (C)
L Steve Finley (CF)
R Juan Rivera (DH)
L Adam Kennedy (2B)
The Yankees and the Angels enter the ALDS with identical regular season records of 95-67. They also had the two best records in baseball over the final weeks of the season, the Angels finishing 14-2, the Yankees 16-5. But despite displaying an equal ability to win, they've gone about it in drastically different ways.
For the Yankees, their success is built around the second best offense in baseball, stocked with fantastic all-around hitters who combine power, patience and high averages (the Yankees finished second in the majors in home runs, on-base percentage and team batting average). As a team, the Yankees hit .276/.355/.451 (.273 GPA) and scored 5.47 runs per game this year.
In contrast to the Yankees, the Angels are built around pitching and defense. After years of having one of the best, if not the best, bullpens in the game, the Angels have finally put together a starting rotation to match, posting the best starters' ERA in the American League (3.73) and a 3.67 team ERA that's ranks third in the AL.
On the other side of the ball, the Angels are an average offensive team at best, ranking in the lower half of the American League in both on-base and slugging percentage. In an attempt to compensate for those shortcomings, the Angels play a lot of small ball, ranking tops in the majors in stolen bases and fourth in the AL in sacrifice bunts. It helps that the team has knack for putting the ball in play and hits for a decent average. As a team, the Angels hit .270/.325/.409 (.259 GPA) and scored 4.70 runs per game.
It's worth noting, however, that the Yankees are not completely stationary on the basepaths. The Bronx Bombers actually rank in the top half of the majors in steals with a 76 percent success rate that's actually two points better than the Angels just-shy-of-useful 74 percent. That said, the Angels top base thieves--Chone Figgins (60), Orlando Cabrera (21), Adam Kennedy (19), and Vlad Guerrero (13)--have all been successful in more than 75 percent of their attempts, while the Yankees' stats are padded by Tony Womack (27 steals, 84 percent), who is not even guaranteed a postseason roster spot (as usual, Joe Torre is waiting until the last possible moment to announce his roster).
Taking a closer look at the Angels line-up, Vladimir Guerrero's .318 GPA sticks out like a sore thumb. The next best mark by an Angel with more than 125 at-bats is Bengie Molina's .263. By comparison the Yankees have five starters with higher GPA's than Molina's, two of whom (Rodriguez and Giambi) have higher mark than Guerrero's, in addition to which, Jorge Posada matches Molina's .263 exactly.
The drop off after Guerrero makes it all the more likely that the Yankees will attempt to pitch around Guerrero in big spots (though they'd be well advised to just intentionally walk him as Guerrero can hit any ball he can reach out of the park, and he can reach just about anything to the right of the left-handed batters box), which makes it imperative upon Scioscia to put his second best bat behind Vlad. For most of the season, Scioscia had Garret Anderson (.247 GPA) batting clean-up behind Guerrero. Recently, he swapped the two in the order, hoping that Anderson, who by reputation is the second best hitter in the Angel line-up, would get better pitches to hit with Guerrero protecting him. Thus far the move hasn't work at all. Anderson hit .289/.316/.435 (.251) batting behind Guerrero and has since hit a mere .261/.267/.450 (.232) hitting in front of Guerrero in the three-hole.
That said, Guerrero's numbers have actually improved in the four spot and only partly because because he's now walking more than twice as often as before. Still, his primary protection now appears to be Darrin Erstad (dropped down from second in the order) who has hit an abysmal .273/.325/.371 (.239) on the year and even worse than that in the five spot. Scioscia would be well advised to bench Erstad in favor of Casey Kotchman, who according to Baseball Prospectus's Rate stat is every bit as good at first base as the Gold Glove-winning Erstad and finished the year with a .270/.343/.484 (.271) line in 122 at-bats, most of which was compiled in August and September.
When inserted into the Angels' line-up, Kotchman's GPA instantly becomes the second best in the order and would make him the ideal protection for Guerrero. Of course, Scioscia could alway use Kotchman as his designated hitter, but Garret Anderson's back has been acting up again recently, which might force Anderson into the DH spot and Juan Rivera into left field (Kotchman doesn't play the outfield). As a result, I think we're more likely to see Rivera, who has seen more time at DH than Kotchman this year anyway (though admittedly that has come over a full season compared to two moths for Kotchman), get the start, meaning Scioscia would have to bench Erstad in order to play Kotchman (which is exactly what he should do).
Taking a closer look at the first-base picture, neither Kotchman nor Erstad can hit lefties much, but Kotchman can at least draw enough walks off them to keep his OBP at a respectable .344. Meanwhile, righty platoon option Robb Quinlan has proven completely incapable of hitting righties this year (.134 GPA), but, despite a low OBP, mashes lefties well enough (.289/.318/.542) to garner consideration for a Game Three start against Randy Johnson.
Speaking of which, Scioscia has developed a habit of moving Chone Figgins from third to center against lefties, inserting Quinlan at third, and benching Steve Finley. Getting Quinlan in the line-up is a good idea, but he's gone about it all wrong. The switch-hitting Figgins actually loses almost 30 points of GPA against lefties, while Finley adds nearly 40 points.
In fact, Scioscia has botched his center field situation completely. Finley has learned that there is a reason why there has never been a productive 40-year-old centerfielder (even Ty Cobb moved to right in his final season and we've all either heard the tales or seen the horrors first hand of the 40-something Willie Mays making like this year's Bernie in a Mets uniform). Finley has "hit" .222/.271/.374 (.215) this year, which Scioscia has made worse than it should be by ignoring the fact that Finley's GPA is more than 50 points higher against lefties than righties.
Beyond even that, Scioscia should have benched Finely entirely by now in favor of Jeff DaVanon. What little power DaVanon had has gone missing (.306 SLG), but his on-base skills remain solid (.345 this year, .347 on his career), he can switch hit, and he is a beast against lefty pitching (.365 GPA). He's also as adept in the field as the superannuated Finley, who, to his credit, is still a useful defensive center fielder.
If Scioscia paid enough attention to the splits, the Angels could boast a pretty devastating line-up against lefties. Consider the fact that in addition to DaVanon and Quinlan, the Molina brothers crush lefties (.356 GPA for Bengie, .303 for Jose), Anderson steps his game up against his own kind, adding more than twenty points of GPA, and Vlad is an equal-opportunity impaler. The ideal Angels line-up against lefties would be this one:
Meanwhile, the ideal Angels line-up against the normal-handed would still feature Kotchman and DaVanon, and would swap Orlando Cabrera (batting second with a .311 OBP and 20 stolen bases) and Adam Kennedy (batting ninth with a .354 OBP and 19 steals) in the order.
Switching over to the other side of the ball, Joe Torre could learn something from the fact that Scioscia has decided not to bring a lefty reliever into the postseason simply for the sake of having a reliever who throws with his other hand. Scioscia's Big Three (Rodriguez, Shields and Donnelly) are so dominant that there's no need for him to worry about match-ups, and Brendan Donnelly actually fairs much better against southpaws than he does against his fellow righties, making him a default LOOGY of sorts should Scioscia decide to use him as such.
That said, Scioscia could have included lefty Jake Woods instead of righty Kevin Gregg without registering a complaint. Woods is murder on lefties, but gets murdered by righties, while Gregg is merely average against both. Then again, Scioscia hadn't used Woods since July, so he wasn't really a candidate for the postseason roster.
The Angels bullpen is rounded out by starters Kelvim Escobar and Ervin Santana. After becoming a surprise ace for the Halos last season, Escobar made just seven starts this year due to a reoccurring bone spur problem in his pitching elbow. The rookie Santana was his replacement in the rotation. Ervin did a good job for a rookie starter, but has never worked out of the pen as a professional and is likely being retained for mop-up work, tandem-starts, or as insurance should a starter not be able to take his turn.
Kelvim, meanwhile, was actually the Blue Jays' closer in 2002. Escobar came off the 60-day DL when rosters expanded and went straight into the bullpen, where he's posted an excellent 1.89 ERA, 0.79 ERA, 8.06 K/9 and 1.89 BB/9 (4.25 K/BB) in nine appearances. Escobar is a hell of a weapon for Scioscia to have in addition to his Big Three because he can come in and pitch three dominant innings out of the pen and still bounce back to pitch another inning or two just two days later. It's almost as if Scioscia's added Goose Gossage to an already outstanding bullpen. Scary.
Because of the off days yesterday and Thursday it will be difficult for the Yankees to really wear out the Angels bullpen (though Rodriguez and Shields do have high walk rates, which the Yanks would be wise to take advantage of), which is just another reason why they have to get out to early leads against the Angels' starters. That's not an easy trick either, but the good news is that, while Colon, Lackey, Byrd and Washburn form a quartet of consistently very good starters, the only one that is really dominant is Colon, and the Yankees have had more success against him than any other team in the majors this year. In two starts, the Yankees have hit a whopping seven home runs off Colon (four by Alex Rodriguez), resulting in this line:
8.44 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 11 2/3 IP, 13 H, 15 R (10 ER), 7 HR, 5 BB, 6 K
I'll look more closely at the other three starters prior to their respective starts.
Meanwhile, Joe Torre has announced his line-up for Game One:
R - Derek Jeter (SS)
R - Alex Rodriguez (3B)
L - Jason Giambi (1B)
R - Gary Sheffield (RF)
L - Hideki Matsui (LF)
L - Robinson Cano (2B)
S - Jorge Posada (C)
S - Bernie Williams (DH)
L - Bubba Crosby (CF)
Given Rodriguez's penchant for going deep against Colon, it would have been nice to see Alex bat a bit lower in the line-up so he'd have more runners on base to drive in, but given that there's no Ruben Sierra here and that Bubba Crosby will be in center to cut off gappers and keep the Angel baserunners honest, I can't complain one bit.
As for Torre choosing Mike Mussina to start Game One, I think it's a tremendous mistake. Given the extreme nature of his two post-injury starts, Torre should have given Moose another look in Fenway on Sunday, used Mussina's performance against Boston to decide between Mussina and Small for Game 4, and given Chacon the Game One start. There's no real margin for error in a best three-of-five series such as this one, and there's huge potential for error with an untested Mussina on the mound. Of course, if Mussina pitches well, the Yankees will have the additional benefit of having Aaron Small available to step in front of whatever miserable middle relievers Torre decides to put on the postseason roster. Then again, if Mussina tanks tonight, Small will likely be used to try to salvage the game, thus eliminating him from use out of the pen.
Incidentally, it has been widely reported that Mussina has started Game One of the Yankees last five postseason series, but that's incorrect. David Wells started Game One of the 2003 World Series, with Mussina taking the ball in Game Three. Meanwhile, the Yankees are 1-3 in the four Game One's started by Mussina over the past two postseasons, which I guess is what Torre means when he says Moose has "been down that road before." Of course, that means the Yanks have overcome a 0-1 deficit in the ALDS each of the last two years, which should serve as a kernel of hope if I'm right about Mussina tonight. I hope I'm wrong.
Oh, and just for yucks, here's how these two teams have changed since they last met in the ALDS in 2002:
Gary Sheffield replaces Raul Mondesi
Alex Rodriguez replaces Alfonso Soriano
Hideki Matsui replaces Rondell White
Robinson Cano replaces Robin Ventura
Tino Martinez replaces Nick Johnson
Bubba Crosby replaces Shane Spencer
Ruben Sierra replaces Juan Rivera
Mark Bellhorn replaces Enrique Wilson
John Flaherty replaces Chris Widger
Womack/Lawton replaces John Vander Wal, Ron Coomer
Randy Johnson replaces Roger Clemens
Chien-Ming Wang replaces David Wells
Shawn Chacon replaces Andy Pettitte
Tom Gordon replaces Steve Karsay
Tanyon Sturtze replaces Ramiro Mendoza
Scott Proctor replaces Mike Stanton
Aaron Small replaces Orlando Hernandez
Leiter/Embree replaces Jeff Weaver
Vladimir Guerrero replaces Troy Glaus
Orlando Cabrera replaces David Eckstein
Casey Kotchman replaces Tim Salmon
Juan Rivera replaces Brad Fullmer
Jeff DaVanon replaces Scott Spezio
Maceir Izturis replaces Benji Gil
Steve Finley replaces Orlando Palmeiro
Josh Paul replaces Shawn Wooten
Robb Quinlan replaces Alex Ochoa
Bartolo Colon replaces Kevin Appier
Paul Byrd replaces Ramon Ortiz
Kelvim Escobar replaces Troy Percival
Ervin Santana replaces Ben Weber
Kevin Gregg replaces Scott Schoneweis
Note: Shields, Figgins and Jose Molina were all on the 2002 team, though in much smaller roles