DET or TEX — which is the better NYY fit?
Here’s an interesting question: If you’re the Yankees, do you want to win the American League East?
With the Yankees coming off three straight wins and currently leading their division by a half-game over the Red Sox, I found myself doing something managers and players shouldn’t (and wouldn’t) ever do: Thinking about playoff matchups with an entire month of the regular season left.
Barring a late charge by the White Sox, Indians and Angels, the playoff picture looks pretty set right now, with the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers and Rangers making up the slate. What we don’t know is who will face who in the two five-game AL Division Series, which comes down to matchups more than anything else.
As of right now, the winner of the AL East would face the Tigers and the winner of the AL Wild Card would face the Rangers. Of course, Detroit and Texas can flip-flop, since only a couple of games separate the two. But that brings me to an interesting question: If you’re the Yankees, do you prefer to face the Tigers or the Rangers?
The Rangers are a better all-around team, with a fierce offense, a loaded bullpen and a solid rotation. But with the Tigers, you have to face Cy Young favorite Justin Verlander twice — and we all know how big an impact a staff ace can have on a short series.
Here’s a look at how those matchups played out in the regular season …
Season series: Tigers, 4-3 (1-2 at Yankee Stadium, 3-1 at Comerica Park)
Key Yankees pitchers: CC Sabathia (0-1, 4.15 ERA in 2 GS); Freddy Garcia (0-1, 5.14 ERA in 1 GS); Bartolo Colon (5.73 ERA in 2 G, 1 GS); Phil Hughes (11.25 ERA, 1 GS); A.J. Burnett (1-1, 3.75 ERA, 2 GS); Mariano Rivera (0 ER, 2 1/3 IP); Rafael Soriano (0 ER, 1 IP); David Robertson (0 ER, 2 IP); Boone Logan (1 ER, 1 2/3 IP)
Key Tigers pitchers: Justin Verlander (4.50 ERA, 2 GS); Rick Porcello (1-0, 2.57 ERA, 1 GS); Max Scherzer (2-0, 4.15 ERA, 2 GS); Brad Penny (1-1, 6.97 ERA, 2 GS); Jose Valverde (2 ER, 4 2/3 IP); Phil Coke (2 ER, 2 1/3 IP); Joaquin Benoit (0 ER, 2 IP); Daniel Schlereth (1 ER, 4 IP)
Key Yankees hitters: Robinson Cano (.200 BA, 1 HR, 2 RBI); Curtis Granderson (.160 BA, 1 HR, 1 RBI); Alex Rodriguez (.320 BA, 1 HR, 2 RBI); Derek Jeter (.261 BA, 1 RBI, 2 BB); Mark Teixeira (.280 BA, 4 HR, 8 RBI); Brett Gardner (.273 BA, 1 RBI, 4 BB)
Key Tigers hitters: Miguel Cabrera (.417 BA, 2 HR, 8 RBI); Austin Jackson (.167 BA, 1 HR, 2 RBI); Alex Avila (.263 BA, 2 HR, 3 RBI); Victor Martinez (.263 BA, 1 HR, 2 RBI); Jhonny Peralta (.261 BA, 2 RBI, 2 SO); Brennan Boesch (.474 BA, 4 HR, 7 RBI)
Worth noting: The fact the Tigers and Yankees got all their regular-season games against each other out of the way in early May makes it difficult to give these numbers much weight. The Yankees beat up on sub-par pitching, which is what they’ll get every time Verlander doesn’t toe the rubber against them (minus Verlander, Tigers starters are 38-39 with a 4.84 ERA). Verlander is 4-3 with a 3.97 ERA in his career against the Yankees. But the way he’s going right now, two starts in a series for him essentially means two wins for the Tigers, no matter what other factors revolve around him.
Season series: Yankees, 7-2 (5-1 at Yankee Stadium, 2-1 at Rangers Ballpark)
Key Yankees pitchers: CC Sabathia (2-0, 5.12 ERA in 2 GS); Freddy Garcia (1-0, 0.00 ERA in 1 GS); Bartolo Colon (10.38 ERA in 1 GS); Mariano Rivera (0 ER, 5 IP); Rafael Soriano (2 ER, 3 2/3 IP); David Robertson (0 ER, 3 1/3 IP); Boone Logan (2 ER, 2 IP)
Key Rangers pitchers: CJ Wilson (2.25 ERA in 1 GS); Alexi Ogando (0-1, 12.38 ERA in 2 GS); Matt Harrison (1-1, 1.93 ERA in 2 GS); Derek Holland (0-2, 8.62 ERA in 3 GS); Neftali Feliz (4 ER, 3 IP); Darren Oliver (0 ER, 4 1/3 IP)
Key Yankees hitters: Robinson Cano (.270 BA, 4 HR, 10 RBI); Brett Gardner (.381 BA, 2 RBI, 1 BB); Curtis Granderson (.438 BA, 6 HR, 13 RBI); Mark Teixeira (.263 BA, 4 HR, 12 RBI); Alex Rodriguez (.208 BA, 3 RBI, 6 BB); Derek Jeter (.385 BA, 2 HR, 3 RBI)
Key Rangers hitters: Elvis Andrus (.263 BA, 2 RBI, 2 BB); Adrian Beltre (.265 BA, 1 HR, 7 RBI); Ian Kinsler (.111, 1 HR, 4 RBI); Michael Young (.400 BA, 1 HR, 4 RBI); Nelson Cruz (.059 BA, 3 BB, 9 SO); Josh Hamilton (.231 BA, 1 RBI, 2 BB)
Worth noting: The Rangers may be the better all-around team, and they may have beaten them in last year’s ALCS, but the Yankees have absolutely dominated the series this year, and their hitters have mashed their good-but-not-great pitching. The Yankees are one of the most difficult teams in baseball to pitch against, because they’re loaded with firepower and because they’re one of the best at working the count and taking pitches. Last year, the Rangers were able to beat them with a clear-cut ace in Cliff Lee leading their staff. This year, the Rangers’ rotation has been very good, but there is no Lee or Verlander in there, which means the Yankees can beat everybody in their rotation.
If you’re New York, do you prefer that matchup, even if it means playing three out of five on the road? Or do you go up against an inferior Tigers team with a superior ace?
That’s the question.