And so it’s finally official: the Yankees will face the Texas Rangers in the 2010 American League Championship Series starting Friday night. This is the first time the Yankees have met Texas in the ALCS, though the Yankees are 3-0 against the Rangers in Division Series play. This is the ninth time the Yankees have reached the ALCS since the playoffs expanded in 1995, and they have gone on to play in the World Series an outstanding seven of the previous eight times, with the lone loss of course coming at the hands of the 2004 Boston Red Sox.
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So what have we here? For a second straight series the Yankees are clearly the superior offensiv
e team (of course, the Yankees are going to be the better offensive team no matter who they face, which is what happens when you lead all of baseball in wOBA), bettering the Rangers in wOBA by .014 points. Still, Texas does boast a top-four offense, though a lot of those strong numbers were attributable to presumptive MVP Josh Hamilton, who, given his nonexistent showing in the ALDS (.111/.200/.111), doesn’t appear to be all the way back yet. Like the Twins losing Justin Morneau, a not-100% Josh Hamilton is a pretty big blow to the Texas offense.
As a group, Texas’ starters beat the Yankees in a lot of the above-cited rate stats, but of course these season numbers reflect some pretty miserable performances from the likes of A.J. Burnett, Javier Vazquez and Dustin Moseley. As we’ll see tomorrow when we do the actual rundown of the 25-man rosters, the numbers will likely be a bit closer. Still, the Yankee staff does have an edge in BB/9 (though this almost certainly would not have been the case if Texas had had a full season of Cliff Lee), BABIP, LOB% and xFIP.
For as heralded as Texas’ relief corps has been (as Jay Jaffe noted yesterday, Baseball Prospectus has the unit as second-best in the AL per WXRL. The Yankees come in at number five, behind Cleveland somehow, so it may be best to take this information with a grain of salt), the overall season numbers give the edge to the Yankees in the ‘pen, with superior K/9, BB/9, K/BB, BAA, WHIP, BABIP and xFIP. The only reason the Rangers’ relievers have a better FIP is because they struck 23 more batters out. The two units actually gave up the exact same amount of home runs (48) and the Yankees’ bullpen walked less batters.
The overall pitching numbers are both very good and also look nearly identical; not surprising for the last two teams standing in the American League playoff picture.
The postseason numbers aren’t particularly instructive, given that the Yankees only played three games, and the Rangers five, but it’s somewhat interesting to see how the teams have fared thus far. Clearly if the Yankees were to somehow keep both their .314/.351/.514 batting line and 2.00 ERA/1.07 WHIP pitching performance up the other teams would be better off staying home, as New York would be well on its way to a sweep of both the ALCS and World Series, but obviously we know those numbers are unsustainable. Likewise, Texas is probably a slightly better hitting team than those statistics would indicate, though they did outslug their season average in their five-game ALDS.
As we noted last time, the Yankees hit considerably better at home and pitch significantly better on the road this season, although the Twins might tell you otherwise. Texas of course hits better at home, but somewhat surprisingly — given its hitter-friendly reputation — also pitches better at home, which may give them a leg up what with getting to start the ALCS at home. Of course, as Mike noted at RAB, Texas still has yet to win even one postseason game at home in their history, which is really pretty incredible, but has no bearing on what will happen this weekend. With a .265/.324/.391 line, Texas is actually a more anemic road team than the Yankees.
Basically what I wrote in the Twins preview also applies here to the baserunning and situational hitting metrics. The Yankees have a better SB%, but that’s about it. The Rangers are a superior baserunning team, and are considerably stronger than the Twins — who also topped the Yankees in many of these categories — were in this facet of the game. The Yankees’ situational hitting on the whole is probably a slight advantage, though that’s primarily due to more opportunities. Which of course, is also an advantage.
Much will be made of the Rangers’ baserunning antics, given the relative havoc they wreaked against Tampa, but I wouldn’t get too worked up about it. As long as the Yankees keep pitching the way they have, Texas won’t have too many opportunities to pull baserunning shenanigans.
This will undoubtedly be a hard-fought battle, but I can’t say I’m upset about not having to face Tampa Bay in the ALCS. Even with Lee, the Rangers are a better match-up for the Yankees (remember all of the posts before the end of the regular season talking about how much better it would be for the Yankees to face Texas instead of Minnesota in the ALDS?), and I look forward to a great series.