For previous TYA 2011 ALDS Preview pieces, please see the following:
We touched on the Tigers’ offense yesterday and noted how Miguel Cabrera could singlehandedly wreck the Yankees’ postseason aspirations, and now we’ll dive in deeper and look at what I’d expect to be a reasonable approximation of the Tigers’ lineup. Jim Leyland apparently likes to mix and match a bit, and recent lineups show that he’s deployed any one of Ryan Raburn, Ramon Santiago or Will Rhymes at 2B of late, and has also rotated Wilson Betemit (who just came back this week from a knee tweak), Don Kelly and Brandon Inge at 3B, but for the purposes of this post I’m going with the nine that appear to give the Tigers their most potent offensive attack (I wouldn’t bat Magglio Ordonez seventh, but I imagine Leyland will at some point in this series), assuming everyone’s healthy.
1) Austin Jackson, CF (R)
Overall: .249/.317/.374, .309 wOBA, 90 wRC+
Home: .271/.338/.414, .342, 112
Road: .228/.298/.338, .280, 70
v Lefties: .257/.335/.397, .321, 98
v Righties: .245/.308/.364, .297, 82
Pitch Type Linear Weights: -4.0 wFB, -1.7 wSL, -3.4 wCT, -1.8 wCB, 3.1 wCH, -0.9 wSF
A year after BABIPing his way to a solid rookie season in 2010, Jackson came back to earth this year as pretty much every baseball analyst predicted he would, though he still turned in a reasonable-enough sophomore campaign. The .309 OBP is pretty much the opposite of what you’d want in your leadoff hitter, not to mention the fact that he strikes out in more than a quarter of his plate appearances (third-worst K% in the AL), but as the fastest — and really, only — runner on the Tigers by a good margin, Jackson is the de facto leadoff man. He does have some pop — 10 dingers, 22 doubles, 11 triples — but as a hitter who only has positive run values on the changeup, the Yankees should be able to dispatch of him with relative ease.
2) Wilson Betemit, 3B (S)
Overall: .292/.346/.525, .373 wOBA, 134 wRC+
Home: .275/.339/.647, .409, 159
Road: .304/.351/.435, .345, 115
v Lefties: .250/.265/.438, .299, 83
v Righties: .307/.374/.557, .396, 150
Pitch Type Linear Weights: -0.8 wFB, 0.3 wSL, -0.5 wCT, 3.1 wCB, 2.0 wCH, -0.4 wSF
Where was this version of Betemit when he was on the Yankees? In partial time with the Bombers in 2007 he posted a 78 wRC+ and in 2008 and 84 wRC+, and was part of a deal that appeared to be the heist of the century when Brian Cashman landed Nick Swisher. While that remains an unbelievable trade, Betemit has apparently salvaged his career these last two seasons, posting some rather fearsome numbers. While I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to remove the memory of Betemit flailing away at pitch after pitch as a member of the Yankees from my mind, it looks like the Bombers will have to handle him pretty carefully, especially when Nova and Garcia take the hill, as Betemit really pounded righties this year.
3) Delmon Young, LF (R)
Overall: .274/.298/.458, .325 wOBA, 101 wRC+
Home: .276/.291/.531, .349, 117
Road: .271/.307/.357, .293, 79
v Lefties: .364/.391/.568, .414, 162
v Righties: .242/.265/.419, .294, 80
Pitch Type Linear Weights: -2.8 wFB, -1.5 wSL, 0.6 wCT, 0.0 wCB, 3.6 wCH, -0.2 wSF
Acquired from the Twins at the trade deadline, the move to Detroit appeared to rejuvenate Young’s bat, as he went from an 81 wRC+ player in Minnesota to 101 with the Tigers. Delmon still won’t take a walk (a scant 2.8% BB% with the Tigers) and can’t hit righties, but his line against lefties is pretty insane. Thankfully the Yankees will be countering with the best lefthander in the league in Game 1. He also tends to vanish on the road, so that should aid the Bombers as they navigate through the Detroit lineup this weekend.
4) Miguel Cabrera, 1B (R)
Overall: .344/.448/.586, .436 wOBA, 177 wRC+
Home: .349/.433/.578, .428, 171
Road: .339/.462/.594, .444, 182
v Lefties: .319/.459/.532, .417, 164
v Righties: .353/.444/.603, .443, 181
Pitch Type Linear Weights: 28.6 wFB, 4.0 wSL, 3.9 wCT, 4.0 wCB, 9.8 wCH, 2.1 wSF
Just walk him every time up. I might even walk him with the bases loaded and no outs. Kidding aside, Cabrera is probably the best hitter in baseball. Just look at those splits! Additionally, he has positive run values on every single pitch! As we saw yesterday, Miguel’s favorite team to hit against is the Yankees, and he realistically he should see almost nothing good to hit, similarly to how teams attacked Alex Rodriguez in the ALDS from 2005-2007.
5) Victor Martinez, DH (S)
Overall: .330/.380/.470, .368 wOBA, 131 wRC+
Home: .326/.375/.464, .362, 126
Road: .333/.384/.476, .374, 134
v Lefties: .311/.363/.459, .354, 121
v Righties: .337/.386/.474, .373, 134
Pitch Type Linear Weights: 9.6 wFB, 4.5 wSL, -0.3 wCT, 5.2 wCB, -0.6 wCH, -0.5 wSF
V-Mart left the friendly confines of Fenway and actually put up an even better season this year than in 2010. Yankee fans know Martinez all too well, and Martinez knows Yankee Stadium all too well, as he is currently the visiting player with the most career home runs at New Yankee Stadium, with nine. Additionally, since 2009, Martinez is tied with Evan Longoria and Jose Bautista for most home runs hit against Yankee pitching. To survive this series, the Yankees will have to figure out a way to successfully navigate the incredible one-two punch of Cabrera and Martinez, and of course, even if they can do that, they’ll then have to deal with…
6) Alex Avila, C (L)
Overall: .295/.389/.506, .383 wOBA, 141 wRC+
Home: .305/.404/.544, .403, 155
Road: .286/.374/.471, .363, 127
v Lefties: .273/.349/.430, .342, 112
v Righties: .304/.403/.536, .397, 150
Pitch Type Linear Weights: 24.0 wFB, -2.8 wSL, 0.9 wCT, -1.6 wCB, 8.5 wCH, -2.8 wSF
Avila seemingly came out of nowhere with a monster 2011 campaign, posting the 8th-best wOBA and wRC+ in the American League. The only Yankee to put up a stronger offensive season was Curtis Granderson. Avila’s only “weakness” appears to be lefthanded pitching, which he still hit to the tune of a 112 wRC+. The Yankees can counter the triumverate of Cabrera-Martinez-Avila with Granderson-Can0-Rodriguez, but the Tigers’ threesome is probably even more dangerous.
7) Magglio Ordonez, RF (R)
Overall: .255/.303/.331, .283 wOBA, 72 wRC+
Home: .304/.353/.399, .331, 105
Road: .205/.249/.261, .231, 37
v Lefties: .292/.331/.385, .316, 95
v Righties: .231/.284/.296, .262, 58
Pitch Type Linear Weights: -11.3 wFB, -2.7 wSL, -3.1 wCT, 1.8 wCB, 2.3 wCH, -0.4 wSF
Things finally start to let up in the Tiger lineup as we near the bottom third. It’s possible Peralta will bat seventh, which makes this lineup that much more dangerous, but if it’s Ordonez it looks like the Yankees will be getting a bit of a break. Magglio is a shell of his former self, and given his poor numbers on the fastball and slider should be relatively easy for Sabathia and Nova to dispatch of.
8) Jhonny Peralta, SS (R)
Overall: .299/.345/.478, .353 wOBA, 120 wRC+
Home: .313/.359/.539, .380, 139
Road: .286/.332/.420, .327, 103
v Lefties: .240/.318/.447, .329, 103
v Righties: .323/.357/.491, .366, 129
Pitch Type Linear Weights: 6.5 wFB, -1.5 wSL, 1.2 wCT, -1.5 wCB, 1.6 wCH, -0.2 wSF
Peralta is another Tiger who seems to have rejuvenated his career, posting his best season since 2005. The good news is that Peralta’s more of a league-average hitter on the road and against lefties, but I have no doubt he’ll put together his usual pesky at-bats.
9) Ryan Raburn, 2B (R)
Overall: .256/.297/.432, .314 wOBA, 94 wRC+
Home: .236/.275/.418, .296, 82
Road: .270/.314/.441, .327, 103
v Lefties: .274/.321/.486, .347, 116
v Righties: .245/.283/.398, .295, 80
Pitch Type Linear Weights: -3.1 wFB, -5.4 wSL, -2.9 wCT, 0.7 wCB, 6.2 wCH, 0.2 wSF
The number nine slot in the Tiger lineup could really go to a number of different players; I’ve chosen Raburn as he appears to have put up the best offensive season of the available candidates. Raburn is one of the few Tigers in this projected lineup that plays better on the road than at home, and given his superior ability to hit lefties, seems likely to get the nod tonight against Sabathia.
As an aside, one thing I noticed in compiling the Tigers’ numbers is that everyone with the exception of V-Mart has positive run values on the changeup, and in fact, the Tigers are the best changeup-hitting team in baseball. That’s actually good news for a Yankee pitching staff that really doesn’t rely on the change all that much, with CC the only starter that throws it more than 10% of the time per Fangraphs. And it’s not as if Sabathia has a lousy changeup. The Tigers also struggled with the slider (-18.9 wSL), which should be music to Sabathia’s and Nova’s ears.
However, make no mistake — this is an incredibly potent Detroit lineup, and compares very favorably with the one the Yankees will be trotting out. If either team’s pitchers are not on for one reason or another, we should see some fireworks during this series.