The Yankees head to Texas tonight for game one of the ALCS against the Rangers and I can't get excited about it. I've been a member of the Rebel Alliance against the Evil Empire of the Yankees for some time and the Rangers just displaced my Halos from atop the AL West. I would have preferred any other two teams to be in the ALCS but I suppose this should remove any bias I have against either of these two teams. I tried to get Derwood to write this since he's the resident Yankees fan but he's busy writing a romantic sitcom called Yours and Miners for ABC. On to the preview!
Surprise, surprise. The Yankees, with their quarter-billion dollar infield, led the American League in WAR (32.7), wOBA (.346) and OBP (.350). Robbie Cano put together an MVP caliber season finishing in the top ten in WAR (6.4) and wOBA (.389) and they had five players hit 24 or more home runs. Derek Jeter didn't provide much help posting a .270/.340/.370 over the regular season. But of course, this is the playoffs now and Jeter is the clutchiest clutch who has ever clutched.
The Rangers finished in the middle of the pack in WAR (25.3), fifth in wOBA and fourth in OBP (.338). Josh Hamilton led the way with his MVP season finishing first in WAR (8.0) and wOBA (.447) even though he missed the final month of the season. His health is still a question mark and if he can't hit, the Rangers can't win. Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler were red hot in the Division Series and need to stay that way for the Rangers to have a chance.
The Yankees have some question marks after CC Sabathia. The round mound of the, um, mound (should have thought that one out first) pitched a 3.18/3.54/3.78 (ERA/FIP/xFIP) line for a 5.1 WAR and will garner some CY Young attention due to his shiny 21-7 record. Phil Hughes will get the game two start followed by Andy Pettitte in game three. Neither starter posted a WAR over 2.5. The bullpen was up and down this year but Kerry Wood and Joba Chamberlain have strikeout the side potential. Somebody told me their closer is pretty good but I'm too lazy to look it up.
Cliff Lee led the AL in WAR (7.0) and FIP (2.58) but had to pitch the fifth game of the DS and won't be available until game three. That leaves C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis to start the first two games. Both pitchers were pleasant surprises and part of the reason the Rangers won the West. They also put up identical 4.4 WARs. The Rangers bullpen is deep and good. Darren Oliver and Darren O'Day (both former Angels *sigh*) have been outstanding and they'll also have lefty starter Derek Holland available for relief. Neftali Feliz finished with a higher WAR (1.8) than Mariano Rivera (1.7). That's basically a wash and, of course, Rivera is better than Feliz but it does mean that Feliz has been pretty damn good.
Advantage: Can't believe I'm typing this, Rangers.
This has already gone about 200 words longer than I expected so I'm not going to get into Ron Washington's bullpen management or Joe Girardi's receding hairline. With Cliff Lee only making one start, the Rangers are in big trouble of getting out-slugged. I think Wilson or Lewis might steal one though. Yankees in 6.