After the most insane night of baseball I've ever witnessed in my young life, the field is finally set in stone for this Friday's American League Divisional Series. The Detroit Tigers will be traveling to the daunting confines of Yankee Stadium to take on none other than the New York Yankees.
Let's quickly analyze the offenses of both teams, shall we?
New York Yankees
The Yankees finished the 2011 regular season with 867 runs scored, good for second in all of baseball (and first amongst playoff teams). Overall, not a terrible number considering the average runs scored for an American League team this season was 723.
I can't say that I'm surprised their runs scored hovered around the same amount as 2010 and remained 48 runs lower than 2009. Pitching, for whatever reason you care to speculate, has made an incredible resurgence and the number of runs scored in all of baseball has been dramatically declining since 2006.
It doesn't take a genius or complex statistics to understand that the Yankees have, arguably, the most formidable offense in the major leagues. What really differentiates them from the vast majority of teams around baseball is that they have a patient, circular lineup that will really wear down a pitcher. They can uncover and exploit a pitcher's weakness in the blink of an eye and make opposing players pay for the tiniest of mistakes.
New York finished the season first in homers with 222 (12 more than Texas in second), finished second behind Boston with an on-base percentage of .343, and third behind Boston and Texas in slugging percentage of .444. Keys to a successful offense often come down to a team's ability to get on base and get the extra-base hits that will drive those runners in. The Yankees have done a substantial job of doing that and it reflects in the stats.
Personally, I'm excited that the Yankees will have their entire starting lineup together for the playoffs. And it's a scary one.
What I project it to be is the following...
Against righties - Jeter, Granderson, Cano, Rodriguez, Teixeira, Swisher, Montero, Martin, Gardner.
Against lefties - Jeter, Granderson, Teixeira, Rodriguez, Cano, Swisher, Montero, Martin, Gardner.
Honestly, Montero and Martin are interchangeable at the bottom of the lineup. Andruw Jones, Eric Chavez and Jorge Posada will be used as options off the bench. Perhaps Chris Dickerson or Greg Golson will be held around for a pinch-running option in late game situations? We'll see once the official playoff rosters are released soon.
Over Derek Jeter's last 68 games, his triple slash is an impressive .336/.389/.454. He's done an efficient job of silencing his critics. Curtis Granderson has been everything New York could have possibly asked for and so much more. He's remained consistent throughout the entire season, smashing a career-high 41 homers and scoring an unprecedented 136 runs. Mark Teixeira has displayed his raw power against lefties all season and his ongoing struggles against righties. Whether in the three or five hole, he's got the potential to change a game with one swing of the bat, having hit 39 homers in the regular season. Oh yeah, Robinson Cano has been crushing the ball with authority as well.
My biggest concern for the Yankees is the health of Alex Rodriguez. He hasn't been nearly the same caliber of player since his most recent operation and he'll be a critical asset to New York's bid for a 28th championship. While I don't expect him to step up and hit remarkable game-tying homers that swing momentum squarely in favor of the Yanks like he did in 2009, he'll need to be effective if he's in the clean-up spot.
The Tigers ran away with the American League Central thanks in large part to their pitching (ahem, Justin Verlander is really good at baseball...). However, their offense isn't too shabby, either.
Detroit scored 787 runs runs this season, which was enough for fourth in all of baseball, yet a distant 90 runs behind the Yankees. They also put together a combined .340 on-base percentage (fourth in MLB) and a slugging percentage of .434 (also fourth in baseball). Despite the fact that the Tigers didn't put up nearly the same amount of runs as New York, they have a more than respectable offense that is above-average when compared to the rest of the American League.
Detroit's lineup could look something similar to the following: Jackson CF, Ordonez RF, Young LF, Cabrera 1B, Martinez DH, Avila C, Peralta SS, Santiago 2B, Inge 3B.
This lineup is obviously subject to change, as Don Kelly and Wilson Betemit could easily be substituted into this equation (considering Inge seems lost at the plate).
Leading the charge for the Tigers is perennial MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera. His wOBA of .436 and wRC+ of 177 are second best in baseball behind Jose Bautista and for those that love traditional statistics, Cabrera is one of four players this season to record 30+ homers, 100+ runs batted in and 100+ runs scored (Bautista, Granderson, Ellsbury). His OPS after 160 games is 1.032. Quite frankly, he's one of the most terrifying hitters in the game today. If New York wants to avoid some grey hairs, they need to keep Cabrera in the yard.
Other hitters to keep an eye on include catcher Alex Avila, designated hitter Victor Martinez, and shortstop Jhonny Peralta. All three had wRC+ above 100 (141, 131, 120, respectively). These hitters can provide Detroit with some pop in their lineup while Avila and Martinez have great OBPs of .389 and .380, although they don't provide much of a threat on the bases.
Advantage: New York Yankees
I can't help but give New York the edge in offense. If their lineup is clicking, they're going to be extremely difficult to stop.
Check back later for an analysis of pitching.
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