This is part 6 of The Yankee U’s preview of the 2010 American League Championship Series. Part 1 examined CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis. Part 2 looked at Cliff Lee and Tommy Hunter. Part 3 examined Texas’ offense and Part 4 looked at their bullpen and bench. In Part 5 Moshe took a look at Texas’ defense.
This week we’ve spent some time with the Texas Rangers. In the first piece I examined Games 1 and 2 starters, CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis. With Wilson we saw a reliever turned starter with a good repetoire and good results in 2010. Yet Wilson’s Achilles Heel is the walks: his BB/9 of 4.10 could be a real obstacle to success in Game 1. Wilson is especially tough on lefties, but the Yankees will probably negate that advantage by stacking the lineup with righties tonight. I’m expecting a lineup of Jeter-Swisher-Teixeira-Rodriguez-Cano-Thames-Posada-Granderson-Gardner, meaning that six of nine will be right-handed hitters (note: yep). In Colby Lewis we saw another Texas surprise, a guy who spent a few years in Texas and returned to the majors a completely different pitcher. Lewis has good peripherals and limits the walks, but he’s also vulnerable to the fly ball and pitches to a rather predictable pattern from a selection standpoint. If the Yankees can grind out the at-bats and work some walks, they be able to put up some runs in a hurry with extra-base hits.
In part 2 we looked at Cliff Lee and Tommy Hunter. There’s not a whole lot more to say about Cliff Lee other than this: he’s really good, and the Yankees will need a great outing from Pettitte if they want to take Game 3. Tommy Hunter, on the other hand, is rather mediocre. His win-loss record and ERA belie a pitcher with average stuff and no strikeout ability. Hunter is either Brian Duensing or Nick Blackburn for the Rangers, and neither is a good option.
Part 3 examined Texas’ offense. The Rangers have several big weapons in Hamilton, Guerrero and Cruz, and some fairly good bats in Young, Kinsler and David Murphy. The 8-9-1 bats don’t stack up to the Yankees, though, and there are real questions about Josh Hamilton’s health heading into this series.
Today, part 4 looked at Texas’ bullpen and bench. Texas has two great arms in Feliz and Oliver, and a good righty reliever in Darren O’Day. The back end of their pen is a little weaker, and they have curiously chosen to bring 4 lefty relievers to the ALCS. This means several things. For one, we’re due for a lot of pitching changes from Ron Washington. This will be annoying. Secondly, Washington may be planning on using the lefties at the bottom of the order to face Granderson and Gardner. Girardi may shuffle the lineup to anticipate this move, slotting Granderson in the two-hole. Secondly, the ALCS will be Thames time. Hopefully he’s up to the challenge.
Finally, in part 5 Moshe looked at Texas’ defense. He noted that they’re particularly strong at C, 2B, LF and RF and at least adequate at CF and 1B. He also argued persuasively that Andrus is underrated by UZR in 2010, which is a good thing given that Andrus can’t hit a lick. The only real glaring defensive weakness for the Rangers is at 3B, where Michael Young resides.
Taking everything into consideration, I don’t feel quite as confident about the ALCS as I did about the ALDS. Part of it is the way CJ Wilson pitched against the Rays, part of it is Colby Lewis’ body of work in 2010, part of it is fear of Josh Hamilton, and the rest of it is because of Cliff Lee. However.
I feel like I know the Rangers fairly well and I know the Yankees like the back of my hand. I’m confident about our chances in this series. I don’t think Game 3 is an auto-loss by any means: Cliff Lee isn’t perfect, the Yankees have beaten him before, and Andy Pettitte is a respectable foe. I’m also cautiously optimistic about AJ Burnett. Bizarrely, I’m expecting him to pitch well in Game 4, and it’s not based on anything other than a gut feeling. Our lineup is really superb, Sabathia-Hughes-Pettitte is a fantastic troika, and our bullpen is fantastic. Ultimately, I think the Yankees are fundamentally better than the Rangers this year, and while anything can happen in the playoffs I will be surprised if this is the end of our run.
Yankees in 5.
I have Matt and Moshe’s prediction, and I’ll update this post if other authors chime in.
Moshe: Yankees in 6
Matt: Yankees in 5
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