The American League Championship Series begins tonight when the Texas Rangers host the New York Yankees. Despite looking quite different at first glance, the two ball clubs may be more similar than you think.
Does one team have the edge? Let’s take a deeper look.
The Yankees come into this series with the playoff experience and know what it takes to win. The Rangers meanwhile are a bit less experienced in this situation but are playing with a lot of heart and passion.
Rangers manager Ron Washington has gotten through to his players and the team is playing sound baseball. This is a team that is talented and hungry, a dangerous combination.
The Yankees have a mix of veterans that have been here and done that, as well as some younger players that are taking leadership roles. Joe Girardi has his team focused and healthy as they continue to defend their World Series title from 2009.
The two teams have split the season series, each winning four games. Despite both teams being loaded offensively, it’s been solid pitching that has been the determining factor.
The Yankees will start CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, Andy Pettitte, and A.J. Burnett. Texas will counter with a rotation of, C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Cliff Lee, and Tommy Hunter.
The Yankees starters have faired well against Texas this season. Hughes did not start against Texas this year but did pitch one inning of relief against them without giving up a hit. He has had success against Texas throughout his career.
Sabathia started one game against the Rangers this year, a rain shortened win. Sabathia pitched the complete game six inning affair, giving up one run on three hits and striking out nine Texas hitters.
Pettitte won his only start against Texas this season, pitching eight innings of four hit ball. Pettitte gave up just two earned runs in the eight innings and struck out four.
A.J. Burnett has struggled all year and was left out of the rotation in the Division Series. Despite his struggles, Burnett has pitched well against the Rangers this season. In three starts, Burnett is 1-0 with a 2.50 ERA against Texas. He has given up 16 hits and five earned runs in 18 innings.
C.J. Wilson has had a solid year for Texas since being put in the starting rotation. He gets the Game 1 challenge since Texas needed Cliff Lee to pitch Game 7 of the ALDS. Wilson started three games versus New York this year, going 0-1 with a 5.65 ERA. In those three games, Wilson has given up 18 hits and nine earned runs in 14.1 innings. Part of his problem has been with the Yankees taking nine walks against him.
Colby Lewis is the Game 2 starter. He has not faced the Yankees yet this season and has a 6.89 ERA in three career starts against them.
Cliff Lee is the man the Rangers depend on the most. Lee has been absolutely dominant in the postseason throughout his career. In two starts against New York this season, Lee is 1-0. He has given up ten hits and five runs in 14.1 innings of work. New York has walked just three times against Lee while striking out 16 times. Lee has shown in the past that he is not afraid of the Yankees lineup and can dominate them.
Tommy Hunter pitched one game against the Yankees this year, going five innings and giving up two runs on six hits. He struck out eight Yankees in the no decision.
The Yankees pitchers have been able to hold down the Rangers big bats for the most part. Of the main starters, only Michael Young and Ian Kinsler have batting averages over .250. Kinsler had a big division series and could be a force for Texas. He was 4-for-10 against New York this season with a double and an RBI. He also stole two bases.
Young, the Texas third baseman, batted .306 against New York pitchers including a home run and three RBI’s.
The big boys, Nelson Cruz, Vladimir Guerrero, and MVP candidate Josh Hamilton each batted just .250 against the Yankees. Cruz did however have three home runs and six RBI’s against New York. Hamilton and Guerrero combined for five doubles.
Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez had success against Texas pitching this year. Jeter, the Yankees captain batted .385, recording ten hits against the Rangers. Jeter had a double, triple, and home run while driving in five runs.
Rodriguez recorded nine hits for a .360 batting average. Of the nine hits, five went for extra bases – three doubles and two home runs. A-Rod drove in eight runs against Texas and walked seven times.
Lance Berkman and Brett Gardner each batted .333 vs Texas in 2010. Berkman had a double and both players drove in two runs a piece. Gardner is also a threat on the bases as he was safe 5-of-6 times while attempting to steal against Texas.
New York has some players on the bench that have beat up on Texas pitching this year as well. Backup catcher Francisco Cervelli was 5-for-9 and walked six times for a batting average of .556 against the Rangers. Part-time DH, Marcus Thames went 10-of-23 for a .435 average. Thames had a double, home run, and three RBI’s but did strike out ten times against Texas.
Both teams will use a combination of power and speed to try and disrupt the opposition. The Yankees use the power of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Robinson Cano with the speed of Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson. Texas has the power bats in Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero, and Ian Kinsler. Kinsler is a threat on the bases as well as Elvis Andrus. The entire Rangers team is aggressive on the bases.
When looking at each team on paper, the Yankees should have the edge. With the experience and starting pitching, New York has an advantage over Texas. However, if baseball has taught us anything, it’s what happens on the field that counts. Anything can happen in the great game of baseball.
This ALCS should be fun and exciting for all involved. It all starts tonight on TBS.