If you've been keeping up with all of our playoffs coverage, you know that we've previewed every potential October opponent for the Yankees over the last couple of weeks or so. This got me thinking... of all those teams, which ones would I rather the Yankees face, and which ones am I completely dreading?
I don't think there's anyone in Yankeeland that doesn't hope that the Twins can somehow leap over the Astros and Angels to win that second Wild Card slot, and that is why I'm ranking them as the team I'd most like to face in the post season. First of all, historically speaking, the Yankees have pounded the Twins in the playoffs. They have faced Minnesota in the playoffs four times: the 2003, 2004, 2009 and 2010 ALDS. They've never lost a series, and are 12-2 overall. The way this Twins team is constructed, I wouldn't expect any difference here. You can read Scott's full post about the Twins to get the full scoop on them, but the bottom line is that they don't have anyone better than Masahiro Tanaka. Although they boast a couple of big sluggers, like Miguel Sano and Brian Dozier, and have seven guys in double digits in homers overall, they're no better than the Yankees. Pitching wins out in these situations, and Tanaka is better than their best guy, Kyle Gibson.
Los Angeles Angels
Like the Twins, the Angels don't really have that shutdown pitcher I'd be terrified to face. As Andrew said in his LA Angels breakdown the other day, they don't have a really scary ace either, and the Yankees would likely face Garrett Richards or rookie Andrew Heaney in the one-game playoff. Those guys have been good, and Richards has more of a track record than Heaney, but neither can match up with Tanaka when it comes to ace status. Unlike the Twins, the Angels have two legitimately scary guys in their lineup. First, is perennial MVP candidate Mike Trout, who is, in my opinion, the best player in the American League, and possibly the majors (Bryce Harper has an argument there). The other is future Hall-of-Famer Albert Pujols, who has second-fiddled his way to 38 home runs this season. Those two scare me the most, but you can't forget about Kole Calhoun either. At least their very best hitters are right-handed, which should help out Tanaka.
I went back and forth a bit on the Angels and Rangers, but ultimately, there's one reason I'd rather the Yankees face the Halos: Cole Hamels. If the unexpected happens, the Yankees could potentially face the Rangers in the Wild Card game, and not necessarily in the ALDS. Hamels is that ace type pitcher that the Angels and Twins don't have. Sure, his numbers since coming to the Rangers haven't been Cy Young caliber (9 home runs, 3.86 ERA, 3.80 FIP in 11 starts), but he's a guy that has been an ace in the National League for a long time. I know the Yankees knocked him around in the 2009 World Series, but he's still Cole Hamels, and he has a 3.09 career ERA in the playoffs. I'd rather avoid him if possible. The Rangers also have a solid offense that is highlighted by 20+ home run guys Prince Fielder, Mitch Moreland and Shin-Soo Choo, but it's nothing Tanaka can't handle. If the Yankees face them in an extended series, I'm still confident they come out on top, since the rest of their staff is beatable. You can get the full scoop on them in Jason's Rangers breakdown.
The Yankees can't face the Royals in the one-game Wild Card playoff, which changes things a bit. In this case, we have to look at the complete team, because we'll be seeing all of it during a potential seven-game ALCS. In looking through the Royals roster, I don't see any particular player that scares me. They don't have an MVP like Mike Trout, and they don't have a Cy Young candidate like Dallas Keuchel. You would think this would make them a better matchup for the bombers, but it doesn't for me. The Royals are a complete team, and they seem to find ways to win no matter the situation. They are just as likely to hurt you with the speed of Jarrod Dyson or Lorenzo Cain as they are with the power of Kendrys Morales or Mike Moustakas. They play good defense and do the "little things" needed to win games. They also have a monster bullpen, which means if you don't get to their starters, you don't beat them. I don't think they're a good matchup for the Yankees. Check out Caitlin's full Royals breakdown for more on this team.
If the Yankees have to face anyone in a one-game playoff, the last team I want to see out there is the Houston Astros. I say that because of one man, their undeniable ace, Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel is having the type of year Astros fans haven't seen since Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte a decade ago. While Keuchel does have an absurd home/road split (he's 15-0, 1.46 in Houston and 4-8, 3.82 everywhere else), he's the type of guy that will have an absolute field day with this struggling Yankees offense. I'm not sure he's unbeatable, as hopefully Tanaka would battle him pitch-for-pitch, but I'll take my chances with just about any other pitcher on these teams ahead of Keuchel; I don't care if it's in Houston, the Bronx or on Mars with Matt Damon. The rest of their staff isn't half bad either, which you can read all about in Andrew's Astros breakdown post. Also, it's not as if their batters are swinging pool noodles out there. They have five players with 20+ home runs: Evan Gattis (27), Luis Valbuena (23), Chris Carter (23), Colby Rasmus (22) and Carlos Correa (21). No thank you.
If the Yankees end up having to play the Blue Jays, I wouldn't feel too good about their chances. After the flurry of ridiculous trades Toronto made at the deadline, they caught fire and ran roughshod all over the American League. We can talk about Troy Tulowitzki (even though he's hurt) and David Price as the main cogs in their machine, but that would be disrespectful to Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson. Top to bottom, the Blue Jays are the best team in the American League, and certainly the team I fear most in any potential playoff matchup. They have absolutely pounded the Yankees to the tune of a 13-6 head-to-head record this season. If you need more info about the Jays, please read Harlan's breakdown... I don't want any part of them, but, as the great Ric Flair always says, "To be The Man, you have to beat The Man." When push comes to shove, we might be able to take them.
There you have it, Alley Dwellers. Who do you want to see in the playoffs? Who would you rather face? Let us know in the comments below!