Tuesday, June 28, 2011

2011 ALCS?

I've been thinking for a few weeks now that this is the year the Yankees and Red Sox are going to hook up in the playoffs again. 2003 and 2004 were such classic series that, at least for me, it seems like the two teams see each other in the playoffs regularly. But six Octobers have come and gone without a Yankees/Red Sox ALCS.

I know (and regularly beat the drum) that anything can happen in a short series. But as I look around the rest of the AL it's difficult to not see these two teams as the clear class of the league (although I will admit to feeling stronger about this a few weeks back, prior to Tampa and Detroit's recent surges, both of which have been very impressive). I think this is probably the highest percentage chance there has been on paper for a New York/Boston ALCS since 2005, when it seemed like it was going to happen just because.

We are four games away from the midpoint of the season and the Yankees have a two game lead in the loss column. However the teams have played basically even for the first half of the season. Despite having such similar results, and despite the possibility of the first playoff meeting between these two teams in quite some time, what is interesting is how different these teams' path to where they currently are has been.

The Yankees have been very consistent. They haven't gotten too high or too low. Want a pretty incredible stat? The Yankees have the second best record in baseball and the best record in the American League and haven't won more than 4 games in a row all season, and have only done that twice. The other side of that, obviously, is that they haven't lost many games in a row either. They had one 6 game losing streak, but outside of that they have lost 3 in a row twice and 2 in a row three times. Outside of those 6 instances, they've followed every other loss with a win, and have often turned that into 2 or 3 in a row. That's how they've gotten to the record they have.

The Red Sox, by contrast, have been more of a roller coaster. Not just streaks of multiple wins and losses in a row (of which they've had both), but perhaps more importantly stretches of games where the record is very positive or negative. Seems like there are a lot of 8-2 and 7-3 as well as 2-10 and 2-5. And the play seems to usually match the results. They go through periods where they look borderline unbeatable and then they go through periods where they don't even look like they're that good. Lots of highs and lows.

All that matters, of course, is the bottom line. And the bottom line is the two best records in the American League. Should be interesting to see if these trends and results continue and if these teams continue on a path towards an October matchup. It will also be interesting to see how Tampa and Detroit factor in, as well as if anyone else gets seriously involved in the AL mix.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

PF,

I think everyone would be excited about a Red Sox/Yankees ALCS. It's definitely one of the top rivalries in sports.

From a fan's perspective, would you rather root for a consistent team or an up and down team? I'm personally enjoying the roller coaster ride but obviously there are frustrations. I think the big story in the AL this year has to be "Do the Red Sox get hot at the right time?"

If they go crazy and are in "unbeatable" mode going into the playoffs then you think they have a shot. If they are in Kansas City Royals mode going into the playoffs then they probably lose 3-0 in the first round or miss the playoffs all together.

the gm at work said...

PF,

Good post. Great to see you're not balls deep in your books 24 hours a day. I agree with you that the Red Sox and Yankees have a good chance of meeting each other in the 2011 ALCS, mostly because they're the two best teams in the American League. Tampa's inspired and Detroit's in a crappy division, but they don't have the fire power of these two teams.

You speak of the Red Sox' streakiness, and your commentary sheds light on the fact that this team lacks focus altogether. They get it for maybe a week or two at a time, then they get distracted, bitching about David Ortiz sitting and how disadvantaged they are by playing nine games in a row in NL parks. Unbelievable. Actually, unprofessional.

Their hot streaks are times when they actually live up to their potential and, in other words, do what they're supposed to do. When they're playing well, it's not like they're playing out of their minds.

The Yankees, as you said, are playing also to their potential...or at least close to it...all the time. It's a sign of focus.

The Red Sox clearly do not have focus, and this is as evident on June 29 as it was on April 10th. If the team does indeed fall out of the playoffs again this year, you might have to start blaming the manager.

Anonymous said...

bandi -

if i could have it any one way, i'd want a consistent team with upside. i understand that's very idealistic, so if the only options were consistent vs. up and down i would choose consistent.

i think another important question could be "do the yankees get hot at some point"? the red sox have shown us that they can go into unbeatable mode. if the yankees can maintain and supplement their consistency with a well-timed hot streak, that will be a watch out situation. they have started to show a flash here, winning 13 of 17 since the red sox sweep. of course the converse is will the yankees go into an extended losing streak, something they've also been able to largely avoid save for one stretch this year.

gm -

i don't want to turn this into a red sox roast because: (1) you don't need any help doing that, (2) despite their inconsistencies they still have the second best record in the AL, and (3) the baseball season is filled with ups and downs, the sox happen to be in a mini-down right now (1-5 in their last 6) and i don't like to let that small sample overly influence the big picture.

that said, both the yankees and the mets won in blowout fashion last night, so one of my roommates and i (also a big met fan, like my other roommate the big ticket) tuned into a little bit of the phillies/sox (my roommate has cliff lee in his uber-competitive fantasy league which added to the intrigue). he's an astute fan, and after watching a few innings he pointed out that almost every player on the red sox whines about calls. non-stop. every team has players who do this. but it's usually a select few and even they will typically reserve their gripes for borderline calls. watching one trip through the order, adrian gonzalez was the only guy who seemed like he was more interested in adjusting to whatever the strike zone happened to be and finding a way to succeed. everyone else seemed more interested in how the strikezone didn't benefit them succeeding. and it was a very fair zone!

i've noticed this for a few years with certain players, but this is a tough thing for me to bring up because i will get labeled as biased and it will get dismissed. but when my roommate, who has no interest in the red sox one way or another, notices it within a few innings it certainly validates the notion. it also seems to be a growing trend, as if it's contagious. on two separate occasions last night a red sox batter argued a call that was middle-middle. i'm sure they were frustrated that cliff lee was so good, but you can't cry about it.

the red sox have too many guys who are whiners. whining about balls and strikes, whining about what you are talking about in your comment dv, and you wonder if that factors in to the streakiness. it obviously isn't prohibiting them from being one of the best teams in the game, but you have to wonder if it's holding them back from being even better than they are. i hope they keep whining.

- pf

the gm at work said...

Pat,

Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz have never taken a justified called strike. John Lackey has never thrown a bad pitch without extenuating circumstances. The $180 million team is at a competitive disadvantage against the Pittsburgh freaking Pirates. Even Francona himself is pouting and lamenting the fact that poor David isn't in the lineup.

Maybe that will give him some time to continue pursuing that ongoing investigation with Michael Weiner to find out who the bad man was who poisoned his protein shake with steroids.

I've been saying for over a week now that John Lackey especially is contagious. And I believe it. In the face of adversity, what does Lackey do? Turtle and play the victim card. What has this team done so far this season in the face of adversity? Exact same thing.

Anonymous said...

PF,

I don't think whining really holds them back very much. In fact I think there are a lot of guys on the team like Youkalis and Pedroia that do alright for themselves because they have this "I'm the man" mentality that makes them think they are better than they actually are. I think this contributes to them whining about calls but I'd rather them be cocky than polite because it's just who they are.

Having said that, it clearly hurts your chances of getting calls if your constantly complaining and for that reason I wouldn't be such a pain in the butt.

But I don't hink it's a big enough deal that it really holds the team back.