Yankeeist's 2010 ALCS Preview: Head-to-Head Overall Team Numbers
Anyway, below are the season numbers for the Yankees' 25-man ALCS roster along with the Rangers' 25-man from the DS. Once again with the Yankees I've given them ten starters on offense due to the Marcus Thames/Lance Berkman platoon, and I've also given the Rangers 10 starters as they seem to like to rotate their outfield depending on the handedness of a pitcher.
One thing I was not expecting to see was the Rangers' group of 10 starting hitters have a higher SLG and OPS than the Yankees' 10, though Lance Berkman's uncharacteristically low regular season SLG combined with Jeff Francoeur's much-too-high number is clearly skewing the data. If we replace both Berkman's and Francoeur's SLGs with their career averages of .545 and .425, respectively, the Yankees' SLG becomes .474 and the Rangers' .453. Even if we assume Berkman is no longer that kind of hitter and replace his SLG with his season total of .413 and Francoeur with his 2010 season total of .383, the Yankees' SLG is a still-robust .461 while the Rangers' SLG would be .448. So yeah, Berkman and Francoeur's partial season totals are skewing the data.
Going around the diamond, the Yankees have the obvious edge at catcher with Jorge Posada over Bengie Molina, though Molina's ability to hit an annoying home run against the Yankees can't be discounted. At first base, Mark Teixeira is a superior player to Mitch Moreland, though Moreland put up exceptional numbers in his 47 games, and is not to be taken lightly.
Robinson Cano of course had a near-MVP-caliber year, but fellow second baseman Ian Kinsler is no slouch at the dish and actually has a better career wOBA than Cano, .363 to .356. This one is pretty close to a push, although I'll give Robbie the edge here just because he significantly outperformed Kinsler this season (6.3 yWAR to 3.2 yWAR and 141 OPS+ to 113 OPS+) and managed to stay healthy the entire year, something Kinsler's historically had trouble doing. Still, this is one of the closer positional match-ups between these two teams.
Even in a crap year for him -- and shortstops in general -- Derek Jeter still outproduced Elvis Andrus by a fair margin (.320 wOBA to .298). Andrus has speed and slick fielding skills, but that's about it -- he has zero power, slugging .301, which was the second-lowest SLG in the AL among qualified players. Even Brett Gardner, not exactly known for his power, slugged .379. This is a considerable edge for the Yankees.
Over at third base, Michael Young is no longer the bat he once was, though he still produced a 2.7 yWAR season. Still, not too many third basemen are going to top Alex Rodriguez, who still accumulated 3.5 yWAR in the worst statistical year of his career, and was starting to look like the A-Rod of old as the season came to a close. Young is good, but A-Rod is much better.
In left field we have David Murphy for the Rangers and Brett Gardner for the Yankees. Despite vastly different hitting approaches -- Gardner working the count and finishing 8th in the American League in OBP, not to mention first by a wide margin in Pitches Per Plate Appearance; while Murphy's got more pop -- they both finished the season with exact same wOBA, .358. However, Gardner has Murphy crushed in the field, having posted a 4.8 yWAR season while Murphy only managed a 1.3 yWAR year. Based solely on offense, Murphy's probably more of an impact bat in a short series and can even swipe a bag (14 stolen bases) if needed, but it's tough to overlook the fact that Gardy was nearly a 5-win player in 2010. I'm finding this to be a very tough call, but I might give Texas a slight edge here as Murphy is more likely to drive a double or home run in a big spot than Gardy. Still, you could probably make a case for a push in this head-to-head match-up.
In center field it's Josh Hamilton against Curtis Granderson. If Hamilton were healthy this isn't even a discussion; for as great as Grandy was finishing out the season, Hamilton still led the world in yWAR despite basically missing all of September. However, based on his .111/.200/.111 line in the ALDS, it seems pretty clear that Hamilton is not fully healed from his injuries and he may actually be a liability to the Rangers' lineup. Grandy on the other hand hit out of his mind in the ALDS after a .411 wOBA September, and so the Yankees get the nod here. However, if we were dealing with a 100% healthy Josh Hamilton it would obviously be a different story.
In right field Nelson Cruz will start for the Rangers while Nick Swisher goes for the Bombers. As wonderful a year as Swish had (a career-high .377 wOBA), Cruz was an absolute terror this year, raking to the tune of a .411 wOBA in only 108 games. He also slugged .563 against the Yankees in eight games, and he'll be the guy Yankee pitchers will have to be the most careful with in this lineup given a depleted Hamilton. Well, he and old nemesis Vladimir Guerrero.
Speaking of Vlad, this is the second straight postseason the Yankees will have to deal with Guerrero, who torched them to the tune of .370/.393/.593 in the 2009 ALCS. In fact, as much as the Yankees don't want Cruz to beat them, they likely want Vlad to beat them even less, so he might be the most important batter they face each time through the lineup. The Yankees' counter Vlad with their two-headed Designated Hitter tandem of Marcus Thames and Lance Berkman. With Texas likely starting lefties in four of the seven games, Thames will probably see a touch more action than Big Puma. If we average Thames' and Berkman's wOBAs we get a fairly uninspiring (at least for a DH) .340, but if we pull the trick we did earlier swapping Berkman's season wOBA of .345 in for his Yankee wOBA, we get a much more palatable .355, which is just shy of the .360 mark Vlad turned in on his own in 2010. Though Thames and Berkman raked in the ALDS, we really don't know what to expect from them this time out, while you basically know what you're going to get from Vlad, and so Texas also has the edge at DH.
I'm not even going to bother analyzing the benches because the Yankees don't figure to make much use of theirs, though for what it's worth Texas almost certainly has a stronger reserve corps, featuring Esteban German and his .329 wOBA, Jeff Francoeur when he's not starting, Andres Blanco and Julio Borbon. Francisco Cervelli may get to play in the ALCS if he catches A.J. Burnett, but he'll be pulled once Burnett is pulled and should only get two at-bats. Ramiro Pena could come in to pinch-run, and it's possible Austin Kearns will be used as a pinch-hitter, but the Yanks may as well send me up to the plate if they're thinking of using Nothin'-But-Strikeouts Kearns.
So for those keeping score at home, the Yankees have the edge in six of the nine above-discussed positions. Nelson Cruz is the clear favorite in right field, Vlad gets the nod at DH and David Murphy's power gives him the upper hand in left.
The cumulative numbers of the Rangers' four-man rotation of Cliff Lee-C.J. Wilson-Colby Lewis-Tommy Hunter are superior to those of the Yankees' grouping of CC Sabathia-Andy Pettitte-Phil Hughes-A.J. Burnett in every single category except LOB%, but that's primarily due to Burnett's historically bad season. If you remove Burnett's numbers from the equation, the Yankees' other three starters -- who will pitch six of the seven games in this series -- look a bit better, and are superior to the Rangers in K%, ERA, ERA+ and yWAR.
Considering that Dustin Moseley and Ivan Nova aren't going to be pitching anything close to a high-leverage inning and will likely only be rearing their heads in a blowout, I've added a statistical line averaging the numbers of Girardi's primary bullpen cogs -- Mariano Rivera, Kerry Wood, David Robertson, Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain -- in addition to the 'pen's overall line. As you might expect, the "Primary Relievers" cumulative line is a good deal better without Moseley and Mitre factored in, and tops the Rangers' relievers in K/9, HR/9, LOB%, ERA, FIP and xFIP.
Still, as noted yesterday, Texas' relief corps was the second-best in the AL per BP's WXRL metric, and isn't exactly chopped liver. Darren Oliver is hell on lefthanders, and the Yankees in particular never seem to have an answer for him. Absolute beast Alexi Ogando (335 ERA+), Dustin Nippert and Derek Holland all bring serious gas, while the softer-tossing Darren O'Day recorded the second-best ERA+ in the 'pen, at 213. And we haven't even mentioned super-closer Neftali Feliz yet, who was the third-most valuable reliever in the AL, per Fangraphs.
Ultimately it looks like the Yankees and Rangers actually match-up even more closely than the Yankees and Twins did. The Yankees have the edge on offense, but the pitching staffs are so closely aligned that it's near-impossible to unilaterally say one is better than the other. Given that the Rangers not only have starters and relievers as good as if not better than the Yankees, but more of them, as much as I hate to say it I think the Rangers may get the nod in terms of overall pitching depth.
If we swapped Burnett's horrible season numbers out with his career numbers I imagine the Yankees' four-man would be significantly stronger, but I'm less willing to do that with Burnett than I was with Berkman and Francoeur. Still, I suppose the possibility of Good A.J. showing up when everyone least expects him to could end up being a stealth weapon for the Yanks, and would probably push the overall pitching depth back to advantage New York.