Thursday, October 14, 2010

ALCS Preview: Yankees vs. Rangers

The biggest thing that jumps out about this series is that it is imperative that the Yankees split the first two or better. You always want to get a split as the road team, but you definitely want to when Cliff Lee is pitching Game 3. The Yankees do not want to come home down 0-2 staring him in the face. They need to jump on the Rangers the way they jumped on the Twins, and get back to The Bronx 1-1, or better yet, up 2-0 and then be able to go after Cliff Lee aggressively.

A close second is how alert you have to be with this Rangers ballclub. I wouldn't say that they are looking to constantly force the action in terms of being aggressive. It's more that they do not miss an opportunity that you give them to do so. We saw that the other night in Game 5 against Tampa Bay. They weren't going home from 2nd on groundouts no matter what. The second the Rays relaxed, they just took full advantage. You can't allow the Rangers opportunity to take advantage in this series because it could cost you a game or games. You have to tighten up fundamentally, you can't make assumptions, and you have to think a step ahead because that is how they are going to be thinking. You have to make every play cleanly and through until the end. You can't take your foot off the gas because that is the second they will put their foot on the gas.

From a pitching perspective, the Yankees' pitchers need to throw plenty of off-speed, both for strikes and out of the zone. The Rangers' hitters absolutely feast off of fastballs. The numbers back that up, and we saw it against Tampa Bay as they hit fastball after fastball out of the park, hitting twice as many homers as any other team in the playoffs thus far (yes, I know they've played more games than everybody but Tampa Bay, but they haven't played twice as many games as anyone, and they have twice as many homers, so the point stands). In addition, Yankees' pitchers need to look to go to their fastballs with movement. Sinkers, 2-seamers, cutters, most Yankees' pitchers have at least one of these pitches, and they need to use them perhaps more than they typically do. I don't know if the numbers back this up, but if they crush fastballs, based on the Rays series they REALLY crush 4-seamers. Fastballs with movement and off-speed are going to be keys for the Yankees' pitchers in this series. Of course, locating whatever you throw and keeping it down will really help too, as it almost always does.

I don't know a lot about Colby Lewis or Tommy Hunter, but with C.J. Wilson the Yankees need to force him to throw strikes. He has a tendency to lose his command, but he also has filthy stuff. If the Yankees are chasing stuff out of the zone all game that is exactly what he wants. The Yankees need to make him come right in the zone, make him work, get baserunners early, and put some pressure on him. With Cliff Lee it is precisely the opposite. He is going to throw strikes all game long, and can throw all of his pitches for strikes with ease. They need to be swinging early and swinging often, and they absolutely HAVE to make sure they don't miss mistakes. Lee doesn't make many of them, but jumping on the ones he does make is possibly the best way to get to him.

Game 1, as always, will be big for setting the tone. If the Yankees win, they are guaranteed to get home 1-1 at worst, and will be one win away from putting the Rangers in a 2-0 hole before Cliff Lee steps on the mound. If the Rangers win, they will be guaranteed to at least give Cliff Lee the ball even at 1-1 at worst, and will be one win away from putting the Yankees in a really bad spot by going up 2-0 with Cliff Lee looming. Getting a dominant C.C. Sabathia start would be a great first step towards going up 1-0. Let's go Yankees.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

PF

CJ Wilson is a very talented pitcher, but he also led the AL in walks this year. I think he'll either be great tonight or awful, no in between. My guess is that the Yankees will bang on him early and that will be that.

As for the rest of the series, the Rangers can look at this opening two game set almost like they're on the road--they just need a split so they can get to Cliff Lee even. Down 2-0, Cliff Lee won't help them a whole hell of a lot other than to maybe make it a six game series instead of something worse.

So, what's strange here is that at 1-1 you can find that BOTH teams might be pleased with where they stand heading to New York.

Regardless, I'm hoping that this series is a good one.

--the Gunn

TimC said...

This one reminds me a small bit of the '99 ALCS. There are differences, obviously, but the big thing that sticks out is how Lee lines up to go in games 3 and 7 for the underdog team.

I think this makes the Yankees start very urgent. As Gunn basically said, although 1-1 would be fine it would certainly favor the Rangers. Is it too much to expect the road team to start 2-0? Maybe, but it has already happened and without such a start I would give the mental edge, by a large amount, to Texas.

PF said...

what a win. relentless.