Monday, October 03, 2005

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of the Orange County of the State of California v. New York Yankees

Another series with two very dissimilar teams, although the differences here are not quite as pronounced. You have to wonder if the Yankees will be thinking back to the 2002 ALCS, though admittedly, most of the current roster wasn't around back then.

Lineup
New York's lineup could be the most dangerous in all of baseball. It is ridiculously top heavy: A-Rod (.348 EqA), Giambi (.347), Sheffield (.313), Jeter (.303) and Matsui (.301) are as good as it gets. Posada (.280) and Cano (.272) are solid as well. Bernie Williams is a major hole, however, as is Ruben Sierra, whom Torre inexplicably plays. The optimum Yankee lineup would have Tino Martinez at 1B with Giambi DHing, but we haven't see that too often. LAnaheim can't compete with that firepower, but Vlad Guerrero (.334) has some nice complementary parts in Casey Kotchmann (.291), Chone Figgins (.274) and Bengie Molina (.280). ADVANTAGE: YANKEES

Bench
What does $210 million buy you? A cruddy bench, apparently. Put Tino in the starting lineup, and you don't have a bat over .232 on the bench, though there's no shortage of lefties. The Angels have a solid, but not spectacular bench. Figgins's versatility means that guys like Dallas McPherson (.260) and Jeff DaVanon (.253) can get into the starting lineup often and stay fresh off the bench. ADVANTAGE: ANGELS

Starting Pitchers
Randy Johnson recovered from a slow start to post a respectable 5.6 SNLVAR. No one else on the staff even comes close to that, although Shawn Chacon might have if he had pitched with the Yankees the whole season. Chacon and Aaron Small are unknown quantities. They've both pitched very well in limited playing time, but can they make it happen in the playoffs? It's possible, but not likely. Mussina has looked done over the past month. LAnaheim, on the other hand, has a bonafide ace in Bartolo Colon (6.6 SNLVAR), and depth with John Lackey (5.5), Jarrod Washburn (5.6 and a lefty) and Paul Byrd (4.1). ADVANTAGE: ANGELS

Bullpen
This is strength against strength. The only closer-setup combo better than New York's Mariano Rivera (5.203 WXRL) and Tom Gordon (3.306) is the OC's Frankie Rodriguez (major-league leading 5.617) and Scot Shields (4.548). The big diference is that Anaheim's pen goes deeper, with Kelvim Escobar posting 1.528 in limited time, and Brendan Donnelly and Esteban Yan were respectable as well. Beyond Rivera and Gordon, there's Tanyon Sturtze, who's about as good as Donnelly, and then nothing. ADVANTAGE: ANGELS

Defense
Stop the presses! For the first time in his career, Derek Jeter posted a positive FRAA (+8)! Unfortunately, everyone else on the Yankees is average or worse. FRAA is a bit too kind to Bernie Williams, but is pretty harsh on A-Rod. In terms of defensive efficiency, New York ranked 22nd in the majors. The Angels have a very strong defensive infield, with Darin Erstad's +13 FRAA undoubtedly making all the other infielders look good and post above average numbers. The outfield is above average, although Steve Finley provides a nice late-game replacement. ADVANTAGE: ANGELS

Bottom Line
As good as New York's lineup is, I think Anaheim will be able to outpitch them. John Lackey was a top 5 starter in the AL after the All-Star break, and I expect him to continue that. The 2005 Angels are, well, a lot like the 2002 version. They'll ride their arms to victory, and this time they have frickin Vladimir Guerrero as well. PREDICTION: ANGELS WIN 3-2.

PS: I'm tired. National League tomorrow. But wait, Cards/Pads starts tomorrow. Don't want to let that affect my pick. Cards in 4. Details tomorrow.

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