Yankees vs. Rangers ALCS Breakdown: Bench and Fielding

Here's part two of my four-part breakdown of the Yankees and Rangers ALCS rosters.

Part 1: The Lineups

Bench

Yankees:

R – Marcus Thames ("OF") .288/.350/.491 (237 PA), 12 HR, 33 RBI
S – Lance Berkman (1B) .248/.368/.413 (481 PA), 14 HR, 58 RBI
R – Austin Kearns (OF) .263/.351/.395 (461 PA), 10 HR, 49 RBI
S – Ramiro Peña (IF) .227/.258/.247 (167 PA), 7 SB @ 88%
R – Greg Golson (OF) .261/.261/.348 (23 PA), 5 SB @ 100%
R – Francisco Cervelli (C) .271/.359/.335 (317 PA), 0 HR, 38 RBI

Rangers:

L – David Murphy (OF) .291/.358/.449 (467 PA), 12 HR, 65 RBI, 14 SB @ 88%
R – Jeff Francoeur (OF) .249/.300/.383 (503 PA), 13 HR, 65 RBI, 8 SB @ 73%
R – Jorge Cantu (1B/3B) .256/.304/.392 (515 PA), 11 HR, 56 RBI
S – Andres Blanco (IF) .277/.330/.349 (185 PA), 0 HR, 13 RBI
L – Julio Borbon (OF) .276/.309/.340 (468 PA), 3 HR, 42 RBI, 15 SB @ 68%
R – Matt Treanor (C) .211/.287/.308 (272 PA), 5 HR, 27 RBI

Again, I’ve included both halves of each team’s platoon here as one of those two players will be on the bench when the other is in the lineup. In my previous post about the lineups, I gave the Yankees the edge in that particular match-up based on production at the plate, but Thames and Berkman offer very little outside of the batter’s box. Berkman is a solid first baseman, but that’s not of much value with Mark Teixeira around, and Thames is a terrible outfielder to the point that the Yankees should really avoid putting him in the pastures altogether. Murphy and Francoeur, however, are both quick on the bases and adept in the field. Francoeur for all of the shots taken at his hitting over the years, is actually an outstanding right fielder with a cannon for an arm, so much so that he pushes the also excellent Nelson Cruz to left field when he starts.

The differences between Peña and Blanco, Treanor and Cervelli, and even Cantu and Kearns are minute. Peña and Blanco are both outstanding fielders. Peña runs better; Blanco hits better, but not by much. Cervelli showed so little power and was so surprisingly poor behind the plate this year that Treanor is automatically better in both categories, though Cervelli might still be the better hitter. Kearns will draw the walks Cantu won’t, but both continue to disappoint. Even with Borbon and Golson, despite the latter having had just 30 major league plate appearances to the former's 647, there's not a huge difference. Both are assets on the bases and in the field, neither is an asset at the plate. Still, Borbon has had some hot streaks in the majors, while Golson's bat was suspect at Triple-A.

Nelson Cruz does everything well. (AP)

Worth noting, setting aside the Thames/Berkman platoon, none of the other four men on the Yankee bench came to the plate in the ALDS and only Golson got in a game, twice coming in as a defensive replacement for Nick Swisher in right field. Rumor has it that Joe Girardi will start Cervelli behind the plate to catch A.J. Burnett in Game Four of this series, though I very much hope he reconsiders before that game arrives. Otherwise, the Yankees would be very pleased to get through this series without using their bench any more than they did in the Division Series.

In contrast, the Rangers bench behind Murphy and Francoeur made 11 plate appearances in the ALDS against the Rays. Cantu started Game One (and went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts). Treanor, who has become C.J. Wilson’s personal catcher, started Game Two (and reached on a walk and a hit-by-pitch in three trips). Borbon started Game Two in place of the platoon (and went 0-for-4 with two Ks), replaced Murphy in left field late in Game Three, and pinch-hit for Bengie Molina in Game Five (he went 0-for-2 in those two games). The Rangers might have the marginally better bench, but Ron Washington's tendency to use it more than Joe Girardi does actually undermines that advantage.

Edge: Rangers

Fielding

The Rangers made 52 percent more errors than the Yankees this year, but that was largely due to the fact that the Yankees made the fewest in the majors, just 69 to the Rangers’ 105. Of course, errors aren’t a great way to judge a defense. Looking at defensive efficiency, a team’s rate of turning balls in play (not counting home runs, which are hit out of play) into outs, the Yankees were tied with the Rays for the second-best mark in the majors, but the Rangers were comfortably above average with the seventh-best mark. Here’s where I give the edge by position:

1B: Yankees
2B: Even
SS: Rangers
3B: Yankees
C: Rangers
RF: Rangers
CF: Yankees
LF: Yankees

Ian Kinsler is better than you think, and Michael Young is worse, the rest is likely of little surprise to Yankee fans. Josh Hamilton is a competent center fielder but is better suited to a corner. Nelson Cruz is an outstanding outfielder, and he plays left field when Jeff Francoeur is in the lineup against lefty pitching, but he’s technically out of position there having made just 26 starts in left in his major league career. Even if he was comfortable there, Brett Gardner’s only defensive rival in left is Carl Crawford, and his season is over.

Edge: Yankees

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